The Park Morton public housing complex has languished as New Communities struggles to get off the ground.
The Park Morton public housing complex has languished as New Communities struggles to get off the ground.

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The stalled project to redevelop the Park Morton public housing complex, a symbol of the failures of the city’s signature New Communities Initiative, took a major step forward this afternoon, as the D.C. Housing Authority announced it had selected a development team to take charge of the site.

Park Morton should, in theory, be among the easiest components of New Communities, which aims to transform troubled low-income housing into revitalized mixed-income communities. It’s located in Park View, where houses are selling for as much as $700,000, and a short walk from the Georgia Avenue-Petworth Metro station. Unlike at New Communities sites like Lincoln Heights, it won’t be hard to attract middle-income tenants to new market-rate buildings there. But the project has languished for years, leading the city to cancel its agreement with the previous development team, led by Linthicum, Md.–based Landex Corp., in February.

Now the agency has chosen a replacement team, led by the Boston-based Community Builders, Inc. and also including Dantes Partners, LLC; Torti Gallas Urban; Harkins Builders, Inc.; and Klein Hornig, LLP. The team beat out three other finalists. According to a statement from Housing Authority chairman Pedro Alfonso, the winning team was chosen in part for “their capacity to complete the work”—-no small consideration after the Landex team failed to assemble the off-site land needed to erect buildings for residents to move into before Park Morton could be demolished. Off-site housing was included in the Community Builders-led team’s proposal.

“The selection of a developer for Park Morton allows us to continue the momentum of revitalizing the neighborhood through our New Communities Initiative,” Mayor Vince Gray said in a statement. “I thank the Housing Authority for selecting a team that will help us transform this area into a thriving community.”

Park Morton consists of 12 three-story buildings on 3.66 acres just east of Georgia Avenue NW. Its aging facilities and dead-end streets have made it a redevelopment target. The site was long known for violence, which has abated in recent years but sprang up again recently with the shooting of a 6-year old girl on the playground there. Residents have expressed consternation over the project’s lack of progress, but haven’t reacted to the redevelopment plans with the angry protests present at another New Communities site, Barry Farm.

The city’s solicitation for developer proposals required a mix of incomes and a combination of rowhouses and higher-density apartments. A Community Builders spokeswoman did not immediately return a call for comment.

The Housing Authority’s announcement caps off a busy afternoon for the agency, which also announced the selection of a development team to rebuild its NoMa headquarters into a mixed-use facility.

Correction: Due to a reporting error, this post initially stated that the Housing Authority terminated the agreement with Landex. In fact, it was the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery