The Washington Business Journal writes up a press release out today about an imminent groundbreaking at Park Morton, the big New Communities project on Georgia Avenue just below the Petworth metro. That’s for one piece of the project—the building at 3512 Georgia Avenue, previously bought by Central Union Mission, which had been in limbo until the Council comped their property tax bill and allowed the sale to Landex Companies go through. Now, the developers have their financing, and expect to break ground in the next few weeks on an 83-unit building called The Avenue (it’s taken long enough that Square 54 beat them to it).
The rest of the project, to be built on the site of the dilapidated 174-unit public housing complex across the street, isn’t moving as quickly. A few weeks ago, Councilmember Jim Graham took the opportunity of a hearing about something completely unrelated to berate then-interim D.C. Housing Authority Director Adrianne Todman for not pushing forward, since the Council authorized it back in 2006. “This agency may be jettisoning this program, and it upsets me very deeply, it upsets the people of Park Morton,” Graham said, before threatening to introduce legislation that would abolish the independent Housing Authority altogether.
Todman then emphasized that she was waiting to make sure all the residents were on board, since some in the Residents Council leadership had been opposed to the new mixed-income plan (the president of the Residents Council, Marie Whitfield, has not returned calls for comment). “The board wanted to take a prudent and deliberative process to make sure there was buy in at every level,” Todman said.
The part of the project that the Housing Authority controls still doesn’t have construction on the horizon. “We’re a long way from the sticks and bricks stage,” says spokeswoman Dena Michaelson.
Meanwhile, Graham has been leading meetings in the last couple of weeks with residents to talk about the future development (announced by the sign above, which is somewhat misleading—the developers do not own the DCHA buildings). Mostly, he wants to get across the message that no one will be displaced. The plan, generally speaking, is to move people to The Avenue once it’s completed, and rebuild the rest of the complex while residents shift around within the building.
“We’re not scattering people to the four winds, because we want everybody to be there when there’s much improved housing. That’s a solemn commitment,” Graham says. “There’s a promise that everyone who is there today will be there when this is all done.”