WASHINGTON, D.C. - After spending many years in tiny apartments in a deteriorating public housing project, the residents of the Arthur Capper seniors building are celebrating the fruits of a major redevelopment project here.

The new 162-unit project they now call home is the first step in a 1,831-unit mixed-income project by Mid City Urban and Forest City. Located just about a mile from the Capitol, the Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg revitalization is transforming one of the poorest and most dangerous areas of the city. It has prompted a broader redevelopment effort that includes a new stadium for the city’s Nationals baseball team.

The Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg revitalization plan calls for one-for-one replacement of 707 public housing units, plus 492 market-rate rental units, and 107 condominium units for purchase. It is slated for completion in multiple phases through 2010.

According to Mid City Urban, the seniors building served to stabilize the area and prepared the market to support the remaining development components.

Completed in December 2006, Arthur Capper Senior Apartments has 155 one-bedroom and seven two-bedroom units, all occupied by public housing tenants. Public areas and 15 percent of the units are fully accessible to the disabled. Building amenities include a courtyard, an observation deck, and space for medical exams.

The seniors housing replaces a public housing project for seniors known by the same name. Under existing zoning for the site, the seniors project could be built “as of right,” so the developer decided to proceed with it before other elements of the project so seniors could move directly from the old building to their new homes with no interim relocation.

Financing included a HOPE VI grant of $12 million, which was used as collateral for a bond issue by the District of Columbia Housing Finance Agency. Tax credit equity investment of $6.9 million was raised from Hudson Housing Capital.

The project provides on-site medical checkups and pharmacy services as well as in-home care and medication management.

The maximum rent is $800 per month compared to a marketwide average of $1,896, but tenants are paying an average of only $300 based on their income levels, according to Mid City Urban. The tenants earn an average of only 14 percent of the AMI.

The tenants’ old building was a converted warehouse, which was divided into 350-square-foot apartments with inoperative elevators and frequent sewage backups. It will be demolished this year. Other older public housing structures have already been demolished.

The four-story building used wood frame construction at a substantial savings over steel construction.

The first homeownership units won’t be completed until 2009, but the developer says they are already selling for between $500,000 and $700,000.

Additional project information, as provided in application by the nominator.

Q. Why does the nominated project deserve to be recognized based on the award criteria of this contest?

A. Completed in December 2006, 900 Fifth Street SE (Capper Senior) is part of one of the largest HOPE VI redevelopments in the country. In total, the $424 million Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg Revitalization will fill 27 acres with nearly 1,300 residential units and 580,000 square feet of commercial space. Located in a highly distressed parts of Washington, D.C., this public/private partnership represents a significant revitalization, catalyzing adjacent improvements as well. In partnership with the D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA), the developer of Capper/Carrollsburg—a joint venture of Mid-City Urban and Forest City—is recasting two large, distressed public housing developments into a vibrant new urban neighborhood. The 162-unit Capper Senior, is the first step in stabilizing the area. LIHTCs were used in conjunction with the DC bond program to create high-quality homes for seniors earning on average only 14 percent of the AMI, many of whom were formerly homeless.

Developed through a collaborative stakeholder process, the Capper/Carrollsburg revitalization plan envisions a mixed-income, mixed-use neighborhood that is part of the surrounding community and offers convenient access to public transit, and amenities for working, shopping, daycare, worship, and recreation. This application focuses on Capper Senior in particular.

Capper Senior is located on a parcel that could easily be developed “by rights” and was not subject to the Planned Unit Development rezoning process required for the rest of Capper/Carrollsburg. Mid-City/Forest decided to position the seniors building on this parcel so that residents could move directly from their former building into the new one without an additional temporary move that a longer planning and zoning process would have required.

Capper Senior’s deck overlooks the play fields of the adjacent to Marine Barracks Washington, providing a stimulating relaxation environment. The four-story, deep-red brick building mirrors the Marine Barrack campus, employing a stately colonial style. Bay windows enhance the colonial feel while offering beautiful views from seniors’ living rooms. Residents enjoy amenities that were nonexistent in their former homes, including a landscaped private courtyard with raised flower beds that allow residents to garden, even from wheelchairs.

One-bedroom units are 555 square feet, and two-bedrooms are 700 square feet—a vast improvement over the tiny efficiency apartments comprising the seniors’ former high-rise. Units are designed with mobility limitations in mind: public areas are fully disabled-accessible 15 percent of units are disabled-accessible, and all units are disabled-visitable. Included is an 800-square-foot healthcare center that will offer onsite medical checkups and pharmacy services, as well as in-home care and medication management.

Capper Senior was designed with sustainability in mind. It uses energy-efficient windows and lighting, and ENERGY STAR appliances. In the building’s 13 SEER split HVAC system, air-handling and condensing units are centrally located in each apartment, to minimize duct runs. Copper runs from the air-handling unit to the condensing unit are shortened to less than 30 feet, ultimately using less refrigerant, and less energy to move it. Finally, although D.C.’s sewer system combines storm and sanitary drainage and treatment, Capper’s facilities were constructed separately, so the building can plug in easily if the city system converts.

Capper/Carrollsburg enjoys extraordinary community support. Formed at the earliest visioning stage, the steering committee includes a wide spectrum of local stakeholders: former residents; business owners; nonprofits; school representatives; students; religious leaders, representatives of numerous D.C. agencies; and representatives of federal stakeholders, including the Marines, Navy, and General Services Administration. Community planning training sessions and visits to other developing areas equipped residents for the process. The local steering committee now meets quarterly to ensure ongoing participation.

Q. How does this project represent an innovative solution to a specific development challenge?

A. Although the nearly $20 million Capper Senior was designed, constructed, and placed in service in a highly volatile real estate development market, the project was completed on time and within budget. This was achieved through a combination of a disciplined development approach and a streamlined financing structure. In total, the $460 million Capper/Carrollsburg project combines 12 funding sources to leverage a $36 million HOPE VI grant. Mid-City/Forest City secured a $40 million PILOT agreement with D.C. to finance infrastructure for the 27-acre development. Capper Senior’s construction was financed with tax-exempt bonds, cash-collateralized by $12 million in HOPE VI funds. In combination with $800,000 in bond interest income, $6.9 million in LIHTC equity enabled the developer to stretch the HOPE VI grant to meet the $19.7 million project budget. Capper Senior also taps local resources—as part of the ongoing management, DCHA and the United Planning Organization will provide residents with regular case management and supportive services.