Station at Potomac Yard Gives Live-Work New Meaning

ALEXANDRIA, VA. Real estate's timeless secret, they say, is location, location, and air rights to a location. At least that's how it is for The Station at Potomac Yard, whose visionaries imagined a new structure that provides a housing option for the likes of rescue workers and a workplace for some of them as well: a fourbay fire station.

Giving a whole new meaning to live-work mixed-use planning, the $34 million Station doubles as a state-of-the-art emergency response center and a four-story residential structure that has begun leasing 12 one-bedroom, 49 two-bedroom, and three three-bedroom units to households whose incomes range from less than 60 percent of the area median income (AMI) up to 80 percent of the AMI. What's more, 1,500 feet of first-floor retail is part of the mix. In Alexandria, where less than 11 percent of city employees can afford to live, the project surfaces as one that optimizes land use, incorporates green building principles, and offers proximity to amenities and public transportation.

The complex of public and private partnerships that coalesced around such an innovative approach to closer-in affordable and workforce housing includes the city of Alexandria, Potomac Yard Development (PYD), a joint-venture of national home builders Pulte and Centex, and the Alexandria H o u s i n g Development Corp. (AHDC). PYD's donation of land and more than $14 million to the project made it pencil, says Daniel Abramson, president and CEO of Abramson Properties, and president of AHDC and AHDC Potomac Station, Inc.

Still, wouldn't this mode of live-work— remember, these are fire trucks!—make for some noise challenges. “We did a lot of construction and design work to mitigate noise and vibration,” says Abramson. “Our studies show there's more noise from 50,000 cars a day on Route 1 and National Airport than from the actual fire trucks.” —John McManus

A Never Say Never Dream Come True

SANTA BARBARA, CALIF. Affordable housing developers' worthiest intentions almost never converge favorably with the realities of limited space. That such a blend of both good-heartedness and elbow room should occur in the epicenter of this slow- to no-growth city is almost unimaginable.

The $57.2 million St. Vincent's Affordable Housing—170 units of new affordable dwellings for low- to moderate-income families and seniors amid the 100-year-old, historic 20-acre environs of the Daughters of Charity—got its first karmic windfall 11 years ago. Then, the Daughters resolved to open their paradise-like campus of administration buildings, classrooms, and cottages to low-income residents.

From 1997, stars galore—political, financial, cultural, and social—needed to align to integrate St. Vincent's Institution's existing programs, including transitional help for single mothers, a child-care center, and a food bank, with homes reaching to extremely low-income families and seniors; and align they have.

A decade of effort teamed Mercy Housing with Santa Barbara city and county decision-makers, California state and federal agency officials, private funding, construction, conservationist, and health-care executives in a collaborative blitz that culminated in March 2008, as the campus opened its new facilities to families and seniors who earn from less than 20 percent of the area median income (AMI) to around 50 percent of the AMI.

Financial wizardry alone involved unprecedented cooperation among city and county leadership that led to the city's annexation of the campus to qualify for optimized funding. Other partners were equally generous.

“You don't create a community overnight,” says Ben Phillips, vice president and regional director for Mercy Housing, who notes that you can't force interaction among neighbors new to an area. “It's feeling more and more like a neighborhood every time I go there.” —John McManus

Allapattah Ups Pulse Rate for All Ages

MIAMI Village Allapattah, which just this summer started leasing up among low- and moderate-income families and seniors, takes the notion of a healthy community both seriously and literally.

Anchoring the $63 million 200-unit, two-tower project by November will be a $6 million 27,000-square-foot YMCA center that will make every resident an automatic member of its 17,000-square-foot fitness club and provide an on-site 10,000-square-foot day-care facility. Apartments are now renting to families and individuals whose incomes range between 33 percent and 60 percent of the area median income.

At the heart of the Village's residences, the YMCA's physical structure and its expansive repertoire of community training and services will integrate shelter and well-being as a seamless concept. So enthused are its three key partners—Carlisle Development Group, Biscayne Housing Group, and the YMCA of Greater Miami—that they're looking at Village Allapattah as a template for YMCAs nationally.

“Our partners really embraced this venture to the point where they were looking beyond the housing issues to the holistic community fabric,” says Alfred Sanchez, president and CEO of the YMCA of Greater Miami. “We're all looking at this not just as a project, but as a long-term marriage and a model for the future.”

The project's Phase I is a 12-story, 110-unit tower with one-, two-, and three-bedroom units, offering rents for between $328 and $1,051. Phase II is a nine-story building with 90 onebedroom units for seniors, renting for $328 to $758. Targeting households earning less than $38,400, the Village will integrate facilities and services with an on-campus elementary school and city park, offering child care, wellness, and fitness, as it builds intergenerational connections. —John McManus


Developer: Alexandria Housing Development Corporation Potomac Station, Inc.

Major Funders: Potomac Yard Development, LLC; Pulte- Centex; City of Alexandria; Virginia Housing Development Authority; RBC Capital Markets


Developer: Mercy Housing

Major Funders: Merritt Community Capital Corp.; California Housing Finance Agency; County of Santa Barbara; Santa Barbara Redevelopment Agency; Department of Housing and Urban Development; St. Vincent's Institution; Federal Home Loan Bank of San Francisco with Affinity Bank of Ventura


Developers: Carlisle Development Group, Biscayne Housing Group, and the YMCA of Greater Miami

Major Funders: The Richman Group; Bank of America; Miami-Dade County; Florida Housing Finance Corp.