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$10 million tennis facility to open in Marshall Heights in September

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Construction on a new seven-acre tennis facility in Marshall Heights is to begin next week, after a seven-year fundraising campaign by the the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation to bring its youth development program to Southeast D.C.

The $10 million facility — which is to have nine outdoor tennis courts and a community center — broke ground last November, but the last piece of financing, $2.2 million from a federal tax credits program, came through this month.

The 50,000-square-foot center is to sit next to Benning Stoddert Recreation Center near the corner of East Capitol Street NE and Ridge Road SE, and is to have six indoor tennis courts, three classrooms, a computer room and a community room. Construction is to start Feb. 1 and is scheduled to finish by September, said Eleni Rossides, executive director of the Washington Tennis & Education Foundation.

The facility is to house the Center for Excellence, an after-school program for at-risk youth. The program provides about 60 K-12 students from Northeast and Southeast each year with academic support and tennis training aimed at getting them into college.

For years, students who participated in the program had to bus from east of the Anacostia River to the foundation’s current tennis center near 16th Street NW, Rossides said. The idea behind moving it to Southeast was to be closer to those students.

“We want to serve the neediest kids in the city,” Rossides said. “We feel strongly the center will transform this community and will be a place families and kids come to. We’re incredibly excited about the opportunity.”

D.C. Councilmember Yvette Alexander (D-Ward 7), a board member of the foundation whose jurisdiction includes the new center, said the addition will help expose young people to tennis and “bring something new to the neighborhood as well.”

The project is the latest in a burst of developments planned for Ward 7. Wal-Mart has announced plans to open a store at East Capitol and 58th streets by 2014; the Washington Nationals expect to open their youth baseball academy at Fort Dupont Park early next year; Donatelli Development’s mixed-use retail and residential development at Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road is poised to start construction this summer.

The foundation has a 40-year lease with the city, which controls the National Park Service-owned land. The project is primarily funded by private grants, donations and loans from board members totaling $7.8 million. Among the largest donors are the family of the late Sylvia Ritzenberg, The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and the foundations associated with Marriott and Verizon, which contributed between $300,000 and $1.5 million each.

The remaining $2.2 million was from Capital One under the New Markets Tax Credit program, a federal program that aims to spur development in low-income areas. The program allows corporate investors to receive a tax credit against their federal income tax return in exchange for providing investment capital. The financing transaction, handled by attorneys Peter Work, Todd Rosenberg and Jenny Cieplak at Crowell & Moring and Richard Aguglia at Hunton & Williams, closed this month.

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