Arlington’s new homeless center construction to get underway this spring

Construction work on a new 24-hour homeless services shelter in Arlington is expected to begin this spring after the Arlington County Board on Tuesday unanimously approved a $6.6 million construction contract with a minimum of objections.

The shelter, which will occupy two of seven floors in an existing building at 2020 14th Street, across a parking lot from the county building and across the street from the police headquarters, had sparked outrage from nearby residents when it was first announced more than two years ago.

“This should be a time for rejoicing, not complaining,” said County Board chairman Jay Fisette (D). “This is a terrific project — it’s been in the works for decades and will help folks in a difficult place in pull their lives together.”

The center will have a year-round dormitory of 50 beds, an additional 25 beds during winter months, and five medical beds. It will replace the aging current winter-only shelter at 2049 N. 15th Street, about a block and a half away. Arlington Street Peoples Network operates the existing shelter, and will operate the new one, under a contract with the county. The new one is expected to be finished by early 2015.

In addition to the construction costs (which includes a $1.1 million contingency fund), another $1.5 million will be spent on design, administration fees, permits and inspections. Furnishing, security and IT equipment will add another $758,000.

The building was purchased for $27.1 million a year ago. The rest of the building will be devoted to a variety of county offices. First-floor retailers will remain in the building.

Unlike the hours-long, pitched battles of the past when some neighbors objected to the proximity of a homeless shelter while supporters pointed out the need for it, Tuesday’s vote drew only two speakers: Audrey Clement, a regular presence who wanted an independent auditor to examine the costs of the shelter, and Ann Felker, a volunteer who supported the shelter on behalf of other volunteers.

Patricia Sullivan seeks out news about Alexandria and Arlington County for the Washington Post.

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