City Chooses D.C. Developers to Lead Sursum Corda Project

By Debbi Wilgoren
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 13, 2007; 3:25 PM

Two well-known D.C. developers have been chosen to tear down the low-income Sursum Corda housing cooperative and replace it with a larger, higher-density neighborhood in the center of the city that would be home to a mix of poor, middle-income and affluent residents, D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) said.

The $700 million project announced this morning involves some of the last undeveloped land on the outskirts of Washington's booming downtown. It represents an ambitious effort to draw mid- and upper-income households, and the retailers who want to serve them, without displacing low-income residents who have lived in the neighborhood for generations.

William C. Smith & Co. and the Jair Lynch Cos. are leading a development partnership called One Vision, which also includes Banneker Ventures and the affordable housing provider Community Preservation Development Corp. The group proposed building 1,630 apartments, condos and townhouses in the area bounded by K Street to the south, New York Avenue to the north, North Capitol Street to the east and New Jersey Avenue to the west.

The project would include the same number of heavily subsidized housing units as are currently located in that area -- both at Sursum Corda, where 170 families currently live, and in other nearby buildings, a statement issued by the mayor's office said.

As part of its proposal, One Vision worked with resident leadership at Sursum Corda to win the residents' support for the project, the mayor's office said.

The city has been searching for a way to redevelop Sursum Corda and the areas around it for the last several years, as downtown property values skyrocketed and the demand for in-city living followed suit. At the same time, conditions at Sursum Corda deteriorated, and residents were told they were at risk of a federal foreclosure.

Families in the cooperative negotiated a deal with a Virginia developer to bail them out in exchange for a chance to rebuild the property and add a significant number of market-rate units. But that deal fell apart when the city moved to include Sursum Corda in the larger Northwest One New Communities Initiative--one of several projects throughout the city to redevelop struggling neighborhoods, offer job training and other opportunities to existing residents and draw new households as well. Proposals for the Northwest One project were solicited by the city last July.

In addition to housing, the One Vision proposal includes more than 40,000 square feet of retail, more than 220,000 square feet of office space and a 21,000-square-foot health clinic, Fenty's office said.

At the same time, the city is planning to spend $45 million rebuilding the nearby Walker-Jones Elementary School and incorporating a new recreation center and public library.

Fenty's office said the Northwest One project will be built in phases, with construction likely starting on land the city controls along North Capitol Street, near Gonzaga College High School.

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