Officials Promote Brightwood Development

By Paul Schwartzman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 17, 2008

Even as a searing credit crunch slows construction across the region, District officials yesterday announced the selection of a developer to turn a vacant building into a mix of market-rate and affordable housing.

At a news conference, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) and community leaders said that the 26-unit condominium project would inject new life into a long-dilapidated patch of 14th Street in Brightwood, just south of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

George Mavrikes, a partner on the development team, said the project is attractive because the affordable units make it easier to obtain what is elusive to many builders these days -- construction loans.

"The financing isn't going to be a problem because it's workforce housing and people are going to kick down the doors to get it," Mavrikes said. "There are a lot of teachers, firefighters and police officers who have good credit and who are looking for housing."

Fenty said Blue Skye Development's project is among a smattering of new ones on or in close proximity to the Georgia Avenue corridor, projects that include a new apartment high-rise under construction at the Metro station in nearby Petworth.

"A lot of fantastic things are happening in this area," the mayor said.

Despite the economic downturn, Fenty said that he remains confident that developers will continue to initiate projects in the District, even if the pace slackens. The vacancy rate for offices has crept up and more than 2,000 condo units remain on the market in the District. But the mayor said he expects that new projects will draw interest.

"I'm very excited about the development in the city. Everything continues," he said. "What we're doing is responsible. There are no plans that push the envelope. What we're doing is building around the Metro and in excellent neighborhoods."

Blue Skye Development is taking over an apartment building that has been vacant since the 1980s and has more than 100 housing code violations.

Earlier this year, the District bought the building for $3 million from Vincent Abell, among 20 landlords that the Fenty administration sued for code violations.

As part of the deal, the District is giving the property to Blue Skye. In exchange, the developer is planning to construct 54 units of seniors housing on a property it already owns on Missouri Avenue, a few blocks away.

Of the 26 condominiums, roughly half will be sold as affordable units to couples earning up to $55,000. The other apartments will be sold at market-rate prices.

Mavrikes said that Blue Skye is negotiating the terms of a construction loan with a number of banks. The developer is scheduled to break ground next summer.

Bryan Scottie Irving, Blue Skye's president, said the company has built four condo projects and one apartment building, all in Southeast, since its founding seven years ago.

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