When you look at the Cresthill Apartments, a 43-unit brick apartment building at 1430 Belmont St. NW. it's best to remember the past, look to the future, and forget the present.
Forget, for the moment, that the Cresthill now is a dingy building with words written on the walls and missing mailboxes located in the same block off 14th Street with other run down,vacant and boarded property. Forget that some of the apartments have bad plumbing and peeling paint.
Think instead of the future. The D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development has agreed to give Jubilee Housing Corp., which owns the Cresthill a $526,000 low-interest rehabilitation loan - the largest rehabilitation loan ever granted by the city - to carry out a unique project that will not displace any tenants and that will result in the tenants becoming the owners of the building.
And think of the past. Picture Sheila Royster, who moved to the Cresthill seven years ago with her husband and four children to become resident manager."You had to push your way through the trash garbage, and furniture in the hallways," Royster recalled yesterday.
But Royster whose family had lived in a one bedroom apartment before, was "desperate" for a cheap, two bedroom unit. So she stayed and helped clean the building. That cleanliness lasted, she remembers, "six or eight months."
Then 2 1/2 years ago, Jubilee Housing Cop., a nonorofil group sponsored in-per-city churches, brought the Cresthill, which had deteriorated severely. for $70.000. With Jubilee, "it was like the end of the rainbow had come. There really was hope," Royster said.
The Rev. Tom Nees. then pastor of the First Church of the Nazarene, left that post and formed a new, 18-member congregation committed to the rehabilitation of Cresthill called the Community of Hope Church of the Nazarene.
Mr. Nees said that when he and community volunteers first began to try to fix up the Cresthill two years ago, they were faced with a rat-in-fested building with no exterior doors, six inches of raw sewage in the basement and yard. Indeed, neighbors reterred to the Cresthill's yard as the "city dump," he said. Though fully occupied, rents had been collected from less than half the Cresthill's tenants, he said.
With the help of volunteers and church and community donations the building's code violations were climinated. Nees said. The building now is owned by Jubilee Housing, but is managed by a council of tenants. Eventually, ownership of the Cresthill will be transferred to the tenants, Nees said.
Rents now are $95 a month for a one-bedroom apartment and $120 a month for a two bedroom unit at Cresthill. Jubilee officials said if rents are raised at all after the rehabilitation the increses will be slight, reflecting higher utility costs. The average family income of tenants is less than $5,000 a year, Nee said.
The $526,000 loan will enable Cresthill apartments to have, within a year, new plumbing heating and electrical systems, new windows and doors and extenseive interior work, including new kitchens.
Under the terms of the loan, which comes from federal community development block grant funds, $240,000 will be a deferred payment which is to be repaid only if the property is sold, and the rest is to be paid back over 20 years at 3 per cent interest.
At a ceremony yesterday marking the start of the rehabilitation, D.C. Mayor Walter Washington told about 100 people crammed into a small room across the street from the Cresthill that a "ragtail group" led by a white minister came to his office several years ago, "talking management and rehabilitation"
"They were together in faith and hope for the future." Washington said. "They were talking about half a million dollars and didn't have a quarter in their pockets.'
Washington added that he "came to believe in this ragtail group. Of course, they're not going to be that anymore. They're entrepreneurs now."
The ceremony was attended by numerous city officials and the Msgr. Geno C. Baroni the assistant secretary for neighborhoods for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development as well as community organizers and residents.
Jubilee Housing is sponsored primarily by the Church of the Saviour at 2005 Massachusetts Ave. NW and the Community of Hope Church of the Nazarene at 1417 Belmont NW. with strong support from the King Emmanuel Baptist Church at 1725 Kalorama Rd. NW and from other churches individuals and student groups. Nees said.