After waging a battle for more than a year, tenants of the Kenesaw Apartments have five days left to raise $200,000 to buy the apartments from Antioch College.
Under terms of a sales contract signed with Antioch, a partnership of the Kenesaw tenants' co-op and the D.C. Development Corporation, a private organization that receives city and federal funds to promote economic development in the inner city, has until March 7 to raise the money.
By the same date, the tenants' co-op also must get the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development to approve a $1.17 million loan to rehabilitate the building.
If the tenants' co-op fails to meet either deadline, the college can void the sale.
To complete the purchase, the co-op must raise $700,000, including the $200,000 needed by March 7.
Silverio Coy, a community worker who helped organize the co-op, said the development corporation will seek most of the funds from private investors, although the tenants will try to raise part of the money. In addition, he said the tenants hope to finance maintenance of the 78-unit building.
"The 78 families who will live in the building will put their rent together and put some (money) aside to administer and keep up the building," Coy said.
Twenty-seven families -- about 70 people --now live in the building. Coy said residents include many large, low-income families from Latin America, Spain, Trinidad, Ehiopia and Brazil.
The tenants' co-op was told in October by Edgar Cahn, co-dean of Antioch Law School, that the building at 3060 16th St. NW had been sold to a private developer, Ashley Investment Corporation. H. R. Crawford, a former HUD official, represented the Ashley company in the negotiations.
The sale fell through, however, and opened the way for the co-op to buy the building, said Coy.
Crawford said that under the agreement between Cahn and the Ashley company, he had 30 days after the contract was signed to arrange financing.
"As we understand it," Coy said, "Crawford couldn't arrange the financing and couldn't meet the deadline. He asked Antioch for an extension and got it. In fact, he got several extensions. The last one ran out on Jan. 18."
Crawford confirmed that he got several extentions, but said the primary reason he withdrew from the Kenesaw project was "out of sheer frustration."
He said he had considered rehabilitating the building and leaving it as rental property or making the building units into condominiums. He said he opposed to plan to make the building a co-op.
Crawford said he met with several members of the Kenesaw tenants' co-op after he signed the contract in an effort to work out plans to relocate the tenants temporarily, had he decided to rehabilitate the building, and to help them obtain government rent subsidies so they could return to the building once the rehabilitation was completed.
"there was a great deal of suspicion," he said. "A lot of the people seemed to want something for nothing. They wanted to own their apartments but they didn't have enough money to do that. We tried to make them understand that they had to have adequate incomes in order to qualify for the government subsidy programs.
"I personally got very frustrated. I exhausted every effort trying to satisfy their concerns."
Crawford said he lost "a few dollars" because he did not satisfy all the terms of the sales contract before he withdrew from the project.
On Jan. 20, the D.C. Development Corporation, acting on behalf of the Kenesaw Co-op, offered a contract to Antioch to buy the building. The development corporation and the co-op are to be co-owners of the building, Coy said.
The development corporation was formed more than three years from the consolidation of the Model Cities Economic Development Corporation and the New Model Cities Housing Development Corporation. The corporation has been involved in helping find funds for several housing and business projects in inner-city areas of the District.
Coy said the co-op is conducting a study to determine if the building can be operated on a sound economic basis.
Last week, about 300 persons turned out at All Souls Church at 16th and Harvard streets NW for a benefit dance to help raise funds to purchase the building. Guests paid $4 and $5 each for the dance and, once inside, from 50 cents to $2.50 for food and drinks.
The guests included City Council members Marion Barry, Hilda Mason and David Clarke, as well as Antioch Law School students, Adams Morgan and Mt. Pleasant residents and Kenesaw residents.
Coy said a strong cooperative effort by the tenants is responsible for the progress they have made in trying to buy the building.
After the proposal between Antioch and Crawford's company was announced, he said, the tenants held a meeting to plan ways to garner community support for their efforts to buy the building.
"We met one night and drew up signs and banners and hung them across the front of the building" he said. "The signs said things like 'Crawford No; Co-op Si' and 'Antioch-Crawford vs. Kenesaw Co-op.' Those banners attracted a lot of attention. I think the signs dissuaded Mr. Crawford's backers and gave us more support in the community." through, further negotiations were turned over to the administrative offices of Antioch in Yellow Springs, Ohio.
Dudley Woodall, director of administration and finance at the Oio campus, said the negotiations "had become a burden to Dean Cahn. After all, he is in the business of education and we're in the business of administration.
"We have every expectation that the co-op can meet its deadline by the seventh," he said.