By yesterday, McLean Gardens tenants, who received notices to vacate their apartments earlier this year, were supposed to have moved. Instead, tenant leaders spent the morning at a press conference, where they announced details of their $90 million development plan for the 43-acre Northwest complex.
The tenants -- about 180 remain at the 723-unit complex located a few blocks from the Washington Cathedral -- are attempting to buy McLean Gardens. Their development plan calls for rehabilitation of units for existing tenants, which would be operated as cooperatives or condominiums, and the rehabilitation and construction of town houses and duplex apartments that will be sold to the public as condominiums, according to tenant spokesman Jack Koczela.
The total number of units at the complex will be about 1,300. There would be luxury townhouses, duplex apartments, and seven-story condominiums that will serve a wide range of incomes, tenants said. Koczela estimated that some of them may start at $35,000 for one bedroom.
Tenants may find themselves facing a lawsuit, however. Last May, California builder Dwight Mize signed a contract with the current owners, CBI Fairmac, to purchase the complex, and announced that he planned to convert it to condominiums.
But in September, Fairmac offered tenants a chance to purchase the complex for $25 million. Residents had charged that under laws governing the sale of rental housing in the District, they should have been given first right of refusal to purchase the complex. They were given 90 days -- until Dec. 5 -- to raise a $500,000 deposit, and sign a contract with Fairmac.
Mize has said that as long as the tenants involve others than themselves in the development of the project, they can expect a court fight.
Koczela contended, however, that the residents themselves are the developer, adding "we are within the law."
Koczela said that individual tenants will not benefit from sales of the condominiums. Profits will be used to pay off their debts and loans, he said. Koczela said the $500,000 deposit that the tenants have made for the purchase of the complex was raised with the help of loans from Washington area banks and from other financial backers. William P. McCulloch, a World Bank lawyer who has been active in renovation internationally, is one of the persons who helped the tenants put together their plan and find financing.