Champagne was flowing and tenants were dancing when the Ordway Porter Tenants Association (OPTA) officially bought its apartment complex several weeks ago..
"We're very excited, the developer is excited, even the people at Riggs (Bank) are excited," said Gera Richardson shortly after the papers were signed. Richardson is vice president of the tenants association.
Located, appropriately enough, at the corner of Ordway and Porter streets NW, the 166 garden-type units were purchased by the tenants in partnership with a developer for $2.6 million.
In a calmer mood several days after the celebration, Richardson and tenants association president Gene Heller spent an afternoon reflecting on the past few months.
"I would say the two biggest problems we faced were the time frame and financing," said Heller. "Even if the 180 days were doubled, most tenant groups would still have trouble coming to settlement.
"Financing is really tough.Government money is there for this type of purchase but it takes up to a year to get through all the red tape. We didn't have that kind of time so we had to go with conventional financing."
Richardson attributes much of the tenants association's success to loan officers at Riggs Bank and Unity Mortgage who she says went out of their way to make money available to the tenants in a short period of time.
Modestly admitting she coined the phrase "tenant capitalism," which has been on the tongues of tenants throughout the city since its appearance in a recent newspaper article, Richardson says this is tthe wave of the future.
"What it means is that in our case the profits from the building will go to the 116 tenants who are purchasing their units as opposed to just one developer she explained. "Everybody can make money, but nobody gets rich."
The two association leaders attribute much of their success to the tenants themselves.
"One of the keys to success was the fact that professionals who live here were able to balance their skills inside with their skills outside. We got a lot of free advice that way," said Richardson, who is an attorney."
"We put all of our apples in one barrel on this deal. We vowed to take as many people with us through the purchase and we have really tried to include everyone who could possible afford to buy."
As she strolled along the apartment grounds, Richardson paused for a moment to reflect on what might be the greatest success at Ordway Porter.
"I've lived in Philadelphia and New York and never before have I seen such neighborliness. As a spin-off from the real estate deal, we're all friends and neighbors now," Richardson said with satisfaction. CAPTION: Picture, Gera Richardson and Gene Heller, of the Ordway Porter Tenants Association. By Craig Herndon -- The Washington Post