Alexandria's 15-year-long urban renewal project in the Old Town area known as The Dip has moved into its final stages as the city prepares for the second time this year to sell the remaining houses and lots on the last site targeted for redevelopment.
Plans to raze and renew the run-down neighborhood, where about 690 low-income residents lived, began in 1968 and originally called for construction of more than 300 new units, 84 of which would have been for rent with the remainder privately owned.
However, while federal laws governing urban renewal projects required that homes be replaced for displaced residents on a one-to-one basis, studies in 1970 and 1971 indicated that most of the Dip residents could not qualify for mortgage loans to buy the new homes. Plans where changed then to provide more than 300 rental units.
The first attempt to sell the last of the project's properties in multi-lot groups earlier this year failed because many local developers were already saddled with high inventories and were worried about the inflation-prone economy and the downturn in the housing market, said Thomas M. David Jr., chief of the rehabilitation division of the city's office of housing.
"In other times, the whole block would have been snapped up," he said.
After the failed attempt, the City Council and the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority, the state agency responsible for sales and execution of the city's urban redevelopment plan, opted to market the properties a second time on a single-lot basis, he said.
The parcel, a half block south of Duke Street and one block west of Washington Street, is comprised of 21 houses and nine vacant lots fronting on South Alfred, South Columbus and Wolfe streets, although four of the properties are not up for sale because of previous arrangements. One of the houses will be sold back to its original owner, and three lots were contracted for in the earlier offering.
Dip Limited Partnership, a union of Harkins Builders and the National Corporation for Housing Partnership, was initially awarded a contract for the development of the site, along with 11 additional whole and partial blocks set for redevelopment in the 14-block renewal area.
"The Dip renewal was originally planned as a total demolition project," said Office of Housing director Vola Lawson. But in the late 1970s, when the plan was altered to save existing structures and the block was designated for rehabilitation, the developers traded the block for another one, citing increased economic risk and poor market conditions for renovation projects.
"This block, in particular, is a center of preservation in a project that otherwise called for clearance" and new construction, David said. Plans for the renovation of the block require that developers or buyers must be experienced in rehabilitation in the Old Town area, or must hire experienced contractors.
David said the city will construct the interior of the block, including a 30-car parking lot, a children's play area, walkways, fences and walls; control of the common areas will revert in 1983 to a homeowners association.
Prospective buyers or developers must submit bids by August 3, along with construction or renovation proposals, financial statements, plans for financing and a $1,500 deposit for each lot. In the case of tie bids, buyers who plan to occupy the homes to be built or renovated will be given preference over those proposing to resell.
While the renovation properties will be sold to the highest bidder, minority development groups will receive a preference amounting to 10 percent of the highest bid on the six new-construction lots.
Contracts will be awarded in September. Construction or renovation must begin by January, 1983, and must be completed by January, 1984.
Detailed information and forms necessary for the preparation of bids and proposals can be obtained for $50, which is not refundable, from the Alexandria Office of Housing, Rehabilitation Division, 2300 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria 22301.