Demonstrators who say JBG Companies is raising rents and utility bills to push out residents in Alexandria’s West End neighborhoods along Beauregard Street staged a demonstration Wednesday at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel where the company was being named developer of the year.
The small demonstration, which joined with others objecting to JBG’s involvement in the construction of two Wal-Mart stores in the District, demanded that the landlord roll back rents to 2010 rates. The developer and two other property owners plan to raze 2,475 apartments and redevelop the area, where many working-class families live.
“JBG still has a chance to do the right thing,” said Hector Pineda, president of the Beauregard Tenants Association, which is part of the Tenant and Workers Union. “They could reduce rents and ensure that all current tenants have a home in the new development.”
The NAIOP, the Commercial Real Estate Development Association, was honoring JBG at its annual convention at the hotel.
About 800 apartments out of 5,000 new or redeveloped units will be set aside for residents who make half or less of the area’s median income, a bargain that elected officials are proud of negotiating. But only 100 units will be available in the first few years as destruction and construction gets underway.
Turnover at the apartments is currently at about 40 percent per year, driven by rising rents and utility bills, the tenants say. But Charles Maier, spokesman for JBG, pointed out that energy prices everywhere have been going up.
“We’ve been in touch and have had multiple conversations with the tenants and the tenants union over the past couple of years,” Maier said. “We’ve communicated what we can and can’t do. It doesn’t seem as if they accept our answers ... We do develop sensitively. We’re all over Northern Virginia, Washington and Maryland, and it’s in our interest to be good neighbors."