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St. Martins project

Guest Susan_*

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Guest Susan_*

I am writing to you to keep you informed of Catholic Community Services most recent attempts to keep the community informed of the proposed St. Martins project. They have recently hired a consulting firm who is distributing the attached flyer. While we welcome the fact that they are finally attempting to contact the surrounding community, we wish they would be more forthcoming with all of the facts so that we, as a community, can make an informed decision.


Quote #1- Ward 5 Citizens for Workforce Housing


This is the title of the document. The generally accepted definition of workforce housing is those who make 60-80% of the area median income. The St. Martins project is being built with 100% of the units being financed through the LIHTC (low income housing tax credit) which requires that the residents earn less than 60% of the AMI.. Nowhere in this document do they state this most basic fact.


Quote #2- Mixed-income apartments for families and individuals of diverse income levels.


The generally accepted definition of mixed-income apartments would include market rate units or, at the very least, workforce income (80% AMI) units. Their definition of mixed- income includes only very low income (below 30% AMI) and low income (below 60% AMI). This is misleading at best.


Quote #3- 50 Jr. one-bedroom apartments that will rent for about $500 per month.


What they do not say is that these units are reserved for formerly homeless men who have been free of alcohol and drugs for a minimum of 30 days. They will not be available to the public. We, as a community, have a right to know this.


Quote #4- 120-130 underground parking spaces, tree lined courtyard and community meeting spaces.


What they do not say is that there will be an additional fee every month for parking. When asked the amount of the fee, Mr Drobenare said it would not be much - somewhere around $50 per month. $600 per year per car will be a financial burden that some of the residents will not be able to afford so they will end up parking on the surrounding neighborhood streets. They also do not say that the parking garage will be shared with the City Lights School. There are at least 20 cars parked up there every day.


As to the tree-lined courtyard, ask any law enforcement officer what they think of an apartment designed around 2 courtyards that are invisible to the street. According to HUD, this type of design has a tendency to “foster criminal activity”.


Quote #5- WHO WILL LIVE THERE? Working adults (private school teachers, government employees, fire cadets, library aides, nonprofit and social services agency employees, hospital employees, tourism, hotel, restaurant workers, etc.)


We finally got them to stop saying it was for teachers, law enforcement officers, social workers, and fire fighters because they make too much money to qualify to live there. They are still being misleading by saying “private” school teachers, government employees (too broad), and fire “cadets”. The income limits of the residents are set by law. Why can’t they just give us those figures?


Quote #6- St. Martins and CCS submitted an application for a Planned Unit Development to the Office of Planning


What they did not say is that they also submitted a request for a map amendment to change the zoning from R-4 to R-5.


Every study shows that high-density, low-income housing just doesn’t work. There are many models out there that do work such as the HOPE VI projects. Part of what makes these projects work is the fact that they are designed in size and architecture to blend in with the surrounding community. Take a look at the Ellen Wilson Townhomes for a good example. We want a complex that is in line with the Mayor’s New Communities initiative that states “The New Communities Initiative will fight these conditions by transforming highly concentrated low-income neighborhoods into healthy mixed-income neighborhoods that protect housing for the poor with a one-for-one replacement of existing affordable housing around improved community anchors like schools and recreation centers.” Our neighborhood is already a hotspot. Adding a high concentration of low- income housing is just going to make it worse. The new Northwest One community that is being planned is a good example of modern urban design that will provide much needed affordable housing to the area in a responsible manner. Shouldn’t Catholic Community Services be held to the same high standard set by the Mayor?





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This the type of topic we should be disussing on this board. This is relevant to the District Ward 5 Community. I am going contact Father Kelly to comment about these statements.

Edited by Luke_Wilbur
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I spoke in depth with Fr. Kelley of St. Martin's Catholic Church about the proposed apartment building in Ward 5 of the District.


This would be primarily workforce housing designed to look like the surrounding row houses. He also stated that the church is committed to including the neighborhood in the tenant selection process.


Everyone living in the building must be employed or a retiree with a pension. Tenants median income must be at least $30,000 per year have good credit, and have strong housing references. The units will rent from $869 and $1039 a month.


Father Kelley also asked me to mention that there will be a prayer, procession, and community meeting for affordable housing on Sunday, March 12, 2006 at 1:30 pm. All are welcome to meet at St. Martins Catholic Church on North Capitol and T Street NW, Washington DC 20002. For more information please call 202.232-1144

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  • 3 months later...
Guest Joe Lilavois

On June 22, the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) will be meeting to decide whether the St. Martins convent and school should be designated an historic landmark. The nomination for protection was made by the DC Preservation League, the cities largest historic preservation organization. The convent was built in 1920's by master architect Maurice Moore. He also built the Bon Secours Convent was granted historic status by the HPRB.


The Historic Preservation Review Board is accepting testimony from those in favor of preservation and those in favor of demolition. I would imagine that it would be awkward to take the stance of "destroy our history" especially since this landmark nomination was filed by a well respected historic preservation organization.


We need to send and email our letters to the HPRB ASAP! THey have requested that we send all comments by June 14, so they can be included in the June 22 hearing. Include with all correspondence the reference:


St. Martin's School and Convent HPA 06-10


The mail and email addresses are as follows:


Tersh Boasberg, HPRB Chairman

Office of Planning/Historic Preservation Office

801 N. Capitol Street, NE #3000

Washington, DC 20002




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Bruce Yarnall of the Office of Planning/Historic Preservation stated that the meeting on the St. Martins convent has been postponed. His number is 202.442-8835


D.C. Preservation League

401 F Street, NW

Room 324

Washington, D.C. 20001


Tel: (202) 783-5144

Fax: (202) 783-5596

E-Mail: info@dcpreservation.org


Comments or suggestions to the site:



D.C. Preservation League Director, Rebecca Miller, found about the St. Martin's convent last November. She stated that even if the convent becomes a historic landmark the building could be still torn down. Rebecca Miller believes also that a four story building would have a significant impact on a neighborhood of row houses.


It appears that the hearing is going to be scheduled around July 26.


I contacted Father Kelly of St Martins Catholic parish. He stated the parish has been committed for 100 years for the greater good of the community. The new housing project is in line with the DC Government's commitment to affordable housing and welcoming a diverse community. The 3rd revised design incorporates the existing row house design of the neighboring community.


This not a shelter, this housing geared to people making over $30,000. The proposed St. Martins Apartments would incorporate the latest security for residents.

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  • 2 months later...

This is Kris Hammond, ANC 5C-02 candidate statement about the project.


Last year, when a local church decided to build a very large low-income-housing apartment complex in our neighborhood, our current Commissioner thought that this was such a noble idea that no real discussion with her neighbors was needed. This was a mistake that the Commissioner has yet to resolve.


The intentions of the church appear to have been noble and the availability of affordable housing is a great concern. A more effective Commissioner would have brought both sides together to talk early on; instead, the ANC voted on the issue before most of the constituents even knew about the proposal. Today, the church's proposal is worse off than it would have been if the community had been informed from the beginning.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Here the latest update about Saint Martins. Also, I have noticed the police out in a full show of force on Lincoln avenue. It really seems to helping the neighborhood. Kids are feeling safer. So thanks District Police for doing a good job. Keep it up :lol:




In response to the several calls and e-mails we have received recently regarding the St. Martin's School and Convent nomination, please note that this hearing IS NOT on the agenda for either the September 28 or October 5 meetings.


That said, the property and nominated structures, are afforded protection from the time the nomination is accepted until such time the nomination is heard.


The owner of the property asked for, and received, a postponement of the hearing in July. The status of the project/nomination has not changed since that time.


As stated before, we will notify you when the nomination is scheduled before the board. Please note that the nomination and project will continue to be listed on the Office Notice of Meeting and Public Hearing as was the case earlier this month. Paragraph two of that document explains that the Agenda is prepared and released five days in advance of the meeting date. The October meeting date is Thursday, October 26.


Bruce Yarnall


DC Historic Preservation Office

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  • 3 months later...

Here is a statement from Fr. Kelley of St. Martin’s Catholic Church and Ed Orzechowski of Catholic Community Services.


We appreciate the opportunity to provide this Frequently Asked Questions document to our neighbors, friends and residents of Ward 5. We are committed to transparency in this development process and welcome the good intentions of the Edgewood Civic Association, ANC 5C and others working with us to bring mixed-income workforce and affordable housing to the community. This will be the first workforce housing built in the neighborhood in more than three decades.


We are investing more than $28,000,000 in this development and you can be sure that we will work diligently to protect our neighborhood’s property values, quality of life and our considerable investment. Further, we have a legal obligation to both our tax credit investors and lenders to ensure that the property is properly maintained and continues to prosper. We assure you that this development is well designed, enhances the Edgewood and Eckington neighborhood aesthetic and that it will be built and maintained to the highest market standards. Thank you for working with us.


1. What are St. Martin’s and CCS proposing to build?

St. Martin’s wants to provide quality workforce rental housing for District residents on land it owns at 116 T Street, NE. To this end, the church partnered with Catholic Community Services (CCS) to invest over $28 million to build 184 apartments with 120–140 underground parking spaces. The development, St. Martin’s Apartments, is located across from McKinley High School.


2. Is the CCS/St. Martin’s development team working with the community? Yes. We have and will continue to work with the community. We have held nearly a dozen meetings with the community and ANC 5C voted to support the development. We also have the support of many Edgewood and Eckington residents and major civic and housing organizations in the Ward including: more than 300 Edgewood and Eckington neighborhoods have signed petitions of support, more than 100 neighbors sent emails to the Office of Planning supporting the development, ANC 5C SMD Commissioner Farmer, ANC 5C Commissioner Jones, the Edgewood Civic Association, Manna, Inc., the Brentwood Civic Association, ACORN, the Neighborhood Steering Committee, Ecumenical Council of Churches (7 local churches), Edgewood and Eckington Parishioners of St. Martin’s for Development, and the churches of the Washington Interfaith Network (WIN). All support the development as affordable and workforce housing.


3. What changes to the project has St. Martin/CCS made in response to the community

o Changed from a project for primarily very low income households to primarily workforce housing

o Reduced density by 25% and reduced height

o Increased parking density

o Redesigned facade to resemble townhouses

o Removed pedestrian and automobile entrances from Todd Place

o Committed to including the neighborhood in the tenant selection process.


4. Must someone be a member of St. Martin’s Catholic Church to live at here?

No. We are not providing special preferences to St. Martin’s parishioners.


5. Are you willing to turn this into a mixed income development?

Yes. We have made many concessions to the community in changing the development from an affordable housing development for large very low income families and formerly homeless individuals to one which includes is primarily workforce housing with a small component for formerly homeless individuals. (We have provided housing on this site in the former convent building for the past ten years. Currently, 17 formerly homeless but working men reside there without causing any problems for the neighborhood.


andAdditionally, we are willing to consider including some market-rate housing.


6. Who will live in this building?

Everyone living at this building must be employed or a retiree with a pension.

In the final analysis, what we build must be balanced against the fact that this is the last opportunity in the neighborhood for workforce housing. Current plans call for the following; however, our negotiations with community civic associations will influence our final plan.


● 134 one and two bedroom apartments renting to individuals whose annual income 60% of the District’s current median income, which is from $30,000 to $54,000 per year depending upon family size. These units will rent between $869 and $1,039 per month.


● 50 Jr. one-bedroom apartments renting to formerly homeless individuals whose annual

income is about $18,000. These units will rent for about $500 per month.


7. Will the fifty units be for people in rehabilitation programs?

None of the individuals living at St. Martin’s Apartments will be in rehab. Of the fifty individuals who have experienced homeless, less than a third also have had a substance abuse issue. For others, their homelessness could have been a temporary life setback. The journey from homelessness to becoming a full time working member of society is a tremendous fete and requires a certain tenacity, discipline and aspiration. Whatever the past issues, to live in this building, they will need to be employed full time. No one using drugs will be permitted to live at St. Martin’s Apartments. If someone has had a drug problem, those problems must have been resolved before moving here.


8. Isn’t this development too dense? Couldn’t you simply build townhouses?

The real density of this project is less than a townhouse development. The best measure of density or the number of people who will live in a development is the number of bedrooms. A “matter of right” townhouse development could have 304 bedrooms while the proposed development has only 284. A townhouse project is only required to have 38 parking spaces, which means cars will park on the street. Our proposal has between 120 and 140 parking spaces, to reduce on-street parking and allow street parking for our Edgewood and Eckington neighbors.


9. Will this development be too tall for the community?

No. It will actually be lower than a townhouse development. “As of right”, i.e. with no zoning change, townhouses can be four stories and forty feet high. They can be built from the top of the hill, which is approximately twenty feet high for a total of sixty feet above the sidewalk. On the Todd Place side, our building removes the hill and builds from the sidewalk for a height of 54 feet and is only four stories high. On the T Street side, the building is a mix of 2 stories and 5 story sections.


10. Has a traffic study been done?

This development is designed to minimize impact on the neighborhood by providing 120–140 off street parking spaces for our resident, which leaves on-street parking for our neighbors. A traffic study was conducted by O.R. George & Associates, Inc. and is a public document available thru ANC 5C, the Office of Planning, and the Edgewood and Eckington civic associations.


11. Isn’t a mixed iIncome development best for the neighborhood?

We believe in a mixed income neighborhood and this development ensures that the neighborhood continues to be available for mixed income individuals and families. With market-rate houses averaging about $500,000, the neighborhood is swiftly becoming upper-middle income and displacing working folks who have fought for years to make this a crime and drug free neighborhood. This is one of the few remaining undeveloped sites in the District. When all the homes that are now rented are sold, this will be the last place in the neighborhood for people of modest income to live.


12. Will Edgewood or Eckington residents have first right of refusal to live at St. Martin’s Apartments?

Legally, we are unable to give anyone first right of refusal; however, we will encourage the Neighborhood Steering Committee, working with the property management company, to establish criteria to include considerations for Edgewood and Eckington neighbors. Also, we will initially market the property exclusively in the neighborhood through local civic associations and churches. We will only advertise out of the local community, once this has been done. To this end, we distributed a Reply Card surveying neighbors to discern if there is interest in living at St. Martin’s Apartments. A Reply Card is attached to this FAQ.


13. What is the Neighborhood Steering Committee and how can I get on it?

The Neighborhood Steering Committee is a group of concerned citizens that have helped to design the project and will continue to guide it. It is composed of neighbors who responded to the invitational flier distributed in September, members of local churches and representatives of civic groups. Anyone can join simply by contacting Ward 5 Citizens for Workforce Housing at 202.316.6451 or by emailing WardFiveDC@aol.com


14. How will we ensure that the property is well run and standards are maintained?

The Neighborhood Steering Committee will interview professional management companies and help select a qualified firm. The presidents of the neighborhood civic associations and the churches will be invited to participate in the selection. Once selected, the Property Management company, in conjunction with the Neighborhood Steering Committee, will establish detailed tenant screening criteria consistent with our commitment that all residents be employed fulltime or retirees, have good credit, and strong housing references.


15. Do Edgewood or Eckington neighbors have special rights because they live near the site? The BZA gives ANC 5C’s opinion “great weight” and ANC 5C has endorsed this development.

16. Shouldn’t this be a homeownership development?

There are plenty of homeownership projects throughout the District for people seeking to create wealth by purchasing a home, waiting for appreciation and then selling so they can buy up and this is great for individuals who can afford to do it. But, if this were a homeownership development, the building would only help the first group of new buyers build personal wealth and not become a perpetual resource for working folk who need a low rent place to live while they save for homeownership. We want to create a perpetual resource for working class people to help them get started. We will, however, offer homeownership workshops and down payment assistance for residents as they become ready to move on to homeownership.


17. Will this be a Section 8 building?

No. It is illegal in DC to refrain from renting to someone simply because they have a housing voucher. However, voucher holders will be held to the same standards that other tenants, i.e. full time employment, good credit history, and good housing references. If they cannot meet these criteria, they will not be able to rent at this building.


18. Is this just like Sursum Corda?

No. This development is totally different from Sursum Corda.


Sursum Corda:

A) 100% Project Based Section 8

B. A limited equity cooperative run by the residents with no employment or income

requirements and residents’ income averages between $6,000 and $17,000 a year.

C) As a coop, residents had complete autonomy, failed to raise their rents to cover

operating costs, and failed to evict their neighbors even when they caused trouble.

This led to massive deterioration.


St. Martin’s Apartments:

A) Will be operated by a professional management company

B. Will receive no Section 8 subsidy

C) Residents must be employed or a retiree with a pension. Current plans call for the

following; however, this maybe modified during our negotiations with the community:


● 134 one and two bedroom apartments renting to individuals whose annual income is

60% of the District’s current median income, which is between $30,000 and $54,000

per year depending upon family size. They will rent between $869 and $1,039 per month.


● 50 Jr. one-bedroom apartments renting to formerly homeless individuals whose annual income

is about $18,000. These units will rent for about $500 per month

D) Has the same screening as Class A properties (employment, credit, and references required).


19. Who is the CCS and St. Martin’s point person on this development?

CCS and St. Martin’s have formed a development team and Neal Drobenare is the point person for the team and speaks for both organizations in community negotiations.


For more information, contact Ward 5 Citizens for Workforce Housing at

202.316-6451 or email us at WardFiveDC@aol.com


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