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Article reprinted in its entirety from the Washington Business Journal, April 9, 2021
DC partners with church to bring affordable housing to one of its hottest neighborhoods
By Alex Koma
A Baptist church near NoMa is working to redevelop its land in partnership with the District government, an arrangement designed to incentivize the construction of affordable housing in one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods.
D.C.’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development will soon begin accepting proposals for the redevelopment of the Southern Baptist Church, located at the intersection of L Street and New Jersey Avenue NW, as well as some city-owned parcels surrounding the building. The goal is to find a developer that can build both an expanded church and affordable housing, perhaps all in one building or in multiple structures.
Church leaders have weighed a redevelopment for roughly seven years, according to Michael Marshall, an architect working with Southern Baptist on the project. Because the city owns the land the church uses for a parking lot, Marshall said the congregation approached D.C. officials about pursuing the project together.
John Falcicchio, Mayor Muriel Bowser’s chief of staff and the deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said he jumped at the chance to “get both more out of our land and the property they own.” The city only controls about a third of an acre there, so officials wouldn’t be able to do much with it without the church’s cooperation. But DMPED didn’t want to simply transfer that land to the church, reasoning it could find advisers with real estate experience to manage the process.
Accordingly, DMPED will work to find a development team that can help make the project a reality. It’s unclear just how much housing this new partnership will ultimately yield, but Falcicchio hopes it can prove to be a model for additional efforts to redevelop church properties into affordable units, especially in booming neighborhoods like this one. The church is located just south of Toll Brothers’ Sursum Corda redevelopment and just west of the Northwest One project.
“There’s a real opportunity to advance a lot of units if churches are willing and put in some work to make projects like this happen,” Falcicchio said.
Marshall expects the project will be a transformative one for the church as well, helping the congregation stay in D.C. instead of “pulling up their stakes and moving to the suburbs” like so many others have over the years.
The church initially hired Marshall’s firm, the eponymous Michael Marshall Design, to study the prospects of building a new church with room for a new sanctuary and additional academic space on the property. But he said he urged the church to consider the opportunity for housing as well, considering how other faith-based organizations have managed similar redevelopments in recent years. D.C.’s Hoffman & Associates has partnered with two churches in Southwest alone on redevelopment projects.
Marshall expects DMPED will be able to help draw proposals for affordable housing, senior housing or both as part of the church project. He said market-rate housing could also be part of the equation to make the financing work, perhaps via a project matching the nine-story, 133-unit SeVerna on K building just across First Street NW from the church site.
“When you look at what’s happening at Sursum Corda and Northwest One, and the energy coming with the development of NoMa and Mount Vernon Triangle, this site is right at the nexus of that,” Marshall said.
Marshall said his firm will continue to work with the church as it goes through the process with DMPED, and he expects the church’s input will shape the framework of the RFP the agency eventually issues.
After previewing the project at DMPED’s annual “March Madness” event, Falcicchio hopes to see that RFP released sometime this summer, in order to “give the market time to do the teaming” to adequately respond to the project.
View the published article here