Here we go again. I have stayed out of the arguments on the St. Martins PUD project for the most part. The following letter was sent from Father Kelly of St. Martins, to an obviously receptive Commissioner Jones.
There seems to be a few things that confuse me. One is the ongoing debate between what is the role of the Eckington Civic Association and the Edgewood Association. It seems that St. Martins and The commish, are choosing one over the other to suit their needs. I wonder why Ms. Jones is such a proponent of this project? Perhaps at some point we should all learn who has what to gain in this project. Mr. Drobenare, obviously has quite a bit to gain, between being the developer and getting LIHC grants.
I have spoken to Mr. Liliavois in the past, and the last thing that he is a person who is discriminatory against economic strata. If he says what the letter contends, it was most certainly out of context, or perhaps said out of frustration. I am part of the 200 Club, those residents that will be most affected by the development, and the group that the DC Office of Planning has mandated that must be involved in this process. I like most of the other people I have spoken with, are NOT against affordable housing, and mix-use. We are not against St. Martins or CCS. We do however expect that development will be done in a smart way, limiting the negative effects that have been associated with low-income developments. I also believe that CCS can achieve their goals without creating a 184 unit monstrocity, built in the middle of a tight community of multicultually owned rowhouses, and adjacent to two schools and another homeless shelter. Smart growth has generally been reserved for city managers in the burbs trying to reduce strip mall hell, but in this case, we all need to think about the hood, and what the ramafications of these developments will be.
Here is the text of the letter.
Thank you for sharing Ms. Lilavois posting from the Eckington egroup in which CCS/St. Martin's is accused of promoting economic segregation and for your request that we address this issue publicly. Clearly, this neighbor is aware that St. Martin's Apartments will be economically integrated with market rate, affordable and workforce housing. We agreed to include a market rate component as a concession in response to a request from members of the Eckington Civic Association and Ms. Lilavois was present when we made this agreement; so, this accusation is baffling. We announced it at the Feb. 20 Eckington Civic Association (ECA) meeting, again on Feb. 26 in a private meeting to negotiate an MOU with the ECA leadership, which Mr. Lilavois and again on March 20 in the attached Memorandum of Understanding that we signed with the Edgewood Civic Association, and the Ecumenical Council and distributed to Mr. Lilavois, the three hundred people who attended the community meeting and the media. Thank you for posting this MOU on the ECA egroup.
CCS and St. Martinâ€™s believe in a mixed income neighborhood, which is why this workforce and affordable housing development is being proposed. Moreover, residents of the building will be full civic participants in a neighborhood, whose housing values and income levels will continue to grow. This is in keeping with the Ford Foundationâ€™s findings supporting mixing income groups and cultural and class integration. Of note, people who initially meet income guidelines will be able to stay in the building even after their income rises above those initial limits.
With townhouses surrounding the apartment site selling for a half million dollars and up, the neighborhood will soon be affordable only to upper middle-income people. Recently, Mr. Lilavois mentioned to Neal Drobenare and me that he would prefer to have "rich folks across the street". While we respect his right to his opinion, it is not one we share. We are committed to providing housing to working folks. By having the last available unbuilt site reserved primarily for affordable workforce housing insures that the neighborhood will be economically integrated and truly a mixed income neighborhood.
The Districtâ's median income is $46,000. We are serving primarily people between $30K and 54K, i.e., the District's median. Rather than creating segregation as Ms. Lilavois suggests, our development continues to preserve an economically and socially integrated neighborhood. We are not developing a building in isolation; but creating homes for individuals and families who will be fully integrated into the neighborhood.
Further, the Neighborhood Steering Committee, which Mr. Lilavois is a part of, will oversee tenant selection guidelines to ensure that the criterion, which has been established,is implemented. All tenants of St. Martins Apartments will be fully employed, have good credit and have a housing good reference.
Our design, which provides that the units on Todd place have doors directly on the street helps to promote interaction with the immediate neighborhood and the community at large. Curiously, it was at the Lilavois insistence that we initially removed all entrances from Todd Place; however, we have received input from other neighbors, which has caused us to rethink this. In fact, an officer of the Eckington Civic Association, JT Engelheart, indicates that ECA believes there should be entrances from the ground floor units on Todd Place and we remain committed to working with the civic association's, which represents the entire neighborhood. Apparently, most of the people living in Edgewood and Eckington want neighbors not walls.
As always, we remain committed to working with the Lilavois and all of the neighbors in the Edgewood/Eckington neighborhood. People can feel free to continue communicating through their email groups, call me directly at 202.316-6451, email me directly at Mjkelley@bellatlantic.net or at WardFiveDC@aol.com. We look forward to working together toward a shared community vision.
Father Michael J. Kelley
St. Martins Catholic Church