Former D.C. Public Housing Neighborhood Renovated Into Suburban-Style, Mixed-Use Community

By Erin Brereton, Content ManagerWashington, D.C.–The former site of homebuilder A&R Companies’ new Capitol Gateway development in Washington, D.C. contained affordable townhomes and apartments for families and senior citizens. But the development also was home to some unwelcome residents–crime, drugs and poverty.”It was a rather large site and was infamous,” says A&R founder Theo C. Rodgers. “Public housing has deteriorated all over the country; Washington is no exception.”Enter A&R and development partner the Henson Development Company Inc. (THC), who together have converted one of Washington D.C.’s most notorious urban areas into a new suburban-style neighborhood with rental, for-sale and retail space. The site is located two city blocks from the Capitol Heights Metro Station and adjacent to East Capitol Street, a main point of entry from Maryland’s Prince George’s County, The newly constructed Capitol Gateway community includes nearly 230 duplexes, townhomes and single-family homes, as well as 21,000 square feet of planned retail space, and is part of the HOPE VI federal grant program, designed to replace distressed public housing with improved real estate. A&R received a $30 million U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development grant to cover social costs, such as relocating families during construction, and development expenses. “We’ve been able to write down the price of rental units into an affordable range for families,” Rodgers says. “We moved the range from people making 40 to 50 percent of the median income up to people making to 80 percent.”Capitol Gateway has 142 for-sale properties and 86 rental residences, including seven handicapped-accessible “grand homes” that contain four units and are fashioned to look like single-family homes.Standard features in each home include granite countertops, 9-foot ceilings, stainless steel appliances and hardwood floors. In addition, A&R provided off-street parking for almost all the housing units–just one of the touches included to make Capitol Gateway feel less like a city and more like a community. “It’s white picket fences, it looks like something out of Iowa,” Rodgers says. “The streets are meandering. We have cul de sacs.”A&R planned the development’s layout to increase social activity. “Forty to 50 percent of the homes have front porches,” Rodgers says. “This is designed to have people outside. The more eyes you have on the street, the more security you have.”But safety wasn’t the only concern; A&R wanted residents to feel proud of their new community–and their new dwellings.”There is a lot of open space,” Rodgers says. “We have the feel of single-family homes. We wanted to create a space people felt they were responsible for. You have your own side, front and back yard. That is your defensible space.”Capitol Gateway’s rental units are priced by a percentage of the area median income. Average monthly rents range from $850 to $1,150. Townhomes, single-family homes and duplexes are priced starting in the mid-$300,000s. With offices in Baltimore and Washington, A&R is a family-owned and operated group of businesses that has developed more than $1 billion in residential, commercial and mixed-use real estate projects in the mid-Atlantic region and manages more than a dozen rental communities, including approximately 1,300 resident units and more than 30,000 square feet of commercial property.The Henson Development Company Inc., a 100-percent minority-owned business enterprise, is a fully integrated real estate developer and program manager. THC is currently working on developments totaling more than 2,000 units of new, affordable and market-rate housing in Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and Florida.