By Carla Branch
alexandrianews.org

The Carpenter's Shelter on N. Henry Street (courtesy image)

When the Alexandria City Council unanimously voted to allow homeless shelters in the City’s commercial/residential zone, that paved the way for The Carpenter’s Shelter to enter into an agreement with The Howard Hughes Corporation to move the shelter to the old Landmark Macy’s store during the shelter site’s redevelopment.

The Howard Hughes Corporation plans to redevelop the Landmark Mall site into a mixed-use development with residential units, retail, restaurants, a movie theater and outdoor space for seasonal entertainment. Council approved that proposed development in 2013 when the Hughes Corporation owned only the enclosed mall building. Hughes Corporation purchased the 11.4-acre Macy’s site earlier this year and would like to purchase the Sears site as well. Sears reorganized earlier this year and the Hughes Corporation is reportedly in discussion with the owners. If they can consolidate the three parcels, they will submit a new plan to Council.

“We started talking with Howard Hughes about five or six months ago and are in the final stages of negotiations,” said former Alexandria Mayor Kerry Donley who is a member of The Carpenter Shelter Board of Directors. “We would be at Landmark for two years while Howard Hughes Corporation completes their planning, so the ultimate redevelopment should not be impeded.  They have been great during the process, good corporate citizens who see the greater good of our ultimate redevelopment project with Alexandria Housing Development Corporation.

“Nice part about Macy's is that it is a blank slate with a lot of infrastructure in place - plumbing, electric, water, etc.  We will need to construct showers, kitchen and laundry in addition to small rooms for our residents. We will hopefully be operating at Landmark as the same operation we have today. Typically, we average around 60 residents- families and single men and women.  We will operate winter shelter as we do today. Our total resident capacity is capped at 90.  

“This has been a good partnership with AHDC, the City and now Howard Hughes Corporation. We just need to cross the finish line,” Donley said.

City Council approved the redevelopment of The Carpenter Shelter site at 930 N. Henry Street. in December 2016. The current structure will be demolished and a new multistory building will be built. The shelter will occupy the first floor with space for a day program, social services support staff and administrative offices. The upper floors will house 98 affordable rental housing units, ten of which will be used for shelter clients as they transition into permanent, independent housing. The Carpenter's Shelter is partnering with the Alexandria Housing Development Corporation and the City of Alexandria on the project.

The Virginia Housing Development Authority earlier this year approved Low Income Housing Tax Credit financing for the project. That financing requires that the project must be completed by the end of 2020.

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