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October 28, 2014 Published in Letters/Opinions

Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority: Open Letter To Our Residents And Alexandria Community

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The Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority has initiated the process to redevelop eight sites in its portfolio: Andrew Adkins; ARHA Administrative Building; Ladrey Senior Hi-rise; Samuel Madden; Ramsey Homes; Hopkins-Tancil; Cameron Valley and Jefferson Village. These properties contain 561 units, some that date back more than 70 years, which need to be revitalized. We are going to provide replacement units on a one-for-one basis, pursuant to Resolution 830, in new mixed-income communities.

The new units will continue to provide affordable housing for the benefit of existing and future residents who we have traditionally served in the City of Alexandria, along with producing new market rate housing. These development efforts are based on the ARHA2012-2022 Strategic Plan, which can be viewed on the ARHA website (www.arha.us).

The search for development partners began this past Jan. and there is tremendous interest in the sites being offered. It is anticipated that partners will be selected by mid-year 2015, after which the sequencing of the development efforts will be determined, and each site will work through any rezoning requirements.  The public procurement process to select partners and any subsequent rezoning should take approximately 18 – 24 months to complete.

ARHA will select those proposals from development partners that promote creation of sustainable, mixed-income and mixed-use communities that are well integrated with the surrounding neighborhood.  It is further envisioned that the new communities will increase the desirability of each site by making it an area that people who can afford to live in market rate housing will choose to live in this type of neighborhood.

ARHA does not expect that any of the redevelopment being planned will cause most families to be relocated until 2017.  Relocation policies will be developed, adopted by the ARHA Board of Commissioners, and used to implement the relocation activities. The funding that will be used for the redevelopment efforts will also impact the relocation plan that will be designed to provide a right to return to all households. We expect that these efforts will mirror prior efforts where ARHA provided permanent housing choices.

It is also important to note that ARHA builds people and not just physical buildings. We recognize the need to invest time and resources in our residents to help them achieve self-sufficiency. This is the reason the Resident and Community Services Department at ARHA is robust with organized activities to improve conditions for our clients, ranging from employment skills, to healthy living and financial leadership.

In order to assist our residents with self-sufficiency, ARHA expects through these development efforts that jobs will be created (in the following order of priority) for: 1) ARHA residents; 2) economically disadvantaged residents of the City of Alexandria; and, 3) economically disadvantaged residents in the metropolitan statistical area.

It is ARHA’s intention to deliver developments that are quality, market-sensitive and financially viable products; provide services and amenities to the residents and businesses in the City; and encourage stakeholder involvement and input throughout the development process. As the redevelopment process advances, we will schedule community outreach meetings using the City’s “What’s Next Alexandria” Civic Engagement standards to engage our residents and the citizens throughout the City.  There will be regular updates on the status of our redevelopment efforts posted on our website and through various other methods including: resident association meetings, mass emails, flyers, e-mail blasts and monthly resident meetings.

I encourage all residents to increase their active participation at all meetings that are scheduled. These meetings are designed to inform you about ARHA’s redevelopment efforts and the daily operation of your housing. All of the information provided during the meetings will be created with you in mind and will be structured to lessen community anxiety and reduce any mis-information resulting from not knowing what is occurring.

ARHA envisions developments that will improve the streetscape on all of the offered sites and surrounding neighborhoods, as well as encourage pedestrian activity.  ARHA envisions new communities that respect and preserve the neighborhood history, community institutions and cultural values.  ARHA also envisions a developed community that exhibits the tolerance and traditions of both its developed and social environments; an environment where ARHA residents will have a voice that is heard.

This is my open invitation to ARHA residents and the community to join us in the accomplishments of these visions.

Sincerely,

Roy Priest

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