Community

Darrell Green Seeks to Buy Congress Park Housing Units

Former Washington Redskins and National Football League Hall of Famer Darrell Green is expressing interest in owning the Congress Park residential buildings in Ward 8, but some tenants and community leaders have mixed feelings.

The Congress Park apartments sit two blocks east of the Congress Heights Metro Station on the Green Line and the St. Elizabeth’s East campus. The red brick one-level and two-story buildings and rowhouse structures have been the targets of complaints about mold, rodents, unstable roofs, trash and litter in the hallways as well as poor security linked to loitering and criminal activity.

Green’s interest has stoked residents’ fears of being displaced as District living costs are on the rise. Currently a one-bedroom apartment there rents for $975 per month at the lower end with the typical price at $1,200, according to Apartments.com while the average cost of a similar unit in the District comes out to $2,100 per month, according to Zumper.com.

Darrell Green played cornerback with the Washington Redskins from 1983-2002. (Courtesy of MainStreet BancShares)
Darrell Green played cornerback with the Washington Redskins from 1983-2002. (Courtesy of MainStreet BancShares)

In addition, Congress Park’s location close to the Metro Station and the nearby The Shoppes at Park Village which includes one of the three full-service grocery stores east of the Anacostia, has ward residents speculating their neighborhood is the latest target of white newcomers looking for inexpensive housing with easy transit options.

Green, who played for the Washington Redskins from 1983-2002, has been recognized as one of the franchise’s greatest players with his selection to the Pro Bowl seven times, helping the team win two Super Bowls and leading the NFL with 19 consecutive seasons with an interception and most games played by a defensive player, 295.

In his post-playing years, his Darrell Green Youth Life Foundation, has held workshops and camps for District youth and his businesses have operated in the city.

On March 10, D.C. Councilmember Trayon White (D-Ward 8) convened a virtual meeting with Green for Congress Park tenants which developed into a citywide audience of more than 130 people. During the nearly two-hour meeting, Green, through his business Darrell Green Enterprises, made it clear that no deal has been finalized on the Congress Park residences.

“The property hasn’t been purchased yet,” Green said. “I am definitely interested in this. This is an important project for me personally and professionally. If I purchase this property, your rent will not go up. If my team is involved, you will not be moved. This is not a gentrification thing.”

Green’s Interest

The residential community Green has expressed interest in consists of parts I and II and exists two blocks east of the Congress Heights Metro Station on the Green Line. The St. Elizabeth’s East Campus, which includes the Entertainment & Sports Arena, resides in Congress Park’s immediate area.

The property has come up for a bid with the previous owner, Southeast Washington Development Associates LP, according to D.C. tax records, giving it up recently.

Green said he understands the complaints of Congress Park tenants on maintenance of the facilities.

“I grew up in Houston in a housing complex where George Floyd [the Minneapolis Black man murdered by a police officer last year] grew up, too,” Green said. “I know what it is to have to deal with rats, roaches and leaky roofs.”

Green said he and his partners, such as Standard Communities, an affordable housing company, are looking to invest $40 million in the Congress Park property.

“But we have to really look into what we are purchasing and how to improve the infrastructure,” he said. “There will have to be a lot of repairs taking place. I want you, the tenants, to be happy to walk into your house and have a place where you are happy to raise your children. This is a huge facility and it is valuable for our city.”

Green said during renovations, tenants will not be moved away from the premises but may be moved to another unit.

“You won’t have to evacuate,” he said. “We will be your voucher.”

Matt Sislen is the managing director of East Coast production for the Standard Communities, an affordable housing division of Standard Companies, based in the District, backed up Green’s claim of tenants keeping staying in their homes.

“We don’t plan on tearing down any buildings,” Sislen said.

However, Green admitted not knowing about a possible community benefits agreement—a deal between a developer and residents on such extras such as a new playground, neighborhood center, job and scholarship opportunities—and while Sislen understood the concept, he said it hadn’t become a part of the Congress Park discussions as of yet.

Tenants’ Response

Sharon Brown, a tenant of Congress Park, expressed enthusiasm at the prospect of Green buying the complex.

“I think it is a wonderful and great idea,” Brown, who has lived in Congress Park since 2001, said. “I think it is good that change is going to come. If he becomes the owner, he can improve the appliances and the floorings in the unit. We also need laundromats close by and swings on some of our playgrounds.”

The Informer has learned the Congress Park tenants’ association wants to take advantage of the District’s TOPA (Tenants Opportunity to Purchase Act) laws to possibly buy the complex themselves, as one of their options. Shekita McBroom, the president of the tenants’ association and the advisory neighborhood commissioner for 8E01, would not comment on the matter.

But one of her commissioner colleagues, Kendall Simmons of 8E04, has reservations about Green purchasing the property.

“I have had no conversations with Darrell Green about this and I represent a large part of Congress Park,” Simmons said. “We all want this residential community to become better but he hasn’t said anything about a community benefits agreement or talked about the issues we are concerned about. Until I talk to him, I don’t see how I can support what he wants to do.”

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