Neighborhood Development Company celebrated development on energy efficient 34Fifty Apartments in the River Terrace Community located in Ward 7. (Ja'Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)

Developers, government officials and residents recently broke ground on what will soon become dozens of affordable housing units in the heart of the River Terrace community in Northeast. 

The construction of this new building, known as 34Fifty, culminates years of meetings, zoning commission hearings, and as developer Adrian Washington described it, an arduous journey to secure the buy-in of concerned and deeply skeptical residents. 

“This project…embraced the needs and aspirations of the River Terrace community,” said Washington, founder and CEO of Neighborhood Development Company, on July 13. “That meeting at the Chateau was one of the  toughest. [After some time], it was a complete 180 turnaround. I’m grateful [to] my team for listening.” 

Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent C. Gray, speaking at the groundbreaking ceremony of 34Fifty Apartments. (Ja’Mon Jackson/The Washington Informer)

During the groundbreaking ceremony, dozens of community members, including ANC Commissioner Mike Davis (Single-Member District 7D04), heard comments from Washington, NDC senior vice president Michaela Cancel, D.C. Councilmember Vincent C. Gray (D-Ward 7), Department of Housing and Community Development Director Colleen Green, Christopher Donald, director of D.C. Housing Finance Administration, Lawrence Di Rita, Greater Washington D.C. market president and public policy executive at Bank of America, and Lundat Kassa, vice president of Bellwether Enterprise Real Estate Capital. 

The speakers, along with other banking and housing officials, wrapped up the ceremony with what has become the common practice of sporting hardhats and shoveling dirt at the construction site. Soon after, attendants partook in refreshments under a large tent that shielded them from the sun.  

34Fifty, to be erected atop the former overflow parking lot of the historic Chateau Nightclub, will have 49 affordable housing units, 20% of which will be designated as family-sized units. 

The energy-efficient, four-story building will serve as the District’s first Net-Zero Ready, Passive House Institute Certified affordable housing development project. Once completed, it will be adjacent to local health and wellness, beauty, banking and financial planning-related businesses located in an NDC property. 

Washington said that the River Terrace Neighbors for Community-Minded Development has an ownership stake in the building. Meanwhile, as former River Terrace Community Organization president Malissa Freese explained, River Terrace community members continue to request that property and parking lot owners provide prior notice about sales to developers, unlike what she said had been done for 3450 Eads Street NE, where 34Fifty will be located. 

In 2017, community members sent more than 50 letters and testified before the commision in opposition to building plans that NDC initially submitted. They said the proposed height of the building — six stories tall with 70 units — threatened to alter the suburban-like character of  Eads Street, located three blocks from Benning Road, a major thoroughfare in Northeast. 

The residents also railed against underground parking located close to homes and expressed concerns about competent building management. 

After three months of deliberations, the D.C. Zoning Commission ruled in NDC’s favor. In 2018 however, some River Terrace residents submitted paperwork to  appeal the decision under the name River Terrace Neighbors for Community-Minded Development, which eventually brought both parties back to the negotiation table. 

A series of community meetings then yielded a proposal for condos set at 80% of the area median income. 

Once DCHFA rejected those plans, residents worked with NDC to make adjustments in alignment with a DHCD checklist. That chapter of the discussions yielded the 30-80% AMI and family-sized units. 

Though she expressed her qualms with the lack of green space in the building design, Freese told the Informer that 34Fifty will be suitable to people and families yearning to stay in the community for a long time. 

“River Terrace is a very small neighborhood, and small changes make big waves,” Freese said. “We just wanted to make sure that we brought neighbors in the apartment building and not just checking off some of the boxes for the mayor and everyone else.”

At the start of her second term, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) set an affordable housing goal of 12,000 units by 2025. Speakers at the groundbreaking said that the construction of 34Fifty in River Terrace sets the number of units constructed thus far at 8,000.

River Terrace is composed of row houses, detached houses and apartments all located in a cul-de-sac surrounded by the Anacostia Freeway, Benning Road, Anacostia River and East Capitol Street. Since 1950, the River Terrace Community Organization has set out to protect the interest of residents and develop a sense of community. 

The entity has done so through youth gardening programs, adult education classes and neighborhood watch programs, among other organizing tactics.  

On Thursday, Councilmember Gray touted 34Fifty as the manifestation of the vision for sustainable development that he set forth as mayor and a testament to the power of cooperation. 

“[T]o see yet another innovative project take root is a milestone in the continuum of our goal to see ubiquitous green construction and sustainable, green living across the city,” Gray said. 

“None of what we’re achieving would be possible without the efforts of the people and organizations represented here today,” Gray continued. “Through hard work, innovation and cooperation we can overcome challenges and make real improvements to the lives of people with great needs while at the same time preserve the environment for future generations.”

Follow Sam P.K. Collins on Twitter: @SamPKCollins. 

Sam P.K. Collins has more than a decade of experience as a journalist, columnist and organizer. Sam, a millennial and former editor of WI Bridge, covers education, police brutality, politics, and other...

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  1. I need affordable housing too, I been on waiting list for over 20-25yearsI need a place to call home…,,,,,,

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