Brookland Manor (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)
Brookland Manor (Shevry Lassiter/The Washington Informer)

Much of the District’s economy is booming. Cranes hang over the city, erecting new buildings that will deliver needed homes and jobs. New companies flourish, and established businesses are expanding. Retail, services, and new food options are revitalizing neighborhoods across the city. Yet the fruits of this growth have not reached the entire city – among other neighborhoods, the Brentwood community along the Rhode Island Avenue NE corridor in Ward 5 has yet to see significant reinvestment.

The redevelopment of Brookland Manor into RIA, a mixed-use and mixed-income community, is poised to reverse this trend. Currently, Brookland Manor is an obsolete 80-year-old apartment complex occupying 20 acres fronting Rhode Island Avenue. City leaders took an important step by introducing a tax increment financing (TIF) bill to support the development of public infrastructure throughout the site, which will unlock the redevelopment of the entire site.

Upon completion, RIA will have a catalytic economic development impact on the Rhode Island Avenue corridor and will be transformative for existing residents. RIA will feature approximately 1,760 newly constructed homes for people with a mix of incomes, with housing options ranging from market-rate rental apartments, affordable multifamily housing, and townhomes for purchase. More than 1 in 5 homes in RIA — at least 22 percent — will be affordable homes for low-income families – a commitment well above the city’s 8 percent requirement. RIA will also retain the property’s existing Section 8 contract, preserving 373 units of affordable housing for the site’s current residents.

The redeveloped site will include approximately 100,000 square feet of commercial real estate for a grocery store, restaurants, and other neighborhood-serving businesses. When complete, RIA will generate more than $500 million in new tax revenue and will create approximately 3,000 jobs in the community. These new jobs and businesses will generate a significant boost in economic activity across Ward 5 that will benefit D.C.’s schools, roads and emergency services.

From the beginning of the redevelopment process, MidCity engaged Brookland Manor residents and stakeholders from the surrounding community, utilizing a community development approach to the project’s planning. Residents formed committees to vocalize their needs for the new community and provided valuable input on building design and amenities. MidCity also committed to paying the full cost of onsite relocation for current Brookland Manor residents to ensure no displacement during the construction phase. As neighbors of RIA, we are pleased that MidCity has lived up to its long-standing reputation for responsible, community-oriented development and the preservation of affordable housing.

It’s important to note that the buildings at RIA will be built with private funds. The TIF proposed will be used to build public infrastructure in the project, including sewers, roads and a public park. The tax revenue generated each year by the completed RIA project will be used to repay the funds provided by the TIF.

And this approach isn’t new or risky. The city has been using the TIF mechanism for years to invest in neighborhoods all over the city in order to promote projects toward great cultural and economic success.

Due to RIA’s size and scope, the TIF is critical to maximizing the economic impact of RIA and ensuring the scale of new affordable housing that the project will deliver.

After 80 years, Brookland Manor residents deserve modern homes, a safe community, and contemporary amenities. The property’s neighbors deserve the improved public works and new businesses that will come with the site. Through careful planning, RIA will ensure that underserved members of our community will not be left behind by our city’s success while also supporting the city’s continued economic growth.

Mayor Bowser and Councilman Kenyan McDuffie smartly recognize this and showed great leadership in the District’s moral and economic future by sponsoring this TIF and taking the steps needed to broaden the District’s economic success and bolster much needed affordable housing.

All that’s needed now is for the rest of the city’s leadership to act. RIA is an opportunity for Ward 5 to prove that growth in the District needn’t be confined to other neighborhoods and that the fruits of the city’s economic growth can help Ward 5. It’s our time!

Kyle Todd is executive director of the Rhode Island Avenue Main Street. Rev. Reginald M. Green is interim pastor for Israel Baptist Church.

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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