Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

10 units of subsidized housing for teachers in DC isn't worthy of a big newspaper story because elsewhere similar projects have delivered significantly more housing

Earlier in the week, the Washington Post ran a story, "City living is difficult on a teacher's salary. Could this new building change that?," about how a charter school campus in Brookland, which has taken over the core of the former St. Paul's College seminary campus, includes one building with 10 units of housing for teachers, rented at less than the market rate.

Miller's Court, Remington neighborhood, Baltimore.

In Baltimore, Seawall Development has converted two historic factory buildings, Miller's Court ("A Baltimore Tin Can Plant Transformed into a Community Hub," Metropolis Magazine) in 2010, and Union Mill ("Union Mill development goes to the head of the class," Baltimore Sun) in 2011, to housing for teachers.

Miller's Court has 40 apartment units and Union Mill has 56 units.

A complementary project, Miller's Square, is renovating 30 vacant rowhouses in the Remington neighborhood that are being sold without restrictions, but with a special $25,000 incentive package when bought by teachers or police officers.

The apartment buildings include discounted office space for nonprofits, and the buildings include "business centers," including copying machines, catering to supporting the needs of teachers needing to prepare for their classes.  From the Sun article on Union Mill:
Union Mill, closely modeled after Miller's Court, will be home to about a dozen nonprofit groups, including the Maryland Disability Law Center, the umbrella group Maryland Nonprofits, New Leaders for New Schools, Community Conference Center, Urban Teachers Center, Urban Alliance, Higher Achievement, Fuel Fund of Maryland. Charm City Legal, Mariposa Child Success Programs, TIES and Maryland Lawyers for Artists.

But it is mainly marketed to teachers, who will pay $875 a month for a 1-bedroom and $1,475 a month for a 2-bedroom apartment.

"That's priced for a teacher's starting salary," said Seawall partner Evan Morville, who gave the Messenger a tour of the property Oct. 12. "We can't discriminate, but if you're a teacher, you get a discount."

The building features a resource room with copy machines at discounted rates; a free fitness center with bathrooms and showers; security cameras around the property; and 1,800 square feet of free conference room space for the nonprofits.

And the courtyard will feature an outdoor eating area on the first tier, an events lawn on the second tier for nonprofits to hold fundraisers, an "urban forest" and a yoga/pilates patio on the third tier, and a "front porch" space with Adirondack chairs on the top tier, Morville said.
Union Mill apartments, Baltimore.

Seawall Development is working with Teach for America to develop similar projects in other cities ("Seawall Development to build teacher housing in three other cities" and "Seawall opens $40 million teacher-focused housing project in Philadelphia," Baltimore Business Journal).  One of the first developments, in Philadelphia, has 114 units.

Granted weak market cities with large old now vacant manufacturing buildings present better opportunities for creative redevelopment, but it's hard to get excited about 10 units of housing by comparison to innovative efforts elsewhere.

Frankly, given that there are 128 charter schools in Washington, DC already and the number keeps growing even though the student population isn't growing significant, it seems that there is less need for "a charter school incubator," the primary use for the St. Paul's reuse project, and more for housing.

There are 113 public schools in DC.

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