Monday, September 27, 2010

Shelter Closing, Apartments Planned

rendering of proposed towers
La Casa, the closest shelter to Mount Pleasant, is closing. I first read about the possible closure a few weeks ago in a copy of Street Sense. Obviously they editorialized against the closing noting that as of last year, there were over 6,000 homeless in DC per the annual count. They anticipate that number to increase for 2010.  

La Casa, at 1436 Irving St NW, is a 90 bed facility, houses only men, offers bilingual services and is open 7pm until 7am daily. According to the Street Sense article, there are currently 72 men in the shelter and the adjacent trailers. It will close as of October 15, 2010.

The paper trail on the new project spans a few years and is somewhat contradictory and incomplete.  However, this is my understanding:

After La Casa closes, it will be torn down and replaced with two new buildings: an addition to Donatelli Development's Highland Park Apartments and a community based residential facility.

Highland Park was originally built as a condominium building and went rental, like many other DC projects during the economic downturn. Apartments there currently rent from $1,800-$3,900 per month.

The land under La Casa shelter (and adjacent lot) is owned by the District of Columbia.  They have a deal with Donatelli to allow an extension of Highland Park, but also to build an 82 bed community based residential facility (CBRF) on that land.  What is a CBRF? From the proposal: "Community Based Residential Facilities (CBRFs) are single room occupancy facilities for homeless residents in the District. These facilities combine living quarters with job training, housing placement, case management, and other needed services that promote self-sufficiency."

La Casa is currently operated by the District and the DC Coalition for the Homeless, a non-profit. No indication of who would run the CBRF (the city, another non-profit, a private entity?) or if it would serve any of the same people housed at La Casa. 

The CBRF would be in the rear of the property (see rendering).  The new apartment tower --dubbed Highland Park West (HPW)-- would front on Irving Street and be physically connected to the original Highland Park, sharing a courtyard.  Both CBRF and HPW were proposed as seven floors tall. They would be separate structures.

Originally, Highland Park West was supposed to have 69 units, top out at 86 feet and have a 64 space underground garage.  There would be a penthouse level rising 9 feet above the roof line as well. 

That may change soon. The developers have a zoning hearing on September 30 in order to propose several changes. They want to increase the number of apartment units from 69 to 143.  They want to increase the roof line from 86 to 90 feet (plus 9 foot penthouse level above). And finally, they want to eliminate the parking garage and alter the façade from what you see in the rendering to an aesthetic that more closely matches the existing Highland Park.

It is not clear if Highland Park West will include ground floor retail like the original building does.  They are just about to fill out that retail space with a sports bar (allegedly). Highland Park is already home to a bank, coffee shop, sandwich shop, pizza parlor, burger joint and gastropub.  

What will happen to the beds eliminated by the closure of La Casa? Street Sense suggests the additional beds will be made available in empty spaces of the DC General Hospital site (near Stadium Armory Metro stop).

Will the CBRF help ease the transition for some of its residents from homelessness to permanent housing?  That is the plan. Will the elimination of beds for the homeless in Ward One make for a more difficult winter for those men (and homeless women, children and families) who will have to travel further for the same services? I hope not. If I find out more about this story I will keep you posted.

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Highland Park Apts (left) and La Casa shelter