Northwest One

The Post has an article about the pending plans for Northwest One, aka Sursum Corda.

For residents of Eckington, this article may be particularly interesting as they can compare the plans for Northwest One with the housing proposed by St Martin’s and Catholic Community Services.

I thought the article was interesting because it lays out a lot of the services that they are planning on providing to residents in Northwest One. On paper it all sounds great. Only thing that concerns me is that Sursum Corda also sounded great on paper when it was proposed forty-odd years ago. I hope we’ve figured things out better now.

Regardless, it’s impressive to see that there’s a $558 million price tag on this effort. That’s an incredible amount of money and, hopefully, it signals to future residents– both low and high-income– that there’s substantial commitment to the project to make it work. The article mentions breaking ground this year if the DC Council approves the plans so we’ll see what this means for the area shortly.

5 thoughts on “Northwest One”

  1. T,
    I believe that Sursum Corda and the proposed Catholic Charity housing project might be two different animals. Don’t let the latin name bind the two. The St. Martin thing is not the only Catholic property, or even the only church sponsored (I’ll have to do a little research into the background of Sursum Corda, but I’d rather not during my lunch hour) housing project in the District. Looking at a 8/25/74 Washington Post article (B1), Foster House, Gibson Plaza, Immaculate Conception amd Lincoln Westmoreland, “were built with churches as the prime sponsors.”

  2. Ah, I didn’t even think about the Catholic connection. I guess I was being too secular. Personally, I think it’s irrelevant as to who is backing the project, or whether they are a religious institution or not.

    My bigger point, I guess, is looking at the similarities and differences that the “new” Northwest One will have with the proposed Eckington complex.

    Of course, just because Sursum Corda didn’t work as it was originally conceived doesn’t mean that the St Martin’s proposal won’t work as it is written.

    I just thought it was interesting to look at what St Martin’s is proposing and what the city is striving for with the new Northwest One. Maybe I’m making an unfair comparison.

  3. St. Martin’s thing is supposed to be about 180some odd units, not as large as the current Sursum Corda set up.
    I don’t want to get on the side of St. Martin, but I don’t think the Sursum Corda model applies. There are other housing projects in the Shaw area that might be better examples. It might become another apartment building like the one between Q & R, which isn’t that great and not that bad either.

  4. Mari,

    I see your point. There’s just as much of a chance that St Martin’s project could be as “vanilla” (not particulary good, nor particularly bad) as the co-op off Q & R St.

    To play devil’s advocate (how punny for opposition to a Catholic Charities project) I guess one of the next questions would then be why is Sursum so much worse than that co-op between Q & R St? I don’t exactly know the answer. However, from what I understand, the Sursum Corda co-op board failed to do things like evict problem tenants, raise the co-op fees to cover needed maintenance, etc. Maybe it’s just the differences in residents in each place? I don’t know. Catholic Charities could avoid the “Sursum effect” by managing the property better than Sursum Corda did. That’s an easy fix!

    However, one thing that I think is notable is that St Martin’s is proposing 184 units. Sursum Corda is 199 units. So, while St Martin’s is smaller, the scale of the proposal is massive, especially for a neighborhood that is currently zoned R4 and consists of 100-ish year old rowhouses.

    Not trying to start an argument– just trying to constructively raise issues around the proposed project.

    The strongest reason that I can see for keeping the St Martin’s project as it is currently proposed is that they want to avoid the mix of market and subsidized housing so that they can maximize the number of low income residents that can benefit. That’s a very noble reason and hard to argue against it.

    I would, though, point out the argument that despite their best intentions, their decision to keep it 100% low income might backfire and both the church and the residents might actually end up in a worse situation than if it were a mixed income housing project.

    Just throwing that out there… I’m not totally opposed to the St Martin’s project. I just wish there was a constructive debate around the issues that the church, community and planners need to consider.

    Whew, that is long. The last thing that I’ll throw out there is that I don’t think the biggest issue is the low income vs mixed income housing issue… I think the really important issues is the problem of precedent if a R4 zoned neighborhood gets a 184 unit building. It opens the doors for developers to push for that in other R4 areas. Not good!

  5. … and it all comes down to the zoning. Always the zoning.
    Well after dealing with the Mondie thing I feel a little better about zoning.

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