Housing near stadium will help Southeast’s tarnished image

(originally posted on November 2, 2006 by The American Observer.)

Observer photo Leander Schaerlaeckens

Observer photo Leander Schaerlaeckens

The new Nationals baseball stadium will bring more than peanuts and Cracker Jacks to the district’s Southeast Waterfront area. Mayoral candidate Adrian Fenty was on hand for Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony for a $170 million residential project in Southeast, D.C.

The project marks the beginning of development in the city’s new “baseball district.”

Fenty said Onyx on First would change the way district residents and visitors view southeast.

“This is going to be an unbelievable neighborhood,” he said. “It can bring the type of reinvestment this area longs for.”

The building site is on First Street Southeast, one block away from the new stadium. The project is a joint venture between Faison, a real estate investment and development company, and the Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund. Citibank Community Development is funding the construction.

Steven Cohen, Faison real estate director, said the project and the stadium are a perfect union.

“The residential, commercial and retail can melt together,” he said.

Quincy Allen, vice president of the Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund said the district is fulfilling its obligation to Southeast with the Onyx project.

“This project shows the city’s commitment to this community,” Allen said.

The 14-story Onyx will have 266 units ranging from studios to two-bedroom condos. Prices are set to start in the upper $200s, a competitive market price, but not affordable for many Southeast residents.

Priya Jayachandran, Citibank Community Development vice president, said the district has to foot the bill and provide alternatives for residents who cannot afford baseball district living.

“To make it affordable, someone has to pay the cost,” Jayachandran said. “There’s no way to make the project work at affordable housing prices.”

Fenty said the city has not ignored affordable housing in the midst of stadium excitement. “I think there is going to be a lot of affordable housing, about a thousand or so units,” he said. “The city has really stepped up to the plate.”

Details on the affordable housing projects in the area are not available. The Onyx project and stadium construction are scheduled for completion in 2008.

Fred Hamlette, a district resident, said he thinks the new developments are positive even though they would exclude many Southeast residents. “It’s sad, but I believe in urban revitalization,” he said.

“All this here was a very bad area. I used to see crime and prostitution here all the time,” Hamlette said.

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