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Opposition gathering signatures against Citadel project

Liz Opalak has launched an online petition in opposition to the density of the proposed Citadel of Hope project:

BHC is trying to jam 52 apartments into a 2-ish acre lot in violation of several CAR and City Zoning regulations. Please take a look at (and sign!) this petition to be presented to CAR.

There is also a paper version of the petition at C. Alexander’s Dry Cleaners on Venable Street.

The project is on the agenda for the Tuesday, September 27, CAR meeting.

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Catherine Illian 09/16/2016 at 1:45 PM

Can we also have a pro petition too?!

Lee 09/16/2016 at 3:24 PM

Can we also have a petition for the project, but only if they can make it less fugly? (Isn’t that more in line with CARs purpose anyway? Seems like the density issue is a BZA concern, not a CAR concern)

Liz Opalak 09/16/2016 at 4:32 PM

I want to emphasize this petition is not against this development being an affordable housing project. It is against the putting as many tenants into a lot as they can disregarding community input and zoning regulations, and against a the planned structure which will detract from the historic nature of the neighborhood.

Juliellen 09/16/2016 at 5:15 PM

NIMBY is alive and well in Church Hill! the BHC development will provide affordable and well-managed housing in an area where renters are being forced out left and right.

John M 09/16/2016 at 5:30 PM

Juliellen – Union Hill 🙂

Jeff 09/16/2016 at 6:03 PM

CAR is not where you fight density. Not that I have a problem with the density. This proposal is probably a few more units than it should be, but it is getting better every time they come back with revisions. I find it hard to believe that the numbers don’t work with a few less units. It could use some more green space that has a meaningful function.
CAR is only supposed to review how the design fits into the historic neighborhood. Its size, scale, materials, articulation of the facades, does it take cues from the surrounding architecture. You might notice that many of the CAR submissions do not include floor plans as that is not the focus of their review.
A multi-family development needs to be balanced with some owner occupied one and two family development to provide a more sustainable neighborhood.

Neighbor 09/17/2016 at 9:18 AM

@Jeff – Totally agree!

@Robbie – good points as well

@Jullien – it IS certainly important to try and mitigate people being pushed out. That said friends of mine recently had to move because they didn’t feel safe due to some serious issues going on at the house next door to them which is BHC managed. Not that it was necessarily a BHC management issue but just because a good organization like BHC is managing a property does not mean that site will not have serious issues.

Elaine Odell 09/17/2016 at 2:24 PM

@ Jeff, CAR can make decisions about a anything specific to a project that effects the character of a Richmond City Old and Historic District. CAR’s most important job is to protect and preserve the unique architectural character of historic neighborhoods. If that character is jeopardized by density (achieved by building a structure which either too big or too tall in relationship to nearby existing historic structures,) then it’s up to the community to make their case and provide CAR with the rationale to make an informed decision regarding the project.

John M 09/17/2016 at 2:39 PM

This is echoing a lot of the conversation/conflict around the Oakwood Heights project (now The Lofty) from 2008/2009

facebook_Sarah La Mere.10153192441042211 09/17/2016 at 3:40 PM

I can’t see how the aesthetic of a neighborhood is more important than caring for the people who live in that neighborhood.

Ali Payne 09/17/2016 at 6:17 PM

I totally agree..we should all be concerned for those folks being “pushed out”. Don’t ask how or why they are being ‘pushed out’ as that is not a comfortable political question to ask. Just label it being ‘pushed out’ and let the discussion end there. And don’t bother to keep in mind that we all are potentially subject to being ‘pushed out’ (either by increasing property value or DECREASING property value

The beauty of this project is that it appears that this Maersk housing is a very good answer. Since, as noted above, (“Increasing housing density is how you decrease housing cost.”) all efforts should be devoted to maximizing housing density and thereby lowering costs and providing additional housing to those pushed out. It worked at Cabrini Green so why reinvent the wheel?

If you have ever been a renter (realistically, who has not?) you always knew that when your lease was up that your landlord had the option not to renew and thereby utilize his property in a way that did not include you. Has that changed?

Charles 09/17/2016 at 11:49 PM

It does seem like this project doesn’t really allow for families. These units are 700 square foot and only have one parking space. It seems like it would detract from the social cohesion of the neighborhood in most respects, not just aesthetically. I don’t see why they didn’t go with a design that involves duplexes and single family homes, perhaps with yards.

Neighbor 09/18/2016 at 12:44 PM

@Charles. -Amen!

I don’t know why anyone feels like this scenario is either or.

It seems like some feel like this has to be all low income housing or all market rate. All single family and low density multi family or total maximum density multifam.

I personally don’t have a problem with high density and I am highly in favor of anyone providing high quality affordable housing. I just don’t think this building reads well architecturally in the context of Union Hill and if I am being honest I don’t think the design, location, ratio of low income housing to non low income housing will serve the neighborhood or the occupants as well as it could.

Neighbor 09/18/2016 at 12:51 PM


And this is sincerely a question can anyone provide the stats that high density (which I am not opposed to) lowers housing costs? I think that would really add to the conversation. Having never seen any stats on that in my life I am just curious because my observation has been that usually the higher the density the greater the cost of living…I’m thinking Manhatan.

Not that we are in any danger of becoming NYC or anything. Just curious about the math.

Lee 09/18/2016 at 1:59 PM

@ Neighbor – I don’t think it takes stats to show that higher density reduces cost – it’s a matter of economies of scale and supply and demand. Very econ 101 type stuff. Not trying to be rude, just saying the argument is based on basic economic principles.

As for the ratio of low-income to market rate housing: It is my understanding that this is determined first by the programs used (LIHTC, HOME funding, etc.), which have minimum requirements. Then, because these funding sources are competitive, it is my understanding that developers often have to up the ante, so to speak, by offering even more low-income housing to be granted credits. I think this second practice is particularly questionable, as it sounds like it makes it harder for developers/nonprofits with good intentions to reduce the concentration of poverty.

Neighbor 09/18/2016 at 10:14 PM

@Lee. I appreciate you man. No offense taken for sure. And I agree that the first day…year… after 52 new units are introduced to the market the supply of housing will grow and inversely price should go down or could stabilize if it is currently rising.

As I have said before I am not opposed to density or to BHC at all. If I may read into your second paragraph a bit it seems like you may actually have the same macro economic concerns that I have.

I feel like this entire project is built on the perceived notion that low income tax credits are necessary and must be obtained at all costs. BHC has to make some high level decisions here and their job is to provide high quality affordable housing and that’s a tough job. That said I feel like they could develop a project that the neighborhood would be excited about that would also do a higher level of good for each resident they are serving by actually trying to create a mixed income environment among other things. So do you do an awesome job of helping 50 people or do a pretty ok job of helping 70? That is the question. I know which way I would go but it’s not my call.

But back to the economics. If BHC lets these type of grants and fed funds dictate the way they help people then what is to stop them from jacking up the rates on these units in a few years (because when the median income goes up in the City they will be able to) because they feel they need max income on these units to fund the next big project. If you look at their books rental income is by far their biggest income source. I recognize that this is a big leap but it could happen. I just want BHC to do what they probably want to do anyway which is a project the neighborhood likes and one that does maximum good. Don’t sell out for some extra federal funds. If you do maximum good people WILL notice. No reason a non profit can’t believe that if they strive for excellence and succeed that the funding won’t follow.

chpn 09/19/2016 at 10:46 AM Reply
DerekW 09/19/2016 at 10:48 AM

So folks understand the economics of it… Higher density does not guarantee lower rent, rent is set by supply and demand like any other economic commodity. Don’t think, just because you have packed a lot of people in a small space, that rent goes down – a lot of times it is the opposite. So, to say it is lower income with lower rents isn’t a given just because of density. Developers and owners will get max return regardless.

Liz Opalak 09/29/2016 at 1:21 PM

CAR approved the renovations for the current Citadel building (i.e. replacing windows, repairing brickwork and stairs) and deferred their approval of the proposed two new buildings. BHC will be working with CAR staff to make adjustments to their design in order to minimize the mass of the Jessamine street building and to bring both new buildings into compliance with historic district guidelines. New plans will be presented at another CAR meeting- details to follow.

Thanks you everyone who signed for showing your support for preserving our historic neighborhood.


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