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CPDC’s Turning Point (2005 – 2010)

Tribute #9 – Our Standards:  Going Green

CPDC’s growing pipeline of acquisition-rehabs, historic preservation, and adaptive reuse, along with a range of transformational community development programs was starting to command attention and earn the respect of industry leaders across the region, and the country.  Desiring to stay ahead of the curve in terms of innovation, CPDC took a leap into un-chartered territory by developing the first LEED® certified “Green” affordable housing community in the District of Columbia—Wheeler Terrace.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWheeler Terrace—once one of 14 crime “hotspots” in the District—is a 116-unit property originally built as veterans’ housing in 1947.  Since that time, the property, and the condition of the neighborhood, had declined dramatically.  Frustrated by what they saw and experienced on and off the property, residents of the community, many of whom were members of the Wheeler Tenant Association (WTA), organized and exercised their right to purchase the property under DC’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act.  Their primary goal was to renovate the property while preserving its affordability.

In late 2006, the WTA elected to transfer property’s ownership and development rights to CPDC.  CPDC renewed the existing Section 8 contract for an additional 20 years, allowing residents to continue paying only 30% of their income on rent, with the remaining balance paid by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

20100625_2407With ownership and affordability squared away, CPDC immediately began working with residents to discuss its plans for the community which included building in several green features that would reduce energy cost and provide other unique opportunities for residents.  The green redevelopment included the installation of a geothermal heat pump; upgrading the existing flat roofs with energy efficient white roofs; installing bio retention areas and underground sand filters to improve storm water management; adding new clean air systems for improved air quality; and undergoing extensive interior renovations including upgraded bathrooms and kitchens with new energy-star appliances.

Another key component to the redevelopment was the creation of much-needed family units along with a new community and classroom space, a community garden, and a Green Opportunities (GO) Center designed to provide on-site education of green building principles and how they benefit residents.

Following redevelopment, CPDC’s Wheeler Terrace had been recognized by the US Green Building Council as the first LEED® (Gold) certified property in Washington, DC.  The community also met the Enterprise Community Partners  “Green Communities” criteria.  More importantly, it had transformed a crime-infested, heavily blighted piece of land into a model for affordable, green living standards; one that also provided residents with comprehensive community development programs and improved security and health standards.

Mark James, CPDC’s former Development Officer that led the project, said “We must all come to realize that “green” building is the future of affordable housing.  Who better to benefit from reduced energy cost and healthy housing conditions than families with modest means?”

That thinking caused CPDC to change its real estate policy and build green features into each of its community rehab projects going forward; a shift that took place ahead of legislation that stipulated green standards for newly constructed or revitalized communities.

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