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Church at Clarendon Prepares for ‘Homecoming’

by ARLnow.com — February 22, 2012 at 3:59 pm 6,858 68 Comments

After two nomadic years, the congregation of The Church at Clarendon (1210 N. Highland Street) is getting ready to return to their newly-renovated church sanctuary.

Since construction began in late 2009, the congregation has been meeting in venues like Rosslyn’s Top of the Town conference facility and at the First Baptist Church of Ballston. Starting on March 4, they’ll be back home.

Rev. David Perdue, the church’s Interim Senior Pastor, says he’s hoping to not only welcome back those who have stuck with the church through the construction, but to attract new, younger worshipers who might have moved to the area in the intervening years.

“We’re reintroducing ourselves to the community,” Rev. Perdue said. “We’re prepared to receive visitors and let them know: this is who we are.”

The journey to the church’s upcoming homecoming, however, has been a bumpy one. Founded in 1909 as the Clarendon Baptist Church, the church had its heyday in the 1950s and 60s, when up to 2,000 congregants would pack the pews for Sunday services.

The congregation started to wane in the 1970s, and by the 2002 Sunday attendance was consistently dipping below 100. Faced with an aging congregation, a large, aging building, costly needed repairs and utility bills that exceeded $100,000 per year, church leaders took bold action. They hired Rev. Perdue, who formed a younger, more contemporary congregation to supplement the older, traditional congregation, and then struck a deal with Arlington County and a nonprofit developer.

The church sold its “air rights” to the developer for $5.6 million. The developer, in turn, would build an eight-story affordable apartment building — to be called “The Views at Clarendon” — while renovating the two story church below it. It seemed like a win-win: 70 affordable apartments would be added to the Clarendon area (in addition to 46 market-rate apartments), while the church was saved from potential financial ruin.

But the deal would prove to be controversial. Neighbors in Lyon Village sued to block the planned 10-story church/apartment complex, citing separation of church and state and the steep per-unit cost of the subsidized affordable apartments. In the end the lawsuit was dismissed and construction proceed as planned.

Rev. Perdue is hoping to heal any remaining hard feelings.

“If there’s a way for us to promote some healing… we’d be all for that,” he said.

To promote the homecoming, church members marched in last night’s Clarendon Mardi Gras parade and are planning on handing out flyers at the Clarendon Metro station on Friday, March 2 and Saturday, March 3. They’re also hoping to attract residents from the new apartments above the church, which started leasing in December. Residents are welcome to come downstairs and attend services in their pajamas, Rev. Perdue said.

“There’s no dress code,” he noted.

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  • OldTimer

    And from the ashes grew affordable housing. Amen.

  • John

    Too bad it’s an architectural disaster, but I like how market rate and low income apartments are mixed together. This is an innovative project that does not segregate by income, unlike that horrible proposal at Columbia Pike and S Greebrier for a few hundred low income apartments in one massive high rise.

    • Clarendon

      It is strange. If it had a little more pizazz it would be interestingly eclectic. I do like the style of the silver letters above the main door. I wish they had included public access through the site from Highland to Hudson.

    • South Awwwlington

      Agreed.

    • CW

      I feel like they should have done something with the wall of the apartments that forms the back of the church. If they had made it solid and used the right finish it would have created a cool silhouette effect highlighting the church. Instead, it just makes it painfully clear that this is indeed a church with an apartment complex growing out of its backside.

  • J

    “If there’s a way for us to promote some healing… we’d be all for that,” he said.

    —-

    You could start by turning off that horrendous purple sign. I mean, it’s not like the building is that hard to find.

    • J

      I don’t know if it was coincidence, but the sign was off last night. If that wasn’t coincidence, thanks! Now if the guys would stop power washing in the early morning hours (which admittedly hasn’t happened in a little while), life is good.

  • Sam

    It’s a real tight squeeze to get by in your car in front of the daycare entrance on Highland if someone is trying to park or an oversized truck comes from the other direction. They really cut down on the road size by expanding the sidewalk and still keeping in the parallel parking. However, the sidewalk is a million times better than what was there before.

  • BreakPause02

    Anyone know what “affordable” is in Clarnedon?

    If it’s low, I would not want to be someone paying market rent ($3000) living in the same building as someone paying ($1000.)

    • LP

      I’m curious about this as well, I did a quick Google search to try to find a website for “The Views at Clarendon” but couldn’t find anything. I’d like to know what rent is; for both the affordable and market rate apartments.

      • rosslyn
      • dirty biker

        Apartments
        1 Bedrooms 12 Floor Plans 831 Sq Ft From $2,125
        2 Bedrooms 9 Floor Plans 1063 Sq Ft From $2,600

        I bet that the super swanky 2-BR units facing the metro will be north of $3200 (just a guess)

        I have no idea what the subsidized rate would be… anyone know?

        • BreakPause02

          Doesn’t say, but probably + gas + water + electricity + parking (if needed.)

        • Ed

          This is two clicks away from the link mentioned above:

          http://vpointapts.com/housing-for-all/

          • Ed

            And for the clicking-averse:

            Unit Size Rent Level Number of Units at this level Maximum Rent
            Studio 60% 9 $1038
            1BR 60% 24 $1089
            1BR Den 60% 3 $1089

            2BR 60% 15 $1290
            3BR 60% 6 $1464

  • SoMuchForSubtlety

    Awesome project! And apparently it hasn’t destroyed Lyon Village yet…

  • Ray’s the spirit

    That would make a great location for my whiskey bar!

  • Frank

    So the county provided subsidized apartments so that church members can attend services in their pajamas? Wow, just wow.

    • Jack

      Frank. Incorrect. The county provided subsidized housing for residents. They gave a private developer a tax break to do so. The developer bought property the church owned for 100 years to build the housing. The church used the proceeds to renovate its sanctuary.

      • Frank

        Thanks, Jack. Gotcha. Wink wink, nudge nudge. Say no more. Say no more. That must be why the article indicates that the church is “hoping to attract residents from the new apartments above the church, which started leasing in December. Residents are welcome to come downstairs and attend services in their pajamas.” The church must be completely disinterested in the residents sharing the same building. I mean, the developer is completely separate, totally different, right?

        • drax

          Yeah, Frank, the entire project was designed to get some new church members. Sure, whatever you say.

          • Frank

            Actually, yes, it appears that the annual maintenance costs were too much for the congregation, causing the church leaders to take “bold action” to save the church facilities and to increase the membership. Those were the problems this project solves: aging infrastructure and a dwindling congregation.

            The use of public monies was just a bonus – the means to achieve the ends.

          • Marissa

            The developer knew the county was willing to offer the tax break for affordable housing, and was willing to do what it took to get the tax break to purchase whatever property it needed to make that happen.

            It just happened that the property they wanted was owned by a church, and for well over 100 years. The church had the right to sell to whomever it chose, under whatever terms both parties were willing to agree to.

            That is good old fashioned secular American capitalism at its best. Would you support it if the developer purchased a parcel from a bar or restaurant instead?

          • KalashniKEV

            That’s about all they can afford to do in that zip code!

            If they’re not hanging out in church, do you think they’ll be sipping Belgian Abbey ale and eating gourmet pizza?

        • Maria

          Why in the world WOULDN’T they want to attract people from upstairs? It’d be like a restaurant on the ground floor of an apartment building trying to get people to come downstairs and eat. What’s the difference? There are lots of legitimate “church/state” issues out there; no need to pick at issues that don’t exist.

      • Paco Wellington III

        I may not be remembering correctly, but I thought the apartment building was owned by a board appointed by the church? Thus, the argument against providing direct financial aid to a church was that the shadow board for the apartment building was actually a church controlled board.

        The developer was not just a true third party, but in fact was the church wearing a different cloak. The courts allowed it, but it seems odd. Also, the County Board provided cash, not just tax breaks, so I wonder what might happen later in time if the church/apartment building cannot repay the County. Will the County then become the direct owner of the Church or otherwise get mixed into the Church’s business?

        • Jack

          The Views board is mixed with some church representation and some secular. This is simply because of common use issues on the property (i.e. utilities, security, access, etc.) The church does not have a say on the management of the apartments and the apartments do not have a say on the management of the church

  • http://www.arlnow.com/2012/02/22/church-at-clarendon-prepares-for-homecoming/#more-31022 Jim M

    This monstrosity should have been called “Our Lady Queen of Condos”!

  • Louise

    Well done, Church of Clarendon. You act as a role model for the rest of Arlington.

    • cj

      +10

      • TuesdaysChild

        Down-market Abbey.

        • KalashniKEV

          Hahahaha!!!

  • nunya

    just think of all the commandments that will be broken in those condos…..

    • Moi

      +100,000

    • Mr. Clarendon

      The number broken in the condos would probably be on par with the number broken in the church… Have you been looking at the news??? ;-)

  • MC

    A failing church – unable to draw enough people to it to support it — deserves to go bankrupt. There are plenty of churches, and each needs to succeed on their own merits, without state support. This is a miscarriage of democracy that our tax dollars have been “loaned” to a church to keep it solvent. I’m sure everyone involved has the best of intentions, but this wrong on principle, and had this been a mosque instead of a Baptist church I’m sure everyone would realize have ludicrous this whole process has been.

    • Jason S.

      I would apply that same logic to people. Failing people don’t deserve tax dollars just because they’re failures.

      • Republican spirit

        That’s what I’m talking about!

      • KalashniKEV

        Hallelujah! The good Lord hath visited ARLnow and washed away the stupids! Let all children of God have the same freedom to fail as they have to achieve!!!

      • Josh S

        Unfortunately, life isn’t black or white.

        Many “failures” are not the fault of the failing.

        Or, turning it around a bit, many successes are hardly successes because of their own merit.

        • KalashniKEV

          That’s not unfortunate at all- that’s what makes life exciting and worth living.

          Just as you have a right to succeed in America it is your “right” to fail. Stripped of the “freedom to fail,” there’s really no inspiration or motivation to assume any risk with the possibility of great reward.

          A society which punishes success and mitigates failure is a sad, sick world to live in.

          • drax

            You didn’t actually read Josh’s post past the first line, did you?

            Being the cause of success should be rewarded, not just the success itself, don’t you agree? And vice versa. Life is not as simple as you wish it were, Kev. You’re probably too young to understand that yet.

          • KalashniKEV

            Oh, is that what you think “should” happen? That’s cute. I appreciate the age comment as well, I feel “zinged.”

            Now come join the rest of us in reality. Being the OWNER of success is what leads to reward, not the cause.

          • Josh S

            No, I don’t think it’s unfortunate, either. But I do think it is a reality that trips up the approach that you are advocating. There aren’t simply “successes” and “failures” – it’s more complicated than that. We all remember the joke about Bush the Younger, right? Poor guy was born on third and thought he hit a triple. The point being that his success was hardly the direct result of his own qualities / efforts. Same thing can be said for many so-called “failures.”

            So, you can pretend that failures are simply exercising their “right” to fail and so should just be left alone. But it’s not exactly the case. “A society which punishes success and mitigates failure is a sad, sick world to live in.” – that certainly makes it easier to get on with your life. But I think it is just an easy way out of wrestling with the complexities and messiness of the world.

          • KalashniKEV

            Bush was the second biggest failure as president in my lifetime. I don’t consider him to be an example of success.

            Only a truly evil government would punish success and reward failure. Some people want just that however, because they don’t believe in themselves, are too lazy to get their hustle on, and/or are too scared to risk anything.

            Failure is supposed to suck, and is often fatal. That’s a dose of reality for you.

          • Your Therapist

            You seem mentally unstable. Just an observation.

    • CW

      I don’t understand. An entity with an item of value (prime real estate) found someone who was willing to pay for that item of value (a developer). The County has made it clear that it believes affordable housing to be a priority. The merits of this view can be debated, but that would be off topic here. It found a willing partner and entered into a venture to meet its previously defined goals. This just sounds like business to me. By the same token, if you’re short on cash and sell, I don’t know, your car, does that make you a failure who deserves to fail?

      • Jeff

        Thank you for being a voice of reason

        • Maria

          Reason isn’t welcome here.

      • MC

        The church could have sold their land to uninterested developer in an arms length transaction, and the developer could have built affordable housing without a church in it, and the church could have used the money to buy a smaller property it could afford and maintain. That would have been the prudent thing to do, and perfectly constitutional. Instead, the church quite selfishly choose to become a property developer using both tax breaks AND a loan from the County to maintain a church they don’t even have a congregation to fill. We have out tax dollars supporting a church building and promoting specific religious doctrines that many people, me included, object to.

        • Jack

          There was nothing unconstitutional about this project. Every state and federal bench that heard the cases concurred.

          Church and developer “could” have done a lot of different things, but there was nothing illegal nor improper about what they did do. This is no more than basic supply and demand.

          The church had an asset of $5.8 million, much of the value being the location. It was struggling. What would you do if you were struggling but sitting on a gold mine? Maintenance becomes much more manageable once $5.8 million is put to updating a physical building. Location will help increase visibility and perhaps attendance as well..

          Why should the church have foregone any of those opportunities on land and space it owned for over a century?!

          Who are you to decide what is selfish to do with your land?! Last I checked we are not in China and private property rights are a fundamental part of our society. If you had a piece of property worth $5.8 million, what would you do?!

          Tax dollars are not going to the church! How many different times can that be put to rest before you idiots continue to deny the facts in front of you?!

    • Jack

      There was no state support. The private developer paid the church. The private developer got the tax break from the County. If your issue is with state support, then your issue is with using public $ for affordable housing.

      The church itself received 0 public $, as that is illegal under Virginia’s church/state statutes – authored by Thomas Jefferson himself.

    • Jeff

      Your tax dollars didn’t go to the church. They wen’t to the apartment. The apartment bought the property form the church who owned it for well over 100 years. What is so hard to understand about this?

  • brendan

    would love if ArlNow could provide everyone w/ a definitive amount of tax dollars (including tax breaks/incentives) that went into this project.

    Every figure i’ve seen puts the cost per unit of affordable housing ridiculously high.

    • Richard Cranium

      Just remember – it’s all for the “firemen, policemen, teachers, and nurses” who will certainly live there.

      • Republican spirit

        failures! why can’t these losers pay the market rate?

  • Sikudhani

    “Where will they be able to afford groceries, Whole Foods?”

    • BlueLoom

      Nope. Giant. About 4 or 5 blocks away on Washington Blvd.

      • KalashniKEV

        How far do they have to go to score a rock?

        • drax

          Why don’t you just move to Loudoun County and escape this urban liberal hellhole, Kev?

        • CW

          Yes, because everyone who is only paying $1038 a month for a studio must be smoking crack. My god, are we really in this much of a bubble here? Outside of DC and NYC, I don’t think I have a friend who pays more than $500 a month for rent. They don’t smoke crack, either.

          • Bandersnatch

            It’s pretty awful- I have a large hourly staff out in Loudoun County and they pay $800-$1200 for 600′ apartments in Leesburg, Gainsville, etc… rent is just plain expensive in the DC metro, even way out here.

  • Clarendon Cruiser

    Just remember that all religions are a business operation where they sell hope…

    apparently, the Rev Perdue took it to a different level, literally :)

    I’d like to know how the affordable housing lottery for this place is conducted and who is watching the watchmen on that.

  • ArlingtonCountyTaxpayer

    it would be nice if some of the other dumpy churches with their big parking lots would serve their mission and providing housing for people. thank you

  • A Man of Science, not Fantasy

    If a church dies, does God? No. I can’t believe Arlington approved this travesty! Clearly a clear violation of Separation of Church and State. Such a disgrace – and a waste of my taxes. Santorum would be so proud!

    • Jeff

      Try reading every court ruling at the local, state and federal levels on this project and then come back when you have a clue

    • Josh S

      groan.

  • M

    Frank Perdue is a reverend now?
    I guess it takes a tough pastor to preach a tender sermon.

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