Arlington, VA

(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) The Commonwealth of Virginia and Arlington County are loaning a combined $13,700,000 to a Virginia Square affordable housing project focusing on veterans.

Officials announced yesterday (Tuesday) evening that the Virginia Housing Trust Fund will loan $700,000 and Arlington County will loan the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) $13,000,000 to build a seven-story, 160-unit building on the site of the American Legion Post 139 (3445 Washington Blvd).

“We want to make sure Virginia is the most veteran-friendly state in this great country of ours,” Gov. Ralph Northam (D) said in a speech outside the aging Legion building, which will be torn down and replaced by the new development.

Half the units will have a “veteran-preference in perpetuity,” APAH President and CEO Nina Janopaul told ARLnow Tuesday.

County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said in a speech he was “really thrilled” the county could be a part of the effort to help veterans.

“This is an opportunity for us to actually, truly thank them for their service by providing a very key need. That is, long-term housing,” Dorsey said.

Board member Katie Cristol told ARLnow that it was a “terrific project” and a “model” for Legion posts statewide. She added that it was inherently difficult to bring together all of the disparate parties on these kinds of projects, but the process could be easier if state legislators invested more in the affordable housing fund.

“You see Arlington and APAH trying to fill a really big hole,” said Cristol.

Northam thanked legislators, including state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-31st), for helping to add $11 million to the state’s Affordable Housing Trust Fund, of which $700,000 is loaned to the Legion development.

The governor added the the fund needs an addition $9 million to meet affordable housing needs across Virginia, saying “we still have a lot of work to do.”

The current design of the Legion’s new building features a new access road that runs along the west side of the lot, by the Casual Adventure shop next door. At the rear of the lot, the road will end in a parking garage for residents and Legion members.

Some neighbors have expressed concern about traffic and noise from the development. A total of 96 parking spaces are proposed, some of which are designated for use by the Legion. Janopaul said the parking ratio is lower than other APAH projects due to proximity to transit, adding that a planned driveway was moved in response to resident concerns.

“Part of it is because the Virginia Square Metro is just two blocks away, the sidewalk is right here,” said Janopaul. “This is an opportunity for people to live that car-free diet, which is helpful to low-income people as well as millennials who think that’s a nice way to live as well.”

Plans to build a mix of one, two, and three bedroom apartments remains unchanged.

Janopaul said this variety may help meet the needs of the low-income-eligible residents who are often placed on waitlists as the county has lost tens of thousands of affordable units over the past decade.

The Legion is also staying on the site.

Officials announced Tuesday that the first floor of the new building is slated to include a 6,000 square-foot space for Legion members that’s compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

Dan Donahue from the Legion said the organization plans to build a residential program in the space that focuses on suicide prevention and treating veterans with PTSD.

Janopaul added that APAH is working to find funding for career-training programs to host at the new site. So far, George Mason University has signed on to help train veterans for careers in cybersecurity, a growing industry in the region, she said.

“You got a lot of veterans and disabled veterans they need help,” said Legion Board member Jay Warner, 77, who described himself as a “lifelong” Arlington resident.

Warner told ARLnow that the project to tear down the old Legion building couldn’t have come at a better time.

“If the roof would have to be replaced, we would have to declare bankruptcy,” he said.

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