Arlington, VA

A Ballston church is now one step closer to transforming into an affordable housing complex.

The Arlington County Board unanimously approved a proposal to allocate $3,082,319 to an all-affordable housing project in Ballston that would replace the current Central United Methodist Church building at 4201 N. Fairfax Drive with a new eight-story building and two-story underground parking garage.

Plans of the project include 144 housing units, a number the church raised in July from its original proposal of 119 units. The majority of the planned units are two-bedroom apartments. The building designs also include a new church space with 200 seats, a daycare for 100 children, a pre-school, and office space for a charity.

The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) is developing the property for the church after taking over the project from another developer, the Bozzuto Group. The head of organization said she was “thrilled” to hear that the project was moving forward.

“This is an extraordinary project that will include a new worship space for the church, the return of Kinhaven Preschool, and 144 affordable apartments,” said APAH President and CEO Nina Janopaul said today (Monday.) “We are grateful to the County for its commitment to Arlington’s low-income residents.”

The $3 million funding is the same amount the Board approved for when the church initially proposed setting aside only certain number of units (48) as affordable in 2017, before later deciding to build only affordable units.

With an estimated 20,000 Arlington households at risk of displacement, leaders have recently launched programs, studied zoning changes, regional partnerships, and faced political heat as they’ve struggled to slow the loss of affordable housing stock.

The Board’s approach allows the the county to loan $3 million to the project via its Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF). The same funding mechanism is used for affordable housing projects countywide, including the nearby American Legion redevelopment in Virginia Square.

The Ballston project’s overall financing, including funding from the state, is likely to take another six months to finalize, meaning construction would not begin until after July 2020. In total, the construction is expected to take two years with units on the market by fall 2022.

Previously, some criticized the plan for its potential to disturb the historic Robert Ball Sr. Family Burial Ground underneath the site. (Not to be confused with the Ball Family Burial Grounds on N. Kirkwood Street which also faced uncertainty amid the Virginia Square redevelopments)

Others flagged design issues with the Ballston project’s parking and open space requirements.

The County Board gave its blessing for the overall project in 2017 after designs preserved a portion the cemetery, and an attorney representing the church’s nonprofit leading the development said that crews would examine the site and exhume, examine, and re-inter any remains discovered.

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