Press Club

American Legion Redevelopment to Get $1 Million Affordable Housing Grant from Amazon

A third of Amazon’s $3 million June donation for affordable housing in and around Arlington will go to the redevelopment of the American Legion post in Virginia Square.

“The funds will dramatically drive down the rental rates” for ten units at the 160-unit development, located at 3445 Washington Blvd, according to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH).

“We are so honored that the Foundation and Amazon chose APAH for the initial gift. This contribution will go a long way in making this special project even more impactful,” said APAH President and CEO Nina Janopaul in a press release. The grant is being made via the Arlington Community Foundation, which is managing Amazon’s $3 million gift.

The site has been formally dubbed Terwilliger Place, after a couple who also made a hefty donation towards the project earlier this year.

“Thanks to today’s gifts we can increase the number of Terwilliger Place homes that will be affordable for those living in the lowest income bracket — families living on minimum wage,” Janopaul said.

In 2016, APAH bought the 1.3-acre property, and the County Board in February approved a plan to tear it down in 2020. In its place will go 160 units of housing with a mix of one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, all at different levels of affordability. Half of the units will go towards housing low-income veterans, and plans to open to residents on a first-come basis are set for summer 2022.

“We are adding much-needed affordable units to our inventory, and many of them are large enough for families,” County Board Chair Christian Dorsey wrote in a statement earlier this year.

APAH also plans to build a brand-new, modern 6,000 square foot facility in Terwilliger Place for Legion Post 139, with amenities such as private counseling spaces, community activity rooms, and a computer lab.

In addition to Amazon’s June donation, the company has announced it will match employee donations to select housing- and homelessness-related nonprofits in and around Arlington, including AHC Inc., APAH, Carpenter’s Shelter, and more.

The County Board will vote on a zoning amendment next week for Amazon’s upcoming HQ2, which includes a $20 million donation towards Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund.

The grant announcement from APAH is below, after the jump.

In June, Amazon announced a $3 million donation to the Arlington Community Foundation to improve access to affordable housing and services for neighbors in need in Northern Virginia. Today, the Arlington Community Foundation released a plan to use the funds to create committed affordable apartments available for Arlington households with an annual income of $36,000 or less.

One million of Amazon’s $3 million donation will be immediately awarded to the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) to make rents more affordable in 10 of the new apartment units currently being developed at the American Legion site on Washington Boulevard. An additional $1.7 million will be awarded via a request for information process opening later this month to affordable housing producers to create additional low-cost housing in Arlington for those in the lowest income bracket. The remaining $300,000 will be used over the next three years to help the Community Foundation and its partners pursue creative housing solutions, including underutilized financing mechanisms to increase housing production.

“The affordability crisis and rapid displacement of our diverse residents are the greatest threats to our community’s long-term health and viability,” says Community Foundation President and CEO Jennifer Owens. “Both the public and private sectors must continue to take urgent action to keep these neighbors from being priced out of the county.”

Less than 3 percent of the County’s designed committed affordable housing units are affordable to the 9,000 Arlington households that make less than $36,000 for a family of four. This income is just 30 percent of our area median income. Households with incomes this low are at imminent risk of displacement as the cost of living in Arlington continues to climb.

“This is an important time for all sectors to join together to pull in the same direction and make measurable progress,” said Alice Shobe, director of Amazon in the Community. “Amazon is deeply committed to playing a role in the success of local efforts to help people in need. We are encouraged by the momentum and hope others are inspired to join the effort.”

Housing affordability is one area the Arlington Community Foundation is addressing through its Shared Prosperity initiative, which brings together businesses, government, and nonprofits to prevent the displacement of Arlington’s lowest-income households.

“Our partnership with American Legion, to be named Terwilliger Place, will provide 160 new affordable apartments,” said Nina Janopaul, APAH’s President and CEO. “APAH appreciates Amazon’s generous contribution. Philanthropic and public funding will allow APAH to provide 18 apartments affordable to extremely low-income households, such as families living on minimum wage jobs in the local retail and service sector.”

In addition to creating additional affordable housing, the Shared Prosperity Initiative also aims to increase access to affordable child care and build workforce development pathways, with a goal of allowing low-income residents to reach their potential in a sustainable way.

“These individuals contribute to the social and cultural fabric of our community and to our workforce in important fields such as child and elder care, food service, property maintenance, and healthcare, yet they are not experiencing the prosperity of many others in our community,” said Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey. “We are committed to an Arlington where all our residents thrive.”

According to Dorsey, the County Board is taking dramatic steps to help Arlington residents who earn less than 30 percent of the area’s median income. In its budget guidance for FY 2021, the board called for at least $3 million and up to $9 million in increases over the current level in Arlington’s Affordable Housing Investment Fund and asked for recommendations for how new funds can be used to support the housing needs of these lowest-income residents.

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