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Construction to Start on American Legion Redevelopment in Virginia Square

Construction is starting this week on the mixed-use replacement to American Legion Post 139 in Virginia Square.

The project, which was approved in 2019, will build 160-units of affordable housing on the current American Legion site at 3445 Washington Blvd, as well as a new, modern space for Post 139. Half of the apartments will be earmarked for vets.

“Veterans will be given priority placement in half of the building’s 160 apartment homes – making it Virginia’s largest affordable housing project for veterans,” a spokeswoman noted.

The $80 million redevelopment has received $33.8 million in tax credits from the state, a $11.5 million loan from Arlington’s affordable housing fund, and several large donations — including $1.5 million from real estate titan Ron Terwilliger, for whose parents the building will now be named, and $1 million from Amazon.

A groundbreaking ceremony has been postponed due to the pandemic, but the financing has been finalized and construction is slated to start this week. Work is expected to wrap up in 2022.

In preparation for demolition, the flag outside the American Legion post — flown there since the 1950s was recently retired. A video documented the ceremony.

A press release about the groundbreaking is below.

Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) that it has closed on the financing and started construction of Lucille and Bruce Terwilliger Place.  Once completed in 2022, the project will provide 160 affordable apartments in Arlington as well as a new, modern 6,000-square-foot facility for American Legion Post 139.  Veterans will be given priority placement in half of the building’s 1-, 2-, and 3-bedroom units.

The innovative project began in 2016 when American Legion Post 139 chose APAH to redevelop its 1.3-acre site on Washington Boulevard and replace its aging facility. This high opportunity location is within blocks of the Virginia Square Metro station, George Mason University’s Arlington campus and many jobs and services. In addition to critically needed affordable housing, Terwilliger Place will provide veteran-focused programming in its private counseling spaces, community activity rooms and computer lab. The property will serve households earning from 30% of Area Median Income (AMI) up to 80% of AMI. This is APAH’s fourth “twinning” project, combining the 4% and 9% Housing Tax Credit programs and the first to use the new Income Averaging option to serve households earning up to 80% of AMI.

A New Replicable Model

“APAH is thrilled to pioneer this model with American Legion Post 139,” said APAH CEO Nina Janopaul. “Thousands of veteran-serving organizations across the nation face similar challenges: they own land with aging facilities and are experiencing declining membership. This partnership will bring a new, accessible Post, attractive to younger Vets and co-located with a mix of housing options. There are more than 20,000 veteran serving organizations like Post 139 across the nation.  Imagine the difference it would make for veterans and affordable housing if even a fraction of them adopted this model.”

“As the first project of its kind in the country, Terwilliger Place offers a blueprint for veteran service organizations like the American Legion to partner with nonprofit developers to put their land to use on behalf of vulnerable veterans–men and women who have ably served our country but now find themselves struggling with significant health and housing challenges,” said Debbie Burkart, national vice president of supportive housing at National Equity Fund, Inc.  “Post 139’s new community space within Terwilliger Place provides an opportunity to expand its mission and enrich the lives of the future veteran residents.  We’re proud to be a part of this important effort, and to support the multi-layered financing that is helping to bring this project to life.”

Project Financing

The $80 million project includes $33.8 million in Low-Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTCs) awarded by the Virginia Housing and Development Authority (VHDA).  “APAH and American Legion Post 139 are creating something extraordinary with Terwilliger Place–Virginia’s largest affordable housing project for veterans and the first Housing Credit project in Virginia with a leasing preference for veterans,” said Susan Dewey, VHDA CEO.  “We hope that this innovative partnership will be copied by veteran-serving organizations across the nation.”

Capital One purchased the tax credits and provided $70,000 in predevelopment grants from Capital One’s Community Impact & Investment team. The transactions were originated by Edmund Delany, Senior Director and Senior Capital Officer for the Mid-Atlantic region of Capital One’s Community Finance team.

“Capital One is thrilled to have played a role in the realization of Terwilliger Place and its 160 affordable apartments,” said Delany. “We congratulate APAH, Post 139 and the other partners involved on the development of this community, which will create much needed housing for our veterans.”

In addition to tax credits, VHDA also provided a direct permanent loan, a loan through its Resources Enabling Affordable Community Housing in Virginia (REACH Virginia) programs, and a grant for pre-development work.  The Commonwealth of Virginia provided a permanent loan from the Virginia Housing Trust Fund.

Arlington County provided a loan of $11.5 million  “We all owe a deep debt of gratitude to our nation’s veterans,” said Libby Garvey, Chair of the Arlington County Board, “and Arlington is proud to be one of the first communities in the nation to reach functional zero for veterans’ homelessness.  Today we look forward to a completed Terwilliger Place that will help us ensure that we continue helping veterans find an affordable place to call home right here in Arlington.”

Uniting to Serve Donors Close the Gap

Terwilliger Place is the first time that philanthropy has played a pivotal role in APAH’s project capital.  The Terwilliger Family Foundation provided the lead gift of $1.5 million. Ron Terwilliger is a renowned multi-family developer and national advocate for affordable housing. The project will be named Lucille and Bruce Terwilliger Place in honor of his parents.  “I was pleased to fund this innovative project because Arlington is my hometown and I attended the Naval Academy. I want to support those who have served in our military and now need an affordable home,” said Mr. Terwilliger.

More than 50 donors joined the Terwilligers in responding to APAH’s Uniting to Serve capital campaign, including Amazon which provided $1 million through the Arlington Community Foundation. In total, more than $4 million was raised to support construction, enable more units serving extremely low-income households, and to support programming once the building is complete. “We look forward to the day when Terwilliger Place becomes home for 160 veterans and families,” said Alice Shobe, Amazon in the Community Director.   “The affordable rents are essential for the residents and help keep Arlington a diverse and thriving community. Kudos to APAH for creating an opportunity for the public and private sectors to join together to create more affordable housing.”

The Mission Continues

While the groundbreaking celebration was deferred due to the COVID-19 pandemic, construction work will begin immediately. APAH and its contractors are committed to jobsite safety and are following all the provisions for safe work practices outlined by both the Department of Labor’s OSHA and the CDC. “This work has never been more important,” noted Janopaul. The pandemic has dramatically underscored the nationwide need for affordable housing–how can a family ‘stay-at-home’ if they don’t have a home?”

Site preparation work is already underway and demolition of the existing Post 139 building will begin in the coming weeks.  Project construction is expected to take approximately 26 months. Residents will move in to Terwilliger Place in late 2022.

American Legion Post 139 leaders recently retired the flag that has flown outside their existing building since the 1950s.   “As we begin construction, our mission to serve the most urgent needs of veterans and their families has never been clearer, our impact never stronger,” said Post Commander Bob Romano. “We are thrilled to continue our journey with APAH and look forward to being together to raise the flag once again on our new Post home.”

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