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APAH breaks ground on Ballston affordable housing development

(Updated at 12:45 p.m.) Work has started on a long-stalled affordable housing development at the Central United Methodist Church (CUMC) site, across from the Ballston Metro station.

The $84 million multi-use redevelopment, dubbed Ballston Station, will replace the church (4201 Fairfax Drive) with an 8-story building comprised of 144 committed affordable units, CUMC’s new sanctuary space and an early childhood education center for about 90 kids.

Project financing closed yesterday (Wednesday) and construction will start “immediately,” according to developer Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH), which will own and operate the residential space. It expects to complete the project in the spring of 2024.

“Ballston Station will bring 144 greatly needed affordable apartments to an incredible location right in the heart of Ballston with direct access to transportation and jobs,” said Carmen Romero, APAH’s President and CEO, in a statement.

The project has changed hands, increased in scope and experienced financial setbacks since it was originally approved in 2017.

APAH took over for Bozzuto Development Company in 2019, increasing the number of units and setting them all aside for affordable housing. Last fall, it received a three-year extension for construction.

Meanwhile, after multiple applications for a Low Income Housing Tax Credit were unsuccessful, APAH had to find other ways to make the project financially sustainable. This includes a $19 million county contribution from its Affordable Housing Investment Fund.

“Arlington County is pleased to support and be part of this outstanding project,” said Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti in a statement. “Ballston Station moves us closer to achieving the county’s ambitious housing goals by providing quality, affordable apartments.”

APAH also received nearly $9 million from an Amazon-funded state housing grant and changed the mix of apartment units.

Fifteen units will be reserved for residents earning 30% or less of the area median income (AMI), with 60 units for those earning 50% AMI or less and 69 at 60% AMI. The project includes 24 two-bedroom units and 12 three-bedroom units.

The revamped church space will include a commercial kitchen for CUMC’s food distribution ministry, which today provides hot breakfast, lunch and groceries, medical care and referrals to more than 200 people.

“This new building will also support our mission to worship God, serve others, and embrace all,” Rev. Sarah Harrison-McQueen said in a statement.

It will be also home to a Tiffany stained glass window, called “Christ in Blessing,” on loan from Arlington County. The window has never been displayed since being salvaged by the county, as it needs a liturgical setting and restoration. The restoration will be paid for by the church.

With demolition imminent, the Central United Methodist congregation has temporarily moved to a church space at 4701 Arlington Blvd in Arlington Forest.

APAH completed a new affordable housing development in Rosslyn this summer and broke ground last year on a housing project to replace the American Legion Post 139 in Virginia Square.

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