Anacostia’s Sheridan Station Readies for 1st Phase Fall Opening
In the early months of his second term President Bill Clinton’s motorcade, returning to the White House from Andrews Air Force Base, barreled down Suitland Parkway, riding past the abandoned Sheridan Terrace public housing development. The sprawling 11 acre site with multiple buildings housing 183 units sat vacant. It had become the domain of drug dealers who sold to squatters scattered throughout the graffiti strewn buildings; in the parking lot were burnt out cars with out-of-state license plates.
Topographically defined by its rolling landscape that reaches inshore from the Anacostia River, the neighborhood bearing the river’s name has numerous hills and bluffs. In the 1960’s, the Sheridan Terrace public housing project, built on the hill overlooking Suitland Parkway, was constructed and “touted as urban dwellings with a suburban appeal.”
However, its location quickly proved problematic as issues with water drainage slowly began to deteriorate the units. By the early 1990’s less than 50 families remained; the last resident moved out in 1993.
According to local lore, President Clinton realized foreign dignitaries flying into Andrews Air Force Base would likely take the same route to downtown Washington, passing by Sheridan Terrace. Clinton did not want the site to mar the foreign leaders’ impressions of the nation’s capital and therefore, in 1997 the entire development was demolished.
For more than a decade the site sat as nothing more than a large pile of dirt until William C. Smith, well-known throughout East Washington, joined with Jackson Investment Co. and Union Temple Community Development Corporation to compete for HOPE VI funds being administered through the DC Housing Authority to redevelop the former Sheridan Terrace.
HOPE VI, a program of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development — an earlier phase of the program devoted funds to the redevelopment of the former Arthur Capper Carrollsburg Dwellings off M Street SE prior to the construction of the Nationals Stadium in 2006 — is a federal initiative that provides funds to develop sites of former public housing projects into mixed-income communities. Sheridan Terrace was the seventh such project in DC. Chicago is the only other city with a greater presence of Hope VI projects.
The ideology of HOPE VI focuses on defensible space, a concept of environmental design aimed at reducing crime and increasing neighborhood safety through the deliberate use of architectural design and new urbanism, a design concept promoting walkable neighborhoods made of mixed housing options that are connected to hubs of public transportation.
After three rounds of competition, the group led by WCS won a $20 million grant in 2007 to begin the first phase of the redevelopment of Sheridan Terrace, re-named Sheridan Station because of its proximity to the Anacostia metro station.
Sheridan Station, now within the area being branded as “CHASE” (Congress Heights, Anacostia, Saint Elizabeths), is located directly east of Sheridan Road, bound by Howard Road, Sayles Place, Bowen Place, Stanton Road, and Pomeroy Road.
To fully fund the first phase, estimated to cost $28.8 million, nearly $6 million in federal stimulus grants have also been provided. The total project has an estimated cost of $105 million; it is to be completed in four phases and will eventually include 344 units, of which 161, 48%, will be for sale and 183, 52%, for rent.
Sheridan Station’s 1st Phase
Lofts in the 1st phase of development will be available for rent this fall, 114 units are planned to come online, with 45 former residents expected to return. There are 8 different layouts across available efficiencies and 1 and 2 bedroom units. The for-sale townhomes and condominiums, with 3 bedrooms and 2.5 baths begin at $250,000 and $235,000, respectively. Units offer 9 foot ceilings with stainless steel Energy Star appliances, walk-in closets, wood laminate flooring, and a washer and dryer. For units that face Suitland Parkway, the portrait windows have been re-enforced to block out noise from the passing traffic.
“Aside from the design itself, which we believe to be sleek and urban while capitalizing on unique topography and sight lines, we have the advantage of location, location, location,” observed Carol Chatham, Vice President, Communications of William C. Smith + Co.
Breaking ground on May 10, 2010, WCS has remained tightly on schedule. Chatham points to “cooperation amongst financial partners, excellent consultants, and sub contractors” as the reason the project’s timeline has remained on pace.
“Sheridan Station is designed to do more than just uplift people. It will have an economic impact as well as improve housing options in the immediate area,” said Barry LeNoir, Chairperson of the Sheridan Station Hope VI Advisory Committee and President of the United Black Fund whose stand-alone building sits at the junction of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, Howard Road, and Sheridan Road.
Over the past 18 months LeNoir has been involved in the “interactive engagement process” of “getting former residents ready to participate” in the return to the site of their former homes. The group has held monthly meetings since the project’s inception and focused on identifying needed on-site amenities, which will include a 5,500 square foot health and wellness center, community meeting rooms, green rooftop garden and a computer lab.
“The Advisory Committee is an invaluable resource. Being able to hear from former residents of Sheridan Terrace and having the benefit of their experiences, both good and bad, is helping us create a sense of place,” says Chatham.
Impact on Anacostia
For long-time Anacostian and community activist Hannah Hawkins, Sheridan Station is wait-and-see. Known for her work with Children of Mine, an enrichment program for neighborhood children located in historic Anacostia, Hawkins began her program in the late 1980’s by transforming two empty apartments in Sheridan Terrace into a welcoming community space.
“I went there when no one else wanted to go,” remembers Hawkins, who moved her program to its current location on Mount View Place in May 1992. “I walked those corridors every day, morning, noon, and night.”
Hawkins warned that “we know William C. Smith has done a wonderful job re-developing that area and we don’t want to see it a year later declining.”
Citing the growing perception of “a great conflict” between homeowners and government subsidized renters at the mixed-use development Henson Ridge off of Alabama Avenue in Congress Heights, Hawkins said, “I hope and pray they will do major screening. I want everyone, the owners, the renters, the developers, and the community to benefit from this.”
With the recent opening of some notable small businesses on lower Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue and the continued growth of Anacostia’s arts district, WCS knows there is a newfound attention on the area.
“Many eyes are watching the Sheridan project,” says Chatham. “Success at Sheridan will encourage further development along the MLK corridor.”
“Retailers are always asking about new housing units when they are looking to invest in Anacostia,” said Stan Voudrie, Principal of Four Points LLC. “Sheridan Station, along with Matthews Memorial Terrace, is very positive for the neighborhood. High density helps to push commercial development and investment which everyone wants.”
* A print version of this article appears in July’s East of the River.*