Photo: Steve Thurston
The Buckingham Gardens development is the model of a successful public-private partnership, officials said yesterday in an event that celebrated the opening, and renaming, of the garden-style apartments on the 4300 block of N. Pershing Drive.
Formerly Buckingham Village III, the 140 apartments in 16, two-storey buildings were purchased by the county in 2009 for $34.5 million. Since the county cannot legally own or operate housing, they transferred ownership of the buildings (but not the land) in a 75-year lease to Telesis Corporation and NHT/Enterprise, companies that redevelop and manage affordable housing projects.
The county had retained ownership of 48 units on the property, hoping to sell them as condominiums, but dropped that plan early this year because the cost grew too high. Those units have been folded back into the apartment complex.
Residents, politicians, county staff, and management present said they were happy with the renovation of the units, which now have gas stoves, heat pumps, and hardwood floors. Some of the buildings had additions added onto the back of the them, turning one- or two-bedroom units into three-bedrooms.
But preservation of the buildings was not the main focus of the day. People interviewed were happy that people who lived in Buckingham Village years ago were able to stay in the community, affordably.
(See our slideshow for more information and quotes from those present.)
“This is why I ran for elected office,” to take on projects like these that save affordable housing, Arlington County Board member Walter Tejada told the crowd of about 60 people. Before his election to the county board, he was active trying to save the Arna Valley community in south Arlington near the the intersection of S. Glebe Road and I-395. Those apartments became high-end townhouses.
He said the county cares about “preserving community,” not just the buildings. Arlington has a problem with its success, he told those gathered: Crime is low, and the schools are good. This increases demand on housing, which drives up rents.
He thanked all the people who worked, “week after week after week after month after month,” on the project. In 2006 groups formed not only to save the property itself, but to save it so that people who lived there could afford to stay there. Some of those people were present at yesterday’s event.
Village III was the only one of the three areas in Buckingham that was saved in its entirety.
The Madison at Ballston Station apartment building at 4400 N. 4th Street was built on the site of Buckingham Village I and contains 100 affordable units. The Buckingham Commons townhouses (with sales offices at 4330 N. Henderson Road) are finished along N. George Mason Drive and under construction along N. Thomas Street. They sit on the site of the former Buckingham Village II.
The county pays about $1.5 million a year in debt service on this project. The payments come from the Affordable Housing Investment Fund. The county's subsidy of the housing is about $150,000 per unit.