Frederick Douglass and Stanton Dwellings, two public housing developments east of the Anacostia River with a combined 650 units, were built as temporary housing for World War II workers. But Frederick Douglass was deemed uninhabitable in 1998 and left vacant. Stanton Dwellings, with its history of neglect, offered substandard housing in one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
In 1999, D.C. Housing Authority received a $29.9 million HOPE VI grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the revitalization of these two antiquated facilities and named the new development Henson Ridge to honor Tobias Henson, a former slave who had originally purchased and developed this 24-plus acre tract of land.
Partners in Hope
The $29.9 million HOPE VI grant was soon leveraged to provide a total of $110 million in development funding. A partnership was developed to move the project forward and included the Frederick Douglass and Stanton Community Redevelopment, LLC, a joint venture of Mid City Urban and the Integral Group; the District of Columbia Government’s Department of Housing and Community Development and Department of Public Works; the D.C. Housing Finance Agency; and HUD.
By April 2008, the first two phases of construction were well underway, with the former Frederick Douglass site and all of the rental units complete and fully occupied. Construction of the Phase II homeownership units is now underway.
Today, returning residents of the old public housing properties occupy 76 percent of the 280 rental units. In addition, a total of 320 units have been set aside for affordable home ownership opportunities and 16 returning residents have already purchased homes. A workforce-housing component of the project has successfully attracted a number of police officers and health care workers and their families to the new community.
The redevelopment plan ultimately calls for a 600-unit townhouse community (280 rental units and 320 units for purchase) with an all-new infrastructure, new parks and open spaces, and a proposed Campus Community Center which includes a new public library, new school, and a community center with comprehensive programs to serve youth and elderly. The Henson Ridge Project has over fifty (50) housing units built to serve both seniors and persons with disabilities. These units are built to Uniform Federal Accessibilities Standards (UFAS).
The Community and Supportive Services Program has already provided education, job training, entrepreneurship and mentoring programs, a state of the art computer learning center and self-sufficiency programs to resulting in more than 270 employment opportunities.
The redevelopment of Henson Ridge has also attracted considerable private investment in the surrounding neighborhood, including the recent completion of the neighborhood’s first full-service grocery store and a credit union.