Macy’s Move Will Help Transition Shelter to New Multi-Story Home
By Amanda M. Socci
A mainstay nonprofit in Alexandria whose singular mission is to help homeless people by offering them shelter, guidance, education, and advocacy, Carpenter’s Shelter “began informally in 1982 when a priest, Father Tony Casey from Alexandria’s Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church, opened the doorway of the church and gave homeless people a place to sleep,” according to the shelter’s Communication and Development Associate, Kristen Parker. Ten cots and a handful of volunteers later, it began organically with “one man who saw a problem and worked to fix it,” added Parker.
In 1988, a group of volunteers officially founded Carpenter’s Shelter.
From Henry Street to Macy’s
On June 8 and 9, 2018, Carpenter’s Shelter temporarily relocated to the former home of Macy’s at the Landmark Mall at 5701-D Duke Street.
Landmark Mall management agreed to lease the temporary space rent-free to help the shelter continue to provide services without interruption for approximately 18 months until roughly December 2019 while a large-scale redevelopment project takes place at their permanent location at 930 N. Henry Street in Old Town Alexandria.
Temporary Move a Part of ‘New Heights,’ a Planned Redevelopment Project
‘New Heights’ is a unique business transaction between Carpenter’s Shelter and Alexandria Housing Development Corporation (AHDC), an independent nonprofit real estate developer, also based in Alexandria. New Heights calls for a total demolition of the Carpenter’s Shelter’s current space at 930 N. Henry Street and the construction of a multi-story building. The new building is intended to address two separate goals of helping homeless people and providing affordable housing and will be managed separately by Carpenter’s Shelter and AHDC.
New Heights complies with the Braddock Metro Neighborhood Plan.
According to Kayla Hornbrook, the Communications and Development Associate at AHDC, Carpenter’s Shelter and AHDC entered into a purchase and sale agreement in which AHDC purchased the land at 930 N. Henry Street from the Carpenter’s Shelter. As a condition, AHDC and Carpenter’s Shelter agreed that AHDC use the proceeds from the sale to build Carpenter’s Shelter the new multi-story building.
Though Carpenter’s Shelter and AHDC are the main parties to this unique business transaction, general contractors and community partners are slated to provide a host of necessary construction services to complete New Heights. Once completed, the finished project will be a seven-story complex with two separate entrances, an underground parking garage, common outdoor space, and interesting architectural components.
The north side of the building is planned as a six-story division. It will have a bottom street level that will contain the new administrative offices of Carpenter’s Shelter, complete with a separate entrance.
The south side of the building is planned as a seven-story division. It will have a homeless ‘purpose-built shelter’ on the first floor and ‘The Bloom,’ with floors two through six containing lobby space plus 87 affordable rental apartments. Floor seven is planned to include 10 permanent supportive housing units. The Bloom is aptly named to help shelter clients transition to affordable housing apartments and bloom (improve and beautify) their lives in the process.
Financial and Mission Reasons Drive Redevelopment Efforts
In February 2018, the Office of the Governor, Ralph S. Northam notified AHDC that it had awarded them $1.6 million to work on New Heights. According to Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development associate Velma Ballard, those funds are “technically an interest-only loan. Depending on the exact nature of the underwriting, the principal may be forgiven after a certain number of years so long as the housing [that was planned or built] remains affordable.”
According to Kayla Hornbrook, AHDC “acquired financing from … [many] sources including low income housing tax credits, national and Virginia housing trust funds, City of Alexandria housing trust funds, and a mortgage in order to buy the land and build rental project above the new shelter.”
Kristen Parker stated the most important reason for the Carpenter’s Shelter’s determination to dramatically change the structure of their property is to address its mission of helping homeless people transition to affordable housing.
Between 1988 and 1998, Carpenter’s Shelter rented a renovated warehouse. After reviewing the operating budget, the executive director noticed that a significant portion of the budget was used for rent. At issue was the question of how to stop paying rent altogether. The creative solution was to locate a building and purchase it outright. That building ended up being the site of a former DMV office at 930 N. Henry Street. After the purchase took place in 1998, Carpenter’s Shelter was able to expand its homelessness programs.
After using the former DMV space at 930 N. Henry Street for nearly 20 years they decided to raze their building altogether and build it anew to include affordable housing for its clients.
Understanding Terminology in Homelessness Advocacy
In general terms, a homeless shelter is intended to be a temporary, makeshift space to give people protection from dangerous conditions. According to Kristen Parker, Carpenter’s Shelter offers three “shelter” spaces: 1) a 60-bed residential shelter with private rooms for individuals and families, 2) a day shelter, David’s Place, where homeless adults are welcome six days per week, and 3) a seasonal winter shelter, which provides nightly refuge from the elements and takes place in an open common space.
The new space within the seven-story complex, The Bloom, will have a purpose-built homeless shelter on the first floor. It is differentiated by its permanence and function.
According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, families who spend 30% or more of their income on housing may not have the funds to pay for necessities including food, clothing, transportation, and medical care. Keeping that in mind, Carpenter’s Shelter engaged AHDC as its community partner to offer and manage affordable rental housing units in The Bloom.
The Bloom will also contain permanent supportive housing units. These units are intended as a cost-effective means of deflecting homeless people from taking residence in hospitals, jails, and prisons in a way that is more humanitarian and helps people gain stability and self-sufficiency. In addition to providing affordable housing, the permanent supportive housing units will offer specialized services to homeless people who may need help with substance abuse, mental illness, or other disabilities. The administration of these units involves community case management and coordinated care of services;, to which AHDC refers as wrap-around services.
Transitional Services at Temporary Space
When asked if Carpenter’s Shelter staff would be concerned about the ability to provide the same level of service at the Macy’s location, Parker stated that the “collaboration with people [and the] ‘it takes a village mentality’ have made things a smooth transition for everyone involved. From the architect to the contracting companies to the new partnership with the City of Alexandria’s DASH transit system, she calls it “a real blessing to see philanthropy evolve with great community support.”
Demolition and New Construction
According to Kayla Hornbrook, AHDC and general contractors are anticipating a July / August start to demolition and subsequent beginning of construction phase. The construction is expected to be completed within 24 months. The south side construction phase with the homeless shelter on the first floor and The Bloom dedicated to the affordable housing units is expected to be completed by 2020.