Builder: Bozzuto Construction
Architect: MTFA Architecture
Project completion:February 2012
Number of units: 116
Unit mix:Studios to three-bedrooms
Rents:$662 to $1,464
Transforming a church into a multifamily development generally makes for an aesthetically pleasing property. So when The Church at Clarendon put out an RFP to rebuild its quarters, The Bozzuto Group was happy to participate.
“It was an exciting project, helping the church realize their vision of not only getting a new sanctuary, but fulfilling one of their missions to [provide] affordable housing,” says Doris Topel-Gantos, senior vice president of Bozzuto Development.
Embarking on the project wasn’t easy, though. There was considerable neighborhood outrage from church neighbors, who were involved in at least two legal challenges to stop development of the building even before Bozzuto got involved. In 2009, a local resident filed a suit accusing Arlington County and the Virginia Housing Development Authority of violating the First Amendment requiring separation of church and state, since they would be providing subsidies to the church.
The case reached the Supreme Court, but there were no findings that such a development would advance the church’s message. And the neighbors have been pretty quiet since the development was completed last year.
“It’s all gone away,” Topel-Gantos says. “Unfortunately, I think there’s this perception of affordable housing that’s skewed.”
Despite the misunderstanding, Bozzuto proceeded with the development, facing further challenges with its design. Church spaces are typically easy to configure, but designing the apartment homes was quite difficult, considering the property’s triangular shape. The help of architects and Bozzuto’s design expertise, however, helped the building deliver well-executed floor plans.
“If you tour the building, it has such a small-boutique feel that it integrated into the neighborhood seamlessly,” Topel-Gantos says.
The property is close by public transit options and has successfully added housing stock to a city that quickly outgrew its affordability over the years, making the end product well worth the struggle.
“It was a labor of love by everyone involved in the project, because there were so many obstacles to overcome,” Topel-Gantos says. “But at the end of the day, we were able to deliver a great project to the Arlington area.”