The county has formally accepted redevelopment plans for Lake Anne Fellowship House, an affordable housing senior community on North Shore Drive.
Fellowship Square Foundation and the Community Preservation and Development Corporation envision the proposal will enhance senior housing residential opportunities, diversity housing types and revitalize Lake Anne Village Center.
“All existing affordable housing units will be replaced in a new, more efficient modern building with better amenities to serve its senior population. This proposal remains true to Robert E. Simon’s vision to provide communities comprised of a diverse residential population in a sustainable environment,” according to a proposal filed with the county last month.
The new plans call for replacing all 240 apartment units in the existing 1970s-era facility. Amenities include a social hall, crafts room, fitness room, wellness center, a game room, two plazas and community gardens.
The remainder of the property will include up to 74 townhouses, diversifying the types of housing and serving as a transition to the established townhouse community to the west, the proposal said. Townhouses will have garages and surface parking for visitors.
New residents will access the buildings through North Shore Drive. Surface parking and an underground parking garage will offer 92 parking spaces.
Residents would remain in their current living space until the new facility is complete, and after they are transferred the old buildings would be destroyed. The portion of the property left unused would be sold for residential development, and the proceeds from the sale would help support the cost of the project.
The collaboration between Fellowship Square and CPDC comes after several years of on-again, off-again plans for redevelopment of the property. Most recently, in 2013, the foundation had an agreement with Cafritz Interests and Novus Development for new housing on the site. That effort fell through by September 2014, which the foundation said was “due to our inability to advance our land use proposal in a manner that will produce the best possible outcome for our residents.”
Renderings via Handout/Grimm and Parker
For 55 years, the nonprofit Fellowship Square has been helping the elderly and disabled in Reston by providing affordable housing and other services.
All this week, Fellowship Square will be marking its anniversary with celebrations for residents and guests at its four locations. There will be a ceremony Monday at 5 p.m. at Hunters Woods Fellowship House and Tuesday 5 p.m. at the Lake Anne Fellowship House. Additional receptions will be held later in the week at Fellowship Square facilities in Largo and Lake Ridge.
“We’re celebrating the work we have done in the community and rejoicing that our work has done so well and lasted for so long,” said Faye Codding, community outreach coordinator.
Lake Anne Fellowship House was the first Fellowship Square building to be constructed. It’s first phase opened in 1970, and the second Lake Anne building opened in 1976. Hunters Woods Fellowship House was completed in 1979.
A plan to tear down and rebuild the Lake Anne facility with modern amenities fell apart in 2014, but Fellowship Square officials hope to eventually get that plan in motion again.
Codding also said another goal is to help seniors in the community who are not necessarily residents of Fellowship House.
“We see ourselves expanding to reaching out more into the community to help all those in need, not just residential,” she said. “We are always exploring what possible ways we can serve and we are looking for partner with others in the community.”
The foundation, which owns and operates the affordable senior housing across North Shore Road from Lake Anne Plaza, had worked for about a year on a plan to tear down the existing building and rebuild it on the same site, as well as build an additional building with 285 market-rate units.
But early last month, Fellowship Square notified the Fairfax County zoning officials that it was deferring the application indefinitely “due to our inability to advance our land use proposal in a manner that will produce the best possible outcome for our residents.”
Faye Codding, Fellowship Square’s Director of Community Outreach, says the group “remains committed to our mission” of providing affordable senior housing.
“We don’t have anything [to report] at this time,” she said Thursday. “The board meets in November and in January, and the board is exploring all possibilities.”
Lake Anne Fellowship House currently has 240 units for seniors, 114 of which are subsidized. The building, which was built in the early 1970s and does not meet all Americans With Disability Act standards, also has a 20 percent vacancy rate.
Former board member John Thillman pointed out some of the building’s issues in a presentation to Reston’s Planning and Zoning Committee last November. He said the two Lake Anne buildings lose about $10,000 a month.
“We’re bleeding red ink,” he said. “The main reason the rent is low is the buildings were built in 1971 and ’74. The standards used are not the same as today.”
The buildings are also in bad need of repair. The air conditioning does not work in many units, so the foundation is unable to rent those units, Thillman said. Following the 2012 Derecho in Reston, power was out in the building for several days, leaving residents without cooling, working elevators, refrigeration or the ability to cook.
Thillman said last fall the best proposal would be to tear down the existing buildings, even though there were two different mortgage holders for the six-acre property: The Department of Housing and Urban Development for the west side and the Virginia Housing Development Authority for the eastern half.
Thillman said last year the group’s other options were to keep the buildings the way they are and sell to a developer who is not required to keep seniors in mind in a few years when the mortgages are paid off , or to renovate, which would cost more than a new building.
“The bottom line is the two buildings need to come down,” he said. “We have to move forward. “We have maybe two years, maybe less, before we go bankrupt.”
Edward Byrnes, a member of the Fellowship House Foundation board and chair of its Lake Anne Redevelopment Committee, wrote in a August letter to county officials that he still believed that foundation’s plan was a good one in spite of criticism that many low-income seniors would be displaced.
According to Byrne, there were several meetings with Fairfax County officials over the summer, but the county was not receptive to the idea of offering Section 8 housing vouchers to existing residents, which the Fellowship Foundation needed in order to progress with the zoning application.
“We still believe that our proposal for 140 permanently affordable senior housing units and 285 market-rate units is the best available means for replacing our aging residential complex and retaining affordable housing for seniors in Reston for the next 40 years,” Byrnes wrote to the county.
“We arrived at this proposal after several years of reviewing alternate solutions … In the end, we concluded that a self-help strategy of using the increased value of our land at Lake Anne Fellowship House to finance the rebuilding of our complex provided the most dependable and achievable solution. “
Byrnes also wrote that in the wake of the deal to rebuild falling apart, the foundation has lost the ability to prepay the mortgage and “access the expanded housing safety net for our current residents. “
He wrote that the foundation must now prepare a significant portion of residents for “the loss of their existing housing subsidy and, likely, their ability to pay rent.”
For Fellowship Square Foundation, we will be forced to raise rents to market rates for those units that have lost their subsidy to cover the expense of operating this building.”
This is not the outcome we want, but the consequence of our inability to proceed with our redevelopment proposal. We have been criticized by the county for proposing the build only 140 affordable senior units rather than replacing the current 240 units. But, as we have stated, the value of our property is limited and that limited value can only produce 140 new, affordable senior housing units.
Ironically, by failing to support our redevelopment proposal, the community will still lose 100 affordable senior housing units. The difference is that the remaining 140 units will be aging, 40-year-old units rather than new units