Residents Respond to New Stanton Square Plan

A rendering of Stanton Square, a two-part development that will include a mixed-income residential community and a community service campus. Photo Credit: David Roodberg

On June 22, representatives from Horning Brothers, Inc. and Community of Hope (COH) presented plans for a new apartment complex and community service campus to over 40 Fort Stanton and Hillsdale residents. While the partnership, known as Stanton Square, LLC, hopes that the project will help provide much-needed services to the community, residents see it as another empty promise, after a previous plan promising townhomes failed.

The Development Team

According to the company website, Horning Brothers “...has been active in the revitalization of Washington, D.C.'s neighborhoods,” owning property in every ward except Ward 2. In Ward 8 alone, the development company owns over 500 units. As community partner, Horning Brothers became familiar with COH's work. Founded in 1980, COH is one of the largest providers of housing and health services to homeless families in the city. Currently, COH serves about 220 families in six locations throughout the city; Ward 8 has two housing centers and a new health center opening by December.

Both partners stress a focus on expanding services rather than increasing revenue. “The community service aspect is a core value at Horning Brothers,” said David Roodberg, who serves as the developer's president and CEO. “It works with our philosophy.”  Kelly McShane, COH's executive director, agrees, saying “We're always looking for new ways to expand and this felt like a great partnership.”

A Second Attempt

This is not the first time Horning Brothers has attempted to develop this area. In 2005, the developer bought 8.1 acres of land bounded by Stanton, Elvans, and Pomery Roads to build 187 townhouses. The project, Stanton Square Townhomes, was approved on November 23, 2007 with plans to build within two years. However, despite winning an extension in 2011, Horning Brothers could not begin construction and the PUD expired last year.

Like many developments conceived and approved around 2008, the struggling economy made securing financing more difficult. As a result, Horning Brothers lost $1 million they could not recoup. “We would have loved to see that [development] happen,” said Roodberg, “However, we determined that it wasn't financially viable to make it work.” When Horning Brothers reevaluated their plans, the goal was to build homes whose prices could work in any economy. 

Stanton Square

According to their planned unit development (PUD) application, Stanton Square is now a two-part development project. The first is described as a “mixed-income residential community” with about 203 units. About 30 (or 15 percent) of those units will be considered as Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) for families. A nationally-recognized practice, PSH combines long-term rental subsidies and intensive home-based support services for families with a history of homelessness. The other 173 units will be a combination of market rate and affordable housing; residents earning up to 60 percent of the Area Median Income for at least 15 years will be eligible for affordable housing. 

Inspired by the success of the Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (THEARC), the second part of the development is a Community Services Campus designed to support young children and their families. The application states that an early childhood development center would be a key anchor; however, the campus would include services such as job training, health education and screenings, and parental support. Finally, the campus will include meeting spaces for neighborhood organizations and civic groups. Stanton Square planned to meet with residents to create “...a meaningful amenity package that will benefit the community.” 

The PUD Process

Stanton Square's PUD application marks the beginning of a process that helps permit flexibility of development, provided that the project offers an agreed upon amount of community benefits. The Zoning Commission (ZC) receives PUD applications, then refers them to the DC Office of Planning (OP). Then, the OP gives a report detailing the site's suitability for a PUD, identifiable public benefits (ie. mixture and design of uses, character, appropriateness, etc.), and compatibility with the PUD process. Using the OP's report, ZC reviews the application and determines whether to grant a hearing; according to chapter 24 of the District of Columbia Municipal Regulations, “An application may be denied without a hearing, but no application shall be granted unless a public hearing is held.” 

If the ZC grants a public hearing, then it is the applicant's job to justify the proposal. The applicant must also show that an effort was made to inform the affected Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) and other community groups about the proposed development. In Stanton Square's case, the townhall meeting, hosted by Commissioner Anthony Green, was the first step in making residents aware of the new plans. 

The Community Speaks

While the development team expressed enthusiasm for bringing Stanton Square to the area, many neighbors did not share the same sentiment. While some approve of the Community Services Campus, they did not like the idea of adding more apartments, and more people, in an already overcrowded area. Commissioner Green, whose single member district, 8B04, will house the development, explained, “This area is already over-saturated with apartments. Some people feel that the community service aspect is just a consolidation prize.” 

Other residents agreed: “I think what's taking place here is a degree of mistrust,” said one neighbor, “based on the fact that you had an old plan that we were interested in, and now, it's changed.” Another resident added, “I would rather have homeowners come into my neighborhood and people who are invested in our community than people who are just renting.” While she had no problems with renters, the resident went on to say that homeowners tend to take better care of their investments.

More Community Input

Many residents were surprised that no one on the development team lives in or has personal connections to the targeted area. In fact, the only DC resident on the team lives in Ward 3. “...We need to be a part of this...discussing the plans as they are being developed, and this meeting won't be a surprise to anyone,” said one resident. “When you talk about being a part of a community, you have to make relationships first.” He notes that those relationships could help them when they face the ZC during their setdown hearing in September and public hearing in January 2014. “We understand your position; we have empathy for you,” said another resident. “We may say things in an aggressive way, but we're willing to sit down and work something out.” 

One way the community is getting involved is through a newly-formed task force. “The Stanton Square Development Task Force will be a core group of active residents representing various corners of our area,” Commissioner Green wrote in an email to his constituents. “The task force will be our way of staying focused, organized and engaged in this process to achieve a development plan that reflects the viewpoints of our community.” 

“The First Victory of Many”

Commissioner Green commended his constituents on their feedback during what he called a “...very passionate and respectful discussion.” Afterward, he wrote that Roodberg wrote a note saying that the team heard their feedback and is committed to find alternatives. “This, my friends, is the first victory of many,” he wrote. With construction planned for September 2014, both residents and developers hope that future collaboration will result in a design that will increase homeownership and improve the community. 

If you are interested in joining the Stanton Square Development Task Force, contact Commissioner Anthony Green at 

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