After years of controversy and a court case, Victory Housing Inc. welcomed a new phase for its senior housing project in Rockville Town Center on Tuesday: Construction.
Victory Court will bring 86 units—including 65 with rents below market rate—to 74 Maryland Ave. They will be available to people 62 and older.
Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, acknowledged the controversy over the project during a groundbreaking ceremony under a tent sheltering attendees from the wind and rain. Participants included elected officials, housing advocates and community members.
“Today is a reminder [that] storms come and they go. At end of the storm will be the beautiful day surrounding this building,” Wuerl said.
Victory Housing is the nonprofit development arm of the Catholic Archdiocese of Washington. Construction is expected to be complete by mid-summer 2013.
The three-story complex with stone and brick townhouse-style architecture is designed to fit in with the neighborhood of historic homes near Rockville’s government center and downtown.
Concerns that the building’s size and scope would not fit in with the neighborhood character—and an argument that it was inconsistent with the city’s master plan—led to a lawsuit by a group of Rockville residents.
In January, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals affirmed an October 2010 decision by the Montgomery County Circuit Court that upheld the city's zoning exception for the project.
The city argued that the exception was warranted because of the need for affordable housing.
“The need [for affordable housing] is tremendous,” James A. Brown Jr., president of Victory Housing, said Tuesday. “Ten thousand Baby Boomers a day are turning 65 in the United States. We are not ready for the affordable housing needs of that population.”
Another Victory Housing project, Victory Square in Northeast Washington, DC, had 815 people apply for 98 units, Brown said.
Victory Court rents will be determined using Area Median Income levels determined by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Using AIM, the complex will offer:
- 36 one-bedroom units at $841 a month.
- 9 one-bedroom apartments at $1,007 a month.
- 20 two-bedroom apartments at $1,691 a month.
- 21 two-bedroom apartments at market rate—$1,805 a month.
Brown predicted that Victory Court could attract interest from community members searching for a home for their parents or themselves.
Mayor Phyllis Marcuccio said the project “is going to be another way of saying ‘C’mon to Rockville. This is a wonderful town to retire in if you don’t do anything else.'"
Rockville City Councilman Mark Pierzchala called Victory Court “the best possible use for the property.” The county had formerly proposed using the site for parking or townhouses.
“Each would’ve had a very negative impact traffic-wise on the community,” Pierzchala said. “But this really doesn’t.”
The project is being built on county-owned land using tax-exempt Housing Opportunities Commission bonds purchased by Capital One bank. Montgomery County also is providing a loan.
Pierzchala predicted that Victory Court would benefit the community. He cited his College Gardens neighborhood’s opposition to the development of King Farm.
“My neighborhood fought like heck against King Farm, but it’s enriched the neighborhood,” he said.
City Councilman Tom Moore agreed that Victory Court would be a welcome addition.
“The history of these things is that there is a well-fought battle about whether to do it, but once you decide to do it, people get on board and everyone moves forward,” he said.
Rockville is “thousands of units down” in providing affordable housing, Moore said. “We need to keep what we have. We need to be adding to it like this.”
Rockville Housing Enterprises’ proposal to purchase the Fireside Park Apartments and the second phase of redevelopment in Town Center represent chances to retain existing affordable housing and add workforce housing, respectively, Moore said.
The city’s Town Center Action Team discussed both the Fireside Park proposal and phase two of Town Center redevelopment at a meeting on Tuesday night. Check back with Rockville Patch for coverage of that meeting.