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The Phyllis Wheatley YWCA celebrated its recent renovation with a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The historic building on Rhode Island Avenue and 9th Street in Northwest received the $17 million renovation thanks to the partnership between the District of Columbia Housing Authority, the District government, and seven other community partners. The 84 supportive and affordable units for low-income women in the District received  upgrades, such as kitchenettes and full bathrooms to allow for more independent living. Solar panels and other energy saving measures were also added.

Mayor Muriel Bowser said at the June 23 ceremony that the creative partnership and the group’s persistence have kept these affordable units in the District and will allow more Washingtonians to “find their place to thrive.”

She added, “We not only maintain a focus on affordable housing, but also get those units out of the door.”

DCHA has made an annual commitment of $781,200 in Local Rent Supplement Program and $401,280 in traditional federal subsidy funding. The combination of federal and local subsidy is the first time this financing structure has been used in the District and is a model for future projects, DCHA’s Director of Capital Programs Merrick Malone said. DCHA’s subsidies cover 100 percent of the units, making rent affordable for each woman who lives there.

“You have to be intentional or you don’t get a project like this done,” said Malone, who noted that DCHA contributed $1.5 million in Housing Factor Funds to the project, as well. “We at the agency love to be creative.”

Malone also said this was the first project nationally to use PACE (Property Accessed Clean Energy) financing for new affordable housing.

“This is a wonderful place that the ladies can call home,” said Patricia L. Plummer, Phyllis Wheatley YWCA’s board president.

She said the YWCA's board learned a lot about affordable housing since the 2015 wallbreaking ceremony, but she said the partners also learned from the board whose missions is serving women in need.

“And we don’t falter from that mission,” Plummer said.

The 100 year-old building required nine different financing streams and five city agencies, said Buwa Binitie, managing principal at Dantes Partners.

“It was the most complicated transaction I’ve ever worked on,” he said. “It was and still is the most gratifying project I’ve ever worked on.”

While difficult to get done this project is “incredibly important for the city,” said Ward 6 Council member Charles Allen. “it is making a tangible difference in people’s lives for years to come.”

D.C. Housing and Community Development Director Polly Donaldson said that this project ensures “this is a neighborhood for people who have been here for five generations, five minutes, or anywhere in between.”

ANC Commissioner for the area, Alex Padro, explained the history of the “fantastic institution in our neighborhood.” The group was started in 1905 by the Book Lovers Club, a group of African-American women who wanted to protect women new to D.C. It was the city’s first YWCA and the nation’s only one supported by African Americans. The first center was close to Union Station, but after World War I it moved to the current corner in Shaw. The group named the new headquarters after the first published African-American author, Phyllis Wheatley.

Padro, who said he made sure to include the building as part of D.C.’s Black Heritage Trail, added, “This is another major milestone of the work you and your predecessors have put in…It is well positioned to serve [the community] for another century.”

The supportive services in the building are provided by N Street Village. The organization knew immediately wanted to be involved to help ensure stability over the long-term for these women, said Executive Director Shroeder Stribling, and “to make sure this housing is a real home.”

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DCHA’s Director of Capital Programs Merrick Malone
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Mayor Muriel Bowser
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Patricia L. Plummer, Phyllis Wheatley YWCA’s board president
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Council member Charles Allen
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Phyllis Wheatly YWCA
Last modified: 7/13/2017 1:01:05 PM