Patience, Perseverance, and Sticking Together

The residents at 1340 Fairmont St NW, know a thing or two about patience, perseverance and sticking together. After 10 years of twists and turns in what turned out to be a challenging project on many fronts, the tenants have moved back into their newly renovated, affordable condominiums.

Throughout these 10 years, LISC remained committed to the tenants- providing and
adjusting our financing as necessary to see that these families were able to realize
their vision of high quality, affordable condominiums.

It all began in 1997. With their building falling apart and in danger of defaulting on their mortgage, the tenants of the 1340 Fairmont Street Cooperative approached the Development Corporation of Columbia Heights for help. Bob Moore, Executive Director of DCCH recalls, “They were really getting close to foreclosure- but people in the building were interested in maintaining ownership – so we came in to help them stop the foreclosure.”

At the time, LISC provided a $98,628 loan to help restructure the cooperative’s financing and a $42,000 recoverable grant for predevelopment work.

After a couple years of working with the tenants, DCCH handed off the baton to Manna. Rozanne Look of Manna remembers there being a, “smooth transition between the two organizations- each doing what we could best do to help the Coop.” In the meantime, the building had continued to fall into tremendous disrepair.

One of the tenants, Mr. Constantine, remembers what it was like living in the property at the time. “Oh man” he said, “conditions were really, really bad. There was lead paint, the plumbing and electrical were bad- to the point where it was really becoming unsafe.”

After Manna stepped in, they began to pull together the financing package. “Financing was difficult” remembers Rozanne, “Initially the members wanted to remain a coop but did not want public financing so it took a while to sort out. Finally, they voted to go condo, which made, it much easier.” LISC and BB&T supplied the construction financing with LISC providing a $692,400 construction loan.

Because the tenants already owned the building, the condo prices for the existing tenants were able to be kept quite low. Sales prices on the eight vacant units were from $175,000- $195,000 – a steal given that they are within a short walking distance to the Columbia Heights Metro Station. Comparable units now go for about twice those amounts.

Manna was also able to accommodate two very low income seniors on fixed incomes by maintaining their units as rentals.

Today, all but one of the original seven tenants moved back into their units. Eight new families are moving into the other units. As for how the tenants feel now that renovations are complete, according to Mr. Constantine, “It is exciting! We are very happy that we could keep our prices so low. We are also happy that we could give back to the community by providing 8 families with new very affordable units. It’s hard to believe all the new development going on in Columbia Heights- I think it is a good thing for the community.”