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Former Sanford Capital Apartments In Southeast D.C. Eyed For Redevelopment

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The Belmont Crossing apartments at the corner of 7th Street SE and Barnaby Road
The Belmont Crossing apartments at the corner of Seventh Street SE and Barnaby Road

An apartment complex at the center of a lawsuit involving former owner Sanford Capital has been tapped for redevelopment. 

A development team filed a Map Amendment with the Zoning Commission last week seeking to rezone the site of the Belmont Crossing apartments to pave the way for the redevelopment of the aging Southeast D.C. community. 

The team, operating through the entity Belmont Crossing Partners LLC, consists of MED Developers, TM Associates, Housing Help Plus and EquityPlus LLC. The group bought the property from Sanford Capital in April 2018 for $25M, property records show. 

The Belmont Crossing apartment complex has 273 units across 26 buildings near the intersection of Seventh Street SE and Barnaby Road. The application said seven of the buildings have already closed and all of the buildings are "near the end of their useful life."

The application would rezone the property from RA-1 to RA-2, allowing buildings up to 50 feet tall. The developers plan to replace the existing buildings with new all-affordable units, but because the team is using the Map Amendment process, it didn't provide detailed plans or renderings of the project.

Goulston & Storrs Director Jeff Utz, who filed the application on behalf of the development team, said it plans to tear down the existing buildings and replace them with new apartments built up to the 50-foot height limit. He said this would allow for more than the existing 273 units on the site, but the team hasn't yet determined the total planned unit count.

Belmont Crossing Partners plans to build the project in phases, beginning with the vacant buildings and shifting the remaining residents into the new projects to prevent displacement, Utz said. It would also create new side streets in between the buildings to break up the lengthy superblock that currently exists on the site. 

"It's a fantastic opportunity to take a site and invest substantial resources in it to allow for a greater degree of affordable housing while the project would keep the current tenants in place," Utz said. "It would allow for a more efficient use of the property and help address the affordability crisis that we're in." 

The development team reached an agreement with the tenants' association throught the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act process. D.C. last year provided $8M from its Housing Production Trust Fund to the Belmont Crossing property, describing it as a TOPA project that would preserve 275 units of affordable housing.

The property was one of several apartment communities involved in lawsuits over controversial landlord Sanford Capital. The Equal Rights Center in June 2017 filed a housing discrimination lawsuit alleging Sanford refused to lease Belmont Crossing units to residents who rely on temporary rental subsidies.

The D.C. Superior Court in October ruled in the ERC's favor, and Sanford agreed to cease discriminatory practices, display signage advertising that they accept housing subsidies and pay $310K in damages.

Sanford has faced other lawsuits over the conditions of its buildings and it began selling its D.C. portfolio in late 2017.