The Arlington Green Party recently endorsed the new year round homeless shelter next to the Woodbury Heights Condominium in the Courthouse section of Arlington. However, at a March 15 County Board meeting I pointed out that at $16.9 million the acquisition and construction cost of the Thomas Building facility that will house the shelter is $7 million more than a comparable shelter constructed in DC in 2012. In addition, the cost of operating the new facility is estimated to be $2.5 million annually. Continue reading
County staff have described as “within budget estimates” the $6.6 million contract to be awarded for the construction of the new year-round homeless shelter. While that’s peanuts compared with some other County sponsored boondoggles like the Pike Trolley and the Long Bridge Park Aquatics Center, it might be more accurate to describe the outlay as excessive.
Opponents of the County’s decision to purchase the Thomas Building in the Courthouse section of Arlington, have been portrayed as nimbies or worse—classists who spurn the presence of homeless people in their midst. It’s true that the immediate vicinity of 2020 14th Street is a well-to-do neighborhood. Luxury apartments and condos like the Palatine, Meridian, Woodbury Heights and the Odyssey surround the acquisition, making the placement of a homeless center there incongruous from a purely financial standpoint. If the real estate in this part of the county is valuable enough to warrant rents starting at $2,000 a month, then why is the County forcing the owner to sell? Why isn’t it encouraging the owner to redevelop the property in line with the rest of the neighborhood?
Arlington County Board finally bowed to pressure from the Arlington Green Party and other homeless advocates, opting at a contentious December 13 hearing to purchase the Thomas Building at 2020 14th Street to house a new year round shelter. No one disputes the need for such a shelter, but at what cost? The county has offered to purchase the building for $25.5 million and put up another $9 million to retrofit two floors to house the homeless. The remaining floors will house county staff. The county will forego $155,000 a year in tax revenue from businesses evicted from the building once it’s acquired from its unwilling owners, probably by eminent domain. Continue reading