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.
In view of the high cost to build and maintain the shelter, I asked whether JBG, which plans to redevelop the site of the current winter shelter, was asked by County Board to help defray the cost of the new year round shelter in its negotiations with the County over redevelopment of the site. Managing Director Director Barbara Donnellan said no. This is troubling to me.
But Jay Fisette was perturbed by my allegation that developers like JBG have realized profits in the range of 100 percent flipping buildings along the Rosslyn/Ballston corridor. He said the actual return on investment is more like 10 percent. So he didn’t agree with me that asking JBG to chip on the cost of the shelter was a reasonable proposition.
Yet it is the case that at least one property in the nearby was flipped at a 100 percent profit to its owners. According to Ken Robinson, President of the Woodbury Heights Condominium Association, the Hilton Garden Inn on N. Court House Road was purchased for $3 million, constructed for $26 million and sold for $57 million. It was subsequently sold for $70 million.
So what does that have to do with the new year round homeless shelter? Had not JBG decided to evict ASPAN from its current winter shelter location, the facility could have been renovated for a fraction of the cost of the Thomas Building shelter.