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  • Carren Kaston

Group Advocates Converting the Wardman Hotel to Affordable Housing

Have you heard? There's a movement afoot to urge the city to jump-start the acquisition of the bankrupt Wardman Hotel in Woodley Park for conversion to genuinely affordable housing in Ward 3. The Wardman Hotel Strategy Team and its allied group, Ward 3 Housing Justice, are asking the Mayor to acquire and convert the hotel to 500 mixed-income affordable residences, with classrooms, community services, recreation, and meeting space options on the lower levels for both residents and the larger community. Mayor Muriel Bowser has set DC goals for housing development by 2025 and asked Ward 3 to do its part by providing 1,990 new affordable housing units by 2025. Converting the former Wardman Hotel rooms into housing could provide 500 of those affordable residences—a quarter of the Mayor’s goal for Ward 3 —in one stroke! To date Ward 3 development of large residential buildings has consisted almost entirely of market rate units, with just 8-10% affordable units under the city’s inclusionary zoning regulation (IZ). IZ alone will not reach the Mayor’s goal for affordable housing. Instead, big, creative solutions, such as converting the Wardman Hotel to housing, are needed. The Wardman Hotel Strategy Team has met with developers, nonprofit organizations, DC agencies, councilmembers and staff, and Woodley Park neighbors to explore this proposal. With $2 billion in new money coming to DC from the federal government, now is the time for the city to seize the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to control the destiny of the 16-acre Wardman Hotel property for the benefit of many. The strategy team’s vision for the site offers fresh, landmark ideas. Converted units would range in size from studios to 4 bedrooms for low- and moderate-income DC residents with 0-80% median family incomes (MFI), many units at 0%-30% MFI. That would provide housing for our local workforce, so that the teachers, firemen, health care employees, and hotel and restaurant employees and others who work here and give us basic services could afford to live here. It would help stem further gentrification of the kind that has squeezed many thousands of residents of color and their families out of DC in the past 20 years; give seniors, veterans, and others on fixed incomes more places to stay in community; and provide those in need of housing stability with a place to put down roots and flourish. In addition, the hotel’s ballrooms and vast meeting halls are ripe for conversion to spaces for sports and fitness, food service training, overflow classrooms for the Oyster Adams Bilingual School, child care, and community meetings and activities. The vision includes preserving the green space along Woodley Road for community enjoyment. This adaptive reuse of an existing structure would also win recognition as a model of environmental sustainability in Ward 3, far better for all than demolition, and much more cost-effective than constructing a new building. Here’s a petition you can sign, urging DC officials to acquire the Wardman and convert it into a 100% affordable housing community: https://actionnetwork.org/petitions/acquire-the-wardman-hotel-for-affordable-housing?source=email& Please also share the petition with your neighbors in Woodley Park and your friends elsewhere in Ward 3 and other parts of the city. You can read Wardman conversion press coverage to date at the links below: Sam Ford, ABC7, May 24, 2021 WUSA9, June 9, 2021 Jonetta Rose Barras, DC Line, June 4, 2021 Signing the petition now to ask the City to control the destiny of this property to benefit many at the widest range of income levels would give a powerful boost to this farsighted vision for our community. You can obtain additional information about the Wardman project from Gail Sonnemann, gsonneman@gmail.com. By Carren Kaston Wardman Hotel Strategy Team Member

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