Wednesday, May 09, 2012

CP: Delta Towers II?


The City Paper reports that the Delta Towers II project is back.  Delta Towers is, of course, that tall building on Florida Avenue, just as it hits the Starburst Intersection. Delta Towers provides senior housing and services. They also have a big parking lot, and plans to construct a second tower on that site.

Here's an interesting doc from the first time they tried to build Delta Towers II. If it had all gone down as planned, construction would have begun in 2010, and the last unit would have come online a couple of months ago. This may be an earlier draft because I notice that it proposed 150 units, and the 2009 proposal that City Paper refers to is for 100 units (Delta Towers I has 138 units). This doc from 2009 (presumably) is an interesting read not only because it discusses the history and mission of Delta Towers, ut because it runs through an analysis of changes in Trinidad, and the H Street Corridor.


Hillman said...

If their goal is to use their resources to house the most number of seniors wisely and efficiently, then they are failing with this proposal (and, indeed, with the continued existence of the current tower).

If their goal is to preserve senior housing for a select few in a specific gentrifying neighborhood, then they are succeeding.

This sizeable high profile land could be sold for roughly a jillion dollars. And that money could be spent to buy far cheaper land elsewhere, with a lot more housing units provided.

Basically it's a tradeoff. If you go for the high dollar land, you then lose out in the number of people you can provide housing for.

I admit I beat this topic to death. As the misuse of affordable housing tax-payer provided funds (location choices versus bang for the buck) is something that really does intrigue me.

But my constant harping on this subject pales in comparison with the constant refrain I am subjected to, of how affordable housing is disappearing and I must support it with my tax dollars.

So since it's my tax dollars being taken by the affordable housing lobby, I have a vested interest here.

True, the Sisters may not be directly advocating that my tax dollars be taken (although they are the recipients of those tax dollars).

But the affordable housing industry absolutely is advocating that.

While they don't pressure groups like the Sisters to actually use existing resources wisely.

Do I bore even myself on this topic? Yes.

But then it's my tax dollars being discussed here.

The original tower was developed using DC taxpayer and federal taxpayer funds.

It's almost certain that the new tower would be as well.

Anonymous said...

As a close neighbor to the current tower, my first thought was- where will all the people park if that parking lot is gone and there are twice as many people? Our street is already full of service workers heading to the towers so I can only imagine what it would do if double the number of residents and service workers have half the number of parking spots.

H Man said...

I live nearby and it does seem like a poor use of this land if it is just senior-only dedicated housing. I prefer my tax $ be used for something other than another subsidized housing project.

I would think it would be better to sell the parking lot and use the money to improve the existing facility and fund its operation for the long-term. Or they could go ahead and build a new building with some percent senior housing, plus some percent market rate-apts, and ground floor retail for them to rent. Maybe that would be more financially sustainable.

Hillman said...


The previous proposal called for some mixed income and mixed use.

But since they are seeking housing tax credits from DC Housing and Community Development (and likely other federal and city funds as well), clearly the mixed income/mixed use model isn't working without taxpayer funding.

Anonymous said...

I guess it is their land and it's only a parking lot right now, but something doesn't make sense to me.

Aren't there height restrictions? Maybe it's just me, but I think the current building is kind of ugly.

And why would seniors want to move into one of the most upcoming neighborhoods around? Do they enjoy the bands at Rock n Roll, love to use Groupons at Sticky Rice, spend their days playing Cornhole at the Argonaut?

I'm not trying to make fun, but I'm not a senior and I don't understand why they would want to be there other than they know other people who live in the neighborhood. Is that the reason? And if so, where are these seniors now...sitting around homeless until something is built to house them?

Matt Ashburn said...

What hillman said.

Not a Hater said...

I too want my tax dollars put to the most efficient/effective use, but seriously - some of you people make me fear getting old. It's as if you think that once a person reaches a certain age they should be pushed out to the suburbs or countryside where they'll just rot away out of sight out of mind... Seriously disgusted by some members of this neighborhood - comments like this make me seriously think of cashing in and moving to a less cool, less judgmental neighborhood. Why should H street only cater to YUPPIES and Hipsters? There is a lot to be said for the benefits of urban living for aged people, including access to grocery stores and restaurants, public transportation, and health facilities, among others.

And where are you people when DC is adding more homeless shelters in sought after (Gales School) buildings next to tourist destinations - if you exhibited half as much contempt for those projects I might take your complaining seriously, but for now, you just appear to be anti-aged people.

Hillman said...

Not a Hater:

I railed against Gales School as a ridiculous waste of resources also.

Nobody really listened.

But it's not like I'm proposing that old people living off the taxpayer dime be relocated to a cow pasture and locked in a dark room.

Turns out there is civilization beyond H St.

in fact, suburban amenities are actually way better, in many ways, for a geriatric population.

I would much rather live in a modern senior facility, with modern amenities (as opposed to an inefficient 1970s constructed tower) with a geriatric fitness center (with lap pool, etc.), perhaps an on-site medical facility, etc.

Which you could easily get in the burbs or even another DC location.

At far less than you would pay for this very expensive corner.

As for other amenities at the H St location, what exactly are they?

Proximity to $30 pies at Dangerously Delicious Pies?

Easy access to hipsters standing in line to hear music that even 30 year olds can't stand?

$8 drink 'specials'?

$60 dinners for two at restaurants that won't take reservations, requiring you to rest your weary bones in line indefinitely, waiting for a table?

The thrill of living out your golden years knowing that you are still living in a high crime area where, like it or not, seniors are a specific target?

There are very few medical facilities in the immediate area.

There's really very little geared to the elderly in the immediate area.

Yes, there is a grocery (several, actually).

But there are groceries in the burbs. And Peapod delivers regionwide.

As do pharmacies.

And public transit?

Turns out the Metro and metro busses are region wide as well.

There are countless suburban and other-DC locations where Metro access would be just as good as it is at this corner. At a fraction of the cost.

As are transit options specific to the elderly (I always forget the name of the Metro program which has the little vans that transport the elderly).

In short, there's actually very little at this location for seniors other than memories of a neighborhood that is vanishing before their very eyes.

SustainableDC said...

I agree with what "Not a Hater said"....If H street is to succeed at revitalization without gentrification, a healthy mix of income, race, and age must be maintained. Who cares about doing away with a parking lot for senior housing, they don't need cars. What they need is access to all of the amenities that this wonderful neighborhood has to offer. I don't know about you, but I do plan on enjoying my beer and food well into my old age, and H street would look very good to me if I were looking for independence in my old age.

inked said...

Some seniors from Delta Towers frequent/volunteer at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.

Dave B said...

I find it hard to believe there are that many benefits to urban living for old people. People in cities walk much more than people in suburbs. I dont know what degree of old people we are talking about here. One of those vibrant communities I see on TV where they play softball or one where the only time they go outside is to go to the doctor or buy food.

If you are really immobile, you arent going to get up, cross the Starburst intersection and hike to and from Safeway. You need more service than that and I dont see how living near H St is better than living anywhere else where you are reliant on someone giving you a ride to the grocery store.

It would also be a missed opportunity to add 100s of units of housing for people who would actually spend money at neighborhood restaurants/stores and use its location next to transit to go to work daily. It is fine if it is some kind of low income housing for people with jobs who actually need to get to work. I just think seniors would get nearly the same utility out of a less prime location which is much smaller than the utility someone with a job to get to would get out of living there. Then throw in the economic benefits of mobile, food-eating, clothes buying, people living there

Anonymous said...

@Not a Hater

My concern isn't that this is taking up valuable space, it's that it's not a good enough space to put senior housing.

I understand many seniors are on very modest fixed incomes, and often have to live in substandard housing, and you hear all the time about how they have to choose between food or medication.

I believe they should live with dignity in a place they can afford and without being isolated, and that's why I'm asking the question if this location is the place?

I've seen senior housing in NW where there is a lot more than just access to the "bar end" of a revitalized street. I'd much rather be over there.

When I'm saying I don't understand, I'm really looking for an explanation. As someone else pointed out, the health facilities aren't really that close, are they? And the transportation (sorry trolley, I'm not buying that a senior wants to trolley, metro, and bus...but I could be wrong) seems to be better in other parts of the city.

It seems to me like this area is an isolated area where I, as a senior, would go away to rot instead of being where the action is.

not a hater said...

I don't know any residents of Delta, but I do know aged residents of other urban living facilities - and they choose to live there because (1) it's affordable housing, (2) they feel energized by living in vibrant neighborhoods even if they can't participate like they used to, (3) it's near to where they lived most of their lives and it's comfortable, (4) they've tried suburban homes and found them to be isolating and depressing, (5) there is much to be said for watching the world go by from an urban area instead of green acres where no one ever passes by, (6) proximity to places of worship, (7) proximity to friends (if Delta moves, do you really think everyone would be easily moved to the 'burbs), and (8) moves - especially for the aged - are incredibly difficult and many aged people die from the trauma of moving.

Health facility are incredibly close - there is an awesome Kaiser facility at Union Station (short bus or taxi or walk for those able to do so). Unless Delta moves to a medical campus location there is no way they'd be closer to a medical facility.

Maybe the aged people with whom I associate are different than most, but they enjoy volunteering, mingling with community members of all ages and races, and even going out to the local dive bars on occasion. Actually, they much prefer urban living to the isolation offered by suburban sprawl - if they're practically immobile now, imagine how little interaction they would have with others if they had to drive 20 miles to visit old friends.

For many of the haters this comes down to money. There's some prime real estate for a Georgetown developer to come in and turn into hipster condos and maybe even a gym, so all the better reason to push the aged and undesirables out to the suburbs. If the suburbs are as fan-friggen-tastic as Hillman asserts, I wonder why so many people desire to live in H Street, including the aged.

Rayful Edmond said...


From the discussions I had with residents during a DT-II charrette in 2008, I learned that many of them simply want to stay connected to their family who live in the area. If they were to move to the suburbs of Maryland it would place a significant burden on them and their kin. Please stop acting so selfish and realize that one day you too will grow old and need a place to live. And if you're lucky, you can remain in the neighborhood you grew up in, surrounded by the people that love you.

Anonymous said...

How does that work again. You own the land and then sell the tax credits at 90 cents on the dollar to some big corporation to pay for construction. Section 8 is collection free direct deposit. You just have to hold the building for 27.5 years. Sounds free to me.

Hillman said...


It's my taxes.

I have a right to voice my concern.

Residents of Delta Tower(s) could just as easily stay connected to family if their facility were located one mile away.

If their family is really that lazy and won't travel one mile, then I can't really help them out with that.

Speaking only for myself, I would MUCH rather have a nice modern facility with decent amenities one mile away, rather than a decrepit 1970s office tower crammed onto a corner lot.

As for staying in the neighborhood of my birth, I didn't realize that was the goal of affordable housing funds generated by tax revenue.

I thought it was to provide decent housing to as many seniors as possible.

I had to leave the neighborhood I was born in decades ago.

And I likely couldn't afford it today.

I didn't realize it's more important to keep seniors in a particular neighborhood, over actually providing them a decent home environment.

Chris said...

dave b: I think you've got the argument backwards. The benefit for old people of urban living is exactly what you're describing as a bad thing: that you walk to things in the city. The argument that's raised is that suburban living, and the car dependence that comes with it, encourages a sedentary lifestyle -- and that that's *especially* true, more than any other segment of the population, for the elderly, who suffer the strongest effects of decreasing physical activity.

Or to put the argument another way: yes, city living requires mobility, and hard on the immobile; but because of that, city living encourages (and even requires) the old to stay active, which means immobility occurs less often.

That's the argument, anyway. I don't have the gerontology or social services background necessary to evaluate whether it's actually correct.

Hillman said...

Not a Hater:

It's not 20 miles.

You could duplicate Delta Towers on land half as expense a mile away.

Once you get off H Street a bit the land value drops tremendously.

As for isolation, the new Delta Towers would be 200 apartments full of old people. Many of whom have lived in the same building for decades.

If you're still lonely with that, I'm not sure what else can be done.

As for access to Kaiser..... Seriously, are you suggesting Delta Tower residents are walking to Kaiser? Really?

Worth noting also that Kaiser isn't a trauma center or ER. Those facilities are much further away.

One point I don't know.... does Kaiser participate in Medicaid? I honestly don't know.

Liberace said...

"Do they ... play Cornhole at the Argonaut?"
I didn't realize it was that kind of place.

H Man said...

Agree w/ Hillman @ 4:45.

Also, using that land for market-rate apts or condos would certainly provide more to DC's tax base than subsidized public housing for seniors. Those new residents would pay more in DC income taxes and spend more at local establishments while at the same time using less in taxpayer funded social services. The additional tax flows from expanding the base would be more helpful for providing funds that could be used for quality care to the elderly in the long-term or bolstering funds doing more important things (in my book) like improving our miserable school system. This location is just simply not the right spot for them to least on my dime.

Anonymous said...

This is fantastic news. There is a shortage of this type of housing in DC. Does anyone know, when they are accepting applications?

My low income elderly tenant here on the east end needs a place to go after the rent is raised. It would be nice keep them in a new place in the area.

Hillhound528 said...

As an Urban Planner specializing in transit oriented development, the Towers is actually a great location for senior housing. A clear indicator is that this community provides a ton of amenities...many of which lured most of you to the H Street neighborhood. You want seniors to "age in place" and be a part of an active community. The comments on this page are ridiculous...many of these residents lived in this community when most (including myself) would not drive anywhere near it.
It would help however if it were to be a mixed use maybe a good place to relocate the CVS since that site has been purchased. As for your tax dollars...that's why you pay them to provide needed services...geez!

Hillman said...


I pay taxes to be used to help the most people in an efficient manner.

This ain't that.

And I'm curious. Exactly what amenities does this very expensive corner bring that another city corner or suburban corner would not bring?

still not a hater said...

Hillman - what is it you want at that corner? A Cheesecake Factory, Crate and Barrel, Apple store, and condos built with the developers being heavily subsidized by DC tax breaks? There's an existing building with residents whom you'd seek to displace? Are there perhaps other locations nearby that are cheaper? Yes. But there's an existing building and a desire to build more. Maybe it's not the absolute bottom line most efficient use, but fortunately for us, you're not the only taxpayer making decisions, and also fortunate for us as we age - some members of society still value enabling the aged to live among us.

poo's elbow said...

keep it a parking lot. there. done.


Anonymous said...

Hey i'm a senior (69) and think that that building looks like a fricking vertical trailer park.

Lived in the area 30 years, walk and take the bike share to Union Station and beyond and take martial arts classes 3 times a week.

Jaqen H'ghar said...

I would like a combination Whole Foods, Bed Bath and Beyond, Banana Republic, Robeks.... or an indoor ski hill. Whichever is easier.

Anonymous said...


Your comments seem to lack a measure of wisdom and compassion.

Maybe if you put down your "Theory of Economics" text books and visit some of real live seniors at Delta Towers you might find some wisdom and compassion there.


Anonymous said...

I doubt it, Amy. Compassion is a weak term....

Hillman said...

Not at Hater:

I really don't care what goes there, as long as it generates the tax revenue that such a near-unique spot will generate.

Most likely it would be a large residential high end development, with retail / restaurants on the first floor.

Generating millions in tax revenue.

Millions that could be used to fund the very social services that you are advocating.

Just at a slightly different and far cheaper location.

Hillman said...


My position does not lack compassion.

Primarily because I advocate using our limited resources to provide as much senior housing as possible.

I think it's far more compassionate to provide twice the housing at a less expensive location than it is to provide half the housing at a location that is twice as expensive because it's on a trendy bar strip.

Hillman said...

"Maybe it's not the absolute bottom line most efficient use, but fortunately for us, you're not the only taxpayer making decisions, and also fortunate for us as we age - some members of society still value enabling the aged to live among us."

It's not just not the 'absolute most efficient'.

It's demanding that we forego at least a million dollars in tax revenue per year, and that we cut significantly the number of seniors that we can provide housing for with that one revenue source.

So not only do we have to come up with $$ to house the extra hundreds of seniors that smart relocation would have provided for, we also lose millions in tax revenue.

That is not an insignificant amount of money.

And suggesting that since I see this an inefficient and wasteful that somehow I don't value the aged living amonst us is unnecessary hyperbole.

Anonymous said...

Some of you folks don't really seem to get out much. I see Delta people not only at the Rite Aid, Safeway and Atlas, but "gasp" at some of the other places as well.

Hillman has to drive to H Street, so I suspect that he doesn't want people less well off than he to have better access to H Street than he does. ever.

Hillman said...


Actually I can and do walk to and on H Street.

And personal attacks really don't help the discussion.

Dave B said...

i saw a delta person in eurostyle

Lord of the Cha-Chings - The Two Towers said...

I was unaware that it was a a senior housing building... all I know is that it is hideous. It's a throwback to the 1970's and 1980's style cardboard box highrise apartments that are slightly less atrocious than Soviet-style architecture. It evokes imagery of the neighborhoods that were forcibly built around the "projects" of old that were neglected and isolated until crime and abandonment transformed them into the blight of metropolitan areas throughout the Northeast.

I am fundamentally opposed to "affordable" housing on principal. If housing become too expensive and you can't afford to live there, you get a better job or you leave if you can't. Growing up, my parents didn't own a home and I moved at least seven times before I finished high-school. I don't recall my father or mother complaining about being "priced out" of neighborhoods.

On a side note - regarding the concept of "senior" housing... why is it that the old practice of children taking care of their parents has transformed into pack them into ugly decrepit concrete boxes until they die?

Anonymous said...

It's actually far smarter to age in an urban area where you can walk or take public transportation than in an area where you must rely on driving. Once you can't drive you are stuck.

My grandmother is healthy but doesn't drive anymore. She and my grandfather retired to an adults-only development in the middle of nowhere NJ when they were still robust and healthy, like their late 50s. Now in her 80s she must rely on friends or a shuttle to get her to church and the grocery store.

The nation's population is aging rapidly and the second largest age group moving into this city is the 55 and over crowd.

Anonymous said...

On a side note, sorry DC. When I retire I'm moving to Florida. I could care less about the amenities H Street or the city has to offer, especially when beautiful weather and young women in bikinis are calling my name.

Annoyingmous said...

It strikes me that folks aren't getting Hillman's point. I think he could make his point a little less callously; but his point is worth considering. Let me try to rephrase it; and I hope Hillman will jump in and correct me if I've got him wrong:

1. There are a bunch of old people in DC that need affordable housing and services.

2. There is a limited amount of money to provide that housing and those services. That limit is lower than the amount it would cost to take care of all the elderly in DC. So no matter what you do, some elderly in DC are going to be without affordable housing options and lacking in city-subsidized services. There's no way around this -- there just isn't enough money to do what we'd like to do.

3. That being the case, when you decide to provide affordable housing to the elderly in a pricey area, you are explicitly deciding to provide housing/services to fewer elderly. If, instead, your affordable housing for the elderly is constructed in cheaper areas, then you have more money to take care of the elderly, so fewer of the elderly go without.

I agree completely that it's good for the city and for specific old people that they be able to stay in their neighborhood. The question isn't "is that good or bad for those people?" Of course it's good for those people if they can stay. The question is whether the benefits provided to those elderly are *so* good that it's worth the tradeoff: that you're going to have to say to other elderly folks, "sorry, we have nothing for you." Because that's the reality, born of limited resources.

oboe said...


Well, put.

One other point: someone up thread accused anyone who would question expanding public housing near H Street as "wanting to remove the old people". This is, of course, a distortion. We're talking about not doubling the number of units--not eliminating the existing ones.

One other point, still: while Hillman can be needlessly provocative, I'm not sure that's any worse than the folks who throw "hater" around when they encounter someone who understands DC's *massive* welfare bureaucracy needs to be paid for by someone, somewhere.

The more middle-class taxpayers DC can cram into itself, the better off the poorest and most vulnerable are going to be.

But every day in DC, decisions are being made as to whether we're going to consolidate our tax base on the one hand, or enhance services for the region's poor. It's a balancing act, and it's legitimate to point that out.

Dave B said...

Hillman is a god damn utilitarianist

oboe said...

There's nothing wrong with being a Unitarian! My aunt was one.

Seniors Benefit from Urban Places said...

There's a short video on aging in place by AARP and Streetfilms. The video was filmed in Arlington and shows how the amenities of an urban environment can benefit older adults.

How are these seniors living in Arlington any different from those who live on H St?

Hillman said...


You pretty much nailed it.

But I'd make one distinction.

It's not even that this is an expensive neighborhood.

It's that that particular parcel, actually on the H S Starburst intersection, is particularly valuable, given it's location and ability to have all kinds of zoning.

You could in theory relocate this facility in the same general area (within a mile) and have FAR less cost. And be able to use the income stream from the old H Street location to provide a pretty nice facility at the new location.

For a lot more people.

oboe said...

How are these seniors living in Arlington any different from those who live on H St?

Most likely they're not, but the poverty load in Arlington is miniscule compared to that in DC. So we need to be wiser about how we spend our money.

Residents with income below the poverty level in 2009:

Arlington: 6.2%
Residents with income below 50% of the poverty level in 2009:
Arlington: 3.3%


Washington, DC: 18.4%
Residents with income below 50% of the poverty level in 2009:
Washington, DC: 10.7%


Hillman said...

Seniors Benefit:

There are several differences between that Arlington video and H Street.

First, in Arlington the seniors don't have to worry about getting jacked up every time they walk down the street.

HUGE crime difference between most of Arlington and H Street east end.

And the land out there, even in some parts of Arlington, is considerably cheaper than this particular H Street parcel would be.

And many communities there have great amenities like massive pool therapy options, huge activity groups for seniors, etc.

Plus of course any interaction with actual government agencies is light years better in Arlington. That can become relevant when seniors are trying to do anything from renew a drivers license to deal with city medical benefits.

There's no way in hell that I will be living in a high crime area when I'm old.

That to me is a massive benefit of suburban locations, generally speaking.

The video you reference highlights the importance of public transit.

And public transit is available in the burbs. Granted not everywhere, but in quite a few locations.

The added bonus? You can walk to the metro or bus stop and not worry about getting robbed.

Robby Mann-Thompson said...

Is it still true that none of the Board of Directors are actually from the surrounding area. There are none from Trinidad, and there are a lot of people interested. At lease the ANC should be Ex Officio.


Anonymous said...

@oboe - actually the question of removing the current residents is quite resident. If you assume that the existing senior tower stays, then the economies of scale due to colocating could well offset the RE cost savings of building incremental units elsewhere - plus that would limit what could be done in terms of market rate mixed use on this site. Hilmans response has been to suggest tearing down the existing tower and redeveloping the entire site.

Anonymous said...

"quite relevant"

Anonymous said...

If they got $6 million for that CVS, I wonder how much this place, if you include the current tower, would go for?

Hillman, where is this one mile away location you keep talking about?

heyktb said...

i'd much rather have a clutch of seniors living in my neighborhood than some of the insensitive and ageist jerks that seem to believe the allure of living in the city is reserved for members of their age group. next door to me is a woman who is 92. she sleeps in the house she was born in. she makes a MUCH better neighbor than some of the the 20-30 something's that live nearby. as a resident aged in between both groups, i applaud the idea of senior affordable housing. these residents should be able to age in THEIR city. the fastest growing demographic for our area is the 50 plus crowd...even more so than the 25-33 demographic. seniors are sooooo much more desireable than the wannabee, sullen hipsters that spend their weekends migrating from barstool to barstool.

Annoyingmous said...

heyktb -- I guess you find knocking down strawmen so entertaining that you couldn't be bothered to read what people are [i]actually saying[/i].

Have fun self-righteously throwing out ad hominem that has no relevance whatsoever to the discussion up to this point.

Anonymous said...

East enders don't worry, the city will spread the pain around. The west end is getting affordable housing @ 501.

Anonymous said...

well at least tom caucasian will have somewhere to place all the older folks after he scoops up their houses.