WILLIAMSBURG – A proposal to build a new apartment complex using Fort Monroe's historic buildings is set to be dropped despite overcoming its first significant hurdle Tuesday at a meeting of the executive committee of the Fort Monroe Authority.
The executive committee could have prevented the plan for 192, apartments, more than half of them affordable homes, from progressing. Instead the committee voted 4-1 to forward the proposal to the FMA board which meets on March 24.
Hampton Mayor Molly Joseph Ward voted against the HRI Properties proposal progressing. FMA board chairman Terrie Suit and members Colin Campbell, John Lawson and James Church voted for it to be considered by the full board.
But behind the scenes the project faced a problem because the developer needed to prove it controlled the site to further its application for tax credits to the Virginia Housing and Development Authority (VHDA). The FMA was unwilling to give it site control at this stage.
"It is unlikely, however, that HRI Properties will present to the full board March 24, as the executive committee did not authorize execution of site control documents in the developer's favor without full board consideration," the FMA said in a statement Tuesday afternoon.
" HRI properties represented to the executive committee that without the executed site control documents they could not apply for VHDA tax credits by a March 11, 2011 deadline. Members of the executive committee commented that HRI Properties is a quality historic preservation developer and welcomes consideration of proposals in the future," the statement said.
Hal Fairbanks, HRI Properties' Director of Acquisitions, said after the meeting it appeared the timetable of the application had been "a bit aggressive for the board."
"We will talk to the staff and see if there's an alternative, or if we want to make an application next year," he said.
The executive committee received a presentation from HRI on the development centered on Building 5 and a number of smaller historic buildings within the moat at Fort Monroe.
Pres Kabacoff, Chief Executive Officer of the New Orleans-based company, said the mission of HRI is to "revitalize cities by creating diverse, vibrant and sustainable communities."
Kabacoff said it was vital to get "activity" on the base after the Army leaves which would drive commercial development.
Of the 192 apartments proposed by HRI, 100 units would be classified as affordable homes with rents ranging from $385 a month to $675. Ten would be in the $385 to $497 range, under the Virginia Housing and Development Authority's (VHDA) low-income housing tax credit program.
The City of Hampton opposed the proposal. Ward told the meeting in Williamsburg that while HRI is a high quality contractor the city was concerned about the use of "these particular buildings" for housing.
"Hampton has more than its share of affordable housing," she said. Ward said Building 5 is the largest structure within the moat and should be used for "something special and unique" such as hospitality.
"To take the most valuable and largest building and to turn it into an apartment complex is, in our minds, short sighted," she said.
Scott Butler of Friends for a Fort Monroe National Park read out a statement that said the citizens decided to back HRI's proposal, after meeting with FMA staff.
He said the group was reassured the historic Parade Ground would be restored by HRI. "Restored and properly managed residential buildings within the moat can work well with a national park unit."
Hampton historian John Quarstein, a Fort Monroe resident, said he's opposed to the proposal.
"I understand and appreciate the aspects of this historic preservation project that has a great deal of merit. However, I do not think Fort Monroe is a place for affordable housing. It is a place for beach tourism, it is a place for heritage tourism. We have to look for a higher goal in trying to ensure we achieve that."
See the Hampton Matters blog at dailypress.com/hamptonmatters
HRI's apartment plan
The $13.4 million Parade Ground Apartments - 79 apartments comprising more than 88,000 square feet. 50 would have been affordable units.
The $19.2 million Fortress Apartments were 113 units in more than 127,000 square feet, 50 of them affordable.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times