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Work to begin on affordable housing near Minnesota Ave. Metro

Sunday - 8/12/2012, 8:18pm  ET

Donatelli Development Inc. has secured financing for its $65 million Park 7 at Minnesota Benning, a key ingredient to the District's Minnesota Avenue Great Streets program, according to developer Chris Donatelli.

"This project is going to bring a lot of residents and some great retailers," Donatelli said. "It should be a real shot in the arm to the neighborhood."

Located on 5 acres adjacent to the Minnesota Avenue Metro station, Park 7 is slated to include 376 residential units (92 percent affordable to households earning 60 percent or less of the area median income), 20,000 square feet of retail and 255 parking spaces. The remaining residential units will be market rate apartments.

Work, which will begin this week, is expected to take two years. D.C.-based McCullough Construction LLC will be the general contractor.

Donatelli, with minority partner Blue Skye Development and Construction, was awarded development rights to the D.C.-owned site in 2009.

But groundbreaking has been pushed back several times as the design was tweaked (reducing the number of underground parking spaces), costs reduced and the complicated financing settled. The delays frustrated area residents and raised questions about whether the project would ever happen.

Park 7 will take advantage of federal low-income housing tax credits, D.C. Housing Finance Agency bonds and private equity from Bank of America, Donatelli said. Ward 7 D.C. Councilwoman Yvette Alexander's bill to provide the project millions of dollars in tax breaks over 30 years was withdrawn, Donatelli said, as interest rates fell and the legislative process was taking too long.

Donatelli's project is the second of two expected to reinvigorate the Minnesota Avenue Metro area. The first phase, a new headquarters for the D.C. Department of Employment Services, opened in December 2010. The $95 million Minnesota-Benning Government Center includes 229,000 square feet of office space, 6,500 square feet of retail space, a community meeting room and a career center.