Thursday, Feb. 7, 2008

Former public housing complex demolished

Oxon Hill’s McGuire House to be rebuilt as affordable senior housing

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Susan Whitney⁄The Gazette
James L. Mitchell, senior vice president of Affordable Housing Developers Inc., shows Tiffany Lanouette of AHD Inc., a picture of the McGuire House taken prior to its demolition Monday at the demolition ceremony in Oxon Hill. AHD Inc. is redeveloping the site.
It may have been a demolition, but Prince George’s County officials considered tearing down the old McGuire House in Oxon Hill to be a new start.

County Executive Jack B. Johnson and the Housing Authority of Prince George’s County held a demolition ceremony Monday morning, celebrating the removal of a building that has sat vacant across Southern Drive from Greater Southeast Community Hospital in Washington, D.C., for more than 11 years.

‘‘It’s exciting to make a real difference in a neighborhood like this,” Johnson said.

Built in 1969, McGuire House was an eight-story, 192-unit public senior housing facility. But after an asbestos problem was located in 1995, the building was vacated and has sat in a state of neglect ever since.

Over the past week, construction crews have slowly torn down the dilapidated building. All that was left Monday was a part of the structure’s frame and a pile of rubble.

‘‘If this was an easy process, we would have been here years ago,” Johnson said. ‘‘But it’s a difficult process. It’s not easy to build houses for those who don’t have money.”

When the site is finally cleared, the property will be rebuilt as a three- or four-story senior housing building with 120 affordable one- and two-bedroom rental units, said James L. Mitchell, senior vice president of Affordable Housing Developers, Inc., which is redeveloping the site. The project is expected to be complete by 2010, Mitchell said.

The estimated cost of the project is $20 million, which will be raised through county, state and federal sources as well as private funds, said Nicole Garrett senior advisor to the director of the Housing Authority of Prince George’s County.

‘‘This has been a long time coming,” said Tommie Thompson, executive director of the county Housing Authority. ‘‘For 11 years now, this building has been a blight of this community. I’m proud of the effort it took to revitalize this neighborhood. The seniors deserve it. ”

County Council members voted in November to utilize grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development that had not been used. The funds are part of the Community Development Block Grant.

The biggest reallocation of money was $500,000 that paid off what was left of a $900,000 demolition cost.

‘‘This building has stood empty for more than 11 years right here on the Southern Avenue line,” Johnson said. ‘‘I’m excited to be able to turn a page in this neighborhood and build for the seniors of this area.”

The new facility will provide an affordable living option for seniors, offering units to those who make 60 percent or less than the area’s median income, Mitchell said.

‘‘There is a huge need for senior housing in this market,” Mitchell said. ‘‘The closest senior building [to the McGuire House] is 5 miles away.”