The National Association for County, Community, and Economic Development (NACCED) has awarded the Fairfax County Redevelopment and Housing Authority (FCRHA) with its 2021 Community Development Award of Excellence for the acquisition and initial renovation of the soon to be renamed Lee District Community Center. Formerly home to the Mount Vernon Athletic Club, the 50,000 square-foot facility is located along the historic Richmond Highway Corridor in the Lee District.
For years, Fairfax County has worked closely with residents along the Richmond Highway Corridor to identify and meet the evolving needs of the community—including youth programming, recreation, childcare, technology education, and skills development to help residents better compete for jobs in the rapidly evolving marketplace in along the Corridor. Such programs are among those offered at Fairfax County Community Centers that provide safe, structured environments for participants to learn, play and engage with the community around them.
“For the FCRHA, the work of affordable housing extends beyond the business of construction, property management, real estate finance and investment, application administration and so on,” said FCRHA Chairman Melissa McKenna. “Our work is deeply rooted to the individual, the family, and the community and providing tools, training, and resources, to help residents achieve housing stability and self-sufficiency.”
When the Mount Vernon Athletic Club, a 45-year-old private health and racquet club, was placed for sale in late 2019, the FCRHA recognized this opportunity to fulfill its mission in serving to provide community infrastructure – beyond “housing” – to build communities of opportunity which allow residents to excel physical, intellectually, educationally, and financially.
“This center is located in the epicenter of a number of housing developments along the Janna Lee and Buckman Road loop with literally thousands of residents who will be able to benefit from the services we will provide,” said Lee District Supervisor Rodney Lusk. “We are very excited that this facility will eventually grow to provide not only recreational and youth programming but also the technology training and skills development that will help adults better compete for jobs in the rapidly evolving marketplace along the Corridor.”
In partnership with the County, the FCRHA developed a multi-phase plan for acquiring the property and making initial renovations to the Lee District Community Center (to be renamed at a future date with input from the community) to begin to serve the recreation and youth programming needs of the community under the property’s current zoning. Initial upgrades to the property included improvements to mechanical, electrical, and plumbing systems; basic accessibility improvements; and community use updates (including transitioning some of the tennis courts to multi-use recreational surfaces). The facility is anticipated to open in fall 2021 with the facility and programming being managed by the Department of Neighborhood and Community Services.
A second phase of development will be undertaken at a later date that will address a change in zoning as well as provide additional renovations to accommodate a broad assortment of programming options to complete the vision for the center as a cornerstone of opportunity along the Richmond Highway Corridor. The county is engaging the community to determine a broad array of programming options that will help meet the needs of the community – including technology education, employment assistance, childcare, skills training, and more.
The work on the Lee District Community Center project a powerful example of the way in which housing authorities and local government can work collaboratively to take advantage of fast-arising solutions to solve long-term community needs.
“Fairfax County’s housing work extends beyond housing developments to the broader creation of infrastructure that support the success of our residents, families, and communities at-large,” said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay. “Our strong partnership between the County and our local housing authority allows us to maximize our resources to address community needs.”
About NACCED: NACCED is a national non-profit organization composed of county government agencies that administer community and economic development and affordable housing programs. Each year, the organization recognizes the achievements of its members through the Awards of Excellence program – presenting awards in the categories of community development, economic development, homeless coordination/assistance, affordable housing, HOME Investment Partnerships Program, planning/policy/program management, and innovation. The 2021 Awards of Excellence were announced at the annual NACCED conference held virtually on September 23, 2021.