Tuesday, September 29, 2015

In the field with the Architectural Research Institute

You do not have to look far to see that many areas of DC are being transformed. But did you know that UDC Architectural Research Institute plays an instrumental role in those transformations redeveloping abandoned properties around the District?  In a collaboration that has lasted more than 20 years, ARI, under the leadership of Distinguished Professor Clarence Pearson, was founded through a partnership between the University of the District of Columbia and the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Homestead Preservation Program (now the Property Acquisition Disposition Division (PADD)). This collaboration provides comprehensive architectural services allowing for the reclamation of the city’s vacant, boarded and run down housing, rehabilitating them for low- and middle- income residents, and thus, giving them the opportunity to become homeowners.

PADD acquires and disposes of vacant and abandoned properties, with a goal of offering excellent construction, design and architecture to mixed-income development units while maximizing long-term affordability across income levels. Under PADD, ARI develops full projects from the ground up. ARI is currently tracking 25 properties, but has tracked as many as 60 projects in a single year. Each ARI analyst has an allotment of multiple properties they must visit, inspect and file reports for. On a sunny August day, Mr. Leroy Palmer, Construction Analyst, Architecture & Urban Design, ARI, explained the program in detail and gave a tour of three residential PADD construction sites in his allotment.

"Our part in the process is drawing, monitoring, permitting and once construction begins, tracking it until completion,” Palmer explained.

Once a property has been cleared, the Department of Housing and Community Development assigns a timeframe for the construction to be completed. On average, that time can be eight months. Once a month, ARI analysts meet with DHCD, where they discuss properties and their progress. "We show them pictures and discuss any issues that may have come up in the last month," Palmer says.

Incorrect paperwork can delay a project for weeks or even months. If discrepancies are found during a project, it will be stopped until resolved.

“It's a very involved process, but you have to follow the steps because if you miss a step and jump ahead, it can be a costly process. For example, a newly built wall will have to be torn down and reconstructed.”

After construction and once the reports have submitted, DHCD conducts a final inspection before taking the property over for distribution, whether that be renting or leasing.

"Our passion is working on our projects, putting together drawings, taking care of permitting, being part of the bidding and negotiating, and then monitoring and reporting all the way until a project's completion. That's the part of architecture that draws us; you're seeing all the steps involved.

Leroy Palmer became interested in architecture at a young age, accompanying his father on construction projects and helping to build decks and fixing kitchens. "To me, it was just making extra money in the summer. But I was really getting an education without realizing it."

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ARI also collaborates with DHCD on the Single Family Residential Rehabilitation Program (SFRRP), which assists eligible single family homeowners in bringing their homes up to current D.C. Housing Code standards. Under this program, ARI constructs partial builds like updating kitchens and making homes handicap accessible. Want to know more about ARI? Read: 

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