A Paradigm for Multi-Family Development: Union on Queen

Bozzuto Development Company’s newest development, Union on Queen, demonstrates how affordable green housing improves the health of both the community and the planet

By Elizabeth Delehanty

Photograph by Jeffrey Sauers

Bozzuto Development Company’s mission is “to create the best possible living environment for our customers and to do so in a way that creates community and respects the world in which we live.” Projects can’t be slapped together and churned off a conveyer belt, and Union on Queen was no exception; the project was a long time coming. The land where it sits was purchased back in 1992 by Wesley Housing Development Corporation and wasn’t touched again until 2011, when the corporation partnered with Bozzuto. Construction began in October 2014, and a hard-won battle with the site’s unrippable rock ensued.

“We had a very strenuous excavation period that included both hammering and blasting to remove the necessary rock for our underground parking and foundations systems,” said Hilary Goldfarb, vice president of Bozzuto Development Company.Although prepping the site called for an aggressive approach, the team still managed to preserve historic value. Two existing buildings were renovated to house 12 units in addition to the other 181 units within the new construction. Unfortunately, such revamps aren’t always a sure thing. “The historic preservation of the garden style building[s] on site was a characteristic gut renovation, and you never know existing conditions until you get in there! For example, we had planned to reuse the existing trusses but found that we had to replace the majority of them,” said Goldfarb.

Once the structures were built, the team started work on sheathing. Bozzuto chose to use Thermax, an exterior sheathing system that maintains temperature in wall cavities, helping reduce dew point condensation which can cause mold and mildew growth. The system is both effective and efficient as it eliminates the need for excessive membranes or building wraps. “[Thermax] was new to subcontractors in our market and required extensive preconstruction coordination to effectively install,” Goldfarb said, explaining the challenge the material presented. Regardless of the learning curve faced by the company, Bozzuto made the choice to use Thermax based on the best interest of future residents’ and that of the environment. It was this kind of integrity-driven decision making that led Bozzuto to include amenities such as low-VOC paints throughout, drought-tolerant landscaping, energy efficient lighting, and cooling, as well as to use recycled content. Union on Queen is the first and only EarthCraft-certified new construction affordable multi-family housing community in Virginia. This certification, combined with its Silver LEED rating, qualify the high-rise for maximum tax credits, further bolstering cost-effectiveness for residents.

Location, Location, Location

This cliché phrase exists for a reason. Where property is located is arguably the single most important factor influencing value. Deciding where to develop happens early on and effects the rest of the building process. Considering their goals for Union on Queen, Bozzuto chose to partner with Wesley Housing, who owned the land situated in Arlington, Va. The site is close enough to D.C. to accommodate commuting professionals, yet removed enough to provide a peaceful retreat after a day in the city while also serving a community in need of affordable housing. Young singles, families and working retirees occupy 17.6 percent of the building’s units since leasing began in November 2016. “You have an affordable housing development that brings together a huge range of professions and backgrounds,” Goldfarb said. “By creating mixed-income communities with affordable housing options, teachers, police officers and firefighters, as well as low-income renters such as service workers with jobs essential to the community (restaurant staff, retail clerks, cashiers, daycare workers, hairdressers, maintenance technicians and security guards) can live in the neighborhoods where they work.” Goldfarb is hopeful that Union on Queen will set an example for other developers in the D.C. area and help ease the current housing crisis in the area.

The residences are affordable and eco-friendly yet still glamorous. “Typically when someone imagines mixed income apartments, they don’t think of a community that includes coffee and tea service, pet spas, laundry valet, package lockers and a state of the art video intercom system,” Goldfarb said. She says she hopes that Union will inspire other building professionals to design and construct mixed-income apartments with more floors rather than spreading residences across more land. “What makes this mixed income community so unique is that unlike most affordable housing apartment developments, Union on Queen offers the same level of finishes, comfort, style and amenities found in many of Bozzuto’s best communities in DC. There is no compromise-living in this mixed-income community,” Goldfarb said. When asked what Bozzuto is planning for the future, Goldfarb said the company will continue creating new dynamic and authentic mixed use communities which include affordable housing options. Sounds like that mission statement isn’t just for show.

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