Development Rehabs Historical Site Into Modern Housing for Veterans

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[caption id="attachment_16592" align="alignright" width="300"] Photo credit: Jeffrey Sauers of Commercial Photographics[/caption] A collection of uninhabitable homes originally built for gunpowder factory workers in the early 1900s is now an impressive finalist in the 2019 NAHB Multifamily Pillars of the Industry awards. The homes that now comprise Perry Point Veterans Village have a rich history within the Perry Point, Md., community. After the factory closed following World War I, the site became the home of a Veterans Affairs hospital within the Walter Reed Army Medical Center that served area veterans. Many of those veterans were either homeless or in need of more affordable housing. That need, and the desire of many community members to honor the history of the village and see it revitalized, developed into an 11-year rehabilitation project. Help USA, a New York City-based non-profit focused on producing permanent affordable housing, was brought in to move things forward. Like many projects, Veterans Village encountered various delays and roadblocks within the community. A yearlong visioning exercise helped achieve community buy-in, but local, state and even national politics created additional challenges. The final plan involved renovating nine homes and razing those that were unsalvageable, which would be rebuilt on the original foundations. Kramer + Marks Architects of Ambler, Pa., devised a plan to keep the look of the original buildings while reconfiguring each home into two units: a ground floor unit using the front door, and a second-floor unit with a door on the side. That approach produced 75 individual units. The project had 14 different sources of financing, according to David Cleghorn, chief housing officer at Help USA, to fund the expensive task of cleaning up an industrial site with waste from gunpowder chemicals and lead-based paint dust from decaying structures. In addition to physically constructing the buildings, the general contractor — Harkins Builders of Columbia, Md. — had to dig up the perimeter of every foundation and remediate the soil at a cost of $2.5 million. The company also had to re-line all the old water and sewer lines. Because the site’s storm water flowed into the Chesapeake Bay watershed, Harkins created 11 microbiome retention ponds on the site. But the development team didn’t just make the buildings beautiful and hazard-free. Everything inside is energy-efficient and sustainable, including:
  • High-efficiency fixtures and appliances,
  • High-value insulation,
  • ENERGY STAR-compliant roofing, lighting and mechanicals
  • Water-efficient plumbing, and
  • Low-VOC paint.
Self-contained split-system HVAC units draw electric power from a 4-acre solar-array field installed for the village. The array also back-feeds energy to the grid when there is a surplus, creating a zero-net energy consumption status for the village and increased affordability for the residents. The three companies that worked on this project stayed the course for 11 years out of respect for the area’s history and for the veterans who share in that history through their service. The team’s mission was to provide the best housing possible for the veterans who now live there. Mission accomplished. Perry Point Veterans Village is one of three finalists in the category of Best Military or Veterans Housing. To view more of this project and other finalists, visit

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