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D.C. resets Barry Farm redevelopment after unfavorable court decision

The long-standing project in Southeast hits a major snag as the property continues to deteriorate

Barry Farm
Washington Post/Getty Images

District officials say they are restarting the planned redevelopment of Barry Farm, an ailing public housing complex in Southeast, more than three months after the D.C. appeals court dealt a significant blow to the complicated project by nullifying a crucial 2014 zoning order.

Barry Farm has been slated for big changes for over a decade. It is part of the long-standing New Communities Initiative, a local effort to replace dilapidated public housing with mixed-income developments. A team of private developers guided by the District was to transform the 444-unit property into 1,400 residences and roughly 50,000 square feet of retail.

But in April, the D.C. Court of Appeals remanded the project to the D.C. Zoning Commission, which had approved the District’s plans years earlier. The ruling was a temporary win for the the Barry Farm Tenants and Allies Association, the group that challenged the original zoning order and argued that the redevelopment would displace existing residents.

Today, fewer than 100 families still live at Barry Farm. They have remained at the complex despite its poor conditions—including rodents, pests, and broken appliances—and allege that the District has not incorporated their concerns into its vision for the project. The D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA) manages Barry Farm and has been gradually relocating tenants to other properties in accordance with the redevelopment plans.

Now, the District is acknowledging that it must come up with a new plan for the property. Angie Rodgers, the director of the New Communities Initiative within the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, told the Washington Business Journal this week that the project will likely shrink in density and include more green space than before.

“It was really these legal challenges that put us on the timeline that we are on,” she said, noting that the specific mix of unit sizes in the redevelopment would also likely change. A&R Development and Preservation of Affordable Housing will continue to serve as the development team, though it is unclear when construction on Barry Farm would begin.

Rendering of the former Barry Farm redevelopment plan
A&R Development/D.C. Housing Authority

Last month, Rodgers and DCHA Director Tyrone Garrett told D.C. lawmakers at a public roundtable on the future of the complex that their respective agencies were reviewing the appeals court’s decision. “DCHA is simply reevaluating its next steps,” Garrett said, adding that the housing authority was seeking to relocate all residents from Barry Farm by this fall.

One of those residents, Nicole Odom, tells Curbed DC that in any eventual redevelopment, she would like to see community-serving amenities like playgrounds and gathering spaces. She also stressed the importance of the property remaining affordable to current residents.

“We don’t want mixed-income communities with majority market-rate people,” says Odom, a member of the tenants’ association who lives with her husband and six children at Barry Farm, having moved there in 2010. “That’s when discrimination and other issues come in.”

Originally launched in 2005, the New Communities Initiative also includes three other public housing properties across the city. Those redevelopment projects are in various stages of planning in the hopes of creating thousands of new units.