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Long-neglected Sierra Co-op reopens in Eckington after major renovation

The Sierra Co-op, a 20-unit building in Eckington that just got a major redo

After a decade-long restoration push led by residents, this morning marks the reopening of Eckington’s Sierra Cooperative at 307 S Street NE.

Working closely with Local Initiatives Support Corp., the DC Department of Housing and Community Development and the Harrison Institute at Georgetown University Law Center, which provided consultation on housing law, the Cooperative’s remaining residents oversaw a substantial renovation of the 20-unit property, which had been dilapidated and only partially occupied. (Some residents had moved out since the establishment of the Cooperative in 2004; others died.)

“We [got involved in 2007 because we] were moved by the resolve of the residents and the tangible decay of the building,” says Ramon Jacobson, senior program officer at LISC, which provided predevelopment financing, recoverable grant funding and a $1 million bridge and permanent loan.

“This property had the worst living conditions of any occupied building that I’ve been involved within in D.C., and yet the residents wanted to stay. They had mutual bonds of support, and believed the neighborhood would improve.” They were spot on: Eckington is, of course, now one of the hottest neighborhoods in the District.
Jacobson said that water damage via a leaky roof affected a number of the units with mildew, rotting wood and other problems; in others, poor kitchen design meant that oven doors could not be fully opened. “We felt that [the residents] deserved basic quality of life improvements,” adds Jacobson, who has been with LISC for 16 years.
DHCD provided financing for the construction, while UIP oversaw the construction and repair work, including the addition of an elevator to the building, which dates to about 1930. 
“The President of the Cooperative is Pamela Frazier,” Jacobson says. “She really brought people together, and she was the one person at the center of things as the cast of characters changed.” Frazier and the other residents were able to purchase the Sierra thanks to the District’s tenant purchase law, Jacobson adds.
Located half a mile from the Rhode Island Avenue Metro, the Sierra Cooperative has units targeted to those households earning 30%, 50% and 80% of the area median income, which is $107,000 for a family of four.  Applications for the 15 or so vacant 1- and 2-bedroom units are now being accepted, with monthly rental fees for qualified residents ranging from $644 to $1,450 depending on household income and unit size.

Read more articles by Amy Rogers Nazarov.

Amy Rogers Nazarov is a Washington, D.C.-based journalist with more than 25 years experience as a staff reporter and a freelance writer, covering technology, adoption, real estate, and lifestyle topics from food & drink to home organizing. Her byline has appeared in Cooking Light, The Washington Post, Slate, Washingtonian, The Writer, Smithsonian, The Washington Post Express, The Baltimore Examiner, The Sacramento Bee, Cure, The Washington Times, Museum, and many other outlets. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists & Authors and tweets at @WordKitchenDC.
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