The Clara Update 03/11/24

Mayor Bowser Cuts Ribbon on Affordable Housing at The Clara

Mayor Muriel Bowser and community leaders recently cut the ribbon on The Clara, a mixed-use development that will provide Ward 8’s Anacostia neighborhood with 81 new units of affordable housing. The Clara also includes 11,000 square feet of ground level retail space and the development will also be the new permanent home of America’s Islamic Heritage Museum. 

“This is an important day for the community – not only because we are cutting the ribbon on 81 new homes in historic Anacostia, but also because of the history and culture that this site represents and preserves,” said Mayor Bowser. “The Clara is a reminder of what is possible when we lead with and invest in our values and focus on creating hope and opportunity in our community.”

The Clara supports the Bowser Administration’s goal of creating 12,000 new affordable housing units throughout DC by 2025 and was built through a partnership between the District and local developer Banneker Ventures. The Clara includes units ranging from studios to three-bedroom apartments, with 61 units reserved for households earning up to 50% of the median family income (MFI), and the remaining 20 units reserved for households earning up to 30% of the MFI. These 20 units will provide permanent supportive housing for individuals and families in need.

“The Clara is a direct example of the District’s housing priorities as it provides our residents with family-size units and permanent supportive housing. Affordable housing is essential for our residents and strengthening our communities,” said DC Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) Director Colleen Green. “DHCD will continue to leverage our local and federal resources to make economic investments across the city to produce affordable housing.” 

The ground level retail space will host local businesses including Sweet Tooth Bakery and Restaurant and TOIZ, a youth-owned environmental tenant services company that provides laundry and vending services and environmental equipment. The Sweet Tooth Bakery will open in April 2024 and America’s Islamic Heritage Museum will open in the winter of 2024.

“The Clara represents the first of its kind faith-based partnership with an Islamic house of worship,” said DC Housing Finance Agency (DCHFA) Executive Director/CEO Christopher E. Donald. “DCHFA is proud to be a part of this innovative project and looks forward to more opportunities to combine with public works for the benefit of the residents of the District of Columbia.”

The Clara, which is situated on the very grounds once home to America’s Islamic Heritage Museum and the Clara Muhammad School, is named in honor of Mrs. Clara Muhammad and is part of the long legacy of Masjid Muhammad in Washington, DC. The Clara Muhammad Schools are a national network of schools, established in the 1930s and initially launched as the University of Islam. The network gained its name in 1975 in honor of Mrs. Clara Muhammad. The name of the building and the return of the America’s Islamic Heritage Museum, marks a significant return to heritage of the sit and an homage to its rich and multifaceted history that celebrates the legacy of the Black Muslim community.

This affordable housing development was supported through the collaboration of several agencies: the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), DHCD, DCHFA, and the DC Housing Authority (DCHA). The project was partly funded by DHCD with approximately $14 million from the Housing Production Trust Fund and $1.9 million in low-income housing tax credits. DCHFA supported The Clara by issuing $19.7 million in tax-exempt bonds and underwrote $16.9 million in low-income housing tax credits. DMPED provided support for businesses and the retail space with $750,000 from the Neighborhood Prosperity Fund to support the renovation and expansion of the American Islamic Heritage Museum, financed through City First Bank. The Clara also received financing, tax‐exempt bonds, and low-income housing tax credit equity from Wells Fargo Bank. DCHA provided funding through the Local Rent Subsidy Program for 20 permanent supportive housing units, further supported with case management and supportive services from the DC Department of Human Services.

Banneker Ventures and Medina Living Ideas for Family Excellence Community Development Corporation (Medina Life) are the project team responsible for developing the Clara. Masjid Muhammad acquired the first parcel at 2313-2315 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE in the 1960s and the adjacent parcel at 2323 Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE in the 2000s. In 2018, Masjid Muhammad selected Banneker Ventures as its development partner. This project is the first large multi-family and retail development that Masjid Muhammad and Medina LIFE CDC has undertaken to support Mayor Bowser’s commitment to creating and preserving affordable housing in the District. Banneker Ventures develops mixed-income communities and mixed-use housing, in the inner core of urban neighborhoods, throughout the Washington Metropolitan area. Medina Life is a DC non-profit community development corporation, was organized in 2011. Its mission is dedicated to pursuing the objectives of economic and community development.

“We are deeply grateful to Mayor Bowser for her substantial commitment to affordable housing, a visionary step that has empowered us to launch a pioneering faith-based mixed-use housing and retail project spearheaded by two Muslim-ran organizations,” said Omar A. Karim, President of Banneker Ventures. “Her exemplary leadership, together with the invaluable support from our financial partners including City First Bank and Wells Fargo, has been instrumental in our ability to create jobs for hundreds of District residents while awarding over $15 million in contracts. The unveiling of 81 units of top-tier affordable housing and retail space this month in Anacostia is not just a milestone for our project, but a beacon of hope and progress for this historically underinvested neighborhood. We stand in profound gratitude for the collective efforts that have made this transformative initiative possible.”

The District continues to make progress toward Mayor Bowser’s goal of creating 36,000 homes, including 12,000 affordable homes, by the end of 2025. As of February 29, the District has created 33,661 total units and 9,230 units of affordable housing, which puts the District at 94% of its total goal and 77% of its affordable housing target.

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