The last charitable project of late D.C. philanthropist Abe Pollin is closer to completion, as groundbreaking began on an affordable housing development in northeast D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray is seeing to it that the philanthropist's vision of providing a path to home ownership to the masses is realized.
The vision for MetroTowns started with a bus ride. Pollin wanted to scout out a spot where he could build housing for D.C.'s low and middle-income workers.
"We traveled all through Wards 7 and 8 to look at housing opportunities throughout the wards and eventually we found this parcel with the help of the District of Columbia," recalled John Stranix, one of the Pollin family's closest advisers.
Ward 7 resident Dorothy Douglass said the late Washington Wizards owner was more than an investor:
"Well, Mr. Abe Pollin was also Santa Claus," she said. "He would come around and all the Wizards would come with him on the bus and they would choose some families in the community that need to have Christmas, and they got toys and bikes, they TVs. They got all the works. And he himself, personally, would come to the house."
Mayor Gray hopes the Ward 7 development will breathe new life into the community, in the way that Pollin’s investment in the Verizon Center transformed Chinatown.
"For those who remember, not only was Seventh Street a ghost town, it was almost a place where people wouldn’t go because they were fearful of their own safety," he said.
The project is developed through a public-private partnership between the City of Washington and the family of the late Abe Pollin. Plans for the new Pollin community include energy-efficient town homes priced below market rates, and with special financing for District Government employees.
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