RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — A former church on Richmond’s Northside will soon be transformed into 66 new affordable, energy-efficient apartments as part of an ambitious plan by a community developer.

Matt Engel is the Senior Director of Real Estate Development for Enterprise community Development, a Maryland-based non-profit with a field office in Richmond.

Their latest plans involve the old Mizpah Presbyterian Church on Brookland Park Boulevard, which is historically significant, but has fallen into disuse and disrepair over the years.

Enterprise chose to tackle this latest project after the success of their last effort in Richmond, which was completed 7 years ago. In that project, they transformed the old Highland Park School into 77 units of affordable senior housing.

“We worked really closely with Councilwoman Ellen Robertson,” Engel said. “She challenged us to look around the site and see other sites that might be available for development, and directly across the street was a church that was crumbling in on itself and two vacant houses.”

A concept design by Enterprise Community development shows the new development proposed on Richmond’s Northside. (Photo: Enterprise Community Development)

Enterprise gathered feedback from the community before putting together their plans for the church, and as a result part of the church was integrated into the new facade. The company also added brick and other architectural details that recalled the old church.

“We wanted to honor a piece of that church, so while it was not cheap we look to do projects that respond to the context of the neighborhood and respect what neighbors want,” Engel said.

According to data from a recent housing analysis, Highland Park is a distressed market in which many residents are precarious renters who face serious housing instability with little investment in the homes they occupy.

“This has gotta be one of the first new construction projects in the Six Points area in the last 20, 30, 40 years — I mean there just hasn’t been a lot of new construction,” Engel said. “It’s kind of a hot zone for eviction.”

Engel hopes Enterprise’s project can balance the need for safe, healthy housing with the economic opressures faced by many low-income residents.

“We’re looking to build a product that is brand-new, amenetized, modern, safe, energy-efficient and serves the existing renters in their neighborhood,” he said.

According to a release from Enterprise, the project will serve families earning between 40-60% of the area median income. For Richmond, that means those making less than about $22,000 a year.

The building is also intended to be “zero-energy ready,” starting with energy-efficient appliances and well-sealed windows that save on energy costs. The design is also intended to be powered entirely by on-site renewable energy, such as rooftop solar panels, whenever funding becomes available.

“Ideally we’d love to put that in today,” Engel said. “We weren’t ready today, financially, but what this does is put a template for the building to be able to support that.”

Now, Enterprise is already looking forward to potential future projects in Richmond, including another right across the street, a project with 43 units of housing tentatively known as 1203 Brookland Park.

As always, Engel said they’ll be keeping one question at the front of their minds, “How do you build economic vitality in the neighborhood, bring retail, bring people of different incomes into the neighborhood… while also making sure that the people who have been there continue to be able to be there?”