Thursday, November 26, 2009

Group of Immigrants Buys DC Building

WASHINGTON, D.C. - It’s hard to imagine a better day than Thanksgiving to celebrate an American success story. In this one, a group of immigrants who were tired of paying rent in a neglected building agreed to buy the place and turn it into a co-op. Then, they'll live happily ever after-- or at least they are getting there.

It’s a story passed down from generation to generation. In America, anything is possible.

A total of 18 immigrant families working in hotel laundries, restaurants and blue collar jobs come together to secure a loan for $1.8 million. They purchased the apartment building located at 3121 Mount Pleasant Street NW.

"All of us here, we fight on this property," said co-op vice president Jose Chopin in an interview Thursday.

Oh and it wasn’t easy. In fact, it was touch and go right up until closing. Chopin was getting anxious.

"So what's happening? Is this going to happen or not?" Chopin wondered out loud.

Days went by, emails were exchanged, wrinkles were ironed out, and then the word-- the building is yours.

"I was there signing the papers, they were like a ton of papers-- like this!" Chopin demonstrated by holding his hands about two feet apart.

The 18 families that purchased the building said they came together for one main reason; they were tired of the gentrification that was pushing so many other low-income families out of the neighborhood.

Buying the building was one challenge. Renovating it is another. Saul Solorzano helped the co-op secure the loan.

"There is a need for a new roof, a new electrical system, new plumbing system,” said Saul Solorzano with Carecen, the group that helped the families secure the loan, “and to do some rehab inside the apartments so they can have new kitchens and new bathrooms."

It's a job estimated to cost around $2 million-- a project that requires everyone to move out for at least six months. It's an inconvenience for sure, but so necessary.

"Right now it's good, but the apartment is not very well,” said resident Victoria Chopin, “because it's cold. The heater is not very good. Everything is too bad-- the light."

So the 18 families who live there now give thanks for their dream come true with answered prayers.

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