A new home for Va. Post 139, and new homes for at-risk veterans

A new home for American Legion Post 139 in Arlington, Va., also means new housing opportunities for veterans and the community.

Post 139 is now located on the first floor of the seven-story Lucille & Bruce Terwilliger Place, which also includes 160 two- and three-bedroom rental units, meeting rooms and a counseling office as well as outdoor recreation space.

The grand opening of the building, which already houses some residents, took place on Sept. 23. Guest speakers at the grand opening included VA Secretary Denis McDonough.

“Fifty percent of this building is veterans’ housing,” said Post 139 Commander Bob Romano.

Touted as the first of its kind in the country, the co-location stemmed from the extensive repairs the post’s former building required. Post leadership turned to a consultant to figure out what to do.

“There were many offers (for the property),” Romano said. “None of them included a post home at this location, and APAH came up with the idea of a post home, veterans housing and affordable housing. It was just a deal that was unanimous in approval.”

APAH, the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing, bought the 1.4-acre property in 2016 for about $9 million.

“Without the American Legion Post 139, we would not be standing here today and really 160 families wouldn’t get to enjoy what it’s like to live in an area of opportunity like this,” said Carmen Romero, president and CEO of APAH.

Romero said Terwilliger Place is “critically important” given the increases in rent in the Washington, D.C., area. And it’s especially vital to provide affordable housing to the veteran community.

“It is a dream,” Romero said. “It’s what we’ve worked so hard for the last six years, and I’m so honored to work with The American Legion. I love the leadership, I love the people, and really, what you stand for and how you saw this as an opportunity to do something more important and bigger for both veterans and the community at large.”

In addition to the 50 percent veterans housing preference, more than 10 percent of Terwilliger Place’s units are reserved for households earning 30 percent of the area median income.

The building is named for the parents of real estate developer Ron Terwilliger, who donated $1.5 million to the $80 million project.

In a video produced by APAH, interior designer Kia Weatherspoon said the design process involved “reimagining, specifically on the Post 139 side, how can the new post home be a haven and a place for the next generation of veterans who are a lot younger than traditional post members of the past?”

Romano said plans for the post, which officially opens in January 2023, include offices for the Virginia Department of Veterans Affairs and George Mason University law school, both of which will provide free advice to all veterans.

“That itself is going to draw veterans in, and hopefully we’ll get a sign-up,” Romano said. He added that any veterans living in the building will get their first year of Legion membership provided by Post 139.