At a May 7 gathering of community leaders celebrating the start of construction of Victory Haven senior apartments in Damascus, Maryland, that milestone and its location reminded Leila Finucane of a possible biblical parallel.

The project being developed by Victory Housing – the nonprofit affordable housing development arm of the Archdiocese of Washington – harkened to the story of St. Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, said Finucane, Victory Housing’s president. But she said in this case, perhaps this development in the center of the community of Damascus will open people’s eyes to the need for affordable housing.

“Damascus is a smaller town. The need is still here,” she said in an interview before the ceremony. “It’s exciting people will have the opportunity for housing, and the community will get to know affordable housing is an option for them.”

Plans are for the 72-unit affordable rental community for seniors to be open by mid-2020. Around a month ago, construction work began at the site, and as the community leaders donned hard hats and posed with shovels for symbolic groundbreaking photos, behind them workers were excavating the land with large equipment, including a drill rig, two track excavators, a small bulldozer and several dump trucks.

“This is a great day,” said Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich, who spoke at the gathering hosted at neighboring Damascus United Methodist Church.

Elrich said what he liked best about the project was that it was addressing the need for affordable housing in the county, which he said is “absolutely critical.” He said Victory Housing’s projects are a model for meeting that need, and he hopes the county continues to partner with them on future efforts.

Victory Haven will be the 17th community developed by Victory Housing in Montgomery County. Victory Housing – incorporated 40 years ago in 1979, was founded by Msgr. Ralph Kuehner, then the pastor of Our Lady of Victory Parish in Washington, who worked with parishioners from three local parishes to help meet the need for affordable housing for seniors.

Ten years later, Victory Housing became an archdiocesan corporation, and it now operates 31 affordable and mixed-income communities encompassing 2,280 units in Washington, D.C, and in the surrounding Maryland counties within the archdiocese. Victory Housing’s properties include six assisted living facilities for the frail elderly, 21 independent living facilities for senior citizens, and four apartment communities for low- and moderate-income families.

Praising Victory Haven’s setting, Finucane said, “It’s a small town, community feeling.” Victory Haven senior apartments will be located at 9616 Main Street in Damascus, with easy access to downtown Damascus and its nearby shopping center, and located across the street from the Damascus Library and that community’s senior center. The property is also adjacent to a medical complex and is on the route of Montgomery County’s Ride-On Bus service.

Rents at Victory Haven will range between $820 to $1,505 monthly, and it will include 54 one-bedroom and 18 two-bedroom apartments. The building will include a large community space, a library and adjacent computer center, a game and TV room, a fitness center and a wellness room for visiting healthcare professionals.

Finucane expressed gratitude for the partners in the Victory Haven project, including the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, the Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Freddie Mac, Capital One Bank, Hudson Housing Capital, TD Bank and the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County. She said Victory Housing’s projects are not possible without such government and business partnerships.

That point was echoed at the ceremony by John Maneval, a deputy director with the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, who said, “Everybody really worked together to make it happen.”

Grimm + Parker Architects designed Victory Haven, and Hamel Builders is serving as general contractor for the project.

Speakers also thanked Damascus United Methodist Church and other neighbors for their support of the project. Washington Auxiliary Bishop Michael Fisher offered a prayer at the ceremony, asking God to bless the project, and he prayed for the workers building the apartments and for the senior citizens who will live there. He said Victory Haven apartments will be “a wonderful resource and blessing for seniors in this community.” The bishop said that in serving the needs “of our neighbors and community… we are in a sense, God’s co-workers.”

Local leaders and development partners joined Victory Housing at a ground-breaking ceremony for Victory Haven, an affordable housing senior community in Damascus. Pictured, left to right:  Bishop Michael W. Fisher, Auxiliary Bishop of Washington; Leila Finucane, president, Victory Housing; John Maneval, CDA Deputy Director, Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development; The Honorable Marc Elrich, Montgomery County executive; Kimmel Cameron, vice president, Hudson Housing Capital LLC; Edmund Delany, senior vice president, Capital One; Tim Goetzinger, Acting Director, Montgomery County Department of Housing and Community Affairs;  and Rev. Dr. Kathryn T. Woodrow, senior pastor, Damascus United Methodist Church, which neighbors the property.  Photo by Max Taylor Photography.