Ward 1 Short Term Family Housing

We’re pleased that our design for the new Terrell Short-Term Family Housing site in DC’s Ward 1 will be opening its doors to families and seniors in the coming months – the capstone of a strategic plan, issued in 2016, to replace an overcrowded central homeless shelter with more dignified housing for families in every ward across the city.


“We are excited to soon be welcoming families in Ward 1 and across the District to this beautiful facility,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement issued Feb. 3. The Terrell, which will house 35 families in one wing and permanent supportive housing for 15 senior women in another, is named for Mary Church Terrell. The DC teacher championed civil rights and women’s suffrage in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


This is the second project we’ve designed under Bowser’s plan. (Our first, The Horizon in Ward 7, was completed in 2018.) “We started this journey to replace DC General with short-term family housing sites in all eight wards because we knew it would take a city-wide solution to end homelessness,” Bowser said in her recent statement. “Now with The Terrell, we are one step closer to ensuring all families have access to safe and dignified housing.”


Secure entrance, manned 24/7
Cheerful welcoming Community Room and Playground

It was important to place the new building within the context of its Columbia Heights location, a former city-owned parking lot on 14th Street that’s adjacent to the Rita Bright Family and Youth Center. Working with input from the community, we realized that there was a path diagonally from the corner of Clifton Street to the community center’s entrance. A building flush to the street would have cut off that familiar route, so instead we designed the first floor to angle inward to highlight and celebrate the center’s entrance.


The blue-painted entry to the community center, above left, now enjoys a common plaza with The Terrell

As a result of this approach, a section of the upper floors cantilevers out. We chose three pale hues of fiber-cement cladding, along with varying sizes of windows, to emphasize movement and energy stepping away from the building’s otherwise regular pattern of brick and windows. “It dances along 14th Street,” CQA Architect Ana Baker says. “The design engages with the community center, and engages with the community itself.”


Inside, each floor is distinguished by a color that designates a “neighborhood” where the walls, floor tile and furniture express that hue, whether it’s orange, purple or blue. The colors not only add personality, but also serve as a wayfinding and security device.


Each floor has a reception desk, an added layer of security for residents.

Tall ceilings feature exposed structure that provides detail while also allowing for taller ceiling heights and windows.

In addition to community rooms and offices for city and social workers inside the building, The Terrell offers a colorful central courtyard for the resident families:

and a spacious roof deck for the senior women:


As The Terrell opens up to its new residents this spring, we take great pride knowing that, in two of its eight wards, we’ve helped realize Mayor Bowser’s goal of spreading shelter throughout the city by designing short-term and permanent housing solutions that neatly fit into their respective neighborhoods.