Thursday, June 26, 2008
WMATA, which holds title to three key parcels of land on Florida Avenue in Shaw, wants someone to develop its vacant land. But not that badly. WMATA issued an RFP for the properties in April of last year, and nine developers got in line quickly to explain why they should be chosen, but Metro apparently wasn't in a rush to chose a suitor.
According to Angela Gates, Media Relations person for WMATA, board officials will meet today in a closed session to continue the selection process. "There won't be a public announcement for another six months," Gates said.
The process began in April of 2007, when WMATA announced it had received an uninvited offer for the three parcels, located between 7th and 9th Streets on the south side of Florida Avenue. Because WMATA's rules require that it consider competing bids, the Metro authority issued an RFP the same month and required responses by May 30, 2007.
Proposals were due in May of last year at which time nine developers submitted plans, so why, a year later are applicants and neighbors still without an idea of what kind of development WMATA seeks for the land?
Gates said Metro delayed the decision to find a developer for the joint development project because the "Board of Directors wanted further information" on the selection process. WMATA said their questions about the method of selection are confidential, but that the process included, "review of the quality and value of the proposals, the qualifications and experience of the proposers, the ability to implement the project as proposed and the consistency of the proposals with WMATA's needs as well as local development policies and needs." Sounds pretty straightforward.
Gates said there were two stages of the review process and that all applicants still in the running are local development firms, but could not release the names of any companies. In the first round, nine developers expressed interest, this pool was then narrowed down to six, who were invited to submit further proposals. In the second round, four bidders returned, two of which have since merged.
The parcels up for grabs, now an active flea market, is just one block from Howard University Hospital and the Washington Convention Center. Parcel one is 3,800 s.f. with frontage on 9th Street and Florida Avenue. Parcel two, a mere public alley away contains 8,600 s.f. and fronts 8th Street and Florida Avenue, and parcel three, on the other side of 8th street is the largest space at 16,472 s.f. that front Florida Avenue and 8th Street. The parcels are zoned a medium density community center zone that allows a maximum height of 65 feet, with up to 80 percent residential occupancy. The lots do, however, pose a challenge for potential developers. Each lot is encumbered by the Metro tunnel that passes below, limiting excavation to nineteen feet - so much for below-grade parking. According to the RFP, there will be incentives for below-market rate housing, arts, and other such community-serving features. The initial announcement says WMATA is open to both lease and purchase agreements, but prefers the former for obvious reasons.
While there seems to be no rush in achieving this, WMATA said, "The primary consideration in this case is remaining consistent with the local development plan, which supports transit-oriented development and promotes a mixed use of residential, office and retail space. Metro hopes that development around the Shaw-Howard U Metrorail station will help revitalize the area, promote transit-oriented development, increase activity and liveliness, continue U Street's rebirth and promote center city living."