Saturday, February 21, 2009
The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development is gearing up to issue a Request for Proposals for one the District’s more controversial – Square 37 in the West End.
Currently the site of both the West End Branch Library and the Metropolitan Police Department’s Special Operations Division, the site generated a heap in controversy in 2007, when the City Council passed "emergency legislation" to sell the lot to Eastbanc for redevelopment. In the face of opposition by the likes of Ralph Nader, public space advocates, and neighbors, the Council quickly rescinded the sale and promised their constituents that due time would be given for community input prior to redevelopment, while neighbors have continued to grouse about the underutilized site that functions more as a homeless shelter than a library, sitting incongruously between the Ritz-Carlton and other high-end condominium projects.
And while community angst has gone from overwhelming to negligible in the intervening two years, the City has held up their end of the bargain. In March 2008, numerous local bodies – including the Foggy Bottom/West End ANC 2A, Dupont Circle ANC 2B, the West End Library Friends, the DC Library Renaissance Project, and the Foggy Bottom Association - participated in a public consortium, where guiding principles for development of Square 37 - not to mention the entire West End - were established.
The ambitious “West End wish list” is divided into both macro and micro, if mutually exclusive, categories, including “livelier streets,” “more residential housing,” “public agencies [leasing] our public real estate assets rather than selling to or swapping with private parties,” making “everything...as green as possible,” and “all public facilities should stay public.”
Utopian or not, ODMPED’s pre-RFP statement encourages prospective developers “to address all stakeholder concerns and requirements and demonstrate creative ways to incorporate them into their development plans.” While ODMPED’s outline stops short of specific requirements (i.e., zoning, parking quotas), bidders will be required to incorporate plans for a new library and police facility in their vision for Square 37.
And, perhaps having learned a lesson from more recent community involvement debacles, ODMPED’s statement puts prospective developers on notice that the selected developer, not the Deputy Mayor, will be the one tasked with talking the community down regarding their list of demands for the West End. “If an offeror believes strongly that its development plan should include elements that are not desired by the community,” it reads, “then such offeror must convince the community that the proposed plan better serves the community’s interests.”
ODMPED will be accepting pre-bid queries from both developers and local residents concerning the RFP until Monday, February 23rd at email@example.com.