The DC Council hosted a roundtable Wednesday evening to thoughtfully ponder Disposition Approval Resolutions of 5 major developments planned across the city and give residents a chance to air concerns. Officially held to determine whether the city-held land was "surplus" - in lay terms, unneeded and salable - and whether or not selling them would benefit the city and the surrounding community in real terms (jobs, quality of life, etc.). Below is an abbreviated (luckily for you) roundup of the evenings discussions:
1. Minnesota-Benning Phase 2 Redevelopment: As previously reported Donatelli Development and Blue Skye Development won the bid to develop low-income housing and retail space adjacent to the Minnesota Avenue metro station. Panel members described the property as blighted, vacant and underused. Cheryl Cort of the Coalition for Smarter Growth disagreed with statements that the space was underutilized and also argued for a public easement and right of way, requesting that a segment of the property not be developed in case of future transportation demands. Councilmember Kwame Brown (at-large) described development as a way to "bring the city together."
2. New Communities Northwest One: By far the most contentious property of the evening was the site of the former Temple Courts Apartments. Arguments against the land, now used as a parking lot as developers work through the tangles of DC government, included ANC Commissioner Keith Silver's, who submitted a thesis-sized objection, and community members' claims that during Phase1 the developer failed to meet hiring standards requiring that 51% of jobs be given to DC residents. Chris Smith, Jr., Chairman and CEO of William C. Smith & Company, who disclaimed involvement in Phase1, promised to make good on employment promises in Phase2. But some Council members wagged fingers at Smith for having failed to interact directly with local ANCs while assuring community members of Smith's strong standing in the development community. The only change was the decision to build each of 5 buildings in separate phases to improve financing; i.e. former residents will have a long wait until they can return to their new homes.
3. Strand Theatre- It was a big night for Ward 7, with 3 of the 5 projects coming to the ward. The panel, including developers and community members, voiced overwhelming support for the Strand Theatre revitalization and redevelopment project. Council members asked the necessary questions to afford political cover, but there was little contention over the project.
4. Eastern Avenue Property - We previously wrote about ODMPED's call for plans to redevelop properties located at 400-414 Eastern Avenue, NE and the 6100 block of Dix Street NE. The selected plan will offer 56 affordable for sale units - all be 3-bedroom townhouses, something the community supports enthusiastically. Mary Cheeks, a Ward 7 resident, stepped up to opine that "this property has sat vacant for too long...it is time to move forward..." Council members were particularly impressed by the approximately $3.5 million dollar investment that would yield so much housing. Councilman Brown remarked on the millions of dollars being discussed among the projects and remarked over the efficient use of city resources, "I like that," he said. Enough said.
5. Fourth/Sixth and E. Street, S.W.: We reported on the intial appointment of Potomac Investment Properties, City Partners and Adams Investment Group, to redevelop land currently occupied by a fire station and a parking lot. A 9-story building will replace that former fire stationa and house a cafe and work site for DC Central Kitchen, and possibly even a stationery store, wine store and coffee shop. The property is currently planned as a 99-year lease, largely due to the presence of the district's fire station. Council member Tommy Wells (Ward 6), concerned about financing, advised John Holmes of Adams Investment Group that the "stakes are raised" on the project. To paraphrase, "don't screw this up."