Thursday, July 10, 2008

LCOR Wins Tenley/Janney Site

Mayor Adrian Fenty announced this morning that the District will partner with LCOR for the development of the 3.6 acre Tenley Library/ Janney Elementary School site on Wisconsin Avenue.

The announcement, made nine months after the RFP's issuance, came as a surprise to those used to long-outstanding District RFPs; the decision surprised even the developer. "We didn't find out until 6:30 last night," said Timothy Smith, Senior Vice President of LCOR. "We were told to expect some word, but I had given up and gone home, so we were as surprised as everyone else...We are excited to be designated, we are awaiting paperwork from the District and will be working not only with the Office of Economic Development finalize plans, but also all of the stake holders in the neighborhood," Smith said.

This type of educational/residential mixed-use project is not new to the developer, who is responsible for the 47,000 s.f. James F. Oyster Elementary School and 211-unit Henry Adams House apartments in Woodley Park, in fact, Smith said LCOR prides itself in taking on such innovative, unique projects.

"I think our work on the Oyster School was one of the things that had to do with their decision to go with us. The current building is set back from Wisconsin Avenue and it will be a mixed-use project. One of the things we proposed was instead of a free standing structure, the library will be in the first two floors of the apartment building," Smith said.
Community involvement will be key to the development of this site, as it has been the subject of controversy between past developers and the community for years. But despite the site's conflict-ridden history, the developer said he just wants to get going.

"We are trying to make sure we work with the library to make sure their plan works within the building. We have done a lot of different kinds of developments, so this is right down our alley. We know that complex multiple use projects involve us working with community. Here we think we have the big picture, but we will still be working with the community," said Smith

LCOR's proposal included 174 rental apartment units and while specific details have not yet been announced, the development will likely achieve LEED certification and, in keeping with the Fenty Administration's affordable housing goals, offer workforce housing. Smith said more detailed information will be available in the coming weeks.

The District issued the RFP for the site last fall; three development teams responded and were evaluated based on "vision, financial capacity and past performance."

"We've got a real opportunity to leverage this site to help pay for the cost of improving Janney Elementary, enhance the existing open space and add both market-rate and workforce housing - all atop a Metro Station," Fenty said.

The projects puts to bed a contentious process that began with Roadside Development proposing to build what is now LCOR's mandate, a plan that was stymied when activists demanded an open bidding process. The District then mishandled the RFP, changing its terms after the response date passed, forbidding integration of the library within a residential building.

"Not many people know this, but LCOR has been in Washington for thirty-two years. We were really under the radar until we did the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Headquarters project," said Smith. Not anymore. LCOR recently completed the first residential building in the company's North Bethesda Town Center project, its 32-acre project at the White Flint Metro station.


Anonymous said...

Yesterday, Fenty acknowledged that he never looked at DCPL's design for the Tenley branch, while Cheh admitted that she hadn't seen LCOR's best and final offer.
So much for making a rational decision between the two alternatives on the table.

What we have here is a instance of caprice masquerading as decisiveness. If the decision was simply going to be made at the level of mixed-use vs. stand-alone library, it could have been made a year ago.

Instead DCPL has spent a million dollars and worked with the community for a year to design a great-looking facility that is now going to be scrapped. As a result, the reopening of our long-shuttered branch library, on track for March 2010, will now be delayed an additional 2-3 years.

This really sucks. From a public facilities standpoint, the community will be getting less, later, and at greater expense.

Meanwhile, we'll get another two years of looking at a fenced-off patch of weeds before we get to marvel at the big hole that has swallowed our library and the kids' soccer field.

Should be a nice photo op during the 2010 election season.

Anonymous said...

Eh, it was the right decision from a long-term perspective. I grew up near Tenleytown, and have long marveled at how little it's changed. It has a crappy suburban feel (not even new/updated suburban), what with useless car dealers, mediocre restaurants, and too little density to justify the convenience of Metro. The neighborhood NIMBYs there have a true stranglehold on progress, and while other areas of DC progress, Tenleytown (like Takoma park, etc) is stuck in 1980. I hope this is the beginning of a reniassance for that particular area.

IMGoph on Jul 14, 2008, 11:50:00 AM said...

this is the right long-term decision for the city and the area. we're finally learning that we have to leverage our investment in metro.

the first anonymous commenter can say what they like about the 2010 election, but i'm willing to bet that the 15 people they can get riled up and angry enough to vote against fenty for this will be more than outweighed by those who will vote for him because of actually helping to move the city forward, and not having a narrow view of the possibilities of this city.

Anonymous said...

It's not an intelligent long-term decision to devote scarce public land to private development in an area that is slated for growth.

And the library DCPL had planned would have looked a helluva lot better on that corner than LCOR's generic apartment building will. Meanwhile the 100+ apartments built there don't get built on private land so a few more scruffy patches (e.g. Babe's/Maxims) stay scruffy longer. You don't revitalize a neighborhood by overdeveloping one lot.

As for our investment in Metrorail, if that's the goal, look at other stations and other lines that are underutilized. That branch of the Red Line is quickly maxxing out its capacity.

Long-term the interests of the District and of the neighborhood are creating a great school and a great library. This is a decision to create a mediocre, highly constrained, partially subterranean library rather than the really attractive library pictured here. And it's a decision to deprive local kids (at Janney, at St Ann's, and in the neighborhood more generally) of outdoor play space to build something that could easily have been built in a dozen other places.

IMGoph on Jul 14, 2008, 6:17:00 PM said...

still, i don't know which one of you anon. people i'm talking to. consider signing your posts.

your arguments ring hollow. partially subterranean? where is any of the library going to be built underground? is it just that, because it will be underneath something else that you're calling it partially subterranean?

your argument about building on one vacant lot vs. another is a red herring. increased density in the neighborhood will increase the value of commercial land, which will make it economically unfeasible for the owners of vacant property to keep it that way, unless they're operating outside of common sense (which is a possibility). once the southwest corner of albemarle and wisconsin is built out, other dominoes will fall (babes, etc.)

please cite your figures on how metro is maxing out its capacity on the red line. wmata has never made that claim, and i seriously doubt you could substantiate it.

who said that this development in any way precludes having a terrific school and library system in our city? you make it sound as though the two are mutually exclusive.

honestly, your arguments appear to be based on nothing but appeals to emotion, anon. perhaps that works for you, but facts work for me. see you in the future.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like imgoph doesn't know the site. The back of the library is literally subterranean -- same floor as the first level of the garage. Above ground on Wisconsin, but below ground as it moves up Albemarle.

And it's kind of funny that someone who is invoking the domino theory thinks he's appealing to facts...

IMGoph on Jul 14, 2008, 11:16:00 PM said...

is this anonymous person the same one who has been talking to me before, or are you new? i have no idea, since you refuse to identify yourself.

anyway, i am familiar with this site. i planted trees there with casey trees a couple years ago. look at this image. the old library wasn't "subterranean". janney's soccer field was elevated to keep it level. sure, the whole area is sloped, but the back of the building was not embedded in dirt.

and if there is a formal domino theory (outside of political science) i'm not familiar with it, perhaps you can educate me. i never cited "domino theory", i just used a metaphor and you imposed your view upon it. for that, i apologize. i'll speak more clearly with you from here on out to keep from potentially confusing you.

Anonymous said...

the old library wasn't underground because it was in a pit. the back of the new library will be under the soccer field. lcor's design had the library's footprint expanding beyond the library's current lot and sharing a floor with an underground parking garage that extends all the way to the edge of the janney school.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the plans (to my knowledge, they haven't been released), but the previous anonymous poster(s) appear to have the same knee-jerk response as 3E Chair Amy McVey and colleague ANC Commissioners Carolyn Sherman and Anne Sullivan.

These three have had enough negative input on the community for long enough. What, 20 people show up at ANC meetings because they are counter-productive uses of time.

This ANC should not be given 'great weight' because they don't give it to their constituents. So what becomes "the community" is a bunch of NIMBY activists and then the rest of the residents.

The rest of the residents supported political candidates who understand the benefits of redeveloping underutilized space in urban areas and were resoundingly supported in the general elections.

While Mary Cheh probably had little to do with this decision (all from the Deputy Mayor on Economic Development Office, IMO), it is certainly in line with the broader view she articulated in 2006.

So a shout out to the Mayor for pushing forward with this.

Anonymous said...

hundreds of people have attended community meetings on this issue and the anc's work (proposed revisions to the RFP and rejection of all three submissions) reflect comments at the well-attended public fora they held.

the Janney SIT and the Friends of the library and a bunch of other community organizations also passed resolutions or wrote letters opposing the submissions and all by the SIT called for an end to PPP discussions.

no community group has supported any of the three submissions.

Anonymous said...

While there wasn't much support for the three proposals, there was and is support for a proposal, if it makes sense.

Rather than rehash the history of the opposition, why not embrace the possibilities of what could be?

That is the difference between being a reactionary ANC type and a pro-active type.

Why not see if this can be made to be a fabulous proposition for all involved before stirring up the hystrianics of opposition?

Anonymous said...

There's the rub -- no one has shown a proposal that works (i.e. gives the school all the facilities it should have, doesn't delay the library, offers some additional advantage to the community). That's because DMPED doesn't have one.

The ANC's reports aren't histrionic -- and they have been pro-active. They point out likely problems and, at least at the draft RFP stage, proposed ways of preventing or solving those problems (e.g. require a series of construction staging site plans showing how the kids could be kept on campus, have Lew vet the timelines and OCFO vet the financials).

By contrast, all I've seen on the other side is either dogmatism (if metrorail, then mixed use) or wishful thinking (ok, well yeah all the actual proposals are bad, but maybe there's an imaginary one that would be great). And, sure, we can all agree the process has been terrible so far -- plagued by incompetence, delays, and deceit -- but the Mayor has promised yadda yadda.

Anonymous said...

You make my point with this post.

You continue to rehash the past.

No one has seen the latest plans including you. Why not see what they are before opposing it rather than reliving the past however many months/years of dire pessimism you rain on the community?

Don't you get it that your way of thinking is neither productive nor embraced?

And you wonder why no one takes you seriously downtown?

Anonymous said...

The community has seen LCOR's latest plan -- it was presented in late February. There is nothing new since.

The problems that any worthwhile plan must solve have been clearly outlined: Janney has to get all the field and playground space it is entitled to. And a strategy should be developed regarding where the students will be during construction. The library shouldn't be delayed and it should be built in such a way that it can be expanded or renovated or torn down in the future if need be. And the community should receive some benefit it wouldn't otherwise receive if the two projects were exclusively publicly funded and constructed independently of one another, as previously planned and budgeted for.

If these (or even some of these) problems had been solved, LCOR and DMPED would have been eager to explain how. Yet Fenty said Thursday that LCOR's selection was based on the offer the community saw in February.

Space, time, and economics all pose limits as to what can be done at this site. Those limits haven't changed. And they have been pretty thoroughly explored. This is a discussion that has been held in depth at least twice in the past 5 or so years. Actually, the community has seen at least six proposals over the years -- the Janney SIT generated two others in 2003 (one involving LCOR) and Roadside's pre-RFP plan differed from its RFP submission. So it is not as if we have no idea of what is possible here.

This isn't about optimism or pessimism -- it's about planning and problem-solving to develop good projects rather than playing "let's make a deal" without ensuring it's a good deal. DMPED hasn't done any of the work necessary to protect or advance the community's interests in its most crucial public facilities -- its neighborhood elementary school and its library.

IMGoph on Jul 16, 2008, 9:11:00 AM said...

and the best thing about all of these comments? it could all be one schizophrenic, anonymous person talking to themselves.

it's nearly impossible to follow this conversation because none of you anonymous people put any kind of a signature on your posts.

Anonymous said...

Just follow the arguments -- it's not that difficult. This blog routinely gets anonymous comments. So what?

IMGoph on Jul 16, 2008, 12:33:00 PM said...

just put an initial or screenname at the end of your post -- it's not that difficult. so what?

Anonymous said...

In looking at the satellite image from the article it seems like there is an excess of surface parking which, if buried under the library and the field to the side of the school along the street in front of the school, there is all sorts of green space that can be recaptured.

I understand there are temporary trailer-classrooms along the green space on the side away from the library. Presumably this is where the school expansion will go?

If that is the case, then I am having a hard time seeing why this proposal is such a problem.

The mayor pledge no net loss of greenspace, and looking at the site in the image, it seems like that is very doable.

If the library, residence and school can share this parking (with some Flexcar options), then along with affordable housing and other community benefits, I am having a hard time seeing why there is such vocal opposition.

Anonymous said...

See for a discussion of why "no loss of green space" is the wrong standard.

Anonymous said...

I simply disagree with the false logic you employ on that blog.

But hey, its great you have others drinking your Kool-Aid. Good luck with it!

Anonymous said...

and when an anonymous poster simply disagrees you know they must be right.

Anonymous said...

It's a free country.

You can go along and spout whatever you wish and attract whatever followers you wish.

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