Thursday, September 04, 2008

Janney Elementary Proves Hard to Please

Last night, a group of citizens and parents gathered at St. Ann's Church in Tenleytown to discuss the status of the embattled Janney Elementary/Tenley-Friendship Library redevelopment at the intersection of Wisconsin Ave. and Albemarle St. Neighborhood activists led an hour long presentation that criticized both the DC government and the project's designers, LCOR Inc. In an ironic case of getting what you wish for, the presentation made it clear that the public-private partnership (PPP) that Janney supporters lobbied the Fenty Administration for (and came closer to in July) was now, in their view, the worst possible option.

"Sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction," said Sue Hemberger. "Since July 10, Mayor Fenty has broken two promises and told four lies." She went on to detail Janney's gripes with the city in detail. First and foremost, they are taking issue with the city’s selection of a developer for the PPP without the sanction of local supporters. “Mayor Fenty promised he wouldn’t pursue a PPP unless the community approved it…He then selected a proposal that [we] found completely unacceptable.”

The proposal in question is the work of LCOR Inc., who beat out two competing firms, Roadside-Smoot and the See Forever Foundation, for the deal after an RFP for the site was issued last year. Since that time, Janney advocates have taken issue with almost every aspect of their design, which includes construction of a new wing for the school, a brand new Tenley-Friendship Library, as well as an adjacent 8-story apartment complex on the site of the school's soccer field. Janney supporters have voiced discontent over the ceding of their soccer field to the apartment building and the adverse conditions that large scale construction would have on the day-to-day affairs of the school.

“This was probably the worst of the three proposals put forth. We asked [LCOR] to revise it and they refused. So this is what’s on the table,” said Daniel Carozza as he gave a lengthy explanation of the new building’s design flaws. Citing a lack of natural light and open air play space, a smaller in-house library and cafeteria that would be unable to comfortably service Janney’s 550 students, and the adverse conditions pupils would face if they were forced off-campus during construction, he said, “I’m not sure, for the sake of our children, that I could approve of this plan.”

Unfortunately for Janney Elementary, the matter is no longer entirely in their hands. Janney officials and DC Public Schools (DCPS) are not taking part in any discussions with LCOR - DC Public Libraries (DCPL) is the only organization currently holding talks the developer. According to Hemberger, the new library’s design (composed by the Freelon Group) is “fully funded and approved,” except for a review by the DC City Council – a formality undertaken by projects budgeted at over $1 million. “They could be in the ground in 6 weeks,” she said.

That, however, seems unlikely for Janney. Although scheduled on the District’s Master Facilities Plan, if they have their way, the PPP will be abolished and the design process will begin anew. According to Hemberger and Heroza, a non-PPP project - overseen by DCPS - would take only two years, compared to LCOR’s four. As Hemberger said in closing, “This PPP will be lose lose lose.”

The original RFP for the project contemplated using the old library site, on well-trafficed Wisconsin Avenue above the metro station, to build the residential units, integrating the library into the new structure. But local activists protested the process as well as the proposed design specifications that would have left the soccer field intact. For reasons still unclear and contested, the District changed the RFP after it was issued to discourage developers from including housing over the library site, removing it instead onto the school grounds.


Anonymous said...

While Hemburger and Heroza correctly point out that the LCOR proposal has some weaknesses, their true motivations are displayed when, instead of trying to get an improved PPP, they are lobbying to keep the entire project in the city's hands, with no new residential or retail.

I cannot understand why the city finds it so difficult to redevelop even a tiny slice of the hideously underused Tenleytown corridor. The NIMBYs must not be allowed to keep the area decrepit for decades against the greater good of the city.

Instead of giving this project to just 3-4 developers for a quote, the entire process should be made public. Let anyone who wants to submit a bid, not just a few of Fenty's buddies.

Anonymous said...

Were there representatives at the meeting from LCOR, DCPS, DCPL or the Deputy Mayor's office? If so, what did they say about the project? When will the permanent library reopen?

Anonymous said...

Good god, that has to be the worst proposal I have seen in a long time. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to put together a site plan for the intersection of Wisconsin and Albemarle that can work, yet at every turn, this administration and LCOR (or other proposed development teams) cannot seem to figure it out.

Put the damned residence on top of the library, put the parking for both under the new structure as well as under a new field where the current one sits.

The land recovered from the faculty parking can be converted to more open space for the kids, and the expansion should be around the back and on the West side of the parcel. The Janney Oak has reached the end of its life cycle, will probably fall over during this weekend's hurricane, and can go away.

Anonymous said...

Taking up the soccer field sucks. It was idiotic for the city to require the density to be on school grounds rather than on Wisconsin above the library; shame on them, and on Neil Albert for screwing up the RFP. That said, had the aforementioned Tenley activists not been obstructionist at every step of this process, we would have had a new library with residences above it, and renovated school, just the way it should be, and already under construction. I'm so glad they take it upon themselves to f'up our neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

Anon 3:

Don't blame LCOR, the city would not let them put apartments over the library. Still trying to figure that one out.

Anonymous said...

If you take a look at the LCOR proposal, you will see that the apartments are over the library, as well as over the soccer field.

Anonymous said...

For a real estate site, DCmud should be more careful about simply quoting remarks as if they were objectively correct. For the DC Library to be "in the ground" in 6 weeks, they would need (a) completed construction drawings (b) a building permit (c) a general contractor. All of these things take more than 6 weeks and together they would take considerably longer. The point of the comment was that the PPP would take longer than the stand-alone library. While this is true, the idea that the library could start construction in 6 weeks shows a lack of understanding.

Nope on Sep 4, 2008, 3:54:00 PM said...

The implication of the "could be in the ground in 6 weeks" statement (keyword: could) is that they library is essentially locked and loaded, while the Janney project continues to sputter in circles.
Don't forget that the quote was made by one of the exasperated pro-Janney supporters, whom I wouldn't color as completely hyperbole-free.

Anonymous said...

The land on this site just cannot support a great library, a large apartment building and still have enough left over for what the students need. This was a "pie in the sky" idea in the first place, and a la Joseph Goebbels, proponenets of putting condos/apartments on the soccer field and library have repeated untruths so often that people begin to believe them. Reality check: after a long RFP search process, the best that the developers could come up with were three totally unacceptable proposals. There is room for retail and new residential in more appropriate places. Let's drop this ill-advised idea and move on.

Anonymous said...

The LCOR proposal sucks, as has been pointed out, and Neil Albert and the current ANC3E members should be jointly and publicly flogged for screwing up what coulda been a good thing.

Note, though, that the people running last night's meeting are NOT "Janney supporters." With the possible exception of Carrozza and Frumin, the new guy, they are ardent NIMBYs who want to do anything to derail new development that exceeds 5 stories. They paid no attention to Janney at all until the PPP, then all of a sudden, they joined the engaged part of the community that had been complaining about overcrowding at the school for years.

Public schools in general are not good enough for Hemburger, by the way, who sends her kids to Georgetown Day School. SHE's good enough, though, to tell Janney parents and staff all about what they should do with their, sniff, "school."

Anonymous said...

I'm on the ANC 3E. In fact I chaired the Special Committee that has been working on this issue since May 2007. The default position of those who want to build a residential building on the library and soccer field is to call people who don't agree with them "NIMBYs". And they like to blame the ANC for a crummy RFP, lousy process and the appalling proposals that came back, especially the one that the Mayor selected. Believe me, Neil Albert, Michelle Rhee, Victor Reinoso and the Mayor paid scant attention to anything the ANC recommended, and it's laughable to accuse the ANC of having any influence on the above named government officials.

"Nimbyism" is a fun charge to make, I suppose. But my position and the position of the ANC 3E Special Committee all along has been to ask that the school's needs to fully defined first and to see if it's possible to sell off any remaining land only after that has been done. The government agencies, the School Improvement Team, the former Janney PTA co-president and the former principal of the school all refused to do that basic task, and at some point, you have to wonder why? Could it be that if you figure out what the students actually need and how best to situate the expansion of Janney on the campus and how best to give the students a full sized soccer field, it will become abundantly clear that there isn't any land to spare? Oh no, it's just so much EASIER to call someone a NIMBY and to accuse people who have logged in inummerable hours and devoted so much effort to actually studying this issue than to look at the merits of what the committee has recommended. There is good information at the for those who would like to see some analysis of the issues.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, the "smart growth" advocates are such ideologues (urban extremists) that they refuse to concede a rather reasaonable proposision--that the Janney/Library site is not appropriate for higher density development because it will detrimentally impact BOTH the Janney facility and the excellent library design that could already be moving toward rapid implementaiton.

Instead, these "ignorant growthers" continue to push for a fundametnally flawed concept and process and flail out and try to lay blame on ANC Commissioners, neighborhood activitsts and anyone else who dares hold an opposing view.

It's time to focus development energies on other sites in the neighborhood that may be more appropriate for mixed use and allow both the Janney and Library redevelopments to move forward without them being used as vehicles to promote a worldview that is not appropriate for every situation.

Anonymous said...

So what was it that Anne Sullivan and her ANC3E colleagues did or sought for Janney before the PPP exploratory process started? I hear a giant sucking sound.

Sullivan asks where 'the School Improvement Team, the former Janney PTA co-president and the former principal of the school all refused to do that basic task, and at some point, you have to wonder why?' Could it be that all those people were trying to raise money to get basic necessities for their kids and trying to push dc to get Janney modernized as soon as possible?

Thank heavens the people who really work to make things better have sullivan and hemburgur to tell them how to take care of their kids.

Anonymous said...

First, a couple of corrections to the original piece.

Dan Carozza was the name of the other ANC Special Committee member who presented last night.

Secondly, LCOR's proposal uses the entire library site as well as the school's soccer field (and a piece of the teacher's parking lot as well).

And this is certainly not a case of the ANC getting what it wished for. What the ANC has consistently asked for is that planning for the school's facilities needs precede any development deal involving the school's land. No such planning has been done. Probably because, given the scale of the school modernization project, planning would show that there will be no land available for non-educational uses once Janney's facilities needs (as defined by DCPS's own standards) are met.

So the only way to greenlight private development on the site is to cut the deal before the school's needs are met (or even fully analyzed) and then let DCPS do what it can with whatever is left over after the apartments are built. And the at this point totally predictable result will be that the school ends up with substandard facilities.

Janney is already in the bottom third of DCPS elementary schools when you look at land per student. It makes no sense to shrink the campus while growing the student body, but that's what this deal will do.

As for one commenter's suggestion that it doesn't take a rocket scientist to see what needs to be done here. Apparently it takes an economist to realize that the solution s/he proposes isn't viable. Since 2003, we've been looking at mixed-use library options and there's never been a developer willing to do it unless school land gets thrown in as well. The combination of high water table, small site (15,051 SF), and the library's facilities requirements have always been deal-breakers.

As for the fact that my daughter goes to GDS, if I were arguing that Janney should get less than what it's entitled to and should sacrifice a little land to incentivize private development, I could see the objection. But I'm arguing that not enough attention is being paid to the school's needs in this process. I'm fighting for other kids' interests the same way I'd fight for my own kid's. Nothing hypocritical or suspect about that.

And, in fact, current Janney parents, especially parents of kids in the upper grades (which is where the core group of PPP advocates on campus seem to cluster), shouldn't have a monopoly on defining what's best for the school. What's being advocated here is likely to impact future Janney students (and kids just starting at Janney) far more than it will affect children who will be leaving the school within the next couple of years.

Thanks to DC Mud for its continued coverage of this issue!

Anonymous said...

Anon 6:

Perhaps they should have made more clear the sides those quoted were on, however, they began the article by saying 1. who led the meeting and 2. that those in attendance, "criticized both the DC government and the project's designers, LCOR Inc."

Therefore, the follow up quotes were quite consistent with the article's content. Since it seems you lack an understanding of journalistic writing, when a story is prefaced, as this one was, by saying an event was hosted by parents, citizens, and activists (i.e. a special interest group) you can be pretty sure that the quotes within will be hyperbolic and biased (recent DNC/RNC coverage, anyone?).

What DCMud did is far from framing citizen quotes as fact. I'm not saying DCMUD is flawless, but as far as real estate blogs go, they are a widely read and trusted source. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

As early as May of 2007, when the ANC was finally "allowed" to hear of the discussions that the group of Janney parents and staff were having with Roadside Development, members of the ANC 3E Special Committee offered help to the former Janney principal and SIT to work on the educational specifications of the school that would be tailored to what the school community wanted/needed/was entitled to. All offers of help were rebuffed. We suggested early on to the former principal that he try to make the case that Janney was the most overcrowded school in the system in an area where the boundary lines being redrawn would not provide relief since the schools in the cluster were all at or near or over capacity. He wasn't aware of that, and it hadn't occured to him to make that basic argument, even though there was a change in school governance and a change brewing in how the modernization queue would be handled by Allen Lew and Michelle Rhee. He and the Janney parents were also unaware that Janney required a 40,000 sq ft expansion and that DCPS had budgeted 25 million dollars for this future modernization and expansion when they tried to make a deal with Roadside to get a measly 10,000 sq.ft. addition to the school. I guess he and the Janney parents were too busy trying to "raise money for the basics" (if that's what you mean when they were trying to liquidate a valuable asset that can never be recovered once it's sold) to take a cursory look at the DCPS website where that information was posted all the while they were negotiating with Roadside.

The ANC 3E passed a resolution in December of 2007 asking that Janney's place in the modernization queue be evaluated immediately and that the school needs be assessed and that renovation/expansion begin as soon as possible.

As a commissioner, I have worked as hard as I could to try to help the government officials make good decisions about Janney. When I was a Janney parent (15 years total), I did my fair share of fund raising and contributing money and working on many committees for the PTA. I was a member of the SIT for two years, the chair of the SIT for one of those years, and I chaired a principal selection committee. I also was a Girl Scout leader for 5 years for the Brownie and Junior troops comprised mostly of Janney girls, and I worked on costumes for the school musical for 6 years. That I never wanted to sell off public land to try to move Janney ahead in the queue is not deserving of your comment (whoever you are, M. Anonymous) that there should be a "sucking" sound when you ask what I've done for Janney in the past.

Anonymous said...

what a JOKE!!! Good going Mr. Fenty!!! or should I say King Fenty. What happened to Democracy??? One man can decide against the people's will???

Amy McVey on Sep 4, 2008, 10:26:00 PM said...

Anonymous said....
The LCOR proposal sucks, as has been pointed out, and Neil Albert and the current ANC3E members should be jointly and publicly flogged for screwing up what coulda been a good thing.

Note, though, that the people running last night's meeting are NOT "Janney supporters." With the possible exception of Carrozza and Frumin, the new guy, they are ardent NIMBYs who want to do anything to derail new development that exceeds 5 stories. They paid no attention to Janney at all until the PPP, then all of a sudden, they joined the engaged part of the community that had been complaining about overcrowding at the school for years.


Anonymous said...
So what was it that Anne Sullivan and her ANC3E colleagues did or sought for Janney before the PPP exploratory process started? I hear a giant sucking sound.

I will always be amazed by those who will make such arrogantly stupid statements as if they are facts. The motivation can be at best, ignorance or at worst, an intent to libel or defame those with who disagree with them. Then they are too fearful to attach their names to their pontificating. Why? Afraid of taking the same heat you like to fry others with?

First of all, in May of 2007, I approached then Janney Principal Scott Cartland to introduce him to Daniel Carozza. Danny had worked tirelessly on the PPP between School Without Walls and GWU and was incredibly successful at negotiating an extremely successful project. He offered his assistance to Scott. Danny was willing to roll up his sleeves and do the hard work necessary to write the education specs necessary to get a very good PPP at Janney/Tenley. Scott's answer was "no thanks." The SIT also repeatedly refused any assistance. The new SIT/LSRT has realized what a stupid mistake that was and as of last night, approached Danny for whatever assistance he can give them. I hope it is not too late. Frankly, if the students needs were outlined and a guarantee could be made that the school would be taken care of without compromise and there was land left over to be sold to a developer, then go for it. But the problem is that the powers within the Janney community never wanted those needs outlined in detail. Why?

Now, what makes a "Janney supporter" that anonymous claims, we are NOT???? My family has had students in Janney Elementary School since 1936 with the last one leaving just a few years ago. Since they have had career days at Janney, my husband, a DC Fireman at Tenleytown for 28 years, has been, according to Janney's Ms. Leventhal, the most requested person for the annual Janney career day. This past Monday, Ms. Greene called to ask if we could get a firetruck to the school and although my husband was not home, I gave her the cell phone to a fire chief to call to make arrangements.

As for being a NIMBY. Such an easy accusation to make yet one so hard to back up. Its so easy to just to mimic what you hear or read. I have lived here my entire life here and find the development that has come in to be very wonderful...with a few unfortunate situations like the disastrous historical designation of the firehouse (which should have been mowed down and built anew). And, I would prefer it if the bars that were up and down Wisconsin Avenue when I was young, were still here. The problem is that there is a segment of this community which is willing to literlaly give away precious resources to developers for a pittance. The amenity package for the BABE'S site was pathetic but as it turned out that as long as each little group got what it wanted, they were willing to sell out without concern what else the neighborhood may need or want.

So Mr. or Ms. Anonymous, you would not appear so pompously silly if you knew what you were talking about before you spilled your thoughtlessness onto a blog.

Amy McVey

Amy McVey on Sep 4, 2008, 10:35:00 PM said...

Anonymous said...
While Hemburger and Heroza correctly point out that the LCOR proposal has some weaknesses, their true motivations are displayed when, instead of trying to get an improved PPP, they are lobbying to keep the entire project in the city's hands, with no new residential or retail.

You were either not at last night's meeting or paying very poor attention! Danny gave several pieces of advice about what options can be undertaken to save the PPP by keeping it in the community's hands. He then offered his years of experience to help. The LSRT approached him after the meeting to talk about it.

Do you know what those options were?

Anonymous said...

Actually, it wasn't a case of hyperbole so much as misquotation. The claim was that DCPL would have been 6 weeks away from groundbreaking at this point had Fenty not stopped them in their tracks back in July. DCPL has already employed a construction manager at risk who had vetted the design and materials selections and they were ready to put construction services out for bid in mid-July.

The plan was to have that contract ready to present to the Council upon their return from summer recess. This would, effectively, have pre-empted a PPP and that's why Fenty moved to preclude it from happening.

Groundbreaking, of course, is a largely symbolic event. The crucial date is when the library will re-open. DCPL was on track to meet its March 2010 target and, if the project could resume, probably still could at this point.

By contrast, LCOR has indicated that it would take 2 years (optimistically) from Council approval (which, at this point, is unlikely to occur before Spring 2009), before it could break ground. Its mixed-used building, which requires a couple of levels of excavation and is a much larger project than the library itself, would not only start later but take longer to build. I'd be surprised if LCOR could provide us with a new library anytime before the latter part of 2013.

Anonymous said...

Sue- That whole stretch of Wisconsin looks like upper Rockville Pike. It's a disgrace. It's worth waiting an extra year to bring some added density to a disgracefully suburban (without the quality stores) strip.

Can't wait to see a nice apartment complex/condo building above the metro. Density isn't just for poor people. Look what it's done for Friendship Heights (which blows out strip out of the water...).

I'm not saying LCOR shouldn't improve its design- it should. But once it does, there's no reason not to go forward. Other libraries in DC have waited far longer to get rebuilt (Shaw anyone?), so let's not think we're special

I can't wait for the Wilson pool to be opened next year though... that we can both agree on

Anonymous said...

The tradeoff isn't wait an extra year and the strip improves dramatically.

It's wait an extra three years to get an uninspiring library (instead of a beautiful one) and your elementary school loses virtually all its outdoor athletic facilites.

In exchange, you get housing that could have been built on any of a number of private sites along the strip -- one equally close to the Metrorail entrance on that side of the street and where a PUD has already been approved. Meanwhile, nothing that's actually ugly (like that boarded-up building) gets replaced.

This PPP is not a beautification project (though DCPL's library re-build would be) -- it's just a public land grab. We're not going to improve Tenleytown by destroying its public facilities. Those matter -- which is why you and I both eagerly await the re-opening of the Wilson pool.

Janney is one of the main reasons people move to Tenleytown. Dump an apartment building on its soccer field and leave it with half the land that Lafayette has, and you make it much less of an attractor.

Conversely, build one of the newest and nicest branch libraries in the city, next to a highly-regarded elementary school, just after renovating the middle school and opening an aquatic center, and Tenleytown becomes a more desirable and up-and-coming locale.

Anonymous said...

especially given that, at that point, plans will also be in the works for the modernization of both Janney and Wilson.

Anonymous said...

oh and our library was closed at the same time as Shaw.

Anonymous said...

It is only because of the PPP that Janney has been moved up in the modernization queue. If the PPP goes away, so does our plumb spot in the queue.

The library design is butt-ugly. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and what I have seen is a horrific design with a marginal use of prime real estate.

The city needs to go back to the drawing board with LCOR and figure this out.

And as for the NIMBY thing, every single excuse and justification will be used to oppose any of this development.

Perhaps Commissioner McVey is the exception, but there is no question that this junta of Sue Hemberger, David Frankel, Paul Fekete, Lucy Eldredge, Anne Sullivan, Carolyn Sherman etc is trying to control the purview of the entire community.

It is evidenced by their now running a puppet slate for the various ANC seats.

Why isn't McVey or Sherman running this time around? Why have they chosen folks who have already stated positions against development as alternates?

Anonymous said...

Why do you keep signing your posts as anonymous? Are you embarrassed to link your name with your comments?

Anonymous said...

Good grief, that is one ugly library rendering. It looks like a bunker.

Anonymous said...

Janney's place in (the consultant's March 31st draft of) DCPS's school modernization queue was not a function of the public-private partnership. The Fenty Administration had not made a decision regarding the PPP at that point, Neil Albert's office was still insisting that Janney was at the end of that line in late April, and the numbers in that draft of the MFP (dates/budgets) are inconsistent with the number in the RFP for this project.

Janney moved up in the queue because, post-takeover, DCPS's approach to facilities issues has undergone a paradigm shift. Previously, the approach was one of whole school modernization -- repairs went school by school, your place in line was a function of facilities conditions (and politics), and, as a result, a school got all or nothing depending on location in the queue.

Allen Lew rejected that model from the moment he took office. His approach was to tackle the major quality of life issues at every school and go system by system -- i.e. air-conditioning, bathrooms, heating -- rather than school-by-school. And Fenty layered the the summer blitz/buff and scrub/extortion-PR initiative on top of that.

Then, over the course of the past year, Rhee adopted a right-sizing approach that looked at the capacity and performance of various schools. She closed 23 schools which necessitated facilities projects at many others (e.g. conversion to PreK-8 and/or renovations to make room for students from closed schools at the receiving schools).

Under the old paradigm, Janney was at the end of the line because its facilities were in better condition than most DCPS schools and because overcrowding wasn't used to order the queue. Under the new paradigm, Janney belongs near the front of the queue because it's the system's most overcrowded school (or was last year -- results could vary this year) and because its planned expansion will give DCPS more capacity at a high-performing school that can serve as a receiving school under NCLB. The fact that Janney is easily accessible via public transit (busses as well as Metrorail) makes it an especially well-qualified school to serve this function.

That's why Janney had been moved up in the queue as of the end of March. It will be interesting to see, when Lew finally releases his draft MFP, whether Janney has retained it's position at #8 -- or whether, now that Fenty has decided to pursue a PPP, Janney is moved back to the end of the line once again to coerce the community into accepting the PPP rather than urging the Council to pull the plug on it.

Since last summer, the ANC has argued that, rather than trying to find a way to cut in line, Janney should make its case on the merits -- i.e. on the basis of overcrowding -- and challenge the old paradigm. Special Committee members lobbied Lew to that effect last summer, right after he was appointed, though we also wholeheartedly agreed with him that systemwide quality of life issues must come first. ANC 3E passed a resolution last December urging that Janney be moved up in the queue rather than modernized through a PPP.

I don't mean to suggest that the ANC effected the paradigm shift that happened -- more likely the new leadership at DCPS recognized the same problems the ANC did. But the system is in a different place now than it was when some Janney parents started pushing for a PPP back in 2003. And a number of those parents don't seem to recognize how counter-productive that strategy at this point.

One way or another, the effect that continuing to pursue a PPP will have is to delay Janney's modernization. And, if the PPP ultimately meets with Council approval, it will compromise Janney's facilities (both interior and exterior) as well as force its students to spend twice as much time as a construction zone as they otherwise would have.

This whole wait-and-see, it's too early to judge, it could get better attitude makes no sense to me at this point. DC solicited offers, we saw offers, no one liked any of the offers. Despite universal community opposition, Fenty chose the most objectionable offer without requiring any revision. LCOR has already refused twice (when its competitors complied) to change its proposal. According to DMPED's Eric Scott LCOR is not working on a new proposal -- and it is negotiating only with DCPL --not with DCPS (which, unlike DCPL, has never objected to the proposal or made its approval contingent on specific conditions being met).

Given these circumstances, why on earth would someone believe that Janney's facilities needs are most likely to be met if the community bites its collective tongue and waits and hopes for something better rather than strenuously and vociferously points out exactly how unacceptable this proposal is?

Anonymous said...

I agree that that's the ugliest rendering of the library.

Look at the others available at

Anonymous said...

That library is FUGLY. It already looks dated, and it hasn't even been built yet. Yikes... that PPP can't happen soon enough. At least it will hide that monstrosity

Amy McVey on Sep 5, 2008, 4:39:00 PM said...

Anonymous said...

Perhaps Commissioner McVey is the exception, but there is no question that this junta of Sue Hemberger, David Frankel, Paul Fekete, Lucy Eldredge, Anne Sullivan, Carolyn Sherman etc is trying to control the purview of the entire community.

It is evidenced by their now running a puppet slate for the various ANC seats.

Why isn't McVey or Sherman running this time around? Why have they chosen folks who have already stated positions against development as alternates?

Sep 5, 2008 7:06:00 AM

"McVey" decided last January not to run again because 6 years is enough to volunteer as many as 20 hours a week and I have other things I want to do. The other commissioners have decided not to run for their own personal reasons.

"Why have they chosen folks who have already stated positions...????"
We have no choice in the matter about who runs and I heard less than a week ago that someone was running in my SMD...when she called and told me.

Last year, a woman in the community stood in our meeting and chastised the commissioners, who happened to disagree with her "stated" position on the land sale at Janney, for doing nothing to fill the vacancy we had on the ANC. This woman lives in that SMD and although she tends to be rather vocal about the deficiencies of the commissioners, she certainly did not offer to volunteer her time to take the seat. There is nothing we can do to fill a vacancy if someone does not step forward and believe me, very few are willing to do so. Now that same woman is calling around to find a "puppet slate" of folks to run in each SMD, against the "slate" of folks who already have "stated positions" which differ from hers. Hmmmh?

I also find it very intersting that NONE of those who are incensed by the information provided by the ANC are willing to provide any countering info or documents to show we are wrong. They will not publically admit that they screwed up by refusing to do the ed specs for the school and therefore are not being held accountable for the position we are now in.

I have great hope that the new members of the SIT/LSRT who approached Danny after the meeting are truly serious about doing the job properly so that whatever happens at Janney will be the BEST for the school.

And I am the exception to what??? Every person you mention has made incredible sacrifices of personal and family time to work hard on behalf of our community and I am proud to be considered a friend or associate of theirs. You fling accusations at people that are either partially or wholly untrue and I might add, behind the safety curtain of "anonymous said...." That does not make you very credible.

The fact is that each and every one of those community members you defame have spent time and energy to provide you and everyone else with information by which a good decision can be made. If after the facts and processes are made fully transparent to the community, you still want to take a project in a certain direction, then do it. But the problem is that those who have consistently and vocally bashed my commissioners and other community members for trying to get YOUR PAID GOVERNMENT to be open and honest with YOU are the same ones who consistently try to stand in the way of the community getting all the facts. Why is that?

Why did the former Janney principal refuse to do ed specs? Why didn't the SIT/LSRT insist that they be done? Why did they refuse to put a link to the info on the Janney website and let the intelligent Janney parents decide for themselves if the info was valid or not? Why has the Mayor said in a press conference that the project only has 120 units when LCOR said at the same press conference to a reporter that it was 174 units? Why are those who have been willing to give land to a developer because they have no faith in the city ever doing what they are supposed to do (their words), the same ones who have said..."but the city will do the ed specs for us." So you can't trust the city to provide the school we need but you are willing to trust them to tell you what the school needs for its educational programs when a developer buys the land? How do you reconcile no faith with full faith in the same people?

Anonymous said...

I don't live near the project and am not a strong partisan either way, but make a few observations:

1. If you feel that Tenleytown should have more density, why does it have to be built on a schoolyard? There's a vast empty space 200 feet from the Metro on which a Domino's hut sits. There's an empty space on top of the Metro on the NE corner of Albermarle, which is an eyesore. What about the CVS with the parking lot on top? Is this about "smart growth," or about a developer seeing an opportunity to get public assets for less than it would pay on the private market?

2. How does the PPP really help the surrounding community? Unlike the oft-cited Oyster school project of 10-15 years ago, when DC was programming no funds for school renovation, the library is already designed and funds appropriated. The Janney school renovation is already programed. Maybe some will answer that the PPP will essentially allow budgeted funds to be elsewhere. But I would observe that, Northwest has long been viewed by the rest of the city as the tax cash cow. Will it be viewed also as the real estate cash cow, with public assets to be monetized with the benefits going elsewhere, while the community deals with the effects of growth? Just askin.'

And by the way, parents and students at Oyster now complain that the playground is too small for the school, thanks to the condo building next door. Maybe that was the only alternative back then, but the Janney community needs to think the PPP over carefully.

Anonymous said...

Maybe because the people who own the parcels of land on the East side of Wisconsin Avenue have no interest in dealing with the neighborhood NIMBY types to get anything new for the community.

Anonymous said...

There's been a lot of land assembly on the east side of Wisconsin. I think that the Pedas family owns all or almost all of that commercial strip (under a few different business names) at this point.

When the market is right, there will be major redevelopment on that block. But, yeah, right now there's so much interest in public land because the housing market is soft.

Carolyn Long on Sep 9, 2008, 9:33:00 PM said...

Some of you anonymous posters think the design for the new library is ugly. Were you at the standing-room-only planning sessions at the interim library, when the design was received with great enthusiasm? Did you speak up and voice your objection? Did you know that the Commission of Fine Arts and the National Capitol Planning Commission called the design “an outstanding piece of civic architecture”? If you want to see UGLY take a look at the LCOR plan on the DMPED’s website at Pay special attention to the floor plan and the “F-T Library view from Metro entry across Wisconsin Avenue.” My understanding is that instead of a bright and airy two-story library as planned by DCPL’s architects, LCOR intends to put the entire library on the ground floor, with a large part of it in a windowless area underneath the apartment building. Supporters of this project believe that LCOR is still working out the details, and will present a much improved plan in the future–but when? They’ve had since July 10 and have refused two requests for even a preliminary update.

I can’t tell you how tired I am of Tenleytown’s lack of development being blamed on “NIMBYs.” The fact is that the owners of the 4400 and 4500 block of Wisconsin Avenue are not particularly interested in developing their property. The 4400 block belongs to a lot of individual owners–the big developer Douglas Jemal owns the building that is now Neisha Thai; the Singleton Masonic Lodge owns the building next door; the Donavan family owns the tallest building in that block, and I don’t even know who owns the rest of the buildings. Most of the 4500 block, including the parking garage and the Whole Foods, belongs to Circle Management. The CVS belongs to the Hechinger family. The Maxim condo project at the former Babe’s Billiards site has been approved for over a year, but the owners have not gone forward because there is no market for the condos.

I’m also tired of you anonymous posters trashing our ANC Commissioners. Do you have ANY idea how much work and aggravation that position entails, and all for no pay? If you don’t like the makeup of our present commission, run for office yourself. This is your chance, since several from ANC 3E are not going to run again.

One final thing. To me, the ONLY merit of this PPP was that it was supposed to provide 30% affordable or workforce housing. Now that figure has been reduced to 8% because the developer couldn’t make enough money at 30%.

So as Sue Hemberger has said, it’s lose for the library, lose for the school, and lose for the community.

Carolyn Long, 21-year T-town resident

Anonymous said...

Well the "real estate cash cow" analysis turned out to be quite prescient (and, no, I didn't write it myself -- though I'd love to know who did!).

Anne Sullivan and I met with LCOR VP Tim Smith last night and learned that, in its current incarnation, the PPP does not involve LCOR building or designing anything for Janney. The school modernization project will be a school modernization project, under the control of OPEFM. But, of course, OPEFM will have less land to work with (because the library/residential building will claim part of Janney's soccer field (and render the rest unusable as a playing field). DCPS's only remaining input in the PPP will involve deciding how many parking spaces it wants to buy in LCOR's underground garage.

Some PILOT arrangement is contemplated (details not given and it sounds odd because if LCOR's not building the school and DCPL already has cash in hand to pay LCOR for building the library, why do PILOT bonds?) with, presumably, at least some of the funds dedicated to Janney's already fully-funded modernization. So DCPS sells off an irreplaceable asset (or uses it to buy parking) and maybe siphons off some property tax revenue it wouldn't otherwise control, but the school itself just comes out behind. It's left with less land and thus fewer athletic facilities than it would have had without a PPP.

Meanwhile, Lew's draft Master Facilities Plan moved Janney back from #8 in line (where it was in March, pre-PPP) for modernization to somewhere between ##44-61 in line, most likely to accommodate the PPP and at Mary Cheh's request (see Cheh Feeney letter posted at So the PPP hasn't gotten the school modernized sooner and, in fact, it has probably delayed modernization.

Anonymous said...

The beauty of the library design is n the eye of the beholder. The same kind of praise was heaped on the Third Church downtown which has received all sorts of derision since the recent action to landmark the structure.

The library design is already out of date and is nothing but slats on glass, or lipstick on a pig.

The same is true of the library design proposed for other DC sites, this is not specific to Tenleytown.

Some people are going to like it, others not so much, but it is not a universally held sentiment to behold its beauty or uniqueness.

And to Sue Hemberger, are you suggesting that the Councilmember has requested that the status of the school reconstruction be moved down? That is a pretty bold assertion.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and it's not a claim I would have made had I not read the document I posted a link to.

Here's the timeline:

February 28 – LCOR presents its proposal that includes a detailed site plan for Janney’s expansion and remodernization.

March 31 – Janney is placed at #8 in queue in consultants’ draft Master Facilities Plan. Both the budget figures and the timeline for Janney in this plan are totally inconsistent with the budgets and schedules laid out in the Solicitation of Offers for a public-private project at the Janney/library site.

April 28 – Neil Albert and Eric Scott still believe that Janney is number 100-something in the MFP queue; at this point, they are unaware of the consultant’s March 31st draft.

July 10 – Mayor announces that he has decided to pursue a PPP and has chosen to negotiate exclusively with LCOR. LCOR’s press release that day says “LCOR will develop the school and library while developing the nearby apartments.”

July 12 – CM Cheh urges Neil Albert to “co-ordinate with those responsible” to act on Allison Feeney’s suggestions that the way to engender community support for the PPP is to shut down the possibility that Janney could be near the front of the modernization queue without a PPP and to put Allen Lew’s shop in total control of Janney’s modernization project.

Sept 10 – new MFP is issued and Janney is now at the end of the queue.

VP Tim Smith tells Anne Sullivan and Sue Hemberger that LCOR will not be designing or building any of Janney’s facilities; that will be a DCPL project under Lew’s direction. The only thing DCPS will be deciding wrt the LCOR deal at this point is how many parking spots it wants to buy in the underground garage.

So, yeah, I think Cheh (who had previously refused the ANC's request to lobby for moving Janney forward in the queue based on overcrowding) had some agency here.

In fairness, at the time she wrote that email, she'd been misled by the Mayor into believing that there was a new and improved LCOR proposal (not the one she'd already told him was unacceptable), so her perception of what was accurate and what was a misrepresentation was skewed at this point.

I also suspect that Lew has reached the point where he assumes that the PPP is a done deal and is planning accordingly. His previously planned 2011/12 Janney modernization would be a real nightmare if LCOR were working on the adjacent site simultaneously. So in his position, the rational thing to do would be wait to do Janney until LCOR is basically done. The other alternative would be to do Janney before LCOR was ready to break ground but, in the absence of any site planning/campus design efforts or even a binding decision about how much land Janney will lose to the deal, that's just not feasible.

Lew warned the Janney SIT last fall that they should be careful what they wished for when they promoted this PPP. He didn't want to see them end up worse off than they otherwise would be. Too bad they didn't listen.

Anonymous said...

What a mess! If this is true, then Councilmember Cheh had better rectify her mistake and push Janney back to its original place in the modernization line. Otherwise, she may be returning to her full-time law school gig after the next election.

Anonymous said...

This week, the Janney SIT withdrew its support for any public-private partnership involving Janney land.

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