Saturday, February 21, 2009

Round II for West End Library Development

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 In the face of opposition by the likes of Ralph Nader, public space advocates, and neighbors, the Council quickly rescinded the sale and promised their constituents that due time would be given for community input prior to redevelopment, while neighbors have continued to grouse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 “ 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


Anonymous said...

This is about round V on this public property. The Williams administration spent four years trying to gift these public assets to Radio One--another loser--and failed, thank God.

FYI: Neil Albert owns an investment condo across the street at the Columbia Condos. For shame.

Anonymous said...

Would you rather the old, crappy, unsightly library full of homeless people remain? I applaud Albert for owning property in the District. I don't think this is much of a conflict of interest, considering he has to live SOMEWHERE they've been issuing RFPs all over the city, in every ward.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, what's the big deal about Albert owning a condo in the city? At least it tells us he knows how bad the landlord-tenant laws are in DC, he probably won't make that mistake again. The library and police station need to go, the sooner the better.

Anonymous said...

Eric, and where should the police station and library go they both serve a need

Anonymous said...

The community doesn't use or want the library, its a homeless shelter, but could be accommodated within a new structure, if necessary. The police stations is a special ops site that just stores cars for the DC police for White House services - why take up a huge piece of valuable real estate for a surface parking lot? DC should sell it and park there cars in a less desirable part of town, which would also give police presence in a neighborhood that needs it more.

Anonymous said...

"I don't think this is much of a conflict of interest, considering he has to live SOMEWHERE..."

Albert doesn't live there--he lives up in Fentyland in Ward 4--hence the term "investment" condo.

The community is completely supportive of development and more density--particularly more residential--and has the clout and resources to will get what it wants despite the bumbling attempts of DMPED to gift favored developers and political cronies and basically screw things up.

The community association and the ANC worked directly with the developer from 2002-4 to bring the Columbia Condo project to the West End--including a $1.2 million sweetener to get a Trader Joe's. The city had nothing to do with it, except getting in the way.

Anonymous said...

You may not use the library; but many children and youngsters in the neighborhood, including a ton of toddlers, use it everyday. The library is accessible on foot and by stroller to many moms (and nannies) who take their kids there for story time on Tuesdays and Thursdays. There are many other programs. This is a public service of which there should be more. Where will the kids go once this library is closed? Will the developer provide a free public library for them? Or will you?

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