Friday, July 16, 2010

Protesters Break Ground Before Developers at Parcel 42

According to the Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development's webpage, Parcel 42 on Rhode Island Avenue should be a dangerous and uncomfortable place to set up a camping tent, since the District had planned a mixed-use affordable housing project and expected to be well on its way to a summer 2011 completion. But there was no construction equipment, much less a foundation or semblance of a physical structure, to stop OneDC, Take Back the Land, and other organizers from sponsoring a marched protest that ended with a symbolic takeover of the land, located across from the Howard/Shaw Metro. Unfortunately, the presence of the protesters' makeshift tent city over the last several days has been the only entity to occupy the empty dirt lot in many years.

In 2007 the District selected Parcel 42 Partners, LLC to construct a $28 million mixed-use affordable housing project on the city-owned vacant lot. OneDC, now turned protester, had lobbied aggressively for the original plans. And community leaders, ANC officers, as well as local citizens were encouraged by the project when it was first unveiled. The initial renderings called for 94 housing units, affordably priced for those making no more than 60% of the Area Media Income (AMI). This qualifies as "affordable housing" according to the District, but some residents and protesters continue to argue that "low-income" not "affordable" housing is what the area desperately needs. For now, it's simply "no" housing for Parcel 42.

The District and the developers recently announced that the original plans were being scaled back to make the project more financially and logistically feasible: from eight floors down to five, 52 units as opposed to 94, half of the parking spaces, only 6.5 of the 11.5 million dollars in subsidies promised by the District, and 50% AMI instead of a stratified 20%, 30%, 60% AMI. The project is also now designated as a matter-of-right development, alleviating some of the frustrating Zoning Commission hurdles that a normal PUD must clear for its exemptions. While this makes it slightly less painful for the development team to get rolling, it doesn't exactly make the prospect of this project going through any more likely, as no formal paperwork for the proposed development has been submitted to the Zoning Commission as of yet.

Mayor Fenty has looked to Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans for direction, but Evans has chosen to defer to the community, which seems to be in strong opposition to the new plans. Protesters over the weekend made it clear that they feel betrayed by the mayor, and are angry at what they consider to be a broken promise. Additionally, many outspoken ANC2C members now oppose the more conservative offerings, feeling it would be advantageous to simply wait out the lingering effects of the recession in hopes that an improved economy down the road may reignite the possibility for the larger project the area and residents were eagerly awaiting. But the clear lack of unified community support casts serious doubt on the prospect of the empty lot being occupied by anything more than another organized rally in the foreseeable future.

Parcel 42 Partners is a joint venture between Metamorphosis Development Group, Metro Partners, and Sunrise Development Corp.

Washington DC real estate development news


Anonymous said...

The Mayor nor Jack Evans can force a land owner to build, especially when said landowner can't get financing. If they build a matter-of-right project, they don't need to talk to anyone in the City Gov't about it besides DCRA. ODMPED can pull back the subsidy money, but then there will be significantly less affordable housing built, and an emplty lot for potentially much longer if the banks won't lend without that subsidy in place.

Anonymous said...

Are these the same squatters that used to take over vacant houses? There always seems to be someone who wants something for doing nothing, in this city.

Anonymous said...

The last thing needed on 7th street is more low-income housing. The area is already over-saturated with it, and more low-income housing will continue to add to the ghetto affect on 7th.

And especially there, on top of the transportation hub... isn't anybody thinking about long-term planning here? Why the hell are we not planning dense office, residential and retail that will bring in tax dollars and productive activity? Look up and down the green line - every other close in station has this sort of development going on to leverage the value of the transportation hub... but not Shaw. No, on top of the Shaw/Howard metro is a pretty scary stretch that is crime-ridden and completely under utilized, and we're talking about adding more low-income housing.

Take a look at any crime map in Shaw and its concentrated up and down 7th street on top of 7-8 low-income projects located there. A shooting and major drug bust this week at 1330 underlines how screwed up this area already is. All of this has held back Shaw from developing into a better neighborhood with amenities and more productive activity on the ground.

When is the city going to wake up and realize that building ghettos doesn't work? We need to spread out low-income housing opportunities for the poor all over town. The city council should be legislating to a) to create enough low-income housing and b) preventing it from being concentrated in any one area. Put it in Georgetown. Put it the West End. Put it on Capital Hill. Put it in Chevy Chase... no more in Shaw - there's too much there already!

And as for the 50% AMI thing, I've always wondered how they figure that. Don't know, but do they include housing vouchers? Food vouchers? Medicaid? Income from other entitlement programs?

This always gets spun as "workforce housing" for police, fireman, teachers, hard-working folks and the like... but I wonder. If they include all/some of the above in the income measurement certainly many of the folks who are already in the no to low income bracket would qualify. Seems like marketing spin to avoid the stigma attached to "low-income" projects.

Anonymous said...

These "protesters" aren't even from the neigborhood, and as for Shaw desperately needing more affordable housing...are you freakin' kidding me??? We have our hands full with Gibson Plaza, 1330 7th Street and Lincoln-Westmoreland thank you very much...

I'm all for affordable housing, but let's spread it around...Dupont or Georgetown would be good start...I'm sure it would be an easy sell for Mr. Evans...

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:51,
You know that there is a ton of density planned within blocks of Shaw Metro, right? Howard Town Center, (formerly) Broacast Center, Kelsey Gardens, O St Market are all within 4 blocks. I'm guessing that's 2 million SF of building. And that the Council has already legislated ADUs throughout the city with the Inclusionary Zoning requirement. AMI is a function of income, not any additional subsidized program from the government. Also, worforce housing I believe only refers to units in the 80-120% AMI pricing bracket.

Anonymous said...

"You know that there is a ton of density planned within blocks of Shaw Metro, right? Howard Town Center, (formerly) Broacast Center, Kelsey Gardens, O St Market are all within 4 blocks."

Sure, but none of it has come to fruition and all of it is dependent on lot's of public financing in an age of budgetary shortfalls. Some of these projects have been touted as 'coming soon' for 5+ years with little to no movement - only promises.

Unknown on Jul 16, 2010, 1:53:00 PM said...

"You bed that there is a ton of spacing predetermined within blocks of Humorist Metro, justice? Howard Townsfolk Centre, (formerly) Broacast Central, Kelsey Gardens, O St Activity are all within 4 blocks."

Reliable, but hour of it has locomote to fruition and all of it is helpless on lot's of semipublic financing in an age of budgetary shortfalls. Some of these projects mortal been touted as 'upcoming soon' for 5+ life with minuscule to no motion - exclusive promises.

Homes Real State

Anonymous said...

We have some of that "scattered" affordable housing being developed at a fire station the 1300 block of Maryland Av NE. They sold the building really cheaply to provide DC jobs, and a couple of affordable condos with the usual condos. They are at the gutting stage, and every single contraction worker's car has Maryland tags. They can't even find a DC resident to tear out a wall? No wonder we need low income housing.

Anonymous said...

"Sure, but none of it has come to fruition and all of it is dependent on lot's of public financing in an age of budgetary shortfalls. Some of these projects have been touted as 'coming soon' for 5+ years with little to no movement - only promises."

but that's not what concerned you, you were upset that there wasn't more density on Parcel 42. so I pointed out the density that was planned in the neighborhood.

In my opinion, part of the problem that expecations are set that are unreasonable. and it has a lot to do with the way the development process is set up. when you are required to discuss your plans with the ANC and neighborhood groups early in the process (like with a PUD, which can take 2 years+ to plan), people think change is imminent. add shopping your deal to banks and equity partners, getting construction contracts negotiated and finalized, and not to mention a global financial meltdown that has frozed the credit markets for 2 years, and years go by despite everyone's best efforts. I understand the frustration people have, but sometimes it seems to me that people think this kind of thing is easy.

Anonymous said...

This article is wrong stating that the community opposes the loss of affordably units. Its the EXACT opposite. I suggest everyone check out the 140 comments on Prince of Petworth blog regarding this topic. I would say over 95% of the responses were totally opposed to anymore low income housing in Shaw, Columbia Heights etc. Why doesn't Evans move this to G'town or anywhere in upper NW? Times are changing in DC. Its time for the Council to realize that.

Brooks Butler Hays on Jul 16, 2010, 3:38:00 PM said...

The article intends to report that the community leaders and activists in the area had been outspoken and explicitly vocal about their opposition to the new plans. I had seen the comments on the blog you are referring to, and was/am well aware of those sentiments, however I didn't feel like anonymous blog posts were official enough of a community position to give them credence. Not to say that those sentiments are unfounded or incorrect, but they were not so much in the public discourse that they warranted inclusion in the article.

Anonymous said...

"Why doesn't Evans move this to G'town or anywhere in upper NW?"

One, IZ has the effect of putting affordable housing in Georgetown and Upper NW. Two, the decision to put this building were it is are the economics of a project. Land costs more in Georgetown. You can argue the reasons for this, put it is a fact. Because of this, you need to get more money for each unit you rent or sell. By need, I mean the people giving you the money (banks and investors) require a certain return, and more expensive land needs more expensive units to achieve that return. It has nothing to do with greed, racism, or any other social problem. it is a function of economics.

Anonymous said...

ANON: 3:18

You don't know where the people who post on PoP live. How can you say they represent the community? There are PoP posters who do not live in the city or in the region. One Blog does not equal community sentiment MORON.

"This article is wrong stating that the community opposes the loss of affordably units. Its the EXACT opposite. I suggest everyone check out the 140 comments on Prince of Petworth blog regarding this topic. I would say over 95% of the responses were totally opposed to anymore low income housing in Shaw, Columbia Heights etc. "

KstreetQB said...


I live at 8th & Q. This ONEDC movement is utter BS. Shaw has done enough for public housing, and they truly are lobbying for a socially engineered ghetto.

Subsidized Housing Projects within a FEW blocks (0-4) of parcel 42:
LINCOLN WESTMORELAND I – 1730 7TH ST NW (Huge, within a block)
LINCOLN WESTMORELAND II – 1711 8TH ST NW (Huge, within a block)

It's absurd. You go out to a 10 block radius and there are another 10 projects.

MORE affordable housing options in Shaw? Come on...

Anonymous said...

NO MORE AFFORDABLE HOUSING IN SHAW! PLEASE! I am not opposed to affordable housing, I just think that a little spacing is desirable. There is already subsidized housing on 2 corners of that intersection (across Rhode Island and across 7th). It's really quite sad what has happened to this historic area...

8th R St said...

What about the area Workforce people who income is not 60,000 a year. Im all for and would love to see P42 as a affordable housing. ONEDC is doing a good job on this project. Thank you ONEDC

KStreetQB said...

@ 8th R St:

You know very well, if you are actually from where your sig says you are, that the corner of 8th & R is Lincoln Westmoreland I, Lincoln Westmoreland II AND Foster House.

So to answer your question THOSE places are where people earning under 60k can live.

Subsidized housing outnumbers nonsubsidized like 20 units to one in that area.

CCCA Prez on Jul 19, 2010, 8:36:00 PM said...

"The Community" cannot voice an opinion on plans that the government has yet to make fully public. This is not likely to happen for a couple of months. The protestors don't know exactly what they are protesting. Focussing on the scandalous lack of development in Shaw keeps up the negative buzz that sends most developers to other Wards. Meanwhile, projects like Gibson Plaza's 2010 renovation — which will raise the bar very high for "low/moderate income housing projects in the District — get ignored by protestors and the media.

Brian in Shaw said...

@Brooks Butler Hays

You're absolutely right that comments on a blog are no way to measure public opinion in Shaw, but your article doesn't do much better. Vaguely citing "community leaders, ANC officers, as well as local citizens" without specifying who, specifically, you are referring to provides readers absolutely no basis for making a judgment about community opinion. What local citizens? Which community leaders?

I'm impressed by OneDC's dedication and generally sympathetic to their cause, but I'm skeptical that clustering more low-income housing on 7th street is the right solution. I suspect that many, but perhaps not most (nobody has really answered that question yet), Shaw residents agree with me.

This is a complex, difficult issue. We could really use some clarity on a host of issues, among them the current proposal for Parcel 42, whether the folks camped out are Shaw residents, and an empirical breakdown of subsidized housing density around the city.

Vague statements passed off as fact do not move this discussion forward.

Brooks Butler Hays on Jul 21, 2010, 12:05:00 AM said...



are each articles that articulate at least some general consensus and specific accounts of community support for the original project ...

Virginia Lee, OneDC’s representative who originally signed the MOU with the city

also ...

community leader and ANC Commissioner Alex Padro–another original signatory to the MOU

certainly dissenting opinion existed, but it existed either privately or sometimes inappropriately expressed as anonymous blog posts, so there was not much of an official public dissenting opinion to cover in the article. and clearly commenters are providing that balance on their own, as i knew some would.

Brian in Shaw said...

@ Brooks Butler Hays

I appreciate the links, but they don't do much to advance your argument.

The first quotes two people, Jack Evans and Alex Padro on seemingly different sides of the issue. Padro mentions "community leaders" but offers no specifics. Who are these people he is referring to? I'm not trying to be difficult; I honestly just don't know. But unless you or he spell is out the claim doesn't hold much water.

The second is an editorial written by a OneDC representative. That's useful info that I hadn't seen. She makes a compelling case, but an article written by OneDC is hardly evidence that the Shaw community supports OneDC's position.

The third actually seems to contradict the point you were trying to make in that the praise is for a different proposal than the one OneDC supported. It even goes on to question OneDC's motives by suggesting they have some financial interest in the original project.

I have no idea whether that is true. But those are the sort of questions, along with actually gauging public support in Shaw rather than relying on rumor and innuendo, that should be explored before any decisions are made about Parcel 42.

Brooks Butler Hays on Jul 21, 2010, 1:07:00 PM said...

The point is, I'm not making an argument, nor trying convince you specifically of anything. I have no agenda. I was just communicating a perception of the state of things concerning this drama/series of events. The ANC supported the original proposal. Of course that does not account for the entirety of the community's varying opinions on the matter, but is as official as it gets as far as community position on real estate developments. So take it or leave, I'll try my best to offer more specifics in the future.

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