ANC 6B March Meeting Recap

March 16, 2015

Here is a recap of major actions from ANC 6B’s March 10 meeting:

  • The commission voted unanimously to urge the Department of General Services to re-issue its Request for Proposals for the Eastern Branch Building. In a letter (pdf) to DGS, the commission urges notes that both responses to the initial RFP were flawed and asks the agency to extend the allowable lease terms. The letter also includes specific comments on both the Century Associates and Dantes Partners/Menkiti Group proposals. It is unclear whether DGS will agree to re-issue the RFP or proceed with one of the proposals.
  • I was really pleased that the commission voted 10-0 to send a letter to Mayor Bowser urging her to support and fund the Capitol Riverside Youth Sports Park proposal. The proposal would convert a portion of the wasteful north parking lots at RFK Stadium into athletic fields and outdoor recreation space serving city residents.  The CRYSP proposal exemplifies the kind of creative thinking the city needs when considering the future of the RFK Stadium site.
  • The commission voted 6-1-3 to withdraw its protest of the Ugly Mug Dining Saloon’s request for a substantial change to allow expansion of its second floor capacity. ANC 6B and the applicant agreed on a settlement agreement that limits the hours that a new retractable roof can be open and prohibits the roof from being opened during live entertainment events. A big thanks to Commissioner Jim Loots (6B03), the nearby neighbors and the applicant for all the time and effort they put into reaching this agreement.
  • Brynn Barnett, a 6B10 resident, was unanimously elected chair of the ANC 6B Hill East Task Force. The vote marked the first time that ANC 6B has elected a non-commissioner to chair one of its task forces. A big thanks to Brynn for volunteering to serve in this important role.
  • The commission also approved resident members for both the Hill East and Outreach & Constituent Service Task Forces. I particularly want to thank Julianne Bythrow, Katie Donahue, Nike Opadiran, Ross Parman and Pat Taylor for agreeing to represent 6B09 on the Hill East Task Force.
  • On a 9-0-1 vote, the commission authorized testimony (pdf) at the March 11 WMATA performance oversight hearing. The testimony was delivered by Commissioner Denise Krepp (6B10) in front of the Committee on Finance and Revenue.
  • Commissioners and attendees heard a presentation from Rashee Kumar with the Neighborhood and Victim Services unit of the DC Office of the Attorney General about how the office can help with vacant and nuisance properties.
  • Note that ANC 6B’s April meeting, originally scheduled for April 14, has been moved to Monday, April 20 due to DCPS spring break. As always, the meeting will take place at 7 pm at the Hill Center.

Attend March 12 Community Meeting on Future of NY Pizza Site

March 11, 2015

Another major development project is coming to Hill East! On Thursday, March 12, developer CAS Riegler will host a community meeting to discuss their initial plans for the current NY Pizza site (1401 Pennsylvania Ave SE). The meeting will begin at 7 pm at the Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Ave SE). Attendees will have an opportunity to share ideas and provide comments to the development team.

Note that this is a community meeting hosted by the developer. Any development plans for the site will likely come before ANC 6B later this year. You can read more about the developer and submit comments/ideas on the CAS Riegler website.


Testimony on Reservation 13/Hill East and Future of RFK Stadium Site

March 8, 2015

On Fri., March 6, I testified on behalf of ANC 6B at the Committee of the Whole’s performance oversight hearing for the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. My testimony (below) focused on Reservation 13/Hill East Development and the future of the RFK Stadium site.

Good morning Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee of the Whole. My name is Brian Flahaven, and I serve as vice chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B. My single member district, 6B09, lies in Hill East and includes Barney Circle, the Historic Congressional Cemetery, and the Eastern Branch Building.

I’m here today to testify about the Hill East Development, also known as Reservation 13, the future of the RFK Stadium site and the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Study. I’m testifying on behalf of ANC 6B, which approved my testimony 10-0 during its February 10, 2015 meeting with a quorum present.

On March 2, Mayor Bowser and Donatelli/Blue Skye signed the Land Disposition Agreement for Phase I of the Hill East Development, which consists of two mixed-use residential/retail buildings next to the Stadium-Armory Metro. The Donatelli/Blue Skye project is consistent with the community-supported Reservation 13 master plan and the Hill East District zoning on the site. We are pleased that after years of distractions, three RFPs and numerous delays, the Hill East Development is finally moving forward. We are eager to start working with the development team and ANC 7F to review plans and designs for the mixed use project.

We want to thank Mayor Bowser, former Mayor Gray, Councilmembers Allen and Alexander, former Councilmember Tommy Wells, current Deputy Mayor Brian Kenner, former interim Deputy Mayor Jeff Miller, Donatelli/Blue Skye and DMPED Hill East Director Ketan Gada for moving this initial phase forward.

Of course, Phase I is only the first step to realizing the full vision of the community and Council-supported Reservation 13 master plan. We urge Mayor Bowser and Deputy Mayor Kenner to take action immediately to prepare the remaining parcels of the Hill East site for development. Specifically, DMPED should be:

  • Working with the Department of Human Services on a plan to close the temporary homeless shelter at DC General and begin transitioning homeless families and individuals into better housing options. The current policy of housing up to 300 homeless families in a dilapidated, deteriorating old hospital building completely separated from the surrounding neighborhood is an embarrassment to the city and completely counterproductive to the ultimate goal of ending homelessness. While former Mayor Gray released a plan to replace DC General with smaller scale shelters, city officials have not funded the plan nor made it a priority.
  • Developing a plan for transitioning social services located on the site. The Reservation 13 master plan envisions, and we certainly support, continuing to provide existing services on the site at a reasonable scale in new facilities constructed on parcel L.

To ensure that DMPED is looking beyond the first phase of the Hill East Development, I urge the committee to ask Deputy Mayor Kenner and his team a few additional questions:

  1. What is the timeline for future phases of the Hill East Development?
  2. Does DMPED plan to continue developing Hill East parcel-by-parcel? Or is DMPED considering issuing one RFEI for the remainder of the site?
  3. If parcel-by-parcel, what parcels are being considered for phase II?
  4. Is DMPED working with the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services and the Department of Human Services on a plan for eventual closure of DC General?

In addition to the Hill East Development, our commission is also very interested in the future of the RFK Stadium site – another waterfront site that sits on top of a Metro station. The redevelopment of the RFK site could be a potential boon to Capitol Hill, Hill East, the Anacostia River and the entire city if city leaders are open to some creative and imaginative thinking. But it appears that some city officials have determined that a new NFL football stadium is the obvious future and best use of the site – a use that would provide minimal benefit to the city.

Last year, Mayor Gray asked Events DC to conduct a study on future uses for the RFK Stadium site. We understand that Events DC has hired the consulting firm of Brailsford and Dunlavey to conduct a study of future uses of the site. While we certainly respect Events DC, they are clearly interested in future uses for the site that meet their mission to attract and promote sporting events.

Given the tremendous potential for the site, we think that DMPED and/or the Office of Planning should be playing a role in this study to make sure that all potential uses are being examined. We encourage you to ask Deputy Mayor Kenner and Director Shaw if they are aware of the RFK study and if their agencies plan to be involved in the study moving forward.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the Office of Planning’s work on the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Planning Study. At the request of former Councilmember Tommy Wells, OP was asked to bring a holistic perspective to the District Department of Transportation’s study and OP’s final recommendations are a dramatic improvement over the original DDOT concepts. Our experience suggests the city should ensure that OP is involved from the beginning on such projects in the future.
Thank you for your time, and I’d be happy to answer any questions.

 


FINALLY! Mayor Bowser Signs LDA for Reservation 13/Hill East Development

March 2, 2015
Mayor Bowser signs the Res. 13/Hill East LDA with Chris Donatelli of Donatelli Development (to her left) and Scottie Irving of Blue Skye Construction (to her right) while Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen and Deputy Mayor Brian Kenner look on.

Mayor Muriel Bowser signs the Res. 13/Hill East LDA with Chris Donatelli of Donatelli Development (left) and Scottie Irving of Blue Skye Construction (right) as Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen and Brian Kenner, Acting Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, look on.

After twelve long years, the city is finally moving forward on mixed use development at Reservation 13! Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) for Phase I of the Res. 13/Hill East Development. The agreement allows Donatelli/Blue Skye development to move forward with design, permitting and construction of their mixed-use project for Parcels F1 & G1 on the site.

Donatelli/Blue Skye plan to build two buildings surrounding the Stadium-Armory Metro Plaza. The mixed-use buildings will include 354 residential units and 40,000 square feet of retail (20,000 sf in each building). Thirty percent, or 106, of the residential units will be affordable. Michael Neibauer of the Washington Business Journal is reporting that Donatelli/Blue Skye hope to break ground in 2016 with completion slated for 2018.

Obviously, this is a big day for Hill East. I want to thank Mayor Bowser for making the Hill East LDA her first LDA signing as Mayor and for her strong support of the project. I also want to acknowledge the contributions of Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander, former Mayor Gray, former Ward 6 Councilmembers Tommy Wells and Sharon Ambrose, former ANC 6B Commissioners Francis Campbell and Ken Jarboe and the many Hill East residents who have continued to push the city to move forward on this long-stalled development. In addition, I want to thank Donatelli Development and Blue Skye Construction for pursuing development plans at Reservation 13 and our ANC 7F colleagues for their support.

Of course, this is only the first phase of the full development. The Mayor and Council need to act now to prepare the rest of the site for development. I plan on continuing to work with my colleagues on ANC 6B and ANC 7F to make sure that pursuing the entire Res. 13/Hill East Development remains a priority.


Testimony on Future of RFK Stadium Site

February 27, 2015

On Wed., Feb. 25, I testified on behalf of ANC 6B at the Committee on Finance and Revenue’s performance oversight hearing for Events DC. My testimony (below) focused on the future of the RFK Stadium site. 

Good morning Chairman Evans and members of the Committee on Finance and Revenue. My name is Brian Flahaven, and I serve as vice chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B. My single member district, 6B09, lies in Hill East and is located immediately west of the Hill East Waterfront, also known as Reservation 13. My district also includes Barney Circle, the Historic Congressional Cemetery, and the Eastern Branch Boys & Girls Club Building.

I’m here today to provide testimony on our commission’s experience with Events DC and, in particular, our views about the future of a critical piece of land the authority oversees – the RFK Stadium site. I’m testifying on behalf of ANC 6B, which approved my testimony 9-0 during its February 10 meeting with a quorum present. We appreciate Events DC’s efforts to keep our commission and constituents informed about events happening at RFK Stadium, the Armory and the surrounding parking lots. As you know, the site is immediately adjacent to a residential rowhouse neighborhood. Events DC’s quarterly community outreach meetings and frequent event e-mails have been extremely helpful. We particularly want to acknowledge the efforts of Erik Moses, Events DC’s senior vice president and managing director, and Theresa DuBois, Events DC’s external affairs manager, to keep our constituents and the commission informed and engaged.

With DC United set to move out of RFK Stadium in the next couple of years, our focus is on potential uses for this valuable site – a waterfront site that sits on top of a Metro station. The redevelopment of the RFK site could be a potential boon to Hill East, the health of the Anacostia River, Capitol Hill, and the entire city if city leaders are open to some creative and imaginative thinking. But it appears that some city officials have determined that a new NFL football stadium is the obvious future and best use of the site. You’ve been quoted, Chairman Evans, as saying “There’s nothing else you can do there.”

We strongly disagree. While we understand the lure of the site’s tradition and history, a new football stadium at RFK will bring the city and the neighborhood very little. First, football stadiums are used 10 times a year for games, leaving an empty shell the remainder of the time. Second, since tailgating is part of the football experience, football stadiums are typically surrounded by empty parking lots. At RFK, that would mean the continued separation of the surrounding neighborhood from the Anacostia waterfront. Third, a football stadium will not attract new businesses nor help existing businesses in our neighborhood since NFL owners make money when fans buy their concessions in the stadium itself. If you need an example, when was the last time you went shopping or dining at a local business or restaurant next to FedEx Field?

Instead of solely pining for a new stadium that will bring little, city leaders should be open to other uses for the site. For example, a neighborhood-serving sports complex with recreational fields and/or an outdoor environmental education center that draws upon the waterfront location could be better potential uses for the site. Hill East is in desperate need of more playing fields for youth sports and activities and a sports complex would comply with the terms of the National Park Service lease. An environmental education center could provide youth a positive connection to the Anacostia River while providing the city with a destination for environmental education, sustainability and recreational fun.

Speaking of the NPS lease, why can’t it be changed? Why can’t the city develop a comprehensive plan similar to the National Capital Planning Commission’s 2006 plan that includes significant recreational use and some mixed-use development on portions of the site? Such a plan could be used to lobby Congress to amend the lease and/or transfer the land. That is exactly the strategy the city used 10 years ago to successfully obtain Reservation 13, the 67-acre site that sits immediately south of the RFK site, from the federal government.

We are committed to working with Events DC, city officials and our colleague commissions – ANCs 7D, 7F and 6A – to think creatively about the best future uses for the RFK Stadium site. We understand that Events DC has hired the consulting firm of Brailsford and Dunlavey to conduct a study of future uses of the site. While we would prefer that the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and the Office of Planning were leading this effort, we take Events DC at its word that the study will include robust neighborhood engagement and alternatives that do not include a stadium.

One final point. If the city decides to pursue a football stadium on the site once the study is completed, we should remember that the District has and should retain the upper hand in any negotiations. If media reports are correct that Mr. Snyder wants to build a new stadium at RFK, he should not only pay for the stadium but should also pay for the land, infrastructure and taxes associated with the site. He should also be required to build a stadium that is consistent with the city’s vision of the Anacostia waterfront – a waterfront connected to the surrounding neighborhoods (i.e. no surface parking lots). If Mr. Snyder wants taxpayer dollars to subsidize any of these costs or doesn’t agree with this vision, he can go look for a site in Maryland and Virginia, and the District can pursue alternative, better uses for the RFK Stadium land.

Thank you for your time and I’d be happy to answer any questions.


DGS Releases Eastern Branch Building BAFO Summary

February 26, 2015

The DC Department of General Services has shared a summary of the Best and Final Offer (BAFO) responses submitted by the two teams interested in redeveloping the Eastern Branch Building (261 17th Street SE). Here is a link to the document:

DGS asked each development team – Dantes Partners/Menkiti Group and Century Associates – to respond to the BAFO attendees voiced concerns about various aspects of each proposal at the January 20 community presentation meeting. The BAFO clarified that:

  • Development teams must comply with a new District law that requires a minimum 30 percent affordable housing requirement on property surplused by the District. Dantes/Menkiti is proposing 100 percent affordable units. Century Associates is still proposing 100 percent market rate units.
  • While DGS will not contribute public funds for the project, both teams are able to seek non-District sources of financing such as Low Income Housing Tax Credits. Dantes/Menkiti plans to use LIHTC to finance its project. Century Associates does not plan to use other public funding.
  • Both projects will need to seek zoning relief from the Board of Zoning Adjustment for their plans.
  • A reiteration that DGS intends to into a ground lease of 25-years with a development team. Dantes/Menkiti can meet the 25-year lease requirement. Century Associates can not finance their project with a 25-year lease.

Based on the BAFO response summary, it is pretty clear that DGS is down to one proposal for the site – Dantes/Menkiti. Instead of providing additional flexibility in the BAFO, DGS essentially doubled-down on their original RFP terms, including the ridiculously short lease requirement. I’m extremely frustrated that this process has led to a choice of one.

ANC 6B will be submitting formal comments to the DGS on the proposals in March. Anyone who wishes to comment or provide feedback to the ANC is encouraged to attend ANC 6B’s Planning & Zoning Committee on Tues., March 3, 7 pm at St. Coletta of Greater Washington (1901 Independence Ave SE).


ANC 6B February Meeting Recap

February 18, 2015

Visits by Mayor Muriel Bowser and Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen were the highlights of ANC 6B’s Feb. 10 meeting at the Hill Center. Here is a recap of major actions:

  • Mayor Bowser stopped by to talk about her first month in office and the senior team she has assembled. The Mayor took questions on the Hine redevelopment, Potomac Gardens and how to improve pedestrian crossings around the neighborhood. I asked the Mayor about DC General and restated her commitment to close the deteriorating shelter, “hopefully by next winter.” In response to a question about development in Reservation 13, she expressed optimism that the Donatelli/Blue Skye plans will create momentum to develop the rest of the site. You can read more about the Mayor’s comments at Capitol Hill Corner.
  • Following the Mayor, Councilmember Allen discussed his priorities for Ward 6 and the city, including his Books from Birth Initiative, a program where the city would mail one book monthly to every child from birth to age 5.
  • The commission unanimously elected Commissioners Nick Burger (6B06), Chander Jayaraman (6B08) and Kirsten Oldenburg (6B04) to chair the planning & zoning, alcoholic beverage control and transportation committees respectively. The commission also unanimously appointed resident members to serve on the three committees. A big thanks to 6B09 resident Keith Smith for volunteering to serve on the transportation committee.
  • The commission also unanimously approved my bylaws and standing rules amendments to allow ANC 6B residents to chair commission task forces. Residents who have served at least one year as an ANC 6B commissioner or ANC resident member on a committee or task force will be eligible to run to chair the Hill East or Outreach and Constituent Services task force at the commission’s March 10 meeting. More information will be posted soon on the ANC 6B website.
  • While tremendous progress has been made on a Settlement Agreement addressing noise and other issues, I voted with the majority (7-0-3) to support the nearby neighbor’s request for a continuance (pdf) in the ongoing protest of the Ugly Mug. The Ugly Mug is seeking a substantial change to its liquor license to allow for a significant expansion of the establishment, including the addition of a retractable roof. I’m hopeful that an agreement between all parties can be reached in March.
  • I also voted with the majority (6-3-1) of the commission to send a letter (pdf) to the National Park Service withdrawing ANC 6B’s conditional support of Marion Park as the site of a proposed Francis Marion Memorial. Instead of leading to more neighborhood engagement, the commission’s letter has been misused by NPS to suggest strong community support for the project. The project is currently suspended due to fundraising struggles and the need for Congress to extend its authorization.
  • ANC 6B voted unanimously to support commission testimony at a number of DC Council agency oversight hearings (pdf). I plan to testify on behalf of the commission at the Events DC, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, Alcoholic Beverage Regulatory Administration and Department of Human Services hearings.
  • The commission voted unanimously to approve its Quarterly Report for FY15, Quarter 1.
  • ANC 6B’s March meeting will be on Tues., March 10, 7 pm at the Hill Center.

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