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.

Hill East Task Force to Discuss Eastern Branch Redevelopment Proposals

February 6, 2015

ANC 6B’s Hill East Task Force will meet on Thursday, Feb. 12 to discuss and seek community feedback on redevelopment proposals for the Eastern Branch Building. The meeting will be from 6:30 – 8:00 pm at St. Coletta of Greater Washington (1901 Independence Avenue SE).

As I detailed in a previous post, the Jan. 20 community presentation of the two responses to the Department of General Services’ Eastern Branch Building RFP raised a number of questions. DGS is currently asking the two development teams – Dantes Partners/The Menkiti Group and Century Associates – to submit Best and Final Offers. I hope to have some additional information to share on next steps at the Feb. 12 meeting.

Note that ANC 6B will not consider weighing in or commenting on the proposals at our Feb. 10 meeting. The commission will likely debate and consider formal comments in March.

Residents Consider Redevelopment Proposals for Eastern Branch Building

January 23, 2015
The Eastern Branch Building, located at 261 17th Street SE. Photo by Century Associates.

The Eastern Branch Building, located at 261 17th Street SE. Photo by Century Associates.

Around 50-60 residents attended the Jan. 20 DC Department of General Services community meeting to review two responses the department received to its recent Request for Proposals for the Eastern Branch Building, the city-owned, vacant former Boys & Girls Club Building at 261 17th Street SE. At the beginning of the meeting, which was held at Payne Elementary School, Michelle Chin of DGS announced that the department hopes to make an award decision by the end of February.

Below is a brief summary of each proposal. You can view the full presentations on the DGS website.

Proposal 1 – Dantes Partners & The Menkiti Group 

Dantes Drawing (2)

  • 49 units of senior housing, 100% affordable (priced at roughly $1,000/month). All one bedroom units of roughly 600-800 square feet.
  • Preserves existing building facade but add a two-story addition. The addition would be set back from the existing facade.
  • Includes 5,000 square feet of community space. Open to working with the neighborhood on potential uses for the space. Building owner would operate and manage space.
  • Preserves key features of existing building, including the autograph wall and dance studio.
  • Parking would be provided within the building. Envision 10 spaces accessed off alley.
  • Working with the Departments of General Services and Public Works, would work to enhance Spielberg Park across the street from the building.
  • Financed with Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). Can work with 25-year lease requirement in DGS RFP.

Attendees asked Corey Powell of the Dantes/Menkiti team a number of questions about their concept, including:

  • Is the development team open to making the building more mixed income versus 100 percent affordable? Powell responded yes, though noted the need to comply with a new law that requires up to 30 percent of housing developed from DC-owned land and property to be affordable.
  • Is the addition necessary? Powell responded yes to make the project financially feasible and to support the community space.
  • Could the units be larger? Powell open to considering this but feel unit size is appropriate for target population (seniors).
  • Would the development team need zoning relief to construct the addition? Powell replied yes and are confident the relief would be granted.

Proposal 2 – Century Associates

Century Floor Plan (2)

  • 27 market rate units of senior housing (25 apartments plus 2 caregiver units). Open to co-housing or greenhouse concept (private units with shared common areas).
  • Maintains current building facade – no addition. Inside of building would be gutted.
  • Includes office space. Conversations ongoing with Capitol Hill Village about potential use of space.
  • Former gym would become a children’s play space (4,200 square feet). Space would be open to public but fee based.
  • Would add an amenity to the existing roof such as gardens for tenants.
  • As with Proposal 1, parking would be provided in building with access to garage off alley. Still working on number of parking spaces.
  • On the financial side, confident that project is feasible without the use of government funds. Seeking a 99-year lease on the building.

Here are some of the questions attendees asked Joel Kelty of Century Associates:

  • Can the financing for your project work without an addition? Kelty responded yes and emphasized they felt the building should maintain its current height and footprint. They also questioned whether an addition would be possible due to an existing cell phone tower lease on the rooftop.
  • What would be the average rent for a unit? Kelty responded around $3,000/month. Felt that RFP was asking for more mixed income senior housing versus 100% affordable senior housing.
  • How will the presence of significant hazardous materials in the current building affect your plans? Kelty replied that abatement will be challenging but believe their plan is feasible.
  • Is there anyway to include affordable units? Kelty responded that this would be very difficult to do financially and keep the building at its current footprint and height.
IMG_2707 (2)

Attendees listen to presentations at the Jan. 20 DGS Eastern Branch Building community meeting.

Unfortunately, the question and answer period resulted in more questions than answers, mainly for DGS. Kelty questioned whether LIHTC funding was prohibited by the RFP, noting that the RFP states that development teams can not seek public funding from the city. While LIHTC is federally funded, it is administered by DC. Century/Horizon also questioned whether the Board of Zoning Adjustment would approve the Dantes/Menkiti two-story addition and whether it was even feasible to do an addition given the existing antenna lease. Another question was whether the new 30 percent affordable housing requirement for DC-owned land applied to the RFP or not since the law was passed after the RFP was released.

Given these uncertainties, I stated my discomfort with having ANC 6B and neighbors weigh in on the proposals without further clarification from DGS. I certainly would not want the commission to support a proposal that was later disqualified due to the affordable housing requirement, zoning issues, etc. DGS responded that they may go back to both development teams seeking Best and Final Offers with all of the outstanding issues clarified. My inclination is to ask DGS to delay their award decision until March while the development teams seek clarity and the neighborhood can better consider what is and what is not possible on the site.

What do you think of the two proposals? Post your comments and feedback below.

ANC 6B January Meeting Recap

January 19, 2015

ANC 6B kicked off the new commission term on Tues., Jan. 13. Here is a recap of major commission actions:

  • The commission welcomed seven new commissioners to their first meeting – Commissioners Jennifer Samolyk (6B01), Diane Hoskins (6B02), James Loots (6B03), Steve Hagedorn (6B05), Nick Burger (6B06), Daniel Chao (6B07) and Denise Krepp (6B10).
  • After adopting the meeting agenda, the commission unanimously elected the following commissioners to officer positions:
    • Chair: Kirsten Oldenburg (6B04)
    • Vice Chair: Brian Flahaven (6B09)
    • Secretary: Daniel Chao
    • Treasurer: Diane Hoskins
    • Parliamentarian: Denise Krepp

    I’m looking forward to serving as vice chair of the commission this year and appreciate the support of my colleagues.

  • I reminded meeting attendees of the Jan. 20 DC Department of General Services community meeting to review responses to the Eastern Branch Building Request for Proposals. The meeting will be from 6:30-8:30 pm at Payne Elementary School (1445 C Street SE).
  • The commission voted 8-0-2 to support the floor area, lot occupancy and parking variance requests for the proposed 10-unit condo building at 1330-1336 Pennsylvania Avenue SE (La Lomita). I voted in support of the variance requests, particularly since the applicant made a major concession in agreeing to prohibit building residents from seeking Residential Parking Permits. A big thanks to Commissioner Nick Burger for helping bring the neighbors and applicant to the negotiating table.
  • The commission voted unanimously to send comments to the District Department of Transportation on the updated alternatives for the Pennsylvania & Potomac Avenues SE Intersection Pedestrian Safety Study. While the commission’s letter does not indicate a preferred alternative, I personally like the Ellipse Park concept the best. DDOT plans to hold another public meeting on this project sometime this winter.
  • The commission discussed the Ugly Mug’s (723 8th Street SE) plans to seek a public space permit to build an indoor structure to house trash in the alley behind the establishment. If the DDOT Public Space Committee approves the permit, this case could be used as a model for restaurant indoor trash storage along commercial corridors. Since the case was moved to the DDOT Public Space Committee’s February agenda, ANC 6B did not vote on the application and will hear the case again next month.
  • ANC 6B voted unanimously to select Commissioners Diane Hoskins and Steve Hagedorn to serve as the commission’s representative and alternate, respectively, on the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee.
  • The commission unanimously approved new standing rules and the 2015 meeting schedule.
  • ANC 6B’s February meeting will be on Tues., Feb. 10, 7 pm at the Hill Center.

Meeting Scheduled to Review Eastern Branch Building RFP Responses

January 8, 2015

The DC Department of General Services has scheduled a meeting for the community to review responses to its recent Eastern Branch Building Request for Proposals. The meeting will take place on Tuesday, January 20, 6:30-8:30 pm at Payne Elementary School (1445 C Street SE). I encourage all residents – particularly those that live around or near the former Boys & Girls Club building (261 17th Street SE) – to attend the Jan. 20 meeting.

Note that ANC 6B will vote on a preferred response at our Feb. 3 Planning & Zoning Committee meeting and Feb. 13 full commission meeting.


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