Reservation 13 Update: DMPED Receives Only One Response to RFEI

Yesterday, the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development’s office (DMPED) announced that only one development team submitted a response to the Request for Expressions of Interest to develop parcels F1 & G1 of the Hill East/Reservation 13 project. As reported by Jonathan O’Connell of the Washington Post, the sole response was submitted by the team of Donatelli Development and Blue Skye Development. Some previous bidders, including William C. Smith & Co, decided not to bid this time around.

To say that I’m disappointed is an understatement. In making the decision to start from scratch and rebid the site, the city argued that the recovering market would translate into more development teams bidding on the site (they also referenced a shaky legal argument). Now, instead of choosing between two responses from teams who had submitted plans for the entire site back in 2008,  the city and neighborhood now have only one option to evaluate.

Here are my best guesses as to why the city only received one response:

  • Removal of “right of first refusal” language. In their revised RFEI, DMPED removed language that gave the development team that won the right to develop parcels F1 & G1 the right  of first refusal to develop the rest of the site. The right of first refusal was a huge incentive for developers to bid on the scaled-back project and also demonstrated a commitment by the city to eventually develop the entire site. 
  • No money for infrastructure. The RFEI required development teams to pay for all infrastructure improvements, including the construction of public roadways. Back when Mayor Gray, Councilmember Jack Evans and former Councilmember Michael Brown were trying to lure the Redskins to build a training facility on the site, they said that while the city would not cover the cost of building the  facility, the city would cover the cost of infrastructure. Unfortunately, the city is  unwilling to make the same commitment to a project that is a much better use of the site – one that will provide new tax revenue, jobs and housing. The Mayor has budgeted infrastructure funds for other development projects, such as St. Elizabeth’s. Why is he not willing to do so for Hill East?
  • No plan for social services.  This is probably the main reason that developers remain skeptical about Reservation 13. The city does not have a plan for relocating any of the services located on the 67-acre site. I plan on continuing to urge the city to come up with a concrete and comprehensive relocation plan – one that will provide some certainty to the neighborhood and development community.

I am appreciative that Donatelli and Blue Skye submitted a response and I’m eager to learn more about their plans. Donatelli was a partner in one of the top two bids in 2008.  But as I argued last year, the city should have selected one of the two scaled-back responses submitted in 2010. Instead, the city wasted another year re-bidding the project with a worse result.

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11 Responses to Reservation 13 Update: DMPED Receives Only One Response to RFEI

  1. Carlos A. says:

    Thanks for the update Brian. I agree with your guesses as to why more developers did not bid on the project and share your dissapointment in the city’s treatment of this valuable land. Hoping that the Donatelli bid is a good one.

  2. Carlos B says:

    Brian you do realize that the Res 13/RFK is the only possibility of the DC ever getting the Administration’s beloved Skins to come back and that any significant development of the nature you prefer could preclude the second-coming? City will undermine (at best) or otherwise torpedo any chance of this happening. Focus attention elsewhere

    • bflahaven says:

      Thanks for the comment. Reservation 13 and RFK are not the same site. The RFK site is north of Res. 13. The city could pursue both mixed-use development at Res. 13 and a new stadium at RFK (though I could think of many better uses for the RFK site than a new football stadium). I might agree with you if the ill-advised Redskins training facility at Res. 13 was still in play but thankfully Virginia has taken it off the table.

  3. Colleen Garibaldi says:

    Brian, thanks for letting us know about the development response. I look forward to the community presentation of the proposal received and sincerely hope they don’t cancel this opportunity for the community to see what at least one group has to offer.

    Colleen Garibaldi
    1850 Potomac Ave SE

  4. Frank Zampatori, 18th & Mass. Ave. SE says:

    Excellent analysis on the latest developments on Reservation 13. We are frequently told that the city has no funds to spend on infrastructure improvements on the site which could very well attract developers. The WP reports on January 26 that the city will report a budget surplus of $400 million for FY 2012 on top of a $240 million surplus for FY 2011. So the money is there. What is missing is an interest and a will by our mayor and our local councilmember to pursue complete development options for the entire 67 acre site. The WP article on the budget surplus was posted to the newhilleast list serv on Sunday.

    • bflahaven says:

      Thanks Frank. As I mentioned in my post, it does appear that other development projects are getting infrastructure and other funds from the city. Why should Res. 13 be treated differently.

  5. [...] Why only one development team bid on Hill East parcel (Flahaven) [...]

  6. Justin S. says:

    Brain, your thoughts as always are appreciated. The “right to first refusal” clause should have never been removed. The entire site has to be planned for and then building phase can begin otherwise this becomes a road to nowhere. Is the city going to move forward with this proposal or take another few years to rethink the planning of R13?

    • bflahaven says:

      Thanks for the comment Justin. It is unclear whether the city will move forward with the Donatelli Blue Skye proposal, though I do hope that we get a chance to see the proposal. I hope we don’t have to wait several more years to get development started on this site.

  7. [...] meeting, representatives of Donatelli Development/Blue Skye, the sole respondent to DMPED’s most recent RFEI, will present their plans for parcels F1 and G1. I’ll provide additional information as the [...]

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