Over the years, Hill East residents have heard a lot of excuses from the city about why the Reservation 13/Hill East Waterfront development has stalled. But the excuse I heard from Victor Hoskins, the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, during Mayor Gray’s April 25 Ward 6 Budget Town Hall meeting, was particularly absurd.
The set up: During the town hall, I asked Mayor Gray 1) why his FY14 budget does not include infrastructure funding for Reservation 13, and 2) why his Administration never talks about Reservation 13 when listing the city’s current economic development projects.
Mayor Gray responded that Reservation 13 is a priority for his Administration and turned the mic over to Deputy Mayor Hoskins, who said “its a weak market over there” referring to Hill East.
Here is a clip of the exchange. Note that a portion of my question was edited out. The exchange lasts roughly 4 minutes.
Now I may not be a real estate expert, but here are some facts for Deputy Mayor Hoskins:
- According to a recent report by UrbanTurfDC, homes in Hill East (zip code 20003) are selling faster than in any other zip code in the city.
- In the last few months, two development teams have announced plans to build large residential buildings (81 units at 1550 Penn Ave SE and 40 units at 1500 Penn Ave SE) in my Single Member District, which is adjacent to Reservation 13. That is on top of the 141-apartment Kennedy Row project across from Eastern High School on East Capitol Street and the new 10-unit condo building at 321 18th Street SE.
- In addition to its advantageous location between Wards 6 & 7 and on the Anacostia waterfront, Reservation 13 is one of the last remaining undeveloped parcels of land that sits on a Metro stop.
- Unlike other development projects in the city, Reservation 13 has had a master plan in place for 10 years and zoning in place for 4 years.
It is clear Reservation 13 does not suffer from “weak market demand.” The reality is it suffers from a lack of political will. While other worthy development projects across the city receive infrastructure funding in the Mayor’s FY14 budget (Walter Reed, Skyland, Poplar Point, etc.), Reservation 13 doesn’t receive a dime.
When you also consider:
1) DMPED’s removal of a key development incentive (right of first refusal) from the most recent Reservation 13 RFEI,
2) the city’s lack of a plan for the DC General shelter,
3) distractions such as the proposed Redskins training facility and
4) zero mentions of Reservation 13 at the Mayor’s town halls nor in any of DMPED’s economic development presentations,
it is easy to understand why plans to develop the entire site remain stalled.
However, we do have an opportunity to evaluate Donatelli/Blue Skye’s proposal for parcel’s F1 and G1. I encourage you to join ANC 6B’s Hill East Task Force on Wed., May 22 from 6:30 pm - 8:00 pm at St. Coletta of Greater Washington (1901 Independence Ave SE) to hear a presentation from Donatelli/Blue Skye and to ask questions of the development team and DMPED.
If the community supports the Donatelli/Blue Skye proposal, let’s hope Mayor Gray and Deputy Mayor Hoskins allow the project to proceed. The last thing we need is more excuses.