Around 30 residents joined the ANC 6B Hill East Task Force on Wed., Oct. 5 for an update on the Eastern Branch Boys & Girls Club Building.
Before I share some of the meeting highlights, I encourage you to subscribe to the Eastern Branch Yahoo Group, a list that will be used to provide periodic updates on the building to interested residents. The Eastern Branch Yahoo Group will not be like newhilleast and other neighborhood listservs – updates will only be sent out when new information is available about the Eastern Branch Building.
Now for the highlights:
- Due to financial difficulty, the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Washington closed Eastern Branch in 2007 and sold the building, located at 17th and C Streets SE, to the DC government. At that time, Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells formed a task force to consider future uses of the building.
- The building is managed by the DC Department of Real Estate Services (soon to be merged into the new DC Dept. of General Services). Adenegan Olusegun, a project member with DRES, provided a brief update on the condition of the building, which has been vacant for four years. He said that an individual in the department would have responsibility for monitoring and maintaining the building.
- The building itself is enormous – around 45,000 square feet – and contains a basketball court and swimming pool. The pool has a large crack and is in need of significant repair. A number of famous athletes – Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal – autographed one of the building’s walls.
- Chuck Burger, chair of Councilmember Wells’ Eastern Branch Task Force, provided an overview of findings included in the task force report. He also acknowledged the other members of the Eastern Branch Task Force in attendance. View Chuck Burger’s meeting handout. (pdf)
- Burger said that the task force identified a number of hurdles to future development of the building, including:
- Maintenance work – one estimate suggests the building needs $13 million in maintenance work to get it in leasable condition
- Lack of Accessibility – the building would need to be brought up to Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance
- Lack of Parking – there is no dedicated parking lot at the building
- Operational model – the city needs a combination of three or four organizations that will be financially sustainable in the building
- The Eastern Branch Task Force report (pdf) lists a number of potential uses for the site, including:
- Administrative offices
- Adult services
- Community center
- Conference center and meeting rooms
- Dance school
- Daycare center
- Office space for municipal departments
- Recreation and sports center
- Senior center
- Special education
The task force vision is a building that will provide services and activities for the spectrum of residents living in Hill East and on Capitol Hill.
- According to Burger, charter schools, individuals, daycare providers, and youth organizations have all expressed interest in the building. Burger and Eastern Branch Task Force members want to get feedback from the neighborhood on what uses would be the most valuable for residents.
- Residents expressed concern about the potential impact of the site’s development on the immediate blocks surrounding the building. The main concern identified was parking. Potential solutions to the parking issue include providing satellite lot within walking distance of the site and/or designating street spaces for building use during specified hours.
- Attendees voiced support for a building that primarily served the surrounding neighborhood and the Capitol Hill community as a whole, as opposed to serving Maryland residents (one of the criticisms of the final years of the Boys & Girls Club).
- A few attendees also urged the community to support youth-related programs in the building. Youth in the neighborhood currently lack the recreational facilities that Eastern Branch used to provide.
- As a next step, there was clear support for a community tour at the building. A number of residents have either not been in the building or have not been in it in a long time. A tour would allow residents to learn about the site and its history and could generate some “buzz” for potential tenants or uses.
- Attendees and the Hill East Task Force also supported keeping interested residents engaged with the Eastern Branch Task Force and its future work. The creation of the Eastern Branch Yahoo Group is the first step in the process. Neighborhood action and support can help provide the momentum and energy necessary to redevelop the site.
- Since the Eastern Branch building is located in my single member district, I plan to continue to keep the neighborhood updated on its status. I also asked attendees and all residents to keep an eye on the building and to report any problems and concerns immediately. We want to make sure the building’s condition does not deteriorate further.
Please post your comments and questions on the meeting.