We had a great turnout of Ward 6 and Ward 7 residents for Thursday night’s Reservation 13 Community Meeting with Mayor Gray at the DC Armory. The Mayor, along with Councilmembers Jack Evans (Ward 2), Michael Brown (At-Large) and Yvette Alexander (Ward 7) shared their thoughts and answered questions for about 2 hours. Allen Lew, City Administrator and Victor Hoskins, Deputy Mayor for Planning Economic Development, also participated in the meeting. The Mayor’s main message – there is no “plan” for a training facility at Reservation 13 but the city is still exploring options.
Here were my takeaways:
- Mayor Gray said he was directing Deputy Mayor Hoskins to immediately seek best and final offers from the two developers that expressed interest in parcels F1 and G1 in 2010 (Reservation 13 site map (pdf)). This would normally be good news. While the “parcel by parcel” approach is not ideal, it at least gets development at Reservation 13 off the ground, particularly on the parcels around the Stadium-Armory Metro station. Unfortunately, the problem is once again…the training facility. Mayor Gray and Councilmembers Evans and Brown were unwilling to state that parcels F1 and G1 were off-limits for a proposed training facility. So, the city will basically be asking the developers to put time, money and effort into submitting plans for two parcels that could be suddenly pulled off the table if a training facility deal is made. Are we really going to get best and final offers with all of this uncertainty?
- Most disappointing moment? Mayor Gray and Councilmember Jack Evans continuing to insist there is a baseball stadium in the Reservation 13 master plan. As almost everyone by now knows, the master plan does not include a baseball stadium. Why is this important? Mayor Gray and Councilmember Evans are using the faulty baseball stadium argument as a way to say the master plan is outdated. As I’ve said before, if you believe a training facility is the best use for the site, make your case on the merits, not by obscuring the facts and diminishing the work of the community.
- “We can do both the training facility and mixed-use development” was said a number of times by the Mayor and Councilmembers Evans and Brown. Sounds great, but the reality is that a training facility would take up 30+ acres of the 50 acres available for development. Add in the landmarked Anne Archbold Hall and the recently renovated Karrick Hall and you have even less land left for mixed-use development. Given the land available, it is impossible to both implement the master plan and build a training facility on Reservation 13. In a recent blog post, the Washington Post’s Mike DeBonis does a great job of explaining the limitations of the site.
- I was confused by Mayor Gray’s answers to questions on the training facility’s impact on potential housing and affordable housing. The Mayor was asked a number of times how he could support building a training facility over a master plan that calls for significant affordable housing. His answer was essentially that affordable housing is a big problem and housing on Reservation 13 is not going to solve it. I don’t think anybody is arguing that development on Reservation 13 is going to by itself solve the city’s affordable housing problem. But the city does not have a lot of undeveloped land near Metro stations left, and choosing to build a training facility over significant affordable housing on such land would be a lost opportunity.
- While it was off topic, I did appreciate Mayor Gray talking about the Eastern Branch Building, the city-owned vacant building at 17th and C Streets SE. ANC 6B’s Hill East Task Force has been talking a lot about the future of the building and we hope to organize a community tour later this spring. After the meeting, I told the Mayor we are eager to work with his office on future plans for Eastern Branch.
- Apparently, Councilmember Evans did read my primer on the Reservation 13 master plan. He asked me about it prior to start of the meeting.
I do want to thank Mayor Gray for his willingness to participate in the meeting and take some tough questions. While we may not have liked or agreed with all the answers, the Mayor deserves credit for engaging the community in the discussion.
And thanks to the ANC commissioners who signed the invitation to Mayor Gray and also helped organize the meeting – Nick Alberti (6A04), Francis Campbell (6B10), Sheila Carson-Carr (7A01), Jared Critchfield (6B06), Neil Glick (6B08), Carol Green (6B07), David Holmes (6A03), Villareal Johnson (6A07), Brian Pate (6B05), Lia Veenendaal-Selck (6A08) and Lisa White (7D01). This was a total team effort, and a great example of cross-commission, cross-ward collaboration. A special thanks to ANC 7A Commissioner Villareal Johnson, who co-moderated the event with me.
What were some of your takeaways from last night’s meeting? Please post below.