Hill East Task Force Recap: DC General Closure Plan, Eastern Branch Bldg RFP

Around 25 people attended the Oct. 30 ANC 6B Hill East Task Force meeting to discuss Mayor Gray’s DC General Shelter replacement plan and the status of the Eastern Branch Building Request for Proposals. Here is a recap:

  • I opened the meeting with a quick update on the status of Phase I of the Hill East Development (Reservation 13). The Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development’s office held an Oct. 29 disposition meeting on parcels F1 & G1. Attendees at the meeting spoke in support of the disposition and urged DMPED to get disposition legislation in front of the DC Council as soon as possible. ANC 6B and the Hill East Task Force will continue to monitor progress on Phase I.
  • The task force discussed Mayor Gray’s plan to close the temporary family emergency homeless shelter at DC General. I provided a brief summary of the plan which was released by Mayor Gray on Oct. 14. ANC 6B is on record in support of closing the shelter at DC General and has urged the city to identify better housing alternatives for homeless families.
  • Generally, the plan calls for replacing the 288 units in DC General with 5-6 smaller scale, neighborhood-based shelters throughout the city. The Department of General Services and the Department of Human Services are working to identify privately-owned buildings and city-owned buildings that could be quickly converted into shelters. If efforts are successful, DC General could be closed as early as fall 2015.
  • Though pleased that the Mayor released a plan, the task force agreed that the plan is very vague. Concerns raised about the plan included:
    • Open-ended Solicitation for Offers – the Department of General Services has issued a Solicitation for Offers seeking privately owned facilities that could be used as shelters. The SFO is a “rolling solicitation” without a deadline. The task force is concerned that the lack of a deadline will remove the time pressure necessary to encourage developers/owners to respond to the SFO.
    • Lack of Potential Locations – the plan is silent on potential locations for the smaller-scale shelters. The task force would feel better about the plan’s prospects if at least one or two potential locations were identified.
    • Lack of a Specific Closing Date – while the plan states that DC General could close as early as the fall of 2015, the Administration does not identify a specific closing date. Again, the lack of a closing date contributes to the sense that there is a lack of urgency to close DC General.
    • Recent Increase in DC General Population – if the goal is to close DC General, why is the city continuing to move more families into the deteriorating building. Recently, 60 families were moved from hotels into DC General. The city should be working to reduce the population at the shelter so it can be closed.
  • The task force also discussed potential drug activity at DC General. Resident Member Pat Taylor said that she had recently seen evidence of a significant open air drug market taking place outside of the shelter next to the new playground. Attendees suggested working with MPD, DGS Protective Services, CSOSA and the DC Department of Corrections to address these issues on the site.
  • The task force agreed that ANC 6B should send formal comments on the plan to Mayor Gray. Flahaven offered to write draft comments to be reviewed by the task force and then forwarded to the full commission for Nov. 12 consideration.
  • The task force transitioned to discussing the current Request for Proposals for the Eastern Branch Building, the former Boys and Girls Club building located at 261 17th Street SE. DGS released the RFP in mid-September with a deadline of Friday, November 20.
    Organizations/development teams who plan on responding to the RFP were invited to share their concepts with attendees. The following three representatives shared their concepts:

    • Corey Powell of Dantes Partners shared his firm’s concept for a senior housing facility combined with first floor community space. The preliminary concept includes adding a two-story addition to the existing building, with a total capacity of 49-units.
    • Joel Kelty of Century Associates shared his firm’s concept also includes senior housing but without additional stories (Kelty suggested that an existing cell tower lease may make building any rooftop additions impossible). Century Associates envisions 24-30 larger residential units with a children’s activity space in the existing building’s gymnasium.
    • Mai Fernandez, a Capitol Hill resident and executive director of the National Center for Victims of Crime, envisions using the existing building for 39-units of senior housing and office space for her NCVC. Training space for NCVC could also be used by the community for meetings and recreation. She is seeking a development partner for the residential side of the project.
  • Attendees asked each representative a number of questions, including whether their concepts would be consistent with the site’s R-4 zoning and whether they planned to use tax credits to fund the housing portion of their projects. HillNow.com has an excellent recap of this portion of the meeting.
  • The task force thanked Ms. Fernandez, Mr. Powell and Mr. Kelty for their presentations and reminded attendees that ANC 6B would have an opportunity to review and comment on RFP responses.
  • The meeting adjourned at 7:50 pm so that attendees could individually ask questions of the three developer/organization representatives.
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