Testimony on Reservation 13/Hill East and Future of RFK Stadium Site

On Fri., March 6, I testified on behalf of ANC 6B at the Committee of the Whole’s performance oversight hearing for the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. My testimony (below) focused on Reservation 13/Hill East Development and the future of the RFK Stadium site.

Good morning Chairman Mendelson and members of the Committee of the Whole. My name is Brian Flahaven, and I serve as vice chair of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B. My single member district, 6B09, lies in Hill East and includes Barney Circle, the Historic Congressional Cemetery, and the Eastern Branch Building.

I’m here today to testify about the Hill East Development, also known as Reservation 13, the future of the RFK Stadium site and the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Study. I’m testifying on behalf of ANC 6B, which approved my testimony 10-0 during its February 10, 2015 meeting with a quorum present.

On March 2, Mayor Bowser and Donatelli/Blue Skye signed the Land Disposition Agreement for Phase I of the Hill East Development, which consists of two mixed-use residential/retail buildings next to the Stadium-Armory Metro. The Donatelli/Blue Skye project is consistent with the community-supported Reservation 13 master plan and the Hill East District zoning on the site. We are pleased that after years of distractions, three RFPs and numerous delays, the Hill East Development is finally moving forward. We are eager to start working with the development team and ANC 7F to review plans and designs for the mixed use project.

We want to thank Mayor Bowser, former Mayor Gray, Councilmembers Allen and Alexander, former Councilmember Tommy Wells, current Deputy Mayor Brian Kenner, former interim Deputy Mayor Jeff Miller, Donatelli/Blue Skye and DMPED Hill East Director Ketan Gada for moving this initial phase forward.

Of course, Phase I is only the first step to realizing the full vision of the community and Council-supported Reservation 13 master plan. We urge Mayor Bowser and Deputy Mayor Kenner to take action immediately to prepare the remaining parcels of the Hill East site for development. Specifically, DMPED should be:

  • Working with the Department of Human Services on a plan to close the temporary homeless shelter at DC General and begin transitioning homeless families and individuals into better housing options. The current policy of housing up to 300 homeless families in a dilapidated, deteriorating old hospital building completely separated from the surrounding neighborhood is an embarrassment to the city and completely counterproductive to the ultimate goal of ending homelessness. While former Mayor Gray released a plan to replace DC General with smaller scale shelters, city officials have not funded the plan nor made it a priority.
  • Developing a plan for transitioning social services located on the site. The Reservation 13 master plan envisions, and we certainly support, continuing to provide existing services on the site at a reasonable scale in new facilities constructed on parcel L.

To ensure that DMPED is looking beyond the first phase of the Hill East Development, I urge the committee to ask Deputy Mayor Kenner and his team a few additional questions:

  1. What is the timeline for future phases of the Hill East Development?
  2. Does DMPED plan to continue developing Hill East parcel-by-parcel? Or is DMPED considering issuing one RFEI for the remainder of the site?
  3. If parcel-by-parcel, what parcels are being considered for phase II?
  4. Is DMPED working with the Deputy Mayor for Health and Human Services and the Department of Human Services on a plan for eventual closure of DC General?

In addition to the Hill East Development, our commission is also very interested in the future of the RFK Stadium site – another waterfront site that sits on top of a Metro station. The redevelopment of the RFK site could be a potential boon to Capitol Hill, Hill East, the Anacostia River and the entire city if city leaders are open to some creative and imaginative thinking. But it appears that some city officials have determined that a new NFL football stadium is the obvious future and best use of the site – a use that would provide minimal benefit to the city.

Last year, Mayor Gray asked Events DC to conduct a study on future uses for the RFK Stadium site. We understand that Events DC has hired the consulting firm of Brailsford and Dunlavey to conduct a study of future uses of the site. While we certainly respect Events DC, they are clearly interested in future uses for the site that meet their mission to attract and promote sporting events.

Given the tremendous potential for the site, we think that DMPED and/or the Office of Planning should be playing a role in this study to make sure that all potential uses are being examined. We encourage you to ask Deputy Mayor Kenner and Director Shaw if they are aware of the RFK study and if their agencies plan to be involved in the study moving forward.

Finally, I want to acknowledge the Office of Planning’s work on the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Planning Study. At the request of former Councilmember Tommy Wells, OP was asked to bring a holistic perspective to the District Department of Transportation’s study and OP’s final recommendations are a dramatic improvement over the original DDOT concepts. Our experience suggests the city should ensure that OP is involved from the beginning on such projects in the future.
Thank you for your time, and I’d be happy to answer any questions.

 

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4 Responses to Testimony on Reservation 13/Hill East and Future of RFK Stadium Site

  1. dcgent says:

    I wonder if sticking to a decade-old master plan will keep holding back redevelopment. The sticking point seems to be the city has no clue how to address the homeless shelter. What if the master plan is changed to propose a modern, functional HousingFirst shelter integrated with the new neighborhood being created on Res 13. The homeless would benefit from Metro access, I’m sure. Someone has to step forward and offer places for these people.

    • bflahaven says:

      Thanks for the comment. The master plan is not the problem – it is as you say getting the city to address DC General. I would certainly support locating a smaller scale replacement shelter on Res. 13 as part of the development envisioned in the master plan.

  2. dlg says:

    Were there any questions from the Committee?

    • bflahaven says:

      No questions, but Chairman Mendelson did ask Deputy Mayor Kenner the four questions I asked in my testimony. His answers were essentially “we are not sure yet” on the first three and “not yet” on number 4. Thanks for the question.

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