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

March 8, 2015

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.



FINALLY! Mayor Bowser Signs LDA for Reservation 13/Hill East Development

March 2, 2015
Mayor Bowser signs the Res. 13/Hill East LDA with Chris Donatelli of Donatelli Development (to her left) and Scottie Irving of Blue Skye Construction (to her right) while Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen and Deputy Mayor Brian Kenner look on.

Mayor Muriel Bowser signs the Res. 13/Hill East LDA with Chris Donatelli of Donatelli Development (left) and Scottie Irving of Blue Skye Construction (right) as Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen and Brian Kenner, Acting Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, look on.

After twelve long years, the city is finally moving forward on mixed use development at Reservation 13! Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser signed the Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) for Phase I of the Res. 13/Hill East Development. The agreement allows Donatelli/Blue Skye development to move forward with design, permitting and construction of their mixed-use project for Parcels F1 & G1 on the site.

Donatelli/Blue Skye plan to build two buildings surrounding the Stadium-Armory Metro Plaza. The mixed-use buildings will include 354 residential units and 40,000 square feet of retail (20,000 sf in each building). Thirty percent, or 106, of the residential units will be affordable. Michael Neibauer of the Washington Business Journal is reporting that Donatelli/Blue Skye hope to break ground in 2016 with completion slated for 2018.

Obviously, this is a big day for Hill East. I want to thank Mayor Bowser for making the Hill East LDA her first LDA signing as Mayor and for her strong support of the project. I also want to acknowledge the contributions of Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen, Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander, former Mayor Gray, former Ward 6 Councilmembers Tommy Wells and Sharon Ambrose, former ANC 6B Commissioners Francis Campbell and Ken Jarboe and the many Hill East residents who have continued to push the city to move forward on this long-stalled development. In addition, I want to thank Donatelli Development and Blue Skye Construction for pursuing development plans at Reservation 13 and our ANC 7F colleagues for their support.

Of course, this is only the first phase of the full development. The Mayor and Council need to act now to prepare the rest of the site for development. I plan on continuing to work with my colleagues on ANC 6B and ANC 7F to make sure that pursuing the entire Res. 13/Hill East Development remains a priority.

*UPDATED* DMPED Moves Forward on Donatelli/Blue Skye Plans for Reservation 13

September 25, 2013

During a Sept. 24 Council hearing on major economic development projects, Ketan Gada of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development announced that DMPED has decided to move forward with the Donatelli/Blue Skye plans for parcels F1 & G1 at Reservation 13.

This is really good news for the neighborhood and will hopefully be the first step in the realization of the community supported Reservation 13 Master Plan. Over the next 120 days, DMPED and Donatelli/Blue Skye will negotiate an agreement that will allow the project to begin (transfer of land, etc.). This agreement will need to be approved by the DC Council prior to construction. Both affected ANCs – ANC 6B and 7F – will have an opportunity to weigh in on the negotiations and the agreement.

During the hearing, Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser, chair of the Committee on Economic Development, suggested the creation of a community task force to focus on the project. I plan to work with my ANC 6B colleagues to determine whether the commission’s existing Hill East Task Force or a new task force should take on Reservation 13/Hill East.

We also need to continue to push the city to take action immediately on preparing the remaining parcels at Reservation 13 for development. While DMPED answered my question on the status of the Donatelli/Blue Skye proposal, they have not fully answered the other three questions I posed in my testimony (pdf).

Please post any comments/reactions/questions below.

Updated 10/4/13 – Video from the Sept. 24 hearing is now posted on DC’s Office of Cable Television website. Just click on the third “View Meeting” link and fast forward to 1 hour 26 minutes to see testimony on Hill East.

ANC 6B to Weigh In on Reservation 13 Plans

June 3, 2013
Donatelli/Blue Skye rendering of plans for Reservation 13.

Donatelli/Blue Skye rendering of plans for Reservation 13.

This month, ANC 6B will consider whether to support Donatelli/Blue Skye’s plans for parcels F1 & G1 of the Reservation 13/Hill East Development. During tomorrow’s (Tues., June 4) ANC 6B Planning and Zoning Committee meeting, 7 pm at St. Coletta of Greater Washington (1901 Independence Avenue SE), the committee will discuss the plans and make a recommendation to the full commission.  Attendees will have an opportunity to share their feedback on the plans directly with the committee.

ANC 6B will then consider the committee’ s recommendation and vote at next Tuesday’s June 11 commission meeting, 7 pm at the Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE). Again, attendees will have an opportunity to weigh in on the plans. The commission’s position and any comments would be sent to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) who will ultimately decide whether to move forward with the plans.

If you missed Donatelli/Blue Skye’s presentation at the May 22 Hill East Task Force meeting, I’ve posted the recap below. I’ve also previously posted the design plans.

ANC 6B Hill East Task Force: May 22, 2013 Meeting Recap

Around 30-40 attendees participated in a May 22 Hill East Task Force meeting to review the sole response to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development’s (DMPED) Request for Expressions of Interest for Parcels F1 & G1 at Reservation 13. Here are the highlights:

  • Ketan Gada from DMPED gave a brief overview of the timeline for the recent RFEI. Gada said that the office hopes to have a decision on whether to move forward with the response in July. DMPED would like to receive comments from the two affected ANCs – ANC 6B and 7F – in June.
  • Chris Donatelli and Larry Clark from Donatelli Development walked attendees through their proposal for parcels F1 & G1. Details include:
    • Proposing two mixed-use buildings, one on parcel F1 and the other on parcel G1. Each would be four stories.
      North Building (parcel F1) would have 113 apartments, South Building (parcel G1) would have 240 apartments.
      Both buildings would have retail on first floor, with about 10,000 square feet of retail in each. Retail would be focused towards Stadium-Armory Metro Plaza and 19th Street SE.
    • Both buildings would be significantly set back from 19th Street SE, with green space separating the South Building from 19th. Donatelli/Blue Skye envisions a farmer’s market and other community events utilizing the green space.
    • Donatelli said they would like to bring a mix of local and national/regional retail to the first floor of each building. They do not envision large-scale retail like Target, Walmart, etc.
    • Donatelli/Blue Skye plan to include 225 parking spaces on the site, with parking in garages in each building. Parking and loading would be accessed from alleys along the rear of the buildings. They also anticipate metered on-street parking along the extended C Street SE, Mass Ave SE and Burke Street SE for customers visiting the retail locations.
    • In terms of affordability, Donatelli/Blue Skye plan to comply with the affordable housing requirements in law. Specifically, 30 percent of the units will be affordable, with 15 percent affordable to households earning up to 30 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) and 15 percent affordable to households earning up to 60 percent of AMI.
  • Attendees asked Donatelli a number of questions related to the plan. Concerns raised include:
    • Master Developer vs. Parcel by Parcel – A number of attendees voiced frustration that the city chose not to bid out the entire 67-acre site for development and questioned how serious DMPED/city was in actually moving the project forward. Gada responded that DMPED would not have asked Donatelli/Blue Skye to present to the community if they did not want to see the site developed. Donatelli said that he hopes that development on parcels F1 & G1 will “catalyze” development for the rest of the site. 
    • Do plans fit with plans for rest of site? – The current plans focus retail activity towards 19th Street SE with less of an emphasis on the side streets (C Street SE and Mass Avenue SE). Donatelli acknowledged that his team would have to put more thought into how their plans would fit with eventual plans to develop adjacent parcels. A number of attendees suggested including retail space on C and Mass Ave, though the site’s grade, elevation and zoning may preclude retail on C.
    • Concerns raised about Donatelli/Blue Skye in Media – Task force members and attendees asked Donatelli to respond to recent media reports suggesting that his firm has benefited from campaign contributions to city leaders and has not fulfilled promises to the community. Donatelli said that his firm has made a large number of charitable contributions to nonprofit groups in Columbia Heights and still plans to create a nonprofit fund once its full Columbia Heights project is complete. In addition, he noted that desirable city-imposed requirements, such as affordable housing, account for why firms like his receive public land at less than market value.
    • Design – A couple of attendees voiced concern about the building’s design. One, in particular, had problems with how the building would fit in with the adjacent Capitol Hill neighborhood and asked the architect, Eric Colbert, to “do better.” Others said they supported the design. Colbert said that the design would be refined if the city moves forward with the project.
    • Roadway between Metro Plaza and North Building – Pedestrian safety could be an issue with a proposed roadway in-between the north building and the Stadium-Armory metro plaza. I asked the developers to consider removing the roadway and making this pedestrian only.
    • How extension of Burke Street interacts with plans – Commissioner Francis Campbell (6B10) reiterated his request for additional details on how Burke Street will intersect with the development. Donatelli responded that future plans will include additional details.
    • Grade & Dimensions – Attendees asked whether Donatelli/Blue Skye was aware of the current 20 foot drop off east of the Stadium Armory Metro plaza and how they planned to bring the north building to grade. Donatelli responded that they were aware of the drop off and feel they can bring the north building up to grade without a lot of fill. There was also concern raised as to whether the development team had the appropriate dimensions on the proposed plans.
    • Infrastructure Funding – Attendees asked about how Donatelli plans to pay for infrastructure on the site, including the extensions of public roads (Burke, C, 20th and Mass Ave SE). Donatelli expressed confidence that they budgeted enough to cover the infrastructure necessary for parcels F1 & G1.
  • After the Donatelli/Blue Skye presentation and Q&A, attendees had an opportunity to discuss the plans without the development team in the room. Some voiced concern that the plans would be detrimental to moving development for the entire site forward and would just create a “curtain” so the city can hide the homeless problem and other issues at DC General. Others felt that the plan would “catalyze” development and force the city to deal with the issues blocking development on the remainder of the site. The sentiment of the majority of attendees was to support the proposal with comments to the development team on how the plans could be improved.

Upcoming Meetings: Penn-Potomac, Reservation 13

May 13, 2013

Mark your calendars for two important upcoming meetings:

  • The District Department of Transportation will hold Public Meeting #2 for the Pennsylvania-Potomac Avenue SE Intersection Pedestrian Safety Study this Thursday, May 16, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm at Payne Elementary School (1445 C Street SE). DDOT is expected to share design alternatives for public feedback. Read more about the Penn-Potomac Intersection Study.
  • Donatelli/Blue Skye Development, the sole respondent to the recent Hill East/Reservation 13 RFEI, will once again present their plans at ANC 6B’s Hill East Task Force meeting on Wednesday, May 22, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm at St. Coletta of Greater Washington (1901 Independence Avenue SE). If you missed the April 24 meeting, this will be an opportunity to see the proposed plans for parcels F1 & G1 and share your comments. ANC 6B will likely submit formal comments to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development in June.

Hope to see you at both meetings!