Neighborhood Town Hall Project Updates

June 30, 2014

A big thanks to all who attended my June 19th Neighborhood Town Hall meeting. I’m particularly grateful to Kristi, Sam and the Curbside Cupcake Team for hosting the town hall at Curbside Cafe.

If you missed the meeting, here are some brief updates on major projects happening in Hill East.

Hill East Development/Reservation 13
The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and the Donatelli/Blue Skye Development team continue to negotiate at Land Disposition Agreement for Phase I (parcels F1 & G1) of the Hill East Development (Reservation 13). DMPED hopes to have a LDA ready for DC Council consideration this fall.

I also shared my concerns about the impact of DC’s Olympic bid on mixed-use development plans for Reservation 13.

DC General
We discussed the Zoning Commission’s recent ruling to allow the Harriet Tubman Women’s Shelter to move from DC General’s Building 9 to a Building 27 for a period of 5 years. The city has also announced its intent to demolish Building 9 once the relocation is complete.

While Building 9’s planned demolition is progress, there has been significantly less progress made by the city in closing the main DC General Family Shelter. Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, who chairs the Council’s Committee on a Human Services, has introduced a Sense of the Council Resolution that calls for the closure of DC General once certain benchmarks are met. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a plan or significant funding in the FY15 budget to make closure a reality anytime soon. I will continue pushing the city to craft a plan and announce a date for closure of DC General.

17th and 19th Streets a Safety Improvement Project
DDOT informed me last week of a significant delay in construction of the safety improvements to 17th Street SE (narrowing to one lane, adding a bike lane, adding curb extensions, etc.). The improvements, originally scheduled to be implemented in spring 2014, will now not happen until Fall 2015. The reason appears to be some previously unannounced DC Water water main replacement work between C Street SE and Potomac Ave SE that is scheduled to happen in Dec. 2014/Jan. 2015.

Needless to say, an additional 18 month delay on these much needed safety improvements is unacceptable. I plan to ask ANC 6B to support sending a letter to DC Water asking why the neighborhood were not previously notified of this work and why their construction timeline cannot be expedited.

DDOT does plan to begin construction on the 19th Street improvements this fall.

Eastern Branch Building
The Department of a General Services is working to schedule the required public hearing on the disposition of the Eastern a Branch Building. The hearing will likely take place at the end of July or in September. DGS must hold a public hearing before issuing it’s planned Request for Offers (RFO) for the building. The department does plan to include ANC 6B’s comments(pdf) as part of the RFO.

Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Study
I’ve been part of a group of ANC 6B Commissioners who have been meeting with Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, the District Department of Transportation and the Office of Planning to discuss how to improve DDOT’s design options for the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard project. The Office of Planning is conducting a “rapid planning study” of the project with recommendations due out sometime this fall. ANC 6B’s Transportation Committee will be discussing the status of the study at the committee’s Wed., July 2 meeting, 7 pm at the Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Ave SE). Once the study’s recommendations are finalized, ANC 6B and Councilmember Wells will hold larger community meetings to discuss the results.

Community Meeting on DC General Women’s Shelter Relocation

May 7, 2014

The DC Department of General Services is holding a community meeting tomorrow night (Thursday, May 8), 7:00 pm at the Southeast Library (403 7th Street SE) to discuss plans to relocate the existing 100 occupant women’s homeless shelter at DC General Building 9 to Building 27. Representatives from the DC Department of Human Services and the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development’s office will also be in attendance to take questions.

On June 25, the Zoning Commission will consider ZC 14-03, an amendment to the Hill East zoning code to allow for the relocation of the shelter. ANC 6B will consider submitting formal comments on the case at our next full commission meeting on Tues., May 13, 7 pm at the Hill Center. You can read more by visiting the DC Office of Zoning website and searching for ZC 14-03.

Friday Updates: Playtime Project, Vote, Eastern Branch, Barney Circle, 17th & 19th

March 28, 2014
  • As Metropolitan Police Department and FBI continue their search for missing 8-year old Relisha Rudd and her apparent abductor, you can help the other homeless children at DC General by supporting The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project. Relisha is one of the many children living at DC General that benefit from the activities of the Playtime Project, a wonderful nonprofit organization that works to brighten the lives of homeless kids. Consider a donation or purchase a gift off their Amazon wishlist.
  • Next Tuesday, April 1 is primary day in the District of Columbia. If you have a party affiliation, make sure you get out and vote either on April 1 or today and tomorrow at one of the 13 early voting centers. Polls will be open from 7 am to 8 pm on April 1. I’m supporting Tommy Wells for Mayor and Charles Allen for Ward 6 Councilmember in the Democratic primary.
  • ANC 6B’s Hill East Task Force will be holding two community meetings to discuss plans by the DC Department of General Services to issue a Request for Offers for the Eastern Branch Building (261 17th Street SE). The meetings will take place on:
    • Wed., April 9, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm, St. Coletta of Greater Washington (1901 Independence Avenue SE)
    • Wed., April 30, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm, Payne Elementary School (1445 C Street SE)
  • The owners of New York Pizza, located at 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, plan to expand their business into the vacant commercial space across the street at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. To do so, they will need a “fast food” special exception from the Board of Zoning Adjustment. ANC 6B will likely consider the special exception request in May.
  • On Monday, March 31, ANC 6B’s Transportation Committee will discuss the DC Office of Planning’s rapid response planning effort on DDOT’s Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Project. The goal of the 3-4 month effort is to take a holistic view of potential uses within and surrounding the proposed Southeast Boulevard right of way. The meeting is from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm at the Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Ave SE).
  • Speaking of DDOT, I have some good news to share on the delayed 17th & 19th Streets Safety Improvement Project. According to the agency, construction on both streets will take place this year beginning with 19th Street in May. DDOT expects construction on the 17th Street portion of the project to begin in September.

Vincent Orange’s “Vision” for the RFK Stadium Site

December 19, 2013

I first learned of Councilmember (and mayoral candidate) Vincent Orange’s District of Columbia Sports and Entertainment Complex Feasibility Study Act of 2013 on November 7, the day it was introduced. The bill requires the Mayor to conduct a study to determine the “economic feasibility, economic impact and costs” of developing a new 100,000 seat superdome, indoor waterpark, soundstage, PGA-level golf course and hotel zone at the RFK Stadium, DC Armory and Langston Golf Course sites. If enacted, the bill requires the study to be completed by Feb. 15, 2015.

Based on media reports, I fully expected B20-563 to be 1-2 pages of legislative text. Instead, the bill is 15 pages long, detailing every pet project Councilmember Orange and others have dreamed up for the site. Here are some examples of what is included.

  • A proposed “hotel zone” would include a minimum of three hotels, adding a combined total of 1000 rooms to the site. The hotel zone would also include a 24/7 spa, fitness and wellness establishment that includes an Olympic size pool, leisure pool, children’s pool and sauna. And don’t forget the “health conscious café open 7 days a week featuring juice and smoothies bar, organic foods and healthy eating options.”
  • Apparently, the more than 1,000 hotel rooms in the hotel zone are not enough, because the bill also calls for another 200-300 room three star hotel to go along with the indoor waterpark resort. The waterpark also includes 15,000 sq. ft. of conference and meeting facilities. I’m not sure why you would build conference and meeting facilities in the waterpark and a pool facility in the hotel zone.
  • The detail for the hotel zone and indoor waterpark pales in comparison to the detail provided on the multimedia soundstage. The soundstage, which apparently would be in the DC Armory, includes everything from a television recording studio and production offices to green rooms and a paint shop.
  • The bill does call for retail on the site, mainly in the “Robert F. Kennedy Domed Stadium Complex” which includes the 100,000 seat stadium, two “nationally recognized” department stores, two nationally recognized family restaurant chains, one nationally recognized chain bar or nightclub, one nationally recognized high end restaurant, one nationally recognized movie theatre, one independently owned restaurant and a beer garden. The bill is silent on whether the beer garden must be nationally recognized.
  • The bill does call for some housing on the site, but it is very vague. There would apparently be affordable housing units for low-income residents and students. It is also unclear as to where the housing would be built.

This is a small sampling of the ridiculous level of detail in the bill (I didn’t even mention the required 3D model). It would be laughable, except five (!) additional councilmembers joined Councilmember Orange in co-introducing the bill – Councilmembers Alexander, Barry, Bonds, Evans and Graham. This tally is one short of a Council majority.

Apparently, almost half of the DC Council actually thinks it is worth taxpayer dollars to study Councilmember Orange’s dreamland. Why would we build more than 1,000 additional hotel rooms for a stadium that will be primarily used for 10 football games a year? If the idea is to hold more than sporting events at the complex, aren’t we competing with our own taxpayer-funded convention center which is still struggling to attract events? What happens to the DC National Guard when the Armory is turned into a soundstage? Where would the hotels, housing and retail be built since most of the RFK Stadium site sits on a floodplain and under federal lease terms must be used for stadium or recreational use? And why would we fund this study when Mayor Gray has already asked Events DC to conduct a study on future uses for the RFK Stadium site? (Events DC has already posted a Request for Expressions of Interest seeking a consultant to conduct the study)

Clearly, Councilmember Orange’s plan is not feasible and not in the best interests of the city. Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars on a poorly thought out study, the DC Council should look to fund realistic future uses for the site – uses that serve both residents and visitors. An example is the Capitol Riverside Youth Sports Park proposal, which aims to turn a portion of the stadium’s north parking lots into recreational fields. Not only is this project feasible, it also responds to a critical need for more recreational field space in the city.

What do you think about Councilmember Orange’s vision for the RFK Stadium site?

Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Project Meeting This Thursday, Nov. 21

November 19, 2013
Rendering of the new Barney Circle from the 2005 Middle Anacostia River Crossings Study.

Rendering of the new Barney Circle from the 2005 Middle Anacostia River Crossings Study.

The District Department of Transportation is holding its second public meeting on the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Project on Thursday, Nov. 21, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm at Payne Elementary School (1445 C Street SE). The project involves the construction of a full traffic circle at Barney Circle SE and the construction of a Southeast Boulevard to connect the new circle to the SE-SW Freeway at 11th Street SE.  DDOT will be sharing potential options for the project and gathering community feedback.

This is a major project with significant implications for the neighborhood. It is particularly important for residents living along 17th Street SE and residents living near Barney Circle SE (Kentucky Ave, Freedom Way, Penn Ave, 15th St,, H Street, 16th St., G St., Potomac Ave) to attend this meeting. 

During the first public meeting on the project in February, the entire discussion was dominated by questions and concerns about the Southeast Boulevard. I’m hopeful that attendees will get a chance to discuss the Barney Circle portion of the project and its implications for bike, pedestrian and vehicle flow through the neighborhood.

My recap of the first public meeting includes more information on the project.