Friday Quick Takes: Hill East Task Force, Town Hall, Cinematery, Capitol Hill Classic

May 15, 2015
  • On Thurs., May 21, ANC 6B’s Hill East Task Force will hold a meeting from 6:30-8 pm at St. Coletta of Greater Washington (1901 Independence Ave SE). Topics include a discussion on crime and public safety in the neighborhood with PSA 108 Lt. James Dykes and an update from Donatelli Development on plans for Hill East/Reservation 13.
  • I’ll be holding a Neighborhood Town Hall meeting on Thurs., May 28, 6:30-8 pm at the Congressional Cemetery Chapel (1801 E Street SE). Representatives from Goldstar Group and NOVO Development will be on hand to provide updates and answer questions related to their respective projects at 1500 and 1600 Pennsylvania Ave SE. Representatives from Washington Gas will also provide an update on their pipe replacement project on the 300 block of 17th and 1700 block of D Streets SE. And, as always, I will open the floor for any questions on city or neighborhood issues.
  • Tonight (Fri., May 15), Congressional Cemetery is hosting its first “Cinematery,” an opportunity to watch Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds  under the stars. Gates open at 7:30 pm and the movie begins at 8:30 pm. There is a suggested donation of $10.
  • The 36th Annual Capitol Hill Classic is this Sunday, May 17. The CHC is an annual fundraiser for the Capitol Hill Cluster School. You can learn more and register for the 10K, 3K and fun run on the CHC website. Be advised that the race will close East Capitol Street between roughly 8:30 am and 11 am so plan your travel accordingly.
  • If you have not already done so, please visit the much improved ANC 6B website and sign up to receive e-mail notifications of commission meetings and other events. Just type your e-mail address in the box in the top right hand corner of the homepage.

DGS Responds to ANC 6B on Eastern Branch Building Redevelopment Proposals

March 31, 2015

In a March 30 letter (pdf) to ANC 6B, Jonathan Kayne, interim director of the DC Department of General Service, stated that his agency does not plan to re-issue its Request for Proposals for the Eastern Branch Building (261 17th Street SE). The letter was sent in response to the commission’s March 12 letter (pdf) urging DGS to re-issue the RFP with longer lease terms.

DGS is currently evaluating two redevelopment proposals submitted in response to an RFP issued in Fall 2014. After concerns were raised about both proposals at a Jan. 20 community meeting, DGS asked each development team to respond to a Best and Final Offer request. A summary of the BAFO responses (pdf) provided to ANC 6B by DGS seemed to suggest that only one of the responses – the Dantes Partners/Menkiti Group proposal – complied with the BAFO (though DGS has clarified to me that both proposals still remain under consideration).

Throughout the process, ANC 6B has voiced concern about DGS’ insistence on an initial 25-year lease with a development team. We feel that the short lease length unnecessarily limited the number of proposals the agency received and has resulted in a process that has led to one proposal.

In the March 30 letter, Interim Director Kayne writes, “It is Agency policy to ensure that ground leases on projects minimize the length of time a District asset remains under a third party’s control” to explain why DGS cannot propose a longer lease term. While I can understand this point of view,it is also in the District’s best interest to ensure that the city and residents have an opportunity to review multiple proposals and potential uses for the building. A longer lease term would have likely led to more redevelopment proposals.

Kayne did not state when or if DGS would select one of the redevelopment proposals. Once and if a proposal is selected, the project will have to be reviewed and approved by the Mayor and DC Council. I’ll continue to post updates as I learn more.

Here is a link to the full letter (pdf) from DGS.

Attend March 12 Community Meeting on Future of NY Pizza Site

March 11, 2015

Another major development project is coming to Hill East! On Thursday, March 12, developer CAS Riegler will host a community meeting to discuss their initial plans for the current NY Pizza site (1401 Pennsylvania Ave SE). The meeting will begin at 7 pm at the Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Ave SE). Attendees will have an opportunity to share ideas and provide comments to the development team.

Note that this is a community meeting hosted by the developer. Any development plans for the site will likely come before ANC 6B later this year. You can read more about the developer and submit comments/ideas on the CAS Riegler website.

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.