July 30, 2014 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Hint of Progress on Long-Stalled Hill East Development

Existing Donatelli properties house fast-casual joints such as Starbucks, Chipotle and Potbelly, in addition to sit-down restaurants including The Heights and Acre 121. Tenants also include banks, laundromats and Fed-Ex Kinkos.

“With space for 12 retailers, eight of those would probably be restaurants,” Donatelli said.

Gada delivered the news Tuesday at a roundtable meeting of the D.C. Council Committee on Economic Development, to the surprise of D.C. Councilmember Muriel Bowser, who chairs the panel. The update also surprised Flahaven, who has been leading his neighborhood’s press for development there, frequently questioning city officials and writing letters urging action.

“We’re really happy; we’ve been fighting to get this development going, so this is hopefully the first step in getting the whole site developed,” Flahaven said.

Revised Plans

His surprise was not based on the choice of developer. The Donatelli/Blue Skye plan was the only one submitted in the most recent request for proposals, and the ANC voted unanimously in favor of the design in June. It was the news that the office of the DMPED had moved forward on any proposal for Hill East development that came as a surprise.

Reservation 13 was first designated for public usage under the L’Enfant Plan for the District and ceded to the city under President George W. Bush.

Stakeholders have reviewed three rounds of designs from development teams interested in the site since the master plan was approved, and the city also had to hammer out zoning requirements for the land.

“Components of Hill East project make the decisions more complex, specifically the uses on the site including the prison, but they’re offset by benefits like the Metro,” said Jeff Miller, director of real estate for the DMPED’s office. “There’s also a requirement for a significant amount of affordable housing, which necessarily comes out of the value of the land.”

In 2008, when D.C. first put out a request for a master developer for the site, four teams responded. In 2010, the plan changed. Under Mayor Adrian Fenty, the office of the DMPED narrowed development into phases, focusing first on the two parcels nearest to the Metro.

“Given the economic meltdown and the changing financial times, there was not a single developer who would have undertaken the entire site in one go,” Gada explained. Two of the four teams responded to the revised request, and residents provided feedback.

In March 2012, Gray announced that the office of the DMPED would select one of the two plans, then scrapped the idea. Gada said lawyers had advised the city to restart the search because the scope of the project had been revised. He also noted that the two responders were seeking “significant subsidies” before starting construction, which the city was unwilling to provide.

The latest request for proposals was issued in October 2012, and by the Jan. 13, 2013, deadline, only Donatelli/Blue Skye had responded.

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