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Hint of Progress on Long-Stalled Hill East Development

Long-stalled Reservation 13 project gets going

One decade and three mayoral administrations after the District crafted the master plan for a “vibrant, mixed-use urban waterfront community” stretching from the eastern edge of Capitol Hill to the western shore of the Anacostia River, the demand for real estate is peaking. But after a long wait, there might be some movement in the plan to develop the area.

In the midst of the targeted 67 acres, known as Reservation 13, sits the old District of Columbia General Hospital. Formerly a 482-bed acute care facility that provided medical and surgical care and substance abuse treatment for D.C. residents, including inmates at the nearby D.C. Jail, it now serves as a makeshift homeless shelter for up to 1,000 of the city’s poorest. Plagued by rodent infestations, problems with water, and heat and security issues, residents and advocates for the homeless have called on city leaders for a better solution.

Meanwhile, the 20003 Hill East ZIP code has become a hot real estate market and high-end development is creeping closer to the 19th Street Southeast border of Reservation 13. In the past few months, the luxury 141-apartment Kennedy Row project opened its doors across from Eastern Senior High School and a previously vacant 10-unit building on 18th Street Southeast was renovated into new condominiums, helping to feed the need for restaurants, banks, dry cleaners and other retail development proposed for the Reservation 13 site.

“It has already been 10 years. My neighborhood is pretty frustrated by the pace,” said Brian Flahaven, commissioner of local Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B. He characterizes the long saga of stalled development as a case of “lack of political will.”

But this week, Flahaven and other stakeholders received a bit of good news.

East Down and Bound

The office Mayor Vincent Gray tasked with overseeing the 50-acre Hill East project has picked a team for “phase one” — development of a two-acre fraction of the site — and officials say they have begun ad-hoc talks with the D.C. Department of General Services on transitioning the hodgepodge of social service agencies operating at the Hill East site to new land.

Ketan Gada, who manages the project under Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins, said Tuesday that the office has accepted a plan submitted by Donatelli Development and Blue Skye Construction to construct two mixed-use buildings on a two-acre plot close to the Stadium Armory Metro.

The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development is working with the DGS, the D.C. Department of Human Services and other agencies “to make sure they have a plan to consolidate their services,” Gada said. Stakeholders are hoping the first phase will be a “catalytic” step toward clearing other plots of the land and getting them ready for new construction.

Preliminary designs, months away from being finalized, would bring up to 40,000 square feet of new retail space, 222 parking spots, 354 residential units — 106 of which would be designated affordable housing — and a central plaza to the corner of 19th and C streets Southeast.

“Personally, I really try to go out of my way to put in restaurants,” Chris Donatelli, president of Donatelli Development, said of his vision for the retail space. “I think restaurants are the No. 1 thing that people would like to have access to in their neighborhood.”

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