Feb. 13, 2016 SIGN IN | REGISTER

Local Politics Complicate Hill East Development

Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call
People line up for a bus outside the old D.C. General Hospital, which has been converted into a homeless shelter. Located in Hill East in the middle of the Reservation 13 complex, development at the site has been politically embattled for more than a decade.

When Gray won the election that year, he put the long-standing plans for Reservation 13 on hold. The project languished during the collapse of the real estate market. Gray tried to lure Washington’s National Football League franchise to develop a training facility on the site, but that effort fell through.

The city has since rebooted the bidding process and in September announced that it had selected a team from Donatelli Development and Blue Skye Development and Construction to develop two parcels of the plot — a sliver of the 50 or so acres targeted for development.

Negotiations with the developers are ongoing, according to Chanda Washington, spokeswoman for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED). The office expects to have a legislative package for the details of the land transfer ready to go before the D.C. Council by spring. From there, the project will proceed on a parcel-by-parcel basis, Washington said in an email.

Ensuring projects such as Reservation 13 move forward “so they are shovel-ready in order to create jobs for Ward 6 residents” is a top priority of Thompson’s campaign. He said he is pleased with the initial progress.

“By and large, it would be great to have a large-scale master plan unfolding for the entire project, but I think frustration has set in among a lot of community leaders and advocates because nothing has happened,” Thompson said in an interview on the project. “So I think getting something moving is the right step.”

In Allen’s opinion, moving forward on two parcels was a compromise, meant to serve as a catalyst for further development.

“I think that made sense for the market that we were in,” Allen said, but he is opposed to “chopping up” the rest of the land. “When you divvy it up 10 different ways, it means that your community benefit is divvied up 10 different ways, and you get smaller and smaller return on that as a neighborhood.”

Brian Flahaven, commissioner of local Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B, is one stakeholder pressuring the city for a plan. He has testified to the council on the community’s vision, invited city officials to present the ANC with updates, and continued to call DMPED for updates on the project’s progress.

“At this point, one could potentially doubt their commitment, but I’m going to be an optimist and say they wouldn’t have made the award if they weren’t going to move forward,” Flahaven said. “I’m hoping that the negotiations will begin, this will get in front of the council this spring, and there won’t be much more of a delay.”

What to Do With What’s Left

In either scenario — parcel-by-parcel development or bidding out the project as a whole — figuring out what to do with D.C. General and the D.C. Jail presents the biggest obstacle.

DMPED is working with the Department of General Services to determine the DGS timeline for relocating those agencies.

“We currently don’t have a timeline for that process,” Washington said.

The Gray administration’s family shelter restructuring plan calls for dramatically reducing the number of people housed at D.C. General, placing more than 100 families into more stable housing by the end of September. The goal is housing no more than 153.

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