Transition Plans for AWC, NCRC Outlined

Posted July 13, 2007 at 4:50pm

Taking on $10 billion of additional development projects won’t slow down the arrival of Washington Canal Park, the Anacostia Riverwalk or any of the slew of destinations planned for the Ward 6 area, D.C. officials said Friday.

The projects now rest in the hands of the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. and the National Capital Revitalization Corp., two quasi-public agencies that are slated for elimination in the fall. Their demise means the city’s most ambitious revitalization efforts must be folded into the mayor’s office by October — a move that requires the meshing of three different entities into one. Three different computer systems, three different staffs and three different budgets all must be audited, discussed and eventually streamlined.

It all will be done without any time lost on the negotiation and construction of long-awaited developments, said Sean Madigan, director of communications for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, which is charged with taking over the projects.

“Our whole intent is not to miss a step,” he said. “We want to make sure the community knows projects are moving forward.”

That doesn’t mean the process is easy. Officials said it will take an outside consultant, hundreds of thousands of dollars and a complete reorganization to efficiently move the projects to the deputy mayor’s office. They outlined the process at a hearing of the D.C. City Council’s Economic Development Committee on Friday, stressing that the result would be greater efficiency and lower costs.

“The consolidation eliminates the multiple, and at times competing agendas that were created by having three economic development entities and clarifies the lines of accountability, which now reside with the mayor,” Neil Albert, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, told the committee Friday as he read from prepared remarks.

The D.C. City Council decided in June to eliminate the AWC and NCRC, citing both agencies’ slow pace and needless bureaucracy. Now Economic Development Chairman Kwame Brown (D) also plans to ask the D.C. inspector general to do an audit on both agencies before their duties are completely folded into the executive branch. The NCRC has withheld information from the council on several occasions, he said, and its contracts and operations need to be fully aired out before the government can start anew.

“We didn’t know what was taking place,” he said after Friday’s meeting. “That’s why we need an independent inspection. We want to make sure people aren’t shredding information on their way out the door.”

The AWC and NCRC projects, which include development around the stadium and along the Anacostia River, will be separated from other projects in the city, according to an organizational chart from the deputy mayor’s office. The office also will hire several AWC and NCRC employees, housing some of them in the existing AWC offices at 1100 New Jersey Ave. SE. Officials are now trying to end or sublet the lease for the NCRC offices, which extends until 2011.

Brown and Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells (D) questioned Albert and his staff Friday, seeking details on the plans. Many were not available, but Albert assured the committee that no big changes would be made to the development plans. Furthermore, AWC’s environmental, work force and small-business requirements will be kept intact, he said.

“We intend to really keep and maybe accelerate AWC’s guiding principles,” he said.