Hine Developer EastBanc Seeks Relief from Affordable Housing Requirement on West End Project – Occupy DC to Protest Move at Zoning Commission Hearing Thursday
by Larry Janezich
The DC Zoning Committee will hold a hearing Thursday evening on the EastBanc-W.D.C Partners’ application for a public unit development (PUD), filed in June of 2011, for its West End Library project. In addition to building a new library and fire station in lieu of payment of some $20 million for the property, the developers plan a residential building with 172 market-rate one, two, and three bedroom units, supported by 190-197 underground parking spaces. Originally, plans included 52 affordable housing units above the new fire station.
Now it appears that EastBanc may be seeking relief from the requirement that the affordable housing units be part of the project, a requirement of DC law for any new residential construction project in the District. EastBanc did not provide details of the firehouse and affordable housing in the PUD, leading community members to speculate that EastBanc is hoping to have the requirement dropped. This may be because EastBanc has stated that it would need the city to provide a subsidy to make the affordable housing component viable, and, thus far, the District has failed to come up with one.
Occupy DC has gotten wind of what they suspect is an EastBanc move to quietly do away with the affordable housing in the West End project and has issued a statement stating “Occupy DC …does not support the arbitrary suspension of existing zoning rules in the interest of multinational corporations.” Additionally, a statement from that group says that a “coalition of community groups and organizations” will be at the Zoning Commission hearing “to voice their opposition.”
As readers of this blog know, EastBanc has partnered with Stanton Development on the construction of the Hine project. The Deputy Mayor’s office cited Stanton/Eastbanc’s willingness to make affordable housing a component of the project (15% of residences) without a city subsidy as one major reason why the partnership was awarded the contract. As readers of this blog will also recall, the Stanton/Eastbanc team continues to cite its commitment to affordable housing as the reason why the scale and the density of the Hine project cannot be diminished in response to concerns and criticism from the community.
One of EastBanc’s partners in both the Hine and West End Projects is Dantes Partners, which appears to be a two-person development company operating out of a townhouse at 72 V Street NW with no current website address. The public face of Dantes is Buwa Binitie, who served as affordable housing consultant for EastBanc on both the West End and the Hine projects. Binitie’s trademark seems to be winning development contracts by offering more affordable housing than other developers. Previous to his work at Dante’s Partners, Binitie administered and managed the implementation of the New Communities Initiative for the Deputy Mayor of Economic Development, and he currently serves on the five member board of the DC Housing Finance Agency. In July of 2010, Lydia DePillis of Washington City Paper ran an article suggesting that Dantes Partners success at winning city contracts might be attributed to Buwa Binitie’s political connections.