Tommy Wells to Ask DC General Counsel for Legal Opinion on Whether Stanton/Eastbanc’s Expansion of Hine Project Constitutes Violation of Contract with City

200 of the Capitol Hill Community Turn Out for Meeting with Tommy Wells on Hine Project

ANC6B Commissioner and Vice Chair of ANC6B Hine Subcommittee Brian Pate Listens to Debate on the Hine Development at Tuesday Night Community Meeting

Tommy Wells to Ask DC General Counsel for Legal Opinion on Whether Stanton/Eastbanc’s Expansion of Hine Project Constitutes Violation of Contract with City – ANC Negotiates Height Reduction

by Larry Janezich

At Tuesday night’s community meeting on Hine project with Councilmember Tommy Wells, Well’s agreed to ask DC General Counsel for a legal opinion whether developer Stanton/Eastbanc’s 15% increase over the project’s square footage beyond what they agreed to in the contract with the city constituted a breach of contract.  Ordinarily, developers have a 5% margin of flexibility in the square footage requirement specified in the agreement with the city council.  Increases in mass and height added since the bid was awarded to Stanton/Eastbanc would seem to violate that standard, triggering a possible renegotiation of contract, or even a new bidding process.

At the same time, ANC6B Commissioner Brian Pate, one of the ANC’s negotiators charged with wringing concessions from the developer on behalf of the community, announced a preliminary agreement with the developer including a reduction in height of the project’s 7th and Pennsylvania Avenue office building amounting to some 17,000 square feet.  It was unclear whether this height reduction would bring the project within the 5% margin of flexibility.

Approximately 200 members of the community turned out for an hour and a half of what proved to be a contentious exchange between Wells and representatives of the community who expressed concerns regarding the height, mass, and design of the Hine project; the future of the weekend flea markets; moving the garage entrance to Pennsylvania Avenue; and the privatization and future control of the programming of the to-be-reopened C Street.  In addition to Wells, the main participants in the discussion were Jonathan Welch, representing the community, and moderator Mark Seagraves, of WUSA and WJLA News.

The issue of accountability dominated the meeting, with residents voicing their expectation that Wells should be held accountable for righting a project many find unacceptable, and Wells repeating his previously announced position that the ANC has legal party status in the Zoning Commission PUD proceedings and that he will stand behind the ANC, but not get between them and the Zoning Commission.

Brian Pate, Vice Chair of ANC6B’s Hine Subcommittee, in addition to the height reduction, also announced that although the negotiations with the developer have not been finalized, the developer had agreed to subsidize a child care center in the development to the tune of $160,000 as well as provide $50,000 in improvements to Eastern Market Metro Plaza.  Pate and ANC6B Commissioner Ivan Frishberg, who chairs the Hine Subcommittee, have been the lead negotiators regarding benefits, amenities, and mitigations with Stanton/Eastbanc.  Wells hinted that DDOT would find the amount of parking provided in the project excessive, contributing to additional traffic in the neighborhood.  That is a ruling the developer’s might welcome, since below ground parking is expensive and has little payoff.

The final report of the ANC negotiators and additional developer concessions will be revealed at this Thursday night’s ANC6B Hine Subcommittee meeting at 7:00pm in Hill Center. Wells, perhaps reading the degree of unhappiness among his constituency at the heart of Capitol Hill where his political career began as an ANC6B Commissioner, suggested that the ANC might have to go back to the developer for further concessions.  Pate suggested that one option for the Subcommittee would to send the negotiators back to the developers with specific instructions.

The Zoning Commission will hold the first of several PUD hearings to consider Stanton/Eastbanc’s request for a zoning change to accommodate the project’s greater height and density on June 14, at 6:30 pm.  The hearing will be in Room 220, 1 Judiciary Square, 441 4th Street, NW.


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94 responses to “Tommy Wells to Ask DC General Counsel for Legal Opinion on Whether Stanton/Eastbanc’s Expansion of Hine Project Constitutes Violation of Contract with City

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  2. Mary Fraker

    My understanding was that the legal opinion that Councilmember Wells agreed last night to request was not limited strictly to the project’s square footage, but also covered whether the current project plan is “substantially different” (that may not be the precise legal/contract term) from the earlier plan — which would encompass aspects beyond simply square footage, such as provision of public space and compatibility of the design with the neighborhood. Is that correct?

  3. Kim Nead

    That’s what I heard, too. I certainly hope so, because the increase in square footage is not the only substantial change..

  4. Can someone post the numbers about how this project has supposedly expanded over time in terms of square footage? I keep seeing this mentioned, but haven’t seen any actual numbers.

  5. Bobbi Krengel

    I agree with Mary Fraker and Kim Nead–its not just the size.
    Don’t forget about the illegal sale of the north parcel–that was NOT in the RFP
    nor was the private ownership of the recreated C St.
    And the number one priority that came out of the long-ago charrettes [charades] was open space for the flea market and that meant ADEQUATE open space for the flea market–NOT one third of its current space, AND constrained by tree boxes, water feature, pedestrian entrances into retail spaces and a vehicular entrance into a parking garage. Even if a few vendors could manage to set up, there is no room for shoppers.

    Responsible officials hiding behind other governmental bodies and bureaucratic procedures is precisely the kind of failure of accountability which grants license to developers to give themselves carte blanche for their own self-interest.
    Stanton Development already owns and operates a monopolistic control of the properties surrounding Eastern Market. It is irresponsible to transfer ownership to them of the last piece on a flimsy excuse. There should be serious concerns about any developer about whom the best that can be said is that “they are our neighbors”. As much as we might wish it true, living in the hood does not confer integrity.

    Neither party status nor the “great weight” accorded to the ANC is sufficient to reign in greedy self-interest on the part of the developers. It is patently disingenuous to set up the ANC like this, giving the fox the keys to the henhouse and pointing out that the ANC has a pea-shooter.

    There is no amount of money that can be thrown at amenities or beautification projects that can make up for the fundamental harm caused by these violations of the RFP–the private sale of part of the land, private ownership of what should be a public street, oversized building, insensitive design, and fatal shrinkage of the flea market. There is a delicate synergy between the inside vendors at Eastern Market, the farmers’ line, the weekend flea markets and the small scale independent bricks and mortar retailers. Any disruption to this eco-system could bring the whole thing crashing down, leaving at its center a relic ripe for repurposing. If there are any doubts about this, refer to the report done by the Project for Public Spaces after the 2007 fire.

    One more suggestion–ask the partners of the neighborhood preference–“Street Sense”–whether they believe the Stanton EastBanc proposal conforms to the stipulations of the RFP.
    Bobbi Krengel

    • Gerry Connolly


      You raise two very interesting points. Had all potentential bidders all known in advance that the Mayor and the City Council would agree to sell the north parcel to the devlopers to do whatever they please or that the awardees woulod be given full control of the newly recreated C Street as their private property, would they have bid the same plans?, would there have been more bidders? and would they have been allowed to change their original plans and size for the site as Stanton/EastBanc has apparently been allowed to do. Anyone sense something rotten in the non-state of DC?

  6. DC Spur

    This is so absurd. Yes lets just start over. And live for another 5 years (why not make it 10) with the vacant eye sore in the heart of capitol hill. Thanks community, way to go! It is truly amazing that just because some nimby residents – who knowingly bought next to that school and are about to experience massive increases in their home values when Hine is torn down – “feel” that the building is too big as it may for an hour a day cast a shadow and are therefore able to deprive the hill of new residents, the city of new tax revenue, and the businesses on the hill of badly needed customers. The petty selfishness is appauling.

  7. Mary Fraker

    Good morning DC Spur,
    Please tell us your real name and where you live.
    Thank you.

  8. DC Spur

    So you can harrass me, like you do anyone trying to build anything in this city? No thanks.

  9. Scott

    This is going to turn into another classic case where the raze will occur and then the project will stop completely because some NIMBYs will make further demands while we get stuck with a fenced off vacant lot that becomes a haven for crime.

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  11. Kathleen

    Bobbi Krengel writes eloquently and with real conviction. The only thing I would add is that it is an overtly political move by Wells to narrow the whole question of this development to the zoning commission and the ANC’s party status. He has multiple levers at his disposal to deliver what the neighborhood wants.
    I hope his constituents make clear to him that they will hold him accountable to the final result of this project.

  12. Mary Fraker

    To answer Alex B’s question about changes over time:

    1) Total square footage, including below grade —
    – Developer’s Best and Final Offer (March 2009): 401,648
    – LDDA Term Sheet (date ? ): 405,793
    – Submission to HPRB February 2011: 427,530
    – PUD Submission (November 2011): 464,278
    – Negotiation w/ANC (May 2012): ~ 445,000 ? (insufficient info @ this time)

    2) Reduced public space, reducing # of flea-market-vendor spaces on the Hine site from 104 to </= 68. (Current # on the Hine site: 128.)

    3) Interior courtyard was originally openly accessible public space; now it is private, for tenants only.

    4) Bldg @ 7th/C: Added 5th story, increasing height from 50 to 61 feet.

    5) Commercial bldg @ 7th/Penn: Added 7th — partial, set-back — story, for height increase from 78 to 88 feet. Current negotiation w/ANC is to remove the set-back story. (I believe the top — "nth" — story was always set back to improve sight-lines from street-level, including from across Penn @ Metro plaza; reducing height by removing the set-back story, rather than a full story, would represent a partial improvement.)

    If anyone has additional / more complete / more recent information, please provide. Thank you.

    • Fake Handle

      Thank you Mary, this is good information for discussion.

    • Kim Nead

      Mary (or anyone else reading this),

      Can you help me locate a copy of the RFP/BAFO? I can’t find this anywhere and I can tell that you must have access to some docs I don’t – otherwise you couldn’t talk so knowledgably about the changes over time. Thanks!

  13. CWM

    I urge that anonymous posts to this very local blog be excluded and that anyone using the childish “nymby” term be assumed either to be on the payroll of the developer or at the very least that adverse concerns are not in his/her backyard and is therefore uninterested in those “neighbors'” concerns about fundamental CHANGES by others that affect their property.
    Charles McMillion

  14. anon

    One piece overlooked in this discussion is the previous overwhelming neighborhood opposition to reconfiguring the traffic patters around the Eastern Market Metro Plaza. Had the ‘village Green’ approach been more seriously considered rather than the status quo car-centric 8 lanes of traffic on Penn, there would be ample space for the Flea Market and it would better connect Eastern Market and Barracks Row. There would also be less need to squeeze additional community amenities out of the Hine site itself.

    • The Village Green proposal never made sense unless you can put both 8th St. and Pennsylvania Ave. underneath. Why is that necessary? Because by making it a big circle, you are making 600-700 daily bus trips, all which stop at various points in the intersection now, go around the perimeter. That’s what’s driving, not unjustifiably, opposition by residents to such a plan, especially on the 900 block of D Street. People don’t want all those heavy vehicles, plus the traffic, immediately abutting their houses.

    • But I do find the Village Green proposal very attractive, theoretically. Of course, with the Metro there, you can’t go underground with the roads, and to do would cost $75MM or more anyway. Remember the Village Green study was funded by a Congressional earmark. I think the idea was always that they could get Congress to fund such a project. It actually makes sense, because it impacts the Capitol district, but it’s unlikely because a Congress that gets elected “running against Washington” is not going to turn around and invest in improving the city physically (this is the same problem affecting the National Mall, its significant capital needs, and underfunding).

    • Randy Steer

      The “Village Green” proposal would be a catastrophe for the pedestrian life of the neighborhood. The proposal is virtually identical to the traffic layout at Mt. Vernon Square downtown — You take your life in hour hands if you try to cross into the square there, and the space in the middle, with the Carnegie Library, is isolated rather than tying sections of the neighborhood together. Turning the intersection into another Mt. Vernon Sq. would probably thrill developers, however, and it would provide an excuse to surround the square with office blocks, just like Mt. Vernon.

  15. Bobbi Krengel

    All those who employ the fallacy of the false alternative of an empty building betray their short term view of the neighborhood. NOBODY is in favor of either delay or a vacant building. The concern is for what is best for the integrity of the neighborhood as a whole, and resisting black and white thinking.

    Eastern Market is one of a very few existing municipal public markets in continuous operation (except for the fire in April 2007 and rebuilding) as a municipal fresh food public market since 1873. The ONLY reason it has survived intact for 139 years is the support of the neighborhood. It was neither developers nor city officials who supported it or started the farmers’ line or the weekend flea market that built the critical mass of a marketplace that helped keep the market building going, but the neighborhood. We are not talking about a few newbies “who knowingly bought next to that school”, but the people who committed themselves to the neighborhood in the decades of real crime–the 1960s through the 1990s, including the riots of 1968 that burned out H Street where the owners padlocked their doors and never came back. We endured a lot of crime, and supported that market even as we watched our friends reach the breaking point and leave. You don’t know from havens for crime if you are worried about a vacant lot.
    Nobody wants to delay, but the consequences of railroading a big mistake through in the interest of time are potentially fatal to what has been the heart and soul of the neighborhood for 139 years. A five-year view of the life of the market will not be helpful. To those who have shopped there for generations, from merchants who have operated there for generations, a few more months to take the time to do this right is a blip in the life of this marketplace. Unless of course you wouldn’t care if it were replaced with a chain supermarket and a few token mall-type kiosks. Here’s what they’re getting at the City Market at O Street:

    Click to access CityMarket%20at%20O%20Project%20Book.%2002.03.11.pdf

    I am also in favor of raising the decorum of the discussion, and agree somewhat with Charles McMillion that posting anonymously or under pseudonyms encourages adversarial tones and snarky personal attacks, so rather than instituting a ban I would first respectfully ask that people rise above such comments, refrain from namecalling, and consider posting their names. For the record, I live 3 blocks from the market, won’t feel any shadows or experience any dust, but care desperately about the impact to the market and that resulting impact to the entire neighborhood.

    BTW–for you newbies, there are dozens of projects where the neighborhood scrutiny that necessarily slowed down a project did not kill it, but did result in a higher quality project. If you don’t believe that, try giving your contractor carte blanche over your home improvement.
    Bobbi Krengel
    PS–Thank you, Kathleen, please allow me to return the compliment.

    • nitpicker

      I respect your opinion, but I disagree with your statement that “NOBODY is in favor of either delay or a vacant building.” The tenor of many comments both here and at other forums suggest that some do want to send this project back to the drawing board even if means a substantial delay in anything being done at the site. This attitude is a problem for those of us who want to improve the project but don’t think the current design is the unmitigated disaster that some portray it as.

      • Randy Steer

        There’s a difference between WANTING a delay and being willing to tolerate one in return for getting a better result that’s going to sit in the community for 50 years or so.

        That’s about how long major buildings like this last before being torn down and replaced. So we need to be thinking in 50-year terms here, and if the current developers aren’t willing to give us the project that originally won the competition, a 2-year delay to get a better 50-year benefit stream is perfectly acceptable.

  16. KC

    I don’t know Bobbi Krengel although I have lived on the Hill for over 40 years, but I will say is that she hits the nail on the head.

    This is a discussion worth making because it will get a better result in the end, just as arguing over Eastern Market for more than 30 years yielded what we now have.

    It is not nimby-ism; it is genuine concern for a massive development that needs to be more finely tuned for the community in which it will exert significant influence.

    No one is going to agree on every point, (and we certainly don’t) but the general concept that this has gone a step too far, is correct. People like Ms Krengel are fighting the good fight. They don’t want it to go away, they just want it done right.

    We will all thank them for the final result.

    Also, the comments from ANON should be closely noted. I was one of the few that supported the Village Green plaza concept at Eastern Market Station (Eighth and Pennsylvania Ave.) to bring Pennsylvania Ave under control and to have a large community meeting place there. I are still hoping that plan will continue to move forward.

  17. Joe

    DC Spur, there was a meeting last night where about 200 Hill residents expressed their outrage at this project as proposed. You should organize and gather your fellow supporters of “build it big and ugly and eliminate the flea market.” I’m sure there would be a big turnout for that. Last night, Tommy Wells even noted that you are out there. Hidden, of course, anonymous, but supposedly out there. “Appauling”, indeed.

    • Fake Handle

      And we wonder why DC Spur and me choose not to share our names…

    • Eric

      How can you expect to be taken seriously when you call a modestly-sized attractive development “big and ugly”? Do you really think this investment in your neighborhood will harm you? I invite you to be realistic about the whole situation. You’re wasting valuable time, money, and sanity by opposing something for the sake of opposition. Instead of drawing community together, you help push it apart. Instead of the good of the city, it seems to come down to the good of your egos. It’s shameful. It’s selfish. It’s unrealistic. It’s anti-business. It’s anti-Eastern Market.

      • Randy Steer

        You forget that there was a project that WAS selected and WAS supported — the objections are over changing it from something that fit into the neighborhood (which is why it was selected) into something more suitable for the Navy Yard or K St.

        It’s not a case of the current proposal or nothing, it’s the current proposal or the one that the developers originally promised. Holding bidders to what they bid is not anti-business, it’s good business.

    • three blocks away

      I was among the 200 (I don’t believe it was quite that many — just look at the picture) at the meeting, and I too was outraged. Actually “appalled” is more the word. I attended the meeting with an open mind but leaning toward the Right-Size folks. I left with new respect for Wells and a realization that the tenor at the meeting is not that of the neighborhood as a whole, nor, necessarily, were the feelings expressed there. (I don’t know what the numbers are for and against — no one knows with any accuracy — but I do know that the half dozen or so of my neighbors I’ve talked to are cautiously supportive of the development.) No one in their right mind who even tentatively supports the Hine project (I don’t like all of it, and I did sign the flea market petition and alerted others to it) would post their name here. Snarkiness is hardly limited to those who post anonymously.

  18. Fake Handle

    My greatest concern in all of this is that none of the critics of the development can offer concrete specific changes that the developer can make to meet their needs, or at the very least compromise on.

    The developer has to offer up very specific plans, including square footage etc… in contrast it would be more than fair for the critics to offer very specific changes i.e., 10,000 less square feet, open the courtyard to the public.

    I don’t blame the developer for not wanting to open the door to the entire process again. I also feel that without specific recommendations, that the tone and sentiment around the neighborhood is to have no development at all – thus the use of NIMBY.

    It’s time to end the arguments about a lighless chasm, or shadows and offer specific, and reasonable, changes to the plans.

    Finally, this is the internet – the the beauty, and sometime ugliness, of it is the anonymity it offers. If you’d rather not engage with us that choose to stay private have these conversations at home.

    • Eric

      I agree. With every change that the developer makes that they believe will “appease” the NIMBYs, there seem to be more demands each time. Set your realistic terms, and companies that make their living making this city a better place to live, work, shop, and eat will do their best to get as close as possible without losing sight of their legal rights and financial practicalities.

    • Randy Steer

      Pretty simple — people are asking for the project as it was originally bid. The key characteristics that helped this development team win the bid over other designs (some of which looked a lot like the NEW design) were:

      1. Main facade 5 stories high, with a varying height profile that prevents it from feeling “monolithic”.
      2. Set-back 6th story.
      3. Open, publicly-accessible courtyard on the north side that could be used for the market.
      4. Reopening C St. as a public street.
      5. Sidewalk set-back on 7th St. to accommodate sidewalk seating for some restaurants.

      Adequate parking was also a distinguishing feature and they kept that, but the developer eliminated all 5 of the other distinguishing features above that won the bidding over competing proposals.

      You want concrete examples of what to change? Fix those 5 points and 90% of the opposition to the current proposal will go away.

  19. J. jones

    If these very credible concerns about the shape and use of the eastern market area are not addressed now, I expect that in a few years, we will see the articles in the wash. post about “how did this happen”–“who let this happen”? in such a unique and well used area of our city., it makes me think of the 60’s development of SW and how long it took to recover.

  20. david c

    “Wells hinted that DDOT would find the amount of parking provided in the project excessive, contributing to additional traffic in the neighborhood.”

    This is an incorrect deduction. Less parking will result in fewer cars coming to the Hill and thus less traffic. Not more. Parking attracts cars and cars cause traffic.

  21. Bobbi Krengel

    Wow, Fake. So much for helping to raise the level of the debate.
    Lets take it very slowly for you.
    The concrete specific changes the community is asking for are those that are contained within the original, official Request for Proposals, a very clear document that resulted from an intensive community effort, and incorporating the recommendations of the District’s Historic Preservation Office and Historic Preservation Review Board. Those dozen or so initial proposals many years ago conformed to those specifications. Those are the ones we would expect and accept, as they were agreed to in a consensus created by a detailed open public process. Please feel free to consult those documents online @ for details.
    To take a leap from the fact that the neighborhood would like to see the contracted developer adhere to the rules of engagement to the conclusion that that equates to a desire “to have no development at all” strains credulity and is not worthy of response.
    Finally, this is the Hill: the beauty of it is that we do not worship anonymity, or incivility. We are using the internet to be able to talk to more people at one time than we could in our homes. If you want privacy, you should move back to the suburbs.
    Bobbi Krengel

    • Eric

      With all due respect, Bobbi, you and the collection of your neighbors who oppose this development on what you may call your principles should move to the exurbs if you think that one story and a few thousand square feet of space will ruin your life. In a neighborhood otherwise filled with fantastic progressive people, the gross misuse and misdirection of energy among some is appalling.

    • Fake Handle

      Bobbi, I don’t believe I’m the one bringing down the discourse on this site…

      If you’re using the internet to talk to more people then you’re going to have to be willing to listen to those with a difference of opinion. I moved to DC and to the Hill 5 years ago, and I have lived directly in Eastern Market for the last 2.5 years (7th and C). You knowing my name does no good for either of us, does not raise the discourse, nor does it add any additional value to my already strong points.

      If you have a problem with progressive urban design, maybe you should be the only moving to the suburbs and leave the city living to a younger generation.

  22. anon

    @Fake Handle
    I also feel that without specific recommendations, that the tone and sentiment around the neighborhood is to have no development at all – thus the use of NIMBY

    Some of the complaints are broad and unrealistic, but one concrete complaint I hear over and over involves the number of spaces for the Flea Market. The original RFP specified that the existing capacity of spaces must be accounted in the plan, but the finalized plan from Stanton Eastbanc is significantly smaller — as much as 50% small and potentially less given the planned retail on C St, curb cuts, tree boxes, etc.

    Another concrete complaint is the overall square footage, which at one point was 15% greater than proposed. You can argue about the merits of more or less space, but the fact remains that the number significantly varies from their winning bid. Had they proceeded with 15% LESS space than proposed, some neighbors may rejoice, but the city and other interested parties should wonder what happened to their selected proposal.

    There is a general tone of kvetching, but it’s not entirely without merit. It’s getting old to paint anyone who raises legitimate concerns as “NIMBY” or anyone who embraces change as an interloper.

    • Eric

      The only thing I would support is a broadening of the capacity of the flea market, which is, in my opinion, the most important aspect of this project. Given a good superficial aesthetic, the height and size will matter little once it’s built because from ground level, you rarely look up, especially in a neighborhood of fantastic tree canopies. If we are to take Eastbanc’s financials at face value, and assuming they are largely honest (which I believe them to be), the only realistic and practical way to make more space for vendors is to increase the height of the buildings. Tit for tat.

      • anon

        I don’t think that’s the “only” way, but it’s certainly one way. I’m interested in hearing proposals on closing 7th St. north of Penn, incorporating the EM Metro Plaza, etc. The idea that the Flea market demands x sqft of self contained blacktop or its equivalent is a specious arguement

      • anon

        … 15% variance is high (whether it’s over stated limit or under). If I’m responsible for administering this project, I want to know why it’s heading off the rails. You could argue Stanton/Eastbanc assumed additional risk by expanding the scope at the expense of community support and potentially adding time (and thus cost). If it was 15% below, many neighborhood opponents would be thrilled, but the city would wonder where its projected revenue went.

  23. Mary Fraker

    Hi Eric,
    I, at least, am unable to “take Eastbanc’s financials at face value,” as I have not seen them. I would love to know more, however, and will appreciate your directing me toward that information.
    Thank you.

  24. Kim Nead

    Obviously, many people posting here feel strongly one way or another about the proposed Hine project. With that in mind, I call your attention to the following: The ANC6B Hine Subcommittee meets tomorrow, Thursday, May 24, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm at Hill Center to review the work of the Subcommittee and recommendations to the Planning and Zoning Committee on the Hine project. As I understood Brian Pate’s comments at the meeting yesterday, the meeting agenda includes discussion of the negotiations that have taken place between the subcommittee and the developers. I for one plan to attend to learn more about what the developers have agreed to do in response to community concerns over their revised proposal. If I feel I have something to contribute, I may also share my views with the subcommittee. Hope to see some of you there.

  25. Wally Mlyniec

    To call the opposition to this particular variant of the Hine development NIMBYISM misconstrues who the opposition is and is uninformed at best. Most of us are long term residents who moved to Capitol Hill precisely because we are urbanists. I myself have lived here for more than 40 years, though the good years and the tough years. I also understand development. I am on the Board of Directors of the Downtown BID. I have developed close to $100 million worth of property for Georgetown Law Center at New Jersey and Massachusetts Avenue, N.W. I understand architecture, I under urban design, and I understand fair profit. To say that our demands are not specific, are unrealistic, or are at odds with urban living is to forget that it was the Hine neighbors, the very same ones fighting this design concept, who were present and active in support when the original concept was proposed. Although there were differences of opinion about the appropriate developer, we came together to help develop the RFP that gave rise to this development. Rather than being NIMBY, we were at the forefront of moving the initiative forward and we helped to develop an RFP that called for mixed use project that was both urbane and compatible with the historic neighborhood we call our own. The claim that we have made no specific proposals, as Fake Handle makes, ignores the proposal that we helped define and that was accepted by the developer. It called for 1) a total square footage of 401,648 square feet; 2) 104 flea-market-vendor spaces on the Hine site; 3) open accessible public space, most likely in the interior courtyard; and 4) a 50 foot high building on 7th Street. To say, as Eric does, that the developers have appeased us only to be faced with more demands fails to note that at each step of the process, the developers discarded the original agreement, enlarged the size of the buildings, reduced the size of the flea market, took away all of the open and public space, and acquired a L’Enfant street which almost no one has been able to do in this city. They have increased the height of the buildings so much that they can now “willingly” give up a floor that they probably had no intention of ever building in the first place, to show how accommodating they are. Rather than acceding to our requests, the developers have ignored any that go the heart of the design. Those changes accepted only tinkered around the edges.
    I don’t know who the anonymous writers are and I don’t begrudge them their anonymity. But I do believe that their arguments are without merit and are based on a set of premises that have little relation to reality.
    From an urban perspective, this design is too high and too dense for the size of the site, is totally out of character with neighborhood, and diminishes the centrality of the Eastern Market to both the commercial and residential nature of the area. Those in opposition to this design love this neighborhood. We moved here because we believe in urban living. We have always wanted this site developed. We don’t oppose reasonable density. We took the lead in endorsing a sane urban development plan that was compatible with our neighborhood and that complemented the Eastern Market. We did not get it. We have been betrayed.

    Wally Mlyniec

    • Kim Nead

      I don’t know you, Wally, but thanks for this eloquent, clear-headed, and civil post laying out the history of the RFP, the changes the developers have now made to the design they orginally agreed to, and your reasons for opposing the current design.

    • Fake Handle

      Wally, most of your most is exactly the kind of discourse I would expect to see in the criticism of this development, but unfortunately has been lacking from many others (e.g., Bobbi, Joe, etc). I disagree with your perspective on Urban design and the potential impact on the neighborhood, but the specific design changes to the development are valid and some I would actually support.

      However, I disagree with your position that the developer has fundamentally changed the design plans from the original proposal. It seems to me that they were afforded these changes through this entire public process, bringing them forward to the public for comment and consideration – how else would we even know about these changes. It sounds like you should understand the negotiation process better than anyone and the needs of the developer to be met just as much as the neighborhood.

      Overall, much of your post is with great value, but when throwing out words like “betrayed”, that my arguments are “without merit” or “no relation to reality” then my only retort is to fight fire with fire. This extreme language has no real merit in public discourse and again only validate mine, and other’s opinions of the general NIMBYism of the neighborhood.

      I’ve lived on the HIll for the last 5 years, 2.5 directly in Easter Market (7th and C) and I whole heartedly disagree that my shorter tenure than others discounts my perspective on this project. The neighborhood should make specific recommendations to the developer to be discussed and if met the project can finally be a go.

      • Kim Nead

        Fake Handle, I don’t understand how you can suggest that the neighborhood make specific recommendations to the developer if you understood Wally’s post. The neighborhood made very, very specific recommendations that the developer agreed to. The developers have now changed key aspects of the design so that is no longer clear, at all, that the community would have supported the selection of this developer had they presented their current design during the bidding process. Really, thowing the label of NIMBYism at all who oppose the current desing is just inflammatory and as far as I can tell, without a shred of reality. Let’s stop calling names and discuss this reasonably.

      • Fake Handle

        Kim, I’m not calling anyone names. I agree, Wally and some others have made great points about specific points of the project. Those are the points that should be discussed and clearly articulated to the developer.

        However, many others have just made blanket accusations without merit or specific recommendations. In my opinion, I classify that as NIMBYism. Really, I believe telling someone that they are without merit and entire opinion offers no value is more inflammatory than a simple public policy term….

        I’m open to a more polite discourse – for example, I do not believe the Flea Market needs all (120-140) spaces it currently has and should be willing to adapt to somewhere close to the 75-90. Which seems to me to be reasonable to the market and developer.

    • anon

      But I do believe that their arguments are without merit and are based on a set of premises that have little relation to reality

      That’s a pretty broad stroke. Anonymity is preferable for to becoming a pinata. I don’t agree that all of the statements detached from reality belong to the anonymous posters, the majority of the those in this thread btw.

  26. DC Spur

    Wally, I’m sorry, this just makes little sense: “From an urban perspective, this design is too high and too dense for the size of the site.” That’s a surbuban perspective. The original plan is too small. We have a housing crisis in this city. Rents have been going up dramatically every year. As a homeowner on the Hill that doesn’t impact me directly, but it is indirectly damaging the prosperity of the city and forcing residents out. We need more housing built not less, especially housing that is on a transit line, which is better for the environment. Comparing this to the historic preservation fights of yesteryear is nonsense – this is not an urban highway, this is not a SW style 50s or 60s housing project, this is a building replacing an eyesore of an unused building and and an empty lot. The proposed building may not be beautiful or glorious or innovative, but it is a very safe design that will allow more people to live on the Hill, shop at Eastern Market, buy at Hill’s Kitchen and support other Hill businesses.

    You may feel you have been “betrayed” because the developer didn’t stick to the letter of the original proposal. But a decision on this design shouldn’t be based on your feelings of betrayal. While undoubtedly the current project is one that you object to,object on the merits of the actual project. It is clear that we differ on the density – fine. Let’s differ on that, not relitigate the merits of this current form vs. the original. From my perspective we would all be better off if, instead of demanding this project go back to the drawing board, the focus was about figuring out how to ensure the viability and strength of the flee market.

    • Fake Handle

      As a renter on the Hill that wants to buy, I agree that there needs to be more competitive housing options available, especially for first time home buyers.

      $600+ a square foot is just absurd.

      • anon

        Sorry, I just don’t buy this argument. While there will be very limited workforce housing in this development, this isn’t a particuarly “affordable” neighborhood, nor is most new construction particularly affordable. Most 1st time home buyers would need to have a LOT of cash on hand to buy anythong other than the limited condos available in this neighborhood. The few hundred new residents this project will serve represent a minor drop in the bucket for an area estimated to house ~20K people.

      • Fake Handle

        New housing is new housing, if nothing else it could potentially right some of the prices of the older condo buildings in the area. Huge impact probably not, but it will have an impact. Additionally, the development has some affordable housing requirements to it, I forget the exact language. I won’t fall into that category, but others will, again helping the neighborhood.

      • Anon, that’s not really relevant to Fake Handle’s point. New supply is new supply. The price point isn’t the big issue – if they’re marketing luxury condos, then they capture a portion of the market looking for luxury condos, which reduces pressure on other housing sub-markets. The process is called filtering:

        And no, this single project won’t magically fix DC’s housing supply issues, but it all adds up. When similar projects across the city are subject to the same sorts of delays and costs, that all adds up. Constraining the city’s supply of housing has serious side-effects.

      • anon

        adds up to peanuts. Look to SW for REAL supply coming online. This is mostly symbolic, and I don’t even have any fundamental issues with the Hine development (though I think it should stick to the approved plan)

  27. Randy Steer

    Anon, Fake Handle, and others seem to be forgetting that there was a DESIGN COMPETITION (Fake may have moved here after it happened) and that the COMMUNITY SUPPORTED moving forward based on the design that Stanton-Eastbanc submitted. There were proposals for more blockish, unattractive 6-story designs that were REJECTED back then, in favor of Stanton-EastBanc’s proposal.

    “Opponents” of the new proposal are not opponents of building a large building on the Hine site — we are opponents of the bait-and-switch approach that almost every developer feels they can get away with in DC.

    The Eastern Market neighborhood is qualitatively different from the Navy Yard or Clarendon. There is a sidewalk life here that virtually no other neighborhood has, with pedestrians, dogs, and sidewalk diners everywhere. If we wanted the feel of Clarendon or the Navy Yard, we’d live there.

    Walk around the new developments near the Navy Yard, with buildings like the revised proposal here: you will find very few pedestrians, and I can’t think of any sidewalk cafes. There’s a sterile feel to that neighborhood. that comes from having cliff-like buildings pushed right out to the modest sidewalks.

    Good modern urban design does NOT require monolithic structures crowding the sidewalks. In 2007 the American Planning Association (APA, who should know a thing or two about urban planning) picked Eastern Market as one of the 10 best urban neighborhoods IN THE COUNTRY. (Their inaugural “Best Places” award.) Some of the characteristics that won APA’s praise:

    — “Continued success in balancing the demands of growth and change, while preserving the fundamental values of the community.”

    — “Civic pride and dedication, combined with the centuries-old vision for this community, [that] sustain this neighborhood’s unique characteristics.”

    — The neighborhood’s record of activism in retaining its traditions, such as preventing large Federal buildings along East Capitol St.

    Since then, Eastern Market has made other “best places” lists, because of the way it is NOW, not in anticipation of turning it into the Navy Yard as Stanton-EastBanc seem to want.

    The original proposal was consistent with all the things that the APA liked about Eastern Market, and current opposition to the bait-and-switch is ALSO consistent with the neighborhood activism that the APA so admired.

    The nation’s foremost planners LIKE the current feel of Eastern Market. Don’t argue that people who want to hold Stanton-EastBanc to their original design don’t know anything about urban planning.

  28. Kim Nead

    Well said, Randy.

  29. Randy Steer

    A separate note about traffic and parking. Parking spaces don’t bring cars, amenities bring cars, as do new residents. Our area needs more parking as it is, with many residential streets being filled up by visitors on the weekends and nice evenings. The new shops, restaurants, offices, and residences in the development will draw more cars — if they can’t park in the building they’ll park on surrounding streets.

    If the DDOT really believes that parking spaces by themselves create traffic, we may need to educate them that the cars don’t just drive themselves to a nice comfy parking space — their owners drive them to get to a destination. This development is going to be a big new destination. That’s what’s going to generate traffic, not the fact that it tries to offer adequate parking.

    • nitpicker

      Randy, you are partly right, partly wrong. Imagine a big parking garage on the Mall -wouldn’t that create more traffic? The availability of parking helps to “create” traffic, because it encourages people to drive as opposed to other means of transportation. People who regularly walk many blocks to get to Eastern Market might be tempted to drive if they know there is plenty of parking available.
      I am not saying we don’t want adequate parking in the building, but there are side-effects.

      • Randy Steer

        You’re right, Nitpicker, that’s a nit. This is not a big garage, it will be pretty expensive (which will encourage locals to continue walking to the market), and a good number of the spaces will belong to residents of the buildings. Even with the amount of parking proposed, at MOST this could “draw” and hold an extra 100 cars at a time. Probably less since some of it will be given to market vendors whose current street parking will disappear — they’re already driving so they’re not NEW traffic, and their old spots go away so that’s not new traffic either. Let’s say people stay 4 hours, so each spot turns over twice on weekends (morning shoppers, afternoon shoppers, evening diners). That’s 300 cars over 12+ hours – -25 cars per hour additional traffic. Completely trivial impact on traffic flow in the area.

      • Fake Handle

        Eastern Market does not need more parking! I live on the busiest street – C Street – and spend a total of 5 minutes to find parking on the weekends. Granted it is not right in front of my building like on most week nights, but it is literally a 5 minute walk away.

        The whole point of a design like is to encourage less people to drive. We shouldn’t make it easier on them, we should make it harder. The city is already doing this, if you haven’t noticed they long ago extended the residential parking time to Saturdays and until 10pm.

        If parking truly is a priority I would consider moving out of the city. Parking will always be an issue in a city like this, we have it good on Capitol Hill and the addition of this development will have minimal impact on this.

      • goldfish

        @FH: for once we agree. After this project decimates the flea market, parking on weekends will be very easy.

      • Fake Handle

        @goldfish – again words like “decimates” doesn’t help anyone in this conversation?

      • goldfish

        @FH — The loss of 2/3 of the vendor space supports my characterization, and elsewhere I have fully backed this up by describing how the other constraints — such as the losses during construction — will further cripple the flea market. In the end, I think this project will kill, destroy, wipe out, obliterate, slaughter, slay, destroy, annihilate, liquidate, exterminate, rub out, murder, strangle, (insert your favorite verb that means “to kill”) the flea market.

      • Fake Handle

        @Goldfish, how can you possible hope to have a sensible and reasonable discussion with others who oppose your views when using this type of language. I have no reason to engage with you on this topic because of your unwillingness to compromise or use constructive language or offer any insightful thoughts other then “No Development”.

        You ignore my previous points on how the market will stay viable through the process and give no common sense solutions on how best to accommodate the market and development at the same time, other than again, “No Development”. All of this speaking to mine and others view that this is strictly NIMBYism at its finest.

      • goldfish

        I am describing what I think will happen in plain terms — I think this project will mortally wound the the flea market, and eventually put it out of business. To describe that with euphemisms — “the flea market will continue in diminished form” is like saying muscular dystrophy (a terminal wasting disease) will cause a person “to continue in diminished form”, and really is a form of self-deception. You may disagree with my prediction: prove me wrong — I hope I am, given the way things are going. But everything I have seen from the developer dismisses the damage to the market (as it naturally would), and somebody around here needs to point out how badly this thing can go.

        Btw, calling an informed neighbor a nimby is *you* throwing the gauntlet at me. I have never stooped to an insult about this.

      • Fake Handle

        What makes you more informed than me? You have very little evidence to back-up many of your claims that this development would kill the market.

        More importantly, you don’t even acknowledge or realize that the Developer would be better off with the flea market still around.

        I’m not sure what “throwing the gauntlet down” means, I’m hoping it is not a threat. I just call them like I see it, and it seems to me that your really only good reason to use such severe unfounded language is because you don’t want it in your own back yard.

      • goldfish

        1. I never claimed I was better informed than you, only that I am informed.
        2. I disagree that the developer would be better off with the flea market. They will have less hassle if they do not have to accommodate setting up all those temporary vendors twice a week, and this may also improve their relationship with their regular tenants and condo owners.
        3. To “throw down the gauntlet” is what a knight did to challenge another to a duel. It was usually accompanied by a insult. Google it. Calling somebody a “nimby,” particularly on a urban development blog, is pejorative.

      • Fake Handle

        1) I too am well informed and educated on this topic, guess this is a moot point.
        2) The neighborhood itself is called “Eastern Market”, doesn’t seem like that would resonate as much without an actual market. While the market could be a “hassle” to the developers, it is one of the huge factors that will encourage businesses to lease space in this new building and an even larger reason why future residents would want to live in the building. Just because you think it would be a “hassle” doesn’t carry any water.
        3) I don’t control how you internalize NIMBY.

      • goldfish

        @FH: Eastern Market is the historical building on 7th Street that has food vendors. The flea market is a relatively recent addition that enabled it to compete and live on in the era of supermarkets. But the flea market is NOT Eastern Market, and once the project is built, there is nothing to insure that Stanton/Eastblanc will continue to support it. The flea market will persist only if Stanton/Eastblanc sees a profit in it, and if at some point the hassle becomes too great, there is nothing anybody can do to force them to continue it.

        “I don’t control how you internalize NIMBY.”
        It is well recognized that NIMBY is derogatory term — look it up anywhere, such as Wiki. Your use of this term is consistent with that; it was an attempt to discredit my views without addressing my arguments.

      • Fake Handle

        I don’t know anyone in this city that when they say Eastern Market, they don’t mean both the farmers market and flea market. Maybe that’s just the new generation, but that is also the exact same generation that will be attracted to this new development. This generation will also want to preserve the market, maybe not in its current state, but I for one do not want to see it go.

        Again, you completely ignore my point that the developers would be better off with the market than without, even with some hassle. I believe it really is more on the flea market leadership to deal with the “hassle” of the development than the other way around. The market should be more flexible and look for new opportunities to embrace this change.

        Like I said, I call it like I see it. I have not used NIMBY as an ad hominem, but rather to point the use of language that you have used correlated with these type of attitudes. If you’re truly not a NIMBY, offer up some compromises that benefit both the market and developer and ultimately, and more importantly, the entire neighborhood.

      • goldfish

        I do understand your point “that the developers would be better off with the market”; it is that this can easily changed based on the sort of renters S/E gets. Moreover, S/E suggestion to close 7th St and use that space, as well as their idea that the Metro Plaza be used the flea market, is an attempt to escape from their obligation and indicates their REAL attitude toward the flea market. They see it as something somebody ELSE should handle.

        I have offered many compromises — such as suggesting that S/E could mitigate the neighbors’ objections by providing a more distinctive and arresting building design (see Frank Gehry); sacrifice the alley; restore the hotel etc. But I am neither a designer nor an investor, and therefore I have no standing (other than as a concerned neighbor and blogger) — so it is not my role to suggest alternatives, and those WITH standing are not obliged to listen to me. Same as you.

      • nitpicker

        You have conceded my point and we are now just arguing about the size of the effect. I could make some equally valid assumptions as yours (or invalid – the average stay will be 4 hours? really?). I could say: the fact that parking is “available” will, at peak times, draw more cars than the garage can handle, causing traffic congestion that wouldn’t happen if there was no public parking in the building. But I would prefer to leave these calculation to the professionals.
        BTW, I believe it is the opponents of the current design who have raised concerns about the garage’s effect on traffic.

  30. Scott Hammar

    Impossible to find eastern Market when it is not shown properly. Did you alter the model or it’s direction. I am not trusting your tactics with this photo. Also today I was scammed by a rep from your organization at Easyerm Market with a photo of what she saus was an original design of the project by Stanton Eastbanc for Hines. Never associated with Stanton Eastbanc. Seems you are perilously close to fraudulent use of material to pursuade the community. Do not find you trustworthy!

  31. Mary Fraker

    Hi Scott Hammar,
    I was at the EMMCA table from noon to 2 today, and I’m not sure what you are talking about. I am looking into what you say happened today and will report back on this blog. In the meantime, if you have not yet seen the 3D scale model at The Hill Center, I encourage you to do so. (The developer has made some changes since the 3D model; I have seen the latest plans and I do not believe they are significantly different from what you will see at The Hill Center.) And below is a link to what I believe is Stanton/Eastbanc’s original vision for developing the site — it’s quite different in almost every respect. I believe this is not available on Mary Fraker

    Click to access Stanton-EastBanc%20Hine%20Comm%20Pres%20Web%202ND%20HALF%20-%20Vision.pdf

  32. goldfish

    Thanks Mary Fraker for the link! I have been looking for this for months.

  33. Thom Riehle

    Hi, Scott Hammer,

    You must be the same Scott Hammer whose testimony on public file at the Zoning Commission (Exhibit 111) states, “Those who oppose this project are calling for personal gifts and amenities that serve their own purposes or
    the purposes of the few…..Many of these demands are personally based.”

    That’s a lie. No benefit requested by any of the neighborhood groups fits that description at all.

  34. Kim Nead

    Does anyone know the status of this – has Tommy Wells followed throught on this commitment? If so, has the DC General Counsel responded?

  35. Mary Fraker

    I just emailed Tommy’s office to ask. As soon as I receive a reply, I will post it.

  36. Kim Nead

    Mary, I take it Tommy Wells’s office never responded?

  37. Mary Fraker

    Hi Kim et al. This is the reply I received from Councilman Wells’ chief of staff on June 22: “We’re awaiting word from the General Counsel. Tommy did contact them after that meeting with the request and I’m reaching out to their staff to get an update on its status.”

    • Randy Steer

      I had meant to contact them to make sure that they were considering the design and qualitative aspects of the project as well as just percentage changes in height and square footage. Have you discussed that with them? If not, I’d like to send the illustrations from my ZC comments to them to remind them of key design differences.

  38. Mary Fraker

    Hi Randy et al., I did not specifically mention the (myriad) other changes, but it seemed to me that was clear at the meeting. Of course one can never be too clear in these instances, so I think it would be very helpful if you send them what you have — plus it will serve as another “reminder.”

  39. Randy Steer

    Mary — Do you have a suggested contact?

  40. Mary Fraker

    I have been corresponding with Charles Allen, Councilman Wells’ chief of staff.

  41. Randy Steer

    Thanks! I’ll send something this evening.