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.