City Sees Three Year Timeline (Maybe) for Redevelopment of Hill East Boys and Girls Club

Eastern Branch Building, 261 17th Street, SE

Eastern Branch Building, 261 17th Street, SE

City Sees Three Year Timeline (Maybe) for Redevelopment of Hill East Boys and Girls Club

Community Uses for Project Present Challenge for Developers

by Larry Janezich

According to Michelle Chin and Stephen Campbell of the DC Department of General Services (DGS) the city anticipates a three year timeline for redevelopment of the Eastern Branch Building, formerly the Boys and Girls Club, at 261 17th Street, SE.  That timeline would start running after the City Council signs off on a proposal for redevelopment and DGS closes on a lease with a developer.

Last Tuesday night (September 16) at a community meeting at Payne School, Chin and Campbell said that the process for declaring the city-owned building surplus and the redevelopment process would proceed simultaneously as follows:

The DGS posted a Request for Offers (RFOs) on September 3

Responses from developers are due November 20

DGS may ask for best and final offers

Community meeting for presentation of all proposals will follow

ANC6B will review proposals and make a recommendation

DSG will make a final selection in February, 2015

DSG will award the development contract after the City Council approves a development plan

Six months to one year after that, developer will break ground

Approximately three years later, the project will be completed

The timeline is contingent upon finding a developer who will step up to the challenge of the criteria specified in the RFO.  There is a strongly held belief in the community, ANC6b, and DGS that the public must benefit from the disposition and development of this public property.  The challenge will be to find a plan and a developer who will satisfy that requirement and still find a way to make the project financially attractive.

On May 13, ANC6B sent a letter to DGS listing community preferences and stating the ANC’s belief that the city should pursue RFO’s that include a community or neighborhood- serving use component in the building.  Those preferences show up in the RFO as follows:

Day care

Adult daycare/senior services

Recreational uses that can accommodate dance or fitness classes

Community meeting/event space

Regarding the non-community space, the letter expressed a preference for family or senior housing.

The RFO states that respondents should note that greater weight will be given to proposals incorporating housing, particularly family/senior housing as part of the plan.  Further, it states that responses must consider and incorporate stakeholder and community preferences to the extent feasible.

The building itself presents issues for potential developers.  DGS is focused on uses for the existing building; however, problems in renovation (including a unique floor plan, lack of parking, lack of ADA features) make demolition and a new structure a likely alternative.  The building is zoned R-4 – residential – which limits a residential structure to a maximum three story/40 foot height.  Any change would require that a developer seek that relief through the Zoning Commission’s Public Unit Development (PUD) process.  There are no historic preservation issues for the building and selling the building outright is not an option.

Chin stated that the city does not currently have funding to subsidize or support the project.  This means that any non-community use of the development plan will have to generate enough revenue to sustain and support any community uses of the building.  Chin said, “We will accept any proposal but to receive serious consideration it will need to address RFO criteria.”

Whether developer subsidization of the community to this degree within the current height limitation is possible is uncertain.  ANC6B Chair Brian Flahaven may have been hinting as much during the Q&A period, saying, “I think the process affords us the opportunity to see what the possibilities are.”  Chuck Burger, Chair of The Eastern Branch Task Force appointed in 2009 by CM Wells to frame a reuse for the building commented, “This is one way to test the market.  If nobody meets the mark, do we want to lower the bar?”

The DGS RFO’s can be found here:  http://1.usa.gov/1qrZvbz

5 Comments

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5 responses to “City Sees Three Year Timeline (Maybe) for Redevelopment of Hill East Boys and Girls Club

  1. Anon

    Tack on another three years, they forgot to account for a frivolous lawsuit alleging shady government dealings. Or, do the Hine plaintiffs not care about what happens east of Lincoln Park?

    • Carole

      If DGS is more transparent in its decision making than DMPED has proved to be, no lawsuit should be necessary. The bottom line is that if the taxpayers are going to be expected to subsidize private developers, whatever city agency is in charge should make that fact evident rather than hide in the dark recesses of how PUD “amenities” are paid for.

  2. David S

    There is something very wrong with a public that never learns from being rolled by the real estate interests time and time and time and time again.

  3. John

    Hmmm…I somehow missed the community meeting. Anyhoo…

    Part of me says let the developers do what they want so the City can select based on maximizing revenue and perhaps earmark some the money toward the public amenities requested by the community. (This is often faster and more efficient than the “beauty contest” approach.)

    On the other hand, given that there are so many young families in the neighborhood — and this property was once a Boys & Girls Club — maybe they could consider providing some kind of indoor recreation space. The Hill lags other neighborhoods in this department — not many opportunities for kids to get their energy out when the weather is bad.