Residents Raise Concerns Over Politically-Connected Developer for Boys and Girls Club
Fear City Has Stacked Deck in Favor of Hine Partner
by Larry Janezich
ANC6B’s Hill East Task Force and nearby residents of the Eastern Branch Boys and Girls Club Building met Thursday night to hear answers to questions raised at the January 20 Department of General Services (DGS) meeting where two competing developers presented their proposals for the building to the community. See here: http://bit.ly/1EtDfrk
The first proposal, put forward by Dantes Partners – a partner of Stanton EastBanc in the Hine development – depends on federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC) for funding.
The second proposal, from Century Associates, does not on its face qualify for consideration by DGS, given that its market value units fail to meet the new requirement that at least 30 percent of new residential projects be affordable housing. Whether this new law would apply to the DGS’ Request for Proposals (RFP) that predated the law’s enactment was the subject of much of the confusion at the January 20 meeting.
Also among the questions raised at that meeting is why the DGS wrote the RFP with a 25 year limitation on the lease for the site, dramatically undercutting the possibility for a market-based development and therefore heavily tilting the process in favor of public funds – namely, the bid put forward by Dantes Partners, who specialize in federal low income housing tax credit developments.
Hill East Task Force Chair Brian Flahaven said he was skeptical of DGS’ claim that a 25 year lease is their “standard lease line” and is executed with the expectation that if developers desire a longer lease, they will ask for one. Flahaven said he thought that was “ridiculous.” “Why not propose,” he said, “a 50 or 100 year lease and provide the opportunity for somebody to say we can make it work in 25? It doesn’t make sense to me.” Flahaven said that in addition to the 25 year lease, the other constraint imposed by the RFP was that 30% of the units in the development must be affordable housing, a requirement that most in the community welcome, but one that is difficult, if not impossible, to execute on a market-based 25 year lease.
The 20 some residents who turned out for Thursday night’s meeting were overwhelmingly critical of both the process by which the city had engaged the neighborhood on proposals for the development, and the Dantes Partners proposal.
According to Flahaven and ANC6B Commissioner Denise Krepp, who met with DGS prior to Thursday night’s meeting, DGS subsequently asked the two developers for their Best and Final Offer (BAFO). Krepp told those attending the meeting that those BAFOs had been received by DGS on Wednesday, but would not be made public until next Tuesday.
Flahaven said, “It’s my view that we are not at a place where we could recommend either proposal” and that it was his sense that the community preferred the Century Associates proposal over that of Dantes Partners. He said that the Task Force would have to see the developer’s responses to BAFO and the DGS response to additional questions raised by the community on Thursday night. “DGS doesn’t want to answer a lot of questions,” he said, “they want to decide on the info they have now and work out the details later.”
Flahaven said that the terms of the RFP allowed some in the community to infer that the RFP was written that way to narrow the possible proposals. The fact that there was so little interest in the developing community to submit proposals – contrary to a previous the statement of DGS’ Michelle Chin – adds credence to this claim. When a member of the audience noted that there are some smart people at DGS who knew what the implications of the 25 year lease in the RFP were, Flahaven said,”No comment.”
Dantes Partners has recently come under greater scrutiny for its role in the Hine project. Dantes shepherded the LIHTC component of the Hine development through the DC Housing Financing Agency. That transaction’s propriety has recently come under question (See here: http://bit.ly/1CCPcgs). Dantes Partnes’ principal Buwa Binite is a former board member of the board of the DC HFA, which approves 4% LIHTC credits; he is a donor to the Muriel Bowser campaign; and he is also a former employee of the Deputy Mayor’s Office of Planning and Economic Development.
Commissioner Krepp said that she would work to inform the community regarding the BAFO’s when they are released next Tuesday. She asked those neighbors interested in the project to analyze the BAFOs and provide feedback for additional questions to the city.
Flahaven said another community meeting prior to March 3 when the BAFO’s come up before ANC6B’s Planning and Zoning Committee was unlikely because of lack of time.
Next: BAFOs, FOIA, and Next Steps