Hill East Neighborhood Coalition Pushes to Reopen Bidding on Boys and Girls Club

The Boys (and Girls) Club

The Boys (and Girls) Club

Hill East Neighborhood Coalition Pushes to Reopen Bidding on Boys and Girls Club

Capitol Hill Village Shows No Interest in Dantes/Menkiti Affordable Housing Proposal

by Larry Janezich

The Department of General Services timeline called for a decision on awarding the contract for development of the city- owned Eastern Branch Boys (and Girls) Club to be made in March.  But a well-organized group of nearby neighbors of the club – closed in 2007 – are petitioning Mayor Bowser to reopen the process for development of the site.  The group cited “little effort by DGS [Department of General Services] to collect feedback or input from the larger Hill East community” and a flawed DGS Request for Proposals (RFP) that resulted in a likely single viable proposal for developing the site – and even that proposal does not provide mixed income housing and exceeds square footage and height requirements under DC law.

In a letter to the Mayor being circulated in Hill East, the group states:

“Given all of these concerns and because this began before your administration, it seems like a great time and opportunity to restart the process, especially in light of your “OurRFP” initiative.  Accordingly, we are respectfully requesting that your office:

1) Review the matter with DGS; 2) Organize a meeting with DGS and the community; 3) Launch community surveys and input; 4) Revise the RFP with more potential uses and flexibility under your new “OurRFP” initiative.”​

The last point regarding revision of the RFP ​apparently refers to the 25 year time limit on the city’s lease of the site which effectively precludes conventional financing of the project.  The “OurRFP” initiative is Mayor Bowser’s new pilot community engagement effort that engages the community in a more active way prior to the city publishing an​ RFP ​for development of a city property. ​

​In the case of the Boys and Girls Club, the initial RFP for development produced only two proposals. ​ The first and – seemingly – the only remaining proposal from ​Dantes Partners/Menkiti Group​, ​is a plan to build 100% affordable housing subsidized directly through the federal government’s LIHTC program.  These 49 small units – that number made possible only by construction of a two story addition atop the existing building – would rent for a little more than $1000 a month.

The second proposal – from Century Associates – works within the existing structure and would provide 27 100% market rate units (two of which would be caregiver units) financed conventionally with no government subsidy.  This proposal does not, on its face, qualify for consideration by DGS, given that its market value units fail to meet a new city requirement that at least 30 percent of new residential projects on city-surplused land be affordable housing. This proposal has not been dis-qualified by DGS, and technically is still under consideration despite not meeting the 30% affordable housing mark.  .

A survey conducted by members of the neighborhood coalition shows most nearby residents favor the Century Associates plan over the Dantes/Menkiti plan, but would rather see a mix of larger affordable and market rate units in the building.  The survey also showed neighbors oppose the proposed additional two stories and larger number of small units proposed by the Dantes/Menkiti plan.

Meanwhile, Capitol Hill Village (CHV), who engaged early on in the process to try to serve as a catalyst between the city and potential developers, seems to have lost interest in the project as being of any benefit to its members.  Bill Sisolak, who participated in the process on behalf of CVH, told CHC that he thinks “the majority of members of Capitol Hill Village are looking for larger units – one, two, or even three bedrooms units – and it’s unlikely they would be interested in any of the units being proposed by Dantes Partners/Menkiti.” CHV is dedicated to the concept of providing options for “aging in place” for Capitol Hill residents.

ANC6B has gone on record in support of the Hill East community.  On March 12,  the commission voted 10 – 0 to send a strongly worded letter to DGS expressing its unhappiness with a RFP process which essentially left the community with a choice of only one redevelopment option for the Hill East Boys and Girls Club Building.

DGS’s response came in a March 30 letter to ANC6B.  Jonathan Kayne, interim director of the DGS, stated that his agency does not plan to re-issue its RFP for the Boys and Girls Club.

CHC reached out to Ward Six Councilmember Charles Allen today asking if he would support re-issuing the Boys and Girls Club RFP with a longer lease on the site, but received no response.

​ (This item has been added been added to CHC’s  “Ward Six Councilmember Watch” page – see the top of the Homepage.)​

As reported in numerous CHC posts, the dismissal of ANC and community concerns has become characteristic of city agency attitude toward the city’s residents.  With respect to how the process for development of city-owned properties unfolds, there have been other instances (e.g. see the original four proposals the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development submitted to the community for the Hine Development) where a city agency has used a developer’s proposal as a stalking horse.

As reported earlier on this blog, ANC Commissioner Brian Flahaven predicted that the decision on the Boys and Girls Club development would be a political one.  To this observer, this means the decision on awarding the Boys and Girls Club will depend on whether the Mayor and Councilmember Allen believe it is in their interest to do so.  Developers have the money.  Residents have the votes.

Residents who want more information on the group’s efforts to require DGS to reissue the RFP can contact Denise Daniel at:  denisemdaniel@hotmail.com

For previous posts on the Boys and Girls Club, go here:  http://bit.ly/1AHzvhL


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10 responses to “Hill East Neighborhood Coalition Pushes to Reopen Bidding on Boys and Girls Club

  1. Wendy Blair

    Larry thank you for this cogent, clear and encouraging summary.

  2. What major cities do 100% low income housing/affordable housing anymore? NYC, Chicago, at least require mixed income and create co-ops so that residents have a responsibility to keep things nice/sense of pride in their home. And what about just making it a recreation center again or something the whole community can use like it was before? There are lots of kids and adults who want more recreation inside the district. Plus, we already have a problem with pop-ups in DC, let’s keep the DC skyline attractive in all neighborhoods. This seems to be a critical moment for the Mayor and Council. I guess we’ll see how she handles the community input.

  3. I support reopening the RFP and gathering more input from the community on this project. It is ridiculous that the community is being forced to accept a choice of one.

  4. Dave

    It’s also short-sited to expect any developer to drop many millions of dollars into a renovation project with such a short lease term during which to recoup their investment. There would have been no detriment to the City to open up the lease term and see what kind of good, creative development proposals we could get. Typical corrupt BS. No one in this community is against affordable, smart development, but we do want what’s best for our neighborhood, and that’s multiple options to discuss.

  5. Dave

    I should add – I suppose reopening the RFP under different terms. We don’t need more input from the community, we need the City to LISTEN to what we’ve already said rather than dismissing it every step of the way.

  6. Neighbor

    I live within a block of the Boys & Girls Club building and fully support the Coalition’s effort to reopen the RFP. The current proposal doesn’t comply with DC law. But more importantly, it doesn’t make the best use of the building — or anythig big close to it. DGS artificially limited the options by requiring a short lease term, and it didn’t listen to the most affected nearby residents when it put the RFP together.

  7. Greg

    I support this Coalition and re-opeing the RFP too. Hill East is such a unique, welcoming, diverse, and family-friendly section of DC. There are so many great things that can be done with this property to benefit Hill East residents. I don’t think there are as many divergent views in the community as people think. It seems a mixed-use, recreational facility that can help bring the community together would be great. Where else in Hill East can that really happen?

  8. Around the corner

    These responses (and especially the input from CHV) demonstrate that the plan still under consideration simply doesn’t address actual needs/interests in the immediate neighborhood. Mayor Bowser and Councilmember Allen now have a great opportunity to demonstrate leadership and help us develop B&G Club into a welcoming anchor for Hill East that reflects and brings together an economically diverse community, not create an isolated island. Extending the lease-term is a vital first step to providing the flexibility for developers to consider how to incorporate larger units (with a mix of market rate and subsidized options) that would be appealing to seniors currently living on the Hill while hopefully avoiding having to pop the building up a couple stories (especially at a time when the DC govt is striving to protect the feel and character of R4 neighborhoods).