CM Charles Allen Sees Little Chance for for Amazon HQ on Reservation 13
by Larry Janezich
Responding to a question at the end of his Pennsylvania Avenue Summit at Hill Center last night, CM Charles Allen all but said “Don’t bet on Amazon putting its new proposed $5 billion headquarters on Reservation 13”. That counsel has been reinforced by news media reports which point to obstacles in the way of the proposal.
Allen said that there was no doubt such a massive project would have a substantial impact on the community and that the District is one of “6,000 cities saying ‘Pick us’”. Allen added, with respect to the city’s bid, “There’s no meat on the bones,” referring to the city declining to disclose what financial incentives it might offer to Amazon somewhere down the line.
Amazon’s need for 8 million square feet of space gave him pause, Allen said, and made him wonder if the need is consistent with what the community feels would work for Hill East. He noted that some Hill Easters are saying, “Let’s not shut the door…” but in terms of a reality check, estimated that the likelihood of Reservation 13 being chosen is “down in the decimal points”.
On the face of it, the proposal seems preposterous. The disruption and divisions to the community, the dwarfing of every other economic and local governmental agency, and the demands on infrastructure and services such a development would require should cause residents to question the sanity of city officials who proposed this as well as those who support it. DC would end up just handing over the keys to the city to Jeff Bezos.
As reported elsewhere, some of the obstacles in the way of Reservation 13 being selected include:
The entire zoning of Reservation 13 would have to be changed – a long contentious process.
Reservation 13 is the site of the DC Homeless Shelter and the DC Jail which would have to be relocated.
The adjacent RFK is on National Park Service land. Events DC holds a lease which expires in 2033.
There are three other DC sites being offered: Buzzard’s Point and a parcel on Poplar Point across the Anacostia River, NOMA over the railroad tracks, and a site in Shaw/Howard University. None appear likely in light of incentive packages being offered by jurisdictions in other locations.
ANC6B Commissioners Danial Ridge and Denise Krepp took to Twitter and the New Hill East Listserv to blast the city’s lack of transparency and betrayal of trust with the Hill East community as represented by ANC6B.
Krepp said, referring to DMPED’s appearance before the ANC’s Hill East Task Force last Wednesday, “I’m appalled and incredibly frustrated that DC agencies lied to neighbors last week. They had a plan for the property; they just didn’t want to share it with us.”
Ridge said, “I am appalled at this lack of transparency. I am further appalled that DMPED spoke to us about this plan at 9:30 this (Monday) morning and asked us to keep it from you until they released it at 10:00.
Amazon as a firm has a vision of the future at odds with DC’s best future. I think they would do bad things to housing affordability and homelessness. I think we would have difficulty fighting Amazon on taxes or jobs or development in the future if they had such an oversize influence on the city.”
In a letter to the Mayor, Ridge said, “I am always willing to consider proper non-disclosure arrangements but I hope that I will never again be contacted under embargo a half-an-hour before an announcement of such significance. It makes me a party to an opaque system in an unwelcome way.”
Bids for the project are due on October 19. Amazon will make a decision in early 2018.
On Friday, Council Member Charles Allen holds community office hours from 8:00am until 9:30am, at The Pretzel Bakery in Hill East, at 257 15th Street, SE.