David vs Goliath – The City Is Close to Announcing a Developer for the Hill East Boys and Girls Club
by Larry Janezich
An announcement of the city’s selection for the developer of the Boys and Girls Club in Hill East appears imminent. In some respects, the dueling developers appear to be David vs Goliath, with local Capitol Hill entity Century Associates – clearly the favorite of the community and the ANC (see below) – pitted against the several development companies all of which appear to be owned by a holding company, of which Morningstar Development is a part. Political contributions to the campaigns of numerous mayoral and city council campaigns by those developers associated with Morningstar far outstrip the handful of select contributions from Century Associates.
Here’s a review of where we are tonight regarding the redevelopment proposals:
The office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development held a public disposition hearing on Thursday, November 16, at St. Coletta’s, presided over by Gilles Stucker, Associate Director of Real Estate. The purpose was to receive community comment regarding what use the Boys and Girls Club should be put when disposed of as surplus property by the city.
Sixteen residents of the some 30 attendees – many of them members of Capitol Hill Village – expressed a strong preference for the senior cohousing proposal offered by Century Associates over the conventional condo development put forward by Morningstar Development. (See ANC6B action below for details)
ANC6B Commissioner Dan Ridge, speaking only for himself, said, “If this RFP is to issue an award, if we are to trade in our building for between 5% and 10% back in community space, then let me throw my personal weight behind the Century Associates plan. This plan is audacious. This plan is exciting. This plan, even though replicated elsewhere, will be designed here by the residents themselves. This is an experiment. In my mind, this tips the balance. This experimentation itself is a community service. I would encourage the city council to set aside the property taxes generated by this project to a Community Land Trust to, over time, preserve and deepen the affordability of the project by purchasing additional units in the building as they become available on the open market.”
Stucker said of the next steps forward, that DMPED’s Office of Real Estate will collect oral testimony and written comments and prepare a package that will be sent to the city council along with a recommendation to surplus the property and what use should be made of it after disposition.
Asked by a resident what criteria will be used in formulating the recommendation, Stucker said “the RFP criteria, public comments, and the great weight of the ANC”. Regarding the time frame, Stucker said he hoped a decision would be made this year.
Stucker noted that the hearing that night was the first instance of the use of a Disposition Hearing under the “OurRFP” process which is intended to provide transparency and accountability for the RFP process.
Ridge, again speaking for himself, took issue with the OurRFP process used for the Boys and Girls Club: “In my opinion, I think this RFP process is an almost pathological mismatch for this property.” He said that the process did not need to be structured to produce a mostly residential outcome, but …“this specific RFP was rigged to steer this process towards residences.”
Ridge offered the following specifics: “It required CBE* participation, which excluded non-profits. It required respondents to have developed three similar projects, a near impossibility for a team rehabilitating a neighborhood community center. DMPED, … constrained the discussion to only those matter-of-right uses … [and] lumped most non-residential uses together into ‘institutional’. This is perhaps the scariest way to describe the purpose of this building over the last 70 years.”
“This liquidation of 40,000 square feet of community space into housing is especially jarring because this building is specifically enumerated in the Comprehensive Plan as a community facility and because it is perhaps the last, best hope for Hill East to have the kind of amenity that is supposed to flow from the density we are told to accept. Mayor Bowser’s recent Amazon bombshell for Reservation 13 has only served to dim prospects of meaningful community support here. Most jarring is to have seen, since the Boys and Girls club closed, Eastern Market rebuilt from ashes and the Hill Center reclaimed from a state worse than the Boys and Girls club was when closed. These are jewels for the rest of the Hill and examples of what is possible.”
In addition to Stucker, other city official in attendance included DMPED Project Manager Miguel Garcia , Valacia Wilson, Planner, Office of Planning, and Ikenna Udeuioor, Realty Specialist, Department of General Services.
* The Certified Business Enterprise (“CBE”) Program provides preference to District-based firms pursuing District Government issued procurement opportunities, and expands the availability of business opportunities with District-sponsored development projects.
On November 14, ANC6B voted to recommend Century Associate’s senior co-housing proposal for development of the Hill East Boys and Girls Club. The vote was 6 – 0, with three abstentions.
Century Associates proposed 29 one, two, and three bedroom age restricted co-housing units with a dozen below grade parking spaces and 1850 square feet of community space. 30% of the units would be “affordable” i.e., available at 50% – 80% of market rate. The use of the community space would be determined by the community. Century was not able to say what the market price of the non-affordable units would be, but did estimate that the average price of the units including the affordable ones would be $545,000.
A strong majority of the ANC agreed that senior co-housing was a better fit for the Comprehensive Plan for the District. The support came with the request that use and management of the community space required by the city to be included in the project be clarified.
Morningstar Development’s competing proposal would provide 31 one, two, and three bedroom conventional condo units, a similar number of parking spaces, and 3000 square feet of community space. The Morningstar representative announced at the meeting that the developer could increase the percentage of affordable housing from the required 30% to 40%, though it’s unclear whether such an offer is permitted after a response to a request for proposals has been submitted. The developer anticipates that the market rate units will sell from $382,600 up to a large three-bedroom for $741,700.. The “affordable” units will be available below market at rates ranging from 50% to 80% of market value. The developer also said the company would contribute startup costs of $155,000 for a café in part of the rent-free community space.
For ANC6B’s Planning and Zoning Committee consideration of and recommendation see here: http://bit.ly/2zpSF6C
For more on the concept of senior cohousing, see here: http://cohousing.org/node/4005