Couple of Georgia Ave notes. First a reader reminds folks to take this survey about “Major development is on its way to Georgia Avenue between New Hampshire Avenue and S St. NW (from) the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force”
Darren Jones, the president of the Pleasant Plains Civic Association, sent the following letter to our elected leaders last week. It was printed on the front page of the Pleasant Plains neighborhood newsletter this week. Thought it might be of interest.
Full letter after the jump.
Dear Mayor Fenty, Chairman Gray, Councilmember Graham and Deputy Mayor Santos,
As a representative of the neighborhood surrounding the former Bruce Monroe Elementary School site at 3012 Georgia Avenue, NW, I am writing in hopes that our elected and appointed leaders will take ownership of the situation there and provide the solutions our community has lacked for years.
The following is a summary of issues we face regarding the site:
School community (DCPS, OPEFM). Parents whose children now attend Bruce Monroe at Park View believe they were promised a new school at the Georgia Avenue site as part of the school consolidation process in 2008. Yet Facilities Director Allen Lew testified last week at a Council hearing that there is no budget for such a project — only approximately $21 million between Fiscal Years 2011 and 2018 to renovate Park View. The parents are unhappy with the conditions at the Park View building, and it is not undergoing any substantial renovation. At the same time, in accordance with DCPS policy for elementary-school students whose buildings are “under construction,” the children receive bus service from the former Bruce Monroe site to Park View and back every day. The District Government needs to decide where these kids will go to school.
Security (DMPED, DRES, MPD, DDOT). The former school site has not been secure for years. In fact, it is a danger to the surrounding area. As a school facility, the grounds were home to numerous violent incidents including homicides in 2006 and 2008. A shooting took place there less than a month ago. As recently as yesterday, any member of the public could simply walk right through a four-foot gap in the construction fence right next to a bus stop on Georgia Avenue. With utilities now disconnected from the site, it has even less lighting than before.
Interim use planning and budget (DMPED, OP). Despite the fact that Bruce Monroe was slated for demolition two years ago, the community has suddenly faced a rushed and opaque process for planning the site’s interim use. Neighbors have seen exactly one drawing, not to scale, and made numerous suggestions to be incorporated into the next draft. Yet we are now told we will not see a next draft. The date for the RFP to go out keeps changing, and nobody outside the District Government knows what exactly the District Government is soliciting to be built. There is no information whatsoever about the interim use on DMPED’s website.
The budget for interim use was set at $500,000. We have no idea who in the District Government decided on this figure and why. It is inadequate to provide any kind of meaningful youth programming, which the site offered when it was a school and is still a dire community need. As DMPED mentioned at a meeting weeks ago, merely having a robust fence around the entire site will eat up 40 percent of this budget.
We have watched as our neighbors to the southeast in LeDroit Park have been afforded a meaningful, lengthy community input process and a budget of $1.5 million to develop an interim-use park at the former Gage-Eckington School, a site roughly the same size and age as the former Bruce Monroe. Residents there have even had the opportunity to specify which type of trees they want. The demolition announcement for Gage last August already included the plans for a park. Just six days later, the demolition announcement for Bruce Monroe said, “The District is preparing a solicitation that will seek proposals from developers for a mixed-use development. The solicitation will be issued within the next several weeks and bids will be due this fall.” There was no reference to a school or an interim use, and the solicitation, if issued, yielded no bids.
Unclear schedule (DMPED). Demolition has taken nine months and counting. Meanwhile, we have learned from published reports that despite what the Deputy Mayor’s office has told us in several meetings, the interim use for the site will not be ready for the end of the school year, and will likely last until 2018.
Therefore, we are calling upon you to immediately do the following:
1. Disclose the District Government’s plans for the student population of Bruce Monroe at Park View. Commit to either rebuilding a school on the Georgia Avenue site or a Phase One modernization of Park View, explain the reasoning for your decision, and provide the community with a realistic timetable and budget.
2. Increase the budget for the interim use of the former Bruce Monroe site to $1.5 million, to achieve parity with the former Gage-Eckington site and provide adequate educational and recreational programming for the community in light of the new, extended time horizon.
3. Provide updated, realistic timetables for the completion of demolition of the former Bruce Monroe school; the development of a new site plan; the issuance of an RFP; and the construction of the interim use.
4. Provide meaningful opportunity for public comment on any proposed uses, designs, the RFP and the choice among contractor proposals.
5. Develop a robust security plan, including lighting, fencing and patrols, to begin immediately and last through the end of the interim use period. Provide a draft of this plan to the community for comment, and make its terms part of the RFP process.
In an August 10, 2009 press release, Mayor Fenty said of the Bruce Monroe site, “We are committed to bringing a new sense of vitality to Georgia Avenue. And this project is critical for doing just that.” The time has now come for our government to reiterate that commitment by taking decisive action.
The members of our Civic Association are available to meet or discuss our concerns with you by phone or email at your pleasure. We hope you will recognize the importance of this site to our community and to all of Ward One, and take this opportunity to provide meaningful leadership moving forward during this election year and critical time for Georgia Avenue.
Darren R. Jones, President
Pleasant Plains Civic Association