Council Member Jim Graham: “I have rarely experienced in Ward 1 such a widespread and negative community reaction to a development decision”

Rendering courtesy MRP Realty

From an email:

“Dear Friends:

I have been paying close attention to the dozens of emails objecting to the recent award of 965 Florida. I have carefully read the recent email from Mr. DeWitt as well as the statement by Deputy Mayor Hoskins (see below). I am also now responding (via Bcc’s) to my Ward 1 constituents who have written me. Thank you for writing me.

I have rarely experienced in Ward 1 such a widespread and negative community reaction to a development decision. Clearly there are a great many neighborhood people who are disappointed and unhappy with the choice and justification that has been offered thus far.

This is a major decision affecting the future of development in the eastern sector of Ward 1.

I am also sensitive that the legal process requires a decision to be made at this stage by the Mayor and his advisors. I also know that this decision will, in the future, require Council approval. That would include the property disposition.

But this does bring to mind the Foggy Bottom outcry to the initial decision by the Fenty administration to award the Stevens School contract in 2009. That Ward 2 property prompted the expression of strong views by my Council colleagues including CM Jack Evans and others. Ultimately, the following year, the award was vacated, in substantial part, on the grounds that there was so much community opposition.

I appreciate the statement that has been issued by Deputy Mayor Victor Hoskins.

But, as a first step, I think more detailed explanation of the rationale for the decision is necessary.

I am now requesting that detailed justification including documentation appropriate for release (not involving proprietary information) .

Bests Councilmember Jim Graham”

34 Comment

  • Did he really mention the Stevens school like that was a good outcome? How long have we all been waiting for a new life for that beautiful historic building?

    Also, can we just focus on other priorities…like Or even more cute dogs/cats? I’m exhausted by all the people who have nothing better to do whine about some vague promise of a harris teeter. Even though i do love some teeter.

  • This is more than combining about a building. It about one person deciding on a very important neighborhood issue that has absolutly no interest in it. The jbg proposal wasn’t just a Harris tester, but a hotel, a w st extension to Georgia ave and a much needed park area for the community. The is decision buy Hopkins reals of a back room deal and a bribe since no person with any common since would have chosen the other offer

  • Clearly, there’s more at play here than the unrequited teeter… wonder how many people were paid off to push the Ellis proposal through. Jail time?

  • This is a pretty big deal actually.

  • lovefifteen

    Don’t be naive. This has nothing to do with a Harris Teeter. It has everything to do with the rejection of an excellent proposal for a terrible proposal. I would not be surprised if corruption were involved. I hope people are investigating this.

  • I’ll be honest, I’ve read a lot about it and still fail to grasp how this plan or architecture is reaching the level of outcry it is. I like the idea of the griffith marketplace better than another grocery store, since by the time a Harris Teeter came online there will be a number in the area. Someone needs to explain why a W Street extension is better than the other street extension in the winning bid. None of this seems to be life or death in the community to me. Tack on to that that the city apparently got “millions” more for the winning project–when people are always complaining about the city giving away land for nothing–and I just can’t figure out what the issue is.

    • Psmitty311

      This far beyond a neighborhood squabble about which grocery store to get. The only new development this neighborhood has seen are residential and nightlife venues. This is the first development to offer something substantial to the people who live here, and after all the local support backed the JBG plan, the city chose the clear loser. When I asked for clarification, all I got from Deputy Mayor Hoskins were vague and borderline false answers, which truly makes me believe that something is being hidden from us. JBG’s plan wasn’t as financially stable as MRP’s? Really?!? From everything I’ve read, MRP has had more financial issues with developments in the past, and this one would be supported by a community crowd sourcing company that hasn’t supported anything this large yet. Also, how can a community-based crowd sourcing campaign work when the community was against your plan from the beginning? These are my (and all my neighbors’) DC tax dollars at work, and yet the city saw fit to go against what we wanted. When a vast majority of people support one development over another, it should be the duty of the elected officials to accommodate those people, as long as it does not negatively affect the city or residents. Here, we’re talking about developing two empty lots into a mixed use building with a grocery store and other retail versus a condo building on one lot with an unknown open market design (Ellis was never clear on what kind of market we could expect from them). It’s not like the majority is asking the city to demolish people’s homes and erect a brewery instead of something that would benefit all of the residents. Even if the market is well executed, it would not serve nearly as many residents as full-service grocery store. As for “millions more” statement that Deputy Mayor Hoskins made, it is still very unclear what that means since a final price has not been set, and there’s no way the Ellis project could bring in nearly as much tax revenue in the long run. Getting more money up front (allegedly) is short-sighted, and shouldn’t be a priority when the city has been operating on surpluses of hundreds of millions of dollars for two years now. I sincerely hope the outcry continues and brings about a change so that the right development can happen.

  • The JBG proposal just made a lot of sense, since it would ensure speedy development on two empty plots of land in an architecturally unifying manner. In addition to all the other good things about the project (the HT, extension of W Street, a BADLY needed hotel in the area, etc.)

    Instead, we get development on one plot of land and who knows what will happen to the plot currently owner by JBG, which will probably remain empty for a number of years. The Ellis proposal simply does not make sense, from a development standpoint or economically.

    I hope they do a thorough investigation of how this decision was made.

  • Please list the “number” of full-service grocery stores in this area, or soon to be in the area?

  • JBG’s plan to open a hotel at that location was absurd, considering that the Howard Inn was a hotel located almost directly across the street from that parcel and it went under. Is there real demand for a hotel that is a significant walk away from the nearest Metro and over a mile from downtown DC (specifcally the Convention Center, which is the largest nearby attraction for any sizable number of potential guests)? In that location, who’s the target market, rock stars who need a place to stay after they play the 9:30?

    Also, JBG wanted to build micro units. Seriously, with all the apartments available for rent within half a mile of that spot, they want to compete with micro units? That place would be vacant forever.

  • Does the JBG proposal call for their building(s) to abut The Fordian wall and the Ellis proposal leave an empty space between their building and The Floridian?

    • Psmitty311

      That was the original plan. MRP can’t do that since they don’t own the lot next to the Floridian, so that lot may not sit empty for quite some time.

  • it’s an .2 mile 4 minute walk to the east U st. metro entrance according to Google maps. 8 min walk to the entrance further on U st near Starbucks.

  • I, too, was enthusiastic about a Harris Teater, and reuniting the transportation grid (i.e. continuing W Street) is usually a good thing. But it is strange that people seem so sure a terrible decision has been made (e.g., on the listserve traffic). I assume there is a big difference between the glossy proposals (okay, pdfs that were mailed around) and where the rubber meets the road. But I suppose it’s not a bad thing if the city takes a second look at the proposals.

  • Yes, microunits. Really. Not everyone can afford “all the apartments available for rent within half a mile of that spot” at $2000/month

  • It’s not that far, but I agree. 13th and U – just behind the metro station would be the perfect place to start a hotel in this neighborhood – it’s steps from the metro, close to the 14th St corridor and not far from downtown.

    It looks like JBG assumed they would win based on the fact that they owned all that land nearby. On the other hand, the MRP/Ellis proposal looks terrible. Who wants an indoor, overpriced marketplace there?

  • Which listserv are you on where this was being discussed? I live in the neighborhood (11th and W) and would like to join the local listserv. Can you provide me with a link?

    Many thanks!

  • A world where .01 mi is a “significant walk to the metro” is not one in which I hope to live.

  • In addition to the points people have already made, one of the most positive things about the JBG proposal in my mind was that it would have included a bunch of offices targeted at creative/local use. Along with the grocery store, that would have brought a lot of positive daytime activity to an area that’s mostly utilized at night.

  • Yeah, people are crazy.

  • I really hope that all the dissent doesn’t ruin the chances for a project to happen… This area has been so under served for a long time that simply protesting this project may push it all back 4 years. I don’t really care if it’s a Harris Teeter or not, there are plenty other eligible places for that, what I’m worried about is that everyone else will get discouraged until nothing happens at all.

  • What planet do you live on? I’ve lived in the neighborhood for the last 10 years and there was no hotel across the street; maybe in the 80s but not recently. Additionally the neighborhood has vastly changed since that time including the metro that will is within a 3 minute walk from this location. The arguments you make don’t have the facts to support them.

    • saf

      The Howard Inn is the closest hotel I can think of, but I believe it closed in the 1990s. Am not sure exactly when.

  • I wouldn’t worry about that. That area is ripe for new development with lots of possibilities. The key is to get the best of all the proposals.

  • Deputy Mayor Hoskins misspoke when he made his “millions more” statement. He meant to say “tens of thousands more.” For his “campaign fund.”

  • @Jack5

    I think JBG is keen on developing something in the land it owns there, so most likely it will result in something. A grocery store a few blocks from the Trader Joe’s is a great idea. Hopefully, we’ll actually see that.

  • W Street does not connect on any of the two proposals. It cannot happen with the JBG proposal because the land owned by HU is going to be developed and it will go in the middle of the block preventing a W Street straight connection.

    The MRP proposal does provide with a connection through Bryant Street which was part of the RFQ by DMPED – JBG just decided to “provide a W Street connection” based on the holdings they have – but let’s be clear it was never going to be a straight shot.

    • Psmitty311

      This connection has been discussed even before the Harris Teeter news came out, and those articles/blogs said the city planners liked the idea of a W St. extension. Never read anywhere that this wasn’t a real possibility, though I do understand that nothing in construction is final until it’s done. If you look at a map, JBG already owns all the land needed to build the extension except for a small portion that’s just north of the 9:30 Club parking lot, and it’s currently overgrown with tree-sized weeds. Shouldn’t be too hard to get that little part if the city wants it.

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