When national commercial real estate news service Bisnow began promoting an event in late May entitled “The Future of Southeast D.C.”—with a ticket price of $79—the reaction on social media was swift and steady.
“I will be opposing this,” Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White recently wrote on his personal Facebook page. “We will decide internally what we need and want in our ward. I will never sit quiet and not make sure we are [at] the table for our community.”
Sheila Bunn, chief of staff to Ward 7 Councilmember and former Mayor Vince Gray, was also active in opposing the event, according to a number of sources.
At issue was a panel composed of white, largely unknown faces, charged with speaking about development prospects and opportunities east of the Anacostia River.
Less than two weeks after its initial announcement, Bisnow has decided the July 12 event “does not meet our standards,” according to an email. “Therefore, we are canceling the event.”
Taking its place will be an annual “Future of Capitol Riverfront and The Yards” program with “the biggest owners and developers in tow.” Bisnow plans to “foster a discussion surrounding the exciting development and commercial real estate trends of The Yards and the Capitol Riverfront.”
Whatever is going on east of the river can wait.
This is not the first time in recent memory business interests have been thwarted in exploring their EOTR curiosity. Last year protesters shut down a “space-finding tour” of Ward 8 on lower Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE sponsored by the Washington Business Journal and the Washington, D.C., Economic Partnership. One person was arrested.
Reaction on the Great Ward Eight Facebook Page to Bisnow’s cancellation was varied and visceral.
Other comments were more direct in their critiques.
“I think they realized they were caught out—with all the publicity that came around the announcement—as a bunch of white men who don’t live or work east of the river trying to sell ‘hot development blocks’ to a room full of people with $79 and no particular connection to anyone or anything east of the river,” wrote local journalist Virginia Spatz. “But yeah, they seem fine with treating another area as their financial playground.”
“Bisnow cancelling their meeting—or really just moving to an already developed neighborhood will stop what exactly?” asked Angela Copeland, the page’s administrator. “They’re not going out of business. They are not even developing anything over here. It was a networking meeting. I think we’re not on the same page because too much gets painted as an ‘oh my god’ moment when it’s not. [W]e operate in emergency mode. [A]lways reactionary. [L]et’s build wealth, create businesses, and we wouldn’t be worried about some whoevers holding a tea.”
“This can’t be true,” Melik Abdul wrote. “Surely our community didn’t object (to the extent there was) to a $79 fee? I saw the initial advertisement and not exactly sure from where the opposition actually comes.”
With a number of development projects—Maple View Flats, MLK Gateway, Busboys & Poets and others—within Historic Anacostia slowly moving along, it appears for now and for the foreseeable future that the best place to discuss what’s going on is at an ANC meeting or the street corner.