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D.C. Councilmember Brianne Nadeau wants the company developing an empty church in Adams Morgan into a sizable hotel to hire up—or pay up.
In a letter to residents Wednesday, Nadeau, who inherited the project from her Ward 1 predecessor Jim Graham, says she intends to hold the Sydell Group to an agreement it brokered with the District several years ago: It would get a $46 million tax abatement for a luxury hotel to be called The Line (expected to feature chic restaurants) in exchange for hiring close to 350 residents for construction. But as the Washington Postreported Monday, the developer has only met about a quarter of that threshold to date, with the hotel set to open early in 2017. Sydell executive Jake Lamstein told the Post that the firm believes the deal involves just 175 construction positions, adding that it would “meet and likely exceed the obligation.” (He said Sydell plans to talk with officials.)
Now, Nadeau says she’ll be “prepared to recommend” that D.C. Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt revoke the developer’s tax abatement if it doesn’t meet requirements—not only to hire 342 construction workers but also to provide permanent jobs when the hotel opens. Whether they’ll be unionized was a matter of dispute last year.
“To reiterate—the hotel is required, by legislation, to hire 342 D.C. residents for construction jobs in order to receive its tax abatement,” the Ward 1 councilmember writes in her letter. “My top priority is not to punish the developer, but to see the promise of local job creation fulfilled.” She adds that her office is compiling a group of community organizations that Sydell should engage to hire residents for both short- and long-term jobs.
It’s unclear what will happen if the developer doesn’t comply. Per the D.C. Code, there are a number of obligations Sydell must meet to trigger the tax breaks that the legislation spells out. Among them:
- At least 51 percent of construction hours shall be filled by District residents and a minimum of 342 construction full-time equivalent employees.
- At least 51 percent of permanent jobs in the hotel shall be filled by District residents with a minimum of 51 percent of the District resident jobs reserved for Ward 1 residents.
- All apprenticeships shall be reserved for District residents with preference given to Ward 1 residents.
- A job training program, funded by the developer, shall be established through a District nongovernmental organization, trade union, or nonprofit organization whose core mission is to train and employ District residents.
- The developer shall work with an outside auditor or trade union to ensure that local hiring minimums are being met and maintained.
- The development shall include no less than 4,000 square feet of community and nonprofit incubator space at no cost to the community.
According to Sydell, the hotel will contain a restored version of the 110-year-old First Church of Christ, Scientist, and more than 200 rooms.