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March Madness is upon us, and the teams are dropping like flies. The first to be eliminated was a team led by the Tensquare Group and Chapman Development, whom ex-Mayor Vince Gray had picked to go all the way in developing Shaw’s Parcel 42. They ran into a tougher bracket-maker in Mayor Muriel Bowser, who voided the contract in January. The next to fall was the Institute for Contemporary Expression, set to take over the old Franklin School space until Bowser said no. Also on the chopping block: other last-minute awards by Gray and the entire streetcar project.
When Bowser convened the city’s developers and contractors for an event titled “March Madness,” it was probably not her intent to highlight a metaphorical relationship between bloodshed in bracketology and bloodshed in the mass scrapping of city projects. But if the title was intended to gin up interest, it worked: People hoping to get contracts for some of the city’s biggest development projects packed the Lincoln Theatre to hear Bowser and her team lay out a few upcoming opportunities.
Bowser and her deputy for economic development, Brian Kenner, laid out six projects for which the city will soon offer solicitations. Foremost among them is Parcel 42, the long-vacant city-owned property at 7th Street and Rhode Island Avenue NW. For that project, Bowser is piloting a new initiative called OurRFP. The administration will seek public input on priorities for the site before crafting the request for proposals, then build those recommendations into the solicitation.
Here are the other projects announced today:
- Capitol Vista: a 9,653-square-foot vacant lot bounded by 2nd Street, H Street, and New Jersey Avenue NW. Bowser’s real estate director, Sarosh Olpadwala, promoted it as “a stone’s throw from Capitol Crossing,” the upcoming freeway-decking project.
- Waterfront Station II: a 1.36-acre lawn just north of the existing development at the Waterfront Metro
- Truxton Circle: a small, 4,982-square-foot lot on Bates Street NW by North Capitol Street, near other development opportunities around Florida Avenue
- Halley Terrace: three small properties in Bellevue, two adjoining one separate
- Anacostia Gateway: one property at 1909 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE and a series of adjoining properties across the street on Good Hope Road SE
The latter project is particularly significant for residents of Anacostia. Neighbors have long accused the city of neglecting its vacant properties on Good Hope Road, which became the scene of a highly controversial public-art project last year. The Martin Luther King site was where a historic facade collapsed last month, leading neighbors to charge the city with “demolition by neglect.” Anacostia residents will be heartened to see the city finally moving forward with the development of those vacant sites, although it’s not clear whether the MLK facade can be preserved.
“Every day out my office window, I see the potential for this to be a gateway for opportunity,” said Polly Donaldson, the new director of the Department of Housing and Community Development, which controls the Good Hope parcels. DHCD’s office is located at the corner of MLK and Good Hope, across from those vacant storefronts. The agency has borne the brunt of neighbors’ outrage over the prolonged vacancy.
Bowser laid out five priorities for economic development in D.C., including the preservation and production of affordable housing, the growth of the tech sector, and better job training. “I am confident,” she told the crowd, “that the projects we announce today will help us achieve those goals.”
The solicitations for the projects are expected to go out in about two weeks. March may soon be over, but the madness is starting.
Photos by Aaron Wiener