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Vince Gray may not have been able to cut the ribbon on the streetcar, but before departing office, he made a few last-minute moves to shore up his mayoral legacy. On Dec. 29, he picked a development team to tackle the first phase of the St. Elizabeths project, near Congress Heights, that promises to transform one of the city’s poorest corners. Two days later, on the last business day of his administration, he selected a developer for the valuable Grimke School site on U Street NW and announced a deal to preserve affordable housing at a threatened Shaw building.
By this time, of course, Gray’s successor, Muriel Bowser, had already measured the proverbial drapes at the John A. Wilson Building and appointed much of her senior staff, and she couldn’t have been thrilled with the efforts by the lame-duck mayor she defeated in the April Democratic primary to put his stamp on projects she would otherwise have been able to direct herself.
But don’t consider those moves a done deal. According to Bowser spokesman Michael Czin, Gray’s parting actions are under review by the new administration, and nothing is final yet.
“We’re reviewing the contracts that were assigned in the 11th hour,” says Czin.
That’s not to say that anything will be reversed. The Shaw deal, for instance, which will allow low-income residents to remain at the Mount Vernon Plaza apartments, is politically popular and unlikely to be overturned. And with progress so halting at St. Elizabeths, where an earlier solicitation for developer bids was rescinded last year, Bowser may not want to cast the project back into uncertainty.
But before the winning development teams—-Redbrick LMD and Gragg Cardona Partners at St. Elizabeths, and Roadside Development and Sorg Archtects at Grimke—-start taking their own measurements of their new domains, they may want to wait for the official green light from Bowser.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery