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When I reported earlier this week on the D.C. Housing Authority’s selection of a development team for the overhaul of the Barry Farm public housing complex near Anacostia, several readers wrote in to question the choice of one member of the team, Baltimore-based A&R Development. One reader pointed me to a Washington City Paper story from a decade ago, about shoddy drainage work at an A&R redevelopment of a different public housing complex. Another noted that A&R’s vice president for development previously worked for the D.C. Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development.
So how was A&R chosen? According to Housing Authority spokesman Rick White, there was a selection committee consisting of six people: two from the Housing Authority, two from DMPED, and two residents of Barry Farm. The committee analyzed the proposals from all seven would-be developers, and according to White, the A&R team’s proposal was preferred “head and shoulders above the others.” All six committee members, White says, rated the A&R team higher than all the competitors.
“A full third of the selection committee consisted of people who live in the neighborhood,” says White. “They’re folks who spent a lot of time reading over and analyzing proposals. I don’t think that it’s fair for someone on the outside who has an axe to grind to question the legitimacy of the selection process.”
While DMPED—with its ties to the developer—also had a third of the say, White says there’s no reason to presume a conflict of interest. “DMPED had two representatives on the selection committee, but so what?” he says. “This is a big town, and if anyone’s suggesting there’s anything wrong, they ought to come out and say it’s wrong.”