My column in tomorrow’s issue is a handy preview of what you can expect to see in D.C. development this year. I had a lot to pack in, and so had to gloss over something interesting that Office of Planning Director Harriet Tregoning mentioned to me today: The possibility of the creation of some kind of redevelopment authority to more comprehensively approach the city’s land use strategy.
Of course, this isn’t up to her, and Mayor Vince Gray hasn’t even appointed a Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, much less laid out how specifically he’d like to reorganize things (except campaign proposals to create separate positions for Business and Real Estate Development). But the fact that he’s taking so long suggests that the transition team might be contemplating a more comprehensive shakeup. In doing so, Tregoning suggested that he might need to consider something from the past: A development authority similar to the National Capital Revitalization Commission and Anacostia Waterfront Corporation, which ex-mayor Adrian Fenty dissolved four years ago.
Fenty got rid of the quasi-public entities out of impatience with their slow progress, and a sense that many development functions could be better handled by the private sector. But lots of cities—Pittsburgh, Baltimore, and Boston, to name a few—still have such authorities, which are better able to enter into joint ventures than a purely government agency like D.C.’s Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. “Cities that don’t have those entities are at a disadvantage,” Tregoning said.
In particular, a redevelopment authority might be better suited to handle the five big projects the District has on its plate right now: The McMillan Sand Filtration Site, the Southwest Waterfront, Hill East, Walter Reed, and St. Elizabeths. I can also imagine it consolidating the land disposition office under the Department of Housing and Community Development, which buys blighted properties and resells them under binding agreements that requires the owners to renovate within a certain timeframe. Finally, it could better administer local hiring requirements on public projects, perhaps even absorbing the Department of Small and Local Business Development.
Just some thoughts, Mr. Mayor!