For a lot of Washingtonians, today is all about the late Abe Pollin—-for better, and for worse in some cases.
In Chinatown, well-wishers will drop off stuffed animals, Lego sets and others toys to honor Pollin at the site of his most famous accomplishment, the Verizon Center. Meanwhile, across town in Ward 7, local civic leaders are boycotting the groundbreaking of one of the remaining elements of Pollin’s legacy, his Linda Joy and Kenneth Jay Pollin Memorial Community Development.
The development, located near the edge of Anacostia Park, is a joint project of the Pollin family and Enterprise Homes of Columbia. When complete, it will include 125 affordable for-sale and rental homes, including 83 three-bedroom townhouses for sale to buyers earning 40 to 100 percent of the area median income (AMI), and 42 rental units available in one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments and three-bedroom townhouses, according to the invitation for the groundbreaking.
Ward 7 leaders are concerned about the development’s community benefits agreement, which is still being negotiated. The controversy first arose on Saturday when local ANC commissioners and other civic leaders first heard about the groundbreaking, says ANC commissioner Willette Seaward.
Seaward says that one developer representative visited her ANC earlier this year and said that there was some kind of community agreement—-including a program for seniors at the Verizon Center, 50 turkeys, maybe a turkey dinner?—- ironed out with the last set of ANC commissioners, who were replaced after an election in November 2008.
“There’s no real record that was left from the previous (ANC) chair that really addresses the fact that any of this was legal and supported by the community,” says Seaward.
The new Pollin project is being built on public land, currently home to the Parkside Additions, according to Dena Michaelson, spokesperson for the DC Housing Authority (DCHA).
Michaelson says she’s unfamiliar with any community benefits package involving poultry and seniors, and essentially…not to worry.
“I don’t know about that turkey agreement,” Michaelson said on the phone this morning about to head over to the Ward 7 groundbreaking.
Michaelson did note that her office is still working with the developer on a community benefits agreement that was far from finalized.
“The groundbreaking today is largely ceremonial, ” she says. Planners had hoped to do it before Pollin’s passing, but at least today’s event is coinciding with the activities in the Verizon Center, which will be culminating with a “Remembering Abe” service tonight at 7 p.m., according to NBCwashington.com. The event will feature D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and NBA Hall of Famers Wes Unseld and Earl Monroe.
Michaelson says that DCHA is still working on securing HUD housing vouchers for residents currently living in the Parkside Additions. Until those are secured and people are moved out, there will be no major construction/demolition.
Meanwhile, Ward 7 leaders had asked certain councilmembers to boycott the event—-a tricky political maneuver considering it involved Abe Pollin, one of the city’s most beloved, recently-deceased citizens.
Seaward says her group convinced Council Chair Vincent Gray and At-Large Councilmember Kwame Brown not to attend. (A Gray staff member confirmed that Gray didn’t go, but as far as she knew that was just a logistical decision. Brown did not attend the event.)
“I think people are putting the cart before the horse,” Michaelson said.