Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Two letters from CMs Cheh and Brown to DM Neil Albert

The first letter was sent after three RFP submissions were made public. The second was sent after Mayor Fenty announced his decision to proceed with a public-private venture and to negotiate the deal exclusively with LCOR. Apparently it was also written after CMs Cheh and Brown discovered that LCOR had not, as Fenty implied, revised its original plan -- a plan they had already told the Mayor that they could not support.

April 9, 2008

Neil O. Albert
Deputy Mayor for Planning & Economic Development
John A. Wilson Building
Suite 317
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Deputy Mayor Albert:

When the idea of a public-private partnership for the Tenley Library/Janney Elementary School site arose, it seemed to offer significant advantages for the community and the city. Since both the library and the school are set for new construction and modernization, such an approach offered the possibility of a comprehensive development of the site. It offered a major opportunity to have quality development along a major corridor and the chance to add mixed-use density right next to a Metro station. If we are serious about reducing our carbon footprint and improving our quality of life, we need people living in the city in places where they can take public transportation and walk to shops and restaurants, rather than adding to the choking traffic and our day and night overrun of suburban commuters. That corner of Wisconsin Avenue is a prime location to realize the benefits of transit-oriented development.

A public-private partnership also carried the prospect of having underground parking for the library and the school, increasing the green space for Janney, adding affordable housing in a neighborhood with few affordable units, adding approximately 100 LEED-certified housing units to the property-tax rolls, producing added revenue for the modernization of Janney, and moving up the date for Janney's modernization.

All of these potential benefits prompted us to encourage the Mayor to solicit bids and ideas from developers. It seemed short-sighted, as some had sugested, to not even explore what was possible.

But now the specific proposals have come forth. And because of the restraints outlined in the revised RFP, the responses to the RFP have yielded plans that, to us, do not adequately meet the benefits hoped for. Therefore, we cannot support any of the three proposals in their current form. While the proposals do provide for the hoped-for transit-oriented development, underground parking, and other significant benefits, they omit some essential items necessary for our support. These include:

-- No net loss (and even a gain) of green space for Janney
-- Added revenue earmarked for Janney
-- An accelerated timetable for Janney modernization
-- A timetable that will not significantly delay a new library

We strongly encourage you to consider, realistically and with firm assurances, whether the original hoped-for benefits can still be achieved. If they truly cannot, then we will not be able to support the public-private venture going forward.

Mary M. Cheh
Councilmember, Ward 3

Kwame R. Brown
Councilmember, At-Large

cc: Adrian Fenty, Mayor


July 24, 2008

Neil O. Albert
Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
John A. Wilson Building
Suite 317
1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20004

Dear Deputy Mayor Albert:

Based upon a meeting held on July 21, 2008, with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, Office of Planning, Office of Public Education Facilities Modernization, D.C. Public Schools, Deputy Mayor for Education, D.C. Public Library and LCOR, we are deeply concerned that the Janney/Tenley public private partnership project will not meet the essential ingredients set out in the letter we sent to you on April 9, 2008. There may be a way out, but we reiterate that the following factors are the requirements for this to be a successful project:

No loss of green space for Janney Elementary School;
A monetary benefit to the District that will be sufficient to justify substantially moving up the Janney Elementary School modernization;
No undue delay in building the library;
A minimum of 8% affordable housing; and
LEED Silver certification.

One possible way to move this project forward is to revert back to some of the features of the other developers’ plans. One plan allowed the Tenley Library to move forward, without a delay, because the development portion of the project cantilevered over the library, and the underground parking would be located under Janney Elementary School.

We really want to support a comprehensive development of the Janney/Tenley Library site. We believe in the substantial community benefit that will arise from transit-oriented development along the major corridors like Wisconsin Avenue. However, we need some assurance that the above outlined requirements will be met. We understand that your office and the selected developer have just begun negotiations on their proposal, and we are hopeful that the District and the developer will come to an agreement that includes the elements that will provide true community benefits to both the affected neighborhood and community at large.


Councilmember Mary Cheh

Terri Thompson Mallett, Clerk
Committee on Economic Development
On Behalf of Councilmember Kwame R. Brown