(Mayor Bowser taking questions from community members at the November Park View UNC meeting.)
Mayor Muriel Bowsers attended the November Park View UNC meeting and took questions on a number of issues including crime, school modernizations, vacant and blighted property, bike lanes, and the redevelopment of Park Morton.
Prior to the Mayor’s arrival, the Park View UNC took up two orders of business. They were:
- The election of officers for the following year, and
- A resolution opposing the parking variance for the development at 3701 New Hampshire Avenue unless the building is denied parking passes for street parking (editor’s note: ANC 1A supported the requested variances).
Upon the Mayor’s arrival, the meeting settled into a question and answer session after opening remarks. Early questions related to school modernizations, recreation center improvements, and the Pepco-Exelon settlement agreement. There was also a notable focus on crime, public safety, and sustained law enforcement initiatives. During the public safety discussion officers of both the Third and Fourth districts spoke specifically about actions they are taking in the community.
As expected, the subject of the Park Morton redevelopment — and the use of the Bruce Monroe property as part of the project — arose and was the focus of much discussion. Mayor Bowser stated that the redevelopment of Park Morton is a long standing commitment and part of the New Communities Initiative. A major part of the New Communities goals is to not displace residents from their current neighborhoods by building replacement housing first.
Leading in to the discussion on the selection of the Bruce Monroe site as the best available option for the build first parcel, the Mayor asked if people had looked up and down Georgia Avenue for available land? The room erupted in many people shouting out suggestions of privately owned and/or alternative parcels as alternatives. Order was quickly regained and New Communities Director Angie Rodgers provided an overview of where things currently stand with the process. The Mayor also stated that whatever happens at the Bruce Monroe site it will include park space as part of that plan and that she wouldn’t support any proposal that didn’t have park space in it. As the planning is still in the very early stages, there is no timeline for breaking ground as yet.
In the course of the dialogue, the Mayor stated more than once that the current use of the Bruce Monroe site is temporary and that the property has always been intended to be developed. She also offered that it is a large parcel and can support a lot of what the community wants on the site. Additionally, the Mayor stated that the neighborhood is not realized the full benefit of the parcel because it is falling short of the full benefits that could be achieved there.
In response to those suggesting that 1125 Spring Road or 965 Florida Avenue include some replacement housing for Park Morton, two themes came through that caught my attention. The first was that neither of these locations are in the Park View community. The importance of this goes back to the goal of avoiding displacing residents from their current neighborhood. The other theme with regards to 1125 Spring Road was that that development has become more complicated than originally anticipated and that it would be inappropriate to have a conversation about its redevelopment without the residents who live around it as part of that conversation.
Despite all the work that went into redevelopment plans for 1125 Spring Road in 2014, Mayor Bowser shared that the city has encountered some legal hurdles to transferring the property to the Housing Authority. Instead, the property is going to need to have an open bidding process and that the community engagement process will need to be restarted. Most likely, the property will go through an Our RFP process.
The evening closed with Ms. High speaking about her concerns with the redevelopment of Park Morton. As a resident of the complex, Ms. High expressed concerns about being displaced and being safe, and commented that all the residents of Park Morton deserve to be treated fairly.
A community meeting focused on the topic of redeveloping Park Morton has been scheduled for November 16th at 6:30 pm. It will be held at the Bruce-Monroe @ Park View Elementary School.