Councilmember Bowser Hosts 1125 Spring Road Meeting to Assess DGS/DCHA Proposal

The former Hebrew Home and Robeson School site at 1125 Spring Road.

The former Hebrew Home and Robeson School site at 1125 Spring Road.

Last night, Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser hosted a small group meeting at the Raymond Recreation Center to discuss last week’s proposal by the Department of General Services & the DC Housing Authority to redevelopment the former Hebrew Home property at 1125 Spring Road. Other participants in the group meeting included:

  • Commissioner Vann-Di Galloway (ANC 4C06);
  • Commissioner Kent Boese (ANC 1A08);
  • Commissioner Patrick Flynn (ANC 1A06);
  • David Dzidzenyo (Petworth Action Committee); and,
  • Jose Vicar (Friends of the Former Hebrew Home)

The meeting began with the DC Housing Authority’s Development Project Manager, Alastair Smith, giving a recap of the proposal for those in attendance who had not attended last week’s meeting. After Smith was finished, the meeting participants — beginning with Commissioner Galloway — each introduced themselves, spoke about the public engagement process, and spoke about their views on the current proposal.

Commissioner Galloway spoke about his support for a 100% affordable project, but that he could live with 10% market rate in the mix. He also commented on the parking being proposed and other related issued. Other topics touched upon included the need for DDOT to perform a traffic study and address if the units would be owned or rented by Commissioner Flynn; the role of Government and public land use as well as examples of other successful affordable projects in the area by Commissioner Boese; and a question about why 80% AMI was not included as part of the question by Mr. Vicar. There was also discussion on the scale/size of the project, whether or not rowhouses could be incorporated into the project, and how realistic the requested subsidy might be.

What was particularly noteworthy was the level of agreement among those in the small group — and in the room in general — on the overall proposal and its inclusion of a strong mix of income levels.

Hebrew Home affordability breakdown(Proposed breakdown of unit affordability for the Hebrew Home property).

Perhaps no more than 30 residents were in attendance at the meeting. Due to the size of the group, Councilmember Bowser broadened participation to all those who had questions. Bowser herself asked questions related to the size of the proposed subsidy ($18-20 million) and whether or not the DC Housing Authority thought that it was achievable, what the timeline for the project was estimated to be, and answered questions related to the surplussing and disposition of the property.

DCHA’s Smith and DGS’s Stephen Campbell acknowledged that $20 million was on the high end, but stated that there were other projects in the pipeline with similar requests. With regards to the timeline, they expressed a project that would include working through the public process for most of 2015 (including presentations at ANC meetings, review by the DC Council, etc.), perhaps 6 months to get through the permit process, and in the best case scenario beginning construction in early 2016.

Among the additional items I sought clarification on were the impact a smaller financial subsidy could have on the project, the opportunity for continued dialogue as the project moved forward, and the development’s architecture. Noting that some in the community have expressed concern that 200 units was too large, I asked if a lesser subsidy were provided if that could result in the project being scaled down, the mix of affordability adjusted, or some other tweaks to the plan. Should that happen, I also asked if those changes would be part of the community process. With regards to architecture, I requested that the final project be something compatible with the surrounding community and  designed in a manner that enhances the surrounding neighborhood.

The Housing Authority’s Executive Director, Adrianne Todman, in her address noted that once the project was completed, the Housing Authority would get a private management company. Responding to a point I had made earlier that a project is only as good as its management, Todman agreed, noting that she felt a private manager could more easily be held accountable for the daily operations of the building.

Responding to the comment on architecture, Smith stated that they also believed in delivering a high-quality project and for that reason had identified Wiencek + Associates — the architect of The Avenue (3506 Georgia) — as an architect they are interested in due to their proven record.

Hebrew Home property lines(Overview of the Hebrew Home property showing the property to be developed (red) and the property that would revert to the city to create an official ‘open’ 10th Street).

Interestingly, the Housing Authority also stated that they would be pursuing a Planned Unit Development (PUD) as the property will need to be rezoned for a multi-unit building. Bowser noted that a PUD could add 12 months to the project and stated that if this project moved too slowly that it would be better to submit proposals to the Council in January (noting that anything submitted before January would die in committee). Alternatively, Bowser also suggested that one of the reasons to have DCHA involved in the development was so that the schedule could be more aggressive. Should this not be possible, it is possible that the Committee on Economic Development may only consider the Surplus Resolution for the property before January with the idea that it could make it through Council and the Mayor’s office as well.

Bowser stated that her next steps are to schedule another meeting with DGS and DCHA to get a more solid idea on the timeline for the project.

The next public presentation with be at the October 8th meetings of ANC 1A and ANC 4C. It is expected that both Commissions will consider whether or not to support the current proposal.

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5 Comments on “Councilmember Bowser Hosts 1125 Spring Road Meeting to Assess DGS/DCHA Proposal”

  1. Monkeydaddy Says:

    Thanks for the update. Sounds like a productive meeting.

  2. JS Says:

    Ken,

    What’s the ownership structure going to look like for the final building? Is it going to be owned by DCHA and privately managed or sold to outside investors?

  3. mbk Says:

    Why is Bowser so determined to speed this up as fast as possible? Is she taking credit for it in her campaign literature? DCHA is NOT the agency to do this right. And a private company isn’t going to manage this much better than DCHA. It comes down to money. Anyhow, its clear this ship has sailed and the community is getting a project that does not reflect the concerns of the affected neighbors.

  4. fritz Says:

    90% affordable housing …really? Why so high? What other projects in this area have that? This is wrong.

  5. js Says:

    So almost half of it is going to be below 60% AMI?

    25% is 30% AMI?

    This is going to be a disaster.

    @fritz, there are lots of projects with 90-100% affordable housing. The problem is none of them are assets to their communities.

    Columbia Heights Village is all 50% AMI. This project could well be far worse, with a full quarter set aside for max. 30% AMI.


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