Park Morton Redevelopment Gaining Traction, Community Steering Committee Formed

Park Morton renderingThe redevelopment of Park Morton is long overdue, but last night kicked off the first gathering of the newly formed Park Morton Steering Committee formed to do just that. The Steering Committee was assembled in part by the DC Housing Authority in response to community feedback last year that emphasized the need for community input as part of the development process. The committee is composed of 19 individuals including Tamika White, President of the Park Morton Resident Council, five Park Morton residents, Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, ANC 1A Commissioners Kent Boese, Bobby Holmes, and Rashida Brown, ECAC Director Sylvia Robinson, UNC President Chris Waldman, Peter Tatian of the Urban Institute, Kimberly Black King of DCHA, and New Communities Initiative Director Angie Rodgers.

The purpose of the Steering Committee is to provide support, guidance and oversight to the development team implementing the Park Morton Redevelopment Plan. The development team will look to the Steering Committee to provide advice on the following:

  • Updates to the 2008 master plan;
  • Updates to the phasing plan and timelines;
  • Defining and achieving project outcomes; Engaging community stakeholders and regular information sharing;
  • Identifying and mitigating potential risks; and,
  • Changes that may occur to the project as it develops.

At the inaugural meeting, the focus was on reviewing some of where the development plans for Park Morton had been, the principals that need to be accomplished, and a vision of how that will occur. Park Morton has 174 units of housing that need to be replaced on a 1:1 basis. The final development is to be a mix of public housing units, affordable housing units, and market rate housing units, for an estimated total of about 500 living units. It was known from the beginning that the original Park Morton footprint would not be able to accommodate 500 living units and that more land would need to be included in the development. The Avenue at 3506 Georgia was the first off-site parcel to be developed as part of this process, creating an 83-unit building of affordable housing that included 27 replacement units for Park Morton, leaving 147 units remaining to be replaced.

Map showing location of Park Morton and the Avenue, from New Communities Web site.

Map showing location of Park Morton and the Avenue, from New Communities Web site.

With this in mind, it was presented that the former Bruce Monroe site was attractive for its potential to allow the redevelopment project to move forward and keep to its mission of building replacement housing first. Responding to this, Sylvia Robinson asked why the old Hebrew Home at 1125 Spring Road couldn’t be used as part of Park Morton. In response, it was stated that there are other plans for that property and that the Bruce Monroe parcel is closer to Park Morton and has a stronger connection to the same community.

NCI Director Angie Rodgers talked about how she’d walked up and down the neighborhood, talked to several key stake holders, and residents of Park Morton, and looked at all the potential sites that could work to make this project work. In that light, the Bruce Monroe property is really attractive as its public land, a large parcel, and it would let them build first — the very thing they want to do. They also feel that the land could support a mix of housing, retail, and park/recreational purposes.

The agenda for the Steering Committee and moving Park Morton forward is aggressive, and even in its rough state is as follows:

  • District Surplus Meeting (November 2015)
  • Master Planning
    • Community Workshop #1 (November 2015)
    • Community Workshop #2 (November 2015)
  • Present Updated Master Plan (January 2016)
  • Council Submission (Winter 2016)
  • Submit PUD Application (Spring 2016)

While some were leery of such an aggressive timeline, others felt that the work will dictate the timeline and the condensed draft that was presented showed a best case scenario and a commitment from this Administration to get Park Morton back on track and completed.


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36 Comments on “Park Morton Redevelopment Gaining Traction, Community Steering Committee Formed”

  1. Cliff Says:

    Community input? They already have that, and a lot of it. They wasted everyone time. A smarter decision would be to just move forward using the parameter that were already defined.

    • Chris Says:

      The criteria have been defined in a broad sense, but there is much work to be done work out the details, including the mix of units at each site, defining what the right of return really means in practice and how the community (Park Morton residents and the broader community) can be engaged to make this project more successful than the first effort that resulted in the Avenue and not much else.

  2. K Says:

    While I am all for the community input I feel they have been dragging this on with what seems like spaced out sporadic ‘community engagement sessions’ which have spanned many years. It is almost if the people in DCHA are simply keeping themselves relevant by the most minimal standards.

    Glad to hear of the new traction but I think I (like many residents) are looking forward to seeing tangible results!

    • jcm Says:

      Agreed. The seems like more of the same lip service being paid to area residents. They never release the results of their surveys (Hebrew home, Bruce Monroe), and they do what they want. Why waste our time even asking?

      I will fight any effort to build this development at Bruce Monroe. On the bright side, NCI hasn’t demonstrated any ability to develop property at all,so I suspense it’s unlikely they’ll actually get this moving.

  3. mbk Says:

    why no other residents on the steering committee. Like people on the adjacent blocks?

  4. Vlad Says:

    I agree with K. While I’m thrilled that there is (finally) some movement on this, I am very concerned that disagreements among members of the Steering Committee will only delay the project. Hopefully, recommendations from the steering committee will not need to be made unanimously and there will be real deadlines for key milestones and recommendations.

  5. K Says:

    The off-site forethought has been pretty disappointing. With all this time, you’re telling me they could not have planned what projects and partials could serve as replacement units (understanding land opportunities change over years)?

    How are the apartments at 3232 Georgia Ave not counting as part of these replacements?

    Also, Sylvia’s point is a good one regarding the proposed units at the Old Hebrew Home. The counter argument about distance is weak at best. It is .4 mi to BM and only .6 mi to the old Hebrew Home site! There needs to be compromise and .2 mi to:

    A. Take away a functioning community park
    B. Delay this development even further

    …is ridiculous.

    I appreciate everyone working to come together on this and really hope the neighborhood will see some real movement on this soon!

  6. mbk Says:

    I feel like the steering committee is already stacked against the existing community. DCHA should be counting residents who moved to the Avenue as “replacement units” and not replace those on the exisitng site. This would speed the process along. But I do find it very telling that residents who live on the adjacent blocks in row houses who would be most impacted by development are being excluded. I think we need a balance on the committee. Right now, its only affordable housing impacts which is fine but we need a mix of people. I think we have seen the debacle of the Hebrew home with affordable housing advocates, who don’t even live in the area trying to speak on behalf of the commnity telling DCHA that “everyone” wants all low income housing. And that is a complete lie.

    • Cliff Says:

      They are replacement units. Its exactly the deal we made with Central Union Mission and Warrenton Group at the BZA hearing. It was conditional on BZA approval. This was in my ANC and I was chair of ANC1A when we did this. It was the 3rd “final approval” for kicking off development since 2002. Starting this over again is completely dysfunctional. The community needs to pressure them to move forward NOW. Throwing Bruce Monroe Park or anything else to the mix is only going to delay, delay, delay.

  7. Jim Slicio Says:

    Developing Bruce Monroe Park in any way other than a park would set the immediate neighborhood back 10 years.

    Where can we find the results of the Bruce Monroe Park survey taken a few months back. I would be surprised to see that the neighborhood replied that we want this type of development there.

    • Jim Slicio Says:

      Also, the passive voice makes it difficult to understand who presented this:

      “it was presented that the former Bruce Monroe site was attractive for its potential to allow the redevelopment project to move forward and keep to its mission of building replacement housing first.”

      Side note: Thanks Kent for providing this information. Its nice to see a ANC Commissioner who provides transparency to these meetings.

  8. maxwellsmrt Says:

    Personally I think the re-use of the Bruce Monroe site is an excellent idea as long as we do not go over 30% affordable. Studies have shown that is the ideal balance when creating mixed-used developments that are self-sustainable. The idea that Bruce Monroe should remain a park forever is short-sighted. There is plenty of real estate to allow retail/residental on Georgia Avenue and have a beautiful and permanent park behind that. As Kent has previously mentioned, before the land was claimed back in the 1960’s for the Bruce Monroe school, it always had retail establishments on it, so I think it makes perfect sense to incorporate it here. I can only hope that the timeline moves as quickly as they are anticipating, considering the “Master Plan” was created in ’08, and excluding “The Avenue” development, zero progress has been made.

    • Jim Slicio Says:

      I think refurbishing the numerous vacant buildings on GA Ave would be the first step to establishing a viable retail market, not paving over a green space for a couple more corner stores, coffee shops and bars.

      • Danielle Says:

        Totally agree with this comment. There are so many vacant and dilapidated buildings on Georgia Ave that could be repurposed before taking away a green space that is used by so many community members.

      • K Says:


      • Chris Says:

        And where is the money going to come to acquire those properties and then build the various buildings that would be required to meet the mixed income requirements? The city owns this land already.

      • Jim Slicio Says:

        The buildings often are vacant with decades of past taxes. I propose using eminent domain to repossess the properties. Money that would potentially allocated to a contractor, could go to local unemployed (teens and adults) to learn construction skills – think habitat for humanity, but paid. The community would get improved buildings and the unemployed would get skills and temporary work.

  9. cj Says:

    I’d rather throw my tax money into the Potomac than spend it on “affordable housing” – in many ways it is the same thing.

  10. lmcniesh Says:

    Thank you very much for posting this! I’m a resident who loves having the park there, although I also respect the need for more affordable housing, so I really appreciate any efforts to keep the community informed.

  11. K Says:

    …in the meantime 10-12 shots were fired at Park Morton on Saturday night *sigh*

  12. rooney Says:

    I vehemently oppose building a housing project on the Bruce Monroe site. Why would we want to further spread the drug dealing, and violent crime that has been happening outside of the other affordable housing units a little further up Geogia Ave? Before a final decision is made, I hope the community in the immediate vicinity of Bruce Monroe park is given a chance to weigh in.

  13. dc Says:

    would it be possible to demolish park morton and give the residents vouchers to rent some where else?

  14. Keefer Says:

    Kent, can you add anything about the potential of acquiring the properties Georgia Ave, the vacant lot at the Park and Georgia, New York Fried Chicken, the former little tire shop lot and the Split face monstrosity that is Adventure Dental? It was my understanding that the last developers on the project balked on it when they realized the couldn’t acquire that land for a price that would make the project work. It would be my hope that any development that goes into the Park Morton actually be better connected to Georgia Ave with a mixed use component and street frontage on the avenue. And while it doesn’t look like it is legistically possible carrying Morton St. though to Warder and thus connecting it back to the grid as opposed to its present dead-end configuration would be a huge improvement, only problem I see there is that the Park/Warder intersection is already pretty bad and the alignment would bring Morton pretty much right into it.

    • solsbarry Says:

      The Bruce Monroe Task force which conducted the Survey about the park met with the New Communities Initiative last night. We asked them this exact question, and they told us that it would cost too much money. In other Words, the mayor doesn’t want to pay to buy the dilapidated garbage on Georgia Ave and revitalize it. She would rather steal our Park, and leave the garbage where it is. We need to let her know that this is not okay. That its short sighted, and that we wont stand for it. They can find the money for a soccer stadium, but not for community development.

      • Keefer Says:

        Agreed this is entirely short sited, there is no reason why 500 units couldn’t fit on the current site as is, let alone if the were to acquire the Georgia Ave. frontage, and build 5 to 6 stories of mixed-use mix-income on where there is presently vacant land and dilapidated structures. Nothing is gained by this with the exception and instead we lose a park that is a bright spot on the Ave and are forced to keep another block of festering junk on Georgia Ave. Not to mention that building a bunch of new Garden Style Apts on the existing Park Morton site and not connecting the development to Georgia Ave is basically akin to replacing what is there with a newer version. This is stupid

  15. jcm Says:

    I noticed in the Post’s article about Park View today titled “Living with a surge in violence and the fear that comes with it” a mention that Rashida Brown “has launched a study on developing a nearby park”, so I guess she’s the one pushing this bad idea? That’s disappointing.

    • Chris Says:

      Rashida is leading the Bruce Monroe Task Force, which I believe was initiated by the ANC. They have done a survey of what residents want done with the property, but those results are hung up with the Howard U group that actually conducted the survey. I talked to her the other night and she was not aware of this decision, which is being made by the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) and the Housing Authority. They had not consulted outside the development team before presenting this possibility to the PM Steering Committee.

    • parkviewExPat Says:

      Kent had proposed developing part of the park back in his November 1, 2013 post on this blog.

  16. gentrify-u Says:

    Yawn. Just burn it down. Build high and make it mixed income. No parking- those people don’t have cars and if they do,they keep guns in them.

  17. D Says:

    It would be great if we could get some community support for the Park – If you want to share your concerns with Rashida Brown you can send an email here: Save Bruce Monroe Park!

  18. […] be truly transformative for the entire Park View community. However, news that this project would include a portion of the Bruce Monroe parcel was greeted by both support and opposition in the community. The meeting on Wednesday would be a […]

  19. […] As one would expect with most major neighborhood construction projects, the city’s decision to include the former Bruce-Monroe School site as part of the re-imagined Park Morton – along with the series of community engagement meetings […]

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