Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Tomorrow's New Town Hearing

I wanted to share the following email recently sent out by Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas, and a point by point response from J Street Development and Gallaudet University. Enjoy-

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From: Thomas, Harry (COUNCIL) [mailto:HThomas@DCCOUNCIL.US]
Sent: Mon 9/29/2008 5:06 PM
To: Thomas, Harry (COUNCIL)
Cc: Leonard-Chambers, Victoria (COUNCIL)
Subject: CALL FOR ACTION TO TESTIFY AT OCTOBER 2 HEARING ON FLORIDA AVENUE MARKET

September 29, 2008

RE: Request for Ward 5 Civic and Business Leaders to Testify at October 2, 2008 Hearing on Legislation Affecting the Future of the Florida Avenue Market

Dear Ward 5 Leaders:

I am calling upon you to testify in support of B17-0931, the "New Town Geographical Amendment Act of 2008." With the projected FY09 budget deficit of $131 million, it is imperative that we take the steps necessary to ensure Ward 5 projects are in line to receive TIF, PILOT, and other types of public financing. Passage of this bill forward is critical to the moving forward with redevelopment of the Florida Avenue Market and maintaining its place in the public funding pipeline.

The hearing on the bill will be Thursday, October 2, 2008 at 1 pm at the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Room 412. To sign up to testify, please contact Vicky Leonard-Chambers at vleonardchambers@dccouncil.us or 202.727.8204 by 3pm on Wednesday, October 1, 2008.

The bill excludes properties owned by Gallaudet University and J Street Development along the Sixth Street corridor from the New Town footprint for several reasons.

  1. Development plans for these properties are on a slower track than development plans for the rest of the site. Gallaudet has indicated that the University must complete an internal development review process that has already been underway for several months. The University also has acknowledged that its process will likely take many more months, with no definitive date as to when it will conclude.

  1. Gallaudet and J Street do not offer an ownership interest to the Market's merchant tenants, whereas the New Town Plan does. In fact, in a September 26, 2008 letter to me, the University and J Street outline the importance of maintaining an equity stake for the Market's property owners, but don't mention the tenants at all. For me, providing equity participation to the tenants is a must.

  1. Gallaudet and J Street have not fully embraced the public benefits that the Act requires, including affordable housing, recreational facilities, and a public library, among other things. These public benefits represent amenities that the community has indicated it wants at the site.

  1. Gallaudet and J Street have no plans to maintain the wholesale functions that make the Florida Avenue Market so unique and important the fabric of Ward 5.

Redefining the New Town boundaries is a win-win for everyone. It allows both Gallaudet and J Street to develop their properties as they see fit and on timetables that work best for them. It also allows New Town Development Partners LLC, the city's designated master developer, to move forward more quickly with the project and bring to reality the vision of the New Town law enacted by the Council in 2006. If Gallaudet and J Street successfully complete their discussions with the Deputy Mayor and the developer, the Council may still include these parcels in the Final Conceptual Plan it approves.

We cannot perpetuate the status quo of flagrant health code violations and pedestrian unfriendliness that currently define the market experience. The New Town plan accomplishes the District's revitalization goals for the market and creates a unique destination venue for residents and visitors.

And as you know the New Town Plan has had broad community support and has been vetted through numerous community meetings and City Council hearings. And as the Plan moves forward, all stakeholders will have many more opportunities to provide input before the Executive Branch, the City Council, and the Zoning Commission.

As a Ward 5 civic leader, your voice on this matter is very important. I ask that you testify on behalf of B17-0931, the "New Town Geographical Amendment Act of 2008."

Sincerely,

Harry "Tommy" Thomas, Jr.

Ward 5 Councilmember

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Response to Statements Made to Community by Councilmember Harry Thomas


Statement: The bill excludes properties owned by Gallaudet University and J Street Development along the Sixth Street corridor from the New Town footprint for several reasons.

1. Development plans for these properties are on a slower track than development plans for the rest of the site. Gallaudet has indicated that the University must complete an internal development review process that has already been underway for several months. The University also has acknowledged that its process will likely take many more months, with no definitive date as to when it will conclude.

EAJ/Gallaudet Response: The University indicated clearly last spring that we would have the conceptual elements of a plan in October of this year. To that end, we have been vigorously engaged in a planning process that has been openly shared with neighborhood residents and owners and merchants in the Market area. Our internal marketing analysis will be completed in a few weeks and the first phase of the land plan has been completed and will be shared with Council Members this week.

The University and EAJ are ready to proceed.

2. Gallaudet and J Street do not offer an ownership interest to the Market's merchant tenants, whereas the New Town Plan does. In fact, in a September 26, 2008 letter to me, the University and J Street outline the importance of maintaining an equity stake for the Market's property owners, but don't mention the tenants at all. For me, providing equity participation to the tenants is a must.

EAJ/Gallaudet Response: Gallaudet does not disagree with Council Member Thomas’ views and welcomes further discussion. We have always believed that to maintain the character of the Florida Avenue Market, we must continuously involve other landowners and merchants in the vicinity. A coordinated effort between EAJ, Gallaudet, New Town and individual property owners is in the best interest of not only the property owners but residents and visitors.
For that reason, our plan has taken into consideration – from our initial foray into the Market – participation and input from tenants. We have been very involved and transparent with the Merchant’s Association via their president, Paul Pascal, and have had countless meetings – one-on-one and in groups – with various tenants and landowners and will continue to do this. We have also tried repeatedly to meet with New Town to discuss ways we could work together with no interest returned on their part.
EAJ/Gallaudet has been the team that has put its money on the table – we have fee simple ownership of over 25% of the Market properties east of Fourth Street. Together we own more land in the Market area than any other property owner. We have shown respect and consideration for the tenants and owners within the Market and have demonstrated total commitment to working as a team with a number of developers, owners, the City and Market tenants.

3. Gallaudet and J Street have not fully embraced the public benefits that the Act requires, including affordable housing, recreational facilities, and a public library, among other things. These public benefits represent amenities that the community has indicated it wants at the site.

EAJ/Gallaudet Response: This team fully supports the valuable role affordable housing and public amenities play in a vibrant community and, in fact, as local residents and investors, have a vested interest in how those amenities would be integrated into any plan for the Market.

We believe the plan we are developing allows for these kinds of facilities be an important part of the market.

4. Gallaudet and J Street have no plans to maintain the wholesale functions that make the Florida Avenue Market so unique and important the fabric of Ward 5.

EAJ/Gallaudet Response: This is inaccurate. The EAJ/Gallaudet team has every intention of maintaining the Farmers Market at Florida Avenue. As owners of this parcel, we have made this clear to tenants and in meetings with various stakeholders over the last 6 months. The Farmers Market is a unique, character-rich feature of Washington D.C. proper and, as such, would be treated as the exciting core of the project, making this a vibrant draw for neighbors and visitors.
EAJ/Gallaudet, along with Williams & Dame, is the ONLY team that brings world class experience and proven results in the development of vibrant public markets to this important community development.

We are excited to share our plans with the stakeholders and begin the process of urban revitalization of the Market.


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