In early February 2010 bulldozers unexpectedly appeared on the district owned corner lot at 5th and I Streets NW. This lot was awarded by the office of the Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development (DMPED), with the support of the community, to the development team of Donohoe and Holland to build a mixed use project anchored by a luxury hotel in 2008. However the arrival of these bulldozers in February was not for the hotel project but rather an interim parking lot that DMPED had awarded a contract for 2009 without notice to the community.
In response to this unwanted parking lots ANC 6C01 commissioner Keith Silver organized daily pickets in March to protest it’s construction. Other community leaders scrambled to organize a community forum that would gather DMPED, Commissioner Silver, the Development team, and the community together to discuss this issue. The Mount Vernon Square Neighborhood Association featured this forum as part of their membership meeting on March 16th.
Between the published meeting minutes and a well crafted recap from Jeb Stenhouse it is possible to get a very detailed picture of the discussion. The Stenhouse recap has a zoomed in focus on the response from DMPED to the community. That includes the general attitudes regarding communication and the details of the agreement with Franklin Parking LLC; the contract is for $5,000/mo for a two-year period that ends in the summer of 2011. DMPED insisted that the operator’s contract must be honored.
Commissioner Silver took the floor and expressed grave concern that the ANC was not notified of the parking lot RFP when it was issued in 2009. He expressed that in his judgement that all aspects of this project, including the hotel development negotiations, lack the transparency he feels is warranted. During his statement Silver paid a nod to this blog’s mantra by saying “We’re more than just parking lots“.
Following Silver the Donohoe/Holland development team provided an status on the future mixed use hotel project. Not much had changed since the November 2009 update they provided to ANC 6C. Construction financing is still impossible in the current economic climate. They are serious about incremental things they can do in the interim. Boisdale, the London-based Jazz club that is anchor tenant for the development, hopes to work out a lease with an option to buy for the Louis Rogue building so they can initiate their remodeling ASAP. The development team has also offered the owner of the vacant Fun Fair video property seed money for improvements to attract a tenant if a sale cannot be worked out at the present time.
Where does this leave us? I believe ANC 6C may aim to legally challenge the parking lot as they were not afforded the required input by DMPED. Members of the community are discussing a compromise of being allowed access to the space to program events on select weekends.
From MVSNA president Cary Silverman:
In the coming weeks, we will form a work group to examine programming for the lot for weekends when it is not used for parking. We will also consider possible temporary uses for the vacant buildings on the 900 Block of 5th Street NW. The group will include neighborhood association reps, the MVT CID, ANC Commissioners, and reps from adjacent condos and apartments. We will then work with the DMPED and the development team to get this area back on track as we wait for the 5th and Eye development to move forward. We appreciate any suggestions for temporary uses.