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WaPo: D.C. drops Donohoe as developer of Mount Vernon Triangle hotel

Jonathan O’Connell of the Washington Post’s Capital Business column reports that the District has dropped Donohoe Development as the developer of the 5th & Eye RFP site. Donohoe initially promised a 475,000-square-foot project made up of a 261-room Spanish luxury hotel by Meliá Hotels International and a 160-unit apartment building, with housing for artists, and retail space. A spokesperson from Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development’s office said the project will be re-bid later this year.

The public presentations of the original RFPs for 5th & Eye occurred on May 1, 2008. My recap of that meeting was one of my earliest postings after joining the blog. At the time the Donohoe proposal was the most inspired and earned the endorsements of local community organizations and ANC6C. That ultimately led to Donohoe being awarded the RFP in September 2008.

The economic slowdown/housing crisis understandably grinded progress to a halt in 2009 and 2010. However I do feel the total absence in progress by Donohoe in 2011 and 2012 was a damning indicator. Nor did they give us any reason to be optimistic for 2013. Residential buildings on other sites have been flying up the last two years in the Triangle and around the city. Yet all this site got was a parking lot and some lip service about potentially breaking ground in 2014 (six years after the RFP award). So I do agree its time to move on even if that potentially pushes things back a year as we have absolutely no reason to be confident in Donohoe. The Mount Vernon Triangle deserves better.

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Deputy Mayor to address ANC6C on 5th & I Development this Thursday

Three years ago the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Planning & Economic Development (DMPED) awarded the RFP for 5th & I to Donohoe/Holland. The winning bid from Donohoe/Holland included an international boutique hotel, art gallery, jazz club, cafe, bike shop and a residential component. Also of note was the expressed intent from the team to pursue assemblage along 5th Street to expand the project north to K Street.

Rendering of 2008 proposal for the Arts at 5th and I

Timing of the award was less than ideal given the economic climate in late 2008 and throughout 2009. The project was in limbo. At points we heard news that Donohoe was interested in potentially beginning construction of the jazz club in advance of the rest of the project and/or breaking the entire project down into two phases.

Recently residential construction all around the district is ramping back up but this project has remained stalled. The developer visited the Mount Vernon Square Neighborhood Association (MVSNA) in June  and suggested the project needs to be downsized to move forward. Financing such a complex project remains difficult but a reduction in scope could help them clear that hurdle. It sounded as though the scope of assemblage would be reduced and the project would perhaps focus strictly on hotel and retail and remove the residential component. But this discussion was light on specifics – we were promised more explanation when the discussion went to the ANC.

Victor Hoskins

This Thursday Deputy Mayor Victor Hoskins will address ANC6C at their full commission meeting (agenda) on the status of the project.

ANC6C Full Commission Meeting
September 15, 2011, 7 pm
Heritage Foundation
214 Massachusetts Avenue N.E.

Hoskins is a 2011 appointee of Mayor Vince Gray and may elect to blow this up and start with a new RFP. Or he may concede that the scope of the project should be reduced. It remains to be seen.

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June MVSNA Meeting

This month’s Mount Vernon Square Neighborhood Association (MVSNA) membership meeting will be held on Tuesday May 17th at 7:30pm in the community room of the Yale Loft condominiums (437 New York Ave NW). A main topic of the meeting will be a discussion about the proposed downsizing Donohoe Development for The Arts at 5th & I project.

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