City Paper Widget

Friday, May 2, 2014

Grimke School Redevelopment Recommendations Throw Out by ANC1B

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street voted last night (May 1) to throw out recommendations developed by a community group to guide the redevelopment of the Grimke School (1923 Vermont Avenue NW) and an adjoining property (912 U Street). The ANC then substituted less specific language of its own making.

The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) had asked for community input on a Request for Proposal (RFP) to develop the two properties. An ad hoc group of local residents, the Grimke Redevelopment Working Group, formulated a set of desired outcomes for the redevelopment. The Design Review Committee of ANC1B met on April 21 and voted to endorse the working group's recommendations -- see SALM blog post of April 23 -- and proposed they be adopted by the full ANC. Specifically, the committee voted to recommend the inclusion of three main points from the working group's document to the main body of the RFP, and the entire working group document be attached to the RFP as a guideline for potential bidders.

The discussion of the Grimke School redevelopment came at the bitter end of last night's meeting. The discussion started with the ANC praising the working group's efforts on the final document. Jeffrey Willis of Grimke Redevelopment Working Group spoke briefly in support of the proposals.

Dr. Frank Smith, Director of the African-American Civil War Museum, then addressed the committee. The African-American Civil War Museum currently operates in the Grimke School. As it stands now, the museum may receive a free-of-charge renovation and rent-free use of the land as a condition of the RFP. Smith seemed to be concerned that the RFP would create conditions that might ultimately mean his museum might have to pay $4 million to use the space -- money the museum did not have. He asked the full ANC to reject the recommendation of the Design Review Committee, that is, to exclude the recommendations in any form of the Grimke Redevelopment Working Group from the RFP.

The Grimke Redevelopment Working Group was not given a chance to reply. Willis raised his hand but was not acknowledged by the ANC. Willis was too polite to interrupt.

Commissioner E. Gail Anderson Holness (district 11) made a motion to exclude the recommendations of the working group. It passed by a vote of five to one, with three abstentions.

Commissioners voting to exclude the working group proposal: Marc Morgan (district 01), Deborah Thomas (district 04), Juan Lopez (district 07), James Turner (ANC Chair, district 09), and Holness.

Commissioner voting against: Zahra Jilani (district 12)

Abstentions: Sedrick Muhammed (district 03), Ricardo Reinoso (district 05), Mark Ranslem (district 08).

Absent: Jeremy Leffler (district 02), Dyana Forester (district 06)

ANC1B district 10 is currently vacant.

ANC Chair Turner made a motion to substitute language that made references to taking community concerns into account. I think the language sounded weaker and less specific than the working group proposal, but I cannot characterize it any further because it was read quickly and not very clearly by Turner. Community comment was not solicited on Turner's proposal -- it went quickly to a vote.

The motion to adopt the substitute language was passed unanimously with one abstention (Ranslem).

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