|Marc Bleyer of the Deputy Mayor's office|
"This is causing some unintended consequences," said ANC1B Chair James Turner (Commissioner for district 09). "What we've really done here is devalue the property."
"We were really excited about our tenants," said Comissioner Ellen Nedrow Sullivan (district 02). "The Grimke project needs to be special use. There's a lot of concern because it was a use we were really excited about."
The Grimke School is in Sullivan's ANC district.
The proposal now on hold was awarded on the last day of the Gray Administration to the development team of Sorg Architects and Roadside Development to turn the long-vacant school and nearby parcels into a new home for the African-American Civil War Memorial & Museum, along with dance and entertainment spaces, plus a mixed-used building with retail and residences.
The law explained
At the ANC meeting, Bleyer explained why the project had been put on hold. The "Disposition of District Land for Affordable Housing Amendment Act of 2013" was enacted by the DC City Council on November 27, 2014. As with all local legislation, the law went to the US Congress for a review period. It is anticipated there will no objection to this law in Congress, and the Bowser administration is acting on the assumption it will come into effect on or about March 10, 2015.
As of that date, Bleyer said: "Any property that has not yet been approved by council is subject to this law."
The law, as it applies to this project, says that, because it contains a housing element, at least 30% of the housing units must be allocated to "affordable housing", according to Bleyer. Of this 30%, there will be two categories of affordable housing -- those deemed affordable to those earning 30% of Area Median Income (AMI) and those deemed affordable at 50% of AMI. (Latest AMI for Washington DC is $107,500.) A two-bedroom apartment at 30% AMI might rent for about $725/month, while a 50% AMI apartment might rent for a maximum of $1,200/month.
Next steps for the new mayor's team
Now, the Bowser administration has reviewed the Grimke proposal and has gone back to the two developers who made it to the final round of the previous bidding process for a new "best and final offer".
"This is the first I've heard of a best and final offer," Turner said. "We should have been notified."
Bleyer was asked: Could the Bowser administration share the new best and final offers?
"I can't share the offers," he said. "I'm happy to meet with you but I cannot share the submissions."
Grimke School is one of five Gray-approved projects now on hold pending review by the Bowser administration -- see articles here and here. The day before ANC1B's meeting, ANC 2F/Logan Circle voted to send a letter to Mayor Bowser requesting the hold on one of the other projects be removed -- see SALM blog post of February 5.
Bleyer also addressed another on-hold project located in ANC1B -- 965 Florida Avenue -- which will be the subject of a separate blog post.
(photo credit: from the website of the Urban Land Institute Washington)