City Pushing for Affordable Senior Housing in Hill East

by Andrea Swalec February 27, 2015 at 10:55 am 1 Comment

Plans are advancing for the construction of affordable housing for seniors in the former Eastern Branch Boys and Girls Club building, and ANC commissioners say the city is rejecting the proposal that’s most popular with neighbors.

The D.C. Department of General Services — which accepted bids for redevelopment of the 261 17th St. SE building — released more information this week on the final two companies vying for the space. A proposal by the firm Dantes Partners would create 49 affordable units and add two stories to the long-closed city building, as Hill Now previously reported. A competing bid from Century Associates would create 25 market-rate units and maintain the building’s height.

A new District law requires developers to designate at least 30 percent of units in city-owned buildings as affordable, which eliminates the all-market rate Century proposal. And the newly released documents show that DGS is still planning to issue a 25-year lease for the property, which Century president Joel Kelty previously said will make it impossible for him to get financing for his project.

DGS officials said they want to find a solution pleasing to everyone.

“Our goal has been to provide great latitude to the proposers, and to positively reactivate the site,” DGS planner Stephen Campbell wrote in a letter to ANC 6B commissioners Brian Flahaven and Denise Krepp.

Flahaven said he was frustrated by the latest news from DGS.

“Instead of providing additional flexibility in the [best and final offer responses], DGS essentially doubled-down on their original [request for proposals] terms, including the ridiculously short lease requirement,” he wrote on his website. “I’m extremely frustrated that this process has led to a choice of one.”

Flahaven and Krepp requested specific financial information on each proposal and were told by DGS that that information cannot be provided to ANCs.

“While the ANC is an advisory body, it does not participate in the deliberative process,” DGS management analyst Melissa Millar wrote in an email to the commissioners.

“The ANC’s role is certainly to provide comments to which the District is obligated to give ‘great weight’ to decisions affecting its boundaries, but this is limited to areas that directly affect the ANC and its constituents, such as advising on the appropriateness of a facility, whether it supports the health and well-being of a community, and does not run counter to or disrupt community goals,” she continued.

Krepp argued that ANC 6B is entitled to detailed information on the senior housing development plan.

“Essentially, according to DGS, we are an useless entity that the agency does not have to listen to. Appalling,” she wrote.

A poll of 81 people who live within two block of the Boys and Girls Club site found that 51 percent of people prefer the all-market rate Century proposal, 32 percent preferred neither proposal and 17 percent preferred the all-affordable Dantes proposal, Capitol Hill Corner reported.

ANC 6B commissioners will discuss the project at their planning and zoning committee meeting 7 p.m. Tuesday at St. Coletta of Greater Washington (1901 Independence Ave. SE).


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