by Brandon Scott
Washington, DC is an amazing city to live in and requires a different type of person, resident to be called a “Washingtonian”. The grace and elegance of Georgetown, the nightlife and social affair that cross the wards is diverse and exciting. However, that excitement fizzles the further east of the Anacostia river you travel.
East of the Anacostia river is home to Ward 7 and 8. Notably, Ward 7 retains the countries #1 position as the greenest city areas, subdivision in the country. With roughly 44% of the area of Ward 7 are reserved for National Park lands and 56% left for residential and commercial development, and Ward 7 is full of residential opportunity.
In fact, Showingtime data from April 2023 notes that the 20019 zip code (Ward 7) has the #4 spot for the least reduction in demand. Here, demand is being defined by the number of homes sold in an area, see below.
It may go without saying, but this is resale property sales data. Absent the recent affordable housing that was constructed on East Capital (Crafford Place. Affordable housing at 80% AMI and available ONLY to 3 person families, for now) there is not much new development completed, or space for it, with the exception of Fletcher Johnson and Capital Gateway.
Let’s spend time going over both.
Let’s start with the money. The Mayor Muriel Bowser included $42 Million dollars in her budget request to go specifically toward Fletcher Johnson and the site preparation to permit the contractor to break ground on the full site. Feasibility reports of the site note that the only location that can be practically developed is where the school sits – noting the history of the site as a burial ground. The mayor’s budget for new investments in 2024, totals $79M to unlock Fletcher Johnson, Poplar Point, and bring a full-service grocery to East Capitol Gateway.
The Fletcher Johnson Taskforce, the Civic Associations and the ANC’s continue to move forward with a common goal of developing the site for the community benefit. But there is one cross stitch, there appears to be two paths to the end goal, driven, inpart, by the passage of time and the allocation of money from DC government.
The Taskforce has existed and worked on the project roughly since inception of the idea. They’ve served as an arm of the community that purely echoes the voice of the community. There position is that with the infusion of $42 million to prepare the site, there’s an option to reopen the project for developers to compete. The rationale is that site preparation was never originally offered in the Request for Proposal (RFP) for the project. The City’s decision to not offer site preparation may have been a deterrent to other developers, considering that the winner of the Fletcher Johnson development bid was the only bidder.
Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC)
The ANC’s were designed to be a non-partisan, neighborhood body made up of elected representatives from the community. The ANC system was created in 1974 through a referendum in the District of Columbia Home Rule Act. The Ward 7 ANC commissioners may have a different take, move forward with the status quo. However, the ANC’s are on recess for the Summer so more is to come.
What Happens Next Step?
If I knew that I’d play the lottery. Your guess is as good as mine but here’s what should take place procedurally. The Ward 7 Council Member will have to get involved and provide a position. In DC, it’s common place for the sitting Council members to give difference to the elected Council member of a Ward, or Vincent Grey. The decision to recompete the RFP would bring the project back a few steps, but the playing field is different and more competitors may be drawn to the project. There are a host of unknowns but there is one thing that is true, your opinion matters. As a member the community, there’s value in your phone calls, emails and positions.
This development sites in the Northeast boundary of Washington, DC. The site knowns as Capital Gateway was previously home to a multifamily apartment complex that offered affordable housing. The site was prepared for commercial development with the
announcement that WalMart would be building a flagship site there. Walmart pulled out of the development deal and the site has been undeveloped since 2012. Last month, I wrote about the site losing its mix-use designation that allows for commercial and other non-residential spaces to be built.
In June, the Office of Planning and Department of Buildings will move to add the mixed-use exemption back to the site.
At a recent Civic Association Meeting, where the Office of Planning spoke, the community expressed concern around the specifics of the mix-use designation. Specifically, the height of any structure that could be built there. The community requested the site developer be able to build up to 100 feet, in lieu of the 65 feet that’s being recommended by the Office of Planning.
Something is going to be done and there’s a lot of discussion that needs to be had in the community. The table is being set for Ward 7 to experience decades delayed economic growth through the infusion of commercial real estate. A clear community vision, an effective communications plan and the right leadership at the table will be critical to moving these projects further. The fate of the size of the Ward is at stake and the potential financial impact on future home values (north rising) hang in the balance.
These projects serve as critical infrastructure initiatives that will create broader access to services, resource and promote greater social justice for residents east of the river.
Time will tell and the results will speak for themselves. Will the community end up with more commercial development or a legion of affordable homes? More to come.
Brandon Scott is a licensed real estate agent in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia. His license hangs with Keller Williams Capital Properties in DC. He’s been involved in the mortgage finance industry for the last 16 years in various fields. You can reach him by email at [email protected]. Subscribe to his YouTube Channel at RealTeaDMV