Stevens School: New Process, Same People?
More than two years after the Adrian Fenty administration tried to sell off the historic Stevens Elementary School, Vince Gray's economic development team is starting over.
In what stands as one of the worst-handled real estate projects of Fenty's term—in an area with one of the most activist set of neighborhood associations in the city—nine bids were narrowed down to five, and then to three, and then to one, before opening the field up to three again, and then canceling the process altogether. Neighbors were upset that Fenty chose Equity Residential's plans for a multi-family condo project over their preferred hotel option, and flipped a shit when they heard about it.
According to Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins and four aides, all of whom showed up to a meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A last night, the city's Attorney General had declared the whole process "flawed" and in need of a do-over. It's also the first request for proposals the Gray administration has yet offered, which Hoskins said will set a precedent for those to come. "You need to know how important this is," he said. "It's not an accident that the Stevens School is the first one we're putting through the process."
The solicitation will be issued in September, and would-be developers will likely have 90 days to respond, which puts us at the end of the year before the District even has options to choose from. This time, the RFP will specifically include the ANC's desires, which include an educational use. In essence, that means developers will have to partner up with a charter school that wants to occupy part of the building.
"This is like a middle school dance," observed Commissioner Florence Harmon.
Ultimately, the community probably won't get a dramatically different cast of characters to choose from, though. Harmon noted that she's heard solid expressions of interest from Florida-based developer and erstwhile mayoral dreamer Don Peebles, Tony Williams aide-turned-developer Moddie Turay, and local real estate player Akridge, all of whom bid last time around.
The Stevens School process has certainly been a long, expensive one for all of them.