Housing Complex

Graham to Hoskins: Explain Your Unpopular 965 Florida Ave. Decision

The winning proposal for 965 Florida Ave. NW.

The winning proposal for 965 Florida Ave. NW.

Responding to the growing controversy surrounding the city's selection of a developer for a valuable property near the U Street corridor, Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham sent a letter this morning to Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins requesting a more detailed explanation of the city's decision.

"I have rarely experienced in Ward 1 such a widespread and negative community reaction to a development decision," Graham wrote in an email to Hoskins and several community groups. "Clearly there are a great many neighborhood people who are disappointed and unhappy with the choice and justification that has been offered thus far."

This week, Hoskins' office chose a team led by MRP Realty and Ellis Development Group to develop the city-owned parcel at 965 Florida Avenue, selecting the team's proposal over one from the JBG Companies that included a Harris Teeter supermarket and had considerable local support. JBG questioned the city's reasoning; Hoskins justified his decision by stating that the MRP-Ellis plan had more "real" affordable housing and offered more money to the city, and implied that the JBG plan merely looked "good on paper."

In his email to Hoskins, Graham compared the controversy over the Florida Avenue parcel to public outcry against a contract awarded by then-Mayor Adrian Fenty's administration in 2009 for the Stevens School in Foggy Bottom. Like the Florida Avenue parcel, Graham wrote, that decision required D.C. Council approval, and public opposition led it to be reversed. Implicit in Graham's message is the threat that if Hoskins doesn't appropriately explain the Florida Avenue decision, this contract could suffer the same fate.

Graham's full letter is reprinted below:

Dear Friends:

I have been paying close attention to the dozens of emails objecting to the recent award of 965 Florida. I have carefully read the recent email from Mr. DeWitt as well as the statement by Deputy Mayor Hoskins (see below). I am also now responding (via Bcc’s) to my Ward 1 constituents who have written me. Thank you for writing me.

I have rarely experienced in Ward 1 such a widespread and negative community reaction to a development decision. Clearly there are a great many neighborhood people who are disappointed and unhappy with the choice and justification that has been offered thus far.

This is a major decision affecting the future of development in the eastern sector of Ward 1.

I am also sensitive that the legal process requires a decision to be made at this stage by the Mayor and his advisors. I also know that this decision will, in the future, require Council approval. That would include the property disposition.

But this does bring to mind the Foggy Bottom outcry to the initial decision by the Fenty administration to award the Stevens School contract in 2009. That Ward 2 property prompted the expression of strong views by my Council colleagues including CM Jack Evans and others. Ultimately, the following year, the award was vacated, in substantial part, on the grounds that there was so much community opposition.

I appreciate the statement that has been issued by Deputy Mayor Victor Hoskins.

But, as a first step, I think more detailed explanation of the rationale for the decision is necessary.

I am now requesting that detailed justification including documentation appropriate for release (not involving proprietary information) .

Bests Councilmember Jim Graham

  • U Street Resident

    Please sign the petition below if you're a U Street resident who would like the Deputy Mayor to reconsider his decision to develop the JBG/ Harris Teeter at 965 Florida Ave. Thank you for your support.

    http://www.change.org/petitions/deputy-mayor-for-planning-and-economic-development-reconsider-decision-to-develop-the-jbg-harris-teeter-at-965-florida-ave?utm_campaign=friend_inviter_chat&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=share_petition&utm_term=permissions_dialog_false

  • Beck

    Kinda comical... Wasn't Graham embroiled in legal controversy over land deals when he was on the Metro board... giving preferential treatment to developer/pal Marvin Jawer for the 13th and U Metro site... Jawer owns land that JBG has developed and/or wants to develop in the U Street Corridor. Very cozy situation, which might better explain CM Graham's motivation to publicly challenge DMPED.

  • Keith “Tart” Bond

    If it was a fair procurement, it does not look good if the results are being publically challenged just because a group of folks don't like the results. The District has a history of unethical behavior in their procurements. Also, if the losing vendor is unhappy with the results they can file a protest.

  • DC Resident

    It is amazing to me that we still experience this level of racism in DC. The winning bid is a Black developer. Guess the new white neighbors want the White developer to win the bid because of a promise of a new Harris Teeter. Just amazing!

  • U Street Resident

    To be fair, and if you look at the petition being circulated by over 375+ U Street residents, CM Graham is merely doing his job by representing the desires of his constituents. I also wouldn't call 375+ U Street residents just "a group of folks" but a wide spread calling by the community to find out how this decision was made. You should read the comments on the petition to better understand why the U street neighborhood is frustrated and highly disappointed in the Deputy Mayor's decision.

  • Will Cruzet

    Let's watch and carefully listed to how Mayor Hoskins responds to the serious and legitimate questions community residents, and now Council member Graham, are asking in regards to 965 Florida Avenue RFP selection process?

    One team (MRP) offered the City 1 new street (Bryant Street NW); 375 rental housing units / or which 60 are affordable; a food stall market, with street level retail; a business incubator; and $200,000 cash to the community. In addition the City land was to be paid for with a combination of Cash + new property and sales tax revenues generated by the project. The ANC chose not to recommend this proposal to the City. The Chief Financial Officer of Howard University wrote a letter in support of this proposal; and 17% of the people who answered the online Georgia Avenue Task Force 965 Florida Avenue RFP Proposal Survey, voted for the MRP proposal; and I believe the Ledroit Park Citizens Assoc gave a letter of support, along with a couple of other persons or groups?

    The other team (JBG) offered the City 2 new streets (Bryant & W Street NW); 625 rental & for sale housing units / of which 101 are affordable for a period of time longer than 40 years; a national grocery store; a hotel; an office building, with a business incubator; street level retail stores; 1,600 +/- construction jobs; 500 +/- permanent jobs; and $500,000 cash to the community. To make this project happen, the team proposed to contribute to the project the adjacent property (at 945 Florida Avenue) which they already owned. In addition the City land was to be paid for with a combination of Cash + new property and sales tax revenues generated by the project. The ANC voted in support of this team; 30 or so neighborhood business owners and organizations wrote support letters; and 61.9% of the people who answered the online Georgia Avenue Task Force 965 Florida Avenue RFP Proposal Survey, voted for this proposal; and 200 Howard University Students signed a petition supporting this proposals.

    What I've laid out above is from the notes and hand outs I have from the 3 or 4 ANC presentations both teams gave on the RFP proposals. Please correct any mistake you find.

    I recently took the liberty to look at the 965 Florida Avenue Request For Proposals (RFP) that the City put out. Here is the direct link - http://www.dc.gov/DC/DMPED/Opportunities/Development+Opportunities+and+Solicitations/RFP+for+965+Florida+Avenue+NW+-+Sherman+Avenue+NW+Site.

    Take a few minutes and read the RFP summary, and then consider [on page 15] the proposal evaluation criteria the City stated would be used to judge each proposal. If you (like me) believe objectively that the JBG proposal was best for our community, then after reading page 15 you'll be scratching your head.

    And asking, DID MAYOR HOSKINS READ THESE CRITERIA - or make up some new ones to defend his rejecting a proposal [by JBG] which met and EXCEEDED the plain language of the page 15 criteria, in favor of selecting a proposal [by MRP] which falls WAY SHORT of the JBG proposal and page 15 criteria?

    By the way, the RFP (on page 6) says "The desires of community stakeholders who live in and around the burgeoning Shaw/Cardozo neighborhood of Ward 1B are of critical importance to the District. Accordingly, DMPED expects respondents to incorporate into their proposals feedback from key community stakeholders, including relevant ANC Commissioners and residents."

    Let's hold Mayor Hoskins to the plain meaning of these words. An ANC recommendation for the JBG proposal; an online survey result in support of the JBG proposal; and a bunch of community support letters in favor of the JBG proposal - all failed to satisfy him. He felt confident in rejecting the input of the community; ignoring the RFP criteria; and substituting HIS CONSIDERABLE WISDOM.

    I honestly find his decision to act this way highly suspect. So I intend to keep asking the hard questions. In a City where political scandal grows on trees, I will be disappointed but not surprised to discover that my community is the victim - of another one.

  • tntdc

    MRP is white.

  • tntdc

    but it does smack of cronyism. Ellis did Progression Place and DC just paid the UNCF $7M moving expenses to move there which is a sort of subsidy to Ellis.

  • Big Time

    Sounds like SOMEbody got paid.

  • Chris hauser

    I'd like to read the proposals. Where can I do so?

    Anybody? Bueller? Bueller?

  • Also a DC Resident

    I would have supported MRP if their proposal offered a full service grocery store, more retail and a connection of W Street. It has nothing to do with race. I'm also not white.

  • Lynn

    Does DC need a grocery store on every corner? What's up with that?

  • saywhat14

    Please throw Jim Graham in prison and throw the key away.

  • Typical DC BS

    Jim Graham needs to be bitch slapped right out of office. I can guarantee you he's whining because a developer supporter of his is whispering/bitching in his ear. That's the ONLY reason for Missy Graham's protestations.

  • Jasmine

    I prefer the stall approach. We already have two nearby Harris Teeters and, frankly, the produce and service is better at Whole Foods. There are also Giant Food and Safeway nearby. We don't need more of the same. The stall approach brings quality products and supports local businesses.

  • Nestor

    Graham could care less about the neighbors, although he is quite the showman. He likes to address us as "Friends," but beware of friends like CM Graham. Crony extraordinaire. JBG is his pal and he would cross citizens for his developer pals every time. Beware, too, of many list serve posters posing as citizens.

  • charlie

    How many millions was the JBG bid below?

  • John

    Jasmine the service at WF is in no way better than Harris Teeter. Sorry, I know it's a non-issue really but I have to support all the friendly folks at the HT.

  • John

    If it's a Union Market kind of food stall, that would be pretty cool. Something tells me it won't be though.

  • JG

    Money was not a factor in this deal. The city was willing to give the Howard Town Center tax breaks in the millions. Also, the final purchase price of the land is negotiated well after the proposal phase. If the price is ultimately wrong, the city doesn't have to sell.

  • Benton

    Did Graham ever follow up with what "detailed justification including documentation" he received and report out its findings? It has been two months now. Perhaps I missed it, but that seems like necessary information for the community to review as well.

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