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Letter from Robert Moore, Director
Development Corporation of Columbia Heights
June 22, 1998

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3419 14th Street, Northwest
Washington, D.C. 20010
(202) 483-4986
FAX (202) 483-4982

June 22, 1998

Mary Fitch, AICP
Washington Architectural Foundation
1777 Church Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20036

RE: Columbia Heights Metro Station Area Plan

Dear Ms. Fitch:

Several Charrette Design Team members accompanied by the Washington Architectural Foundation (WAF) inappropriately requested the Council of the District of Columbia to insert restrictive language in the planned Request for Proposals for development of the Major Community Service Center. This action was taken at the end of the meeting of the Council’s Committee of the Whole without consultation with either DCCH or the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD).

As you know, I was informed of a presentation of the Charrette plan before the Council of the District of Columbia only 24 hours before the meeting. I am not sure who requested Chairman Linda Cropp to make a presentation before the Committee of the Whole. Protocol was broken when neither Ward One Council Member Frank Smith, Jr. nor Charlene Drew-Jarvis, Chair Housing and Economic Development Committee were not brought into the process. More alarming was a direct request made by the panel (Geoff Griffis, Kent Cooper and you) for the Council to legislatively insert language in the document restricting developers only to the Charrette Plan land use concept in response to the planned Request for Proposals. I would think that none of us would be so restrictive that we would discourage alternative ideas and concepts.

The document distributed to the Council during the presentation was not the same as the material distributed to the DCCH Board of Directors for review The document distributed to the Council kind been supplemented with additional materials. Further, none of the input from DCCH Board members, other members of the Columbia Heights community or any comments made by residents during the Charrette related to the expansion of Bell Multicultural High School are acknowledged anywhere in the report. While you maintain that all comments will be included in the final document, you should not hand out information sheets since they do not reflect the diversity of opinion on any number of issues. It is as if the design team was empowered to render those of us who differ invisible and mute. For the record, DCCH board members offered the following input:

  • DCCH members questioned the precision of calling the plan “the community’s plan”. At best, 250 Columbia Heights residents (or .01% of the neighborhood's 29,000 population) participated in the Charrette. There have been no additional meetings or substantial distribution of the plan to inform residents of the issues in an attempt to broaden the Charrette consensus.
  • DCCH members recommended that the plan be a framework for development and not a rigid structure to quickstep development to a pre-set land use concept. The members requested that the plan provide for flexibility as in the existing Urban Renewal Plan and related zoning. Sections of the Charrette document should not be labeled, “Preferred Uses or Uses Preferred by Community”. A more accurate characterization would be “Charrette Participant’ Plan” and “Uses Preferred by Charrette Participants”. The plan should encourage the genius of the competitive market place for an overall land use that inures the maximum benefit to neighborhood residents. There have been more c presentations made to groups outside of the neighborhood than to residents in the neighborhood.
  • DCCH members suggested that language be included in the RFP to encourage developers to creatively meet the expansion needs of Bell Multicultural High School in a creative strategy on or off RLA land.
  • DCCH members offered a recommendation that the plan include discussion on policies to encourage employment opportunities for residents and possibilities for increased entrepreneurship by Columbia Heights residents. So that the document does not become solely physical development oriented, some work on human resource development would be appropriate.
  • DCCH and Charrette participants also recommended that new development serve the needs, of residents first and seek to develop the area to maximize its cultural diversity as a destination in the region. The report is silent on these concepts.

I have reviewed the existing agreement between our two organizations. I find no activities outside of presenting the plan to RLA in the contract. 1 believe that we should take time to review the scope of work (items 6,7, 8) of the contract. Clearly, there are activities taking place outside the scope of services and not enough concentration is being placed on involving the true stakeholders, all the residents of Columbia Heights. Without an immediate review of the contract, we will not process further requests for payment.


Robert L. Moore
President & CEO

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