Logosm.gif (1927 bytes)
navlinks.gif (4688 bytes)
Hruler04.gif (5511 bytes)

Back to Committee of 100 home page

Comparing D.C.’s Convention Center Options at Mt. Vernon Square vs. Union Station North:
An Updated Financial and Planning Study
May 20, 1998

Committee of 100 on the Federal City
P.O. Box 57106
Washington, D.C. 20037

I. Executive Summary
II. Introduction
III. Background
IV. Cost Escalation at the Mt. Vernon Site
V. Less Costly Alternative at Union Station North
VI. No Delay at Union Station North
VII. Hydrological Complications at Mt. Vernon Could Cause Further Delays and Cost
VIII. A Better Convention Center at Union Station North
IX. Additional Drawbacks at Mt. Vernon Square
X. Additional Revenues and Community Benefits at Mt. Vernon Square
XI. What to Do with the Existing Convention Center
XII. Union Station: Optimal Economic Development
XIII. Conclusion
XIV. About the Committee of 100 on the Federal City
XV. Report Authors
XVI. Appendix: Notes for Plate 4
Map of alternative convention center sites
Plate 1: Aerial photograph of convention center sites
Plate 2: Photograph of current DC Convention Center
Plate 3: Table of Projected Costs at Mt. Vernon Square
Plate 4: Comparison of Project Costs at Mt. Vernon Square and Union Station North
Plate 5: Construction Timeline Comparing Mt. Vernon and Union Station North
Plate 6: Illustration of Expansion Room at Union Station North
Plate 7: Largest US Convention Centers Expansion Plans, Site Acreages, Parking
Plate 8: Photograph of Shaw, 1950 (courtesy, Historical Society of Washington)
Plate 9: Shaw Village at Mt. Vernon Square, Eighth St. View
Plate 10: Shaw Village at Mt. Vernon Square, New York Avenue, View
Plate 11: National Capital Planning Commission Directions for Future Development (Extending the Legacy, 1997)
Plate 12: National Capital Planning Commission Conceptualization of North Capitol St., (Extending the Legacy, 1997)

An Updated Financial and Planning Study Comparing D.C.’s Convention Center Options

Map of alternative convention center site
Map of alternative convention center site

I. Executive Summary

A new feasibility study of competing convention center proposals shows that the District of Columbia could save $227 million by building its new convention center at the 27-acre Union Station North site rather than on the cramped 17-acre Mt. Vernon Square site. These savings would increase to $746 million over the life of the bonds needed to finance the project.

The analysis, produced with the assistance of financial and construction cost consultants, shows that a Union Station convention center could open at the same time as the Mt. Vernon alternative. The analysis allows for an additional 12- to 18-month design and approval process for Union Station North. The time savings would result from the simpler, cheaper, single-level, at-grade construction that the Union Station site offers.

This study also explains why a Union Station North convention center would be far superior to the proposed second-rate center at Mt. Vernon Square. This is because the Union Station site offers:

  • contiguous expansion room across First St. NE to 20- plus acres of additional land,
  • spacious parking room across First St. NE,
  • an economic development engine to spark growth in the New York Avenue and North Capitol Street corridors, where local and federal planners say it is most needed in the District of Columbia.

In short, this financial and planning study demonstrates that D.C.'s new convention center can be built cheaper, faster and better at Union Station North.

Back to top of page

II. Introduction

The Committee of 100 unequivocally favors a new, larger, state-of-the-art convention center. Since the early 1980s, D.C. has urgently needed bigger and better convention, meeting and exhibition facilities, with all their positive impact on jobs and revenue. But the place for a new center is not the cramped, residential, 17-acre Mt. Vernon Square site; rather it is the expandable 27-acre Union Station site — 4 blocks from the largest retail and tourist attraction in the District of Columbia.

Convention Center Options: Mt. Vernon Square vs. Union Station North
Plate 1

Aerial photograph of convention center sites

Back to top of page

III. Background

Three years after the current Washington Convention Center opened in 1983, city and convention officials realized they had made a costly mistake: the convention center was too small and could not be expanded.

Washington Convention Center, opened 1983
Plate 2
Photograph of front of current convention center

In 1986, the hotel association (to whom the city had delegated convention center planning responsibility) fixed on nearby Mt. Vernon Square for a new convention center because:

  • the land was mostly owned by the city (cleared as an “Urban Renewal” project and designated as the future site of the downtown campus of the University of the District of Columbia), and
  • the site favored their downtown hotel membership.

Other studies, paid for by the hotel association, naturally reaffirmed the conclusions of the 1986 study. So the city’s Comprehensive Plan was hurriedly changed in 1994 to allow the convention center to become a massive commercial intrusion into the historically residential Shaw neighborhood. But at the time, nobody knew how large a center would be needed.

When the time came in 1997 to actually design the center, convention officials found that demands for space had grown 50 percent since the 1980s. Now, the projected 2.1 million square foot center — with its minimum program requirement of 730,000 sq. ft. Of exhibition space — would not fit on one floor and could not be shoehorned into the cramped 17-acre site without violating the height limit.

The design solution was to break up the center into three levels and place 500,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space 60 feet underground into what has been called Washington's most expensive basement. Well over $150 million was added by this underground “solution,” which also:

  • caused the elimination of all underground parking spaces,
  • forced 72 truck loading docks to be moved to expensive space hollowed out under three blocks of 9th Street, and
  • left the remaining 230,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space stranded on the center's third level, where large trucks have to be ramped up and down at great expense.

And because of the nature of underground construction and the surrounding residential neighborhood, the Mt. Vernon facility is left with no room for future expansion, a repeat of the very mistake that created our present dilemma.

Back to top of page

IV. Cost Escalation at the Mt. Vernon Site

The Washington Convention Center Authority has never publicly released the true costs of the Mt. Vernon plan. From 1993 to 1997, WCCA’s published cost estimates rose from $450 million to $650 million. And the latest U.S. General Accounting Office report estimated that the project will require at least $737 million in taxpayer dollars.

An analysis prepared for the Committee of 100 summarized in Plate 3 shows that the costs of Mt. Vernon would be even higher.

Independent analysts believe that hard construction costs would be at least $75 million higher than WCCA estimates. When related increases in contingencies and financing costs plus the value of city-owned land are added, the total cost would be almost $900 million without bond interest. The total costs of the Mt. Vernon convention center including bond interest would top $1.9 billion dollars.

Plate 3
Mt. Vernon Square Convention Center Projected Costs
WCCA and C100 Estimates Compared
(Dollars in Thousands)

Land Costs:
Private Land Acquisition $5,000 $5,000
City Land Contribution 0 61,000
Remediation 11,000 11,000

Subtotal, Land Costs

16,000 77,000
Hard Costs:
Construction 425,000 500,000
Utility Relocation 8,000 8,000
Transportation System 23,000 23,000
Parking 0 0
Fixtures, Furnishings and Equipment 34,000 34,000
Escalation 0 0

Subtotal, Hard Costs

490,000 565,000
Soft Costs:
Design, Program Mgmt., Consulting 44,000 44,000
Legal and Insurance 26,000 26,000
Section 106 Mitigation Costs 16,000 16,000

Subtotal, Soft Costs

86,000 86,000
Contingency 58,000 67,000
Total Costs Excluding Financing & Interest 650,000 795,000
Financing Costs and Required Reserves 87,000 94,000
Total Costs Excluding Interest 737,000 889,000
Bond Interest 912,000 1,048,000
Total Project Costs 1,649,000 1,937,000

Back to top of page

V. Less Costly Alternative at Union Station North

By contrast, the same size convention center at Union Station North could be built for $662 million. This would be $227 million less than Mt. Vernon Square. When bond interest is included, savings would increase to $746 million over the life of the bonds. (Plate 4)

The savings at the 27-acre Union Station North site are generated primarily by building the convention center at grade level, with all exhibition space on one single level — eliminating underground construction and associated expenses and disadvantages. Truck docks at Union Station North also are at grade level, eliminating the need for costly tunnels and complex truck ramping.

Plate 4
Washington Convention Center
Comparison of Project Costs at
Mt. Vernon Square (MVS) and Union Station North (USN)
Prepared By Committee of 100 (C100) As of May 1, 1998
(Dollars in Thousands)

Notes MVS (17 Acre Site) USN (27 Acre Site) Savings at USN
Land Costs:
Private Land Acquisition 1 $5,000 $48,000 $(43,000)
City Land Contribution 2 61,000 11,000 50,000
Remediation 3 11,000 3,000 8,000

Subtotal, Land Costs

77,000 62,000 15,000
Hard Costs:
Construction 4 500,000 350,000 150,000
Utility Relocation 5 8,000 2,000 6,000
Transportation System 6 23,000 3,000 20,000
Parking 7 0 0 0
Fixtures, Furnishings and Equipment 34,000 34,000 0
Escalation 8 0 0 0

Subtotal, Hard Costs

565,000 389,000 176,000
Soft Costs:
Design, Program Mgmt, Consulting 9 44,000 54,000 (10,000)
Legal and Insurance 26,000 26,000 0
Section 106 Mitigation Costs 10 16,000 0 16,000

Subtotal, Soft Costs

86,000 80,000 6,000
Contingency 11 67,000 53,000 14,000
Total Costs Excluding Financing and Revenue 795,000 584,000 211,000
Financing Costs and Reserves 12 94,000 78,000 16,000
Total Costs Excluding Interest 889,000 662,000 227,000
Bond Interest 13 1,048,000 529,000 519,000
Total Project Costs 1,937,000 1,191,000 746,000

Back to top of page

VI. No Delay at Union Station North

Not only does the center at Union Station save almost $800 million, but construction experts estimate that it can be open for business as soon as a center at Mt. Vernon. Why? Because Union Station doesn't face the engineering problems caused by the massive underground program at Mt. Vernon Square. As the chart below shows, while Union Station might take 12 to 18 months for additional design and permit approvals, this time would be made up by the much shorter construction period.

Plate 5
Construction Timeline: Mt. Vernon Square vs. Union Station North

Construction timetable

Back to top of page

VII. Hydrological Complications at Mt. Vernon Could Cause Further Delays and Cost

Over 90 percent of all U.S. convention centers are built, as proposed for Union Station, on grade or with a shallow basement (e.g. Baltimore, San Francisco, Chicago, San Diego, Boston plan). Extensive underground construction, like that proposed at Mt. Vernon Square, is a rarity. It would be the single most extensive construction project of occupied underground space in the Washington metropolitan area (and probably the entire country). The underground work would be far greater than at Techworld, the FBI, the Ronald Reagan building, L’Enfant Plaza or National Place — all of which suffered expensive construction delays.

WCCA has not been forthcoming about possible delays at Mt. Vernon Square which could also be severe due to underground water systems that will be disrupted. No precise timetable or cost estimate is really possible until the mammoth underground site is exposed and the actual conditions are confronted.

Back to top of page

VIII. A Better Convention Center at Union Station North

In addition to being cheaper and faster to build, Union Station offers the potential for a much better convention center, a first-rate center.

Room to expand

D.C. should not repeat the same mistake made in 1983 when officials failed to see that convention center business would expand at the rate of 5 percent per year. According to Coopers & Lybrand’s December, 1997, report for WCCA, this same rate of expansion will continue. This time D.C. must have room for expansion. We simply cannot get it at the 17-acre, land-locked, underground Mt. Vernon site without destroying even more of residential Shaw. At the ample 27-acre Union Station site, there are 20 additional vacant acres of already properly zoned expansion room west of First St. NE in Squares 671-674.

Plate 6
Union Station North (Squares 710-712)
and Expansion Space (Squares 671-674)

Union Square north expansion space

Data provided by national convention center experts show that if other cities proceed with their expansion plans, in a few years D.C. could be only 16th largest in the highly competitive convention center market. Then D.C. would steadily lose market share each year. Notice that the convention center cities which already have more exhibition space than 730,000 sq. ft. -- Chicago, Orlando, Las Vegas, Atlanta, New York, Anaheim -- are planning to add still more exhibition space. Observe that San Diego, Dallas, and Boston plan to reach and exceed 1 million sq. ft. of exhibition space.

Plate 7
Largest U.S. Convention Centers: Current and Planned
Exhibition Space -- Sites -- Parking

City/Convention Center Exhibit Space (sq.ft.) Expansion Plans Total Site (Acres) Parking on-site or contiguous (No. of cars)
Chicago CC (McCormick Pl.) 1,850,000 500,000 2.35 ml 100+ 3-5,000
New Orleans CC (Morial)** 1,300,000 1.3 ml 100 2,000
Orlando CC (Orange Co.)** 1,050,000 250,000 1.3 ml 125 3,500
Las Vegas CC** 970,000 425,000 1.4ml 4,800
Atlanta CC (GA Wd. Cong.)** 950,000 500,000 1.45 ml 100+ 5,000
Las Vegas CC (Sands)** 935,000 105,000 1.04 ml 1,400
Los Angeles CC 867,000 867,000 34 6,000
N.Y.C. CC (Javits)** 760,000 540,000 1.3 ml
Anaheim CC** 670,000 330,000 1.0 ml 75 5,500
Orlando CC (Osceola Co.)*/** 2.1 ml 2.1+ ml. 100+ 5,000
San Diego CC** 630,000 500,000 1.1 ml 27 2,200
Boston TCC*/** 600,000 400,000 1.0 ml 60 2,000
Dallas CC 600,000 300,000 900,000 1,300
Kentucky Expo CC 793,100 793,100 19,000
Miami Beach CC 502,800 250,000 752,800 2,800
Washington CC*/** 735,000 none 735,000 17

*New Facility
**Expansion studies or expansion underway

The Committee of 100 is indebted to the following nationally known convention center experts for their pro bono assistance in preparing the above chart:

Charles H. Johnson, IV
C.H. Johnson Consulting, Inc.
203 N. Wabash, Suite 310
Chicago, IL 60601
David P. O'Neal, President
Conventional Wisdom, Corp.
P.O. Box 2454
Windemere, FL 34786-2454
Jeff Sachs
Red Estate Group
Ernst & Young LLP
600 Peachtree St, Suite 2800
Atlanta, GA 30308-2205

Mt. Vernon Square is simply not competitive. Washington, D.C. must have room to expand as it would at Union Station.


The Mt. Vernon Square plan does not include a single additional parking space in an area already short on parking. Every other large center in the country (except New York City) has ample parking on site or in contiguous blocks. It makes good sense.

Boston planners have set aside 360,000 feet of on-site parking. Cities similar to D.C., like New Orleans, Atlanta, Dallas, Detroit, and St. Louis all have ample parking on site or contiguous. And Union Station, too, would have ample parking directly across First Street.

A more detailed look at Mt. Vernon Square’s parking management plan shows grave deficiencies. WCCA estimates it needs 2,200 workday parking places which it says exist at Mt. Vernon; but upon closer examination, such spaces are randomly spread out among 71 parking facilities over a 100 square block downtown area; many as far as 8 blocks away. Further, no notice is taken that construction at Mt. Vernon Square will remove 1100 existing parking spaces, forcing drivers to search still further afield in our traffic-jammed downtown.

In reality, WCCA’s parking plan is a prescription for forcing thousands of conventioneers’ cars onto the Shaw neighborhood’s already crowded streets. No illegal parking signs are going to deter out-of-town drivers from getting as close as possible to their convention.

Back to top of page

IX. Additional Drawbacks at Mt. Vernon Square


In order to support the three-level Mt. Vernon Square center, columns on 90-foot centers, like those at the out-of-date existing center, need to be built. This impediment, plus the vertical, two-floor separation of the two 500,000 and 230,000 sq. ft. exhibition halls, greatly reduce Mt. Vernon’s flexibility when compared to the column-free, at grade, all-on-one-floor exhibition space at the Union Station center — which could easily handle three or four conventions simultaneously. Column-free space was the number-one priority of convention planners according to the December, 1997 Coopers & Lybrand study commissioned by the Washington Convention Center Authority. (p. 14)


Placing Mt. Vernon's major exhibition space 6 stories below ground level raises serious safety issues if a fire, bomb, or other disaster shuts down escalators and elevators. No such safety issues are presented at Union Station North, where all exhibition space will be at grade.

Neighborhood Impact

Building the center at Mt. Vernon will create serious truck, bus and auto traffic as well as parking problems for the surrounding residential Shaw neighborhood. The Union Station North site is in a non-residential area. Most trucks and buses could come directly off New York Avenue into the center.

L’Enfant Plan

At Mt. Vernon Square, three blocks of Eighth St., one of L’Enfant’s most important ceremonial axes, are totally destroyed. Four others are seriously compromised by building over L and M Streets. No major L’Enfant streets are impacted at Union Station North.

Water Problems

Construction down to 60-65 feet at Mt. Vernon will be well below the 16-20 foot underground water table and into the Potomac group aquifer. The building (with a footprint larger than the U.S. Capitol) will be situated in the water saturation zone in perpetuity, requiring a permanent groundwater pumping program. There is serious doubt as to whether residential neighbors and churches to the north, east and west understand the role of subsidence from water withdrawal. Who is liable when shrinkage, foundation cracks, and implosion take place on their properties?

Back to top of page

X. Additional Revenues and Community Benefits at Mt. Vernon Square

Is a convention center the best use of a six-block residential area directly adjoining downtown? The area — formerly housing and small shops -- was leveled in the 1970s to build a university. But the university never came.

Plate 8
Shaw in 1950

Photograph: Shaw in 1950

This area should be returned to its historic use: a medium-density, economically diverse, mixed-use urban neighborhood that would generate tax revenue from permanent D.C. residents. Such development would have other benefits; one of the most important factors in the future success of downtown is the maintenance of compact residential neighborhoods close to the center.

The prototypical concept presented by the Committee of 100, “Straw Village,” would include 1700 households, parks, a playground, a shopping arcade, offices, restaurants, and parking.

Plate 9
Shaw Village, Eighth St. view

Drawing: Shaw Village, Eighth Street View

Shaw Village would contain, under current matter-of-right zoning, 3.1 million FAR feet, including 1.7 million of commercial; and 1.4 million of residential.

This potential development could bring over $27 million in property, sales and income tax revenues annually at matter-of-right, market-rate levels. Of course, the ultimate revenue amount would depend on the level of city support for low- and moderate-income households. If the city committed to receive less than market value for a portion of the land, it could reduce the cost of development, thereby ensuring a healthy mix of market-rate, low and moderate-income households.

Plate 10
Shaw Village, Carnegie View

Drawing: Shaw Village, Carnegie View

Back to top of page

XI. What to do With the Existing Convention Center

The existing convention center should be renovated and used for smaller conventions and meetings. This would directly help downtown hotels and conserve a valuable resource. At the same time, a new, bigger convention center would be built at Union Station for trade shows and the larger conventions.

This, indeed, is Boston's strategy — keeping Hynes Center downtown — while building a new 2.5 million square foot center with over a million square feet of expandable exhibition space in South Boston.

Moreover, the savings from building at Union Station would more than pay for renovating the current convention center and pay off its existing bond debt as well. Further, the revenue from housing at Shaw Village would make such a “two center” strategy even more attractive.

Back to top of page

XII. Union Station: Optimal Economic Development

When the current convention center was opened in 1983, there were no hotels near 9th-and I Streets and virtually no restaurants. By comparison, the site at Union Station North is near plenty of activity. Union Station — the No. 1 retail and tourist attraction in D.C. — would be only 8 minutes away by foot or 2 minutes by special convention center minibus. The Greyhound station is in the next block. And new office buildings are currently being constructed along First and North Capitol Streets nearly reaching the Union Station convention center site.Restaurants and hotels will follow D.C.'s gleaming new center at Union Station North, just as surely as they followed to 9th & I Streets.

Indeed, many forward-looking cities have used their convention centers as economic pump primers to spur new development outside their central downtowns. San Francisco located its center in the then grubby south of Market area; Chicago's center is well south of its downtown; Boston is planning to place its new center in gritty South Boston.

Plate 11
North Capitol Street, as envisioned in Extending the Legacy, 1997.

Drawing: North Capitol Street

Indeed, this is exactly the prescription called for in the National Capital Planning Commission's “Extending the Legacy Plan” and the Mayor’s New York Avenue Task Force.

An expandable Union Station convention center should be the cornerstone of a comprehensive redevelopment plan for North Capitol Street and New York and Florida Avenues — a perfect initial project for the District's new National Capital Revitalization Corporation.

Plate 12
Directions of Future D.C. Development from Extending the Legacy, 1997

Aerial photograph of directions of DC development

It would spur development where it is needed along the North Capitol and New York Avenue corridors to the outer wards of the District of Columbia.

Back to top of page

XIII. Conclusion

WCCA’s Environmental Impact Statement, adopted as its own by the NCPC, makes the astounding admission that the relative economic pros and cons of building at Mt. Vernon versus Union Station were never examined.

“Both land acquisition costs and actual design and construction costs would be dramatically different for the alternative sites; however, for the purposes of this study, a single project budget has been provided by WCCA. Therefore, this analysis makes the assumption that all construction and development costs would remain the same for both sites...” (EIS p. 4-25, emphasis added)

This “assumption” could cost the taxpayers an extra $800 million if it goes unchallenged, and result in a second-rate convention center on a cramped 17-acre site with no room for expansion, no parking, little flexibility and with serious safety, water, and traffic congestion problems. Building at Mt. Vernon Square will set back the historic Shaw neighborhood and the future development of the North Capitol-New York-Florida Avenue area for decades.

D.C. should choose the better, cheaper, faster convention center at Union Station North.

Back to top of page


The Committee of 100 is the oldest citizens planning and advocacy group in Washington. Founded in 1923 by Frederic A. Delano, FDR’s uncle, the Committee has served for over 70 years as both a thoughtful forum and an active participant in planning the comprehensive future of the city and its region.

Our membership includes planners, architects, lawyers, conservationists, landscape architects, historians as well as neighborhood leaders, ANC representatives and activists from all eight wards of the city and from the metropolitan counties. The Committee is an action-oriented, all volunteer group.

The mission of the Committee is to safeguard and advance the fundamental planning, environmental, and aesthetic values inherited from the L’Enfant Plan and McMillan Commission which give Washington its historic distinction, natural beauty and overall livability.

The work of the Committee ranges across many city and regional interests:

Safeguarding the L’Enfant Plan and the Building Height Act (contesting violations planned for the Old Post Office, Judiciary Building, Market Square, MCI Arena, Convention Center); preserving historic buildings and neighborhoods (old Patent Office, Woodward building, Cleveland Park, Shaw neighborhood); rejuvenating our parks and green spaces (Meridian Hill, Buzzards’ Point, Rock Creek Master Plan); advancing regional planning initiatives such as participation in the Council of Governments’ transportation visioning, the Potomac Partnership, Downtown Interactive Task Force); restoring and increasing the City’s housing stock; reclaiming the Waterfront and defending water resources; and, stopping disruptive freeways planned through established neighborhoods such as the Three Sisters Bridge, Barney Circle.

Distinguished speakers address the Committee’s monthly membership meetings. The Committee also gives expert testimony, often in support of neighborhood groups, before the D.C. Zoning Commission, Board of Zoning Adjustment, Historic Preservation Review Board, City Council, Fine Arts Commission, National Capital Planning Commission, COG, and other city and regional bodies.

Back to top of page

XV. Report Authors

This study by the Committee of 100 was prepared with information and analysis supplied by experts in economic development, public finance, construction cost estimating, convention center planning, transportation, architecture, engineering, hydrology and zoning law.

Committee of 100 members:

Tersh Boasberg, an attorney, is Chairman of the Committee of 100. he is a past Chairman of the D.C. Zoning Commission (1990-93). Active in local and regional issues, he led the fights to save the Manassas and Brandy Station Battlefields. He has practiced land use, zoning, and real estate law in Washington, D.C. for over 30 years.

Joseph Bender, a trustee of the Committee, is the former Chief of the Property Development Division of the D.C. Office of Business and Economic Development. In his 14 years in D.C. Government, Bender held several positions in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and the Office of Planning. As the city’s senior real estate analyst, he oversaw industrial revenue bonds and several municipal finance programs.

W. Kent Cooper is the FAIA principal of Cooper-Lecky Architects, a Washington-based architectural and planning firm. Among his recent projects are “Amazonia” at the National Zoo; the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Korean War Veterans Memorial; the Herndon, Virginia Town Center; and the National Children’s Center in Anacostia. He is a trustee of the Committee of 100.

James H. Hannaham, a hydrologist, is the former Deputy Director of the D.C. Water Resources Center at the University of the District of Columbia. He is a trustee, and serves as secretary, of the Committee of 100.

Joseph Passoneau, FAIA, ASCE, is an architect and a civil engineer. He was dean of the Washington University, St. Louis, School of Architecture for 11 years. He has over 30 years of planning and design experience in transportation and highway projects, including the western half of 1-70 in Glenwood Canyon, Colorado, which won the ASCE award for “Outstanding Civil Engineer Achievement” in 1993. He is a trustee of the Committee.

Elizabeth Solomon is a resident and business owner in the Shaw neighborhood, which she formerly represented as Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner. She is a co-founder of the Shaw Coalition and a trustee of the Committee of 100.

J. Kirkwood White was a land use, real estate and zoning attorney with several prominent D.C. law firms. Currently he is president of D.C. Research, a non-profit firm which analyzes planning and economic data in the District of Columbia. He is the former Assistant Director of the D.C. Office of Planning for Zoning and Comprehensive Plan Implementation.

Independent consultants who contributed to this report:

John Forrer for many years was a land developer and prominent businessman in Florida until his recent retirement. He was formerly with the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and the New York City Bureau of the Budget.

Robin Godfrey is a principal of Scharft-Godfrey, Inc., a construction cost consulting firm. She has twice been president of the National Capital Section of the American Association of Cost Engineers. She is also on the boards of Consulting Engineers Council/Metropolitan Washington and Construction Business Review.

Back to top of page

XVI. Appendix: Notes to Plate 4

1. MVS estimate is negotiated price per WCCA for 2 acres, although the 1996 assessed value as listed in the Environmental impact Statement (EIS) is $18 million. USN estimate is assessed value for18 acres. (MVS site includes squares 400-402 and 424-426; USN site includes squares 710-712). It should be noted that WCCA has consistently misrepresented land values. Until recently, WCCA put the value of private holdings at USN at $230 million. After challenge by C100, WCCA's latest estimate is $70 million, which is the asking price by owners of the property. Asking prices are almost always in excess of fair market value. Experts consulted by C100 estimate that a fair market appraisal of the private holdings at USN probably would be even less than the $48 million assessed value used in this table.

2. MVS estimate is the current assessed value for 15 acres less remediation costs. The assessed value at MVS is based on mixed residential-commercial uses permitted by current zoning, which is the same mixture of uses proposed by C 100 for Shaw Village at the MVS site USN estimate is assessed value for 9 acres less remediation costs. The assessed value at USN is based on current commercial zoning.

3. Estimates at both sites are for remediation of land donated by the city. MVS estimate is per WCCA. USN estimate is a contingency allowance for cleanup requirements which the EIS describes as “modest.” (It is noted that WCCA estimate for remediation ion costs at USN is $50 million. If this figure includes costs for cleaning up privately owned land, such costs should not be included because estimated acquisition costs assume remediation is paid for by the seller. If the $50 million figure is just for cleaning up city owned land, it is wildly inconsistent with the site investigation findings reported in the EIS and is not supported by any published documents.)

4. The MVS construction estimate of $500 million is based on standard industry guidelines for quality buildings with substantial underground components. WCCA’s estimate of $425 million for MVS appears unrealistic without major reductions in the size or quality of the project, especially since bids came in 5100 million higher. The USN estimate of $350 million is based on the opinion of construction cost experts that a savings of 25% to 35% can be achieved at USN due to the much simpler and faster above-grade construction at USN.

5. MVS estimate is per WCCA. USN estimate is “best guess” pending detailed engineering studies.

6. MVS estimate is per WCCA (DeLeuw, Cather) for Metro station upgrade. USN estimate is for 6-8 busses or trams that would take people between the convention center and the Metro stop at Union Station.

7. No cost estimate is included for parking at either site because parking facilities, including acquisition of land, can either be privately financed or can be separately financed by the Authority using parking revenues.

8. Construction costs for both sites assume bond sale and construction start late in 1998. This schedule may be possible at MVS, although recent WCCA failures to meet deadlines and the current lack of a financing plan are not encouraging. Sale of bonds and start of construction would be delayed until late in 1999 at USN in order to allow time for new engineering and design work to be completed. However, because of the much shorter construction period for the entirely aboveground structure at USN, the completion of construction at USN would still occur at least as early as the completion of construction at MVS, and perhaps earlier since the underground building problems at MVS could easily cause MVS construction to take longer than the 3.5 years estimated by WCCA. No escalation cost is budgeted for USN because any increases due to the delayed start should be fully offset by additional dedicated tax collections prior to bond sale. No escalation cost is budgeted for MVS because any increases due to delayed completion should be fully offset by additional earnings on bond proceeds during construction.

9. The MVS estimate is per WCCA and includes $21 million for engineering and design services, $14 million for construction management services, $5 million for consulting and inspection fees, $1.5 million for the EIS, $1 million for WMATA engineering and project management, and $1.5 million for permits, licenses and other fees. Some of these costs will be unaffected by the switch to USN (e.g. the EIS and permits and licenses), while others will be reduced significantly (e.g. construction management services, which are a function of construction cost and construction time). Even engineering and design costs could be reduced since such fees are often based on a percentage of construction cost rather than amount of time expended. However, to be safe, an extra $10 million is included in the cost estimate for USN to cover the new engineering, design and transportation management plans needed for USN.

10. Mitigation costs at MVS are per WCCA and are required by NCPC to mitigate impacts on the residential Shaw neighborhood and historic Carnegie Library. Mitigation costs are not anticipated at USN because of the nonresidential nature of the area.

11. Contingency allowance for both sites is 10% of all land, hard and soft costs excluding contributed land.

12. Financing costs include $12 million of bond issuance costs plus various reserves that will be required by the bond underwriters. The estimate of reserve requirements for MVS is $75 million from the GAO report of 2/28/98 plus $7 million due to the increased construction and contingency cost estimates. The estimate for USN is based on the same formula applied to the lower project costs at USN.

13. WCCA has not yet released a financing plan. The 2/28/98 GAO report said that $121 million of project costs can be covered with cash on hand or already expended at time of bond sale and that an additional $66 million could be covered with earnings on bond proceeds during construction. Based on the WCCA estimate of $737 million total costs including financing costs and reserves, this left $550 million to be financed with bonds backed by dedicated tax revenues, which the GAO report said could be financed with existing dedicated taxes rates if 40 year bonds were sold. $550 million of 40 year bonds with a 6% interest rate would have an average annual debt service payment of $36.6 million and would generate a total interest cost of $912 million. Assuming this information to be correct, C 100's cost estimates for MVS would require $632 million of bonds ($889 million total costs excluding interest less $121 million cash less $75 million earnings less $61 million city land contribution), which at 6% interest over 40 years would require an average annual debt service of $42.0 million. This would require a 14% increase in dedicated tax rates and would generate a total interest cost of $1.048 billion. By contrast, USN would require $489 million of bonds ($662 million total costs excluding interest less $121 million cash less $41 million earnings less $11 million city land contribution). With 6% interest and the $36.6 million average annual debt service payment which can be supported with existing tax rates, these bonds could be paid off in 28 years and would generate a total interest cost of $529 million. WCCA has indicated that it is seeking up to $55 million of federal grants which, if obtained, would reduce the amount of bonds and the interest cost for both sites. However, since such grants are still speculative, they have not been included in the calculations for either site.

Back to top of page

Send mail with questions or comments to webmaster@dcwatch.com
Web site copyright ©DCWatch (ISSN 1546-4296)