Real estate magnate and heavyweight political fundraiser R. Donahue Peebles has long coveted Stevens Elementary School, the historic
building in the West End that District Mayor Vincent C. Gray has proposed for redevelopment.
When Stevens previously became available, under Mayor Adrian Fenty, Peebles went after it hard, proposing a re-use of the historic building as a hotel and personally telling the story of his grandfather working as a doorman at Marriott Wardman Park hotel in his pitch to neighborhood residents, city officials and news reporters. Many residents said they favored Peebles’s plans over the one that Fenty selected (and later discarded) from Equity Residential.
But this time around, Peebles says he’s not going after Stevens. In fact, he said Monday he is probably done doing real estate business with the D.C. government altogether.
“From our perspective there are other opportunities out there, and the cost consequences of going through these type of competitions…it’s almost prohibitive,” he said. “I like doing business in the District and would like to do business in the District. I’m not necessarily interested in doing business with the District government.”
Going after Stevens last time, Peebles said, cost him a “few hundred thousand” dollars and he said he sees other development plays that are “more probable to bear fruit in a reasonable period of time.”
Peebles also considered running for mayor in 2010 and he was quoted recently in the Washington Times saying he would consider funding a long shot effort to recall some of the city’s current officials.
Peebles, who is a top fundraiser for President Obama’s campaign and held a fundraiser for the president at his D.C. home, said part of his reason for staying away from deals with the District is that, “if I ever was interested in being a part of the government it probably would raise some questions.”
Does that mean he will consider running for mayor again?
“Never say never. In some regards I’m a bit regretful. I look and I just see what’s going on in the government and it’s very disappointing and embarrassing and troubling. So I look at that and say maybe I could have saved the residents from this.”
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz