It was called Reservation 13 years ago, but it was Hill East by the time former D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty began searching for a private development partner for 50 acres along the Anacostia River in 2008.
Since then, residents of the neighborhood haven’t seen much progress. Hill East, located at the eastern end of Massachusetts Avenue Southeast, is still home to a homeless shelter, a medical examiner’s office, former hospital and other social services facilities, even though it was once envisioned as a “vibrant, mixed-use urban waterfront community” according to the city. In fact, the web site for the deputy mayor for planning and economic development still says it plans to pick a developer by “mid-2010.”
So...what’s going on with Hill East?
Despite Hill East’s attractive location between Capitol Hill and the riverfront, the real estate market was approaching panic mode when Fenty began his search for developers in 2008. Fenty narrowed his selection to two teams of developers, each of which proposed massive buildouts approaching 5 million square feet, but chose neither. Vincent Gray, after beating Fenty in the 2010 election, hasn’t selected a developer, either. Now the real estate market has changed so much that a new selection process may be required.
Meanwhile there are other moves afoot that are draped in burgundy and gold. In November, Gray and two members of the D.C. Council traveled to Tampa, Fla. to inspect an NFL training facility similar to one they might consider to build at Hill East for the Redskins. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said he doesn’t know what the facility would cost or if the Redksins are interested in it. “First of all we have to get a commitment that they want to get it done,” he said of the team. He will know more, he said, in a few weeks.
Not everyone is thrilled by the Redskins idea, namely residents nearby and Greater Greater Washington bloggers, because the Hill East project has been yanked from the deputy mayor’s office and moved to that of the city administrator while the Redskins idea is considered. Deputy Mayor Victor Hoskins told the D.C. Council Thursday that the Redskins talks, “are really preliminary discussions right now.”
But for Hill East residents hoping for that vibrant, mixed-use community, the talks mean more waiting, as even when a plan is decided on, major development will require moving the existing facilities somewhere else. Current vibrancy mostly stems from D.C. jail.
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