D.C. parts ways with developer of Park Morton complex

February 10

D.C. Mayor Vincent C. Gray’s economic development chief has terminated negotiations with the companies tasked with rebuilding the Park Morton housing complex along Georgia Avenue, saying the project has been unacceptably delayed.

The developers, Landex Corp., of Linthicum, Md. and the Warrenton Group, based in D.C., were chosen by the District in 2009 to overhaul the 174-unit public housing community, located a block east of Georgia Avenue south of Park Road in Northwest. At the time, Landex executives said they planned to build some 500 units, including replacement units for public housing residents. More than four years later they have only built 83.

The Park Morton public housing complex. (Courtesy Office of Planning)
The Park Morton public housing complex. (Courtesy Office of Planning)

In a Feb. 6 to Landex, Deputy Mayor Victor L. Hoskins said he was done waiting. “The District has determined that the reasonable timeframe for progress of negotiations and achievement of redevelopment objectives has expired,” Hoskins wrote.

Hoskins wrote that, despite numerous attempts to make progress with negotiations, “at this point it has become clear to the District that the development of the Property in accordance with the objectives and timeframes discussed has not and will not likely occur.”

In response, Peter S. Siegel, president and chief executive of Landex, wrote that he was “unfamiliar with the timeframe to which you are referring” and said his company was making progress on the project despite difficult political and economic circumstances. The Park Morton project is part of the New Communities initiative, in which the District hopes to replace blighted public housing projects with mixed-income communities.

Park Morton is located a block off of the gentrifying Georgia Avenue corridor, near Howard University. (Courtesy Office of Planning)
Park Morton is located a block off of the gentrifying Georgia Avenue corridor, near Howard University. (Courtesy Office of Planning)

Siegel attributed part of the project’s difficulty to “confusion and mixed messages” from Hoskins’ unit, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED).

“We certainly understand and strongly support the District’s needs to replace a majority of its aging public housing portfolio with good quality, well-managed, sustainable, mixed-income communities that will support the neighborhoods,” Siegel wrote. “We recognize how mammoth a task this is. Thus, despite the confusion and mixed messages from DMPED, we have put our best efforts forth to diligently work to achieve the District’s goal and have kept the District, via its staff and its consultants, informed of our substantial progress.”

Progress on Park Morton has come in fits and starts as real estate values fluctuated and the city’s leadership transitioned from former mayor Adrian Fenty to Gray. In 2012, Landex and Warrenton Group completed the Avenue, an 83-unit building at 3506 Georgia Ave. NW that includes 27 units for current Park Morton residents. A year ago, the Warrenton Group announced that it had inked agreements with landowners along Georgia Avenue, including a Small Smiles dental clinic and a tire store, to expand the project.

The Park Morton redevelopment could include properties along Georgia Avenue. (Washington Post)
The Park Morton redevelopment could include these properties along Georgia Avenue. (Washington Post)

Siegel said he was surprised by the city’s decision. “Throughout this process, at no time did anyone indicate that our rights to develop the property were at risk,” he wrote. He urged Hoskins to reconsider.

Neither Siegel nor Hoskins was immediately available for comment. Adrianne Todman, executive director of the D.C. Housing Authority, did not respond to a request for comment.

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