Heavy Traffic Cited As Concern in Move For Housing Agency

By Yolanda Woodlee
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, March 6, 2008

The announcement by D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) that a major city agency would move across the Anacostia River to the corner of Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue drew mixed reaction from some residents in Southeast this week.

During a news conference Monday, Fenty said that 178 city workers at the Department of Housing and Community Development would move to 1800 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave SE, a major step toward revitalizing the main thoroughfare in Ward 8.

Anthony Muhammad, the advisory neighborhood commissioner, who represents the Anacostia community where the building is located, said he learned of the planned move about 30 minutes before the news conference. He did not attend.

"This is going to be a traffic jam every day," Muhammad said. "What are the citizens going to get? Why should we be so happy to accept all the social services programs?"

Mary Cuthbert, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in nearby Congress Heights, said she was not sure what to make of the move.

"I don't know if it's good or bad," she said. "This is probably good for Anacostia, but I also think about it in terms of traffic flow. When you talk about shopping amenities, we might be able to get more businesses to come over because there's more money to be spent on a daily basis."

The building is owned by Anacostia Gateway, the for-profit unit of the Anacostia Economic Development Corp. The AEDC is a nonprofit group that uses public funds to rejuvenate the struggling neighborhood.

Albert "Butch" Hopkins Jr., president of the AEDC, said he was surprised to hear that some residents had reservations.

"If people stop and think for a minute, they'd be 100 percent supportive," he said. "It's everything they've been asking for. They all want retail goods and services. Find one resident who doesn't. . . . The only way you get it is to have nighttime consumers and a daytime workforce."

The city is partially leasing to itself. It has a 25 percent interest in Anacostia Gateway. Also, the development corporation receives local and federal tax revenue that is monitored by the city's housing and community development agency, the building's new tenant. The building's other owners are the H Street Investment Corp. and Development Resources Inc.

The housing agency's headquarters are at 801 North Capitol St. NE, where the city leases 49,434 square feet for $155,228 a month, according to city records. Hopkins would not say how much the city is paying to lease the Southeast building, which has 63,000 square feet.

In the new building, the city will lease 49,846 square feet for $157,845 a month, said Bill Rice, a spokesman for the city's Office of Property Management.

Hopkins said the city is paying less rent than it would in a comparable building downtown because the land is less expensive. The building was constructed to replace the headquarters of the NAACP in Baltimore, but the deal to sell it to the organization for $25 million fell through.

As far as residents' concerns about parking, Hopkins said, the new building will have two levels of underground parking, though some parking will spill into the neighborhood.

"I'd rather have the problem of a lot of businesses and retail or somebody looking for a parking space than nobody being over here and this becoming a ghost town," Hopkins said. "The whole idea is to revitalize the avenue."

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