Phase 2 construction restarts at Georgetown Waterfront Park

By Phillip Lucas
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, August 6, 2010

The second phase of development at the Georgetown Waterfront Park is underway after a concrete floor no one knew existed popped up and an electrical system no one expected would need upgrading added more than $2 million to the project's costs.

The National Park Service, the organization leading the development; city officials; and Friends of Georgetown Waterfront Park originally raised $9 million for the project. The surprise obstacles, however, left developers scrambling to raise about $2.2 million to offset the additional costs and stalled the project by at least three to four months.

"We solved all but $150,000 of that problem, we're working on that now," said Bob vom Eigen, president of Friends of Georgetown Waterfront Park.

D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2), who has been working with developers to finish the park, said the District is allocating $950,000 from its budget to help complete the project. That comes in addition to $1 million the National Park Service set aside to help balance the budget.

If the remaining funding is raised soon, Bill Line, a spokesman for the National Park Service, said he anticipates completing Phase 2 of development by spring 2011.

The National Park Service initially stopped construction of the park between Wisconsin Avenue and 31st Street NW in 2009 after drilling 20 feet through the ground and running into a five-foot-thick concrete floor. Workers had been trying to install pilings last winter to secure a pergola and a set of stadium-type cement stairs leading to the river's edge when they drilled into the slab.

"There's some cost overruns there that we had not anticipated," Line said. Vom Eigen said the massive slab was once the floor of the Capital Traction Co. powerhouse, which supplied power to the city's streetcars until it closed in the 1960s.

Developers then soon ran into a second problem. In a contract the National Park Service drafted in 2006 for planned amenities at the park, the developers asked Pepco to upgrade a transformer on the site to power the park's lights, sprinklers and fountain. But vom Eigen and Line said Pepco officials didn't disclose that four years ago when they formalized the contract for the project.

Vom Eigen said the power lines along Water and K streets NW will not provide enough power to the park's transformer.

"Pepco in the first place was responsible for designing the electrical service to meet the required needs," Line said. Pepco Region President Thomas Graham would not comment on the allegations. But in a July 19 letter to vom Eigen, Graham said the design team working on behalf of the National Park Service, not Pepco, should have informed developers of the area's electrical limitations.

On Wednesday, Evans said he was continuing to work with Pepco and the park's developers to find the best way to move forward and complete the park. And vom Eigen said Pepco has agreed to provide $50,000 to help developers finish building the park.

"The idea of everybody blaming somebody is useless," Evans said. "We'll figure it out and get it done."

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