The presidents of Washington's four black-controlled financial institutions have formed an unusual development team to bid on the redevelopment of part of Galler Place, one of downtown Washington's most massive and financially promising parcels of available land.
The group is heading up the first integrated development team with blacks in control, to bid on downtown property, according to William Fitzgerald, president of Independence Federal Savings and Loan and one of the main forces behind the team called Capital Landmark Associates.
Development of the parcel between 6th and 7th and G and F streets NW will cost at least $100 million. Its location near the Metro station, four blocks from the city's convention center and across the street from the National Portrait Gallery, makes it prime property.
Implications of such a move are awesome in a city in which more than 70 percent of the residents are black but only one or two downtown landowners are, Fitzgerald Said. They own small buildings on the outskirts of downtown, not where the real estate action is.
One criterion for awarding bids on properties controlled by the Redevelopment Land Agency is minority participation in the development teams. So many of those bidding on the team get a few members of minorities to work with them and comprise about 5 percent to 15 percent interest in the venture.
But Capital Landmark Associates is about 60 percent black-owned and 40 percent white-owned, Fitzgerald said. Financial backers of the group are directors of Community Federal Savings and Loan, headed by Orlando W. Darden; Industrial Bank of Washington, whose president is B. Doyle Mitchell; and Independence. United National Bank, whose president is Samuel I. Foggle, will provide financial assistance, Fitzgerald said.
The builder engaged by the group is Melvin Lenkin, who is white. He owns 33 percent of the venture, Fitzgerald said. Other whites in the organization include members of the institutions' boards of directors.
The association was formed because "we felt there were so few" commercial properties ohned by minorities, Fitzgerald said. "Something in this area had to be done. Out of that philosophy, that economic development by blacks in the city was good for the city . . . we evolved into a joint venture."
At first, the four presidents contemplated having their insitutions own the venture, but banking regulations made that a problem, Fitzgerald said. Instead, the institutions' directors are participating as individuals, Fitzgerald said.
"The uniqueness is, we brought together an interracial development team and, with black control, it's the reverse of what is usually presented to the RLA." Fitzgerald said.
It's "important for blacks to own a piece of the rock," Fitzgerald explained. "It could stimulate other blacks into other kinds of actions. It's not a racist kind of thing, but we feel it's really healthy."
Fitzgerald wouldn't reveal what specific plans to group has for the parcel in which a couple of parking lots, vacant land and old buildings now stand. He only said that the group's philosophy places a high priority on minority ownership of whatever is built there.
Arnold Mays, acting chief of marketing and development for the Department of Housing, said the city is looking for a variety of daytime and nightime uses for the land, which he described as a "critical site" because of its prime location. The last date for submitting bids is Friday.
Although it isn't unusual for developers to have minority control, Mays said "this could be a little different because of the magnitude of the development. It's a lot different than a $5 million, $10 million or $20 million development."
"This one is really big," Mays continued. "It's one of the largest single developments we have had in many, many years." After awarding bids on the Gallery Place parcel, the agency will have "no more big downtown parcels," Mays said.
A year ago, the agency designated the Oliver T. Carr Co. and Landow & Co. to prepare plans for a $200 million rebuilding project on the three blocks atop the Metro Center subway station in downtown Washington. Carr's partner in that project was black builder Theodore Hagans, developer of the Fort Lincoln housing project in Northeast Washington. Landow Co. has minority partners who will own a 25 percent interest in the venture.
Western's president, Herbert Miller, said last night that his firm will bid on the parcel as a site for a residential and office development with an international flavor.