O. Roy Chalk, the former head of D.C. Transit System Inc., wants to set up high-technology research centers on two of his company's properties in an effort to "kick off a whole new business revival of Washington, to make it a center of high technology, in competition with California."
Outlining his plans before the handful of shareholders who attended the annual meeting of the D.C. Trading and Development Corp. yesterday, Chalk said he was seeking support of local and distant universities and the D.C. government for his proposal to turn the Georgetown Car Barn and the former Brookland transit property into "DCTECH Research Centers."
Under Chalk's plan, the centers would attract high-technology companies to Washington to work jointly with university scientists to research and develop "small but valuable items" of high technology that have never been made before.
Saying he will be the entrepreneur that will bring the university scientists together with high-tech companies, Chalk said it was his intention to get his company's property "to be a moneymaker for whoever the tenants are. We would be the landlord" who would get "fair rent" when the center is completed.
To launch his venture, Chalk is seeking the D.C. government's permission to issue $15 million of tax exempt bonds that would be used to improve and expand existing property at Brookland, adjacent to Catholic University.
Lawrence R. Schumake III, executive director of D.C.'s Office of Business and Economic Development, yesterday called the center a "good project . . . exactly the kind of thing this city is trying to generate. We are trying to get private property owners to put their property into use to get the sorely needed high-technology companies in the District, and not out to the suburbs."
However, Schumake noted, any decision on whether D.C. Trading and Development Corp. could issue the tax-exempt bonds for the center must come from the city council.
Confident that the DCTECH Center will become a reality, Chalk's company has begun remodeling part of the Brookland facility and expects it to be completed in 90 days.
Chalk's D.C. Transit System was once this city's bus and streetcar system but Chalk sold the bus system, which became the Metro system. However, Chalk retained the car barns and rights of way, real estate now worth millions.