D.C. Housing Director Robert L. Moore yesterday rejected the recommendations of his own citizens' panel and a committee of architects in selecting a developer for a $30 million housing complex along the Anacostia River.
The 26-acre site, called Parkside, is the largest remaining residential tract in the city.
Moore selected BWH-Parkside Association Ltd. from among five development teams that had competed for the project.
The winning group's principals are Lawrence J. Brailsford, Jack W. White and George Holmes Jr. The three men are working under a separate agreement with the city to rehabilitate houses in the Bates Street area north of the Capitol.
The winning proposal calls for building 332 town houses that will be sold and 194 rental units plus 82,000 square feet of commercial space. Construction is scheduled to begin this fall.
Among the losing teams was one that included the city's bond lawyers, Hudson, Leftwich and Davenport, and another that included former Washington Redskins player Lonnie Sanders.
Located just north of Benning Road at the intersection of Kenilworth Avenue, Parkside was the home of thousands of low-income District residents from the time it was developed as 351 public housing units in 1942 to its demolition in 1968.
Moore said he selected the developer after consultation with Mayor Marion Barry. The selection set off protests from Southeast Washington residents who attended yesterday's meeting.
"I resent as a community member who volunteers his services to be involved in something only to be completely ignored," one resident, Herman Greene, said during a tense confrontation with Moore in front of about 50 onlookers who had gathered for the announcement.
Greene was chairman of the citizen's advisory committee selected by Moore to help select a developer. The committee had picked developer T. Conrad Monts as its first choice.
Moore said he rejected his advisory committee's first choice, Monts, because Monts' proposal called for a "massive high rise like a Chinese wall" to be built along one boundary of the site.
Moreover, the housing director said he rejected the proposal developed in part by the city's bond attorneys because it included a minority equity plan that Moore called "divisive."
"Equity for no work is not a policy of this government," Moore said. This was a reference to the lawyers' plan to give 10 percent of the ownership of Parkside to a single community organization in exchange for the group's support for the proposal. "All groups should be considered in an open process," Moore said.
Virtually every development team that competed for the project emphasized its strong minority participation program. Each team had minority partners, but the winning team, BWH-Parkside, was made up totally of black partners who said they would own 100 percent of the equity in the project. They also set a goal of awarding 25 to 43 percent of the construction work to minority firms.
The competing development teams had set their minority ownership goals from 33 to 85 percent.
The selection process for the Parkside developer was unprecedented in the city's history, housing officials said, and was marked by intense lobbying from developers and citizens' groups.
"While there have been reports of lobbying in the community by developers, the decision . . . [was] in no way swayed by this kind of activity," Moore said.
Development awards of this magnitude are usually granted by the Redevelopment Land Agency. However, since the Parkside land was inherited by the city from the now-defunct National Capital Housing Authority, the decision on a developer fell solely to the D.C. housing director, city officials said.
Moore said that the decision had been his, although he discussed the candidates twice with Barry. Moore said he told the mayor the decision by telephone before yesterday's meeting. "He's not going to remake the decision," Moore said. "This is final."
In his last discussion with the mayor, Moore said Barry "was concerned that we make it [the selection] as open as possible, have the press in and make everything public so everyone will see that there were no hidden reports and no hidden memos."
Nevertheless, some housing department staff members who would normally be associated with such a decision have said in recent weeks that the selection process was being closely guarded by Moore and one or two advisers.
One of the developers particularly embittered by the decision was Monts. He had finished last in the review by the architects' panel, but had been the first choice of the citizens' committee.
"The selection process mystifies the hell out of me," said Monts.
The promise to rebuild Parkside was made by the now-defunct housing authority, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the city.
It has taken more than a decade to keep.
Moore pegged the award of the Parkside site to Barry's campaign pledges to provide more housing in the city. "Clearly the potential for additional residences . . . activities and jobs to be generated from the development of Parkside gained a high priority with the Barry administration," Moore said.
However, Moore acknowledged that most of the developers who completed for the tract, including BWH-Parkside, could not proceed quickly with construction if interest rates in the financial markets do not subside by the fall.
Moore said he hopes the Congress will pass legislation by then allowing the District to sell revenue bonds in the financial markets as a means of raising construction financing funds for BWH-Parkside.
A spokesman for the group, Jack W. White, said that while several lending institutions have shown interest in financing the project, the group is also interested in pursuing low-interest financing that might be made available from city revenue bonds.
"The money is available," said White. "It just depends what you want to pay for it."
The BWH partners estimated their combined net worth at $10 million. None of the partners cuts a high profile in D.C. politics, although White said he supported Barry's mayoral bid in 1978.