Federal officials have agreed to delay plans to sell the old Camp Simms Military Reservation in far Southeast Washington to the highest bidder while city officials attempt to put together a deal for controlled development of the property.
Ivanhoe Donaldson, the city's deputy mayor for economic development, said a delegation including City Council member Wilhelmina J. Rolark (D-Ward 8) met with officials of the federal General Services Administration Thursday to negotiate an agreement that would forestall GSA's planned Aug. 17 sale of the property.
Donaldson said the agreement calls for city officials to buy the land and have it developed by a private concern.
"We're talking with GSA and we're trying to do this with them in tandem," Donaldson said. "We're trying to find what will work best for the best interest of the community--that is our single goal."
"We agree with that approach," said Dale E. Hawkins, GSA's director for real property sales in the eastern states.
Bounded by Mississippi and Alabama avenues between 15th Street and Stanton Road SE, the property has not been used since the District's Army Reserve unit pulled out in the late 1970s.
City officials sought the land free of charge for development of a shopping center and perhaps a complex of low- and middle-income housing units. But the Reagan administration has virtually shut down a program designed to transfer under--utilized federal properties for community development, opting instead to put them on the auction block for public sale.
Federal law, however, still provides that government entities--such as the D.C. government--have the first crack at federal land if they can come up with the fair market value, a figure that is based on a confidential GSA assessment of the value of the land. A District official said the land is worth $4 million to $5 million.
"The community would like a commercial shopping center developed--they're hungry and want it there," Donaldson said. "It is our hope and our belief that we can work out a mutually advantageous agreement."
Donaldson said that in a fair-market auction like the one GSA originally wanted, the city would have less opportunity to control the type of development on the tract. Under a negotiated sale, the city can offer a developer inducements and have more say in what the developer builds.
John (Skip) McKoy, executive director of the city's Office of Planning and Development, said that "to be fair to all interested developers, the city will find some way to encourage anyone interested to let us know." He said a proposal will be sent to GSA well before the original Aug. 17 sales date.
"A shopping center is one of the things we definitely want and we're considering some housing," McKoy said. "But we may be able to satisfy some of the housing needs with a rehabilitation program."
Donaldson and Rolark will name a community task force next week to study the issue.