The District's urban renewal agency decided yesterday to limit new bidding for the sought-after Portal site in Southwest to the five developer teams that originally competed for the tract in 1981.
The Redevelopment Land Agency (RLA), which plans to select a new developer in 90 to 100 days, has been struggling for over a year to decide whether to open the bidding to any interested development team or restrict it to the original bidders.
The Portal site consists of two parcels totaling 10.5 acres located at the base of the 14th Street Bridge and bound by 12th, 14th and D streets and Maine Avenue SW. The site is divided by a recessed railroad track.
In 1981, RLA received bids from five partnerships studded with some of the city's leading developers who vied for the development rights to Portal, the last large undeveloped tract in the Southwest urban renewal area.
Banneker Associates, a partnership headed by well-known shopping center developer Theodore R. Lerner and office developer Melvin Lenkin, won the contest with a proposal to build several large office buildings and a hotel on the site. But when the group offered to pay the city $38 million for the land, instead of its original offer of $45 million, the city revoked the development rights.
"We don't think that it's unfair to restrict bidding to the original five developers," said James Clay, chairman of the RLA board of directors, "we see it as a continuing process."
Clay added that "price is not the only priority" for developing Portal. "The number of jobs and getting the type of development in there that the city wants" is equally important, he said.
"We think it's a fair and equitable move that the city's taken," said Herbert Miller, head of Western Development Corp., which came in second to Banneker Associates in the 1981 bidding. "The city said it would go back to the other bidders if it fell through with Banneker . . . we spent about $250,000 on presentations for the proposal."
But John Kerry, director of the Washington office of the Boston-based Winn Development Co., and another bidder, said he was unaware of the RLA decision to limit the rebidding. "We'll have to confirm the information with the RLA before making any decisions on a new bid," he said.
The five groups that originally bid on the Portal site included such developers as Rodman Rockefeller, parking magnate Dominic F. Antonelli Jr., and Conrad Cafritz.