The D.C. government recently received bids from three groups vying for the rights to redevelop Camp Simms, a 25-acre former National Guard camp in Southeast Washington where city officials have long promised a shopping center.
The bidders, Camp Simms Associates, Simms Development Associates and Camp Simms Development Associates, have proposed town houses, a shopping center, a medical office building and senior citizen housing for the site, which is bounded by Mississippi and Alabama avenues, 15th Street and Stanton Road SE.
Madeline M. Petty, director of the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, will select a developer after reviewing the recommendations made by a panel of D.C. officials. A decision on who will develop the site will be made "in the last week of June," said Yvonne McLeod, spokeswoman for the housing division of the city's Department of Housing and Community Development.
McLeod said the bid from Camp Simms Development Associates, which proposed 145 town houses at the site, will not be considered because it does not propose mixed commercial and residential development, as required in the city's prospectus on Camp Simms.
Simms Development Associates proposed a $38.3 million development that includes 122 town houses, 122 units of senior citizen housing and a shopping center with 517 parking spaces.
Camp Simms Associates' plan called for a $45.7 million development with a shopping center, 145 town houses, 125 units of housing for the elderly and a medical building.
The redevelopment plans are nearly a year behind schedule. The city bought Camp Simms from the U.S. government for $1.8 million last August and the mayor said construction would begin by the end of 1985. The city created a citizens advisory board to make recommendations on what the development should include, but some Ward 8 residents said the city has ignored their suggestions.
Brenda Jones, a member of the mayor's Citizens Advisory Task Force on Camp Simms, said, "Most of the task force members feel that their opinion has not been considered by the city."
Jones said the Ward 8 residents on the task force, which was disbanded in February after two years, told city officials "that any housing built at Camp Simms would not be acceptable . . . . We want to see all commercial development there."
Philip Pannell, the Advisory Neighborhood Commission member who represents Camp Simms, said, "Most of the people in the Ward 8 community want to see the development of Camp Simms as close to 100 percent commercial as possible because that's what's so sorely needed here. We have to go to Maryland to do our shopping."
Said City Council member Wilhelmina Rolark (D-Ward 8), who headed the 10-member task force, "You always have certain hostile elements on anything you try to do." Her ward includes Camp Simms.
Rolark said residents' suggestions for Camp Simms "were fully discussed. We fully explained to them that due to the topographical difficulties at Camp Simms we could not have 100 percent commercial development . . . . It's going to be developed very heavily commercial."
Development of the site is considered crucial to the economic future of Ward 8 because it is within walking distance of the Congress Heights Metro station, which is scheduled to open in the 1990s.
Camp Simms is the latest in a series of housing and commercial projects initiated by the city to try to help the area generally south of Good Hope Road that makes up most of Ward 8. Many of the housing projects have been completed, but the commercial ones have been stalled.
Ward 8, home to such city facilities as the sewer treatment plant and the home for the aged, has the District's highest percentage of apartment dwellers, its lowest percentage of homeowners, and the largest number of residents receiving some sort of public assistance. It also has the largest concentration of vacant and boarded-up buildings.
A majority of residents do much of their shopping in nearby Prince George's County because, with the exception of three supermarkets, Ward 8 has only small stores.
"If the city puts new housing at Camp Simms then that means we're never really addressing the major issue of getting the boards off the existing housing stock in Ward 8," Pannell said. "I think the city has showed total contempt for the views of the community."
McLeod said a public hearing would be held before the property is sold to the new developer.