The District government has selected a group headed by lawyer and sports agent Richard A. Bennett Jr. to develop a parcel of land off New Jersey Avenue, the second major city land deal to go to Bennett in the last month.
A development team that includes Bennett, Washington Redskins wide receiver Art Monk and former Redskins safety Brig Owens recently was awarded a controversial $216 million lease to build a temporary city hall at 800 North Capitol St. NW to be used while the District Building undergoes renovation next year.
That lease has come under fire from D.C. Council members and some competing developers because it was the most expensive proposal of several sites considered by the city, and because of concern that Bennett's team could not complete the building by the time the District Building needs to be evacuated next summer.
A group including Bennett, Monk and Owens now has been selected to build three office buldings and a day-care center-nursery school on nearby city land at New Jersey Avenue and H Street NW known as the Prevocational Site, according to Raymond Lambert, director of the D.C. Department of Administrative Services.
The day-care center also will be used as a tutoring facility for students attending D.C. schools.
Lambert said in an interview yesterday that one of the office buildings will include about 100,000 square feet of leased space for the D.C. School of Law, as well as office space for another, as yet undetermined city agency.
He declined to provide financial details of the proposal, including how much Bennett's group will pay for the property, pending D.C. Council approval of the deal. Bennett's group would not own the land, but rather would have a 99-year lease, Lambert said.
The council's Government Operations Committee has scheduled a hearing for this morning to examine the plans for the site, where the D.C. school system had once hoped to place a school for the handicapped.
Bennett, who has been a major contributor to the election campaigns of Mayor Marion Barry, could not be reached for comment yesterday.
There are substantial differences between the two city deals with Bennett. Unlike the lease on North Capitol Street, the property off New Jersey Avenue was put up for formal public bidding by the Department of Administrative Services.
Lambert said the Bennett bid received the highest number of points among five competing bids after a department panel rated the proposals for cost, plans, benefits to the community and minority participation, among other criteria.
Lambert said it was a complete coincidence that Bennett's team was selected for both land deals. "There was just no tie," he said.
While Barry has told council members that the city might cancel the North Capitol Street lease, Lambert said there were no plans to do so. "That's a firm lease, and we're proceeding on with it," he said.
However, the lease could be scuttled next year if the council, as expected, refuses to appropriate the necessary money for the project.