Mayor Anthony A. Williams's plan to use $3.7 million in leftover city funds to help build a Southeast Washington tennis center actually would involve taking $2 million from a long-awaited project in that area that has not begun, D.C. officials said yesterday.
Last week, Williams (D) said he would use leftover funds from four completed projects to help build the Southeast Washington Tennis and Learning Center, a pet project of Cora Masters Barry, the wife of former D.C. mayor Marion Barry.
The center at Sixth Street and Mississippi Avenue SE initially was to have been funded largely by private donations, but Williams--whose wife, Diane Simmons Williams, is on the board of the foundation Cora Barry established to raise money for the center--has vowed that the city will pay for most of the $5.1 million project.
Under Williams's plan, about $2 million would come from funds set aside to help develop a 25-acre site near Alabama Avenue SE known as Camp Simms, an abandoned D.C. National Guard post that has been slated for rejuvenation since the mid-1980s. Current proposals call for a 50,000-square-foot grocery store and a 12-screen theater to be built there, with about $8 million in federal and city funds being used to start the project.
But so far, nothing has happened there, leading D.C. Council member Sandy Allen (D-Ward 8) to question why Williams would consider the Camp Simms project completed and the money for it left over.
"Camp Simms is not completed," Allen said. "That is an error in the mayor's statement. I don't know how they came up with the concept that Camp Simms was a finished project."
Othello Mahone, interim director of the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, acknowledged yesterday that the Camp Simms project, contrary to the mayor's statement, has not gotten off the ground. But Mahone said that $2 million from the Camp Simms fund could be designated for the tennis center, and the Simms project could be reimbursed later.
"This won't affect Camp Simms," Mahone said. "The Camp Simms money was set up a long time ago, and now it's being used for the tennis center."
Williams's support of the tennis center would relieve Cora Barry's Recreation Wish List Committee from having to raise millions more dollars to build the 67,000-square-foot center. So far, the committee has raised about $400,000 and has received $1 million from a federal grant to the city.
Allen, who represents the area where both the tennis center and the Camp Simms project would be built, said she supports the tennis center but wants to know its impact on plans for Camp Simms.
Allen will have a chance to question Williams's aides during a public hearing today on the tennis center proposal that will be held by council members Kevin P. Chavous (D-Ward 7) and Charlene Drew Jarvis (D-Ward 4).
Chavous oversees the council's committee on recreation; Jarvis is chairman of the economic development committee. Both seemed wary of the mayor's plan yesterday.
Jarvis, whose committee oversees the housing department, said she wants to know which projects that were were not approved for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program will lose out to the tennis center.
"The tennis center already has been awarded a $1 million grant through the CDBG program," Jarvis said. That meant that "some projects were not funded. Could some of those projects . . . be funded through the capital dollars being [directed] to the tennis center?"