The D.C. government has reached a tentative agreement to swap land with the city's publicly chartered economic development corporation, clearing the way for the revitalization of the Anacostia waterfront, officials said yesterday.
Last night, the board of directors of the National Capital Revitalization Corp. approved an agreement in principle to give up control of the Southwest Waterfront in exchange for about $24.5 million worth of city-owned land, $25 million in cash and the right to take ownership of one of three large development sites -- each of which is challenging, but potentially lucrative.
The Southwest Waterfront, which borders the Washington Channel directly across from Hains Point, is a key part of Mayor Anthony A. William's Anacostia Waterfront Initiative. The initiative would build thousands of apartments and houses, parks, commercial centers and cultural attractions along 14 miles of riverfront stretching from 10th Street SW to the National Arboretum in Northeast.
But the six-block section of waterfront in Southwest, from the Maine Avenue Fish Market to Arena Stage, has been the crown jewel in the portfolio of the four-year-old NCRC, which spent considerable time preparing a plan to redevelop the area and launching a restaurant and other initiatives there.
An attempt this year by Williams (D) to create an independent Anacostia Waterfront Corp. stalled in the D.C. Council because the legislation required the transfer of the Southwest parcel to the new development entity. Council members and the D.C. Chamber of Commerce joined the NCRC's chief executive, Theodore N. Carter, in demanding that the city offer the NCRC something significant in exchange.
The deal unveiled last night, seven months in the making, "moves it all forward," said D.C. Planning Director Andrew Altman, chief architect of the 20-year, multibillion-dollar riverfront initiative. The agreement "puts a lot of resources into NCRC," Altman said, and makes it easier for city officials to push for council approval of a separate waterfront development authority.
As part of the deal, the NCRC would keep $25 million from pending land sales that otherwise would go to the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development. The NCRC also would claim several city-owned sites, worth up to $24.5 million, that are near existing NCRC projects. The D.C. Council must approve any land transfers.
A member of the NCRC board would sit on the board of the new waterfront development corporation, if its creation is approved, the agreement states. The NCRC would continue to receive lease income from existing Southwest ventures for the next two years. It also would get a share of the proceeds if the city sells the Gangplank Marina, the Odyssey cruise ship or the Capital Yacht Club.
In addition, the revitalization corporation could take control of the east campus of St. Elizabeths Hospital in the Congress Heights section of Southeast, the campus of D.C. Village in the southern tip of the city or the McMillan Reservoir campus in the north-central part of the city.
Each of those properties encompasses several city blocks and could be worth tens of millions of dollars as a site for housing, office and retail development, officials said. But each has significant environmental or historic preservation problems that probably would take years and millions of dollars to address.
Carter said his staff will work over the next three months to determine which land parcels the NCRC wants, with the aim of asking the council to authorize a joint land transfer this fall. In the event the NCRC decided against taking any of the three large parcels, because of the difficulties involved in developing them, it could choose other city-owned land, probably worth $20 million or so, Carter said.
The agreement also was approved by the RLA Revitalization Corp., a subsidiary of NCRC that controls some of the Southwest properties.
"The overall agreement that we've reached makes NCRC significantly stronger," Carter said. "It allows us to really focus on neighborhoods. This has been a huge distraction for this organization."