There was a remarkable gulf between commentary and fact in Ron Richardson's piece on Gallery Place {Close to Home, June 24}. I don't know what motivates participants in this dialogue about the 7th Street neighborhood to stray so far from the facts. But I do have an obligation to offer this summary of the important issues that Gallery Place presents to the city and community at large.

First is the question of fair value for the parcel, which now belongs to the Redevelopment Land Agency. The Carr Co., together with its prospective partner, Capital Landmark Associates, has consistently accepted the obligation to pay fair market value for the site. We accepted the last value determined by an independent appraiser, $105 million.

Although it makes better copy to suggest intrigue and discounts, Richardson and others should know that no reductions in price have been discussed. The Department of Housing and Community Development did ask the appraiser to determine alternative values for the property if it includes housing, either market-rate or moderate-income housing. The appraiser's answer was that the value of the land would fall by $35 to $40 million. The value is being determined so that the Redevelopment Land Agency can decide on which basis to contract for the sale of the property. Our development team has agreed to proceed to contract whether the project is to be an office building or a combination of offices and housing of whatever kind.

The irony of the debate about the true value of the land is that the Redevelopment Land Agency's original mission to generate economic development is being lost. The agency is having to focus instead on retail land prices not on the economic results of development.

Is housing on 7th Street really worth it? The city's economic condition has never been as weak as it is today despite 20 years of healthy economic growth and development. At the same time, the social needs are acute and compelling. The public schools, homeless working families, AIDS patients and drug addicts all need increased financial support from a city with fewer funds available. For me the choice is clear: use the $35 million where it can do the most good for the community. We will gladly work to pay the higher price.

I am not against housing on 7th Street or in any way intimidated by the challenge of developing it. My company has developed more than 1,000 units of downtown housing. But it's difficult to spend $35 million to create housing for well-paid working professionals who do not need economic relief when other members of the community need the money so desperately, and so much could be accomplished with it. These funds instead could be donated to nonprofit housing providers who could use them to put at least 1,700 moderate-income units back into service in residential neighborhoods.

Efforts to redevelop Gallery Place have been underway for quite a while. There are many reasons. But the debate about the past should not obscure the fact that we now have reached an agreement with the Department of Housing and Community Development. We are preparing documents to be presented to the Redevelopment Land Agency board at a public hearing scheduled for summer's end. As the proposed new development partner for Capital Landmark Associates, the Carr Co. is committed to moving this project forward in the face of a most challenging real estate market.

It's important to keep in mind that development teams on publicly awarded projects have produced successful results in the District. The Carr Co. joined with Stuart Golding in its work to restore the Willard Hotel; and Trammel Crow teamed with Western Development to build Market Square. These projects are strong evidence of the wisdom of this approach.

When the Redevelopment Land Agency considers our proposal at the public hearing, many different perspectives will be shared. Let me suggest that the more energy we invest in addressing the substantive issues and the less we devote to obscuring them, the better the outcome will be for the city.

-- Robert O. Carr is president of the Oliver Carr Co..