The debate between neighborhood activists and city leaders over a plot of land in Southeast Washington rages on despite a redevelopment plan that has been in place for more than a decade. Reservation 13, near RFK Stadium in, presently houses the District’s largest homeless shelter, the D.C. Jail and a drug treatment facility.
Villareal Johnson, an advisory neighborhood commissioner in Ward 7, where Reservation 13 is now located, said the community needs to have greater involvement in the process before the Gray Administration makes a decision on what should be done with the property. “I think there is a desire for the residents of Ward 6 and 7 to have more input on what will happen to Reservation 13,” Johnson, 34, said. “The residents in the wards want to be a part of the final decision-making process.” In 2000, then-Mayor Anthony A. Williams shuttered D.C. General Hospital because it was viewed as a stain on the city’s financial portfolio. In October 2002, the D.C. Council approved a master plan that would redevelop the 50 acres, known as Hill East, into a mixed-use urban waterfront community that would include some retail and residential components, but would be noted for its tree-lined public streets, recreational trails and waterfront park lands. However, the plans never materialized because of other development priorities of both the Williams and Adrian Fenty administrations.
Last year, redistricting led to a boundary change which moved Reservation 13 from Ward 6 to Ward 7. Ward 7 is represented by D.C. Council member Yvette Alexander (D), who faced severe criticism and intense opposition because Ward 7 residents felt that she didn’t fight hard enough to ensure that that parcel of land stayed in Ward 6. Earlier this year, D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and D.C. Council member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) made overtures to Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder making it clear that Reservation 13 would be available under the right conditions to the team. Gray, 69, and Evans said if the Redskins chose to relocate their training facility to Reservation 13, the move could jump-start economic development in the area. At a March 22 meeting at the D.C. Armory, Gray and Evans, along with D.C. Council members Michael Brown (I-At-Large) and Alexander got an earful from residents of both wards, who said that they did not want the Redskins at Reservation 13 and that they want to stick with the master plan.
Francis Campbell – an advisory neighborhood commissioner for 6B10 in which Reservation 13 is located – said that the master plan should be carried out.
“For Reservation 13, we the residents of this area want an urban waterfront with a medical complex, retail, housing and a farmer’s market,” Campbell, 60, said. “We want an area that is bikeable and walkable and would give the city a tax base.” Campbell said the Redskins moving to Reservation 13 would be a moot point because of zoning regulations enacted in 2008 that call for the area to be specifically for a school or a health care facility. Besides, Campbell said, the master plan states that any recreation facility would have to be publicly-owned.
“The Redskins is not publicly owned,” he said. “It is owned by Dan Snyder and we in the District should not line Dan Snyder’s pockets.” However, the D.C. Council and Congress have the power to adjust plans for Reservation 13 if they see fit, with or without community input. Tony Wylie, a spokesman for the Redskins, said no definite plans have been made for the team to come to Washington. “We are considering all options at this time,” he said. D.C. Council member Vincent Orange (D-At-Large) agrees that the master plan should stay in place.
“The plan works for those who live in the vicinity,” Orange, 54, said. “Throughout the years, there have been numerous charrettes in the communities surrounding Reservation 13 and it is important that the citizens remain a part of the process [and] on how it develops.” Johnson said the Redskins, though he loves them as a team, should not be at Reservation 13. “I don’t think a training facility alone can produce the effect that we want,” he said. “I would like to see affordable housing take place there and perhaps even a Wegmans as an example of quality shopping.” Orange, a hard-core sports fan, said a training facility alone is not sufficient. He wants the entire Redskins organization, including a privately-funded stadium, to relocate to Reservation 13. Orange remains adamant about his position. “A practice facility will not be enough to generate the type of money that the District needs,” he said.
However, Terence Green, who lives in the Fort Dupont section of Ward 7, supports a Redskins training facility at Reservation 13. “Something has to be done with that property,” said Green, 49. “It’s an eyesore and the Redskins move would bring money and jobs to the city that is desperately needed.” Johnson and Campbell said the D.C. Jail, the drug clinic and the homeless shelter need to be relocated – and that they say, is the real problem. “Of course, you are not going to see a jail, the methadone clinic or a homeless shelter in Georgetown,” Campbell said. “We need to find a suitable location for those amenities.” Johnson, agrees saying a search should be conducted by city officials to find other places in the city to relocate those facilities. Victor Hoskins, the deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said he intends to schedule a meeting with the residents of Ward 6 and 7 to discuss what they think should happen with Reservation 13. “There is a master plan in place and we are going to go back to the community with Alexander and [Tommy] Wells to hear what the residents want,” Hoskins said. “What started this was when two developers made inquiries about the land. We have made no commitments to anyone about what will happen there outside of the master plan. “Doxie McCoy, a Gray spokesperson, said the process is still in its early stages.