West End buildings due for upgrades

The D.C. government is searching for plans to redevelop an aging library and a fire station serving the Foggy Bottom community.

In July, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) announced a request for proposals to redevelop the West End Neighborhood Library and a fire station not far from GW’s campus. The library is more than 40 years old and, through the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, will be redeveloped to have an updated look and more modern resources.

“We want to give Foggy Bottom a modern library that’s appropriate for the 21st century. It’s old and in bad shape. We just want it to be a place that the community feels welcome because there are very few people in the community that use it,” said Asher Corson, a commissioner on the Advisory Neighborhood Commission and the President of the Foggy Bottom Association.

Community input has been part of the development process in other projects around the neighborhood, and neighbors will weigh in with these properties as they did with the historic Stevens School on 21st and L streets and the MPD Special Operations Division at 23rd and L streets.

“The community is not necessarily opposed to developing. They just want to be involved in the process,” Corson said.

Two years ago, the city agreed to sell the library and the fire station properties to a single developer after the D.C. Council authorized it in emergency legislation.

“The city gave this away in the dark and the neighborhood was upset about that,” Corson said.

There were protests from neighbors and eventually the deal was reversed. Now the city has created a competitive bidding process for the developers where the community can have a say in the company that is chosen to revamp the properties.

Along with the new library, there may also be ground-level retail shops added to the property.

Currently there is an online survey at www.savefoggybottom.com that is giving the community, including GW students, the chance to have their voices heard. The survey is intended to help neighborhood organizations redevelop the properties to suit the community’s need.

“There is the possibility of a café, a bakery, or an organic food store. I support all three of these ideas and think they would all be excellent choices,” Corson said.

Angela Wright, a hospitality professional, said she spends time at the library before work and would like to see a wider selection of books and better Internet service in the new library.

“Our tax dollars are being used for the library. The Internet service is timed and the quality is taken away as a result,” Wright said.

Another resident, Karl Eiselsberg, said he was pleased that the property could be redeveloped.

“The state of the books in this library need to be improved,” Eiselsberg said.

The neighborhood retail survey will be open until Sept. 25, and the deadline for developers to submit proposals is Oct. 2.

“We’ve been getting a really good response [from the survey]. I think the number is in the hundreds. We’ve been advertising in the local newspaper and on our Web site as much as we can,” Corson added.

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