Neighbors upset as city reportedly chooses apartments for historic site

Community groups are in an uproar this week after a D.C. government office reportedly selected Equity Residential, the company behind the 2400 M St. apartments, to develop the Stevens Elementary School site.

Groups like the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A, who backed another proposal and say they fear another dorm-like apartment building filled with students, have already begun protesting the decision.

The ANC, which encompasses the Foggy Bottom area, had ranked Equity’s plans last during a special meeting in June when three proposals selected by the city were presented to the community. Commissioners had expressed worries that Equity, the only developer to propose residential apartments, would create a building like its current one at 2400 M St., a popular spot among students who choose to live off-campus.

“They’ve quickly skewed into glorified dorms,” ANC Commissioner Rebecca Coder said about the apartment building in June.

The city was supposed to publicly announce the selection last Tuesday but canceled the announcement, ANC Commissioner Asher Corson said. Corson said D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) also opposed the decision and was working to stop the selection. Evans did not return requests for comment.

Corson, who is also the head of the Foggy Bottom Association said the District’s choice represents a blatant disregard for the area’s neighbors, calling it a “100 percent anti-community development.”

“I’m stunned and deeply saddened. This is the nightmare scenario, this is the neighborhood’s last choice for developing the site,” Corson said. “There was absolutely nobody in the neighborhood that supported the Equity Residential proposal.”

Equity plans to turn the historic school site into a mixed-use apartment building with 190 apartments, 9,000 square feet of retail space, and 90 parking spaces. The ANC had supported a small boutique hotel proposed by the Peebles Development Corporation and the Morgans Hotel Group. The third finalist proposal, a medium-sized boutique hotel by the Moddie Turay Company garnered lukewarm reception.

Commissioner Florence Harmon said the selection represents another example of the city’s “continual lack of transparency” and disregard for the community’s desires.

“Once again, community input has been ignored,” Harmon said. “City officials appear to have so ineptly handled the government contracting process involving Stevens development.”

Stevens has been at the center of community debate since the D.C. Public Schools Chancellor closed it along with ten other schools to sell to developers. The debate has carried on for two years; residents originally wanted the 100-year-old school, which was originally built to educate children of slaves, to be turned into a museum.

“The school was closed in the face of community protests, the community then tried to get the neighborhood to make it into a charter school and the city refused. Then the city opened it up for development,” Corson said. “They came to the community, had us spend our time reviewing those three proposals, and it looks like we spent all that time and energy for no reason.”

Michael Akin, executive director of government, international and community affairs, said that despite the numerous housing opportunities the apartment building could present to students, the University has not taken a position on the project.

“I think there are still some.people on the ANC and [D.C. Council] that hope it’s going to be reversed,” he said.

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