ANC seeks delay in school remodeling

Correction appended

A community group is asking the District to hold off on choosing a developer for Stevens Elementary School because neighbors are concerned their voices won’t be heard.

The city is vetting six bidders for the historic elementary school, located at 21st and K streets, but West End residents are requesting that the meeting to pick the developers be pushed back to later this winter.

“I don’t think that the community will be harmed if this is delayed so that we can get more information about the different proposals out there,” Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Florence Harmon said.

The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development plans to hold a meeting Dec. 1 to determine which of the developers’ plans it will choose for the site.

Stevens, built in 1868, was the first publicly funded school for African American children in D.C. and many of its early students were children of former slaves.

In 2001, the school was named a National Historical Site by the National Park Service and was closed for use in 2008

Originally, Mayor Adrian Fenty had given a contract to Equity Residential to develop the former elementary school into apartments, but later revoked the contract due to virulent opposition by area residents..

“I think we owe it to everyone in the community and DMPED owes it to the community that we find the best project for the community for that space,” Harmon said of the new contract vetting process.

Five ANC commissioners voted to send the letter to the development office. One commissioner, GW alumnus Asher Corson, recused himself from the debate and vote due to his affiliation with one of the developers who submitted bids for the project.

Area residents opposed the development plans originally chosen for the site, in which Equity Residential was selected to develop the area into apartments in September 2009.

Some residents living near Stevens Elementary did not support building rental units on the site because they feared students would move in, and that the property would become similar to another Equity Residential building popular with GW students, the 2400 M Apartments.

ANC Chair Rebecca Coder said Wednesday the issue had to do with the developer’s management of 2400 M.

“When they first opened 2400 M, they had no management guidelines in place, the student population shot up to 85 percent [of the building],” ANC Chair Rebecca Coder said.

She said while Equity Residential has made changes so the apartments can’t have co-signers, Coder said the developer’s reputation has been about internal investment as opposed to what’s good for the neighborhood. Other commissioners echoed her concern about Equity Residential in the case of Stevens.

“There have just been too many incidents at the other building that they were managing, and we had a lot of concern about that particular outfit going in,” Harmon said of Equity Residential.

Coder said last week before the meeting that she thought the proposal “was simply inappropriate for the historic Stevens.”

Some community members said Wednesday that they would like Stevens to become a charter school, but if that isn’t an option others said they supported plans for a hotel over apartments.

Akridge, Donohoe Development, Toll Brothers, Moddie Turay Co. and Peebles Corp. all have the opportunity to submit a new development bid due later this month.

This article was changed to reflect the following.

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Asher Corson did publicly disclose his relationship with Peebles Corp. at the ANC meeting Wednesday night. Corson had previously done political consulting for Don Peebles, the primary owner of Peebles Corp., when Peebles was debating a run for D.C. mayor against Mayor Adrian Fenty, and recused himself from the vote due to this previous consulting work.

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