Group delays start of West End library project

Activists claim the city is losing out on $30 million in a massive development deal in the West End neighborhood just north of campus.

The D.C. Library Renaissance Project submitted an appeal Tuesday in District court against the Zoning Commission for approving the project, which includes a fire station, library and 10-story condominium complex along L Street between 23rd and 24th streets.

The plot is valued at $30 million, but the city-wide group complained that the real estate company EastBanc Inc. will only pay $20 million in construction costs and did not purchase the property from the city. The complex has been in the works since 2007.

“The reason that we’re appealing is that this is a terrible deal for the District of Columbia, taxpayers and the workers of D.C.,” Oliver Hall, an attorney for the group, said.

Media Credit:Rendering courtesy of T.E.N. Arquitectos Image reprinted with
permission of EastBanc W.D.C.
The new West End Library will include 210 condo units in a sleek glass step-out design.

The project’s library component will replace the 45-year-old brick and concrete library with a two-story structure and ground-floor café. The entire compound will include 210 condo units in a sleek glass step-out design.

Hall added that the group, which is a project of former Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, is not opposed to the designs and amenities of the proposed complex – just the way that the deal was made.

“If this is such a great deal as EastBanc claims it is and others that support it, they should consider what would happen if District made these kinds of deals on a regular basis,” Hall said.

Anthony Lanier, president of EastBanc, said he was unsure why a group not located within the West End community would try to stop the project from going forward.

“It’s odd that you have 100 percent community support and a group of people that have nothing to do with the neighborhood saying that this is a government giveaway,” Lanier said. “On the face of it, it doesn’t seem to make sense.”

When asked about the Zoning Commission’s choice to allegedly give away the property, spokeswoman for the Office of Zoning Jennifer Jenkins said she could not comment on decisions made by the Commission.

Rebecca Coder, who sits on the Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commission, said it’s “frustrating” that a group that advocates to improve libraries is restricting West End’s library from doing just that.

“I think everybody hopes that the Court will deliver a very quick decision and support the Zoning Commission’s decision on this, which we all support,” said Coder, who has long supported the library project.

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