Sunday, April 28, 2013

Post-Hearing Summary

Before the Hearing
We thought we’d take the chance to provide a brief summary of the Congressional hearing’s discussion points, and how they impact our the Half Street Market initiative.  Residents joined the Half Street Market team at the hearing to represent our concept(with display boards and support stickers!) and Chairman John Mica even took notice during the meeting stating “It looks like we have a number of local citizens.”  Thanks to all who attended the hearing to represent our neighborhood and show support!

Our Boards
Media coverage of the hearing has been mixed; mainly focusing on GSA’s need to benefit monetarily from the disposal of the property. We have always acknowledged that whatever the final solution is, it must be a win-win-win for public and private stakeholders at the Federal, District, and local levels. We were encouraged that, during the hearing, the Subcommittee overwhelming urged GSA to 1) move quickly to dispose of and reactivate the property and 2) engage the community through this process to ensure that the future serves local residents.

On multiple occasions, members spoke about the need to have the 49 L Street warehouse positively impact the surrounding community, and Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells spoke directly in favor of the Half Street Market concept in his testimony.  The quotes below help to provide further context, and you can watch the hearing in full here

Chairman Mica (R-FL-07):

“I think that the local community should be given a preference.” – in reference to the future of the Federal property

Ranking Member Connolly (D-VA-11): 

“there are options GSA can utilize such as conveyance to non-federal entities, which would develop this non-utilized site to benefit the broader community… consultation with the DC city government is a very important part of this process too, and for a building such as this to ensure that whatever we do in the [disposal] of this property is consistent with their goals and what they want to achieve… I strongly suggest GSA consider this type of transfer…”

“…so long as we work with local governments to make sure we’re not doing harm and that we’re working with their priorities, their plans and their vision for the community.”

“[disposal] of such properties can be a win-win for local taxpayers and for the Federal government.”

Photo courtesy Oversight
Committee on Government Operations
“When does however the concern or the vision of the local government come to play because they’re not always in sync with the Federal desire to get fair market value… but a broader vision the local government may have because we’re in the midst of their community – don’t we need to try to make sure the two are compatible?

“…also recognize that we are in the midst of a community and we don’t stand alone and we have responsibility to that community to try to make sure that their goals are consistent with our goals because the [disposal] of a property can be both a boon to a local community and can be extremely disruptive if it is in-fact outright inconsistent with the needs and goals and visions of the local community.  So it seems to me we have a heavy responsibility to take that very seriously, not incidentally, not a box to be checked off, but integral to the process.”

Congresswoman Norton (D-DC):

“Here we have an enterprising community that seeing a large, vacant property within its midst surrounded by booming development on all corners develops its own proposal for the property.”

“Thank goodness I have constituents who on their own discover…” – in reference to the fact that no notice of excess was sent to federal agencies

            Councilmember Wells (Ward 6, DC):

“I strongly support the community vision captured in the Half Street Market plan.”

This initiative warrants support – whether as proposed or adapted to market conditions that preserve the central elements of the community’s vision – and holds the possibility to transform the vacant building into an iconic project and important community amenity in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood.

Mr. Michael Gelber (GSA Deputy Commissioner)

“As we go through this process we are sure to keep the community involved as well as all other interested parties.”

“We try to work with local communities to ensure that whatever plan GSA has is as you say compatible with the local community’s desires.”

“We would work with local community on this property before proceeding for final [disposal].”

Interior Rendering of Proposed Main hall

Community Benefit Can Trump Financial Return:
Ranking Member Connolly:  “Is there a point at which we decide the plan of the local government trumps our desire to reap a fair market value for the property?” 
GSA Deputy Commissioner Gelber:  “Yes, that varies from project to project but there are points of time where the desire of the local community and local representative outweigh the over-arching need of the federal government.” 

Community Vision Preference Over Other Options:
Congresswoman Norton:  “Can you say that it is unlikely that this property will be available to the community because the law requires that you get the highest value and you are in the process of negotiating is it with a specific entity, are you in search of a specific entity, are you almost certain or near certain that this exchange can occur?  How deeply into that strategy are you, how successful is it likely to be? 
GSA Deputy Commissioner Gelber:  “We are beginning that strategy, and believe it will be successful, so our preferred alternative is to pursue that course of action.”

A Transfer to or Purchase by the District:
Chairman Mica:  “Do you think that the District, Mr. Wells, would be interested in some type of remuneration for the property?” 
Councilmember Wells:   “Absolutely.  This is a derelict property that’s a non-contributing asset to the community.  As you can see, this is a very vibrant economic neighborhood and I believe that the district could reap quite a bit from an investment of 19 million. 
Chairman Mica:  “I wanted it to be known that for the record that we have a willing buyer and a public entity that is interested.”

Though the focus of this meeting was largely to discuss the disposal of vacant and underutilized Federal properties in general, the Half Street Market team feels this hearing signals a positive step forward in our effort to transform and reactivate the 49 L Street warehouse for the community.

Again, thank you all for your continued support! Stay up-to-date with the Half Street Market initiative by “liking” the Facebook page and following us on Twitter @HalfStMarket. Questions? E-mail

If you have not done so already, join the 380 others who have signed the Half Street Market petition, and share it with your neighbors and friends!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Action Alert!

We have some breaking news regarding the process of the Half Street Market concept:  The House Subcommittee on Government Operations has scheduled a hearing address the future of 49 L Street SE (Half Street Market's site) next Thursday, April 25th at 9:30am.  The hearing will be held within the warehouse itself and will be headed by Rep. Darrell Issa, (R-CA 49)  and Rep. John Mica, (R-FL 07).

The hearing is being called to discuss "the costs to the taxpayer of underperforming or vacant Federal assets and, in particular, the status of the vacant GSA Warehouse located on L Street in southeast Washington, D.C."  The committee has invited representatives from the GSA, GAO, and Ward 6 Council to testify on possible uses of the warehouse.  Councilmember Tommy Wells (Ward 6) and Ed Kaminski (ANC 6D02) have been invited to testify.

Yesterday, Tommy Wells' office signaled that he would testify in support of the Half Street Market initiative during the hearing.  I don't have to tell you of how HUGE an opportunity this is for our concept to shine, as it brings our idea into the direct attention of federal stakeholders and gives an opportunity for important decision makers to evaluate our idea.  This has all happen very fast, and we will be hard at work in our efforts to gain even more support from residents and stakeholders over the coming week.

There are actions that HSM Supporters can take to show your support at this critical moment:
  1. Attend the hearing if possible.  It is open to the public and even though public comments will not be taken, a large crowd will surely send a message of support.  Details:  9:30am on Thursday April 25th at 49 L Street SE (proposed Half Street Market site).
  2. Sign our online petition:  This petition will help get us a large list of names in support of the concept.  To help spread the petition further, please tag it on Facebook or share it on Twitter.
  3. Follow our twitter account, @halfstmarket, from which we will be tweeting live during the hearing.  We will also update our blog,
This is a big moment for HSM!  Thank you for your continued support and stay up to date to find out what's happening and what you can do to help.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Progress Updates

It's been awhile since our last post, but we've been quite busy and have made some exciting process in the past month.  We have been taking our concept to various agencies and potential stakeholders and have received great enthusiasm and advice on how to move forward.

So far we have had engaged meetings with:
- General Services Administration (GSA)
- DC Office of Planning (OP)
- Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development's (DMPED) office
- Ward 6 Commissioner's Office
- DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE)
- Hospitality High School

We're also excited to report that we have completed the first step in establishing our 501(c)3 non-profit status by receiving our DC Certificate of Incorporation for a domestic nonprofit!

Thank you to those with whom we have met so far for your encouragement and advice!  We are energized by the meetings we have had and are in the process of setting up more, as well as continuing to refine the concept and advocate for support.