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!

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