04 Nov 2010

BRMS Endorses Plans for Marine BEQ to Use Slice of VA Avenue Park Land

Originally Uploaded to flickr by Dendroica Cerulea

Barracks Row Main Street’s board  has endorsed an unsolicited proposal for the Marine Barracks Washington’s plan to build  the proposed Bachelor Enlisted Quarters (BEQ) on what is known as the 929-930 site, citing a perceived beneficial impact on Lower 8th Street.

This proposal allows use of part of 9th Street and a part of the coveted community garden at Virginia Avenue Park, according to Martin Smith, executive director of BRMS. The US Marine Corps has invited developers to make a number of proposals for various sites in and around the Lower 8th area.

“We are endorsing development of square 929 and 930,” Smith said.  “Because it would be sensitive to the historic nature of the buildings there and would allow for retail use of the first floor facing 8th Street.  There would be no demolition of historic structures (not that this would be permitted, anyway,) and no retail would have to relocate save for Dog-Ma, and Barracks Row would help the doggie day and playcare business find a new location,” according to Smith.

The Marine’s official ‘Request for Information” has not yet been drafted by the Marines and some say any decision is more than a year away, begging the question as to why BRMS adopted a resolution from an unsolicited party so early.

The Marine Barracks Washington public affairs office and those involved there did not get back to THIH with a comment on the situation. However, a source said that NO money since  in 2009  through 2011 has been “obligated” for Bachelor Enlisted Quarters construction at 8th & I according to Military Construction Programs C-1 document.  This means that the Marine Corps would be several years away, possibly more, from turning dirt on a project even after selecting a site.  The person said the extended  timeline could facilitate a compromise with the gardeners, as it would give the Marines time to identify and prepare the soil for an equivalent garden site. It is a long process: After the Marines select a site, negotiate a purchase, prepare plans, request money through the Military Construction budget process, they will have to conduct environmental  and Historic Preservation Act compliance before even beginning building.

Local blog JD Land has written about ruminations over the site in covering development in Near Southeast DC. The “929/930 … would close L between Eighth and Ninth and would take a big bite of the Virginia Avenue Park (requiring the move of the community garden closer to the freeway). A representative of Madison Marquette–owners of the “Blue Castle” right across the street–said that they are very much in favor of this option, saying that it would help to ‘animate’ lower Eighth Street. … There is of course a stretch of private homes along Potomac between Ninth and 10th where the homeowners might not be quite so interested in having military installations on three sides…,” JD Land wrote on her blog.

Jonathan Shartar of Madison Marquette [tagline-“transforming retail real estate”] was elected to the BRMS Board of Directors in July 2010, where his goal is to “further the development of 8th Street as a retail center for Capitol Hill and Washington, DC.” This was only a couple months before BRMS endorsed the plan that Madison Marquette was in favor of.

There has been a lot of concern among  nearby residents and others that the Virginia Avenue Park’s community garden, would be razed.

Smith quickly wrote in a statement distributed to THIH and local listservs that BRMS does not, as has been circulated, endorse the “bulldozing” of the Virginia Avenue Park.

“It is clear from theBRMS Board Resolution [below], we do not make reference to the Virginia Avenue Park in any way, but rather to the adjacent squares,” Smith wrote.  “Barracks Row Main Street is committed to preserving and enhancing open green space on Capitol Hill.”

Of course, it seems as though it would be difficult to preserve the park while construction takes place on the adjacent squares.

BRMS says it has learned that although the design option that has been proposed does use part of the park now used as community parkland, it replaces the green space at a nearly a 2:1 ratio, thus increasing the size of the green space but, of course, altering the footprint of the current parkland.

“As long as the net amount of green square footage that is accessible to the public stays the same or increases, it is an option that Barracks Row Main Street would consider,” Smith wrote.

The plan would replace a large surface parking lot on 8th street, and create new space for retail, with the potential for more square footage than the deep but narrow town homes on Barracks Row now offer, according to Smith. The plan would also maintain residential presence of the Marine Corp on 8th Street.

Save the Virginia Avenue Park Committee responded to news of the resolution by raising questions on the endorsement and its timing.

“The BRMS now states that the 929/930 proposal replaces, ‘at nearly a 2-to-1 ratio, the square footage lost as additional green space on other portions of the site.’ If such a plan was presented that achieves this goal, it was done so privately, without any consultation with those who have been working and petitioning to preserve Virginia Avenue Park,” said the advocacy group’s member Diana Elliott.

Site 929-930 in the Marines Community Integrated Master Plan (CIMP), does overlap a part of Virginia Avenue Park.

“The Marines, through the CIMP process, have stated all along that any use of the park would be swapped for equivalent green space elsewhere. But in meetings with them, they have never identified any sites for a potential swap of park land,” Elliott pointed out.

Elliott and Save the Park complained that the Marines’ planning team never explained how a green space goal would be created or annexed.

Save the Park is also concerned about the reality of security measures impinging upon the footprint of the Park, which is believed to be  under the jurisdiction of the city, and was in recent years a rough urban space. Now, even DC Congresswoman, Eleanor Holmes Norton, has come out in favor of preserving the parkland against marine Barracks development, those involved point out.

“Because of security requirements, the RFP that the Marines will eventually put forth to developers for building the barracks will require a considerable set back for security purposes.  Considering the set back required in the post 9/11 era, we do not believe a developer could only develop a portion of the park; they would likely need the whole park in order to be compliant with security issues,” Elliott said in an email.

Here is a copy of the Resolution:

RESOLUTION ON MARINE BARRACKS

IT IS HEREBY RESOLVED by the Board of Directors of Barracks Row Main Street (BRMS) that the BRMS Board supports the construction of the proposed Bachelor Enlisted Quarters on what is known as the 929-930 site, as the location of the Quarters on that site would have the greatest and most beneficial impact on Lower 8th Street.  The Board also strongly recommends that the Marines repurpose the current Quarters, also known as Building 20, either through demolition or renovation, in such a way as to maximize its utility to the Corps and the neighborhood as soon as possible after it ceases use as a Bachelor Enlisted Quarters.

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  • Jon

    Does BRMS have a permanent SPIN DOCTOR on staff? Oh thats right their president is one of the most successful lobbyists and marketers in town …

    Their response to this stuff is laughable. BRMS is not for a net loss of parkland? Um, that does not mean that you’re against bulldozing the park as it stands now. That just means that in the end … down the line … that you want there to be park land. But what about the meantime? And where does the park go? The plans I seen have the gardens next to the freeway – in the SHADE. What is wrong with these people? Why would they go out of their way to go against what our community leaders — and CONGRESSWOMAN – have publicly stated is the wrong thing to do? Are they really just that out of touch??

    And really, am I expected to belive that this organization that has such a stellar track record of helpiong sustain business is actually going to be of any help to Dog-ma? They’ve been down there for the long haul – invested when no one else would. Have they even talked to Dog-Ma? Just sounds like more B[rm]S to me.

    And it’s highly interesting that one of the developers is on that board now – and what timing! It will be interesting to see just how BRMS benefits from this endorsement — in the form of more donations to their annual budget.

  • http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/save-virginia-ave-park.html Karin Edgett

    If people are interested in signing a petition to save the park from developemt, please follow this link. http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/save-virginia-ave-park.html

  • Potomac Ave

    I’m curious how many board members of Barracks Row Main Street stand to cash in big on this proposal. Nobody can be faulted for trying to make money on real estate deals, but don’t hide behind your phony non-profit facade while trying to push it through.

    Are the actual community merchants whom BRMS alleges to represent aware of the shenanigans they’re tacitly supporting?

  • http://historyofcapitolriverfront.blogspot.com/2010/09/marine-barracks.html Mike

    This is more than a garden – this also includes businesses and jobs. Has anyone ever seen a mixed commerical/military use building? In my 18 years I haven’t. So where do the Marines plan to relocate Dog-Ma? The barracks only results in less green space, lost jobs and no economic impact since this is a relocation and not something new.

  • Noriko Bell

    From everything I have read so far, it is my feeling that the Marine Corps proposal to use the current Park space does not address the inclusion or relocation of the Virginia Ave Park, including the Community Garden. There is only a vague nod to move it somewhere or find another space. This approach is not acceptable.

    The Park area is a valuable resource to the community, and deserves more consideration in the overall plan.

    As for more development of 8th St., and retail space as part of the MC Bachelor Enlisted Quarters, do we truly believe that any building, complex, belonging to the Marines will have retail or other public benefits to the business community? The security measures for such a complex will be extensive and I do not believe having another military island will enhance business or vitality of 8th St.

    During construction, it is difficult to imagine how the adjacent spaces, including homes and small businesses would not be completely disrupted, if not removed.

    Has anyone tried to grow an organic garden in the midst of a military construction site?

  • Jon

    @ Potomac Ave

    AMEN!

  • Just161

    Does BRMS’s endorsement have any legal standing or other effect? Does it help or hinder the Marine Corps’ plans?

    I’m undecided as to whether this is a good idea or not, but how does BRMS’s statement matter? A private group made a public statement – who cares?

  • Chris

    A source informs me that the Marine Corps is also planning on destroying the streetcar system, and euthanizing all backyard chickens on the Hill. It’s the coming apocalypse, I tell you!

    Let me know when people are going to start laying down in front of bulldozers or chaining themselves to their tomato plants, I don’t want to miss that!

  • Sherry

    troll alert!

  • http://brunchandthecity.wordpress.com/ Claudia Holwill

    Does anyone know what legal rights the community garden folks have to that land? Do they pay rent or taxes on it or was it always intended as a temporary use of the land?

  • Chris

    According to Wikipedia, trolls turn to stone in sunlight, so I officially make my endorsement for moving the garden into the shadows.

  • Jenni

    The Virginia Avenue Community Garden was created through an Adopt a Park Agreement with the DC Department of Parks and Recreation. The supporters of Save Virginia Avenue Park are not only in favor of keeping the garden intact, but, more importantly, preserving the entire park. There is very little wide open green space south of the freeway and once parks like this are taken away, they are not going to be coming back. There is also a new fenced in dog run area at the east end of the park. This is something that Capitol Hill desperately needs and is getting quite a bit of use already. This park has tremendous potential to be improved and to become a well used community gathering space like the other parks on the Hill. With the explosion of new residences south of the freeway, we have a whole group of people who need to have a great park like this nearby.

  • http://historyofcapitolriverfront.blogspot.com/2010/09/marine-barracks.html Mike

    Well they got stimulus money – so maybe that helps them with their support of locating the barracks there.

  • PKP

    One hundred years from now this will matter to families in this part of The Hill and Capitol Riverfront — both military and civilian families. Other nearby locations are viable for the new barracks and these other locations do not require the destruction of a city park.

    As for the commercial viability of lower 8th street, well, there is a reason why BRMS is referring to it as “lower.” If thousands upon thousands of Navy Yard employees who are there every weekday cannot make this stretch commercially viable, then why do we think that additional barracks will make any difference?

  • http://brunchandthecity.wordpress.com/ Claudia Holwill

    Jenni – so how long is the agreement with DCPR for? I don’t want to see parkland go either, I just want to know more information. And I have to disagree with you on the assertion that green space never comes back once it is gone. Yards Park is a perfect example.

    Also, that dog run is not an official dog park. There is a pending application for an official dog park right there, but the current fenced-off area is not an official dog run. It’s an awesome temporary feature but dog owners can still be ticketed for having their dogs off-leash in that area.

  • TF Hall

    The park is a wonderful place for kids, dog owners, families and gardeners. I do not see how this green space can be restored with a Marine Barracks built on part of it and a security zone surrounding it. The Marines have other options in the Capitol Quarter. This park is beneficial for both Capitol Quarter and Capitol Hill residents and should be preserved.

  • Sam

    Claudia, it is highly unlikely that if Virginia Avenue Park were lost it would be replaced. This issue has been raised repeatedly with the Marines planning group and an alternative site was never put forward, including by BRMS which was at these meetings. The Marines did suggest roof gardens over a refigured barracks 20 on I St., which would be great. But that is not a park where you take dogs and kids. It is not open space. There will be many more people moving into the area as redevelopment occurs. The only nearby park will be Garfield Park, which is already heavily used.

  • Kate

    And Yards Park… And Canal Park… the playground at 4th and L…

    I am in favor of the right balance between residential, business and parks, but hyperbole isn’t persuasive.

    I started out being generally supportive of the park but have been gradually turned off over the past several months with the reaction of the park advocates anytime anyone disagrees with their position.

    Yes, there are other viable options, all of which involve tradeoffs. I support your right to advocate against the option that most inconveniences you, just as I support the Navy Yard for pointing out that there are other demands on the space within their walls, the and soccer players who would like to keep their field, not to mention the Marine’s needs.

    The only thing that is for certain, is that someone is going to be unhappy with the final outcome.

  • JMB

    I think it is patently obvious to see that this will not “improve” the neighborhood in any way.

    How will housing for enlisted bachelors in the Marine Corp. help the neighborhood? More guys getting food at Subway and 7-11 in their limited free time will improve business? No offense intended to 18yo marines, but there are probably better places for them to be.

    The South Hill has almost no community garden space, and now it will have none.

    The building being moved there will be a permanent thing, we can’t go back and use that space for something else later. It will essentially be a low-rent housing unit (who says we aren’t socialists in this country?) which will not generate any taxes for the city. Any residents there will not add much to the community (too busy working as young marines). And it will be another hole in the neighborhood, rather than something vibrant which everyone can use.

    I don’t garden in the community space (I have a small yard on the hill) but it’s great to be able to have someplace green to enjoy, and if it goes away, it might be useful to actually put something there everyone in the neighborhood could use (retail? park?)

    This is just a job for the developers who will get the contract- that’s it.

  • Kate

    I actually like the Marines, and they have been a part of the fabric of this neighborhood a lot longer than any of us. I am also all for diversity in the neighborhood, and that includes young men from all over the country, from all different backgrounds whose service to their country happens to bring them to our neighborhood.

    And as for your point that is it *patently* obvious that it won’t improve the neighborhood: well, if that were true, everyone would agree with you. The fact that there are others that see value in the expansion shows that it isn’t *patently* obvious at all. My understanding is that even the community garden advocates aren’t opposing the project, just the location.

    This is what I mean about alienating people who might otherwise be supportive. I am honestly indifferent on the issue, but I don’t think the park advocates have it all right and everyone else has it all wrong.

  • Kate

    Meant to say young men and women…

  • anonymous

    Everyone involved in the movement to establish urban gardens should take note of this discussion. This is why property owners (public and private) are hesitant to allow their land to be used for urban gardens on a temporary basis. Once established, the garden “owners” think that they have a perpetual right to continue use of land that belongs to others.

  • Mike

    Kate – No one is saying kick the Marines out…also – how will it improve that area? Ebenezer church will do more for that area than the barracks will ever do because military bases aren’t mixed use type of places. The two don’t mix. When was the last time you went grocery shopping at the barracks on 8th St?

    Claudia/Sam, this isn’t Hawaii – we aren’t making new land around here and you think a company that is sitting on acres of land is gonna give any of it up for grass? I would really love to see how the Marines can take acres of green space and then replace it. Also, Dog-Ma will be gone and last I checked people take their dogs their and at last check someone owns that business and last check she employs people. So in this economy we are gonna get rid of both a business and jobs (who knows if the economy will be stagnant four years from now).

    In case you didn’t get the Hawaii reference – it is via volcanoes making new land.

  • hill_guy

    So, let me get this straight… aren’t these the same people behind the plan to convert the ugly plaza around the metro station into a beautiful, usable park? And the same ones who everyone says ought to bring retail to 8th Street instead of just restaurants?

    So when they try to support a building that *brings* retail, everyone throws a fit. When they try to *build* a beautiful park, everyone throws a fit. It sounds to me like people in the neighborhood just like to throw a hissy for the sake of throwing one. Cities are living, growing, changing things. Sounds like the main street people are *trying* to help it grow into what the neighborhood wants and all anyone does is complain and whine and moan.

    Why would anyone WANT to help us build *more* green space where there is just ugly concrete now and bring us *more* space for retail when all everyone does is throw stones at them for doing what we asked for? These people need to stop acting like children throwing a tantrum and grow up.

  • Moot Point?

    Isn’t this the same park sitting over the CSX railway?
    greatergreaterwashington.org/post.cgi?id=5482

  • Kate

    Mike — I had never taken anyone other than Jon to be saying the Marine’s should be kicked out. And I didn’t take him to mean that the existing Marine’s should leave (though he may believe that they don’t add to the community and they are just a hole/low-rent housing unit). I even noted that I had not previously seen this position from the park folks.

    As for grocery shopping on 8th St — like I said, I am indifferent — but I don’t think everyone agrees that is the only way to “improve”the neighborhood is to add another grocery store or that every single new building on every single block needs to be mixed-use.

  • http://www.thehillishome.com Jon Penndorf

    hill_guy makes a good point…cities are every-changing and evolve constantly. What is good for us now may not be good for the residents 10 or 50 years from now, and it is up to developers, elected officials, and city administrators to chart courses for change that (hopefully) have a positive impact on the city.

    True, the Yard Park is not a vegetable garden. It is, though, well-thought-out open space and is a nice *trade-off* between a developer and the city. The Hill is dotted with large green squares and small pocket parks, and now we’ve added waterfront park that is accessible to everyone.

  • Hill Resident

    I’m sorry, but why should public land be handed over to some developers tied to BRMS who will be making a heap of money off of this whole deal? There is nothing in the official BRMS statement that mentions green space, or helping the community for that matter.

    The BRMS might claim to serve the community’s interests, but let’s call it like it is — they are out to make money for themselves and their friends.

  • Kirsten

    There’s a lot of flailing going on among these comments. The facts are that the ultimate site for the new BEQ will now be chosen out of proposals the Marines receive in response to a RFP and that RFP may not even go out until Fall 2011. Come to the CIMP Forum on Nov 30 (Eastern Market North Hall) and provide community input to that RFP. Details should be on the website.

  • Darren

    @Moot Point — Yes this is where the CSX Tunnel Expansion is planned. However, their latest draft plans should have minimal on the garden or VA Ave Park in general. Furthermore, CSX has stated they hope to include numerous improvements in the park and surrounding area (bike paths to Garfield park & waterfront; improved freeway underpass, etc.).

    Also, as far as CSX is concerned, the Developers for the Marines could stand to take a page from their book. CSX has gone above and beyond in terms of outreach, meeting and listening to the community, when they have very little obligation to do so (the tunnel work is largely permitted by-right).

    However, with a massive freight rail tunnel running beneath, and freeway behind, I can’t imagine how the Barracks would be any more secure in this location. So in that regard, yes, it should be a moot point.

  • http://historyofcapitolriverfront.blogspot.com/2010/09/marine-barracks.html Mike

    hill_guy – where is this green space gonna be built? Canal Park and Yards Park are not trade-offs for VA Ave. This is no different than people fighting to keep Garfield Park since the 1800s. Imagine if Marines want to build on Garfield Park or the power plant wanted to expand operations into Garfield Park? Think there wouldn’t be a peep out of the residents?? What makes the residents around Garfield entitled to that open space but people who use the businesses or the community garden or don’t use the park because they are too lazy to go to that part of town not entitled?

    What building is gonna be knocked down to create more greenspace south of the freeway? Or what development is not gonna be developed to create greenspace? This city has no leadership or direction when it comes to these decisions. Do you think the people on Capitol Hill and their precious stimulus fence funded park ($300K for Marion Park) is gonna give up their greenspace for a veggie garden or Dog-Ma and the noise associated with it?

    The Marines say they are gonna help relocate Dog-Ma…where? There isn’t much space south of the freeway that hasn’t already been marked for development.

    This is no different than the reasons they gave to build the current Bldg 20 in 1969 (security to fend off a British invasion and they need to walk to the main barracks). And by the way, I will buy someone beer for a year if you can point me to a mixed use military/private development in use by the U.S. military – the barracks are apparently gonna be the first of its kinda to cater to both civilians and military – want to see how that is gonna fly with the AT folks. What happens during exercises or threat increases? They gonna restrit access – will you have to show ID to gain access to they public/private areas?

    Read this article and let me know if this is any different than 1969 and also – explain why the mixed use idea or the basketball courts installed under the Freeway near 8th Street are used by the Marines for parking – not sure that was the intended outcome of the community meetings held under the freeway in the 70s?
    http://historyofcapitolriverfront.blogspot.com/2010/09/marine-barracks.html

  • Bradley Comar

    It is my understanding that the Marines will not have civilians living in their BEQ. The mixed use pertains to allowing civilians to use some of the facilities. The present BEQ between 5th and 6th south of the Freeway allows neighborhood kids and parents to use their soccer court several days/evenings a week during the season. They also open their doors to chamber concerts open to the public in the fall. The Marines wanted to occupy empty space (a parking lot) next to the Van Ness school, but were “boo”ed at that by many …I went to those earlier meetings and said that I welcome them as my neighbors since I live only half a block away.

    I also find disheartening that the Marines are basically getting the middle finger wherever they look. Are people passionate about not having to move their squash, or are they passionate about telling off the Marines? I am happy to call the Marines already here my neighbors and I welcome more. These young men and women risk their lives to protect the great freedoms I have. That means a LOT more to me than some turnips and spinach.

  • Andrew in DC

    I’ve mentioned this on JD’s site, but no one’s really brought it up here and I’m not sure how many cross-readers there are.

    DoD already has gobs of space they can put this building. The Navy Yard has this facility called the “Marine Corps Institute” – which is basically an office that advances and promotes educational opportunities for Marines. Great mission. But nothing says that the office has to stay in the Navy Yard – stick the BEQ there, behind the already existing walls of the Yard to satisfy the Anti-terrorism regs and move the office building to Bolling or another location in the NCR with heaps of space. Or use the current BEQ or at least the location for the MCI’s office (and, thus, sidestep the AT regs which are forcing you to move your barracks in the first place.)

    This isn’t rocket science. I just don’t fathom why the Marines are asking for more space when the spaces available to them will do.

  • http://historyofcapitolriverfront.blogspot.com/2010/09/marine-barracks.html Mike

    Bradely – can you use the field anytime you want? The answer is No. DCParks/Rec has an agreement in place to where soccer practice is set aside three days a week – so don’t be fooled that you can use that facility anytime you like. Plus the Annex can be shut down at anytime due to increases in security. Also, I didn’t say civies were gonna sleep in the BEQ – only the mixed use area. How do you keep a mixed area seperate and how do you keep someone with a bomb from strolling in and hitting their target? The whole purpose of moving is for anti-terrorism – that is why they need to be behind a 9ft foot and 84 ft away from the road and who knows how far away from a double stacked train. Booed because a community center is supposed to go in there.

    Andrew – I e-mailed them and was told the Marines need to be w/in a 10 minute walk – so not sure the Navy Yard falls w/in that parameter. Hope to see you at the next meeting – you need to offer up that idea.

    I’m passionate about existing open green space that can be used by the community for a dog park, a community garden, rolling around in the grass, taking a kid to a park, flying a kite, historic homes that maybe destoyed and lost businesses that will cost people jobs! That is what is at stake. This has nothing to do with anti/pro military issues.

  • PKP

    Community members may need to be made aware that there are active duty and former military persons who are members of the community garden and who use the park regularly.

  • Jessica

    It appears that the most recent update on the CIMP page does indeed specifically talk about the park:

    http://www.sedistrictcimp.com/Resources/Documents/Official_CIMP_Statement_Nov2010.pdf

  • Maria

    I cannot believe there is people that prefer to have a park in the neighborhood instead of Marines.

    Is there a better way to BEAUTIFY a neighborhood than having these beautiful men around?

    I really hope that they are forced to walk the neighborhood so we can all look at them.