By Michael Hoffman
A neighborhood waited. In fact, it has waited ten years since it started a Master Plan to develop what’s called Reservation 13, the site that sits next to RFK stadium on the banks of the Anacostia River.
Neighborhood leaders finally had their moment in the spotlight. The mayor was coming to a neighborhood meeting, and he was going to finally address an area littered with abandoned buildings including the hollowed out D.C. General Hospital. However, unlike the majority of the meeting’s attendees, the mayor’s vision for the area includes a potential Washington Redskins training facility.
No matter. The city could no longer ignore the Reservation 13 Master Plan penned by neighborhood leaders. D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray and Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans suggested building the training facility smack dab in the middle of the plan. They couldn’t just ignore the Master Plan. Could they?
In short, yes. Based on comments from Gray, it was clear he did not read the latest proposal in full or misunderstood key pieces of it. The same appeared true for his staff as well as Ward 7 Councilwoman Yvette Alexander who leads the ward that Reservation 13 calls home. Alexander went further and tried to divide Ward 6 and Ward 7 saying she’d listen to Ward 7 residents “first and foremost.”
Gray couldn’t have read it closely. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have kept boasting the plan still included a potential baseball stadium. ANC6B Commissioner Brian Flahaven corrected the mayor saying he was confusing the crowd because the stadium was listed as a no-go item in the plan. Gray turned to Victor Hoskins, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, for clarification and Hoskins essentially shrugged.
And thus began a neighborhood meeting with the mayor that left residents walking out of the D.C. Armory shaking their heads and asking themselves: All that hard work, for what? The mayor held a meeting and planned to discuss it, yet he didn’t invest the time to carefully read the most up to date copy easily accessible on city sponsored websites.
Many residents had walked into the armory ready to fight for their Master Plan that includes affordable housing, a charter school, a homeless shelter and doctor’s offices. A Redskins practice facility threatened to scuttle the plan taking up prime real estate next to the Stadium Armory Metro stop. Neighborhood residents arrived ready to talk.
Gray told the crowd that, despite supposed media reports, he had not finished a proposal to welcome the Redskins back to Washington. He came to the armory to start the discussion about it. However, residents who sat before the mayor never got that chance because Gray and his staff didn’t do their homework.
Every time the mayor made a suggestion such as affordable housing, residents shook their heads and whispered to each other. “Did the mayor really show up here without reading the plan?” In the plan, neighborhood leaders had set aside 30 percent of the available land for affordable housing.
Next, the mayor implied the neighborhood was only interested in pushing out the homeless population temporarily housed in the former D.C. General Hospital. Again, Flahaven was forced to tell the mayor a homeless shelter was already built into the plan. And on the night went.
Gray kept repeating that the plan needed an update after nine years collecting dust. That’s simply wrong. Just three years ago, four developers issued proposals to realize the plan laid out by the neighborhood. Leaders endorsed one.
The city promised to pick one. The neighborhood continued to wait. Three years later the city finally paid attention to Reservation 13. A Redskins practice facility might not have been the answer the neighborhood wanted, but the mayor was going to pay attention.
Or so the neighborhood thought.