A portion of the smallest quadrant in Washington, D.C., is about to undergo a transformation that could serve as a model for similar waterfront redevelopments across the country.

But according to a minority organization that has worked tirelessly to ensure that a Benjamin Banneker memorial is included in the $1.5 billion project along the waterfront in Southwest Washington, the city’s Black residents won’t be the ones telling the story of its success because the developer – except for construction purposes – has no other real interest in the community.

“The fact that we are establishing a memorial to Benjamin Banneker, in and of itself should be a story,” said Peggy Seats, founder and CEO of the Washington Interdependence Council, “because Blacks are the only ethnicity in the city without a monumental presence within the core of the nation’s capital.

“But the developer isn’t interested in that,” she continued. “They have given nothing back to the community, nothing back to our effort as a nonprofit collaborative effort of the waterfront.”

Seats said WIC is serving as a consultant to the District-based PN Hoffman real estate conglomerate, which has assumed the lead for the master development plan that encompasses 26 acres along the Washington Channel.

Elinor Bacon, president of ER Bacon Development, a PN Hoffman partner, refuted those claims. “We have 30 percent affordable housing requirements. We have a requirement to provide 35 percent of all goods and services to businesses and we are to give 51 percent of all new hires to D.C. residents,” Bacon said. In addition, “We’re working very closely with the wards 5, 6, 7 and 8 business councils as well as the Workforce Development Council to ensure that people in the District know about the opportunities and are in a position to take advantage of them.”

Meanwhile, a community forum attended by several hundred people, was recently held at Arena Stage where the development was described as a mixed-use project.

PN Hoffman will team up with Madison Marquette Waterfront overseeing work that will also include construction of 800 residential units, up to 300,000 feet of retail space, offices and open green space. The development plan will be submitted this month and the first phase of construction is slated to begin in 2012.

Hoffman, who plans to make the waterfront a world-class attraction, said his firm has worked closely with the city to bring together the project, which will also include several affordable housing units.

“Our collective concern for the success of this project is very real and we are pleased that all sides have come together. We can now focus on the matter at hand – moving this vision forward,” he said.

At-large Councilman Kwame Brown, who early on took the lead moving the vision forward, was not immediately available for comment. But he said earlier that the project equates to a major win for the District. “My priorities work cooperatively to move the project forward but to also preserve the community’s vision for the waterfront,” Brown said. “That included protecting affordable housing and providing responsible oversight of the project.”

Although the project has stalled in the past, the District government has committed to contributing nearly $200 million through a tax increment financing program.

According to the city’s planning and economic development department, 2,800 permanent jobs will be created in addition to the 3,000 construction jobs for the city.?

In terms of the Banneker memorial, U.S. Sen. Roland Burris, D-Ill., recently introduced legislation that would reauthorize the monument but also amends the original legislation by stipulating that both the statue and the Benjamin Banneker Institute of Math & Science are to be erected inside of Banneker Overlook Park.

 

DorothyRowley

AFROStaffWriter