HillRag by Elizabeth O'Gorek
On Monday October 16th, Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the District’s proposal in response to an Amazon Request for Proposal (RFP) in regard to the company’s search for a second corporate headquarters. The District proposed four sites: the Anacostia Riverfront, Capitol Hill East, Shaw-Howard University and NoMa-Union Station.
The proposed Hill East site is within the area known as Public Reservation 13, defined to the north by Independence Avenue, south by Massachusetts Avenue, west by 19th Street SE and to the east by the Anacostia Waterfront Park. The DC Jail lies south of Massachusetts Avenue adjacent to the site, but is not part of Reservation 13.
Many Hill residents, including ANC Commissioners, were surprised to find that Reservation 13 was included in the proposal and frustrated at the lack of transparency offered by District planners.
Development of Reservation 13 has been the subject of community discussion and planning for the past fifteen years, and District-based Developers Donatelli and Blue Sky are expected to build two mixed-use buildings on the F1 and G1 plots.
Commissioner Daniel Ridge (6B09) said, “The Reservation 13 site is not a free space on the board. It has been the subject of an intensive planning and development process in which residents participate to the greatest extent the city allows.”
“The purpose of development at Reservation 13 is not to dominate some generic urban waterfront,” he said. “It is to reconnect a neighborhood and a city with its forgotten river and to give all Washingtonians front row seats to the rebirth of this critical riparian ecology.”
District officials addressed community frustrations, stressing that it is very early in the process and that the nature of the RFP bidding process required that details be withheld.
Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) Brian T. Kenner emphasized that the Amazon RFP is a competitive process and, as a result, DMPED could not go public with information about the sites until all details had been finalized.
“And just as important as that, perhaps more importantly, right now there are no plans for any of these sites,” he added. “There is no impact on [the Donatelli-Blue Sky] plans.”
Kenner said “the existing Donatelli-Blue Sky Project is going to continue no matter what, and it will continue unimpacted by what happens with Amazon.”
Kenner also said that Ann Archibald Hall, a historically protected building located on Reservation 13, would be included in a possible Amazon project as a historic structure.
He affirmed that the city wanted development to progress on the site, but said “there is no reason to also cut off a conversation around Amazon” at this point.
“We are in a nationwide competition for this opportunity, and we don’t even know if the Washington region is of interest for Amazon, and so it is impossible for me to say that this is actually going to happen. This is just something that we just want to provide as an option,” Kenner said.
“This is something that we want to continue to have a conversation with Amazon around, to know whether or not they’re even interested in it.”
Kenner was less clear about the fate of the DC Jail. Asked whether Amazon would want their second headquarters to abut the DC Jail, he said “these are questions that no one knows the answer to right now. We purposely did not include any of the jail site at all in this conversation, and so there is no idea how Amazon would respond. Amazon would probably have to answer that question.”
Kenner said that DMPED would contact the community if and when Amazon responds to the District’s proposal.
“If Amazon wants to have a conversation around [the Hill East] site in particular, you better believe we will reach out to the community as soon as we understand where they are and what their perspective is to talk more. Because we have questions, which they have not answered yet because we are still very much at a preliminary stage.”