Monday, May 4, 2009

Deputy Mayor Neil Albert Comments

April Discussion Leader
Our primary discussion leader at our April meeting was Neil Albert, Deputy Mayor for Economic Development and Planning. He covered the breadth of public space development across downtown including the convention center hotel, CityCenterDC, The Arts at 5th and Eye Streets, Franklin School, and the Louis Dreyfus 395 air rights project. In short, despite the slowdown, we have a lot of development activity in the pipeline.

City Economy in Good Shape
Deputy Mayor Albert shared that our city economy is in good shape, especially when compared with neighboring Virginia and Maryland and we continue to benefit from lots of development. He discussed the mayor’s commitment to no tax increases, buttressed by efforts to reduce overhead by 15 percent and a focus on efficiencies. He noted that city government had been growing at an unsustainable rate of 8 to 11 percent over the past decade.

Development Projects
He discussed many of the projects that are currently in some phase of development in our neighborhood. Those he discussed include:
  • The Convention Center Hotel, funded by $152 million in Tax Increment Funding dollars will not be completed until 2012. In order to be competitive, our convention center must have the hotel.
  • CityCenterDC is moving forward and the deputy mayor was 85 percent sure that we would have a ground breaking this year.
  • The Arts at 5th & Eye negotiations continue between the developer group and the city. The deputy mayor was 99.75 percent sure that an agreement would close and that the project would go forward.
  • He acknowledged our interest in the development of the Franklin School property. There will be a request for expressions of interest going out soon to help the city review possible uses for this property before any formal RFP process begins. He promised to engage downtown residents in the process as it goes forward.
  • The Louis Dreyfus project puts a top on highway 395 with mixed-use development including commercial, retail, and residential uses included. They had shared at an earlier ANC meeting plans to locate the Jewish Historical building to the west lawn of The Building Museum, a plan that DNA had objected too. He shared that they would prepare the new location and that there would be no intermediate temporary location.
Deputy Mayor Albert was asked about the possibilities of bringing more flowers downtown. He suggested that this was a local neighborhood issue where residents could work together to plant and care for flowers as community effort. He offered his services to help with the planting and noted that some funding might be available. It was something, though, that the city would not do beyond providing help for residents.

Overall, we were treated to a candid, educational, and occasionally humurous discussion and a commitment to include us in the developement process.

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