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I was out of town during last Thursday's oversight hearing on space needs for public service agencies, and since The Post published a piece the next day on the big news--the confirmation that the police department's move to 225 Virginia Avenue is indeed off--I've been dragging my feet on posting my notes from the hearing, which I watched on a replay Monday night.
Here's what Office of Property Management director Lars Etzkorn said in his opening remarks about 225 Virginia: "While initial plans focused on co-locating several police functions in this leased building, a review of estimates revealed that total improvement costs exceeded the $100 million provided for in the lease. Hard costs alone were estimated to exceed $150 million. In addition, there were issues with compatibility in implementing the full program in the neighborhood. These include MPD's 24-7 operations and parking demands for 658 vehicles. Currently, we are examining potential alternative uses for the space, including the possibility of using it as office space for government agencies."
During questioning by Tommy Wells, Etzkorn said that he anticipates being able to come to council members by the end of October with recommendations on uses for 225; Wells remarked that the city needs to make sure that "we don't stack a bunch of uses" in the building without thinking of their impacts on the surrounding area.
There was a lot of back-and-forth between Etzkorn and Phil Mendelson about whether the police move to 225 is in fact called off--I don't think it's too much of an editorial statement to comment that Etzkorn clearly embraces bureaucracy-speak and well-parsed statements, which frustrated Mendelson to no end during the hearing. When Mendelson asked if everything that was planned to go to 225 is now not going there, Etzkorn's response was "the recommendation is that they not go there." Mendelson pressed repeatedly on 225 remaining an option for various police agencies, given that there are currently no other viable alternatives on new locations coming from OPM (though lots of possible locations are being reviewed). And there were disagreements between Etzkorn and Mendelson about whether the 225 landlord has indeed been told to stop work on the buildout plans, which Mendelson said he'd been told had not been stopped but which Etzkorn said were in fact stopped but that the landlord had been asked to do some pricing of potential other uses for the space.
One other tidbit mentioned in the hearing I had never come across before--there were apparently plans late in the Williams administration to move the headquarters of the Office of Corrections to leased space at Maritime Plaza at 12th and M, SE, but those were called off earlier this year.
And, as I'm finishing up, I see that Voice of the Hill has posted its piece on the hearing (on their newly redesigned web site!), which also covers the issues surrounding the possible move of the MPD 1D headquarters in Southwest, since the hearing did cover more than just the issues surrounding 225 Virginia.
If you're interested in not only the content of the hearing but also in watching the thrust-and-parry between Mendelson and Etzkorn, keep an eye out for any replays of the telecast (look for a Sept. 20 oversight hearing replay).
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