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Just out from Tommy Wells's office:
"(Washington, DC) - Councilmember Tommy Wells issued a statement today regarding the recent reports of the District's interest in delaying committed community development dollars to publicly fund a downtown Convention Center hotel.
Stated Councilmember Wells, "I am asking the Chief Financial Officer and my Council colleagues to cease discussion about the possibility of delaying the TIF and PILOT funds promised to the Southwest and Capitol Riverfront communities and incorrectly stating the projects are not on track. It is unwise for the City to even suggest going back on its commitment at the exact moment the project is moving forward to attract private financing. If attempted, it would create uncertainty and jeopardize the jobs, affordable housing, retail amenities and public investment that have been promised to our residents."
"The District has just finished the Land Disposition Agreement and a Memorandum of Understanding between all lease holders, allowing the Southwest development team to move ahead with the amenity based project," added Wells.
Wells concluded, "Diverting funding away from the Southwest and Southeast neighborhoods at this time in favor of a fully government funded mega hotel breaks the promise we made to our residents that we are ready to move forward."
UPDATE: From the comments, one commenter says another commenter received an e-mail from Jack Evans, saying the following:
"The Council is not considering eliminating subsidies to neighborhood development projects the Council has previously approved. Projects such as O Street Market, which of course is of paramount importance, and projects in other wards will continue to move forward. Frankly, the biggest impediment to moving forward on some of these projects is not the public financing aspect but the ability to raise private equity--which as you can well imagine can be quite difficult these days.
"The Council, Mayor, and CFO, however are examining the actual debt service needs of each project on a fiscal year by year basis. In general, we tend to over-reserve debt authority on these projects. If we re-align these authorizations with what the projects are likely to require in actual debt service in FY 10 - 13, then it becomes more plausible to finance the new convention center hotel publicly while staying under the 12% debt cap. After FY 13 it is likely District revenues will continue to grow as the economy strengthens and the overall debt cap becomes less and less of an issue. So at this point all we are doing is exploring whether we can finance the hotel while continuing to move projects forward by better managing our debt.
"The Committee on Finance and Revenue, which I Chair, is holding a joint public hearing on the financing for the new Convention Center hotel next Wednesday, June 24th at 11 am and I invite everyone to testify. I think it is especially important for folks to come and emphasize how important it is to build the hotel and move forward so it is open by January 2013 when we have our first bookings in the hotel. I remain open minded as to how we finance the project, but our timeframes are fairly short here and we'll have to take final actions and move forward in the next few months. "
Comments (9)
   
 

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Comments

MJM says: (6/18/09 12:20 PM)
Well said, it is a start


Joe in DC says: (6/18/09 1:23 PM)
A great big thanks to Councilman Tommy Wells. Apparently, he gets it. His comments were very wise and so very true. Let us not forget that the D.C. tax payers are already on the hook for untold millions of dollars to help finance the building of the new National's stadium. It behooves the council to continue to support the redevelopment of the S.E. & S.W. Waterfronts into powerful tax generating entities. A fully developed SE/Navy Yard area will go far in helping DC residents recoup thier tax dollars invested into the stadium.

Lets keep the pressure up on the rest of the council. A few folks have contacted me for form letters. I also have all email addresses for the entire council and contact page for the Mayor. Folks, we need you to act today. Let your voice be heard!

Councilman Wells, thank you for your loyal support.


blah says: (6/18/09 2:20 PM)
Can we clarify this... the stadium was financed with bonds, right? Not tax payer dollars.


JD says: (6/18/09 2:23 PM)
That is correct, the money for the stadium did not come out of the DC general fund--it was via a sale of bonds that are being repaid by taxes on sales at the ballpark plus a tax on businesses in the city.


Joe in DC says: (6/18/09 2:56 PM)
Yes. Thank you for the clarification JD. So in effect... our taxes... one way or another.

The bottom line is that this issue is about commitment by the DC government. Period! They have made a commitment to the SE and SW waterfronts and many of us bought into (literally) their grand plan for these areas. The DC govenment needs to ensure that they finish what they started.


Shawn says: (6/18/09 3:01 PM)
Yes, it is true that the actual construction was financed with bonds. But, Joe in DC is also right -- you need to read the fine print -- because these revenue bonds are "guaranteed" with taxpayer dollars, and significant public funds have nevertheless been invested in the stadium and surrounding community, just not the actual construction itself. When local governments claim that something like a stadium is financed through bond sales, they are not telling you the entire truth. This often gets smaller communities into trouble when they find out how outrageous the incidental, non-construction costs (that are a direct expenditure)can be.

Shawn


Joe in DC says: (6/18/09 3:59 PM)
Folks, the following is a reply from Councilman Jack Evans to a letter sent by Sophia regarding this subject. Please read below...(Joe in DC)

Sophia- The Council is not considering eliminating subsidies to neighborhood development projects the Council has previously approved. Projects such as O Street Market, which of course is of paramount importance, and projects in other wards will continue to move forward. Frankly, the biggest impediment to moving forward on some of these projects is not the public financing aspect but the ability to raise private equity  which as you can well imagine can be quite difficult these days.

The Council, Mayor, and CFO, however are examining the actual debt service needs of each project on a fiscal year by year basis. In general, we tend to over-reserve debt authority on these projects. If we re-align these authorizations with what the projects are likely to require in actual debt service in FY 10 - 13, then it becomes more plausible to finance the new convention center hotel publicly while staying under the 12% debt cap. After FY 13 it is likely District revenues will continue to grow as the economy strengthens and the overall debt cap becomes less and less of an issue. So at this point all we are doing is exploring whether we can finance the hotel while continuing to move projects forward by better managing our debt.

The Committee on Finance and Revenue, which I Chair, is holding a joint public hearing on the financing for the new Convention Center hotel next Wednesday, June 24th at 11 am and I invite everyone to testify. I think it is especially important for folks to come and emphasize how important it is to build the hotel and move forward so it is open by January 2013 when we have our first bookings in the hotel. I remain open minded as to how we finance the project, but our timeframes are fairly short here and well have to take final actions and move forward in the next few months.



Jack



Glenn says: (6/18/09 4:06 PM)
The love affair with this hotel is really very strange.


Jason says: (6/18/09 4:53 PM)
I also heard from Vincent Gray:

"I do not support taking funds from these other projects for the hotel. We are working on other solutuions. You should hear something very soon.

Vince"

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