DC council member Kwame Brown's Committee on Economic Development had an oversight hearing this afternoon to get information from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development
on the transition of projects on the Southwest Waterfront, Hill East, Poplar Point, Canal Park
, and Kingman Island. The majority of the hearing time was spent on the three large projects, but since my hard-and-fast coverage boundaries don't include any of them, I'll just pass along what was said about the current status of Canal Park.
In her opening remarks, DMPED chief operating officer Valerie Santos Young gave a brief description of the 1.8-acre park project, in particular its sustainable design and stormwater management aspects, which will help "minimize discharge of polluted water" into the Anacostia River. She said that her office is (still) working with the DC Public Schools transit administrator to relocate the 100 buses parked on the southern two blocks of the site, and that the Deputy Mayor's office is aware of the "considerable interest" from residents in seeing the park built. "We have achieved some recent milestones to do just that," she said in closing her Canal Park remarks, without actually mentioning what the milestones were. It was later in the hearing, when asked for specifics by Tommy Wells, that Young explained the city has now negotiated the termination of the lease with the company renting the northernmost block of the site.
Otherwise, the issue with getting the park underway still boils down to the removal of the school buses, which has apparently been set back further after council chairman Vincent Gray's recent objections to a plan that would have created a citywide school bus parking lot in Prince George's County instead of in the District. Young said that they are now "scrambling" to find another permanent location, as well as an interim lot the Canal Park buses can be moved to, although DCPS does not want to relocate the buses to a temporary site until a permanent solution has been figured out. But Marion Barry made clear that Ward 8 residents oppose moving the buses to D.C. Village, which apparently had been considered as one possible interim solution.
Wells also asked if there were any progress on the creation of water taxi or ferry landings along the waterfront, but Young replied she was unable to give any answers because she was not personally aware of the specifics and that the project manager was not at the hearing, a response heard so many times that committee chairman Brown finally recessed the hearing in exasperation. (Young's "I was on vacation that week" response to a question by Barry about the specifics of a Poplar Point decision was my personal favorite.) Brown said that there will be another hearing scheduled, and admonished the Deputy Mayor's office that next time they need to be ready with facts and the appropriate staffers in attendance at oversight hearings, and not just repeat "We'll get back to you on that" over and over.
If you're interested in the other projects and want to see the hearing, check the DC Cable 13 listings