AFRH skips DC Zoning and Comp Plan, goes the federal action route

Google Maps satellite view of the property of the Armed Forces Retirement Home

A recent article from the Washington Business Journal (which is behind a paywall) reports that the Armed Forces Retirement Home (aka the Old Soldier's Home) has decided to bypass the normal comprehensive planning processes in DC for the redevelopment of their property and move forward with redeveloping 80 acres using a "federal action." In fact, AFRH will be the body to give out work permits and certificates of occupancy, not DC government.

The federal government's General Services Administration (GSA), sent out a Request for Proposals (RFP) looking for large and very experienced developers to bid on the project. From the article:

Development teams have until Sept. 28 to submit proposals, and the AFRH hopes to make a selection by March. Teams will need to cite at least three examples of projects that demonstrate their ability to line up financing of $125 million or more and provide proof of the financial capacity to invest up to $30 million in readily accessible capital during horizontal development. The project will be subject to a master lease of 20 years, with individual parcel lease terms of 99 years for for-sale residential parcels and 60 years for all other uses. The development site by Irving and North Capitol streets could yield up to 4.4 million square feet of mixed-use including residential, office, medical and retail space.

Under a federal action, the AFRH would follow the federal government's entitlement process to ensure its timelines are met. It would still work with the District and neighborhood groups to address concerns, but the AFRH would be in the driver's seat. To that end, the AFRH plans to retain a third party to perform design plan review, and it, not the District, would be the one to issue  building permits and certificates of occupancy.

From the article:

DC Planning Director Eric Shaw, in a late-March letter to the GSA and AFRH, said ... his office was committed to working with the GSA, AFRH, NCPC and the winning development team "to zone the site so that private development and private uses may proceed efficiently and predictably in line with the Master Plan." 

AFRH CEO Stephen Rippe, in a reply letter co-signed by AFRH Chief Operating Officer James Branham, said the District's proposed solution "will result in a significant delay to the project that AFRH cannot afford to take," which is why it is pursuing federal action.

It seems the Armed Forces Retirement Home believes that working with the DC government is too slow of a process to get them the funds they need to continue operations. How this impacts what gets built on the property, and how the community gets to be involved, remains to be seen.

You can read the full article on the the Washington Business Journal website.

Urban Turf has an overview of the buildings and area being redeveloped or kept.

Map of redevelopment area and fate of existing buildings. ( UrbanTurf )

Map of redevelopment area and fate of existing buildings. (UrbanTurf)