The D.C. government has agreed to shell out millions of dollars to continue leasing the police department’s dilapidated evidence warehouse in Southeast, but D.C. Council members are threatening to reject the deal over its inexplicably high cost.
The decrepit, 98,039-square-foot warehouse at 2235 Shannon Place is slated to be replaced in 18 months with a new facility on the grounds of St. Elizabeths Hospital. In the meantime, the District’s Office of Property Management has struck a deal with the building’s owner, Curtis Properties Inc., to renew the lease for as much as $12.50 per square foot — more than 4 1/2 times what the city is currently paying.
"It’s a bad deal," said at-large Councilman Phil Mendelson. "Every time I look at it, I come to the same conclusion."
Mendelson, Council Chairman Vincent Gray, and at-large Councilwoman Carol Schwartz, have co-introduced a resolution to disapprove the contract. In a letter to Mayor Adrian Fenty delivered Wednesday, they demanded justification of the deal, questioning a lease that "would increase the rent by 339 percent for the District’s continued occupancy."
D.C. has paid the same amount on the warehouse, $2.69 per square foot, since 1994, said OPM interim Director Robin-Eve Jasper. The District was looking for a short-term renewal and the landlord had another tenant lined up, which left the city in a difficult position.
"It was an opportunity for the landlord to negotiate a lease that was somewhat above market rate," Jasper said, adding the lease price tag isn’t unreasonable given that the city has underpaid for so long.
Under the revised agreement, the District would pay Curtis Properties $96,539 per month through May 1, 2009, and then $102,180 per month during an optional 18-month extension.
In their letter to Fenty, the council members noted that 225 Virginia Ave. SE, for which the District is currently paying $546,000 per month to rent, sits vacant. The massive building was leased specifically to house Metropolitan Police Department functions, including the evidence warehouse, until OPM nixed the plan last year citing the cost of converting the building.
The D.C. inspector general found in a recent audit that MPD evidence kept at the Shannon Place warehouse is threatened by poor conditions there. The facility is "in danger of becoming an embarrassment," Police Chief Cathy Lanier said in December.