Lack of progress angers Hill East neighbors

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Local,Michael Neibauer

Residents of D.C.’s Hill East community are furious that the city has let a tract of prime Anacostia waterfront real estate languish as a "dumping ground" for social service facilities rather than concentrating on its redevelopment.

"Our neighborhood has more than carried its fair share of social service programs for the city and its officials," resident Frank Zampatori wrote Wednesday in a letter to neighbors. "We are tired of it. And we are definitely tired of those so called enlightened city officials who see no problems with Reservation 13 and the Hilleast neighborhood as a convenient location and lab for their pet social programs."

Reservation 13, a 66-acre tract fronting the Anacostia River just south of RFK Stadium, is home to the former D.C. General Hospital and the D.C. Jail. The majority of the property is a mishmash of vacant land, parking lots and empty buildings.

The D.C. Council in 2002 approved a master plan for the property, one that envisioned a "paradigm shift from an isolated campus to a new waterfront neighborhood." The plan calls for 800 residences, retail, office, a village square, a waterfront park and tree-lined streets, all flowing from Independence Avenue and an extended Massachusetts Avenue.

But progress has been virtually nonexistent. Neighbors complain the city has instead used the "extraordinary site" as a home for detox and sexually transmitted disease clinics, shelters and halfway houses. Mayor Adrian Fenty recently announced that a 100-bed women’s shelter would be relocated from the D.C. General cafeteria to another building on the same campus.

"They’re constantly dumping things on Reservation 13," said H Street resident Lisa Alfred. "We’re tired of getting up in arms. There’s no plan."

City officials say progress is coming soon. Ward 6 Councilman Tommy Wells said he has been given "every assurance" the Fenty administration is moving forward.

"This is one of the last great urban waterfront opportunities on the East Coast," said Sean Madigan, spokesman for the deputy mayor for planning and economic development.

"We are working on a draft solicitation for a master developer for the site and it could be on the street as early as May."

mneibauer@dcexaminer.com

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