New possibilities for the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. were discussed Tuesday at a hearing on whether the quasi-government development agency should be eliminated after more than two years of overseeing development along the Anacostia River.
The agency has come under fire recently after Washington, D.C., Councilman Jack Evans introduced a bill that would eliminate it and the National Capital Revitalization Corp., another quasi-government development agency. In Evans’ bill, both agencies would be folded into the office of Neil Albert, the deputy mayor for Planning and Economic Development.
But Albert also is the interim CEO of the AWC, a dual role that has him defending the organization while also scrutinizing it. And at the Tuesday hearing, Albert revealed five recommendations from a study commissioned by D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty (D) that hasn’t been released yet.
One recommendation is to merge the AWC and the NCRC into one quasi-government agency, while another would keep the AWC’s structure but tweak its relationship with the city’s government. Others keep to the spirit of the bill, folding one or both organizations into Albert’s office.
Under questioning from the Committee on Economic Development, Albert stressed that the AWC has successfully “laid the foundation” of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, a 20-year plan to revitalize the area. But some problems are beyond the agency’s ability to solve, he said. The properties it manages also are under the control of different government agencies, making its pace the same pace of the D.C. government.
“Regardless of where the AWC turns … they are going to be in bed with the District government,” he said.
Albert also said his office could handle the estimated $10 billion in development that the AWC controls. And even AWC board member Joslyn Williams welcomed scrutiny into whether the structure needs to be changed. However, he also stressed that if the AWC is changed or eliminated, it’s not because of the staff.
“We have had a lot of challenges and they have not been challenges of our making,” he said, mentioning a drawn-out and often- criticized land transfer between the AWC and NCRC. “There have been challenges that in many respects are on the action of the council” or the lack of involvement from the executive branch.
The D.C. Council is set to vote on Evans’ bill this spring.