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D.C. Council Passes AWC-NCRC Compromise

Development along the Anacostia River soon could be under the direction of a new quasi-public agency, after months of arguments over whether an existing quasi-public agency was too bureaucratic to get the job done.

The measure was quickly and quietly attached to Washington, D.C.’s fiscal 2008 budget, which the City Council unanimously passed Tuesday in a preliminary vote. It would repeal the act that created the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. and place another quasi-public agency, the National Capital Revitalization Corp., under a new similarly structured organization.

However, council members and their staffs likely will scrutinize the addition in the weeks to come, making changes or possibly eliminating it at the second reading on June 5, according to one council aide who asked not to be named.

The compromise measure comes after months of hearings and discussions on whether to eliminate the AWC, which oversees development projects on the river, including some on Capitol Hill.

Now some of the properties controlled by the AWC and the NCRC could transfer to the new D.C. Economic Development Authority. Deputy Mayor for Planning and Development Neil Albert would take over most of the smaller properties — a move Albert has prepared for in recent months after taking over as CEO of the AWC.

“We’ve proposed a streamlined structure for the two corporations that will make them more efficient, more accountable and most importantly, more effective,” Albert said in a statement. “The competing proposal to abolish the current organizations and start from scratch will only cause disruption and delay in completing some of the most important, neighborhood transforming projects in the city. We can’t afford to miss a beat.”

The new agency would control a few up-and-coming areas, including the Anacostia Waterfront, the Ballpark district, Anacostia’s Skyland Mall and Reservation 13. Its CEO and board members would be appointed by the mayor, while employees — and their salaries — would be up to the board.

Currently, the AWC controls properties around Southeast Capitol Hill and along the Anacostia River, making deals with private developers and ensuring that the polluted river gets on a road to recovery. The NCRC is similar: It controls properties in blighted areas throughout the District and is tasked with jump-starting development in areas that haven’t seen economic growth in years.

Council members began to look closely at the two organizations after Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans introduced a bill that would fold all of the AWC’s and NCRC’s responsibilities into Albert’s office. At the time, Evans said that he heard multiple complaints about both organizations.

“You have the city really unable to control what’s happening,” Evans said after submitting the bill. Evans was not available for comment Wednesday.

Unlike the measure in the budget, Evans’ bill was aired out in a public hearing. Many residents came in support of the AWC, citing its ongoing efforts to include the community and clean the river. In the past few months, the agency proposed strict environmental standards for its developers and unveiled a plan for a job-training program. Next Wednesday, the agency’s board will convene to pass a handful of measures and discuss several contracts, ostensibly to ensure it all stays intact for the impending transfer of power.

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