With the official transfer last week of Hine Junior High School to D.C.’s Office of Planning and Economic Development, the city is moving forward with plans to redevelop the prime real estate near Eastern Market.
Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells (D) hosted a community meeting at the school Wednesday night, during which residents broke into small groups and expressed their goals for the site. The school is closing at the end of this academic year as part of D.C. Public Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee’s consolidation plan.
Allen said residents clearly want some open space on the land, which extends from Pennsylvania Avenue to C Street between Seventh and Eighth streets Southeast.
Residents floated ideas such as underground parking, a new public library and a second entrance to the Eastern Market Metro station.
About 150 people attended the meeting, according to Charles Allen, Wells’ chief of staff, and Wells’ office will go over the 90 worksheets it collected and prepare a report summarizing the community’s input for Neil Albert, the deputy mayor for planning and economic development.
At this point, all options for redevelopment are on the table.
“Both the councilmember and the deputy mayor made clear that there are no preconceived notions,” Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Ken Jarboe said. “We’re coming in with a pretty blank slate. There’s no developer waiting in the wings. What comes out of this process will really determine the outlook here.”
Although Hine will remain open for a couple of community functions after the school year ends in June, the building will be officially closed and shuttered by fall, Allen said.
He said Wells is interested in a public- private partnership in which D.C. retains ownership of the land and leases it cheaply to a developer — for instance, a 99-year lease at $1 a year. That way, the city could designate what will go on the site as part of the lease.
Jarboe said the city has pledged not to simply sell the land to the highest bidder.
“We don’t want this to be seen as the city simply maximizing their revenues,” Jarboe said. “The response at the meeting was the development just has to pay for itself.”
Residents also urged the city to provide a structure that blends with the neighborhood.
The site is within the Capitol Hill Historic District, which means any development must be approved by the city’s review board. The Capitol Hill Restoration Society will get involved in the process.
“There’s not going to be a problem from a design point of view because I think the criteria the restoration society would apply would be the criteria we all would,” Jarboe said.
Allen said that additional community meetings will be scheduled and that the city will move as quickly as possible.
“It’s not going to be a contributing asset for this community to have a big building sitting there empty,” he said.