House Approves Measure to Develop Southwest Waterfront

Posted June 26, 2012 at 6:01pm

Groundbreaking could begin in January for a vast commercial and real estate development along Washington, D.C.’s Southwest waterfront, thanks to legislation the House passed this afternoon.

Under suspension of the rules — an expedited floor procedure typically reserved for noncontroversial measures — the House gave voice-vote approval to the bill that would clarify the legal status of an up-and-coming neighborhood in the District.

Though the House passed the bill by voice vote late last year, it needed to vote a second time to concur with a Senate amendment to the measure that would clarify that the Army Corps of Engineers, which is responsible for upkeep of certain portions of the Southwest waterfront, would be relieved of that duty should private firms develop those areas.

The Senate passed this version of the bill in March, and it now awaits the president’s signature.

The area has been under the city’s jurisdiction since the 1960s, but pre-Home Rule Act restrictions currently limit what private developers can do with the land. This new bill would allow these developers to break ground on 2.5 million square feet of hotels, office space, retail space and residences.

“This is a major economic development for the District of Columbia,” D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) said in a statement after passage of the bill that she sponsored, calling the Southwest waterfront “the most valuable underused asset in the District.”

Norton also said the plans for developing the area will create thousands of job and generate millions of dollars in tax revenue annually as well as attract visitors and improve quality of life for D.C. residents.

There was little debate today when the House convened to consider the legislation. However, it appeared there was a stumbling block over a month ago when it was mysteriously pulled from the calendar after Senate passage.

At the time, Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) had concerns about whether the bill constituted an earmark, though he did not voice his apprehensions at the time of the first House vote on the bill, and the Senate amendment is not an earmark.

His spokesman did not respond to requests for comment on whether or how his mind had changed about the legislation, which has not been revised since it was originally scheduled for floor consideration in May.