Back at UDC Backus campus for a second time in one month. ANC 5A called a “special monthly meeting” to address some major concerns on the agenda. The topics: Art Place at Fort Totten-Current Phase and Pax Liquor, Inc. wanting to establish its community presence by applying for a liquor license.
Room 106 was filled to capacity with some residents standing in the doorway so they didn’t miss any important information. The Mayor’s Office was noticeably absent as Chairman Edwards moved to the first item on the agenda; updates regarding Art Place at Ft. Totten. Commissioner Fletcher took the floor and urged the concerned constituents not to all talk at once and keep their questions to one. Considering it has been four years of development, the constituents have some major concerns about retail space at Art Place.
“This is just the beginning of a process that will end in a public hearing,” says Paul Tuman, presenting in conjunction with H&R Retail, before recounting his meeting times, and what the project promises but has yet to deliver. H&R Retail are the commercial brokers for the project and couldn’t find one banking institution out of 119 to fill the space.
The commercial broker reached out to two insurance agencies, 12 urgent care, two vitamin shops, 17 salon and spas, 162 full service restaurants, and out of all that actively engagement not one prospect secured for a lease signing. Meanwhile, the uses and purposes in the next phase at Art Place Building A is cultural and arts related. Commissioner Fletcher questioned the logic of moving forward on Building A, Phase 2 with no retailers committed.
The 29 page project order was being reintroduced when Tuman arrived at page 16, a 600 sq. ft. space, rent-free-for-life duration of Building A. However the foundation sent ANC 5A a letter to provide insurance and electricity for the space. “Why would we ever agree to get a space when you have to pay any funds?,” asked Commissioner Fletcher, feeling that the foundation has not met its obligation.
Tuman did ease the concerns of the constituents by saying they are actively trying to lease the retail spaces. After that information, the constituents had many questions regarding the lack of progress. “I talked about this last time. I conveyed asking too much rent, community benefits are the project, the project is empty, no community benefit.” You haven’t delivered too much and it’s that simple,” stated one of the concerned constituents.
Commissioner Fletcher urged Tuman to meet with both civic associations. The crowd’s frustration was evident. “This is 4 years later. Why does it take us to get mad at you? No place to eat. We didn’t ask you to come here, you asked us,” said Mr. Lockett, a local resident. “You’re playing games with our community,” was his last comment.
Tomorrow – Part 2: Pax Liquor