Last night, a motley group of businessmen, government types, ministers, and local residents packed into the Birney Elementary gymnasium in Anacostia to witness four developers lay out what they’ve envisioned for Poplar Point—the 130-acre tract on the Anacostia River east of South Capitol Street recently handed over to the District by the federal government.
Each group had 15 minutes to present their plan. They were allowed to have up to two persons do the presentation, and they weren’t allowed to use notes.
The whole exercise was a bit ridiculous, considering that whatever ends up getting built will go through so many approval and review processes, not to mention economic feasibility reviews, that it will likely look little like what hit the PowerPoint screen last night. More than anything, the meeting was a derby between the four developers to see who could ooh-and-aah the crowd the most. What mattered most in that regard: a soccer stadium, which D.C. United owner Victor MacFarlane has apparently successfully sold to Ward 8. Councilmember Marion Barry told the crowd, “We like all four proposals, but we like the one that’ll have a stadium first.”
Keeping that in mind, here’s a rundown:
Archstone-Smith/Madison Marquette: The Archstone Madison posse probably had the best presenter of the night: Calvin Gladney of local outfit Mosaic Urban Partners, who laid out a day at Poplar Point in a cool, well-rehearsed voice. Gladney & Co. promised a “major retail center,” perhaps along the lines of Gallery Place, “where as soon as it’s built people will want to come there.” Other sweeteners: These guys propose to set aside 20 percent of “small shop space” for local businesses and include a concert hall. “Maybe on some occasions Jay-Z would be performing there, or maybe on other occasions, it will be the Ballou High School marching band,” Gladney said. There was also talk of a “job incubator.” The big crowd pleaser, though, was the fact that Archstone included a soccer stadium in the plans. 2.4 million sq. ft. residential, 1.95 million office, 994,000 retail. Ooh-and-Ahh Grade: B+
Clark Realty Capital: These guys, part of the local Clark construction monolith, spent a little bit of time touting their local bona fides before moving on to what was undoubtedly the most ambitious proposal of the evening. The killer feature? The “Deck,” bitches, the “Deck”! That would be a three-block-wide lid over Interstate 295, which would do way more than any of the other proposals to connect Historic Anacostia to Poplar Point and the waterfront. Besides the Deck, there’s four other parts: The residential “Village at Poplar Point,” which would include a grocery store “along the lines of a Whole Foods or Harris Teeter”; the “Metro Soccer District,” which includes, yes, a soccer stadium; the “Preserve,” billed as “A Waterfront Version of New York’s Central Park”; and the “International Environment Center,” a business area billed as a “Silicon Valley for the Environmental Community.” That might include a “National Hall of the Environment,” a museum which would be on the tip of Poplar Point, facing the Capitol. Other things thrown in there: a 1,200-student K-12 KIPP charter school (which got the biggest cheer of the night from the crowd), a theater, and an open-air market. 3.8 million sq. ft. residential, 1.53 million office, 405,000 retail. Ooh-and-Ahh Grade: A
Forest City Washington: These guys blew it hard. FCW chief Deborah Ratner Salzburg got up at the beginning and explained they didn’t become aware of the no-notes, only-two-presenters rule until yesterday afternoon. Hence, Salzburg and a fellow presenter spent way too much time pumping up their own cred in the business community—spending, for instance, a good three minutes running down all the trusted inner-city types they’ve worked with: Al Sharpton, former Denver Mayor Wellington Webb, former Ohio Congressman Louis Stokes (who was in attendance). They only got to their actual plans with about three minutes left in the presentation. About all that the crowd could take away: The plan involves three “fingers” surrounded by parkland. A few pluses for Forest City, though: They had probably the best-looking PowerPoint show (too bad they had to flip through the actual site plans super-quick) and they seemed to be the only ones who made a point of saying their proposal actually reflected what was realistic (hence, no soccer stadium)—even though theirs proposed the largest square footage of development. 4.3 million sq. ft. residential, 1.26 million office, 415,600 retail. Ooh-and-Ahh Grade: C-
General Growth/Mid-City Urban: These folks proposed the smallest amount of square footage (about 3.5 million less than Forest City) but their big thing is education, promising the “largest learning sportsplex” in the D.C. area—bigger than the Prince George’s Sports and Learning Complex near FedExField and bigger than the South Germantown Recreational Park in Montgomery County. There’s also a UDC satellite campus on the premises. And these guys, too, were big on green. “Green technology,” to be specific: “We will bring the Googles. We will bring the Microsofts. We will bring the Sun Microsystems,” said a presenter. As far as cool shit, the big deal was the aerial tram crossing the river. (At one point the presenter mentioned a tram “all the way to Roosevelt Island,” but good luck getting that past the National Capital Planning Commission and the Commission of Fine Arts.) They did have—by a long shot—the most amateur-looking PowerPoint show. But when it comes to the logo wars, these guys were the undisputed champs. Here’s some of the logos that appeared on a single PowerPoint slide: AMC theaters, Best Buy, Bed Bath and Beyond, Dave & Buster’s, the Sharper Image, Chili’s, Cheesecake Factory, Costco, Starbucks, Victoria’s Secret, the Body Shop, Barnes & Noble, Macy’s, TGI Friday’s, Lowe’s, Olive Garden, and Discount Shoe Warehouse. Damn, don’t you feel like shoppin’ already? 2.65 million sq. ft. residential, 250,000 office, 467,000 retail. Ooh-and-Ahh Grade: B