Letter to Mayor Bowser: Make the Wardman Site a Model
Wardman Hotel Strategy Team
March 5, 2022
The Wardman Hotel Strategy Team (WHST) asks you to use the powers of your office and the city’s robust finances to make redevelopment of the former Wardman Hotel property a model of urban planning and support for the public good. This project could add luster to your record, shine a path forward for the nation as a whole, and help those in urgent need of affordable housing.
As you know, on Thursday, February 24, the Historic Preservation Review Board deferred action on Carmel Partners’ plans to redevelop the Wardman site. Carmel plans to build two towers with 900 apartments and only the bare minimum of 8% (IZ) set aside for affordable housing. HPRB members questioned the sufficiency of Carmel’s engagement with the community about this plan, citing the absence of community support for the project. The HPRB further wondered why the Office of Planning (OP) had not initiated a Large Tract Review (LTR) for this large site of 9.5 acres (acreage per Carmel’s HPRB application), clearly more than the three acres required to trigger LTR. Also, the local ANC 3C opposed the project as currently configured, as did numerous letters from the community, pointing to the paucity of affordable units, the absence of community planning and engagement, the excessive use of glass in the new buildings, the reluctance to undertake a school impact assessment, and the lack of local retail, such as a grocery store.
Ward 3 residents and housing advocates have long urged the city to purchase the property and reuse the enormous existing structure for significant mixed income affordable housing and benefits the community wants. While your administration did not bid at the bankruptcy auction last July, DMPED Falcicchio, in a May 2021 letter, committed your Administration to “maximize the residential potential of the site with an emphasis on affordable housing and attainable, middle-income housing.”
WHST supports development of a Wardman site that:
Provides substantial mixed income affordable housing for families;
Has support of the community, ANC 3C, housing and environmental advocates and your administration;
Is environmentally responsible by preserving the site’s green space and repurposing the existing structures as much as possible; and
Gives Carmel a reasonable return on its investment.
We need your action now to bring stakeholders together for listening and planning. Direct city agencies to work with Carmel, the community, ANC 3C, housing advocates including the WHST, Ward 3 Housing Justice (W3HJ), and Northwest Opportunity Partners CDC (NWOP), employees of the former hotel, environmental advocates, and other stakeholders to ensure a project we can all be proud of.
We ask you to direct OP to reverse its inaccurate position on LTR that the project occupies less than 3 acres. Instead direct OP to begin the impact review for which LTR is intended with wide engagement of community stakeholders in well-advertised listening sessions.
Fund additional mixed income affordable housing at the Wardman to add significant numbers toward the goals set forth in your Rock Creek West Roadmap. Bold city action now on the Wardman can reverse your disappointing affordable housing record in Ward 3.
So far only 163 affordable apartments will result from the three large tract sites under development in Ward 3 (City Ridge, 4000 WI Ave NW, and the Wardman).
The city is blessed with a newly revealed additional budget surplus
of $600M plus $400M in the Housing Production Trust Fund. You have the land use authority and OP tools to increase the supply of affordable housing, as we have seen to great effect in other wards. Just recently, you commended the Council for using eminent domain to bring a grocery store to Ward 7 and touted breaking ground for affordable housing on Parcel 42, public land in Shaw. You have the funds and tools, now we ask you to apply your resolve to enable hundreds of city families at many income levels to bring vitality to a new community at the Wardman in Ward 3.
Thank you for your consideration and action. We are ready to work with your administration to make the Wardman redevelopment a success.
Convenor, Wardman Hotel Strategy Team