OP “Very Disappointed” in Wardman Response on Affordable Housing
Wardman Hotel Strategy Team
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 9, 2022
Contact: Gail Sonnemann, 202-286-0845, firstname.lastname@example.org
The District’s Office of Planning (OP) said it was “disappointed” in the lack of response to approaches by the city for more affordable housing in the redevelopment of the former Wardman Hotel in Woodley Park. “We offered all the tools at our disposal … but have not received any take-up,” Anita Cozart, Office of Planning Interim Director, told housing advocates from the Wardman Hotel Strategy Team (WHST) at an online meeting on Friday, May 6. “So, we are very disappointed.”
The WHST group is pushing the city to use its robust finances and other tools to create mixed income affordable housing at the Wardman, as part of the effort to achieve Mayor Bowser’s goal of 1990 affordable housing units in Rock Creek West (primarily Ward 3) by 2025. Carmel Partners, the new Wardman owners, plan to tear down the existing buildings and build two glass-walled towers with only 72 affordable units out of 900 planned. WHST asserts that OP can and should perform the Large Tract Review (LTR) that is compulsory for all projects over three acres. Carmel’s documents say the “proposed scope of work…is limited to a central 9.5-acre parcel … within the 16-acre” project. OP, however, says that the “addition … covers less than 3 acres.”
Since the hotel’s bankruptcy last year, several city officials have supported more affordable housing at the Wardman. In May, DMPED John Falcicchio expressed a “desire to maximize the residential potential of the site with an emphasis on affordable housing and attainable, middle-income housing.” Also last year, Ward 5 Councilmember McDuffie asked Mayor Bowser to put $140 million in the city’s budget to buy Wardman at the bankruptcy auction, which the Mayor refused.
And just this month, at the Historic Preservation Review Board hearing on the Wardman design, longtime board member and former chair Gretchen Pfaehler stated that while LTR is not within HPRB's purview, "if this property merits it, it should certainly have that review because it's rare that we have large areas of land available in the District for re-visioning and reuse.” HPRB chair Marnique Heath concurred.
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