The District has licensed a section of Lansburgh Park (1098 Delaware Ave. SW) for construction staging and crane swing space.
The licensee, 60 EYESTREET, LLC, is a joint venture between Foulger-Pratt and Bethel Pentecostal Tabernacle Assembly to develop the church’s property at 60 I Street SW into a 197-unit residential building and a new 17,000 square foot sanctuary.
Foulger-Pratt has already fenced off a section of the park, on which it plans to store construction materials, two trailers and a tower crane. Three trees were removed during preparations, one commissioner stated at the Feb. 14 meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6D.
“Foulger-Pratt entered a temporary license agreement with District of Columbia’s Parks and Recreation and Department of General Services this year in order to reduce the overall impact to public space during the construction process,” the developer said in a statement. “We have also been in regular communication with the ANC SMD about the scope of our project and related construction logistics.”
“We value the amenity the park provides to the neighborhood and will continue to engage with DGS and the ANC,” the statement concluded.
The Department of General Services (DGS) represents the city in the licensing agreement. DGS said the developer engaged the District Department of Transportation’s (DDOT) Urban Forestry Division and received all necessary approvals and instruction for tree removal.
ANC Left Out
But DGS did not consult with the commission about the Lansburgh Park contract, ANC 6D commissioners said at their Feb. 14th meeting, noting that a copy of the contract had to be obtained by FOIA.
In a statement, DGS said “the District is not required by law to notify Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) for this type of transaction,” but said the developer had engaged regularly with the ANC. DGS said space licensed in the agreement is about 5,500 square feet of Lansburgh Park. “Upon review of the request, the District determined that temporary use of this 5500-square foot space – or 2 percent of the park – would not negatively impact the enjoyment of the park.
Commissioners unanimously approved a letter to DGS objecting to the arrangement.
“It is particularly disturbing and entirely unacceptable that this agreement had to be discovered via a FOIA request,” Commissioners wrote in a draft letter to DGS and the Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), adding that the agreement “raises broader questions about the process by which DC government allows private companies to use public land to the detriment of city residents.”
The commission particularly questioned the $1 monthly licensing fee. “The users of Lansburgh Park value the space more highly than that, and the developers surely do as well,” ANC 6D commissioners wrote.
A more equitable agreement, they wrote, would have transferred benefits to the people bearing the brunt of the cost. “The ANC is surprised to learn that DC government’s budget is so well-balanced as to not need anything more than that dollar,” the letter stated.
Asked about the licensing fee, DGS prioritized process over profit. “The District government’s primary objective in this type of transaction is to ensure that adjacent landowners responsibly abide by the agreement through the procurement of permits, insurance, etc,” a representative wrote in an email.
Asked to comment on the matter, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen (D) stated, “I’m deeply concerned about the construction impact on Lansburgh Park and the loss of some of the Park’s heritage trees. I’ve made an inquiry into the Mayor’s office about who approved the plan and what, if any, community outreach they sought before giving the green light to take this public space.”
This story has been updated from the original to include comments for Foulger-Pratt and DGS.