- The Washington Times - Friday, July 4, 2003

D.C. planners have narrowed the list of development groups — from four teams to two — vying to build a large housing and retail complex at the old convention center site.

A group made up of Charles E. Smith Residential, Hines Interests Limited Partnership and the Georgetown Co. will compete against a team made up of Forest City and the Jarvis Group to build the $600 million complex.

A decision could come by the end of the summer, with the winner developing the site with at least 1,000 units of housing and 300,000 square feet of retail. The developer may also work to build concert halls, an office building, a major library and a small hotel.

The District received bids from seven development teams in December and in April narrowed the list of candidates to four. A decision on a final developer was expected last month, but D.C. officials said they wanted to collect more information on how the teams would interact with the public if they were selected.

“We had such a high level of competition that we felt comfortable narrowing it down and focusing on these two,” said Steve Green, a special assistant in the office of the deputy mayor for planning and economic development.

During the next six weeks, the two remaining teams will meet with D.C. planners in a series of design sessions, modeled after the “charrette” system, in which members of the public meet with the developer and have a direct effect on how a project will look.

D.C. planners graded the development teams based on how well they satisfied criteria laid out in the city’s requests for proposals in the fall. Teams were scored on a 100-point scale, with 60 points given to qualifications and methodology. The remaining 40 points were based on financial strength and commitment to helping small and disadvantaged businesses.

In addition, teams took planners on tours of their other completed projects and answered two rounds of detailed questions from internal and external panels. The panels included D.C. planning officials, council members, architects and financial experts.

Mr. Green said the two remaining teams set themselves apart because of their ability to finance the project, thus freeing the District from financial risk. The complex will be the largest single-developer project in the District.

D.C. planners consider the redevelopment of the old convention center site to be a key part of efforts to revitalize the downtown area.

Cleveland-based Forest City, which has offices in Rockville, has been involved in several development projects in the area, including the Waterfront development in Southwest and the Ballston Common Mall. It has also led public-private efforts to redevelop the old airport in Denver.

Hines owns more than a dozen office buildings in the District and is the development manager for the USA Today/Gannett Headquarters in McLean.

Arlington-based Charles E. Smith Residential developed many apartment and condominium complexes in the Washington area, including the majority of those in Crystal City.

The District eliminated from consideration teams led by the Related Cos. and District of Columbia Civic Development.

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