- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 13, 2005

At odds over development

I am writing to comment on the letters written by officials of the National Capital Revitalization Corp. in response to Tom Knott’s column about Skyland Shopping Center (“Economic development in S.E.,” Letters, Saturday; “Skyland makeover needn’t be hostile takeover,” Metropolitan, July 7). I represent a number of the merchants and property owners at Skyland. The merchants are extremely concerned about the anticipated loss of their businesses and livelihoods if Skyland is taken over by eminent domain.

First, it should be noted that Mr. Knott’s series of columns about Skyland and the merchants have been award-winning and unique in addressing the perspective of the existing merchants and property owners. In all the talk about how great the new Skyland will be, the plight of the present Skyland merchants and property owners has been ignored.

Anthony C. Freeman, president and chief executive officer of NCRC, stated in his letter that NCRC is deeply concerned about the current tenants, especially the small business owners. He stated that NCRC has significantly increased the business-relocation line of the budget and engaged a “well-respected company” to develop individual plans to minimize the financial impact of relocation.

I have consistently raised my concerns with NCRC about the adequacy and timeliness of any relocation assistance. If NCRC has increased the business-relocation line of its budget, I am unaware of that increase.



Further, I have repeatedly asked that the company to which Mr. Freeman refers, Diversified Property Services Inc., keep me abreast of any efforts to assist my clients in relocation. I expressed my concern in a letter dated June 13 to the person at Diversified Property Services assigned to the Skyland matter. In my letter, I wrote, “Could you please advise me as to what progress has been made in relocation options and funding? As we discussed, my clients are extremely concerned that relocating their businesses may be extremely costly. They are also worried that suitable alternative locations may not be available and that they may not be able to restart their businesses at a new location. In addition, if the merchants are required to move, a substantial amount of lead time may be required. Consequently, a time line and other concrete information would be extremely useful.” I have not received any response from Diversified Property to my letter.

Finally, the assumption that the merchants and property owners can be relocated and successfully continue in their businesses is greatly in doubt. A scholarly book on urban development discusses the harm suffered by small businesses that must relocate, as follows:

“Other notable victims of city rebuilding were the owners and employees of small businesses … According to a federal survey of fifty local renewal programs, more than one-third of dispossessed firms went out of business — at a rate significantly above normal business failures. Other studies indicate that small companies and retail service businesses tied to neighborhood customers were especially vulnerable.” (Bernard J. Frieden and Lynne B. Sagalyn in “Downtown, Inc.: How America Rebuilds Cities, 1989, pages 34 and 35)

The letters written by the NCRC officials show great concern for the desires of the neighbors (“the good people of the surrounding community”) but disdain for the merchants at Skyland (describing tenants as “insults to the Skyland community”), even though the Skyland merchants include national and regional stores. The merchants of Skyland should not lose their livelihood because of the wishes of the neighbors to have a different shopping experience at Skyland.

ELAINE MITTLEMAN

Falls Church

In response to Anthony Freeman’s letter, my client, First FSKLP (FSK), takes issue with every one of Mr. Freeman’s assertions.

First, Mr. Freeman claimed that NCRC has dedicated more than three years to working closely with the community and that property owners have been unresponsive. However, FSK has been trying to organize a joint venture with NCRC to redevelop Skyland since before September 2003 and has been rebuffed at every turn. NCRC promised a response but never provided one until June 2005, when FSK was given just 22 days to respond.

Second,Mr.Freeman claimed that NCRC participated in numerous community meetings and testified before the D.C. Council. Yet at the NCRC’s own November 2004 Town Hall meeting on Skyland, residents said they did not want a “wholesale retailer” or a “large anchor.” Why does Mr. Freeman ignore this? Curiously, the results of that town meeting study are no longer posted on the NCRC Web site.

Third, Mr. Freeman stated that NCRC is concerned about the current tenants and has provided for their relocation. The fact is that NCRC’s response has ranged from nonexistent to inadequate.

Fourth, Mr. Freeman stated that market research indicates there is $500 million in annual buying potential in Southeast Washington. FSK’s proposal offers the same amount of retail as the NCRC proposal, and it would bring highly desirable housing to Southeast Washington — just what the mayor has requested. Why ignore residential?

Fifth, Mr. Freeman stated that NCRC “extended [its] redevelopment schedule to enable property owners to … deliver a viable redevelopment plan.” FSK was given 22 days to accomplish what NCRC could not do in five years.

We also must take issue with many of Ted Risher’s points. First, Mr. Risher stated that Tom Knott never contacted him or anyone at NCRC. Perhaps, like requests from the Skyland property owners, Mr. Knott’s calls just went unanswered.

Second, Mr. Risher spoke of the Skyland property owners not taking “even remedial steps to improve the property’s appearance, police illicit activity and improve public safety … and attract retail tenants who weren’t … insults to the Skyland community … .” FSK has restored its buildings and provided tenants such as Foot Locker, Murry’s and Sports Zone at the site. How can these stores be called insults? They are well-stocked, bright and clean. And where are the police in taking care of Mr. Risher’s concerns for public safety?

Third, Mr. Risher stated that NCRC’s dealings with Skyland owners has been fair. The facts are that NCRC has been unresponsive to FSK, which has provided alternative designs and offered to partner with NCRC. FSK has spoken to developers and discussed design alternatives with the Urban Land Institute.

Both Mr. Freeman and Mr. Risher overlook what is most important for Skyland now: What is the way to bring the best development possible to the site? Why wouldn’t NCRC want to pursue a plan that is better, faster and cheaper?

DAVID L. BURKA

President

Delbe Real Estate Co. Inc.

Washington

CAFTA and the textile industry

Alan Reynolds (“CAFTA, China and the Carolinas,” Commentary, Sunday) blames confusion regarding the textile industry’s opposition to CAFTA on “reporters [who fail to] spot the difference between fabric and clothing.” In fact, it is Mr. Reynolds who has the players confused. It is not surprising that groups such as the American Apparel & Footwear Association support CAFTA; the majority of AAFA members long ago abandoned manufacturing in the United States.

The National Textile Association has the largest representation of fabric-making companies in the United States. NTA opposes this CAFTA bill because of the huge loopholes in the agreement, which would allow fabric from China and other countries to enter the United States duty-free in the form of garments, to the detriment of the textile industry in the United States and Central America.

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, the United States in 2004 exported $4 billion in textile products to the CAFTA region. Much of that production came back as part of the $10 billion in textile and apparel shipments from the region to the United States. The current arrangement with the Caribbean and Central America obviously provides for duty-free treatment of garment production in that region using U.S fabrics, without the market- and job-destroying loopholes included in the new CAFTA bill.

The American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition, another group representing domestic textile and other manufacturing interests, estimates that the loopholes in this version of CAFTA amount to an annual giveaway of 550 million to 750 million meters of current U.S. textile exports to the region. That business will be replaced largely by Chinese fabric, and Central America will become little more than a trans-shipment point for goods of Chinese origin.

KARL SPILHAUS

President

National Textile Association

Boston

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