- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Mayor Anthony A. Williams has tied plans to overhaul the city’s ailing library system to a massive development project on the site of the old city convention center property in Northwest.

In a letter to the council earlier this month, Mr. Williams said he would finance construction of a new central library on the old convention center site and revitalize the city’s branch libraries if he wins approval for plans for a downtown “city center.”

The city center project development team is led by Hines Interest Limited Partnership, of Houston, and Archstone-Smith Operating Trust of Colorado. Plans call for 300,000 square feet of retail space, 1,372 housing units and office space at the 10.2-acre site of the old convention center at 11th Street and New York Avenue NW.

As part of the project, Mr. Williams wants to use revenue from the development to build a new central library on the site as well as to fund upgrades to branch offices, Chris Bender, spokesman for the D.C. Office of Planning and Economic Development, said yesterday.

“We’re saying let’s build a new grand central library on the convention center site, make it a part of the new city center, take some of the money that is generated at the site, capture it and farm it out to redevelop the branch libraries,” Mr. Bender said.

Mr. Williams briefly discussed his plans for the convention center property during his State of the District speech on Monday. He said, “the old convention center site will become a new city center, a place where people from every ward will come to work, play, eat, and, yes, read in a state-of-the-art central library.”

It’s not clear whether tying the revitalization of the libraries to the project will help Mr. Williams win council support for the project.

“I think there are some people who will see it as making the project as more palatable, while others will see it as making it more controversial,” Mr. Bender said. “I’m not sure if it will advance the ball or not, but we see it as the right thing to do.”

D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp yesterday said she thinks the council supports most of the plans contained in the proposal to redevelop the old convention center site.

But two key issues remain unresolved, Mrs. Cropp said. She said the council needs to study the library proposal and plans for where to locate a new convention center hotel. The two final proposals call for the hotel to be located on the old convention center site or across the street from the new convention center at Ninth Street and New York Avenue.

“What we’ll need to see is what the impact will be on the D.C. taxpayer,” Mrs. Cropp said. “We need to see figures, and we haven’t seen them yet.”

D.C. Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said he, too, is reserving judgment on the library funding plan.

“I just need to see the particulars before I would become convinced that there is an opportunity to benefit the branch libraries,” Mr. Graham said.

Mr. Williams in his letter indicated that the project will generate $30 million per year for the city in taxes and more 5,000 permanent jobs and about 7,500 jobs during construction.

The letter also identified several local companies expected to win subcontracts through the project, including Bundy Development Corporation and the Neighborhood Development Company. Others include A-1 Construction and Consulting LLC, owned by D.C. lobbyist Kerry S. Pearson, and Jarvis Construction, which is owned by relatives of former Ward 4 Council member Charlene Drew Jarvis.

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