- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2007

The National Capital Revitalization Corp. (NCRC) and the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. (AWC) came under attack again yesterday at a D.C. Council meeting to review the organizations’ recent activities.

Council member Kwame R. Brown, at-large Democrat, said he was not trying to stop progress by the organizations, but that he would be “holding them accountable” for questionable expenses and delays in completing deals. A hearing on whether to dissolve them is scheduled for March 13.

“We’re going to ask where the money is,” Mr. Brown said.

Some D.C. Council members, including Jack Evans, Ward 2 Democrat, want the economic development organizations abolished.

The organizations are supposed to lead the District’s real estate and business growth by making deals, and helping developers arrange financing and work through regulatory obstacles. About $10 billion of new projects are under development in the District.

The NCRC, which was created in 2001, promotes economic development of underused property. The AWC, which was formed in 2004, is focused on encouraging business development, cleaning up the Anacostia River and revitalizing Southeast and Southwest neighborhoods along the waterfront.

In the past month, they have been thrown into upheaval by D.C. Council calls to get rid of them. Both of their chief executive officers have resigned.

A two-year dispute over a 47-acre land transfer from NCRC to the AWC is only now being resolved. The land is scheduled to be transferred next week after delays involving financing and legal obstacles.

Renovation of Skyland Shopping Center at Good Hope Road and Naylor Road Southeast was one of Mr. Brown’s top concerns. The renovation, which is scheduled to begin early next year, is being overseen by the NCRC.

The District plans to provide $40 million in tax incentives for the $125 million renovation. When finished, Skyland Shopping Center would be spread over 300,000 square feet on 18.5 acres.

For most projects, there is little question about how the funds are spent.

“When I get to Skyland, there are question marks,” Mr. Brown said.

NCRC officials say any recent problems with their organization are short-lived.

“We think it’s premature to be suggesting the organization is not effective,” said Crystal Wright, NCRC spokeswoman. “There’s much more going on. I don’t know how you deny a billion dollars in deals being closed. They’re going up.”

Supporters of the NCRC and AWC blamed the friction on misunderstandings and breakdowns in communication.

“While some of the criticism of NCRC has been fair, much, in my view, has not,” said Charles C. Wilkes, chairman of developer Wilkes Co. “Clear articulation of goals and policies by the legislative and executive branches will help.”

He said the NCRC is successful “at a very high level” in redeveloping neighborhoods and maximizing the value of city-owned property.

Critics of the organizations said their problems resulted from mismanagement.

Andy Litsky, vice chairman of the Sixth Ward’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission for Southwest, said he had difficulty getting access to NCRC staff to speak about potential traffic problems related to the new stadium.

“They would routinely, absolutely stonewall us,” he said.

Property Lines runs on Thursdays. Call Tom Ramstack at 202/636-3180 or e-mail tram [email protected]

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