D.C. Launching New Initiatives To Complement Opportunity Zones
D.C. officials hope the opportunity zone program will benefit the city's underserved areas, so the District is launching three new local initiatives to complement the federal program.
Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the initiatives Tuesday at D.C.'s annual March Madness event, where she spoke on a panel alongside an architect of the opportunity zone program, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.), Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Brian Kenner. D.C. officials also announced a series of requests for proposals the city plans to release this year for new development sites.
Bowser announced the creation of the OZ Community Corp., a set of lawyers, accountants and other experts who will provide pro bono services to help existing D.C. businesses benefit from the opportunity zone program.
The city will also create an online marketplace to connect opportunity zone investors with projects in D.C.
"Whether you have a project that might benefit from opportunity zone funding, or if you have a fund itself and you’re trying to find really great projects in the District of Columbia, this online marketplace will be a place where you can easily see everything that’s happening," Kenner said.
The third new initiative the mayor announced was a $24M investment from the District to support affordable housing and small businesses in opportunity zones. Bowser last week announced a 30% increase in the District's primary affordable housing fund in her proposed budget.
"We want to complement what this federal tax incentive is doing locally, because we want to ensure that it trickles down to the mom-and-pop," Bowser said. "We want to ensure that it helps people get started and get ready to take advantage of those opportunities."
The opportunity zone program, which provides tax benefits to investors who put money into underserved areas, was passed as part of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Scott, who authored the provision along with Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), said it is promising to see local jurisdictions like D.C. finding their own ways to support the program.
"What the mayor has done is incredibly powerful," Scott said. "She has harmonized the city's priorities and resources to help take advantage of the federal legislation, which is brilliant."
In addition to the opportunity zone initiatives, D.C. also announced several upcoming developments for which it is seeking partners in the commercial real estate industry.
D.C. is looking to redevelop three city-owned properties around the U Street corridor, with the largest being the Reeves Center at the busy 14th and U streets NW intersection.
The Frank D. Reeves Center of Municipal Affairs was built during Mayor Marion Barry's administration in 1986. The eight-story building sitting on a 2.2-acre site includes offices for over 1,000 D.C. employees. The District is still in the early stages of reimagining the site and plans to engage the community in the process before releasing a request for proposals this fall.
"We seek to understand how potential redevelopment can respond equitably to the residential, commercial, civic and social needs of the neighborhood," DMPED Director of Real Estate Sarosh Olpadwala said.
In the same neighborhood, DMPED is looking at potential redevelopments of the fire station at 1617 U St. NW and a city-owned warehouse building at 1325 S St. NW.
D.C. plans to release an RFP this summer for the quarter-acre lot at 5760 Georgia Ave. NW. The site, formerly occupied by a firehouse, has zoning that permits medium-density mixed-use development.
The District is also planning to release RFPs this year for two major development sites in Wards 7 and 8.
On Anacostia's Poplar Point, D.C. has a 110-acre site slated to be transferred from the federal government that it is looking to master plan for development. The property, sitting near Redbrick LMD's planned Columbian Quarter project, is bounded by South Capitol Street, Interstate 295 and the 11th Street Bridge.
The redevelopment, for which DMPED plans to release an RFP this fall, would be required to include 70 acres of parks and open space.
"Poplar Point is one of the last and largest great urban waterfront opportunities on the East Coast," Olpadwala said. "Big projects don't get much bigger than this."
In Ward 7's Marshall Heights neighborhood, DMPED is seeking to redevelop the 15-acre site of the former Fletcher-Johnson School at 4650 Benning Road SE. It is planning to release an RFP this spring for the site, which is zoned for low- to moderate-density residential use.
D.C.'s Department of Housing and Community Development plans to release a solicitation May 1 for a site at 199 Chesapeake St. SW in Ward 8. The 17,500 SF site is zoned for low-density residential development.
The Department of Parks and Recreation is seeking architectural services for four new parks at 3030 G St. SE, 611 Alabama Ave. SE, 1919 15th St. SE and 3201 Fort Lincoln Drive NE.
The Department of General Services is soliciting a general contractor for the modernization of the Thaddeus Stevens Elementary School at 1050 21 St. NW and for the renovation of Franklin Square Park, D.C.'s largest park at 14th and I streets NW.