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D.C. Releases New Development RFP With Emphasis On 'Disadvantaged' Bidders

The former Slater Elementary School and John Mercer Langston Elementary School buildings at 33-45 P St. NW.
The former Slater Elementary School and John Mercer Langston Elementary School buildings at 33-45 P St. NW.

D.C. is looking to make its development awards more equitable as it begins to roll out a series of requests for proposals.

Mayor Muriel Bowser's administration released a new RFP Wednesday for the site of two former elementary school buildings at 33-45 P St. NW in Truxton Circle

The RFP is the first issued under a new set of priority rules aimed at improving the equity of the companies that benefit from D.C.'s development deals.

"We are committed to making our city's prosperity more inclusive, but that won't happen by chance — it will happen because as a government and as individuals, we are intentional about how we invest and who we make opportunities available to," Bowser said in a release. 

The new rules will give priority to teams that maximize the ownership and control of three types of entities: Disadvantaged Business Entities, Residence Owned Businesses or any entity designated as socially disadvantaged under the Small Business Administration's definition. 

The District hopes this will lead to greater diversity among the companies that lead development teams, not just the companies that are included as part of a team, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development John Falcicchio tells Bisnow

"Traditionally, we've inserted diversity into economic development projects by having people who meet these categories as part of the team that does the project. What we're making a pivot toward is making sure they are the leaders of that team," Falcicchio said. "That allows them to be the decision-maker on what happens at the site, who gets hired and where they get investment for the project."

Earlier this month, D.C's African American Real Estate Professionals group released a platform of anti-racist policies that included a call for local governments to mandate that 33% of their awards and contracts go to Black-owned businesses. 

Falcicchio said the District couldn't include race as a factor in the RFP priorities, but he said he has talked with AAREP about the priorities and believes they align with the organization's goals. 

DMPED plans to issue a series of RFPs in the coming weeks that it had initially planned to unveil at its annual March Madness event before that was canceled because of the coronavirus. 

The first RFP, released Wednesday, is for the site of two former elementary schools that were built in 1891 and 1902: the Slater Elementary School and the John Mercer Langston Elementary School.

The Slater school building is currently occupied by the Associates for Renewal in Education. Falcicchio said the nonprofit has more than a decade left on its lease and the development team that wins the project will have to either keep it on the site or detail a plan to relocate it. 

The site has roughly 30K SF of land area and has a zoning designation of RF-1, allowing for buildings of up to three stories. Falcicchio said the project would likely be an adaptive reuse of the school buildings, and he hopes it can create dozens of new housing units. 

"The schools haven't been fully used in years, and the community has come to us and said they want to see it put back to productive use, so we think it could be a really good site for housing in this Truxton Circle neighborhood," Falcicchio said. "It could be a good mixed-use development with a nonprofit user as well as the housing."

Falcicchio declined to provide more detail on the additional upcoming RFPs it plans to release, but he said they will all be larger than the Truxton Circle site. He said all of the upcoming RFPs would also use the new equity priorities.