Tuesday, February 16, 2010

No CB2 for 14th Street? Central Union Mission Move Delayed--Again

More and more, it's looking increasingly likely that the Central Union Mission will be staying put in its location at 14th and r streets for the foreseeable future.

As you may recall, the Mission struck a deal with developer Jeffrey Schonberger in 2006, agreeing to sell the property contingent upon their ability to find a new home. Originally, that home was to be on upper Georgia Avenue, but that move prove unpalatable to Petworth residents--and to the Mission's director, David Treadwell, who maintained that he would prefer to be downtown where the shelter's services would be in greater demand for its services.

Late in 2008, it was announced that the Mission was working on a deal to renovate and move into the currently vacant (and dilapidated) Gales School in downtown DC. However, a possible wrench was thrown into those plans when the ACLU threatened an action against the District on church/state grounds, essentially arguing that any deal by the city to allow the Mission (a Christian organization) to take possession of the school via any means other than a fair market deal or a competitive bidding process.

Throughout 2009, District leaders hemmed and hawed about how to resolve the situation. Meanwhile, in July 2009, Schonberger announced that talks were underway to bring CB2 into the Mission space once the Mission had moved into their new home, putting added pressure on both the Mission and DC to come to an agreement that would end the stalemate with the ACLU.

On January 20, 2010, in an attempt to move the process forward, the DC Office of Real Estate Services issued a solicitation for bids on the redevelopment of the Gales School into a homeless shelter, with a deadline to respond of February 16--a period of only 27 days. Sensing that something was amiss, the ACLU along with a second group, the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, filed a petition with the Office of Real Estate Services to extend the deadline to a full 60 days, arguing that the abbreviated period does not provide sufficient time for other organizations--namely, secular organizations--to respond.

So, what does this mean? Well, it doesn't mean that the Mission is out of the running for the building, but it *does* make it increasingly likely that other organizations will compile an RFP response for the coveted property, which could affect the Mission's chances of securing the winning bid. If nothing else, you can be assured that the selection process will be carefully scrutinized by all involved. If anything appears off about the awarding of the bid to the Mission, you can bet that the ACLU and other organizations will quickly get involved.

For Logan, this means an indefinite delay in the renovation of a large, key property along the 14th Street corridor. Even if the Mission is able to secure the winning bid for the Gales School redevelopment, the process of renovating the facility (which is now merely an exterior shell) into a habitable property will take months, if not years. So those of you holding your breath for the arrival of yet another chain furniture store to 14th Street might want to rethink your strategy.

The Mission is likely to wind up somewhere else eventually, but probably not for quite awhile.


brap said...

Good info. I wonder if the ACLU will be fully satisfied w/ the 60 days or if this will drag on for years...

Erica Amina said...

This is probably the ***ONLY*** time that I will ever say that "separation of church and state" is stupid.

Anonymous said...

Noooooo! I love CB2

Anonymous said...

The sooner the mission vacates the sooner the riff-raff will be out of our gentrified neighborhood.