Jack Evans Report
I’m feeling a little more optimistic these days and wondering if we are turning a corner, at least in one respect, with regard to the economy. For the first time in the last couple of years, I can see how some development projects important to Ward 2 could move forward. The key in all instances has been this: access to capital is opening up and people are looking for places to invest. Fortunately, I think D.C. has rebuilt and maintained a good reputation over the past decade as a good place to invest. Not just because of the relative economic stability that comes with the presence of the federal government, but also that we, as citizens, have brought the city back to life. We are no longer the financial and physical wreck we once were a decade ago, and if I have anything to do with it, we will never, ever return to those days. That doesn’t mean there aren’t still challenges ahead, of course.
I think the economy is warming up a bit, and what that means is investment capital is loosening and looking for a place to go. D.C. needs to be in the position to say, like a kid perhaps, “Pick me, pick me!” We are doing all we can to make this happen and having conversations about projects large and small across the city and ward.
Of particular interest are the Market at O Street project in Shaw and the new Convention Center hotel on Ninth Street. Both of these projects, after several financial delays, appear to be back on track and moving. I particularly appreciate the hard work of Roadside Development in moving the O Street project forward. Imagine trying to finance a development that contains a new Giant grocery store, a hotel, condos, senior housing, an underground garage, and other retail. The financing for each of these components, in case you didn’t know, can be quite different. You can secure financing for the grocery store, but there was a serious downturn in financing hotels for quite some time. The complexity of the financing of this project cannot be underestimated, so I am especially glad we’ll see a groundbreaking in earnest in early September. Bravo! This truly is a lynchpin project in the heart of Shaw that I believe will help spur other positive investment.
The new Convention Center hotel, likewise, is making headway after a period of stalling. The District stepped up to the plate to help provide bond financing for the project, but a dispute between JBG and Marriott on some other issues delayed moving forward on the matter. Like any number of other disputes, you just have to get the parties to keep talking, and I salute the work of Attorney General Peter Nickles in getting the two parties to settle so we can move forward on issuing the bonds, with groundbreaking commencing shortly thereafter. This project too will serve as a catalyst on the west side of the Convention Center and will help serve as an anchor to further investment along Ninth Street in Shaw.
The District government, of course, has very little influence on the national economy, as one might expect. But, where we can make a difference is in two ways: by stepping up to the plate as needed and providing financial assistance to close gaps and move projects forward in tough economic times and by keeping our nose to the grindstone and not giving up on projects we know will be a success, such as these two. There have been many challenges standing in the way of both of these projects — political, economic, logistical, etc. — but I have found that if you keep focused, you will be prepared to move forward when things are looking up again. And at this juncture, I think things are looking up.