Tue, Mar 8, 2022 at 6:51 PM
From: Nadeau, Brianne K. (Council) BNadeau@dccouncil.us
To: Adams Morgan for Reasonable Development email@example.com, “Mansoor, Aamir (Council)” firstname.lastname@example.org, “Meni, David (Council)” email@example.com
Thank you for your message regarding the privately-owned plaza at the corner of 18th Street and Columbia Road, NW. To be sure, there are quite a number of dynamics at play in this space, which was adopted by the public many years ago and has been treated as if it were a public space since that time.
As the Councilmember in Ward 1, I have worked incredibly hard to invest in the open spaces we do own, and in this area that includes M&T Plaza and Unity Park. Both of these public spaces are being enhanced and improved with new investments like tree planting and added seating, both of which were recommended in the Vision Framework planning process.
In the current budget I secured funds for a new surface at Unity Park as well as grants for programming there. I was also happy to be able to assist the farmers market in relocating there as the new season began.
When Truist first made it clear that they intended to fence off the plaza, I sprung into action to get permits for the market, but also to intensify services for those experiencing homelessness who have been residing there. With the investments I have made as Chairperson of the Committee on Human Services, we now have robust outreach as well as housing options for thousands of residents experiencing homelessness.
In this case, through the hard work of our street outreach team, our ANC and other community partners, we were able to ensure that everyone on the plaza was matched with a
voucher, and has either been permanently housed or is awaiting housing in the warmth and safety of a hotel.
In the meantime, Truist has stored their belongings securely. We will continue to work with our agency and non-profit partners to assist other residents who have spent time or some nights on the site but did not live in the encampment full-time.
There are so many needs in our community, and that is why I support both the enhancement of our public spaces as well as building new housing in areas that have access to transit and amenities, such as this parcel. I do not believe that it is in the best interest of the public to wage a legal battle to acquire a private space through eminent domain for two primary reasons. First, the legal grounds for doing so are incredibly weak, and would lead to the expenditure of substantial public funds with very little chance of success.
Second, and this contributes to the shaky legal grounds in my first point, we have both publicly owned plazas and parks in the direct vicinity of this one and we have a larger publicly owned site within this ANC that will be redeveloped in the near future with an opportunity for a public library and other community amenities. Utilizing our own land for these types of projects offers the most prudent use of government resources with the least risk to taxpayers.
I recognize the historical and commemorative importance of this site, but even if the above problems with acquisition were not there, I believe it would be inequitable to direct considerable funding and resources here while other areas of Ward 1 are severely lacking in public space. It has been a mission of mine as Councilmember to prioritize filling gaps in access to open space across the entirety of Ward 1.