Public/Private Partnerships

There’s an article in the Post about giving private developers access to develop public land and spaces in return for sorely needed infrastructure. What’s particularly relevant about the piece is that two of the named sites are in Central/Eastern Shaw: the Watha T Daniel library and Shaw Junior High School.

Something needs to be done about Watha T Daniel. Construction was going to begin on it this year I think, but that was scuttled and we’re back to the drawing board with more plans being drawn up. That empty library looks like, to borrow someone else’s description, a refugee camp sometimes with so many camping out outside the place. Hardly the image the neighborhood wants to present to Metro passengers exiting there.

After reading the article, I think I, personally, can support idea of public/private partnerships to rebuild schools and libraries. Consider this:

With the costs of fixing schools and libraries estimated at close to $2 billion, said D.C. Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp, “I don’t believe we can tax our way out.”

Honestly, I don’t want to pay any more taxes than DC residents already do. We shoulder a pretty high tax burden because of all of the land that isn’t taxable by the DC government. Let’s create a bigger tax base and spread the burden across it.

Simi Batra, a neighborhood association president, says:

“You don’t sell your public spaces to finance school construction; that’s not how it’s done,” Batra said. “Because what happens the next time a renovation needs to be done? In a hundred years, there will be nothing left to sell.”

Actually, that’s wrong. Theoretically a larger tax base (from new residents and businesses) and a more responsible government will be able to annually fund the public buildings so that they never get back to this horrid state.

I guess I can live with some responsibly planned higher density if we get better schools and libraries.

6 thoughts on “Public/Private Partnerships”

  1. i too am concerned about the city selling its land.

    I strongly want more development in this city, but i also want the city to have the capacity to grow in ways that we may not be able to foresee.

    There may be a need in the near future for totally different types of city facilities. where will we get the space for them to exist?

    Ward five has been the dumping ground for many city social services, but according to the development map in the post, there are sites all over the city that could be used for homeless shelters, emergency shelters, rehab clinics, etc…

    DC had its highest population in the late 40’s early 50’s ( over 800,000). We are just under 600,000, but what if we swell up again? While we need to encourage private development, we also need to look forward to what the future needs of the city may be.

  2. Nothing says the city can’t obtain land in the future by purchase and eminent domain (see stupid stadium). One problem, not having a friggin clue of what the city owns. How can you take care of something when you don’t know you have it? In the meantime the property can sit and not serve the community (unless you are a member of the drug dealing prostituting community), not bring in tax dollars, and hurt future prospects. Yes, private property can sit, but hopefully that private property is being taxed.

  3. Scenic Artisan, those are good points. However, DC has limited land whether or not there’s a private/public partnership. The only way for the area to appreciably expand is toward the ‘burbs. And that’s not great. There’s a lot of vacant and abandoned land that can be used for private development and I expect that will continue.

    I don’t think the city would just give it’s land to private developers to turn into condo’s. Instead, I imagine that they’d let a private developer help design and build the new Watha T. Daniel library and build two floors of condo’s on top of it. The city could offer some tax credits or incentives to compensate the developer. It seems like a win-win if it’s done well. The city gets to repair infrastructure badly in need of work and it provides a wider tax base to prevent the running down of DC property in the future.

    Of course this all depends on the successful execution and management of a program like that. We’ll see if DC decides to try and then, maybe, how well they can pull it off.

  4. Two thoughts:

    1. Putting condos/apartments above libraries makes perfect sense to me.

    2. I am in favor of these types of projects as they mostly just change the density of the current stock. Take Shaw Junior High School, the school could be put in a five story building with half the footprint. And any change would certainly improve the look of the building. As long as the used open space is maintained or increased I support these programs.

  5. Personally as a lover of libraries, somebody call me as soon as I can get a condo on top of the ‘brar. Can’t wait.

    Seriously, DC has to look at innovative ways to solve our problems, especially when they require more dollars than our tax base can support. We should embrace public-private partnerships knowing that they require openness and community imput if they are be beneficial to DC in the long-term.

  6. I agree too. Bring in the private dollars.

    To be a world-class city, and a place we’re all happy to call home, DC needs to bring its public services up to par. If we can’t do it with public funds (and it seems clear we can’t afford to), let’s get creative and bring in the private dollars.

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