Residents fight to keep Hurt Home in government hands
Wednesday night's meeting between representatives from the City executive branch and Georgetown residents made one thing clear: if the historic Hurt Home at 3050 R Street is going to be relinquished by the City for private development at next week's public roundtable, it's not going to happen without a fight.
A sparsely-attended event in the basement of Jelleff Boys & Girls Club, the meeting was a cursory affair on the subject of surplusing, or approving the city-owned Hurt Home for sale to private ownership. Cursory, because the legislation requiring Roberts' office to get feedback passed when the City was in the middle of the surplusing process and had already selected the Argos Group as the developer who can exclusively negotiate to purchase the Hurt Home once it is surplused.
Residents were expected to discuss only specific public uses for the building as alternatives to surplusing, and the meeting, David Roberts of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development made clear from the outset, would not affect the fact that a developer had already been selected—"it is kind of check-the-box," Roberts admit.
But Georgetown residents saw things a little differently. Their anger at the city representatives' perfunctory approach to the meeting often reaching a fever pitch, residents at the meeting accused Roberts and his colleagues for keeping them in the dark during the search for a public use for the building and failing to publicize the meeting well.
"This is the first time we as a neighborhood [are] being asked what to do with a property that the City has been trying to get rid of for five years," one resident said. Another agreed, "You're asking us to comment on a process we know nothing about ... You don't see the absurdity of this?"
They also questioned the sincerity of the Economic Development Council, the government agency that had put the property up for consideration for surplusing, in finding a new public use for the home, which had been vacated by the Devereux Children's Center in 2005.
Roberts maintained that if no agency had asked to use the building in the last five years, no agency was going to be interested if the City Council rejects the surplusing on June 16.
"Do you want the City to use the property for the City? I guess what I'm trying to say is, it will sit there empty if that's what you want, because there is no use for it," he said. "This building is vacant, it's falling apart, it's about to become more of a nuisance, and no city agency wants to be there ... [W]e don't have any money to fix it."
Residents agreed that their next course of action will be to testify at the June 16 rountable with Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, where the Council will decide whether to surplus the building and give DMPED the authority to negotiate with Argos. Argos's current plan is to convert the Hurt Home into about 35 condos with underground parking, which it seems the community will also object to once the plan is more fleshed out.
"Everything this developer wants to do has to pass the ANC, the Old Georgetown Board," one resident said, "and we can claw and fight left and right, and they know that.'