D.C. Councilman Trayon White convened a meeting on Aug. 14 that had over 100 people attending at the United Planning Organization’s Anacostia office to explain the Reunion Square development’s community benefits agreement.
A community benefits agreement (CBA) establishes a contract between community groups and a real estate developer requiring the developer to provide specific amenities in the area. Reunion Square developers Curtis Investment Group and Four Points agreed recently to the CBA with White.
Reunion Square will be a mixed-use project in the Anacostia neighborhood near Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE and include 143 housing units that are set to be affordable, 7,000 square feet of modestly cost retail and office space and economical space for arts organization Anacostia Playhouse. The D.C. Department of Health will also relocate to Reunion Square.
The project will be paid for by Ward 8’s first Tax Increment Financing bill with $25 million in bonds.
Claudia Barragan, an aide in White’s office, explained the CBA.
“There will be employment opportunities for Ward 8 residents and affordable retail that will have economical rents to pay for operation,” Barragan said. “Ward 8 organizations will get funding from the Reunion Square project and there will be affordable housing units.”
She said 134 of those affordable units will be reserved for senior citizens.
Barragan said there will be opportunities for Ward 8 businesses that are certified business enterprises (CBEs) to work on the project and they will have precedence in the bidding process for contracts.
She also said Ward 8 residents will have the chance to invest in the project via crowdfunding, particularly for Building 5 of the project.
Barragan noted that Ward 8 residents will have guaranteed jobs in the pre-construction and construction phases of Reunion Square.
She said there will be 30 summer building internships for high school students, with 15 slated for Anacostia High School. Job vacancies on the project will be available to advisory neighborhood commissioners two weeks before a general listing takes place, she said.
Barragan said there will be grant money for incubators for office space and a restaurant. Historic preservation will be a priority, she said, and there will be monies for youth and senior citizen groups.
While many in the audience seemed to approve of the CBA, some had concerns.
“I would like to know, who gets what?” said Maisha Riddlesprigger, principal at Ketcham Elementary School. “I had no idea that organizations could get money. Is there a way our Friends of Ketcham Elementary School can get funding?”
White acknowledged Riddlesprigger’s concern and said he received 200 suggestions for organizational funding. He noted the Anacostia Coordinating Council and the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative will give out mini-grants to organizations on behalf of Reunion Square.
Mary Cuthbert, a former advisory neighborhood commissioner who played a role in the Entertainment and Sports Arena’s CBA, said CBAs are “good if they are done correctly.”
“The purpose of CBAs are to improve the community,” Cuthbert said. “The specifics in the agreement have to be right or the agreement won’t do any good. For example, it is not fair for one organization to get $10,000 for five years while others don’t get anything.”