Sunday, October 28, 2007
Navy Yard Metro Expansion & Monument Realty
Granted--I am treading into some uncharted territory on this one--but I felt there was a need to find some more answers. For a few weeks now--it was reported that Monument Realty is 7 weeks behind schedule on their portion of the Navy Yard Metro Expansion Project. At the same time, The Washington Post also reported that Monument might "slow down" their contracted work on the Navy Yard Expansion Project which benefits New Nationals Park. This, as a result of Monument being upset with Metro over not being announced as the recommended buyer for Metro's nearby Bus Garage. A key property across the street from the new stadium. A lot, which Monument wants to integrate into its Mix Use Ballpark District.
As most any fan of Our Washington Nationals realizes--Metro is a KEY FACTOR in helping to alleviate possible traffic congestion around New Nationals Park. When this story was first reported--many baseball fans immediately were concerned over its impact. And, who might be responsible for the construction delays. There is alot influx over parking and transportation needs right now. Although alot of fresh, good information has been released of late--some worry is still at hand. So, I decided to dig a little deeper.
Nearly two weeks ago--I wrote a post based on Metro Spokesperson Lisa Farbstein's response to my question concerning the Navy Yard Expansion with the following comment. At that time--Metro stated: "Here's a little more data on the Navy Yard station expansion. We're expanding the mezzanine to accommodate 15,000 fans per hour instead of the 5,000 per hour it can handle now. We're doing the mezzanine expansion. The work we are doing is ON SCHEDULE. Meanwhile, Monument Realty is doing work on the entrance to their building. To get to the station, one will need to enter their building. Their work is what is not on schedule."
Since there is always two sides to every story--I reached out to Monument Realty to see if they might be interested in speaking to me. Having read that Monument was filing a lawsuit against WMATA over the Bus Garage Issue--I was not sure they would respond. But, last week, sure enough Monument did. Russell Hines--Monument's Executive Vice President--contacted me and said he would be available on Friday, October 26th. That conversation took place a little after 10AM, via phone. Also on the line, was Monument's Vice President for The Ballpark District--Amy Phillips.
With all that in mind--lets begin my conversation with Russell Hines and Amy Phillips of Monument Realty. And, remember: Since there are three different people involved in this chat--both Russell and Amy will be clearly named before each quote.
Here we go.
I want to know exactly what’s going on with the Navy Yard Metro Stop right now? Where does everything stand? (SBF)
Russell: "We are on schedule. We have actually been working from a schedule that shows we are on schedule for, at this point, a number of months. (“Since July”—Amy adds). So July.”
Now—Russell asking Amy directly: “Do you have weekly meetings with Neal Albert (DC's Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development) and everyone else?”
Amy: “We have weekly meetings with WMATA (Metro). There are two components to the project. There is Monument's effort, and then there are WMATA’s efforts. We’ve been meeting with them weekly on the project--our construction team and the construction team with WMATA for many months. Really, probably since January (2007). And, as of July 30th, we produced our Recovery Schedule that was approved by WMATA, by The District (Government), by Monument, because we had fallen approximately three weeks behind. So, we accelerated our effort and we are now ON TIME for our base building agreement, as per the station opening.”
So--where does the behind schedule comment by WMATA mentioned to me on October 9th come from? And, the Washington Post 7 weeks mentioned in one of their recent stories? (SBF)
Amy: “Part of the disconnect, I would say came back in June, in fact--between the design bills, the three party agreement schedule and the base building schedule for our improvements at 55 M (St. SE). But, the delay was really only three weeks. And, when all the parties got together to review the schedule--contractually, we were three weeks behind schedule and we were required to provide a recovery schedule—which is what we did. That (Recovery Schedule) was approved on July 30th, by, again, WMATA, and The District and Monument.”
Russell: “We have made certain accusations in our lawsuit against WMATA. But, I can’t answer why WMATA continues to claim that we are 7 Weeks behind schedule. You would have to ask them. If they have done that (stated that fact) as late as October 9th—then I think that is a problem. I am looking at my schedule right now. It was three weeks ago that I left a meeting that Amy attended; WMATA Representatives were there, Neal Albert (was in attendance), Art Lawson from Metro. Everyone sat in that room, we went over the schedule. They asked us POINT BLANK—Us (Monument), Clark (Construction). Everyone sat in that room and went over the schedule—again. And, WE ALL DETERMINED we were On Time. The one item we were a little concerned about—because this has always been a very difficult schedule. All you have to do is go back to the News Reports in December of 2006 and around that time—right before Monument stepped into this void, and took on this responsibility. Everyone was very concerned about them being able to finish. But, really, one of the biggest hurdles was what is going on right now--and, it appears to be going smoothly—that’s the installation of the massive trusts over the Metro Entrance. Everybody left that room, without anyone having any objections, concerns about anything. Now, I can’t say I knew what people might have been thinking, but nobody raised any additional concerns. “ (That meeting took place on October 5th)
So, what you are saying to me is that your issue with them over the Bus Garage will not effect finishing off Monuments’ part of the Navy Yard Metro Expansion? Correct? (SBF)
Russell: “No, because we are building a 275,000 Square Foot Building on top of it. We have as much at stake as anybody in this area—in this Metro Expansion--anybody other than The District. The District has invested $750 Million Dollars. And, when we have finished this project, we are going to be at $400 Million Dollars (invested). Oh, and excuse me—I should include The Lerner’s in there, because they have spent $450 Million for a baseball team.”
Russell: “It's hard to separate the two issues (Navy Yard Metro Expansion & Bus Garage). But, we have said—I don’t know how many more times we can say it—how many more schedules we can provide. As I pointed out in my communications with Commissioner Litsky (Andy—ANC, community advisory board), and you can check on this and ask someone else—clearly, WMATA is not the one giving the correct information. Because, everyone else involved in this is saying—we (Monument) are on schedule and on time.”
Where does the Washington Post article claiming Monument might “slow down the process” of completing the Metro Stop for being pissed off over the Bus Garage come from? (SBF)
Russell: “They were referring to a letter we (Monument) wrote to John Catoe (Metro General Manager) back in August? Or July? And, this was as they (Metro) were beginning this bid process--or, getting ready to open these bids (for the Bus Garage). We (Monument) were reminding them (Metro) of their obligations to us toward the reward which was made two years ago. Frankly, it was sort of a reckless path for them to go on—considering their partner in the Metro deal was the one they were abusing—in a sense. But, at the time, what I explained to Litsky—it was not about slowing the Metro improvement down. We were being asked to spend more money. So, they way I described it: ‘WMATA wanted to continue to take advantage of Monuments resources, as they had done.’ I know you (SBF) said—you are not interested in the rest of the story associated with The Bus Garage—but WMATA has taken great advantages of what we had to offer as the group that owned a million and a quarter of square feet of development. That parcel over there; and, the one over there—and all around their (Metro’s) properties.”
Russell: “If you are paying close attention, you knew there was a parking lot there before. We relocated their employees parking (who worked at The Bus Garage) over on another lot that we owned. We closed the alleys for them. We were working on the construction of Half Street with The District, with DDOT (DC Department of Transportation). We were paying for all that. It was all under the assumption that we had been rewarded the right to negotiate with WMATA for The Bus Garage. So, its hard to separate the two things. But it shouldn’t be surprising to anybody to hear that the Principal of Monument sent a letter to John Catoe objecting to the path they had chosen. And, pointing out the inconsistency--in asking Monument to spend more money to make the thing (Metro Expansion) go even faster—and then, set that aside, and go on this sealed bid one shot auction for the Bus Facility.”
That Bus Facility—was that actually promised in writing to you (Monument)? Or was that just assumed? (SBF)
Russell: “Monument was awarded the right to negotiate with WMATA through a process that the AWC ran. We had a letter of intent with Anacostia Waterfront Corporation. But, to understand the whole thing--clearly, if we had a written contract just with WMATA, than we would be presenting that. Obviously, this is much more complicated than a contract dispute. Back in March 2006—WMATA had offered those properties for sale in a joint development solicitation. Then, the day before it was due—they withdrew the joint development solicitation, at the request of (then) Mayor (Tony) Williams. So, that he could run the AWC Process. That part is not in dispute. Then, the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation ran essentially a beauty contest for Master Developer—and WE WON. Then, we spent the following two years working, not just with AWC—but also with WMATA too. Working on the Metro Improvements, working on where the buses were going to go—temporary conditions—help in looking for a replacement site—closing their alleys—getting the appropriate zoning—so they could park on our property. We constructed and paid for their parking lot. We worked so their property was not designated an historic landmark. I mean, this is not a secret. You can pick up the paper and for two years—everybody reported Monument was The Master Developer.”
There was an ad in The Washington Post earlier this week, placed by Monument that said: “We know our way around the diamond”. Was that strategically placed as a result of what’s going on right now? (SBF)
Russell: “That marketing campaign really has nothing to do with what’s going on in terms of lawsuits and arguments about schedules. That’s a reference to the plan of The District, which is essentially a diamond (Geographic Shape) with the various quadrants—then a connection to baseball as well. I think there is a reference to Bethesda, Arlington—sort of all the areas. The point was we (Monument) know our way around Washington, DC. And then, we’ve made our marketing program sort of centered around whole the concept of baseball. We made that connection.”
What has been the ANC and Mr. Litsky’s response to everything? (SBF)
Russell: “I went to the hearing for The Randall School in SW. And, he asked the same question (about Metro Expansion Schedule), I am not sure why (at that time). But, he did. I answered the question, again. And, at that time—I suggested that he call Neal Albert’s’ Office. He (Litsky) surprised me because he interrupted me to say he had. And, they had confirmed it. Which I knew they would—because I had called Neal Albert’s Office, the Friday before. I think they had spoken with The Washington Post, as well. They at least traded calls—I know that for a fact. But, I believe The Post has just found it not to be an interesting story—to say that we are ON TIME. Or, that Monument says that they are ON TIME. And yet, the Deputy Mayor of Economic Development (Albert) confirms it. I don’t know why people don’t report that.”
Its interesting, the other day—a Post Reporter Marc Fisher—wrote an article condemning The Nationals over what they (The Post) call The Parking Fiasco. And, in the online part of the story—The Post, once again—links the story that says Monument is slowing down the process and the Metro Expansion is 7 Weeks behind schedule. (SBF)
“You know—we are not that far out (from completion). I guess we will all find out. It would be a pretty neat trick if Monument makes up 7 weeks by April 1st? (being facetious).
Amy (Jumping In To Re-Affirm): “We are ON TIME!! I tell that to EVERYONE I SEE!!”
Russell: “The apologies will be forthcoming, I suppose.”
Just to be clear about something. It does not matter that the building you are constructing above The Navy Yard Metro is ready—as long as the Metro Expansion Part of this project is completed and safe to use? (SBF)
Russell: “The Building we are building above will not be ready. But, no one is expecting us to. Its only the Metro Station that has to be ready.”
So, it is safe to say that your part of that Metro Expansion—as long as that is ready and safe to use--is OK--whether your building above it is ready. (SBF)
Russell: “Yes, the project has been set up to have a certificate of occupancy, all the appropriate inspections. Some of the work is clearly not in our hands, it's WMATA doing some of it. But, yes—it’s meant to operate completely separately. We will still be building a building above it. It’s not that uncommon. There will be separate approvals, certificate of occupancy, inspections and so forth for the Metro improvements. Then, the protection for construction that is going on above.”
Amy: “Metro is doing all the station interior work separate from ours.”
This issue is such a big issue for fans who are sort of left in the cold on this. Because, all you read about is the dickering that is going on and, that there is no progress. But, if I go to the site to see myself—I see progress. The Team tells me there is progress. Metro tells me there is progress. And, now Monument Realty tells me there is progress. So, from my vantage point—is someone wrong?”
Russell: “You know how it works. We got hit over the head about five times in a week about being 7 weeks late. And, when we got all the right people to say the right things, except WMATA. We can’t get them to do anything—at this point apparently. But, everyone else says it's not late. No one seems to care to hear that message. So, what can I say—it’s beyond our control.”
And, that concludes my conversation with Russell Hines and Amy Phillips of Monument Realty. If anything, the information they provided gives Fans of Our Washington Nationals less concern about The Navy Yard Metro Expansion NOT BEING fully functionable come Opening Day, 2008. Everything Monument has stated to me clearly says THEY EXPECT The West Metro Entrance to The Navy Yard Stop to be at Full Capacity (15,000 Patrons per hour) for Our Washington Nationals very first game on South Capitol Street. As fans, that's our most important worry--and to me--their information is a good thing. As, the lawsuit has little to do with Baseball at New Nationals Park. Although, you could argue that a clear access way from The Navy Yard Metro stop to the Left Field Plaza Entry to New Nationals Park is in a state of flux--over the Bus Garage Issue.
Immediately after our chat--again, I reached out to Metro to see if they might respond to some of the points mentioned in this interview. As I write this posting on Sunday Afternoon--WMATA has yet to respond. But, if they do--you can bet I will write their entire response. At the same time--I am also hoping to hear back from The ANC. You bet I contacted them--as well.
Hopefully, all this information will be as useful to you, as Sohna and I, find it for us. We are just attempting to get the corrrect information out there--so everyone can make a proper decision.