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Kalorama Citizens Group Objects to Suddenly Disclosed Sports and Recreation Facilities Reduction in Marie Reed Modernization Plan

Accompanying images can be viewed in the October 2015 issue PDF

By Anthony L. Harvey

A September 9, 2015 addendum to the initial August 26th design-build Request for Proposal (RFP) for the modernization of the Marie H. Reed Community Learning Center was issued by the District’s Department of General Services (DGS), accompanied by a cover sheet describing four items attached to such addendum and its underlying RFP.

According to the Kalorama Citizens Association (KCA), the RFP that was dated August 26 was posted only on the DGS website on September 9th along with the above-cited addendum. This addendum’s concluding statements in its item No. 4 — underlined and in bold letters– states that “the bid date remains unchanged” and that “proposals are due by September 17, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. EDT.” The KCA has also learned and reported in a September 24th resolution that DGS is “in the process of reviewing the design-build bids that it received on September 17 and planning to award a contract to a design-build firm by October 17.”

Item No. 1 of the September 9th addendum further announced that “a copy of the concept design is attached”; and in item No. 2 that “drawings of the existing building are available for download” with a lengthy live link given. Revealingly, this addendum is headlined “Design-Build Services Marie Reed Elementary School.”

Undaunted by such an impossible schedule for any analysis and response, the tightly-knit KCA executive committee, led by its indomitable President Denis James, immediately set to work on a close analysis of the new and “final” concept design and its relationship to previous designs and that of the underlying “drawings of the existing building” for subsequent presentation of the study and analysis results in the form of a lengthy resolution for adoption at the KCA’s September 24, 2015 membership meeting. The KCA’s study and analysis would be based on its intensive involvement in the community’s long-standing concerns for the modernization, improvement, and expansion of the educational, recreational, and community health services conducted on the Marie Reed campus — and the activation and re-activation of community activities that have occurred or were planned when Marie Reed was conceived and subsequently constructed in the 1960s and 1970s; that long-standing involvement is well known.

The KCA’s community involvement, in fact, is exceeded only by that of the Adams Morgan Advisory Neighborhood Commission’s (ANC 1C); its engagement on this matter has been equally long — and extraordinarily intensive in 2014 and 2015 throughout Adams Morgan — resulting, as cited by the KCA, in “a comprehensive set of recommendations for improving Marie Reed, including the possible addition of a branch library” on the spacious Marie Reed campus.

Parallel efforts entailing extensive series of meetings and surveys conducted by additional community groups prior to these surprise issuances of the project’s RFP and “final design concepts” — with their immediate, fast-track schedule of deadlines — include those of the School Improvement Team (SIT) established by the District’s Public School System (DCPS) and that of the ANC’s own “Envision Adams Morgan” meetings and surveys.

What the KCA, ANC, and the SIT all share, however, is their startling and total exclusion from the final planning, scheduling, and specifications preparation — rough and ready though their resultant products may be — by DGS at this vital stage in the Marie Reed modernization project. This can only be described as inexplicable, and to the community organizations involved, inexcusable.

Further, according to many in the community, even more inexcusable has been the total absence and seemingly willful non-involvement of the District’s Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) in this modernization process. Only the Mayor, on behalf of the District’s Public School System, and the City Council, on behalf of the agencies sponsoring the healthcare facilities at Marie Reed, have contributed to the funding of this project — with budgeted amounts of $58.86 million for Marie Reed Elementary School and $3.5 million for the community health center. Nothing has been budgeted for the (DPR) recreational facilities.

This seemingly willful exclusion means that no consideration has been given to modernization and expansion of any DPR facility. As noted in the introductory KCA “whereas” clause, Marie Reed “contains an elementary school, a community health clinic, an indoor community swimming pool, and many other recreation facilities operated by DPR, including a gym, a recreation center, two outdoor basketball courts, two tennis courts, a soccer field, and the Happy Hollow outdoor swimming pool for children.”

Thus, in the concept specifications, the community indoor swimming pool — used by school children during the school day — is downsized and double-decked, with the second level being specified for a school cafeteria. Happy Hollow disappears, apparently being replaced by a surface parking lot. The community gymnasium with its presently shared use with the elementary school becomes a multi-purpose school auditorium, gymnasium, stage, and green room. One of two heavily used outdoor basketball courts is eliminated and a hopelessly inadequate small recreation center remains the same inadequate size. The modernist style amphitheater — used by both the school and the community — vanishes to be replaced by two new floor levels, one level perhaps for a music program, the other for an additional educational program. Also missing is an adjacent upper space used in the past for adult education, especially ESL courses.

Earlier architectural design themes of more light and more windows in the renovation of this 1970s modernist building seem compromised in these new specifications, and the KCA concludes its over 20 “whereas” clauses with the observation that “the Marie Reed modernization project represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to address unmet community needs for better community facilities and major improvements in local education opportunities.” Its “resolve” clause offers eight recommendations to the Mayor, the DC Council, the ANC, DCPS, DPR, and DGS, as follows:

“1. The space, services, and facilities currently available to the community be preserved and enhanced as part of a modernized Marie Reed and not diminished as is proposed in the September 9 and 17 DGS plans;

“2. The existing Happy Hollow and indoor lap pools be fully preserved and improved and the school’s cafeteria not be located in the existing pool’s air space;

“3. The existing recreational facilities, including the soccer field, the two outdoor basketball courts, and the two tennis courts be fully preserved and enhanced;

“4. The plans for the modernization of Marie Reed provide for the eventual addition of a public library;

“5. The DC government provide the necessary funds to upgrade and expand the community facilities at Marie Reed to ensure that they are fully responsive to community needs;

“6. The project architects and other planners take proactive steps to engage with the community to ensure that the exterior of the modernized Marie Reed is compatible with the neighborhood;

“7. The SIT team be reconstituted and expanded to provide for full representation of a cross-section of community interests in the planning process as to both the design and function of the modernized Marie Reed; and

“8. Notice be provided to the public with regard to all future SIT meetings and all such SIT meetings be fully open to the public.”

The resolution was adopted unanimously.

Editor’s Note: We first reported on this modernization project in the summer. See, “Marie Reed School Modernization Progress Hits Major Snag; Community Taken Aback to Learn One of Two Options Now Scrapped Due to Funding Cuts,” July 2015 issue pdf, page 1.