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Camp Simms plans get back on track

(Published June 2, 2003)

By KATHRYN SINZINGER

Staff Writer

Efforts to bring a supermarket and other mixed-use development to the former Camp Simms site in Southeast Washington appear to be back on track, now that a D.C. Superior Court judge has ruled in the city’s favor to end a court challenge over development rights.

"We are trying to secure Giant as the grocery store," Sharon Robinson, a spokeswoman for the city’s chosen development team, told The Common Denominator on May 30.

Giant Food expressed interest in locating a store on the Alabama Avenue site before the city revoked the development rights of Dominion Development Corp. in September 2000. Dominion then sued the city for awarding the rights to another group. Judge William M. Jackson granted summary judgment to the city in that case on April 23, according to a spokesman for the Office of the D.C. Corporation Counsel.

"The city is free to move forward and pursue its alternative development plans," said corporation counsel spokesman Peter LaVallee.

A consortium comprising Mid-City Urban, W.C. Smith & Co. and the East of the River Community Development Corp. currently holds development rights to the 25-acre tract, which formerly served as the D.C. National Guard’s training facility. The area is one of the largest undeveloped sites remaining in the District but has been embroiled in controversy for years.

Maryland-based Mid-City Urban is the lead developer of the Henson Ridge public housing redevelopment site, located across the street from Camp Simms. W.C. Smith owns or manages the bulk of residential rental property in Ward 8, where Camp Simms is located.

Ward 8, the city’s poorest ward, has been without a major supermarket since Safeway closed its store on Milwaukee Place SE, across the street from St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, in 1998. The former Safeway site has since been converted into a charter school.

The nearest large supermarket in the District for Ward 8 residents is a Safeway located in Good Hope Marketplace, where Good Hope Road, Naylor Road and Alabama Avenue converge. Giant Food’s nearest storeis located in Eastover Shopping Center in suburban Maryland. Giant currently has no stores east of the Anacostia River in the District.

The lawsuit over the Camp Simms development rights has been among reasons that Mayor Anthony A. Williams has been unable to fulfill his pledge, made shortly after he took office in 1999, to bring a supermarket back to Ward 8.

KSI, a Northern Virginia developer, also has proposed a supermarket in Ward 8 as part of its Columbia Bay development plan for a large undeveloped riverside tract in the Oxon Cove area. KSI has been meeting with community groups to refine its development plans but is not known to have secured any retail commitments for the site at this time.

Copyright 2003, The Common Denominator