Legislative update: B24-0643,“East Capitol Gateway Eminent Domain Authority Emergency At of 2022
Yesterday, the DC Council held a hearing in the Committee on Business & Economic Development on four bills of great importance to the District’s small businesses and the overall financial well-being of its residents. One of those bills to have a public hearing was B24-0643, the “East Capitol Gateway Eminent Domain Authority Emergency At of 2022.” If this bill were to be enacted, it would authorize Mayor Bowser to exercise eminent domain to acquire the East Capitol Gateway, located at 58th Street and East Capitol Street NE in Ward 7.
Eminent domain is utilized when the government (state, local, or federal) takes control of private property to be used by the public in some way. The Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution states that a government cannot take one’s private property without just compensation,” meaning the property owner is paid for their property before it is taken. Eminent domain, while legal, has remained controversial, as some have argued that local and state governments use to accelerate the gentrification and displacement of low to moderate-income and racial and ethnic minority communities.
In this case, eminent domain is said to be utilized to expand economic opportunities for residents of Ward 7 and their neighbors in surrounding wards. . The mayor’s letter to the Council notes that these communities are underserved for retail options, particularly access to healthy food options. In 2012, Wal-Mart planned to open a store in the East Capitol Gateway, but those plans never came to fruition as they canceled their plans. The property developers, unfortunately, could not find a replacement to suit the neighborhood’s needs.
East Capitol Gateway is currently owned by CG Marketplace LLC, which is owned by both a subsidiary of the District of Columbia Housing Authority and A&R/THC Marketplace, LLC, a private developer. CG Marketplace LLC has stated that the East Capitol Gateway is being converted into what they call “long-term inactivity.” B24-0643 notes that East Capitol Gateway, given its current status, could be “undeveloped for a generation.” However, if the East Capitol Gateway is developed, it will expand residents’ economic opportunities and lead to the removal of unsafe and unsanitary conditions, reduce crime, and remove garbage and other eyesores from the neighborhood. Due to the lack of effort by the developer, Mayor Bowser, in her letter, believes that it is unlikely that the property will be developed unless the District government intervenes through the use of eminent domain.
The first public hearing was yesterday, but the bill was being worked on in Committee. If you have concerns or questions about this bill, feel free to reach out to DC Council Chairman Mendelson.