From the Washington Business Journal – Builder marks Georgia Ave. corridor as D.C.’s next redevelopment hot spot

If the Park View and Pleasant Plains communities just east of Columbia Heights are the next big thing in D.C. development, then Neighborhood Development Co. is at the forefront of the coming wave.

The D.C.-based company’s proposed project, the Vue on Georgia Avenue, features 112 residential units and 7,000 square feet of ground-floor retail at 3333 Georgia Ave. NW, less than a half mile south of the Georgia Avenue-Petworth Metro station. It’s the latest example of the unmistakable progression of development eastward from Columbia Heights to lower Georgia Avenue, anchored to the south by Howard University and to the north by the Petworth Metro.

“We think it’s the next major growth area for the city,” said Adrian Washington, founder and CEO of Neighborhood Development Co. “Dupont Circle happened 30 years ago, then Logan Circle 20 years ago, and Columbia Heights 10 years ago. Look on the map and see the wave of development and it’s heading east. Georgia Avenue is the next hot area, and 10 years from now it’ll look a lot like Columbia Heights.”

But that progress has its limits and challenges. The D.C. government’s Retail Action Strategy for Georgia Avenue, for example, describes lower Georgia as “somewhat gritty, but lively,” with small-scale retail generally in “poor condition” and bearing “no obvious anchors or hierarchy of streets.”

The Office of Planning portrays lower Georgia Avenue as having an “underlying bone structure” of densely packed row houses and tight alleys that “make this section unlikely to change from its current live-work set-up.” There are some infill development opportunities, according to the Retail Action Strategy, but few opportunities for anchor retail.

Neighborhood Development is making a nine-figure bet against that skepticism. Its projects dot the Georgia Avenue corridor from Park View and Pleasant Plains to Brightwood, the neighborhood just south of Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The company, formed in 1999, has developed roughly 300,000 square feet on the corridor, with an additional 200,000 in the pipeline, investing more than $100 million, Washington said.

If Neighborhood Development gets the Zoning Commission’s approval for its $30 million Vue, at Georgia Avenue and Morton Street, that project will contain roughly 118,160 square feet of gross floor area in buildings as high as 90 feet, as well as 49 parking spaces in an underground garage. The company bought the site, including an adjacent U.S. post office that will stay on the property, about six months ago and filed its planned unit development application with the commission on Oct. 14. The PUD would rezone the site, about six blocks from the Metro station, from low to medium density. The developer has not decided whether to build apartments or condominiums.

A block south of the proposed Vue is the 38-unit Lamont Street Lofts. A block north is The Heights on Georgia Avenue, a 69-unit building with 10,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. Neighborhood Development will break ground there in two months. The Lower Georgia Avenue Job Training Center is planned for 625-633 Park Road.

Neighborhood Development, partnering with EYA Development, has presented a bid to redevelop the 121,000-square-foot Bruce Monroe Elementary School parcel at Georgia Avenue and Irving Street. The proposal, Washington said, features rental units atop street-level retail — a hardware store, perhaps, or a Yes Organic Market — in addition to EYA-built row homes on the western portion of the site. The two companies submitted the sole bid for the site on Oct. 21.

“We’re heavily invested in Georgia Avenue,” Washington said, “so maybe we see an opportunity where others don’t.”

Aakash Thakkar, EYA’s vice president of development, said the row homes will “blend with the existing community,” like those found at the company’s Harrison Square project at 13th and V streets a mile south of Bruce Monroe.

The city will need several weeks to vet the proposal before moving forward, said Jose Sousa, spokesman for the deputy mayor for panning and economic development. Construction, which may include a new school, is years away.

But that timing doesn’t unnerve Washington. “We’re here for the long term,” he said. “We’ve been here for eight years now. We’ve delivered 300 units of housing, a new grocery store, a new sit-down restaurant [Brightwood Bistro]. We’re patient, but we’ve had a lot of success along the way. We’re not just sitting here surviving on bread and water.”

Democratic D.C. Councilman Jim Graham, whose Ward 1 includes the Seventh Street-Georgia Avenue corridor, said the area is about to explode with development — from the Howard Theatre and United Negro College Fund headquarters at Seventh and T streets to the Howard Town Center at Georgia and V streets, from Bruce Monroe to Petworth Metro.

It’s a long time coming, Graham said.

“There’s a huge set of opportunities, and it’s all ready to go,” he said. “It’s a logical next step for Ward 1 and the city. Georgia has been ready for this.”

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