Friday, August 22, 2008

DC Selects Georgia Avenue Developer



Washington DC Mayor Fenty arrived by Smart Car today to announce that the District of Columbia has selected Donatelli Development and Mosaic Urban Partners as the development team for three parcels of land on Georgia Avenue. The lots are located one block north of the Petworth Metro station, at 3813, 3815 and 3825 Georgia Avenue. Development plans have not yet been finalized, but Mayor Fenty said today he expects the final product to include retail, restaurants, and market rate and affordable housing.

Echoing his oft-repeated calls to fire up development on the neglected corridor, the Mayor insisted today that DC has "gotta have economic development on Georgia Avenue" for the benefit of the whole city, and that the project would complete by the fall of 2010. The city has not yet reached purchase terms with the development team. Donatelli Development has an extensive track record with the city, and, with DC-based Gragg & Associates, is nearing completion on Park Place, a 161-unit residential and retail building almost across the street. Donatelli also owns an adjacent vacant lot, on which it plans a 49-unit condominium building, though timing remains uncertain said Chris Donatelli.

This will be a first for development partner Mosaic, a firm based in DC. Mosaic partner Calvin Gladney, a former NCRC staff member, said that partnering with Donatelli allows them to "integrate retail strategy," and "achieve a better end result for the community." Gladney was a bit more circumspect than the Mayor regarding timing, quickly noting that "there are so many variables", including financing, though partnering with Donatelli will certainly streamline the underwriting process.

The project will convert two small neglected buildings and a vacant lot, all District owned, into a mixed use project on two separate sites. Architect Bill Bonstra, partner of Bonstra Haresign, the ubiquitous firm chosen to design the project, said that the project would feature a green roof and locally based retail, and that there was "a real push to do a community-minded project." The new building on the now vacant lot will rise three stories at street front, stepping back for a fourth and fifth floor. The selection of developers was unusually swift, with the District having solicited bids at the end of April, with a due date of July. Two teams submitted bids for the project.

The mayor's office hopes the project is well timed, coming as the Petworth neighborhood struggles to fulfill the expectations of a revitalized mixed-use corridor. On May 23rd the Mayor stood nearby to announce that Georgia Avenue development was finally taking hold, highlighting Donatelli's Park Place, and Jair Lynch Development Partners' 130-unit apartment building at 3910 Georgia Avenue. But Park Place will not complete until next year, and Jair Lynch has encountered financing, title, and zoning hurdles with its project, and has been reluctant to even give a start date. And while the Neighborhood Development Company is also well underway on its own apartment building just to the north, many of the expected success of Georgia Avenue have yet to be initiated, and a bevy of apartment-turned condominium low-rises that expected to benefit from the retail surge that never happened remain unsold. But the prospect of five new developments all rising within a few blocks is undoubtedly a new direction for Petworth, and an event that may make an honest man out of the Mayor.

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