"It's important that we move these projects fast, that we get them out to developers who know what to do with them and I think that...in less than a year we've demonstrated that we're not just holding onto these properties," said Fenty. "We're allowing them to be developed for the benefit of the community."
Those benefits will take the shape of a 475,000-square foot development, titled Arts at 5th & I. The project will center around a new 260-room ME Hotel from luxury Spanish hotelier, Melia and also include - promoters say - a bicycle retailer, hardware store, book store/café and new outlet for the Zenith Art Gallery. Perhaps most exciting for local residents, who lobbied the city for more entertainment-oriented projects in the neighborhood during the 6 month bidding process, will be the addition of a new music venue in the form of the Boisdale Jazz Club – the first US location from the London-based chain of nightclubs.
A new apartment complex sporting 166 apartments will also be springing up on the site, with the developer pledging to a minimum of 50 affordable-housing units within the building. Rounding out the proposal is a 238-space underground parking garage. Groundbreaking is a projected 18 months away, following approval by the City Council.
Jad Donohoe of the Donohoe Companies outlined future plans for not only 5th and I, but the rest of the Mount Vernon Triangle area as well. “We’re going to take this lot and then move up 5th Street and take out those vacant properties,” he said. “[Donohoe is going to] redevelop that entire street and build on the investment that the city has already made in CityVista.”
The District’s selection of Donahue comes at the end of a 6 month bidding process that saw JBG, Buccini/Pollin, Potomac Investment Properties, and the winning Donohoe-managed joint proposal that included Holland Development, Spectrum Management, and Harris Development, all vying for a contract to build on the coveted Ward 6 parcel. With regards to how Donohoe’s joint proposal edged out the competition, Deputy Mayor Neil Albert said:
The 5 & I site was transferred into the city’s portfolio in October 2007 in the wake of the National Capital Revitalization Corp.’s (NCRC) dismantlement. DC's Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development then issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) early this year. The District is negotiating subsidies for the project with Donohoe at present and hopes to generate approximately $85 million in tax revenue from the Arts at 5th and I project.
I took a look at their work and was very impressed with it. The community wanted entertainment as part of the development and they had a jazz club, which was well received…and then, they were going to pay us $7 million for this piece of land. They definitely had the best proposal. And that’s not just our rating, but community support was overwhelmingly in support of this proposal.