Mayor Fenty today announced the District’s selection of Donatelli Development and Blue Skye Development as the developers of a 5-acre parcel at Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road, NE, adjacent to the Minnesota Avenue Metro station.
The $108 million mixed-use project will bring 40,000 square feet of retail space, 375 affordable housing units and 60 market units to the major hub of Ward 7. These developments will be coupled with “a 5,000 square foot retail incubator” reserved for local businesses and 2,500 square feet of “community space.” Architects Eric Colbert & Associates are designing the project.
“This area is what some are now calling ‘Downtown Ward 7,’” said Fenty. “That is because of the energy, the already existing activity level and also the great potential of Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road.” The intersection currently houses several strip malls, an auto parts store and a parking garage dedicated to Metro parking (pictured).
Once completed, the project will neighbor the new, already under-construction Department of Employee Services headquarters. Fenty went on to point out that several other developers have also expressed interest in remaining lots on all four corners of the busy intersection.
This announcement follows an RFP for the site issued last spring and a competing proposal from City Interests, LLC. Christopher Donatelli, President of Donatelli Development, said he expects construction on the by-right development to begin “as quick as possible,” with a probable start date sometime in the next 18 months. He went on to say that the project should be open for business “36 months from today” – meaning the first signs of a true downtown for Ward 7 should start to crop up in late 2011.
The project is being fast-tracked by the District, as it requires no subsidies from the local government and no changes in zoning. Donatelli is also taking advantage of federal lending programs targeted at affordable housing development that will allow them to move forward with the project during the current economic slowdown.
“As long as there is a need for affordable housing - and we know that there is - this project will be addressing the supply,” said Donatelli. Donatelli has substantial cred with the Mayor, after having transformed Columbia Heights from a similarly vacuous site to a thriving metro center. Blue Skye was chosen just last week for redevelopment the Tewkesbury, a blighted District-owned apartment building in Brightwood that will convert to condominiums. Lacey