Thursday, October 02, 2008

Fort Totten or Bust


Northeast’s Fort Totten will be almost unrecognizable (a good thing) by 2012 if a group of local developers are able to get their proposals off the ground. In presentations made at yesterday's DC Economic Partnership Annual Meeting and Development Showcase, developers brought forth not one, but two major development proposals for the intersection of South Dakota Avenue and Riggs Road NE. Together, they plan to bring more than million square feet of retail and nearly 2000 units of housing to the area - essentially the same model of high-density shops, apartments and arts space that Montgomery County planners used to such great effect in Silver Spring.

First on the block is Lowe Enterprises Real Estate Group and JackSophie Development’s Fort Totten Square. Plans for which have been bandied for the past 2 years, but according to Lowe's staff and publicity literature, the project is now on track for a 2010 completion. Designed by Hickock Cole Architects, their 9-acre parcel will feature 900,000 square feet of residential and retail space, complimented by 100,000 square feet of “grocer-anchored” retail. Residential units will arrive in the guise of The Dakotas – an 875 unit development that will also sport on-site parking.

In a concurrent phase of development is the Fort Totten Arts Place – a 20-acre redevelopment project being funded by the Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation. Standing right next door to Fort Totten Square project – and on top of the neighborhood enclave that currently stands at 4th and 5th Streets NE – the EEK/MV+A-designed stretch of storefronts and apartment buildings will almost be a neighborhood in and of itself. For starters, the development will include 1220 residential units (220 reserved for seniors) and 147,000 square feet of retail. The latter will be reserving 9,000 square feet for a brand new Safeway supermarket, 82,000 square feet for neighborhood businesses and 6,000 square feet for a major banking branch.

You might be thinking, “Where is all the art at Arts Place?” The Washington National Opera might be a good place to start – they’ll be getting 75,500 square feet of rehearsal space, costume shops and production and administrative offices. The Shakespeare Theatre Company will also join them on the block will their own 75, 500 square foot space of administrative offices, costume and prop shops, and, yes, rehearsal space.

It’s also been seen to that the local community will get their fair share of benefits out of all redevelopment hoopla. There will be a new 27,000 square foot DC Public Library, 15,000 square feet of public performance and meeting space, a 20,000 square foot senior center, a 10,000 square foot daycare center, a gym, a health facility geared towards seniors, a cyber cafĂ©, and a renovated and reconfigured plaza in Morris Square. Altruistic organization Food & Friends, which delivers meals to the terminally ill and is already located in Fort Totten, will also receive an expansion of its existing facility.

These twin packages of development should serve as a fine compliment to the joint Clark Realty – Washington Area Transit Authority apartment complex at the Metro station that completed Phase I of its’ $58 million, 3-building development earlier this year. If the Lowe and Cafritz projects make it out of the planning stages, we're going to be looking at very different Fort Totten in the future.

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