Mayor Fenty was on hand today to announce that the District has finally settled on a developer and would move ahead with redevelopment of the long-abandoned Strand Theater in Deanwood. The project is now in the hands the Washington Community Development Corporation (WCDC) and Banneker Ventures LLC - organizations that plan on transforming the 80-year-old former movie theater into the new home of an 18,000-s.f. restaurant and 18,000 square feet of “affordable” office space. The remaining 16,000 square feet within the Strand will be “dedicated for community and cultural uses,” according to a press release issued by the Mayor’s office.
“There will be more energy back on this corner for the neighbors who live in the Ward 7 community, east of the river in general and for the entire city,” said Fenty from the sidewalk of 5131 Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, NE. Fenty and WCDC head Rev. Steve Young, also leader of the Holy Christian Missionary Baptist Church for All People located across the street, went on to promise that 30 - 40 new, permanent jobs will created as a result of the revitalization effort.
Curiously enough, this marks the second time the District has named the WCDC and Banneker as developers in charge of the Strand. The first came this past July, when Deputy Mayor Neil Albert told DC Mud that the project would “break ground in the next two weeks.” Sean Madigan, the Mayor’s press contact, today told DC Mud the District was forced to hold off a bit, while the rest of the details concerning the theater were hammered out.
Banneker has had a dream year lobbying District officials, having secured from District work on the Strand, and having been named Master Planners for the Park Morton redevelopment, and as a developer of the $700 million Northwest One development. WMATA added to the company's portfolio by naming Banneker the lead developer in June for its Florida Avenue project, and Banneker has its own plans in place for 814 Thayer, a 52-unit condominium in Silver Spring's central business district. WMATA Board member and DC Councilmember Jim Graham reportedly pushed for the developer's inclusion in the project; WMATA said it chose the developer based on its "experience," noting the technical difficulty of building a project on top of an existing Metro tunnel, though Banneker has no previous experience building above a Metro tunnel. Or, apparently, above much else. Park Morton, 814 Thayer, and the WMATA project have yet to break ground, and Northwest One has only recently done so, leaving the conversion of several small apartment buildings into condominiums as its only achievements. Banneker's website touts its appointment to several of the above projects, as well as its "tremendous breadth of experience and professionalism." Calls to Banneker’s metro area offices went unanswered.
As it stands today, Green Door Advisors and Blue Skye Construction will handle the build-out of the heavily dilapidated building, located at the intersection of Burroughs Avenue and Division Avenue NE. The Strand Theater is currently on the DC Preservation League’s list of Most Endangered Places in the District. Hopefully, that will be changing as the Strand moves on to a bigger and better future.
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