The ever-changing plans for the site of the former Central Union Mission will go before Zoning this month for an extension to an approval granted in May 2008. The project will sit directly across the street from a planned seven-story residential development, each hugging their respective corners on 14th and R Streets NW. Developer Jeffrey Schonberger of Alturas Real Estate Interest planned a mixed-use retail and residential project, then an office building, and most recently for a large-scale retail space once rumored to have caught the eye of CB2 (Crate and Barrel's "cheaper" offspring). Whatever it is he's bringing to the Logan area, he needs more time, given the economy and the quandary of Central Union Mission.
Schonberger entered into a purchase agreement for the property with the Mission in 2006. The developer owned property in Petworth which was swapped for the Mission's 14th street site as part of the sale agreement. Schonberger woudl also pay upwards of $7 milllion for the Logan property. The final sale, however, is contingent on the Mission's ability to relocate its shelter services. Initially the Mission sough to build a 100-bed homeless shelter in Petworth, to which neighbors responded with a resounding no-thank-you-very-much. With Petworth no longer an option for a shelter, the Mission sought to make a deal with the District for the Gales School, only to be derailed by an ACLU lawsuit. At this point, Schonberger's plans for the former automobile showroom began to unravel.
Now the development team is going before the Board of Zoning Adjustment to ask for an extension to various zoning exceptions granted in May 2008. Some of the exceptions related to the historic building on site, which the Historic Preservation Review Board ruled had to stay, meaning future development will entail a reuse of the former auto showroom, likely with additions. The developer also seeks to renew the exceptions to the arts use and design requirements to allow a mixed-use residential and retail development despite the requirements that 14th street have a balance of uses that favors the Arts. Any project will be required to have ground floor retail, though the rest is up for debate.
A source familiar with the project indicated that no decisions had been made on the eventual use of the property (i.e. commercial or residential) since the project is "so far from development" and the Mission has not yet relocated. Assuming Zoning grants the extension, the developer will have a year to breathe before having to file for construction permits and another year after that until work needs to be under way. Two years might be enough time to tie of up the Mission's loose ends.
To date, DC public records still reflect the deed to the property under the Mission's name. Wonder who Schonberger is rooting for in the new Gales School RFP contest?
Washington DC real estate and development news