A few months ago, there were some stirrings that a lively bistro concept featuring modern Southern fare from New York-based Chow Down Inc. was en route to an infill site at 1407-1409 T Street, NW, just off 14th Street. Though that plan has died, construction is expected to be underway in the next few weeks, with the owner now developing the space into two 2-story buildings designed by Steve Karr of Rockville.
John Dempsey of Chow Down Inc. had been interested in buying the 4,000-s.f. property, consisting of a historic post office and an empty lot (postal truck driveway), from owner/developer Ron Eichner of New Legacy Partners. But after a storm of sorts in response to a liquor license application, Dempsey withdrew his offer.
Eichner believes that potentially incoming entrepreneurs have no cause for concern regarding liquor licensing or neighborhood backlash. A bakery interested in the site wouldn't serve spirits, and the second interested tenant, a well-known local restaurateur, would most likely serve beer and wine, but with "reasonable" hours, said Eichner, clarifying that the establishment is "not a bar type."
The new plan is actually the old plan. Despite having listed the property for sale – resulting in more than one interested buyer wading deep into purchase territory over the last few years – Eichner had originally intended to develop and lease the property. Eichner's agent, Karen Nelson of Blake Dickson Real Estate Services, explained that selling was considered only after numerous inquiries from eager buyers. "Every single call I got was 'would you sell'?" said Nelson.
The property is still listed, for $2.2 million, which is twice what Eichner paid in June of 2008, however, Nelson reiterated that "the idea was never to sell."
With a building permit issued and financing secure, Eichner said he expects 9 months of construction to begin, by Eichberg Construction, "in the next few weeks." The project includes the adaptive reuse of the long defunct post office, a compact limestone structure built in 1940 and run by African-Americans, with the primary local post office located around the corner at 1438 U Street (which happens to also be for sale/lease). There will also be a second-story addition set back 15' on top of the post office.
A new 2-story building will be constructed on the slim empty space, now gated and filled with old furniture. The exterior of the new building will be visually distinct from the limestone post office, with the use of glass, metal and dark gray stone.
Located in the U Street Historic District, plans were approved by the Historic Preservation Review Board back in September of 2008, and as a modest by-right development, Eichner did not have to go through the Office of Zoning for approval.
Washington D.C. real estate development news