Wednesday, November 02, 2011

14th Street Post Office Development Ready to Begin


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

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

The new developers are kidding themselves if they think *any* business attempting to open in that space with a liquor license won't draw huge amounts of fire and pushback. And by "huge amounts of fire and pushback," I mean that Ramon Estrada and his non-ANC commissioner proxy Elwyn Ferris will gin up some ridiculously alarmist and hyperbolic signs, get a few nearby residents on board, and just generally make life miserable for the applicant. It's as predictable as the sun rising in the morning.

Java_Junkie on Nov 2, 2011, 10:14:00 AM said...

Aren't there enough establishments in this stretch of 14th street that serve BOOZE? A bakery might be a refreshing change. Certainly enough people would walk by it in the morning on their way to work....

Critically Urban on Nov 2, 2011, 12:34:00 PM said...

You guys both missed the boat on this article. First off, a bakery doesn't sell "BOOZE" and non-fast food restaurants will fail if they don't. As long as this particular place (which is located on T, not on 14th) isn't sold as a bar or a combination restaurant/late night bar, there will be little reaction from the neighborhood when the liquor license rolls through. Java Junkie, you especially treat "BOOZE" as something fundamentally to be avoided, when really you're probably just stereotyping the types of young people that you *think* might frequent a place that sells alcohol. Of course, you also probably sit down several evenings a week with a glass or two of wine yourself.

I myself was a bit skeptical of the viability of a bar on T Street, considering it begins to infringe on the residential areas of the 14th Street corridor, so I would support something more suitable like a bakery or day/evening restaurant. Along those lines, I personally call for a mix of vibrant, restaurant and lively venue-filled main streets and quiet, largely peaceful side streets. It can be done, I guarantee you.

Anonymous said...

I'm slightly confused by the article. Would it be broken up into 2 retail spaces? With the bakery being one and the BOOZY restaurant being the other? Or would would one tenant take up the entire space.

As an aside, does anyone no what is happening with the two buildings adjacent to this (the yellow one story building and the newly renovated brick one)? I saw some tables and chairs in front of the yellow building awhile back, but they have since been removed.

Kelly on Nov 2, 2011, 2:38:00 PM said...

The entire development may be divided into a minimum of two or a maximum of four spaces, depending on what the interested businesses choose. Right now there is strong interest for the two ground floor retail spaces from a bakery and from a local restauranteur. These two would reside side by side on the ground floor, and have the option to rent second floor space. If they choose not to, then the two second floor spaces can be rented out as retail or office space.

Rik Wilchins on Nov 2, 2011, 4:10:00 PM said...

As one of Ramon's hysterics, I certainly don't want to see another bar/nightclub like Policy that makes two-thirds of its $ from liquor open up across the street. I'm hoping we get something better. Thanks to Ramon and Elwyn and the crew for maintaining some kind of integrity for our block!

Dave Velasco on Nov 3, 2011, 4:38:00 AM said...

Hold your horses guys.. Maybe we should get this things off with your concerns by taking a better picture on it. Or possibly waiting for their plans as well.

Real Estate Course

Anonymous said...

Who cares if there's another bar or bakery? Doesn't anyone notice what a peice of junk the design is? Cinderblock with glass panels in that neighborhood is an insult.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification, Kelly. I live about two blocks away I'd love to see a bakery and casual restaurant open up there. I'm not sure how well a retail spot upstairs would do, but having a small office would be a great step in having a larger 24 hour population on 14th street.

Frustrated U Street-er said...

Rik:

"Thanks to Ramon and Elwyn and the crew for doing everything possible--including illegal activities--to hold back development in our neighborhood against the majority of resident's wishes!"

I fixed your quote for you. Ramon and Elwyn are self-serving aggrandizers who have a view of the neighborhood that is inconsistent and at-odds with its direction and the desires of most who live there. They don't look for compromise, and they don't look to 'work with" any of the incoming businesses. They're hostile, plain and simple, and they represent the worst of local neighborhood politics. I have no patience for them or anyone who defends their actions or methods.

Karen said...

As the broker for the space, I can assure all of you that the most likely tenant for the post office space will be one you'll all like. The emphasis is absolutely not on beer or wine - both just happen to compliment the very casual food. The tenant will open for breakfast, lunch and light dinner. No late hours, no rowdy patrons. Simple, good food. I think anyone visiting shops on 14th St will appreciate having someplace inexpensive with excellent food.
If you know of tenants who'd like to lease the second floor, please let me know.

Karen said...

sorry for the typo - complement.....

Anonymous said...

I'm tired of people who don't live here making claims as to what the neighborhood should be. I do live here and we need another juke joint like we need another tavern license! How much longer is U St. going to be the haven for PG County residents to come get wasted and piss on our lawns?

Frustrated U Street-er said...

"I'm tired of people who don't live here making claims as to what the neighborhood should be."

That's funny--I'm tired of people assuming that they speak for everyone else and making assumptions about those who disagree with their opinions. I *do* happen to live in the neighborhood, and have so for years. I'm one block from this building, actually. people love to throw around the Adams-Morgan boogeyman whenever a new bar or restaurant is introduced, which is hilarious. Adams-Morgan? Hell, 14th Street isn't even Barrack's Row.

Karen said...

Re: Anonymous' comments about cinder block. The proposed facade material was to be a very cool metal shingle which the developer orginally saw on a Room & Board in California and tracked down through their architect. For a number of reasons, the high-tech shingle won't be used and the facade material will look more like the cream-colored building to the east which is the back half of Policy (where we should see outdoor seating whenever they decide to open their patio).

Re: the juke joing comments. That's exactly what this tenant won't do.
Hope this helps.

Anonymous said...

Always easy from this side of the fence....
With all the positive comments flowing here you would think the owner would really want to develop this property....
Hopefully they have a pile of cash and let it sit as is so all of you can cry about what you think it should be...
in D.C. you would think "it's America land of the free" HAHAHA

You don't own the land you rent it.

Want to do something cool and some bozo gonna tell you to do it their way.

Anonymous said...

ANC Commissioner Ramon Estrada and his unelected companion in leading the work on all protests, his husband Elwyn Ferris, told me on the street not long ago they will oppose all patio seating on the block. They were very proud of this position. Someone please tell me how a bakery that also has a license for beer and wine will not want patio seating out there? Connect the dots people. Even the nice little quiet spot is going to hear a buzz saw long after construction is done, and that's the Ramon and Elwyn show. And people like Rik will have their eyes opened (maybe not) about the inflexible and irrational positions these guys take.

Anonymous said...

With the soon to come influx of new residents to the condo projects being built (not to mention the Utopia project), I really hope this becomes a restaurant (with or without bar; think bistro la bonne or bar pilar or utopia as models). I find that the current number of restaurants just barely accomodates the current number of residents--that is, I find it very difficult on the weekends to get a table without making a reservation. With more residents coming, it's going to be even more difficult.

I live a block away to the east, so not in ANC 2B but I feel like my views should be given equal weight as those who live within a block on the other side of 14th. I don't know why those 2-3 blocks of 14th Street are divided between districts like that, doesn't really make sense from a cohesion potin of view, but that's beside the point.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm...."a compact limestone structure built in 1940 and run by African-Americans". Not sure what that means. It's a post office. Wasn't it run by the US Gov't?

 

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