Tuesday, February 14, 2012

As Streetcar Construction Lifts, J Street Companies Unveils H Street Restaurant

Now that the District has finished street-scaping along H Street NE, including laying tracks for eventual streetcar service, expect more announcements of restaurant and retail openings and re-openings, deals and closings as construction equipment thankfully disappears.

One of those is J Street Companies announcement that Boundary Road restaurant at 414 H Street NE is open for business. The 4,000 s.f. two-story bistro, owned by Karlos Leopold and Brad Walker, was a former barber shop, and now offers 75 seats, including a 20-seat bar along the part of H Street corridor that likes to call itself "Atlas District West" nearest Union Station.

Atlanta-based woodworker, Steve Evans used 150 year-old reclaimed wood beams to help set off exposed brick walls. A Corehaus chandelier from District artist James Kern, sprung literally from a bedspring mattress, hangs in the two-story high atrium.

Boundary Road opens just at the moment when the block wakes up from a two-year plus construction and parking nightmare known as Great Streets.

While many current retail owners complained about the impact of the Great Streets streetscaping improvements and streetcar tracks were having on their business, it turned out to be a perfect time for remodeling of vacant space, including the owners of Boundary Road.

"It was purely coincidental, but it turned out to be good timing," said Anastasia Kharchenko, J Street's vice president for retail leasing, who said the streetcar plans made a difference in where to locate. "The trolley car service was always part of our decision," she said. "Finding a charming street with life on it was key and the streetcar will create a neighborhood and connect neighborhoods." The struggle of H Street to emerge from the ruins of the 1968 riots, which devastated the historically-black neighborhood, is well-known and well-covered, especially when it comes to the familiar District fault lines of race and class.

But in the past decade, once then-Mayor Anthony Williams announced in 2003 a massive plan to redevelop the avenue, key parts of H Street have finally turned a corner. Steuart Investment broke ground last July on its 286,000 s.f. mixed-use project at 3rd and H, which will include a 42, 000 s.f. Giant and 1,500 s.f. of retail.

Still, Boundary Road, along with the other projects, does little to improve H Street's center where unlike the thriving Arts District at 13th and H NE, near the Atlas Theatre, and nearer in, where Boundary Road and the Giant will be, the middle of H Street still lacks development.

J Street's Kharchenko said that may soon change as soon as the District's long-awaited streetcars finally start running in 2013 and Steuart's 360 H Street 215 unit, mixed-use complex completes, forming one retail-centric zone at the western end of H Street and another surrounding the Atlas Theatre along the east end.

The District recently unveiled a study that argued that its $1.5 billion streetcar investment plan would increase District property values by $8 billion over 10 years, including those in the H Street corridor. "(H Street) is a lot like a mall, with two anchors at either end now," Kharchenko said. "Some parts of H Street have turned the corner, others have not. But when you spend millions of dollars on the transportation infrastructure, it's bound to have results, and that will help the rest of the pockets fill in."

Washington D.C. real estate redevelopment news.


Anonymous said...

I have never heard it called Atlas District West.

Skinny said...

Agree with Anonymous 1:24. I understand why developers and RE agents want to brand it Atlas District, but it's H Street to those of us who live here.

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