In a heated tent at the end of a long crushed velvet carpet on 14th St. today, JBG, Georgetown Strategic Capital and city officials symbolically (but not literally) broke ground on the long-discussed “Louis at 14th”, a 267-unit, 42,000-square foot mixed-use megadevelopment.
Formerly called "Utopia" and in the works since 2006, entitlements are finally in place and demolition has begun for a dramatic makeover of what developers called “the greatest intersection in the District.” According to today’s press release, the Eric Colbert and Associates-designed building will offer amenities including a rooftop terrace with grilling stations and fire pits, a rooftop pool (with bar), a fitness center, and a 24-hour concierge. Historic facades along U Street will be preserved, though many (but not all) facades along 14th are slated for imminent demolition. Surely developers were buoyed by the high rents and recent high sales price of the Ellington apartments almost across the street.
If the prestige of a project is in direct proportion to the swank factor of its groundbreaking ceremony, the Louis should be very swank indeed. Aside from the aforementioned velvet carpet (and ropes), there was an open bar (so forgive any typos), as well as a solo saxophonist providing ubersmooth accompaniment as various development titans rubbed elbows with Councilmembers Michael Brown and Jim Graham, as well as Mayor Vincent Gray. When it was time to unveil the new renderings, a male model done up as Louis the XIV (get it?), complete with powdered wig, hose, and lace waistcoat, entered stage left.
But although the ceremony was long on flash, it was short on specifics. Mayor Gray made a vague, campaign-trail-ish speech, made frequent reference to his local roots, and arched his eyebrows a lot, Councilman Brown did his Obama thing (in fairness, he does a great Obama), made even more frequent reference to his local roots, and called for a comical number of rounds of applause (this blogger might have been the only person in attendance who did not, at some point, get applauded), and Councilman Graham regaled the crowd with reminiscences from his days at Whitman-Walker, and how volunteers used to refuse to set foot on the mean streets of 14th and S Streets.
But there was little talk of future retailers. Though there were vague murmurs of unsubstantiated rumors – Trader Joe’s? – firm information was in short supply. This blogger circulated to try and confirm a rumor about a possible flagship tenant, but no one could confirm or deny. In fact, by 5 o’clock, most of the attention was on the open bar, and on snapping iPhone pics of the guy dressed like Louis the 14th.Washington D.C. real estate development news