Monday, September 15, 2008

2300 Penn: Demo Begins

Mayor Fenty brought a little showmanship to the usual groundbreaking ceremony as he announced the District's plans to revitalize the 2300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue SE, and then, in a gesture that may inspire more city youths to be Mayor, began demolition of one of the buildings himself (pictured).

"While all groundbreakings are significant, a groundbreaking here on the 2300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue just shows that all of this great economic activity is bringing prosperity and progress...east of the river," said Fenty at the demolition site. "I think for that we should all be excited."

The Computecture Incorporated-designed facility at 2323 Pennsylvania Avenue will consist entirely of affordable housing with 247 units, 115 units of which will be "workforce" housing for families earning no more than 60% of the area median income. In addition, it will also feature a Harris Teeter grocery store and 8,000 square feet of space that the city hopes will go to "high-end" retailers. “If Pennsylvania Avenue is going to be the major corridor leading into east of the river neighborhoods that we all expect it to be," the Mayor said in closing, "we’ve…got to get rid of the blighted properties that are on it."

As the first major development in greater Anacostia since the Penn Branch Shopping Center was built a decade ago, the project at 2323 Pennsylvania Avenue is exciting indeed. The lot where the project is to be erected was formerly home to an unsightly strip of used car lots and a tattoo parlor. An interesting note on the block’s historic status: one the homes slated for demolition is where John Wilkes Booth was treated for his injuries following the assassination of President Lincoln.

The mayor detailed the $7 million in construction loans and $1.2 million in affordable housing tax credits offered to the developer for the project and then thanked the DC City Council for its determination in getting the project off the ground over the past two years.

Also in attendance at the event were DC Councilmember and Chair of the District’s Committee for Economic Development, Kwame Brown, Anthony Muhammad of the Advisory Neighborhood Commission 8A and Tim Chapman of Chapman Development, the primary developer behind the project – in addition to a packed house of community leaders and activists.

Brown went on to express his pleasure with the development from the perspective of someone who lives only blocks away. “I think there is no greater sign that what we’re doing together from an executive and legislative standpoint is working,” he said. “I think in the next five years we’re going to look back and say ‘Wow, look what used to be here and what is here now.’”

Brown trumpeted the housing development as a beacon of hope for residents of Wards 7 & 8 and as a surefire measure to draw to new retailers and residents to a part of the city best described as undesirable, if not dangerous. The afternoon’s remarks came to a close as Mayor Fenty got behind the wheel of a heavy duty land mover to demolish a one-story brick structure, giving the project a memorable kick-off.

This is not Chapman Development’s first foray into development of the District’s less affluent areas. The firm was previously responsible for the Lotus Square Apartments on Kenilworth Avenue, NE. According to the Bank of America representative responsible for funding the Penn Avenue project, Lotus Square maintains the appearance of market rate housing, despite its affordable, and enjoys high levels of tenant satisfaction - one the driving forces behind the selection of Chapman as developer. The work site is currently being cleared by 25 members of the Earth Conservation Corps (ECC) with construction expected to begin once demolition is complete.


washcycle on Sep 16, 2008, 12:36:00 PM said...

Nice to see DC continues to respect historical structures. Some of these buildings were worth saving, but we're throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

David Garber on Sep 16, 2008, 12:53:00 PM said...

once again:

this is not Historic Anacostia.

Penn Branch is also not in Historic Anacostia.

you do neighborhoods east of the Anacostia a disservice every time you lump the whole area together as though it were somehow Historic Anacostia.

Nope on Sep 16, 2008, 1:28:00 PM said...

Well, that was disservice seconded by those making the presentation at the press conference. At no point during the press conference was the site posited as being in any other neighborhood with the exception of "Faircostia" - a supposed amalgam of Historic Anacostia and Fairlawn.

I'll go ahead and remove the historic qualifier, because according to DC zoning, the historic district begins about a half mile southwest of the Penn project (while that stretch of Pennsylvania Ave is not labeled at all - falling into a gap between Fairlawn, Randle Highlands and Dupont Park).

Do anyone have any thoughts about ALL property east of the river consistently being referred to as Anacostia?

Anonymous said...

David- Have you ever seen these "historical structures"? I consider myself a preservationist, but I've driven by these dozens of time and they are pretty much delapidated stripmalls. We're not talking historic rowhouses here.

Having said that, I agree that there are many many buildings east of the river worth saving (mostly south of this area in dg-rad's home base).

David Garber on Sep 16, 2008, 2:42:00 PM said...

I'm not offended by it -- and you are by no means the first to do it. But there are many more neighborhoods east of the river than just Anacostia -- just like Glover Park is not in Georgetown, Shaw is not in NoMa, and Trinidad is not on Capitol Hill.

Now that development and attention is finally coming east of the river, I think it's important to give each neighborhood a fair chance at being known, as well as give Anacostia a chance to rise out of the poor media image it has been given by calling other, more dangerous/neglected areas "Anacostia" when they are miles away.

Anonymous said...

my god, the rendering makes it look so institutional. i am all about public housing but COME ON! this looks like a dorm, or a prison, or a project... but i suppose anything beats those heinous used car lots.

Sean Robertson on Sep 16, 2008, 6:12:00 PM said...

Why in God's name does that building have a blank wall for the entire length on that side? There's virtually no surer way to create a dead space than that. This building clearly should have been more mixed use with shops on the ground floor and the like. That would make for a much more vibrant and fully-functional neighborhood.

Chris Loos on Sep 16, 2008, 11:30:00 PM said...

That's the worst street-facing blank wall I've ever seen. Ouch. Didn't we stop building stuff like that in the 70s?

monkeyrotica on Sep 17, 2008, 8:00:00 AM said...

Definitely not going to be any loitering or grafitti on that big blank wall. I can guarantee that. I can only hope the street lighting is really poor. Because if there's one thing criminal activity can't stand, it's poor street lighting.

Some people never learn.

David Garber on Sep 17, 2008, 10:30:00 AM said...

that's the back of the building facing the alley, but still... they should open up that wall.

Anonymous said...

It really is bad. And let's be honest here... do they really need more 100% "affordable housing" PROJECTS east of the river? I know many of you will say yes, but I think it's a waste. Mixed use, mixed income is the way to go. And if we need affordable housing anywhere, it's closer to the city center. Housing is already pretty damn cheap around 2300 Penn.

That said, this is a vast improvement over what was there.

washcycle on Sep 17, 2008, 6:26:00 PM said...

"one the homes slated for demolition is where John Wilkes Booth was treated for his injuries following the assassination of President Lincoln"

"I've driven by these dozens of time and they are pretty much delapidated stripmalls."

John Wilkes Booth was treated at a stripmall?

David Garber on Sep 18, 2008, 9:56:00 AM said...

it wasn't a stripmall. it was rowhouse-type commercial buildings. some of which actually looked kind of cool and probably would have been saved anywhere else in the city..

Also, to DCMUD: where did you hear that about the Harris Teeter. seems like that would be big news..

Nope on Sep 18, 2008, 3:33:00 PM said...

Mayor Fenty mentioned the Harris Teeter in his remarks at the groundbreaking.

Sean Hennessey on Sep 21, 2008, 2:17:00 PM said...

harris teeter? for real?

thats wildly close to the other new harris teeter, just over 1 mile away.
harris teeter is hittn it hard, huh?

igotmoxie on Sep 21, 2008, 5:05:00 PM said...

I live in Ward 7, and quite frankly, I will miss the dog & cat hospital. Also, Off the Hook tattos merely moved across the street. If there was a used car lot in that area, I never paid it any heed.
And finally, another Harris Teeter> Seriously? So one Harris Teeter could walk to the other one? I don't mean to sound like the typically ungrateful DC resident, but would it really be so difficult to put a restaurant somewhere over here? Our options are Subway and star pizza. and that's it.

Anonymous said...

i think they must have been referring to the harris teeter across the river. this would be bigger news, and everyone east of the river would be trumpeting it.

..and i have my doubts about HT opening in an all-affordable housing buildings.

Anonymous said...

As a realtor living in Ward 7. I am not apposed to a store of any sort coming but I do agree that another Harris Teeter just doesn't make any sense. Maybe they should try shooting for a Whole Foods there being that most of the people on this side of the river do not eat healthy anyway and no have many options to either.

IMGoph on Oct 15, 2008, 8:03:00 AM said...

well, hunter, i'll weigh in on the neighborhood thing, since that seems to be my bailiwick.

that ain't anacostia. and i agree that lumping everything east of the river into some amalgam of "greater anacostia" appears ignorant, on its face.

i'd have gone with fairlawn, FWIW.

Anonymous said...

do we really need "workforce" residential space? is anyone familiar with how Potomac Gardens has turned out?

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