Monday, October 20, 2008

Donatelli Bringing 'Downtown' to Minnesota-Benning

Mayor Fenty today announced the District’s selection of Donatelli Development and Blue Skye Development as the developers of a 5-acre parcel at Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road, NE, adjacent to the Minnesota Avenue Metro station.

The $108 million mixed-use project will bring 40,000 square feet of retail space, 375 affordable housing units and 60 market units to the major hub of Ward 7. These developments will be coupled with “a 5,000 square foot retail incubator” reserved for local businesses and 2,500 square feet of “community space.” Architects Eric Colbert & Associates are designing the project.

“This area is what some are now calling ‘Downtown Ward 7,’” said Fenty. “That is because of the energy, the already existing activity level and also the great potential of Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road.” The intersection currently houses several strip malls, an auto parts store and a parking garage dedicated to Metro parking (pictured).

Once completed, the project will neighbor the new, already under-construction Department of Employee Services headquarters. Fenty went on to point out that several other developers have also expressed interest in remaining lots on all four corners of the busy intersection.

This announcement follows an RFP for the site issued last spring and a competing proposal from City Interests, LLC. Christopher Donatelli, President of Donatelli Development, said he expects construction on the by-right development to begin “as quick as possible,” with a probable start date sometime in the next 18 months. He went on to say that the project should be open for business “36 months from today” – meaning the first signs of a true downtown for Ward 7 should start to crop up in late 2011.

The project is being fast-tracked by the District, as it requires no subsidies from the local government and no changes in zoning. Donatelli is also taking advantage of federal lending programs targeted at affordable housing development that will allow them to move forward with the project during the current economic slowdown.

“As long as there is a need for affordable housing - and we know that there is - this project will be addressing the supply,” said Donatelli. Donatelli has substantial cred with the Mayor, after having transformed Columbia Heights from a similarly vacuous site to a thriving metro center. Blue Skye was chosen just last week for redevelopment the Tewkesbury, a blighted District-owned apartment building in Brightwood that will convert to condominiums. Lacey


DG on Oct 20, 2008, 2:38:00 PM said...

this looks great! do you by any chance have a site plan?

IMGoph on Oct 20, 2008, 2:41:00 PM said...

did you, by chance, have someone there for the "downtown ward 7 tour" that was put together by the coalition for smarter growth on saturday? city interests gave a pitch for their plan there, and it sure sounded like they thought they had the inside track on this. wonder what happened.

Anonymous said...

I think Donatelli is the correct choice. An experienced developer with a passion for the community (which CityInterest has as well) and a history of high-quality construction. City Interests will have the adjacent plot (I believe) so they hopefully can work together to create a quality project on their own.

IM Goph, I think City Interests' proposal required a hefty TIF subsidy, while Donatelli did not. Therefore, it was a responsible choice by our government. No need to give out taxpayer money unless it is needed to get it done. If anywhere I support the use of taxpayer subsidies though, it's across the river...

IMGoph on Oct 20, 2008, 3:31:00 PM said...

SG - i wasn't aware of the TIF money, so thanks for pointing that out.

that being said, the city sure hasn't seemed to have a problem with using TIF funding in other projects (but i realize we are hitting up against our debt ceiling now).

city interests has the property on both the northeast and southeast corners here, and maybe the southwest corner as well, i think. you're right, they should find a way to work together on this one (though i'm sure city interests would have loved to do the whole thing themselves.)

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