Friday, July 17, 2009

District Opens West End to Development

DMPED development site - West End, Eastbanc
The District government unveiled its request to real estate developers today in a bid to redevelop three District-owned sites in the West End. The three sites, relics of a recent era when much of the downtown neighborhood was low-rise or vacant, are now anomalies amidst new, higher density condominium projects like 22 West, the Ritz-Carlton, and Columbia Residences. The RFP issued this morning calls for development proposals to redevelop the West End Library, fire station, and special operations police unit, all of which must continue in operation in some capacity, with the police unit likely being relocated. The RFP was released on Friday. The District is seeking "creative proposals," due by October 2nd, with broad latitude to develop an overall plan, while (nudge nudge) taking into consideration neighbor's overall vision for the neighborhood - a plan that foresees safe, lively streets with a local retail center, and more vibrant Washington Circle, revamped to be more of a meeting place. 

Non-negotiable items for the 51,000 s.f. of land include replacement of the library, which must remain "in the immediate vicinity," and while respondents are not required to adhere to the plan's main wish list, plans that don't will require "community stakeholder" buy in. Highlights of the RFP's wish list include "livelier streets," sub-surface parking, workforce housing, "activity generators" like move theaters, "green demonstration" buildings, incubators, and outdoor meeting spaces. Preference will be given to plans that "maximize the development envelope." A heavy presence of "disadvantaged" businesses is, of course, assumed, and the land is available either for sale or lease. The Mayor's office issued a press release at the short ceremony and cited "a unique opportunity to leverage to value of this land to not only build additional housing and neighborhood-serving retail, but to build critical first-class community facilities and significantly minimize the cost for our residents." Each of the two-story buildings is more than 40 years old and outdated for the services they should provide, according to the Mayor. The city expects to begin reviewing offers in the fall. Redevelopment of the library site, like that of many of the District's libraries, has been contentious and slower than anticipated. The District started the process in the summer of 2007, when the Council passed legislation that would facilitate development by way of sale to Eastbanc Development, which developed the Ritz Carlton hotel and condo, but local opposition to the non-competitive process halted the sale. Many of the opponents sought a plan for the site before transfer to a private owner, community groups have since held planning meetings to give design and use recommendations. 

Washington DC retail and real estate development news


Brandon Green said...

Very good news! That neighborhood has a lot going for it but could use an extra push.

Anonymous said...

While the retail sector isn't doing all that great, what a great opportunity to bring a NYC-like retail environment to the West End. Come on SteinMart!

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