Thursday, October 07, 2010

Strand Theater Redevelopment Moves Forward with Zoning Approval

Yesterday developers and architects presented their plans for the redevelopment of the historic Strand Theater and won unanimous approval from the BZA. The Board also granted several zoning variances, permitting developers to expand a historic landmark and a contributing historic structure, as well as an increase in the FAR and a reduction in the required parking. The Strand Theater and the adjacent contemporaneous building located from 5127-5131 Nannie Helen Burroughs Avenue, NE in Deanwood are being packaged together in a redevelopment plan that sees both structures stabilized, renovated, and facades restored to their original grandeur. The ground floor of the renovated buildings will feature new retail options, while the second floor will house small incubator office space for "small and local disadvantaged businesses out of the Ward 7 corridor." In 2008, the District originally awarded the property's development to Washington Metropolitan Community Development Corporation (WCDC) and Banneker Ventures, but WCDC cut their ties with Banneker shortly after their initial proposal, and have since partnered with the Warrenton Group. Serving as fee developer, Warrenton's Principle Warren Williams attended the hearing in support of the project, providing the Board with a brief summary of the proposed redevelopment.

Architectural duties have been assumed by local firm R. McGhee & Associates, and their design plans, in cooperation with guidelines set by the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB), will assist in restoring the historically significant architectural features of the Strand (such as the lengthy front awning and detailed cornice work) and its accompanying sister-building. An in-fill brick addition serving as the "building core" is also in the works, intended as a contemporary interpretation of what the Strand might look like if built with modern materials. The interiors will be extensively gutted and renovated to accommodate the ground floor retail space (likely featuring a restaurant or two) and “affordable” office space set to occupy the building upon completion. Principal Ronnie McGhee, who was recently appointed to the DC Board of Architecture and Interior Designers by Mayor Adrian Fenty, presented the architectural specifics to the BZA, and assured the Board that their plans had official approval from the HPRB and ANC7C. McGhee also promised that the iconic, the lighted Strand Theater sign, would be restored to the roof of the renovated building, bringing a welcome glow back to the area's skyline at night.

In 2008 Mayor Fenty bragged that: "There will be more energy back on this corner for the neighbors who live in the Ward 7 community, east of the river in general and for the entire city." Unfortunately, that energy has remained bottled up in storage these past two years, as the property continues to sit vacant and derelict. The Holy Christian Missionary Baptist church across the street, calling the structures as the currently stand an "eye sore," is also excited about the re-ignited redevelopment plans. Reverend Steve Young testified before the Board in support of the project and offered up use of the church's parking lot to alleviate parking concerns, saying: "whatever is needed to accommodate the project we're willing to comply." Developers also cited several convenient bus-lines that may service future retail patrons as justification for a reduction in required parking. By way of community benefits, developers additionally promised that a dug-out basement level will provide space to be used as a community meeting center, and that newly planted trees will improve the streetscape in compliance with the Great Streets Initiative. It was also noted that the area is currently "starved of retail options." The Board agreed that this was a impressive and commendable project that offers a big first step in revitalization of the surrounding area, as well as thoughtful preservation of a historic landmark. While there is still no timeline for expected groundbreaking and subsequent construction, this Zoning approval activity is a positive sign that developers are moving forward with their plans. In the next step forward, developers and architects will seek the blessing of the National Park Service.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News


Anonymous said...

It really looks like Ward 7 might make a turn around. Maybe that's a good thing. The houses there are good and tend to have nice yards and it's in a great location regarding transportation. Hopefully they will continue to clean it up. After all, this is Gray's ward.

Anonymous said...

Thank You. I am sooo glad that somebody has recognized and realized the beauty and value that Ward 7 has to offer.

Anonymous said...

Wasn't Warren Williams of The Warrenton Group a principal of Banneker Ventures? Has there been any substantive change in the awarding of the new contract?

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