Fast-casual eateries Roti Mediterranean Grill, Potbelly and Au Bon Pain opened earlier this summer and now line the luminous east wing of the promenade, bathed in sunlight from the floor-to-ceiling windows. Red banners on temporary drywall herald the coming of five more restaurants, including Five Guys and Moe’s Southwest Grill, before the end of the summer.
And that’s just the beginning of a transformation JBG Cos. says will usher in a new era for its sprawling District complex. The Chevy Chase developer is pouring $40 million into the long-forgotten underground mall, overhauling every drab corner of the 180,000-square-foot space.
“It’s very heavy architecture,” said Britt Snider, JBG development officer. “We’re trying to lighten it up so it doesn’t feel so intimidating.”
Architecture firm SmithGroup is revamping the space with modern birch accents, recess lighting and a red, white and gray color palette, carried throughout the decor and flooring.
The retail redevelopment is part of a larger renovation and expansion effort taking place at the complex, composed of a 372-room hotel and two office buildings in Southwest Washington. Plans call for a 234-room Homewood Suites, 500,000 square feet of more office space and, among other things, a make-over for the existing hotel rooms.
JBG’s effort to revitalize the canyon of concrete buildings is occurring amid a much-needed rebirth of Southwest Washington, where at least five projects are in some stage of development.
Forest City, for instance, has delivered some 140,000 square feet of retail in the past year, including fine dining restaurant Station 4, as a part of its Waterfront Station development. PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette, meanwhile, are gearing up to break ground late next year on the Wharf, a public-private venture that promises hotels, restaurants, shops and apartments.
This collection of lifestyle projects aims to breath new life into an area that has long suffered from a paucity of convenient amenities. What little that has existed centered on the 9-to-5 office crowd, especially at L’Enfant Plaza.
Snider said the company took the paltry after-hours options into consideration in planning the second phase of the retail redevelopment. Casual dining restaurants are envisioned for the west wing of the retail promenade, where demolition is underway with completion slated for early 2013.
“The true test of this transformation will be whether we see people after work or on the weekends,” Snider said.
As much as JBG wants to create a vibrant late-night atmosphere, he said the company is keen on catering to the needs of the daytime population — more than 28,000 workers are within a half-mile of the complex. A smattering of business-wear boutiques will be sprinkled along the corridor off the food court, while a daycare and gym are being considered.