Children's Museum Lines Up a Better Place to Play
The neighborhood, built as a 1960s experiment in urban renewal, is home to about 4,000 apartments and townhouses, as well as government office buildings. It has been underutilized, D.C. planners said, because Interstate 395 cuts through it and there are few crosswalks on the busy streets and not enough shops to attract passersby. D.C. officials have long wanted to transform the area into shops, restaurants, apartments and cultural attractions.
The museum started to talk to the District about a site across Maine Avenue from the Arena Stage theater, with the museum replacing some of the parking lots that serve cruise ships along the Anacostia River. But the talks ultimately ended.
"By last summer, we could see things were moving, but they were moving slowly" on redeveloping the waterfront, said Southern, the museum's chief executive. "It became a question of the timing, and we became less certain about going there."
The District was slow to move on the Southwest waterfront, officials said, because it was in disagreement with the publicly chartered economic development corporation, the National Capital Revitalization Corp., over which should control land along the Southwest waterfront. The two reached a tentative agreement just last month.
The museum was starting to get in a hurry. It would need a big campaign to raise money for the new museum, which would take time.
Hechinger then turned to Michael J. Glosserman, a managing partner at JBG, a developer founded more than two decades ago. The firm has projects underway in Northern Virginia, the Maryland suburbs and downtown D.C.
The Hechinger hardware stores had gone into many of JBG's shopping centers in the Washington area. The Hechinger family had also invested in JBG's offices, housing and retail projects. And Ross Hechinger and Glosserman were golfing buddies.
"We asked him: 'What markets did he think would be the most viable for us?' " Southern said.
Glosserman had an idea.
JBG was considering buying part of L'Enfant Plaza. Company executives said they saw the site as ripe for redevelopment; they envisioned putting more shops at street level instead of under the Loews L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, where they are now, plus building condos or apartments, restaurants, and perhaps a museum or other cultural attraction.
© 2004 The Washington Post Company