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Correction to This Article
A July 31 Business article incorrectly stated that David C. Sobelsohn said rents at the Southwest Washington apartment complex where he lives have increased 12 percent in the past three years. Sobelsohn said rents have increased 12 percent a year since 2003.
Competing Developers Share Waterfront Ideas

By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, July 31, 2006; D01

One developer proposed a theater dedicated to Cirque du Soleil performances. Another suggested a produce market similar to the nearby fish market on Maine Avenue SW. A third boasted that his team includes Magic Johnson's urban investment fund.

Those are among the prospects for the District's Southwest waterfront offered by five development teams that are competing for a leading role in the area's first revitalization effort in more than 40 years.

On Thursday night, the rivals provided a peek at their ideas to transform 47 acres between the 14th Street Bridge and P Street SW with shops, restaurants, housing, parks and offices. The two-hour meeting attracted about 150 community leaders, neighborhood residents and members of the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. to Southeastern University on I Street SW.

"We want a waterfront that is the envy of the nation," Adrian G. Washington, president and chief executive of Anacostia Waterfront, told the crowd as people fanned themselves in a hot, standing-room-only auditorium. "We want a place that has an urban waterfront and where people can live and work."

The plans to redo Southwest's waterfront started in 2001 by soliciting community opinion about what should be built. The approved plan calls for 2 million square feet of development on land that is now mostly parking lots and concrete buildings, including the Channel Inn Hotel, nightclubs and the Phillips Seafood restaurant. The new plan calls for 850 residential units, with 30 percent of them marked as affordable; 250,000 square feet of retail; 2,000 parking spaces; 180,000 square feet of cultural attractions; and 250,000 square feet for a hotel.

Seventeen development teams sent in requests in the spring to be named the master developer that will work with the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. Five finalists were selected in June: EastBanc Inc., a retail developer in Georgetown that did Cady's Alley, a row of upscale shops; District-based retail developer Madison Marquette with Vienna-based housing developer KSI Services Inc.; PN Hoffman Inc., a housing developer in the District with Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, a development company based in Baltimore; office and housing developer JBG Cos. of Chevy Chase; and the John Buck Co., a major developer in Chicago.

The competitors were asked not to bring detailed sketches and renderings from architects but rather explain their qualifications, minority investors and how they would pay for the project. The Anacostia Waterfront Corp., a quasi-public entity charged with improving the rundown Southwest and Southeast waterfronts, expects to pick a winner in the fall. Construction would probably start in 2008.

"Our vision is to bring the neighborhood to the water," said Monty Hoffman of PN Hoffman. "Our vision is not a mall; it's not an amusement park." His plan includes a "cultural zone" with a water park, piers and an aquarium and Cirque du Soleil. Hoffman said he has discussed the possibility with management of the popular acrobatic extravaganzas.

Anthony Lanier of EastBanc said he wanted to make the area "look unplanned and create something that looks as if it's been here for a long time."

JBG, which built the Transportation Department headquarters in Southeast and has plans to redo L'Enfant Plaza, said it has the Phillips and Channel Inn leaseholders on its team. The Anacostia group and the chosen developer will probably have to buy out the long-term leases of the tenants on the land, developers said. The land is owned by National Capital Revitalization Corp. and is being transferred to the Anacostia group.

John A. Buck tried to convince the group that his experience transforming parts of the lakefront in Chicago made him most qualified to redo the Southwest waterfront. And Madison Marquette said that it had financial participation from Johnson's group and wanted to bring in a grocery store such as Trader Joe's.

Some in the audience questioned whether the developers would have environmentally friendly buildings and whether the housing units would be in high-rise or low-rise buildings. Others complained that the plans would bring too much development to the area.

Loreta Williams, 63, who has lived in Southwest for 25 years, said she worried about more traffic and crime.

"I'm concerned that this is the second round of urban renewal we've gone through," Williams said. "One of the big attractions of Southwest is that it's really quiet. It's like living in the suburbs but you're in the city. I'm afraid that uniqueness might be lost."

Carolyn G. Mitchell said the area could become as crowded as Dupont Circle or Adams Morgan.

"I'm worried about the parking and if they put luxury condos on the waterfront, as one developer was explaining, those people are going to demand that parts of the waterfront be private to protect their view," Mitchell said. "Now I can walk down to the waterfront because it's a public area."

Bruce Koedding, a project manager at IBM, said he was concerned about what would happen to the marina, where he and about 100 others dock their boats and where some people live full time.

"There aren't any people other than us living in the footprint of the plans," he said. "People don't realize you have a viable community there. I want to see if we're going to be evicted." None of the developers revealed specific plans for the marina.

David C. Sobelsohn, an advisory neighborhood commissioner for the area, took copious notes but said he couldn't decide which plan he liked best.

"They all have interesting features, but what's in it for people in my neighborhood?" he said. "I'm worried we'll be priced out of the market." In the past three years, he said, rents in the apartment building where he lives have gone up 12 percent. "We're going to be overwhelmed with people who don't live in the neighborhood and with attractions that don't benefit us."

CarrAmerica Holdings to Sell

Tishman Speyer Properties of New York is in talks to buy 26 office buildings in the District owned by CarrAmerica Realty Corp.

Publicly traded CarrAmerica of the District was recently sold in a $5.6 billion deal to an affiliate of privately held New York-based Blackstone Group LP. The office buildings in the District are expected to sell for about $2 billion and the deal is expected to close in the fall, said sources familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal has not closed.

Tishman Speyer and Blackstone had no comment.

Jemal Buys A.V. Ristorante Site

D.C. developer Douglas Jemal said he bought the land that A.V. Ristorante Italiano occupies and is working to buy the rest of the block at New York Avenue and Seventh Street NW. He said he would like to put offices and retail on the site, much as he did on the block of Seventh Street NW across from Verizon Center.

Jemal wouldn't say how much he paid for the restaurant, a neighborhood institution that was started in 1949 by Augusto Vasaio and remained in his family. "They don't have to worry about the price of pizza anymore," he said. "They can retire."

But not right away. The owners said the restaurant won't close until October 2007.

"I'm very sad, but what are you going to do," said August Vasaio, one of the owners. "This is my lifeblood. But it's progress. Every good thing comes to an end."

Dana Hedgpeth writes about commercial real estate and economic development. Her e-mail address ishedgpethd@washpost.com.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company