Waterfront Project to House D.C. Agencies
SW Development Is Back on Track

By Dana Hedgpeth
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Development company Charles E. Smith said yesterday that two District agencies will lease space in new buildings that are part of a multimillion-dollar redevelopment of the Waterside Mall in Southwest, a tired-looking shopping center on 13 acres the city has long wanted to revitalize.

The commitment means the $800 million project at Fourth and M streets SW, which was delayed last January when mortgage financer Fannie Mae pulled out of a plan to move a significant portion of its offices there, can finally go ahead.

"We've been working on this for a couple of years after we hit a flat tire when Fannie Mae pulled out," said Mayor Anthony A. Williams (D). "This is the spark to make the Anacostia waterfront an area that's reborn with residential, retail and office that's sorely needed."

The Waterside Mall, which will be renamed Waterfront and sits at the Waterfront-Southeastern University Metro stop, is a key part of the redevelopment efforts along the Southwest and Southeast waterfronts. The Waterfront developers plan to tear down the mall, built in the 1960s, and turn two office towers that were once home to the Environmental Protection Agency into residential buildings. They also plan to build 1.2 million square feet of offices; 1.2 million square feet of residential space, with 130 affordable housing units; and 110,000 to 165,000 square feet of restaurants and shops, relocating a Safeway store. The project, which is to be built over the next decade, still needs planning and zoning approvals.

Safeway and CVS stores and a Bank of America will remain open during construction at the Waterside Mall, but many of its storefront windows are already covered with paper. The neighborhood is cut off from the rest of the city by the freeway and has long been home to empty parking lots, nightclubs and older buildings.

A few blocks from the Waterfront project, D.C. housing developer Monty Hoffman is leading a major effort to replace the parking lots and nightclubs along the Southwest waterfront with restaurants, housing and shops.

The agencies planning to lease space in the mall redevelopment are the District's Office of the Chief Financial Officer and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs. The agencies plan to lease 500,000 square feet for $14.2 million annually in two new buildings on Fourth Street SW.

The consumer regulatory agency, now at 941 North Capitol St. NE, needs more space to grow, and its lease will expire in a few years. The financial agency will be consolidating several of its offices on North Capitol Street NE, K Street NW and First Street NE. The moves are expected to occur in 2009, when the buildings are completed. Construction is expected to start in the spring.

Mitchell N. Schear, president of Charles E. Smith Commercial Realty, said: "These leases enable us to finally kick off this project. It's huge.

"This came about because we were working on what we were going to do after Fannie Mae and how we were going to get it kicked off," he said. "D.C. decided they wanted to put some of their own here to occupy space. It was great to have a plan, but we needed a tenant. They committed to spur economic development."

The developers of Waterside include Smith, a division of publicly traded Vornado Realty Trust known for building much of Crystal City, Rockville-based Bresler & Reiner and Forest City Enterprises of Cleveland.

The developers have a long-term lease on the property from the National Capital Revitalization Corp., a quasi-public agency. The land is being transferred to the developers in exchange for giving the revitalization group just over an acre on the site to develop as residential units.

The buildings will be environmentally friendly, with more efficient heating and air-conditioning systems and reused rainwater. The city said it will spend $10 million to reopen Fourth Street SW, which will run through the project. Architect Shalom Baranes said the buildings will use aluminum, glass and terra cotta, offering a contemporary feel.

"I'm cautiously optimistic," said Mary C. Williams, a neighborhood advisory commissioner in the area. "I'm watching it closely. Over the last 10 years, amenities have gone away and the mall has become a desolate area. I hope we see an effort that will not just attract people but also serve the people here and get us some amenities that were promised years ago."

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