By Nikita Stewart
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Radio One, the country's largest radio broadcasting company targeting black listeners, may be returning its headquarters to the District from Lanham in a proposed deal that would require the city to provide $22 million in public financing, according to city officials.
The 70-station urban radio group would be the anchor of a 330,000-square-foot development atop the Shaw-Howard University Metro station on Seventh Street NW, a few blocks south of Howard University, where company chairwoman Catherine L. Hughes began her legendary career as a broadcaster and later a businesswoman.
For more than a decade, Hughes ran her company from a storefront on H Street NE and later the NBC complex near American University in Northwest.
Radio One moved to Lanham in 1997, lamenting that the city's economy was declining and professing that Prince George's County and Maryland were pro-business.
The deal being negotiated by city officials, if approved by the D.C. Council, would bring Radio One "back to its District roots," said Neil O. Albert, deputy mayor for planning and economic development.
Radio One representatives did not return calls for comment.
Speaking at a hearing of the council Committee on Economic Development, Albert said yesterday that a deal could be finalized by next month.
Valerie Santos Young, chief operating officer for Albert's office, said in an interview that the $22 million financing package could be introduced to the D.C. Council by mid-October, but city Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi must approve it first.
Council member Jim Graham (D-Ward 1), who has pushed for the revitalization of Georgia Avenue, said he will support the proposed deal.
"We have given significant subsidies for all manner of development. Why would we hesitate here?" he said. "This is the premiere African American broadcast company."
If the negotiations go as planned, the group of developers behind "Broadcast Center One," would break ground as early as February and would complete the project by 2010, said Steven Cassell, vice president of Four Points, one of the developers.
City officials consider the proposed $115 million development a catalyst for Georgia Avenue -- a main thoroughfare that extends north from Seventh Street.
The city is trying to revitalize the corridor by encouraging major private development over the next decade. Donatelli Development is currently building 156 condominiums and townhouses at the Georgia Avenue-Petworth Metro stop, and Howard University has plans for 322 apartments, a 24-hour grocery store and shops.
Broadcast Center One would include the Radio One offices, shops and 180 apartments. Radio One would also relocate its venture TV One, a cable/satellite television network that targets African American adults, to the site from its Silver Spring offices.
The developers would set aside 45 apartments, or 25 percent, for low-income residents and city employees, Cassell said. "If you were to take all the major initiatives of the city, this meets everything that the city is trying to do," Cassell said.
He said the city's $22 million investment would be offset by the benefits.
Young said she could not disclose whether the financing would come in the form of a tax abatement, bonds or other methods. "That's the part that we're negotiating," she said.
Originally, the city was offering the developers of the project -- Four Points, Ellis Development Group and the Jarvis Co. -- $10 million in public financing, Young said.
But rising construction costs and the city's request that the developer build parking for the nearby Howard Theater spurred the city to offer more money, she said.
Young added that the $12 million more helps reduce direct costs for Radio One and makes the leasing agreement comparable to the one the company has in Lanham.