Correction to This Article
This article about development on the site of the old Washington Convention Center omitted the developer Hines as a contributor of $1.5 million to promote programming of the project's open space for markets, festivals and events.

Building D.C.'s New 'Heart and Soul'

Retail shops, office buildings, apartments and condominiums will be built on two-thirds of land where the District's convention center once stood.
Retail shops, office buildings, apartments and condominiums will be built on two-thirds of land where the District's convention center once stood. (Photos By Bill O'leary -- The Washington Post)

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By Alejandro Lazo
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and a commercial development team have agreed on an $850 million deal to build retail shops, apartments and condominiums on public land where the city's former convention center once stood.

The development will be built on two-thirds of the 10-acre parcel, which is the largest undeveloped property in the District's urban core south of Massachusetts Avenue.

The mayor, in a news conference yesterday morning at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, said the project would become the District's new retail center.

"This project will be -- in almost anybody's definition -- the heart and soul of downtown," Fenty said. "A live, work and play environment unlike anywhere else in Washington, D.C."

The development team of Hines and Archstone-Smith plans to build two office buildings, two condominium buildings and two apartment buildings on the land, with construction slated to begin in January 2009. About 20 percent of the housing will be reserved for low- and middle-income tenants. The developers plan to complete the first buildings in 2011.

The site will also include about 250,000 square feet of retail space, including a planned central plaza between the condominium and apartment buildings. The developers have agreed to set aside 82,500 square feet, or 30 percent, of the retail space for local or "unique" shops. They define such stores as those with fewer than six locations nationally.

Plans for the site, bounded by New York Avenue and 9th, H and 11th streets NW, have been discussed and debated for more than four years.

One piece of the site, a northeast section bounded by New York Avenue and 9th Street NW, was traded by the city to local developer Kingdon Gould III last month in exchange for another piece of land closer to the new convention center. Gould has not announced his intentions for that land.

Some council members and area residents have pushed for a public library to be built on part of the old convention center site. It may also be suitable for a large, upscale department store, said Richard H. Bradley, executive director of the Downtown D.C. Business Improvement District.

A final piece of land that could accommodate either plan remains in the city's hands. Neil Albert, deputy mayor for planning and economic development, said a variety of uses were being considered, including retail, residential or civic use, such as relocating the District's central library there.

"We are going to make that decision and announcement soon," Albert said.

The developers will lease the land accommodating the offices and apartments for 99 years. They purchased the condominium land outright, said Konrad Schlater, special assistant to deputy mayor Albert. The city will retain 25 percent of any profit in excess of developers' projections on the project.

The developers agreed to build two new streets through the site as well as a park. Archstone-Smith has committed to allocate $1.5 million annually to promote programming of the project's open space for markets, festivals and events. A common area association will be created to manage programming and maintenance of open spaces.


© 2007 The Washington Post Company

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