By Jonathan O'Connell
Capital Business Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 2, 2011; 10:31 PM
Two nonprofit groups, the Shakespeare Theatre Co. and International Relief and Development, have canceled plans to open offices in a planned redevelopment of the former Hine Junior High School on Capitol Hill.
Developers EastBanc and Stanton are reducing the size of the project at Pennsylvania Avenue and Seventh Street SE by 85,000 square feet, said Joseph Sternlieb, vice president of acquisitions for District-based EastBanc. The modified plans call for a 557,000-square-foot project that will add housing units, and possibly a boutique hotel with 120 to 140 rooms, at Seventh and C streets.
The District closed Hine and 22 other school buildings after the 2007-08 school year.
The withdrawal of the Shakespeare Theatre and International Relief and Development, an anti-poverty group that had planned to move its headquarters from Arlington County, leaves the developers with no office tenants for the property. The Tiger Woods Foundation had opted against opening space on the site after the golf icon's personal scandal in 2009.
Office space makes up about 26 percent of the project, Sternlieb said. However, the project will still bring vibrancy to the neighborhood, he said, with the possibility of outdoor performances by the Shakespeare Theatre.
"All the values that we had are still present, and now I think we're just bringing a real overlay to what was before a plan," Sternlieb said.
The developers now plan at least 126 new homes and as many as 162 if they do not build the hotel, which would climb as high as seven stories on the south end of the parcel. C Street, now interrupted between Seventh and Eighth, would go through, open to car traffic on weekdays and to street vending, for which Eastern Market is known, on weekends.
The project would also bring shopping and retail to Seventh Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Sternlieb said that although the developers aren't ready to sign any leases, he has received interest from a number of businesses eager to move into the project. He expects construction to begin in mid-2013.
"We don't want it to be just an entertainment-restaurant-bar zone," he said.
D.C. Council member Tommy Wells (D-Ward 6) said it was disappointing to see negotiations over offices for the Shakespeare Theatre break down. "We would love to see them stay in our neighborhood forever," he said.
The Shakespeare Theatre houses costume design, rehearsal and administrative space in two properties nearby on Eighth Street SE. Its actors rent space in what Chris Jennings, Shakespeare's managing director, called a "hodgepodge of places all throughout the Hill," about 30 apartments in all. The theater had planned to combine its offices along with new housing for actors at the Hine site.
"What was great about this project was the opportunity for us to both secure ourselves in a long-term fashion, remain residents of the Hill and have it be consolidated," he said.
Jennings said Shakespeare was still negotiating for apartments in the project but could not come to financial terms with the developers on 70,000 square feet of rehearsal and office space. "We thought we could match our costs and timeline with theirs and ultimately weren't able to," he said.
Wells said the overall project has been improved by the addition of more housing and the possibility of a hotel. He said the only nearby hotel options for guests on the Hill are on South Capitol Street and the 200 block of C Street SE.
"There are not a lot of other good options for visitors," he said.