The District of Columbia's Redevelopment Land Agency yesterday chose two local developers, the Oliver T. Carr Co. and Landow & Co. to prepare plans for a $200 million rebuilding project on the three blocks atop the Metro Center subway station in downtown Washington.
The Carr and Landow projects are expected to help speed the spread of new commercial development into the old downtown shopping areas.
Previous efforts to find a developer to rebuild the Metro Center site have failed, but this time six different firms sought RLA's designation as developers of the proprty, now occupied by aging and under-utilized stores and mostly-vacant offices.
The Carr company has proposed building a 1.8 million square foot office, shopping and hotel project on three pieces of RLA-owned land on the north site of G Street, between 11th and 14th Street, NW.
Landow wants to build an office building on the RLA land at the southwest corner of 12th and G Street, NW.
Yesterday's decision by the RLA's three-member board gives the two developers 30 days to negotiate an agreement with RLA for the projects. Another 120 days after that the two firms could be officially designated as developers of the land, if RLA accepts their proposals.
The choice of Landow, a Bethesda builder best known for his construction of suburban office buildings, to develop the land on the south side of G Streets surprised RLA staff members. The RLA staff had prepared a resolution naming the Carr firm to handle that site along with the rest of the property.
RLA Chairman Patricia King said the board decided to split the two projects to provide greater minority business participation. The Carr and Landow firms have black business partners in the teams they have assembled for the RLA projects.
Carr, the first developer to ask RLA for the property, was selected after the agency's staff ranked its proposal, in what one staff member called "a dead heat," with a bid by Western Development Corp.
Western had proposed an urban retail center built as a single structure with decks spanning 12th and 13th Streets.
Disappointed that his project has been turned down, Western Development President Herbert Miller complained that the decision had been made "by a lame duck administration" that "ignored the potential for creating a major retail development that is vital to the city."
The choice was also criticized by Charles Richardson, chairman of Advisory Neighborhood Committee C-2, who charged the RLA board acted illegally by not consulting with the ANC before making a decision.
King said the RLA board picked the Carr company for the project based on the firm's experience and its management and financial capability, its concept for the site and its minority participation.
Carr's partner in the project is black builder Theodore Hagans, developer of the Fort Lincoln housing project in Northeast Washington. Westerner Development's group included Rockefeller Center, and the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, which was to help bring black merchants into the project.
The Landow Company, which orginally bid for the whole project, has minority partners who will own a 25 percent interest in the venture.
Other developers who sought the property included Brown, Gildenhorn & Jacobs, Fernandez and Powell, a minority-dominated partnership that bid only for the property on the south side of H Street, Blake Construction Co. of Washington and Starett Housing Corp. of New York, which never submitted a final proposal.
RLA said details of both the Carr and Landow projects are expected to change during the four months the developers have to make their final proposals.
Carr's original project suggested 1.6 million square feet of new development on the north site of 13th Street and was enlarged to 1.8 million in later talks with the RLA staff. The project would include an estimated 800,000 square feet of office space, and about 500,000 square feet each of retail and hotel or housing space.
Carr executives told the RLA the new office buildings, stores and hotel will bring an additional 6,00 workers into downtown Washington, and create hundreds of construction jobs.
If the DC convention center is built, the hotel portion of the project will probably be enlarged, RLA officials said.
Carr told RLA officials that walkways might be constructed over the streets to connect the three parcels of land, which could be developed indvidually.
Landow has proposed an office building with shops on the basement and ground levels.
No timetables have been issued and none of the developers have put official price tags on their proposals, but RLA staffers estimate the project will run to at least $200 million and could take three to five years to build.
The RLA once before designated a developer for the Metro Center site, only to have the project collapse. The builder, the Gerald Hines company of Houston, pulled out in 1975 saying development of the project was not financially possible unless the District of Columbia government agreed to rent office space in the buildings.
After the district refused to guarantee that it would rent space, Hines dropped his proposal and the project sat idle until Carr picket it up and others joined in the bidding.
A Washington firm that has grown into a major developer in the last 10 years by building a series of projects in the western part of the downtown area, the Carr Company recently has lead builders into the Eastern sector of the city.
Carr was the first developer to propose reopening the Willard Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, and is considered the firm most likely to be chosen when the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp. picks a developer for the Willard next month. The Carr firm also is planning to rebuild the block around the Garfinckel's store at 14th and F Street, NW.