The Washington Board of Realtors took about 50 of its members on a tour yesterday of the District's newly emerging Downtown East, an area poised for significant rebuilding over the next 20 years.
After a briefing by downtown redevelopment leaders, they drove east of 15th Street NW and north of Pennsylvania Avenue. That's the downtown commercial area that grew old and shabby during the 1960s and 1970s when new private office and commercial development spread increasingly westward from 16th Street.
Real estate offficials already were aware of the Pennsylvania Avenue rejuvenation plans including restoration of the historic Willard Hotel and the planned preservation of the National Theater in a block to be redeveloped substantially with a new hotel, office and commercial spaces.
They also knew that four large new office buildings are under way at Vermont, L and 14th Streets.
Areas near the new convention center started just south of Mount Vernon Square were in the tour, including the nearly completed 176-unit Latrobe apartment. The building is being developed by the National Housing Partnership and is the first new high-rise, nonsubsidized rental building in recent years. It's on the northeast corner of Rhode Island and 15th NW.
Other structures pointed out were a 10-unit condominium in a rehabilitated building at 15th and Q, the redeveloped 7 Logan Circle for use as rental apartments, the completely restored Iowa apartment and new town houses south of the circle on 13th, the rehabbed Bates Street town houses and the redone Julius Hobson condo apartment buildings in the area near New York Avenue and 1st streets, the Northwest cooperative homes in the Shaw renewal area and numerous other individually owned dwellings being revamped on main and side streets west of N. Capitol Street.
At the O Street market, developer James Atkins descried public response to the food stalls and neighboring Giant food store as "beyond expectations." He said a vacant corner of the market block soon will have a bank and a savings and loan branch, with some office space above.
The group also saw the former Shaw school site, described as a possible location for apartments for older persons, the newly started convention center site, the cleared site for the downtown campus of the University of D.C., the Gallery Place redevelopment site, the metro Building, Metro Center and other key areas.
Officials said the city is committed to rejuvenation of the old downtown that is expected to be more than 50 percent rebuilt within the next 20 years. But they also noted plans for a revived Chinatown, preserved historic sites, new galleries and restaurants and 1,500 housing units in the Pennsylvania Avenue redevelopment area. Even the fortressy FBI building may be humanized with some sidewalk-plaza activity.