In the midst of an area of widespread poverty and decaying housing stock, the proposed O Street Market Mall in Shaw will stand out like a brand new copper penny in a bag of rusty coins. And community development block grand funds made it possible, say city officials.
In 1974, the District government poured more than $350,000 in community development funds into 92-year-old produce market, which closed in 1968 because of unsanitary conditions, said Harold J. Wendt, acting administrator with the community development administration of the D.C. Development of Housing and Community Development.
Residents of the community had wanted the faded, crumbling market torn down to make room for new commercial development. But the housing department hoped to save the building so that eventually a community developer migh reopen the historic market, Wendt said. The block grant funds were used to weatherproof the building, paint it inside and out and restore the roof, windows and doors.
Then they waited.
Three years later, James Adkins, a Shaw resident and owner of Century Seafood Market at 14th and Randolph streets, was awarded a $1.6 million development loan from the U.S. Department of Commerce to restore the O Street Market. Recently, he received approval on another $1.6 million loan from a local financial institution to cover building costs for the mall. The hopes of housing department officials were about to become a reality.
Adkins' attorney William Harris calls the project a prime example of the benefits community unity and pride can reap.
"Mr. Adkins and his wife were constantly passing up and down 0 and 7th streets," Harris said. "They noticed the market had been boarded up a number of years and they said, 'Let's go down to city officials to see what we can do.'"
With the help and interest of federal and local government officials, Shaw community groups and area businessmen, the Adkins obtained the loans to develop the market under the husband and wife partnership of Adkins Limited.
"The family never handled anything quite this large," Harris said.
If all works out according to plan, Harris said, the proposed market will include one of the first new supermarket to be built in the District of Columbia since the 1968 riots, a new bank, drugstore, pedestrian mall and parking lot. The supermarket will be run by Giant Goods Inc. and will be jointly owned by Giant Foods, the D.C. Community Development Corp. and the Shaw Community Citizens Pact.
The exteriors of the bank, drugstore and supermarket will be a character with the exterior of the market, Harris said. However, the market will have a modern interior with 18 to 20 stalls for produce vendors to sell vegetables, meats and other produces. Harris said Adkins Limited is presently seeking tenants for the market and a bank willing to build in the two block mall, which is located between 7th, 9th o and p streets NW.
"I don't know of another commercial venture of this magnitude in the area," Harris said. "This is nor something that just happened yesterday.
"It's been a fairly long procedure, but he (Adkins) received a lot of cooperation from just an awful lot of people. He kept going back and forth until the pieces sort of fell into place."
Harris said construction on the mall should begin within a few days.