Preliminary plans for the Metro Center urban renewal project-plans which envision a department store, a hotel, shops and offices on the north side of G Street between 11th Street and the Church of the Epiphany at 1317 G St. NW-were presented to representatives of community groups last week by officials of the Oliver T. Carr Company and the Hagans Development Company.
Last November, the Carr-Hagans team won exclusive rights to prepare a development plan for the 160,000 square foot area-urban renewal parcels 2, 3 and 5. The plans must be approved by the National Capital Planning Commission and the D.C. City Council. If approved, the developers must negotiate with the city to purchase or lease the property from the city.
The presentation last week was one of several meetings the developers have held with citizens to get their suggestions on the plan.
"We're going to try to make Metro Center a retail center again," said Clyde F. Newman III, of the Carr company. Newman said he would like to have one, or possibly two, major department stores in the complex. To facilitate this, the developers will ask the city to approve the construction of pedestrian bridges over 12th and 13th streets to link the three parcels. Total retail space, according to Newman, would be about 500,000 square feet.
Preliminary plans include a 500- to 600-room hotel, provided the convention center-which would be about a block away from Metro Center-is built. The remainder of the complex would be for offices, according to Newman. Under the zoning regulations, the complex could include a total of 1.6 million square feet.
Among business now on the site are a parking lot, the Washington Theater Lab, the Washington Project for the Arts, several clothing shops, the C.G. Sloan Company, a firehouse, several retail stores, two restaurants, offices and apartments housing nine residents. Residential or commercial tenants who were tenants at the stie when the city Redevelopment Land Agency first condemned the land nine years ago are eligible for relocation assistance.
People attending the meeting expressed concern about three aspects of the proposed development: how to avoid wholesale displacement of the small business now there; how to accommodate the arts groups, and whether any of the present buildings, many of which are 19th century structures, would be preserved.
Newman said the developers would consider a plan used by the developer of the Quincy Market in Boston to avoid displacement. Under that plan, original tenants could rent space in the new complex for the same rent they paid in the old buildings for a set period of time, after which the rents gradually would be increased.
Jim Muscatello, who owns a clothing shop on 12th Street NW and is the leader of a group of small business owners who have long opposed downtown urban renewal plans, said at the meeting: "Many people were forced to move-they thought the buildings were going to be torn down eight years ago. Then Metro came along and dug a bid ditch and killed them. Maybe this is a chance for some of them to come back.
Newman said the developers would also try to keep some arts groups in the area. In response to a suggestion from Peter Jablow, a representative of the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington, Newman said some space might be shared by arts groups.
Pat Williams, a representative of Don't Tear It Down, a local preservation group, asked if the developer had requested urban renewal plan changes that would allow some of the builings to be preserved. The present urban renewal plan calls for all of the buildings to be demolished.
Newman said the developers were still considering which, if any, buildings should be saved and incorporated into the complex. He said the developers have requested that the minimum height requirement-110 feet-be eliminated in order to give the developers the flexibility needed to preserve some buildings. Among the buildings preservationists consider worthy of saving are Sloans' auction house on 13th Street, the Washington Project for the Arts building on G Street and the Caroline Apartments on 11th Street.
Newman said he hoped to have schematic drawings to present to the group at its next meeting, possibly at the end of June.
Groups participating in the meetings on the project are: Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2C, BSAYAP (Business Severely Affected by Yearly Action Plans), Center City Community Corporation, the City Museum Project, the Committee of 100 for the Federal City, the Cultural Alliance of Greater Washington, the D.C. Chamber of Commerce, the D.C. Federation of Civic Associations, Don't Tear It Down, Cluster of Churches, the Federal City Council, the Metropolitan Washington Board of Trade and the Metropolitan Washington Planning and Housing Association.