Look to the areas east of the downtown core for development possibilities in the 1980s, former city planner J. Kirkwood White told a conference of the local real estate industry last week.
"The new theme in Washington is to encourage residential development close in," particularly projects that include housing units and help increase the tax base of the city, he said.
White, an attorney with the development law firm of Linowes and Blocher, was active as deputy director of the city's Municipal Planning Office in efforts to stimulate residential construction downtown.
Speaking at a conference on real estate investment, White told several hundred brokers, builders and others in the industry that one area of downtown "likely to move ahead rapidly" is the Massachusetts Avenue NW corridor from Mount Vernon Square to Union Station.
"Land is still available there, but prices have begun to move as people realize that this is a place for apartments and office buildings," he said.
Another area with potential for development is Judiciary Square, the courthouse complex that is served by Metro, he said.
White said that the neighborhoods east of Mount Vernon Square and the planned convention center have greater potential for development than the West End, a mixed-use area just east of Georgetown where the city successfully encouraged construction in the 1970s.
Like West End, the Mount Vernon Square area has a "lot of older auto-oriented facilities" and is "ripe for development in mixed uses," White said.
The South Capitol Street area south of the Capitol to the Anacostia River, "also merits serious attention," the lawyer said. "The city is serious about economic development there. A lot of industrial land there is available."
Land around Metro stations has the potential for development as well, White said. "The more you look at (stations) the better they look," he said, citing the current Rhode Island Avenue NE station and the future 14th Street and Columbia Road NW stop.
But the real future for major development is in the eastern part of the downtown, White insisted, largely because of the impetus of the Pennsylvania Avenue Development Corp.
Another speaker at the conference, which was sponsored by the Bethesda-based Scherr Institute of Real Estate, gave advice in another direction, however. Richard Swesnik, developer of the Esplanade Mall on K Street and other projects along that office building corridor, said he believes the heavy development action will continue to center in his neighborhood, principally from 16th to 24th streets NW.
"I'm not a pioneer," he said, referring to possibilities in the eastern section of downtown. "I want to go where it's proven."
The central K Street area is "not yet fully developed," he said. "What is left is in the hands of some real tough speculators."