The gnarled face of Glover Park's main commerical strip is changing. The comfortably worn Nicky's Steak N Place, the Old Europe restaurant and Plain Old Pearson's pharmacy and liquor store have been joined by five- and six-story spanking new office buildings along wisconsin Avenue north of Georgetown.
The Calvert Liquor Shop, which still carries the marquee of the old Calvert Theater, and Leonard's beauty salon are slated to be replaced with a larger development of offices, shops and apartments. The Milton Companies won final approval from the city in December for the project and plans to begin construction in May, according to company president Milton Schneiderman.
As the face of Glover Park is evolving, so is its name. Developers of commercial buildings there have started calling it "Upper Georgetown," a designation intended to imply class but one that makes longtime residents bristle. For them, Glover Park connotes a distinguished and historical past.
Aside from the disagreement over the name, however, area residents and the new developers appear to have worked well together in making the new changes.
To get city approval for a planned urban development -- allowing more density than under current zoning -- the Milton Companies had to consult with the citizens association. The developers modified their plan to deal with concerns of the residents and seem to have done it with a minimum of friction.
"They were pretty well received, professional and up-front about what they want to do," said Penny Moser, a Glover Park resident and editor of the citizen association's newsletter, the South China Morning Post. "When people said they wanted things changed, [the developer] changed them."
Even a partner in one of the businesses being dislocated by the development credits the Schneiderman project with being "magnificent" and "a beautiful job." Aaron Bernstein, a partner in Calvert Liquor, also said the changes taking place in the area are "good for the immediate neighborhood.... It will be dressed up, attractive." Bernstein said Calvert Liquor will relocate somewhere close to its current home but that plans are not yet firm.
The new project is to include five stories of offices and 64 apartments in separate buildings, which will be low- to moderate-income rentals if the developer receives a grant from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. If not, the apartments will become condominiums, to be sold by the city at below-market prices of about $50,000 apiece. To accommodate the citizens, the Milton Companies eliminated one story of the development and added an arcade for access between 37th Street and Wisconsin Avenue.
That project is on the east side of the street, but the west side has been developed more so far. One new building there is 2201 Wisconsin Ave., a six-story building that includes almost 100,000 square feet of office and retail space as well as 49 luxury condominiums. It let its first lease in December to a law firm.
The Donohoe Companies plans to start construction this year on 175,000 square feet of office space next to the Sperry Rand building at 2121 Wisconsin Ave. This project was to have included a seven-story condominium component, but the developer has postponed that because of the poor housing market, said John Donahue, commercial development director.
Altogether, about a half million square feet of new commercial space will be available within two blocks there over the next few years, according to Richard Minchik, assistant vice president at Julian J. Studley Inc., leasing agent for 2201.
So far the development in the area apparently has not replaced businesses that residents miss much.
But future development may run into more resistance -- this time from owners of older businesses who lease buildings that may be sold to developers.
Developers are looking at the possibility of an assemblage on the west side of the 2100 block of Wisconsin, where Theodore's Furniture and Rinaldi Cleaners now stand, according to sources familiar with the area.
Charles Montgomery, co-owner of the property, said in fact the building had been sold once to a developer but the deal fell through when other properties around it could not acquired for the new project. Now he and his partner are considering whether to sell it or continue to lease it. Theodore's lease is up in June next year, Montgomery said.
With development comes traffic congestion that eventually may concern area residents, particularly if development continues to accelerate. "Nobody likes to see a concrete canyon, but I think it is inevitable," resident Moser said.
But traffic means business for shop owners locating there now.
John Lopynski, owner of Columbia Mirror and Glass Co. in the 2200 block, has been there for 11 months and says he already has seen substantial change in the area, but he sees it as all to the good.
"This place is starting to come around again. When we were first here it was dying," said Lopynski who has owned his company for 20 years. As rents expand and parking contracts in Georgetown, he predicts more small retail businesses will be attracted to the Glove Park area from Georgetown, as he was. Already Dettmers Jewelry and several interior decorators have relocated from Georgetown, he said.