Developers are quickly building new apartments in the District’s U Street neighborhood, and now grocery stores are following.
Executives at the JBG Cos., one of the region’s largest real estate developers, said they plan to open a Trader Joe’s grocery store in an apartment building under construction on 14th Street NW, just south of U Street next year.
A few blocks northeast of that project, JBG and its retail arm, JBG Rosenfeld, have lined up a commitment from another grocer, Harris Teeter, but it will require winning the rights to some city-owned property on Sherman Avenue.
Last year JBG and a partner, Walton Street Capital, acquired three former Atlantic Plumbing Supply properties near the intersection of Sherman Avenue NW, Florida Avenue NW and V Street NW, after a previous development there petered out and its owner ran into difficult debt obligations.
Harris Teeter has signed a letter of intent to open a store there as part of a retail and residential development, said Grant Ehat, principal at JBG Rosenfeld. But to make the deal work, he said JBG will have to acquire a 1.5-acre lot next door that the city plans to offer to private developers in a request for proposals later this year.
“We’ve negotiated a letter of intent and we have a deal that we’re willing to make, but to do it we need to win the RFP,” Ehat said.
Vincent C. Gray’s economic development office is expected to issue a solicitation for the Sherman Avenue property this fall. Ehat said he hoped that JBG would have a leg up on competition because its ownership of the Atlantic Plumbing property would allow the extension of W Street east through the site.
“We are responding to that RFP. We want to win it. We also think we’ll be competitive in this process because of what we can deliver to the city, which is something they want, is the extension of W Street,” he said.
A spokesman for the District declined to comment, citing a policy against speculating on potential partners.
Students and neighbors of Howard University have long pined for a grocery store to serve the area, but the school’s efforts to develop something called Howard Town Center have repeatedly collapsed.
In the meantime, the area has grown into one of the hottest for apartment development in the region and country. Between Columbia Heights to the north and Shaw to the south, 1,321 apartment units are under construction and an additional 797 units are expected to be completed in the next three years, according to the research firm Delta Associates.
Cranes line both sides of 14th Street north and south of U Street at work on projects like Louis, the 268-unit apartment building where Trader Joe’s will open that JBG and Georgetown Strategic Capital began building in February and should be complete late next year.