In his Busboys and Poets restaurants, owner Andy Shallal frequently weaves together food and drink with arts, music and performance space.
With his newest project he may be adding a new component: education and job training.
Shallal recently signed a letter of intent to open a restaurant in a former furniture store on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue Southeast, in Anacostia, according to two sources familiar with the deal. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because a final agreement has not been signed.
The property, located at 2004-2010 Martin Luther King, would have a Shallal restaurant on the first floor that would be combined with a culinary training program.
The Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), which supports community development projects in D.C. neighborhoods, has signed on as an investor in the project. Shallal declined to comment.
Shallal, a recent candidate for D.C. mayor, may soon have restaurants in all corners of the city. If he opens a Busboys at the location it would likely be his seventh in the region and it would be the first of his popular restaurants to open east of the Anacostia River. He is opening a fifth Busboys in Takoma and will open a sixth in Brookland this fall.
Shallal made economic development a major part of his mayoral campaign platform, proposing to fund more programs for job readiness and working to reduce poverty by creating good jobs. He repeatedly pledged to open a restaurant east of the river and said recently that he was considering multiple locations in Anacostia.
Unlike many neighborhoods in Northwest, where restaurants have been opening at a breakneck pace, Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue has added bits of retail in fits and starts during the past few years. The two-story brick building – long adorned with an America’s Furniture sign — has been vacant in recent years but was purchased in late 2012 by the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative, for $2.2 million.
The organization, founded in 1996, connects children and families in Ward 8 to safety net services and has been eliciting input from residents about what they would like to see added to the neighborhood.
“Once we purchased the property on MLK we engaged the community in a series of conversations to really hear about what they saw as needs in the community, and what they would like to see on the avenue and in the space,” said Perry Moon Jr., executive director of the group.
The collaborative plans to build its new offices on the second floor of the building, where it will relocate from the Anacostia Professional Building down the street. Moon declined to discuss the plans for the first floor but said residents wanted “training programs that led to employment” and that part of that meant “bringing retail in the community and opportunities for folks to do stuff in their own community.”
Basic demolition work has begun and Moon said that once construction begins it should last about a year.
“Most people who live in this community, their desires are pretty similar. So it’s really our goal to help kind of be a catalyst for economic development as part of our mission,” he said.
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