The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Developers propose apartments, retail to revive desolate block in D.C.’s Hill East

An artist’s rendering of a proposed mixed-use development in D.C.’s Hill East neighborhood. (CAS Riegler)
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While the District’s Barracks Row buzzes with restaurant-goers in the evenings and Eastern Market bustles on weekends, the activity tapers significantly as you move east. Beyond a few quiet spots and a Harris Teeter, residents in the neighborhood known as Hill East have scant places to hang out.

A block-long development in the works in the 1400 block of Pennsylvania Avenue SE may change that.

Earlier this month, developers CAS Riegler submitted a proposed planned unit development (PUD) to the Zoning Commission in the hopes of building a large mixed-use project on the site, which is on the south side of Pennsylvania Avenue. The block currently consists of a NY Pizza place, an empty apartment building and fallow land.

CAS Riegler officials say they hope to give Hill East a “gateway project.”

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“We want to create a project that is big enough for four or five different retailers,” Kevin Riegler, principal and founder of CAS Riegler, said in an interview. Antunovich Associates architecture firm designed the plans.

Potential retailers could include restaurants, cafes and boutiques, Riegler added. “In one fell swoop, you’re changing the whole feel of the area.”

The 22,500-square-foot first floor would be entirely retail, fronting onto Pennsylvania Avenue, 14th Street SE and a small portion of Potomac Avenue SE. CAS Riegler is requesting that the Zoning Commission tweak the current code requirements to allow for bigger retail space, with higher ceilings to allow for a grander feel. About 180 residential units in a range of sizes, from studios to three bedrooms, would sit on top.

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The firm wants to build rental apartments, though it may decide to sell a subset of the units as condos, said Robin Betteral, CAS Riegler’s director of development.

The project also would include 56 parking spaces.

CAS Riegler, which launched in 2010, has created hip, boutique condo projects in Logan Circle, Shaw, Bloomingdale and Columbia Heights as the neighborhoods underwent rapid transformations.

Riegler said he believes that Hill East will go in the same direction.

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“Hill East has the potential to be one of the city’s great residential neighborhoods, like 14th Street or Shaw or H Street,” Riegler said. “It has Metro accessibility and beautiful, old housing stock — the bones are there, and the population is there.”

The Pennsylvania Avenue site, Riegler said, is one of the last significant pieces of vacant land in the neighborhood to be developed.

This project “is going to be one the key pieces of identity for the neighborhood,” he said.

Riegler said he hopes to start construction in less than two years.

Shilpi Malinowski is a freelance writer.