If local developer JBG has its way, a Harris Teeter may be coming to a parking lot near the 9:30 Club. The proposal is only in the preliminary stages and requires the District to sell an unused parking lot to the company.
JBG owns the lot immediately to the south of the District property and would like to combine them into a single project. The two adjacent properties are labeled “DC Gov” and “JBG” on the middle-left portion of the map below. While JBG does not yet control the District-owned site, the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development will offer the site, along with several others, for sale this fall. For all we know, the District could select another developer.
As you may recall, Chevy Chase-based JBG is one of the biggest developers on 14th Street and U Street. They’re current constructing or entitling (seeking permits, zoning relief, etc.) several nearby projects. At the southwest corner of 14th and U, the company is currently building a multifamily project that will include a Trader Joe’s. On the 700 and 800 blocks of Florida Avenue, the company is preparing to build two modernist multifamily buildings. On the northwest and southwest corners of 8th and V Streets, the company recently revealed its drawings for a condo building and an apartment building.
Besides JBG, many new developers are including grocery stores in areas that have long suffered a lack of good grocery options. The forthcoming Giant at 7th & P Streets will become our closest supermarket when it reopens next year. If the proposed Harris Teeter ever gets built, it will be the second closest supermarket to LeDroit Park:
|Giant (opening 2013)||7th & P Streets NW||0.6|
|Harris Teeter (proposed)||Florida & Sherman Avenues NW||0.7|
|Trader Joe’s (opening 2014)||14th & U Streets NW||0.9|
|Safeway||5th & L Streets NW||0.9|
|Harris Teeter||1st & M Streets NE||1.0|
|Whole Foods||1400 blk. P Street NW||1.1|
But wasn’t Howard Town Center, about a block away, supposed to include a grocery store? The proximity of a Harris Teeter might scare off a competitor from signing on with the still-unbuilt Howard Town Center. This could further delay the long-stalled project.
Developers like to have leases signed before construction since the leases show investors and lenders that the project will produce an income to repay the loans. For some development proposals, the lack of a lease can scuttle the project entirely.
JBG’s announcement of its agreement with Harris Teeter is somewhat unusual. National grocery chains typically keep their prospective sites secret. That JBG announced the agreement without even controlling the land is unusual.
Another interesting twist to the case is that the District used to own the Howard Town Center site and Howard used to own the parking lot JBG wants to buy. The District and the university swapped the properties many years ago out of convenience to each other. How ironic it would be if the government-owned site is the site that gets redeveloped faster.
Howard University wants to add 1,300 beds on 4th Street, a new restaurant is coming to 6th St and Florida Avenue, the neighborhood watch seeks your input, and the conclusion of park construction are all agenda items at tonight’s Civic Association meeting.
The meeting is open to the public and all neighbors are encouraged to attend.
Tuesday, March 22 at 7 pm
Basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church
(enter on U Street)
The civic association will also take open comments from neighbors who wish bring up anything of neighborhood concern.
Last month Howard University’s Board of Trustees agreed to proceed the planning process to build 1,300 beds of student housing in two new dorms on campus. This marks a 28% increase from the current 4,609 beds the university controls. This is smart move that will aid academic success and reduce commuting pressure through the surrounding neighborhoods.
View Howard University’s future development in a larger map
The university’s goal is to create a “Freshmen Village” on 4th Street just north of LeDroit Park. Ms. Maybelle Bennett, Howard’s community outreach director, said that enhancing academic performance and graduation rates is the university’s motivation for concentrating housing and services for new students in Freshmen Village. Since a student’s first year is critical to a student’s success during an undergraduate career, the university wants, as Ms. Bennett adoringly put it, “to bring our babies home.”
The university will add these two new buildings to their forthcoming campus plan proposal that they will submit to the Zoning Commission in the coming months. Each university in the District is required to submit a campus plan for the commission’s approval every ten years.
We think this is a smart move on the university’s part and will benefit everyone.
National social benefits
Universities serve a unique social mission: they exist to educate America’s youth. As such, we must remember that a university’s success is in the national social interest. The university’s goal of improving academic performance is laudable and its reasonable measures should be supported on social grounds.
Traffic and environmental benefits
Furthermore, by bringing more students onto campus, the university reduces the commuting pressure currently placed on students and the surrounding neighborhoods. More students walking from bed to class means fewer students driving from home to campus.
As it stands today, hundreds of students commute from housing in Prince George’s Plaza alone. Though most of them probably take the Metro, many will undoubtedly drive on occasion, thus adding traffic and pollution to surrounding neighborhoods. Carpooling in a Prius still has a greater environmental impact than walking, which is mankind’s oldest, cheapest, cleanest, quietest, and most universal form of transport.
Economic development benefits
With 1,300 more people within a short walk of Florida Avenue, the new dorms will increase the economic viability of the commercial spaces along LeDroit Park’s southern edge. All of the properties along Florida Avenue are zoned for both residential and commercial use, even though most are solely residences at the moment. In fact a century ago the 400 block of Florida Avenue (across the street from the Post Office) hosted numerous prominent black-owned businesses and doctors’ offices.
What do you think? Are you supportive of the university’s desire to add more housing on campus?
Ms. Bennett will present the plan for Freshmen Village to the LeDroit Park Civic Association. The meeting is open to the public and residents are encouraged to attend. The meeting will be at 7 pm on Tuesday, March 22 in the basement of the Florida Avenue Baptist Church (enter through the back at U and Bohrer Streets).