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Columbia Heights developers hope to give area new look

(Published April 5, 1999)

By OSCAR ABEYTA

Staff Writer

Public comment is being sought on four different proposals to revitalize the area around the new Columbia Heights Metro station, and a decision is expected possibly as soon as April 15 on which developers will get the green light to proceed with plans for the city-owned land.

Four different sets of plans were presented April 1 before the Redevelopment Land Agency, the government agency that awards exclusive rights to develop District-owned land. The RLA will hear public comments on the plans at its April 15 meeting and there will be a Ward 1 town hall meeting April 10 at Lincoln Multicultural Middle School to discuss the plans.

The Development Corporation of Columbia Heights has signed on as a partner to two of the four proposals. The 31-member body voted to back a $131 million retail and entertainment complex on the west side of 14th Street between Park Road and Irving Street. The complex, proposed by Grid Properties Inc. of New York, would house retail outlets, movie theaters, a National Hockey League-sponsored ice rink and restaurants in a 650,000-square-foot complex called DC-USA. Representatives from Grid Properties said potential tenants include the Gap, Modellís Sporting Goods, Old Navy, Starbucks and TGI Fridayís. The proposal estimates the project could create as many as 1,300 new jobs in the area.

DCCH also has signed on as a partner with District-based Horning Brothers and two other companies in an $18 million proposal to renovate the historic Tivoli Theater at 14th Street and Park Road. The project would restore the theaterís façade and lobby and erect a new building just north of the theater that would hold two levels of retail space. The new building would connect to the theater through the restored lobby. The project also calls for a 46,000-square-foot Giant supermarket to be built behind the theater with a parking garage on top of the store. The project also includes 29 new townhouses that would face Holmead Place and Monroe Street. The developers said they could complete the project within two-and-a-half years.

Saul Centers Inc. proposed a shopping center for the same site Grid Properties is looking at for its DC-USA. Saul Centersí proposal is less ambitious, anchoring its center with a 55,000-square-foot Shoppers Food Warehouse and containing restaurants, dry cleaners, and other shopping center staples.

The most ambitious project was proposed by Forest City Enterprises. The Cleveland-based company proposes using four city parcels along a three-block stretch to create a combination of office, retail, entertainment, parking and community space. The developers proposed building a two-story retail building on the southwest corner of Irving and 14th streets that would also include a movie theater. A walkway across Irving Street would connect it to a much larger, four-story retail complex that would be anchored by a 70,000-square-foot grocery store. The complex would also have ground floor retail stores.

Across 14th Street, Forest City would build a nine-story office building with a self-contained parking garage and Metro access. North of this office building at the Tivoli site, the developers proposed restoring the façade of the theater and turning the building into a multipurpose community center. They also proposed building 60 new residential units along Holmead Place, Monroe Street and Park Road. The entire project would cost $135 million.

The Forest City proposal closely mirrors the general goals laid out for the area by a group of neighbors and government officials in November 1997. The group of about 300 residents, designers and government officials came up with a plan for the area that called for community and civic space at the north end of the neighborhood and retail and office space at the southern end.

The 14th Street business corridor was hard hit during the riots following the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1968. Over 270 businesses were burned and looted during the riots.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator