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R.I. Metro development unveiled

Shops, housing proposed to ‘complement’ Kmart site

(Published September 24, 2001)

By KATHRYN SINZINGER

Staff Writer

Metro officials are reviewing a proposal to build 270 apartments, shops and a seven-story parking deck at the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station.

The Rhode Island Metro Plaza project — which seeks to complement the huge Kmart/Giant/Home Depot retail development currently under construction on a site adjacent to the Metro land — has been proposed by a joint development team that includes Michigan-based Graimark/Walker, which is developing the Kmart site.

Joining Graimark/Walker in the bid to create a destination shopping corridor along Rhode Island Avenue NE are Mid-City Urban LLC and A&R Development Corp., two companies that have been involved in the city government’s efforts to use the federal Hope VI grant program to redevelop public housing complexes.

The proposal includes up to 70,000 square feet of retail space on the ground floor of two apartment buildings, which the developers say would include 54 "affordable" housing units.

The proposal presented to Metro staff, in response to the transit authority’s solicitation of bids for the site, says it is contingent upon the D.C. government awarding $32.7 million in tax-exempt bond financing and formation of a tax-increment financing district to support repayment of an $8.3 million loan to build the parking garage.

The developers also are seeking a change from the current industrial zoning of the site to allow mixed-use development.

Councilman Vincent Orange, D-Ward 5, in whose ward the project is being proposed, recently sent a letter to community leaders to seek their support for the project.

Orange was a driving force in helping to get the Kmart development off the ground. The retail department store, along with the District’s first Home Depot home improvement store and the city’s fifth Giant Food store, are being built on the city’s former vehicle impoundment lot. The city has yet to find a replacement site for the impoundment lot within the District, opting temporarily to lease for $1 million a year a suburban Maryland site that is about a quarter mile away from the Deanwood Metro station in Northeast Washington.

"I strongly support the proposal for the Rhode Island Metro Station," Orange told community leaders, including advisory neighborhood commissioners, in his Sept. 6 letter.

"This proposal is based on a pedestrian friendly Main Street concept for strong street-level retail with mixed-income residential rental above," Orange said.

"The main street will have the landscaping, benches, lighting, signage and pavement details that recall the intimate nature of older, more established neighborhoods and communities," he said of the proposal.

Among retailers whom Orange said have expressed interest in the project are Applebee’s, Dress Barn, Sport Zone, FootLocker, Blockbuster Video, Downtown Locker, Payless Shoes, Boston Market, Starbucks and Ashley Stewart. Other restaurants and clothing stores also have expressed interest, the councilman said.

Community leaders contacted about the development proposal said they were reserving judgment until they hear more details of the plan, which many had just learned about from reading Councilman Orange’s letter.

Many neighboring residents have expressed concern over the expected increase in traffic when the Kmart, Home Depot and Giant stores open next year.

At an ANC 5C meeting on Sept. 18, residents of the area again cited traffic concerns as one of their major objections to BP Amoco Corp.’s plans to build a 24-hour gas station/car wash/convenience store/cafe at the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue and 13th Street NE.

Copyright 2001, The Common Denominator