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Developer presents Brookland Metro project

(Published May 31, 1999)


Staff Writer

Northeast Washington’s Brookland neighborhood would get a supermarket along with new offices, restaurants, housing and parking under a proposal to develop land adjacent to the area’s Metro station.

Edmondson and Gallagher, a McLean-based company primarily involved in housing projects, recently unveiled its plans to the neighborhood’s business community and hopes to gain development rights for the 7.2-acre site owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

"We’ve been working with Catholic University for two years now, and we see it as just a terrific area that has a lot of pieces that will come together well in the next few years," said Thomas Gallagher, a principal in the firm. He also mentioned his D.C. residency among reasons for his company’s interest in bringing mixed-use development to one of the city’s historically stable residential areas, but one that remains under-served by retail establishments.

Gallagher said he looks forward to gaining public input on his company’s proposal during a meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5A. Neighborhood residents’ support will be necessary to gain higher-density zoning required for the development, he noted. The ANC plans to discuss the project with the developer June 3 at a private meeting.

Completing all the regulatory hurdles to begin construction might take two or more years, assuming the WMATA board awards his company the development rights, Gallagher said. A Metro spokeswoman said the board has "no fixed timetable" for making a decision.

Brookland ANC Commissioner Allen L. Robinson Jr., who recently discussed the project with Gallagher, said he is encouraged that the development company sounds "neighborhood friendly" and willing to adapt its plans to fit into the community.

"People are probably going to be concerned about over-development in our neighborhood," Robinson said. He said he expects the eventual development, should it occur, will be downsized from current plans.

Gallagher said he expects office and retail buildings would be built before planned housing. The proposal calls for a 40,000-square foot grocery store, with two floors of offices above it and bi-level parking for about 100 cars, to be built on grassland abutting the Michigan Avenue bridge at 10th Street NE.

Two additional 10,000-square-foot retail buildings, expected to be restaurants, would be built – one at the corner of 10th and Otis streets NE, across from the supermarket, and the other next to the Monroe Street bridge. Historic Brooks Mansion, the city-owned property adjacent to the Metro site, would not be affected by the development.

Up to 10 two-story townhouses along 10th Street NE, between Otis and Newton streets, would be designed to be "compatible with existing housing across the street," Gallagher said.

Parking for 400 to 500 cars and a four-story apartment building would rise behind the townhouses, with a 12-story apartment tower abutting the Metro tracks. The plan envisions a total of 388 apartment units, renting for $1,020 to $1,760. The developer’s proposal attaches a $250,000 price tag to each of the planned townhouses. Rent for retail space is projected at $17 per square foot and office rent at $23 per square foot.

Financing for the project is expected to come from a combination of public and private sources, including plans to seek approval for creation of the city’s first non-downtown Tax Increment Financing District, which would commit existing sales and property taxes to neighborhood investment.

Gallagher said he hopes creation of such a district also would help Brookland’s 12th Street commercial strip "get dressed up a bit."

The developer said he expects to have a written commitment soon from one restaurant tenant but is still approaching grocery companies. Brookland business owners who recently met with Gallagher expressed great interest in attracting a Fresh Fields store to the neighborhood, which previously supported a successful natural foods buying club that disbanded in an ill-fated attempt to operate a retail store at a former Safeway site.

A spokeswoman for the Fresh Fields/Whole Foods Markets chain described the company as "in a major expansion mode" and "actively seeking growth opportunities in the Washington, D.C., area." She said the company has had positive dealings with the D.C. government so far in opening one store on Wisconsin Avenue in Northwest Washington’s Glover Park neighborhood and in planning to open another store during the next year on P Street NW near Dupont Circle.

"A large part of when we select sites is that the neighborhood support is huge," spokeswoman Sarah Kenney said.

Edmondson and Gallagher currently is redeveloping the former Theological College, across from the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception at Michigan Avenue and Fourth Street NE, into offices for Catholic University. The company, founded in 1982, recently completed major renovation of the 470-unit Meadow Green Courts apartments at Minnesota Avenue and East Capitol Street SE.

Copyright 1999, The Common Denominator