Housing Complex

While North Capitol Firehouse Waits at the Bank, Politicians Come Knocking

Let's believe it when we see it, hey? (Lydia DePillis)

Let's believe it when we see it, hey? (Lydia DePillis)

Could the third time be the charm for Brian Brown?

The NextGen construction executive has been after the firehouse on North Capitol street and Quincy since 2003, submitting an unsolicited proposal before the city was even ready to dispose of the property. The District awarded him the building in 2006, and the future looked bright: Café Saint-Ex owner Mike Benson was to turn it into a brick-oven pizzeria in partnership with XM radio. Alas, Benson pulled out, saying the anticipated cost had doubled.

Two years later, Brown secured another tenant: Twyla Garrett of Cleveland-based Garrett Entertainment Corp., who planned a sleek bar called 2020 Martini, with a Mocha Fusion Coffee Lounge on the top floor. But her investment partner had been Lehman Brothers, and the restaurant concept died with the firm. In the mean time, Brown has spent tens of thousands of dollars of taxes on the building, which still lies vacant and boarded up.

Now, finally, Brown says he has another live one. A new tenant has signed a lease, subject to financing, and plans a sit-down Asian and Indian tapas restaurant called EC12—at 10,000 square feet and over 300 seating capacity, it’ll be the biggest place for miles. He’s optimistic that his bank will sign off, but considering the disappointments he’s has already, there’s no certainty in anything. Even the frustration of a community that’s been waiting for years to see the place developed counts for nothing when it comes to getting a loan.

“In the boom times it did,” Brown tells Housing Complex. “Right now, it's just straight economics. They don't care what your network is.”

Meanwhile, ever since the news of the lease leaked out on a neighborhood listserv, Brown says he’s been getting calls from politicians wanting to position themselves in the middle of EC12’s eventual opening. (Witness Sala Thai, the mini-chain in Petworth that brought out Mayor Adrian Fenty and Councilmembers Jim Graham and Muriel Bowser).

Who’s been calling?

“Everybody. Anybody who's running right now,” Brown says. “Everybody wants to be part of it, because if it's successful, they want to be part of that success.”

  • sweetheart deal

    This guy has every excuse in the book for not developing this property.

    Can someone FOIA the city to see under what conditions he managed to get this property, it if can take it back (even if it means refunding the 600k he paid) it should. They sell it to someone that will actually fix it.

    He's had it listed for sale for over 1 mil in the past, not bad for the 600k investment. Now, he has a nice sob story about paying for all sorts of improvements that are not visible beyond a half finished paint job.

    I'm sorry, you're a speculator who lost. Unfortunately, it's everyone in this neighbourhood that has also lost. Time to turn it over to someone that has realistic expectations rather than a 300 seat spruce goose.

  • c

    oh please. it's not like brian brown hasn't been trying to get this done. if you, sweetheart deal, are fully capable of making this place work, i'm sure he'd talk with you.

    the other proposals in the rfp process didn't come with a guarantee either.

  • combo

    are any of these politicians that come a callin actually doing anything to help this place move forward?

  • T

    That is such an amazing space, and this Brown character has brought nothing but terrible, terrible ideas to the table. Martini 2020? Get the f outta here. EC12? Equally rediculous. Regardless, I'm sure it will all fall through in the end.