The Howard Theater Effect
Coming up Florida Avenue, you might have noticed an explosion of construction activity lately around 5th and 6th Streets NW. Corner houses on both sides of the 5th Street intersection are getting renovated. On the east southeast corner of 5th Street, the ground floor of a Howard University-owned building has been totally redone, and will be leased as a cafe or restaurant. This afternoon, a little corner store on 6th Street had people going in and out, with the scream of a table saw emanating from the dark interior.
Outside, landlord Stephen Lawrence contentedly observed the work underway. He first got interested in the neighborhood back in the Williams Administration, when he makes bronze and stainless steel sculpture out of a nearby house. After hearing the buzz about renovating the Howard Theater, he bought the building out of foreclosure back in May–for a bargain-basement $685,000–and has since leased space to Zee's Restaurant a few doors down.
The prime spot, Lawrence said, will be a "European-style" restaurant (he's got an operator, but the menu is still in development). And that's not the end of it. Around the corner, at 600 T Street, he's planning to start a jazz club that will feed off the Howard's evening traffic. "It'll be an authentic, dark, personal experience," he says. Coltrane, Ellington, that kind of thing.
A quick scan of property records shows that the other buildings on T Street right next to the Howard haven't changed hands recently, but they'll become a lot more valuable soon, and I wouldn't be surprised if they were snapped up.