Housing Complex

Yes! Organic Market Interested in Bruce Monroe Site…Eventually

What was once contemplated.

Well, it's been a while since we checked in on Bruce Monroe, the former Brutalist school that was demolished to make way for some basketball courts and random trees. Don't worry: They're not going anywhere anytime soon.

But Adrian Washington, half of the only development team to respond to the request for proposals that the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development issued nearly two years ago, still dreams of developing the three-acre site. His current thinking is this: Build on only about a third of the space, putting retail on Georgia Avenue and apartments above, while leaving the rest of it as a park. Yes! Organic Market owner Gary Cha is very interested in taking part of the commercial space, given that it's just far enough away from his Petworth location to be viable. And Busboys and Poets' Andy Shallal is also interested in doing some sort of concept there, though Washington says they haven't talked in a while (UPDATE: It's quite preliminary; Shallal says he hasn't even seen the site yet).

That's the problem with this whole process—the city, with its hands full of more pressing projects, has zero desire to move quickly on this one. That could come from a lack of willingness to tangle with the kind of neighborhood politics that gave rise to picketing the last time anything happened at Bruce Monroe. Meanwhile, there's no money to put into the project, and as long as it's serving a valuable purpose as a park, why rock the boat?

The thing is, Washington says he wouldn't need direct subsidies to make something happen there—just a break on the price of the land. If it got built, he'd like to kick some of the proceeds back to the park that would remain on the majority of the site, which currently has little in the way of programming or infrastructure. Sylvia Robinson, who organizes around Bruce Monroe as coordinator of the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force, says she'd like to see some kind of educational component on the site. Right now, the city hasn't offered to pay for it. (This is also a problem with the brand-new senior wellness center a few blocks north, she says: The operating budget isn't there to provide lunches and other activities to seniors who make it there despite a lack of parking.)

Should the new development involve a school, as activists had demanded? It's sort of unclear: A recent report on D.C. education needs (however flawed) designated Columbia Heights/Park View/Mt. Pleasant/Pleasant Plains as a priority area, and said that closed schools should be offset with new construction or more seats at existing buildings. But the nearest elementary, Park View, is only at 78 percent capacity, so the immediate need doesn't appear very urgent.

So that's what's going on at Bruce Monroe: Basketball games, and a whole lot of dreaming.

  • coco d leprechaun

    Build Something. Georgia Avenue needs more foot traffic in this section for any new small business's success. The park is great but it is already not maintained.

  • Ben

    Sweet! Whole Foods isn't quite expensive enough for my (highly refined) tastes...I've been searching for a market where I can pay at least five dollars for a dozen eggs.

  • D

    How does "just a break on the price of the land" not equate to a direct subsidy? I ask this earnestly, because it's not clear to me. I would think folks all over DC would jump at such a subsidy if it came their way.

  • http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com Richard Layman

    Maybe this proposal isn't the best either. "Build something" sounds good, but the decision lasts for generations. Building the right thing makes a huge difference. It's about wild success vs. middling success or failure.

    E.g., it happens I had business in Arlington yesterday and I rode down Wilson Blvd. I just couldn't believe the vibrance in the corridor between Courthouse and Clarendon. Just incredible. It's taken a couple decades to get to that point. But it's the product of multiple right decisions. Not just doing "whatever" to move things along.

  • RH

    Hell no. And the city better be prepared to battle on this one. People LOVE that park.

    There are plenty of vacant buildings and lots on Georgia Ave. Re-purpose and re-build. A lot of other people are and there are a lot of plans for that area, but still a lot of opportunity.

    Yes Organic = expansionist corporation approaching the level of Wal-Mart.

  • acg

    As property owner in the area, I would love to see something materialize here. There is no reason the site couldn't be redeveloped and keep open a small public space.. so let's net get all NIMBY about it.

  • mark

    As another property owner in the area, I'd rather the site be left a park and not be developed.
    Further, if any portion of it were to be developed, I'd rather that portion be further West, and not the Georgia Ave frontage, which current park use I think adds quite nicely to the mix that is and will become Georgia Ave.

  • Amy

    That graphic is terrible - it manages to completely turn every direction but understandable/correct. North arrow please!

  • Pingback: Yes!, and No for Development at Bruce Monroe Site « Park View, D.C.

  • pru

    "(...) Bruce Monroe, the former Brutalist school that was demolished to make way for some basketball courts and random trees."

    Some basketball courts and random trees? That's a complete misrepresentation of what this park is to the neighborhood. I live in Park View, and this park has the only swings I could find for my small daughter. My kid and I love the playground area in the back. And the tennis court probably should be mentioned in addition to the two basketball courts.

    Like Mark, I'm a property owner in the area and I agree with him and with RH, fix up the vacant buildings, build up the vacant lots, and let this park be a park!