Housing Complex

Douglas Development Making Noises About Residential For Rhode Island Avenue

The layout.

Another apartment project on the boards! Maybe.

For the last ten years, Douglas Development has owned a cluster of empty warehouses behind Mt. Calvary Baptist Church off Rhode Island Avenue NE. Today, they came to ask Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5B's approval to change the zoning from industrial to commercial on part of the site, which would allow for the construction of a 240-unit residential building. Douglas' attorney Kyrus Freeman even brought a quickie schematic of how the layout might work, by Antunovich Architects, showing a big building that would at least be obscured from the busy thoroughfare.

Good news for the neighborhood, which has been trying to turn its warehouse districts into places where people can live. But is Douglas serious about the project? Freeman says they don't have a joint venture partner at the moment, which could mean that they're bankrolling it on their own—or that they still need to land financing.

As has become a pattern for owner Doug Jemal, he may also be motivated by an impending tax hike. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs' vacant property unit hadn't noticed the properties until recently, tucked away as they are on a side street, and so Jemal just paid the normal commercial rate. Upon further inspection, though, DCRA noticed that the five separate lots actually qualify as blighted, and last week notified the company it could be in for a near million-dollar tax bill.

Douglas may well have had development plans months ago, but the blight tax finally kicking in sure does accelerate the process.

  • Sally

    I like the transformation into apartments near the metro. But is that surface parking? That I don't like should build an underground or ground level garage. Leaves room for more apartments and some more green space to be created. No surface parking lots near the metro!!! Or really at all in DC but definitely not right next to the metro.

    Thanks again to DCRA and the vacant property team!!

  • good!

    In the last couple of months I have actually noticed some work on the ground. It looks like demolition is taking place inside and they are doing something to the windows.

    In a way I am sorry we'll lose the grafiti

  • Mrs. D

    I hate to be the one to nitpick, but that land is actually behind the Calvary Christian Academy, not the church. Please don't give us false hope that something might be done with that monstrosity of a plaza behind Mr. Calvary church.

    Also, while I would love to see more development in this area, I'm not entirely sure that apartments off of Reed St. would be all that successful. With the Budget lot, the DC Ducks and Trolley tours lot, several service stations, etc. in that area, it's not exactly, um, homey back there. Sure, getting this off the ground might change the calculus to the point that those other users sell and this area becomes all retail/residential, but as it stands, I would not want to be in the position of walking down Reed St. to go to the Metro, even with a sidewalk installed (which I doubt DD can do all the way to RIA, since they don't own the property on the very first leg of the street).

  • L.

    I've walked down Reed many a time during the day with no problem. Great short cut to get tothe northern end of 10th Street in order to by pass the Dalgren Apartments renovation project and avoid the Metropolitan Club. Commissioner Vaughn Bennett of ANC 5B-04 held a meeting in May to get community approval before it went to ANC 5B. The developer showed these same slides and questions were answered. The meeting was held at Church De La Luz at 12th & Rhode Island. DePillus is a bit late reporting on this project.

  • Keon

    Great! It's about time the RIA ave metro started getting some love and I figured it would only be a matter of time. These buildings can actually be true lofts and that is rare in DC so that works heavily in their favor. I do have beef with that surface parking lot too though if that's what that is. Maybe they plan on building on that lot in the future but I would like to see that denoted in their plans. It's only a matter of time before development pressures incentivize the owners of the RIA shopping center behind Calvary Church to do something as well. I wouldn't be surprised if we started seeing them only sign stores to very short term leases or letting them expire altogether.

  • Mrs. D

    L, I've walked down Reed, too. It's certainly not impossible, and I don't feel unsafe doing it, but I stand by my statement that it's not "homey." It is industrial, not residential, and with what's there, one retail/residential building won't make it much more appealing. Reed is also quite narrow, and additional car traffic plus adding sidewalks will only make it worse. Reed also needs resurfaced, it's like driving in a mine field! So my skepticism is just (a) will DD put in the sidewalk themselves; (b) will DD be able to get the city to rebuild the street, or have the money to offer the city some incentive to do it; (c) is this the first domino on that street, which WOULD then transform the area? I happen to think making this area residential/retail makes PERFECT sense, given the SFH residential character of the abutting neighborhood. I know people bemoan the loss of industrial space in DC, but, really, a lot of the "industrial" space in the RIA area abuts residential neighborhoods (most of which are not "new," so it's not at all gentrification pushing out industrial uses) and takes up lots of valuable, Metro-accessible space, and therefore there are far better locations in the city for these uses where there would be a buffer for residential neighborhoods, better highway access, and no "loss of use" for locations well-suited for people to live.

    I love to see new developments planned, and I'm glad that Keon indicates this isn't just a slapped-together response to a massive tax bill. I also happen to think that it's location, basically at the foot of the pedestrian bridge to the Metro (and now/soon RIR shops and whatnot) is superb. I guess I'm just always afraid they'll fail and make things worse rather than better. One would think that the way the DC market is climbing would allay these fears, but I guess I'm a glass half empty kind of girl sometimes.

  • Sally

    The RIA Shopping Center is already only signing short leases - FM only got 12 years. Think the Sav-a-lot is shorter too that is why it took so long to fill that space with the shorter leases. CVS is gone now as its lease expired. They want to redevelop that land too- think of the money! Bet it will start to happen in 5-6 years after leases get close to an end and everything else around it keeps changing. Once RIR is fully leased and all stores are open more projects will start.

  • http://distcurm.blogspot.com/ IMGoph

    Lydia: Is it safe to say we're quickly reaching a point where Douglas Development is going to start lashing out for being targeted (fairly) for gaming the system so much?

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