Courtesy of DCMud we learn that Walnut Street Development (WSD) is set to sell it’s lots on Eye Street NW. These lots include historic properties which WSD had intended to preserve while building a 12-story complex of apartment and retail called Eye Street Lofts.
“[Developer Jared Jablonka] added that WSD had delayed groundbreaking because they hoped to win the 5th and I site. “We had held off because the announcement of a developer for the adjacent piece of land (5th the and I) was delayed. We wanted to incorporate that site into our project, that was the idea, but then we got the offer to sell the site and it was hard to turn down. We are now under contract.”
WSD’s original $55 million multi-use project would have been a renovation of two 1880’s row houses and other industrial buildings into an approximately 12-story structure with over 15,000 s.f. of community-serving retail space.
WSD’s plans have been in the works since 2005 and have since faced several obstacles because of the historic nature of the buildings on site that include the Central Auto Works garage, a historically-designated structure. Architects HOK Group decided to incorporate the entire garage into the new edifice by piercing columns through the building and creating footings beneath the garage to support the new construction. The development would have also included the two existing row houses as well as a historic blacksmith shop.”
I attended both the initial presentation and the ANC 6C special meeting on the 5th and Eye project. During each meeting it was clear that JBG had an agreement for WSD’s parcels. While other projects had deals with other land owners to expand north, JBG seemed to exclusively hold the keys to expanding east on Eye Street. So, I don’t think this news signifies JBG has made a recent breakthrough. I think the climate is basically the same as it’s been for months.
The Donohoe/Holland proposal called The Arts and 5th and Eye has received all the community support. ANC 6C, the Downtown Neighborhood Association, and the residents of 555 Mass have each endorsed the Donohoe/Holland bid. JBG’s proposal also lagged behind the I5 proposal from Potomac Investment in community support. A big reason for this is that every other finalist was specific about the hotel and retail partners their projects they’ve paired with and JBG offered no details.
JBG’s portfolio in the immediate neighborhood does not suggest they develop buildings that actively engage the streetscape. The Hampton Inn, 555 Mass, and the Convention Center lack the sufficient retail elements to generate pedestrian activity and eyes on the streets. Personally I’m disappointed that 555 Mass did not incorporate any first floor retail on 5th Street. The Office of Planning’s (OP) master plan for the Triangle designated 5th Street as our retail corridor. JBG may have had their justifications for disregarding OP’s recommendation but it’s still a large missed opportunity for the community. These new buildings are going to be here for many decades and you only get one chance to build it right…