5th and Eye Update from ANC 6C Meeting

At the request of ANC 6C01 commissioner Keith Silver the development team for the Arts at 5th and I project delivered a status update at this month’s full commission meeting. Ty Simpson of Spectrum Management, Bob Holland of Holland Development and Jad Donohoe of Donohoe Development each took the floor to share details with the community.

Ty Simpson explained that the development team has met with the office of the Deputy Mayor of Economic Development office over 120 times (2 times per week) since the RFP was awared in September 2008. To date the development team has spent over $600K in planning the project. The development agreement/ground lease is slated to go before the City Council in the March/April timeframe.

According to Bob Holland the current economic conditions have dried up financing possibilities from Wall Street for the project. To work around this limitation the team has been actively exploring alternatives such as a Sovereign Wealth fund from Europe or Asia.

Hotel rendering from original Donohoe/Holland proposal

Jad Donohoe provided an update on the details of the 5th and Eye project plan. The goal from the beginning has been to expand the project from the 5th and Eye corner lot up along 5th Street to the corner of K Street. Tentative agreements have been reached with all but one property holder on the street. The owner of the narrow 4 story rowhouse at 915 5th Street NW may be determined to follow the path of the “Ledo Building” on Mass Ave.

The current plans are to move forward without the hold out property. The present construction financing climate has made the possibility of funding the entire project from one pool basically nil. This dictates that new construction development be divided into two phases. For Phase I the Me by Melia hotel would be erected on the corner of 5th and Eye Street with ground breaking targeted for 2012. New hi-rise construction north of the holdout property would be Phase 2.

Rogue Strip Club

Image of Louis Rogue from Mr T in DC

While the timeline for Phase 2 new construction could be off in the distant future the development team appears committed to breathing life into 5th Street in the short term through different avenues. As previously reported the Boisdale Jazz club is now pegged to move into a renovation of the current Louis Rogue space at 476 K Street. This would put Boisdale on a separate track from the new construction and enable it to deliver on a more rapid timeframe. The Boisdale CEO has signed off on the plans and we could hear saxophones within 12-18 months after the strip club sells and vacates.

915-917 5th Street NWTo make further strides towards revitalizing 5th Street the development team is also exploring possibilities to lease the former Fun Fair Video building to a new retail tenant rather than let it sit vacant. A new use would create more activity and put eyes on the street. The one-story space needs renovation but offers 2700 square feet.

Donohoe also feels the 5th and Eye grassy lot could be a candidate for some form of temporary urbanism while ground breaking for the hotel is deferred until 2012. I was impressed that Donohoe sought me out after the meeting to discuss this possibility. It wasn’t something that the community needed to push on him. He simply saw the general temporary urbanism discussion here on the blog and elsewhere and determined it was an opportunity he wants to investigate. Hopefully the relevant district agencies enable such possibilities rather than throw up road blocks.

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  1. 2

    washingtonydc says

    It's great to see that the developers are creative enough to think of alternative ways to make their investments viable in the short-term while keeping their larger goals in mind. Any idea on the time frame of Louis' Rogue selling the building? As much as I love their festive wreaths this time of year, I'm itching for the jazz club.

    And that grassy lot is just begging to be used for some sort of temporary use. A community garden is a great idea…how about a dog park, a food vendor area (like the KC BBQ truck), or an outdoor movie screen or bar in the summer? There's gotta be a million great ideas for that space.

  2. 3

    FourthandEye says

    A community garden has higher setup costs and requires more planning than an concept centered on vendors. Assuming that any temporary urbanism idea cannot be initiated until after the development team signs the ground lease in April that would mean a community garden would only have one full spring/summer season in 2011. I could be wrong but I would speculate that a community garden needs to operate for several seasons to recoup the initial investment.

    What about vendors along the 5th Street and the 5th and Eye corner with an off-leash dog park setback off the street a little bit to the center of the lot?

  3. 4

    Anonymous says

    I definitely vote for a dog park! The area has a lot of open grass space, where many people take day time naps. What about a more fun secure place for all of the residents in the area?

  4. 6

    Tom says

    While community gardens are complicated to setup so are dog parks. DPR has high standards for dog parks that include a drainage system, water hookup and fences installed to a certain code. I believe the best interim uses you could realistically expect are outdoor movies and vendors as those have almost no infrastructure setup costs.

  5. 9

    Anonymous says

    There is a story on the "pop-up" Target in Georgetown today in WaPo. I say that this would be a great example of temporary urbanism. How about pop-up stores a couple times a month or an Eastern Market type weekend flea market? That would not mimic a "permanent" use like a garden or dog park that the community might get too attached to.

  6. 10

    FourthandEye says

    Tom makes a good point about Dog Park Standards. I was unaware of the drainage requirement. Ideas that require irrigation, drainage, or other major infrastructure probably need land that they could call home 4-5 years to warrant the investment. The time horizon here is two years.

  7. 11

    Anonymous says

    I'm pretty sure the Shaw Dog Park is temporary (2 years), but I know a lot of work was done behind the scenes to make it happen.

    I do like the idea of vendors on the 5th street side but don't know if there is enough foot traffic to warrant it (no tourists).

    Btw, I've noticed more retail spots open for lease (in addition to fun fair and the old paint store across the street). For example, on 6th street between Mass and K, are two row houses for lease. Maybe we could get a pet store, nail salon, dive bar etc. at one of these places?

  8. 12

    KP says

    So, do we know when the Louis Rogue is going to vacate the building? Or have they scrapped that idea. Just wasn’t sure, cause I when I read the original post it appears that they will leave once their lease expires and then it should only take 12-18 months before the Jazz club/bar would replace it…is that correct?