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.
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.
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.
To 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.