WBJ: Donohoe to downsize 5th & Eye plans

The plans for the development of The Arts at 5th and I, according to Michael Neibauer of the Washington Business Journal, have been downsized from the originally selected concept that included a boutique hotel, jazz club, coffeehouse and residential apartments. In late 2009/early 2010 there was optimism that Donohoe & Holland would acquire adjacent properties all the way from the corner of I Street up to K Street to expand the project.

Rendering of 2008 proposal for the Arts at 5th and I

While the development group and the Office of the Deputy Mayor of Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) wanted to see those ambitious plans realized after 2.5 years they appear ready to downsize and focus on a simplified product. According to the WBJ article the project would only acquire a vacant lot next to city land and not any of the structures along Fifth Street. Two hotels would be built that would employ approximately 215 people. Flagships for the hotels are not yet identified but it is likely that Me by Melia is out of the picture.

By simplifying plans the project can hopefully move faster and take dramatic steps to cure the blight that still persists along 5th Street.

Quotes from Jad Donohoe:

“One of the things we really heard from neighbors there, this one block of Fifth Street doesn’t feel like a safe place to be,” Donohoe said. “The District made a significant investment in getting CityVista done, and yet it didn’t feel like it connected well with Chinatown to the south.”

The challenge, he said, is creating “a new entry to the Mount Vernon Triangle area.” The retail plans are still unclear; Donohoe said he wants to get more feedback from neighbors “about to how incorporate ground-floor retail that serves their needs. We think two brand new hotels would be a big step in getting things done,” he said.

Reactions? It seems development, especially residential and retail, has been going bonkers around the city the last few months. So I’m a bit surprised this project needs to be scaled down to this degree. But if the retail component can remain ambitious and everything can unfold more quickly it’s still a net positive.

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  1. 1

    Mike@555 Mass says

    Why can’t the buildings along 5th Street be incorporated into this development? Are the owners of these buildings holding out for more money? Is it that the possible tenants in the orginal project have backed out and Donohoe no longer needs these buildings? If development does not happen now that incorporates these buildings, then, when, if ever, will it happen? I live across the street and went to the meetings where we lobbied the ANC to approve this particular project. I understand that times have changed and our economy has taken a hit, but I am quite afraid of having a development that serves to forever stunt any growth in our neighborhood and leaves us undesirable to pedestrians. We HAVE to have ground floor retail, etc. to continue to pull people into the Triangle. Do others agree with me?

  2. 2

    FourthandEye says

    In late 2009 it was said the owner of 915 5th Street was a determined holdout. Atleast they actually operate a business out of the townhouse. But we need to make sure the owners of the vacant properties are paying the blighted property or sell to someone willing to develop.

  3. 3

    FourthandEye says

    While I’m flexible enough to let go of Me by Melia hotel we need a much better end result than a redux of the Hampton Inn on 6th Street. The Hampton Inn adds almost nothing to the neighborhood other than valets causing some chaos on 6th Street. The Hampton Inn has no retail or interaction with the pedestrian realm.

  4. 4

    FourthandEye says

    WBJ posted a followup a few hours later stating DMPED will consider this summer whether to continue with Donohoe or put the project up for RFP again.

    A new RFP probably sets everything back another 18+ months. I don’t believe you can’t mandate in a new RFP that a development team acquire adjacent properties. So a new RFP offers no assured improvement on that front. So I think it boils down to 1) is two hotels and retail good enough or do we expect more from this DC owned parcel 2) should a new partner be sought b/c the current group hasn’t done enough to push this forward 3) Should a new RFP be issued purely on principle

  5. 5

    Jay says

    The folks at 915 5th Street need to get a reality check. Perhaps they should read what happened to the old Ledo building. The properties on 5th Street are a complete embarrassment, and Louis Rogue needs to go. I cannot believe that the buildings on 5th / Louis are being “historically preserved.” For preservation to work, the buildings can’t already be in shambles. Every time I walk by there with friends, I try to distract them. This is really bad news that I pray will not set development of this key Mount Vernon Triangle area back another 2 years.

  6. 7

    Sarah says

    I can’t believe they are running a buisness out of buildings that should be condemmed. Is that even legal?

  7. 9

    Chris K says

    If they were able to obtain the other properties along 5th Street, could they just build over/around 915 5th Street? I’m not sure how air rights work above a building.

  8. 10

    FourthandEye says

    In December 2009 Donohoe/Holland suggested that they might be able to build in two phases. The hotel phase to the south of 915 5th Street and a residential phase to the north of it.

    I don’t think they’ve COMPLETELY 100% given up on that plan. But they no longer want to portray it as the likely outcome.

    They’ll be going before the ANC in September and will have more to share with us by then.