Greater Greater Washington

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Long-awaited redevelopment in Anacostia could begin soon

Plans to redevelop a large swath of land along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE in Anacostia are finally moving forward after a 5-year delay.


A plan to develop multiple parcels along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE in Anacostia is moving forward. Photos by the author.

Developer Four Points LLC seeks to replace 5 blocks of surface parking, vacant lots and industrial buildings with new homes, shops and offices, including space for several DC government agencies. Meanwhile, DC is preparing other nearby lots for additional redevelopment.

If Four Points' plans are approved by the Zoning Commission, the neighborhood could see nearly 500 new homes, 144,000 square feet of retail, and 900,000 square feet of office space. The developer has already had public hearings for the project, said principal Stan Voudrie earlier this month. Next, they'll submit designs for each individual building for neighborhood groups to review. Since the development falls outside of the boundaries of the Anacostia Historic District, it will not need approval from the Historic Preservation Review Board.


The former MPD Evidence Warehouse will be redeveloped over the next year.

The project's first phase will be to renovate the former Metropolitan Police Department evidence warehouse, located at 2235 Shannon Place SE. In the coming months, construction will transform it from a "white brick building to a building that is wrapped in glass," according to Voudrie.

When completed, it will house the DC Taxicab Commission, the DC Lottery and the District Department of Transportation's Business Opportunity and Workforce Development Center, according to the Washington Business Journal.

DHCD readying "Big K" lot for future development

Meanwhile, the DC Department of Housing and Community Development is preparing land for future development. In 2010, the agency acquired 4 properties across Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue from Four Points' site, including 3 historic homes and a former liquor store, which together are known as the "Big K" lot.

While the 19th-century home at 2228 MLK Jr. Avenue has been demolished, the other 2 homes, within the boundaries of the Anacostia Historic District, have been stabilized.


The 2 historic homes on the "Big K" lot could be on the move.

To make room for new construction, DHCD bought several properties at the corner of Maple View Place SE and High Street SE, 3 blocks away. Today, it's a cluster of 4 brick abandominiums that have sat vacant for more than a decade. Tax records show that the agency paid $918,000 for the properties in April 2012.

According to Mayor Gray and others familiar with the ongoing development process, the plan is to relocate the remaining historic houses to a nearby lot. It looks like the city will tear down the abandominiums on High Street and move the "Big K" houses there.

"I suspect the [High Street SE] structures will go down very shortly," a city official familiar with the application said. "The District's DHCD office seems interested in moving quickly on this project."


A raze application has been submitted for 2352-2360 High Street SE.

Last week, DHCD submitted an application to raze the structures to the DC Historic Preservation Office.

Meanwhile, DHCD is planning to dispose of the "Big K" lot within 18 months, according to a presentation Denise L. Johnson, project manager of the site for the Department of Housing and Community Development, gave in March. Chapman Development LLC, which developed The Grays, an apartment building on the 2300 block of Pennsylvania Avenue SE, was the only qualified applicant who responded to last fall's request for proposals to redevelop the property.

In the coming years, something in Anacostia will have to give and redevelopment will begin. The potential development of the "Big K" lot and Four Points' proposed new office, residential, and commercial space on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE will test the market.

"We have arrived," said resident Reverend Oliver "OJ" Johnson upon hearing of Voudrie's plans at last month's meeting of the Historic Anacostia Block Association. Johnson has lived in Anacostia for 60 years and is known for his decades of activism, from opposing a concentration of drug clinics locating in the neighborhood and advocating for economic development.

"I want to thank those who have always believed in this neighborhood and welcome those who are now pitching their tents here," he said. "We will continue to work and fight together."

John Muller is an associate librarian, journalist and historian. He has written two books, Frederick Douglass in Washington, DC, Mark Twain in Washington, DC, and also writes at Death and Life of Old Anacostia

Comments

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buying abandoned houses to move to other abandoned lots...

are they really worth that much trouble to save?

by Richard B on Jul 22, 2013 2:16 pm • linkreport

Great news, thanks for the update. Seems like things are moving along nicely, especially since a second sit down restaurant/bar opened last week (Cedar Hill Bar & Grill).

by h st ll on Jul 22, 2013 2:19 pm • linkreport

A bit off-topic, but: How come I never hear anyone talk about the Anacostia Freeway? It's a huge, ugly highway that cuts through the middle of neighborhoods. Surely that is a barrier to building more pleasant, walkable, healthy, and vibrant neighborhoods.

by Gavin on Jul 22, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

Umm, did you know the property on the top of High Street is outside of the historic district. Sounds shady to me!

by Ummm on Jul 22, 2013 2:53 pm • linkreport

The Annacostia Freeway also runs right next to the old PRR right of way for miles. Then it runs next to the river. Then it runs between the neighborhood and Boiling Airforce Base, which is a waste of space on another topic. Where specifically do you mean that the freeway divides a neighborhood?

by Richard B on Jul 22, 2013 3:17 pm • linkreport

@Richard B, I suppose I mean only north of East Capitol -- where, as you point out, the railroad tracks also are.

by Gavin on Jul 22, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

I guess mixed use with ground floor retail and residential on top? Either way it will be adjacent to the street car. Looks like a good plan.

I also can't believe they are bothering to save those houses, are they even structurally sound? Do they have some special history?

by Alan B. on Jul 22, 2013 3:29 pm • linkreport

Gavin, DDOT put together a plan about 8 years ago to make the Anacostia Freeway into a boulevard. You may be able to find it online.

by David C on Jul 22, 2013 3:43 pm • linkreport

@Ummm

The properties at 2352-2360 High Street SE are just within the boundaries of the Anacostia Historic District. It is noted on the raze application.

by John Muller on Jul 22, 2013 3:55 pm • linkreport

@Gavin
Yeah, the RR tracks AND the freeway do a number on the neighborhood. But we arent going to be getting rid of the NE corridor rail line and 295 anytime soon. The fact that they run together at least means it is only 1 disruption.
There are some poor saps who presumably live in between the two. God help them.

by Richard B on Jul 22, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

It might be within the district, but I dont think they should be putting up too much of a fuss. A grass field is more historic than a bombed out blighted hole.

by Richard B on Jul 22, 2013 4:04 pm • linkreport

@Richard B

The application to raze the High Street SE properties will reportedly go before review of the HPRB in the coming weeks. As you note, and I agree, I don't think the properties will be deemed "contributing" to the neighborhood's historic character. Unlike 1326 Valley Place SE (built in 1885), the abandominiums on High Street SE were not in the neighborhood when Frederick Douglass was a resident and walked the streets.

by John Muller on Jul 22, 2013 4:12 pm • linkreport

Well this will be good for that area. The real estate down there is just too valuable for them to not do anything with it.

by Rain17 on Jul 22, 2013 4:40 pm • linkreport

Other nearby news today - the mayor was at new uscoast guard hq in st. e's today - looks beautiful!

http://t.co/m08kOhWvVh

by h st ll on Jul 22, 2013 4:52 pm • linkreport

The former MPD Evidence Warehouse will be redeveloped over the next year.

That is if the historic preservationists decide not to challenge the destruction of this masterful example of late mid-century neo-utilitarian post-brutalist architecture.

by oboe on Jul 22, 2013 5:01 pm • linkreport

Residential development (renovation) by individual homeowners in historic areas always comes before meaningful redevelopment of an area. All the public redevelopments in the world don't do it. I remember when we were assured the Reeves Center, the Nehemiah Project and before that Frontiers Housing would revitalize 14th. Not so much.

by Tom Coumaris on Jul 22, 2013 6:26 pm • linkreport

forget ST, E's, Sheridan Station, or other high profile government funded projects. This private project clearly has the most transformative potential in Anacostia. The question: do the activists, the ANC's and other loud voices demand concessions from this project that render it economically unfeasible, thereby eliminating it or watering down the quality of it? Anthony Muhammad we are watching!

by Matt on Jul 23, 2013 7:06 am • linkreport

If only we could get some of the kids on summer break running around causing problems to team up and give those two houses a good shove. That ought to topple them quickly, thus eliminating the need to move them.

by Kyle-w on Jul 23, 2013 9:09 am • linkreport

I love Anacostia. The nostalgia and history is unmatched. I considered buying a blighted, old Victorian style home in the historic district. I thought about it DAY and NIGHT. Visited daily, sometimes twice. Did ALL the research, even pulled the money together. I would have had a MUCH larger home for literally half the price!

At the last minute, I decided against it. You can not put a price on peace of mind, and with a baby on the way I simply couldn't subject my family to that environment. Obviously nowhere in DC is REALLY safe, but it is a different ball game over there. 20 guys ALWAYS outside one house (a few houses away) at 2 am in the morning, doing God only knows what.

We have to be realistic about what this development can do for Anacostia. Anacostia is not even unsafe because of the people IN Anacostia per say (although some/most don't help), but mostly because of the people and lack of development in the surrounding areas. Ward 8 is EXTREMELY saturated with lower income residents, who in my experience have NO interest in making DC a better place.

As long as Marion Barry and friends continue to rally for their constituents, there is little that can be done. Ward 8, particularly Anacostia has had many opportunities to turn around, in part because of how close it is to downtown DC. But new shiny development is not what the residents of those wards want. They want (for the most part (and I'm trying to be as diplomatic as possible)) continued government assistance and programs that will benefit their lifestyles, and Marion Barry has done an EXCELLENT job in making sure that that happens.

Also, there are more than 45,000 people in Ward 8 living SOLELY off government assisted programs. Where will these people go? As long as they are there Anacostia can not really turn around. (and I wish that they could just click there heels and have their shit together, but that's simply not the case - and we all know it)

Until a mayor with some serious vision and balls starts POURING money into the area, in my humble opinion it is doomed! Not to mention it's going to be VERY tough to win a mayoral bid if you loose wards 7 AND 8. And let's be real, ward 5 isn't totally for gentrification either.

But I love Anacostia and REALLY want to see it change, but for now it's up to the current residents to make the change. This development and a few brave souls will get the ball rolling, but it wont be enough. ONE LOVE DC!

I'm black and I'm voting for Tommy Wells. LOL

by sw,dc is the best nhood n dc on Jul 23, 2013 10:15 am • linkreport

[This comment has been deleted for violating the comment policy.]

by Eric on Jul 23, 2013 10:21 am • linkreport

Color me skeptical.

In theory Anacostia could be a great neighborhood (less than 30 min commute downtown, near the waterfront, great views of the Hill, Metro station). But in practice I think that the barriers are too many and too great for it to turn around as quickly as U Street or H Street. The area near the Metro station is divided (and cut off from the water) by a series of high-volume roads, and is dominated by a series of the worst housing projects in the city. They can't simply move these obstacles - there's no place for them to go.

by Eponymous on Jul 23, 2013 10:27 am • linkreport

The area near the Metro station is divided (and cut off from the water) by a series of high-volume roads, and is dominated by a series of the worst housing projects in the city.

The park on the Anacostia is stunning, probably the best park in DC. Just beautiful, with excellent views, and many facilities (if a little run down) -- a skating rink, a pool, many soccer fields, etc.

To better connected this park to the residential side, I often dream about burying and decking over the Anacostia Freeway. But it would take a lot of money.

by goldfish on Jul 23, 2013 10:48 am • linkreport

@Tom Coumaris "I remember when we were assured the Reeves Center, the Nehemiah Project and before that Frontiers Housing would revitalize 14th. Not so much." You're kidding right? 14th street is where it is because there was public investment that started with Reeves Center and the Nehemiah apartments. Yes, development took a while to take off afterwards but it was certainly a catalyst for change. The same can be said about those twin mid-rise office buildings that house DC government offices on H ST NE.

by DCLovesYou on Jul 23, 2013 11:03 am • linkreport

"Residential development (renovation) by individual homeowners in historic areas always comes before meaningful redevelopment of an area. "

cough, cough.

by MStreetDenizen on Jul 23, 2013 11:08 am • linkreport

I feel like I have made this comment several times on this site before, but what more does Anacostia really need for ya'll to say it has arrived? It has two sit down restaurant/bars, several art galleries, several small business incubators, a large live theater space, a gym, government and private office space, museums, carryouts, two clothing thrift stores, numerous bus lines and a metro stop, a historic housing stock, and a growing middle class (largely AA).

I realize it can - and will - still improve, but GD! Its a small neighborhood and is already chock full of 'amenities'.

by h st ll on Jul 23, 2013 11:14 am • linkreport

h st ll,

Don't worry. The Post *just* figured out that 14th Street NW is fairly popular.

by drumz on Jul 23, 2013 11:27 am • linkreport

Lulz. On point.

by h st ll on Jul 23, 2013 11:32 am • linkreport

Projects of the scale that Four Points is pursuing are incredibly difficult to pull off and almost always take longer than anticipated. Interest rates are rising again and financing continues to be difficult for projects east of the Anacostia River. The project intent sounds great, but it's still probably a number of years away. To say that this is indicative of Anacostia's "arrival" may be an exaggeration.

by VADC on Jul 23, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

@ John,
here is the map of the historic district. looks like the high street property is NOT in the historic district.

http://dc.gov/DC/Planning/Historic+Preservation/Maps+and+Information/Landmarks+and+Districts/Historic+District+Maps/Anacostia+Historic+District+Map

by Ummm on Jul 23, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

Wonder what ever happened to Lennie, Mark and Bobby Kushner? I grew up with those guys and lived on Maple View Place until I left for College.

by Frederick C. Cassiday on Jul 23, 2013 12:33 pm • linkreport

Also, there are more than 45,000 people in Ward 8 living SOLELY off government assisted programs.

63% solely on government dole? really? 63%! You think that only 37% of families there have even 1 job. I can understand that a large portion of them are on government programs but not solely. Most of these people do have a job, not a good job, not a full time job, not enough to cover their expenses but most people there contribute to their expenses in some way.

by Richard B on Jul 23, 2013 12:40 pm • linkreport

"with a baby on the way I simply couldn't subject my family to that environment."

Assuming those guys you mentioned are selling drugs (worst case scenario), I bought on a street that was an open air drug market with a baby on the way. In time, the street changed. And drug dealers are far more cordial than most people would believe. At bottom, they are businesspeople and want to conduct their business with as little "disturbance" as possible. Once they knocked on the door to alert me that my wife had left her house keys in the door. Ha!

And that's just assuming those 20 guys are selling drugs. Just as often, guys are just hanging out as a social ritual. You should have bought that house. The equity would have provided you with wealth to pass down to your child.

by Alan on Jul 23, 2013 2:14 pm • linkreport

I may not be an engineer, but I can confidently say that those two houses will collapse like a cheap umbrella if the city tries to move them, especially up that steep hill. Those things have been exposed and rotted for years...what is the value in spending $$$ to move them, and then spending $$$ to renovate them? Pretty much the height of foolishness.

by microT on Jul 23, 2013 2:17 pm • linkreport

Marcus A. Williams, Public Information Officer/Communications Director for DHCD wrote in an email today, "The High Street property is not a location under consideration for moving the historic houses on the Big K site (2334 MLK Jr. Ave SE & 2238 MLK Jr Ave SE). The property is not being considered for a few reasons: it is not located in the historic district; logistically, the steep hill would make it very challenging to move the houses up; and it is not the proper topography for the historic houses. At this time, a location for relocation of the historic homes on MLK has not been determined."

by John Muller on Jul 23, 2013 2:34 pm • linkreport

@Ummmm

I stand corrected. You are right.

by John Muller on Jul 23, 2013 2:35 pm • linkreport

@Richard B -I'm not talking about the adults. They clearly have to have jobs to even qualify. I'm talking about the thousands of kids/teenagers and thus their family that are living SOLELY off government assisted programs. And believe it or not, the more kids you have the more money you get. My parents worked decent jobs and I ate off of their income... Are you familiar with the programs I'm speaking of?

by sw,dc is the best nhood n dc on Jul 23, 2013 2:41 pm • linkreport

Dear sw,dc:

If you drive on roads, take metro, went to public schools, write off your mortgage interest on your taxes, get pre-tax health premiums deducted from your salary, etc. ... you too benefit from government funding. In fact, SW DC was itself largely razed and rebuilt, per "urban renewal" of the 1960s and before (alley dwelling removal, highway building), and a large recipient of federal funding at that time.

The neighborhood of Anacostia has many challenges but nothing that time will not change. And there are many other terrific neighborhoods in Wards 7 and 8 outside of Anacostia. They don't get the buzz, though are stable, safe, and allow quick access to downtown--which is why I moved EotR ten years ago and never left.

by East Bank DC on Jul 23, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

@East Bank DC - but taxes are paid directly out of my income to build the roads, schools etc. That is the MAJOR difference!

But I don't mean any offense to EotR of the residents. There certainly are some stable safe neighborhoods there. There are also a lot of people paying NO taxes, benefiting from government assisted programs. But that's a never ending topic.

by sw,dc is the best nhood n dc on Jul 23, 2013 3:50 pm • linkreport

"20 guys ALWAYS outside one house" - when its 20 (i'm sure that's an exaggeration) AA men its a threat. Just like when an AA man is wearing a hoodie and carrying skittles he's a threat. A simple good afternoon like you would do to show a neighbor in NW that you respect them, and that you don't see them as a "problem" goes a long way. I see yuppies all the time in NoMA hanging on their porch with no shirt in the summer time (smoking marijuana half the time, drinking beer the other half) after work. But that's the problem with OUR country. We need to start having honest conversations with ourselves about the prejudices we harbor. Anacostia is building into a working class neighborhood and that is fine.

by ND on Jul 23, 2013 5:03 pm • linkreport

sw,dc: There is this crazy concept in modern government called a social contract--check it out.

Things change. Some U.S. cities continue to decline but DC appears on a different trajectory. Years ago I lived on Maryland Avenue, NE and 10th Street NE. The H Street NE area was a completely different place then. There a was more active informal economy there than in my current neighborhood, and like one of the other commentators, I too felt safe, especially late at night when nobody else was on the street. And years before that I lived in upper Manhattan and worked part-time in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn which is now full of urban lumberjack bars and design firms.

by East Bank DC on Jul 23, 2013 5:57 pm • linkreport

ND: I am looking for the "like" button for your posts. Exactly.

by East Bank DC on Jul 23, 2013 6:12 pm • linkreport

Peace, and One Love to Anacostia! So beautify and pure, in all it's glory, as well as imperfections. Anacostia is not H St. Nor is it Columbia Heights, or U St. Does it really need to be? Just chill, relax and enjoy a real neighborhood, while we can.

by anacostiaque on Jul 23, 2013 9:26 pm • linkreport

I agree with Richard B in the first comment - yes, they may be historic structures, but lets face it... What is more important and will generate a stronger economy - spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to preserve a prime spaced lot and some historically zoned homes OR building mixed use and business spaces??!!

Let's build up this city to it's full potential. Anacostia and most everything east of the river has waited long enough and deserves it's beautiful gentrification.

by Joseph e on Oct 15, 2013 11:46 pm • linkreport

"They want (for the most part (and I'm trying to be as diplomatic as possible)) continued government assistance and programs that will benefit their lifestyles..."

@ sw,dc is the best nhood n dc, Have you done a comprehensive survey of the residents about their wants and vision for the area? Or are you just basing this claim off of anecdotal examples and nasty assumptions about what low income people must want?

Because entities that have actually done such surveys, like ARCH, know that residents want more restaurant and art spaces, which is why the Anacostia Arts Center was built and why it was filled with theater, food, and shopping.

by That Anacostia Life on Jul 25, 2014 1:58 pm • linkreport

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