Coming soon, Utopia

You might have noticed a lot of businesses are closing on the southwest corner of 14th and U, and it’s my bad for not explaining why. El Paraiso has closed, Dominos has closed, Taco Bell has closed, the United Supreme Council National Headquarters and Archives building will be closed soon, and I’m probably missing a business in there.

What are they making way for? Utopia – a development from uber-builder JBG. What will it be? Massive, a mixed use development (sounding familiar?) preserving the historic buildings along 14th and U, and knocking out the not-so-historic ones (aka all of the fast food restaurants that closed). Not sure when this will break ground, but the project is slated to open in Fall of 2013.

2213-2217 14th Street, to be redeveloped

After noticing that Mercadito Ramos had closed, along with the carryout space in the same building – I wondered yesterday if this meant development. Lydia DePillis, over at the City Paper’s Housing Complex, has the answer: yes. Interestingly, the owners of Dupont Italian Kitchen (and the would-be owners of La Fonda at 14th and V) purchased the building in March.

Their plans for the space are new retail and office space on the top floors. The building will be renovated and then new tenants will come in. No word on what types of retail tenants will come in, but I will keep you posted. I do doubt the speed at which this will get done, as we haven’t seen any movement on the La Fonda space since November.

Proposed building at 14th and Wallach

Relatively new kids on the block, U Street Dirt (who look at development along the U Street corridor) have a recap of the DC Historic Preservation Review Board look at a new residential building proposed for 14th and Wallach.

The building, which would be a 7 plus story, 160 unit apartment building would replace the rather ugly post office/Yums/furniture store building. Seems like the meeting did not go well, from at least the building’s perspective. There was a lot of opposition of building on a small side street, Wallach, and the board pretty much asked for the developers (Eric Colbert and company) to come back with a new design.

The future of this building is unclear: nothing was decided at the DC Historic Preservation Review Board meeting – and it has received initial ANC support. With all of the residential development already happening along 14th street (re-read 14th and You’s excellent recap) perhaps we have enough?

Black Family Reunion, courtesy of dbking (Flickr)

When Douglas Jemal and his development group announced recently that they would be putting up a 30 unit apartment building with ground floor retail at the empty Latino Auto Sales, I shrugged. That block seems to be housing/ground floor retail central – and the ground floor retail is failing. No stores have opened in the View 14 or Solea buildings.

But when I read more closely, I saw this building will be 6 floors – meaning that the Black Family Reunion mural on the adjacent building will be obscured. Under current plans at least, it seems the project will go forward without accomodating the mural.

The good news is that Jemal will be working with the artist, Byron Peck, (who also did the famous mural of Duke Ellington on U Street) to create a new mural in lieu of the Black Family Reunion one. Glad that the developer is willing to work with the artist, but still sad to see that this great example of community created street art hidden.

Construction will not start until summer 2011 (optimistically) so you still have plenty of time to admire the mural.

What Utopian would look like, courtesy of DCmud

I’ve been branching out in my blog reading and checking out DCmud fairly frequently. They have a post about a development on the southwest corner on 14th and U: the Utopian. 220 residential rental units, with historic structures along U Street remaining but structures along 14th street would be gone (I’d imagine all of those fast food joints are casualties). The building with be the tallest on U street: 90 feet, stepping down to 65 feet, then 45 feet on the south side as it moves down 14th. There are also plans for 20,000 square feet of retail and a roof top pool.

This will be a major build out of the neighborhood if it happens. What do you think? Are you for or against? I’m kind of fine with the level of development in the area now but recognize that this could be good for the neighborhood and local businesses.

Construction starting at 14th and Belmont

Construction starting at 14th and Belmont

I noticed there was some activity happening at the empty lot/abandoned building at 14th and Belmont. I didn’t see any work being done, but with the presence of a crane and a digger, there must be something happening. There is also a temporary no parking sign on both sides of Belmont through the end of the 1st of July. An old Columbia Heights News post from 2006 tells me the empty lot was meant to be condos with ground floor retail, but I wonder if that’s still the plan. Anyone know?

Incidently, that shopping center that used to be there was strangely awesome, with the wig shop, no?

UPDATE: It looks like the construction crew is working in the abandoned building, and I’m sorry to say they’re at least partially demolishing it as of 7:45 this morning. Pictures to follow tonight – I hope they’re not completely demolishing the building, it has really nice bones.

Here’s your semi-regular news update of what’s happening in the U street ‘hood:

  • The Gibson’s expanded their seating two fold by opening up a sweet patio, along with fancy frozen drinks. Awesome! I’m definitely going to have to check this out ASAP.
  • The Perseus project on 14th and W has been stalled because of the economy. Now the new YMCA isn’t expected until late 2011.
  • 14thandYou asks if St Ex is a restaurant or tavern, and what that will do to their liquor license. I say, it’s a restaurant that turns much more bar-like after 10 or 11 pm, but I don’t think there’s a licensing class for that.
Proposed site of hotel, courtesy of shinichi (Flickr)

Proposed site of hotel, courtesy of shinichi (Flickr)

PoP has the scoop on the proposed hotel on 13th and U that would replace the building that houses Rite Aid, that nail salon, the dollar store, and I believe, Creme and Al Crostino. Honestly, I’m a little confused about where the building would be, would the entrance be facing U street or facing 13th street? It seems like it wouldn’t fit facing 13th street, but the description of the building the hotel would be replacing only includes Rite Aid. So, color me a bit confused.

Cardozo Shaw Neighborhood Association has all of the details about the proposed hotel:

  • 250 guestrooms, 4,500 square feet of meeting space and 23,000 square feet of retail space;
  • A signature restaurant, a rooftop bar and swimming pool;
  • A rotating art exhibit which will all be open to the public (I dig this);
  • The retail component will be composed of the existing Rite Aid (in a new space) and a diverse mix of retailers, restaurants and local or small business space (does this include Creme and Al Crostino?);
  • possible LEED certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.

I’m not totally for or against the project, I feel like I need more information. Al Crostino and Creme are two of my favorite restaurants in the U street area, and I’d hate to see them go or have to temporarily close because of this construction. And, being a curmudgeonly U street resident, I don’t really want more tourists in the neighborhood. I still find it weird when I’m walking around and I see someone who’s clearly a tourist walking around staying dumb things about how dangerous a neighborhood they’re in. And Ben’s line is too long already. It will be good for the retail scene on U street, but it’s not exactly struggling, even with these tough times. Sure, there are more empty storefronts than I’d like, but we’ve had the Gibson, Ben’s Next Door, Yes! Organic Market, Georgetown Valet, and Posto (I guess that’s more Logan Circle) all open in the past few months and all done well.