A new development in Eckington will bring housing and much-needed retail to the area, including businesses that are hyper-focused on the local economy. Some residents are being very vigilant to make sure the project benefits the neighborhood.
Called Eckington Yards, the project will facilitate a “maker economy” of businesses that keep things local, like breweries or coffee shops that roast their own beans on the premises.
"We try to think outside the box when we bring in new retail not just bringing in five or six restaurants,” said Bryan Moll of the JBG Companies, the project’s developer, at an Eckington Civic Association meeting earlier this month. “You’re not just selling things, you’re not just making things. You make it locally [and] you sell it locally,”
The maker retail component will line the interior corridor of Eckington Yards, which will be built on a three-acre site that stretches from Eckington Place NE to Harry Thomas Way NE between existing developments. The corridor will be a rough extension of Quincy Place NE.
A coffee shop or small restaurant is likely at the corner of Quincy Place and Eckington Place.
The additional retail will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Eckington lacks retail in its interior, something that the civic association says was done by design when the area was developed in the late 19th century. Today, the closest restaurants are in Bloomingdale, with a grocery store and pharmacy in NoMa.
Residents are circumspect
Eckington residents want guarantees from JBG and its partners that Eckington Yards will benefit the neighborhood. They point to the developer of the Gale Eckington, formerly Triolgy NoMa, and how they promised a dog park and some retail when it opened in 2012.
Today, only a small corner on Harry Thomas Way — the furthest point of the Gale from the center of Eckington — is a dog park and there is no retail.
"Our goal is to activate the space,” said Moll on the retail component of Eckington Yards. JBG promises to keep its commitments to the neighborhood, he added, pointing to a binding community benefits agreement they plan to sign with the civic association.
A draft copy of the agreement includes ensuring that the maker retail is viable in the development, investing in a new or expanded Capital Bikeshare station, and planting trees and in and round the site.
The project is light on affordable housing
Eckington Yards is slated to have 695 residential units in four new buildings, said Moll. Only 8% of these, or about 55 units, will be included in DC’s inclusionary housing program, he said.
Built on private land, JBG and its partners are not bound to the public land-deal requirement that 20% to 30% of residential units be included in the affordable housing programme.
Of the 55 affordable units, 20% will be set aside for households of four that make up to 50% of area median income (AMI) — about $50,000 — and the remaining 80% for households that make 80% of AMI, said Moll.
Not all of the units in Eckington Yards will be rental. JBG plans to initially put units in only one of the four buildings up for rent with the rest condo but, Moll said, they convert another building into rental units depending on demand.
JBG will include both rental and for sale units in the affordable component of Eckington Yards.
The developer plans to seek approval for Eckington Yards from the DC zoning commission in May with construction beginning around the middle of 2017 and opening by the middle of 2019, said Moll.