Sign announcing MLK Gateway, a planned office building in Old Anacostia. Image by the author.

In Ward 8, a number of big residential and commercial developments are scheduled for public review this fall, many of which have been delayed for years. It is a vicious and repetitive cycle, and while a critical mass appears to be coming, community members privately wonder: “Will this actually happen?”

Here’s a brief review of both small and large development projects proposed in Ward 8 that will have public meetings in the next few weeks.

At Poplar Point, plans for offices to hold a federal agency

Today, developer Redbrick Partners controls more than seven acres running along Howard Road SE, adjacent to the parking garage of the Anacostia Metro. Eventually, they plan to construct a five-building, mixed-use project featuring nearly 700 residential units, 1.6 million square feet of office space, a hotel, and nearly 50,000 square feet of retail. The construction would occur in three phases, with residential being built in the first and third phases.

To fill all that office space, Redbrick has reached out to a variety of federal agencies seeking new or additional space, including the General Services Administration and Department of Labor, and is currently awaiting word from the Securities and Exchange Commission. The Phase 1 Planned United Development goes before the Zoning Commission on October 26.

More delays at Skyland

The sprawling Skyland parcel, the 18-acre former shopping center at the junction of Good Hope Road, Alabama Avenue, and Naylor Road, sits empty. The Naylor Theatre, Anacostia Post Office, AutoZone, other small businesses, and a city employment service are now long gone. Development has awaited. It awaits some more.

For years, there have been plans to build up to 250,000 square feet of retail and 480 new apartments at what's now called Skyland Town Center. Multiple mayors have held ceremonial groundbreakings at Skyland, leading up to Walmart announcing a new store there, only to back out later. Earlier this year, developer Rappaport announced that CVS would open a new store here.

Last month, as part of a cover story heralding development projects in Wards 7 and 8, the Washington Business Journal reported “vertical construction” at Skyland would begin in October.. A week later, WBJ reported Rappaport had secured a one year permitting extension due to issues related to financing. No construction of any kind this calendar year.

With demolition having created a retail desert in this neighborhood, there is considerable unrest in the community about the eventual fate of Skyland. Time will tell what happens.

A tech company relocates from downtown to Anacostia

In Old Anacostia, city officials and developer Bo Menkiti hope to transform and activate the corner of Good Hope Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, with Enlightened, Inc., a technology and security consulting firm, that is relocating 150 employees from the K Street corridor. The company, and a tech incubator, will occupy new offices that would be built at that intersection.

“We’ve been pushing really hard to move things forward expeditiously, because we actually have a firm date on the back end by which Enlightened needs to move,” Menkiti told a gathering of the Historic Anacostia Block Association last month. “This is one of the challenges of moving an operating, successful business is the timing has to be just right.”

The building would also include ground floor retail space. Planned tenants include Smith Commons, City First Bank, Good Food Market and a local coffee chain. Efforts are being made to secure a local fitness center to increase the area’s health and wellness options.

DC owns the property and selected Menkiti to develop it. Alluding to residents past and present struggles with city-owned property, Menkiti said, “As you guys have experienced, and know, trying to get the city disposition on a tight time frame is a very interesting exercise.”

Finalized design plans were recently submitted to the Historic Preservation Review Board. In November, the review board and the DC Council will provide an administrative and financial review. Drafting architectural plans and securing a variety of building permits is expected to consume all of 2018. Construction is forecast to commence in March 2019, and the building will open in the summer of 2020.