2007-01-10, 09:42

D.C. opts for transit-oriented development in key site

By: Jonathan Groner
Mark Bisnow, an astute commentator on the D.C. real estate scene who runs a bunch of newsy online magazines, just wrote a piece about "Square 54," a rather pricey and important vacant lot in the District of Columbia's Foggy Bottom neighborhood. Square 54 is soon to become, well, a rather pricey and important mixed-use development. Here's Bisnow's take, excerpted from his online "Real Estate Weekly":


Square 54 is the 2.6 acre site where the old GW hospital used to stand. It's been vacant three years now, yet is considered by many the premier buildable spot in DC. Opponents have focused on keeping GW within its traditional boundaries to prevent congestion and more bustling student activity, but GW counters that commercial development of Square 54 benefits their students who enjoy its retail and entertainment aspects, and provides the amenities needed to recruit faculty and staff. GW also feels it needs more of a revenue source since its student numbers are constrained by other zoning requirements. Square 54 would have 450,000 SF office space, 333 residential market-rate apartments plus an affordable component, and 85,000 retail feet anchored by a well-known, as yet-unspecified, grocery store.

If all goes well, ground would be broken in 2008 and occupancy would begin in 2010. City agencies strongly support GW, as did Mayor [Anthony] Williams. That's no surprise. Square 54 sits on top of the Foggy Bottom Metro, and higher-density, "transit-oriented development" is a key element of the Comprehensive Plan adopted unanimously last month by the City Council.


Or, as GW's public affairs maven Tracy Schario writes:


The preliminary proposal draws on and responds to the site’s location at the northwest corner of the Foggy Bottom Campus, its proximity to the Central Business District and Pennsylvania Avenue Corridor area, the Foggy Bottom/GWU Metro stop, historic Foggy Bottom, and the institutional and financial area. Through careful location of buildings and uses, Boston Properties/KSI’s proposed design for Square 54 seeks to strengthen the surrounding streets and create an active mixed-use neighborhood for shared benefits.


If all goes well, ground-breaking will occur in 2008 and occupancy will begin in 2010. This could be a showpiece project.

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