Georgia Ave. redevelopment tries to mix old with new

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Local,DC,Real Estate,Liz Farmer
The latest piece in a large-scale plan to redevelop Georgia Avenue in the District may look like the swanky retail and residential buildings that pushed out some mom and pop stores along the 14th Street corridor, but supporters say that's not what will happen there. The Vue, a 112-unit residential building with 12,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, is planned by Neighborhood Development Co. for the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Morton Street and is scheduled to go before the District's zoning board Thursday. Neighborhood Development's Jason Vargas said the cost of commercial leases in the new building, which will include garage parking, likely will price out most businesses now at the site, which is now a small shopping center.

But the D.C. company's other projects in the area have significant affordable-housing allotments, and Vargas said the company has worked to attract locally owned tenants who provide needed neighborhood services. Yes! Organic Market, for example, moved into the ground floor of the Residences at Georgia Avenue near the Petworth Metro station.

"Our goal is to create new development but not to destroy the fabric of the neighborhood," he said.

The Vue would be the third mixed-use building by Neighborhood Development in the Georgia Avenue-Petworth area, which the company has earmarked as the next hot development corridor.

Longtime resident and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Lenwood O. Johnson said the area has been long overlooked as revitalization promises have come and gone for decades. He said the more established residents and businesses are slightly wary of the change that is starting to take place at last.

"They feel that, if you bring all this stuff in, this is going to knock out the carryouts, the beauty parlors, the barbershops and the longtime establishments that stayed there even after the riots of '68," he said.

The redevelopment of Columbia Heights brought Target, Panda Express and Bed Bath & Beyond -- but swept away many local shops, he said.

Vargas said officials from the development company, which is headquartered in the neighborhood, regularly attend local ANC meetings and have members on the Georgia Avenue Community Development Task Force.

"We rely heavily on what they say," Vargas said, referring to the task force. "And they ... don't want it to seem like 14th Street -- they want it to have its own vibe."

The estimated cost of the Vue is $26 million to $32 million, and Neighborhood Development is still securing financing. The company has not set an estimated completion date.

lfarmer@washingtonexaminer.com

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