Gray unveils riverfront development vision

Local,DC,Freeman Klopott
A D.C. high school will be rebuilt as a vocational school and seven restaurants and a Harris Teeter are moving into a riverfront development near Nationals Park, Mayor Vincent Gray said Monday while unveiling a jobs and economic development plan for the city.

Gray has been trumpeting his vision for growth, which focuses on education and training to help unemployed D.C. residents land jobs, since last summer when he was running for mayor. In his much anticipated announcement on Monday, Gray said the office of deputy mayor for economic development has been reorganized and refocused on job creation. In the coming months, it will rank District projects so the most likely to succeed get the most attention.

"All that we envision for our city can be obtained with a strong plan," Gray said.

One key element to the plan is Gray's decision to build a new Ballou High School.

New restaurants and retail to open near National's Baseball Park:
Potbelly: early 2012
Kruba and Thai Sushi: early 2012
Buzz Bakery: late 2012
Yet-to-be-named craft brewery: late 2012
Austin Grill express: fall 2012
brb--be the right burger: fall 2012
Harris Teeter: 2013

"Planning [for the school] is already underway," he said.

The Southeast high school will be rebuilt with classrooms designed to train kids for jobs in the automotive and technology fields.

The city has budgeted $55 million to renovate the school, which is about half of what D.C. spends on a major school reconstruction project.

The project fits into Gray's "birth to age 24" vision for education that he says will end the city's "haphazard approach to job training" and help connect D.C. residents to jobs.

Some of those jobs could be at the Yards development project near Nationals Park.

When finished, the Yards will be home to 2,800 residential units, 1.8 million square feet of office space and 400,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space.

The project started in 2008, but the economic crash halted construction when developer Forest City Washington couldn't get a loan to keep building, marketing director Gary McManus said.

"As things have thawed out, the funding has become available and retailers are in expansion mode," McManus said.

A Potbelly sandwich shop and Kruba and Thai Sushi will be the first to open in early 2012, he said. They'll be followed by the locally-owned Neighborhood Restaurant Group's two eateries and Thompson Hospitality will add two more by late 2012. A 24/7 diner, Huey's, will open in fall 2012.

The development "will bring people over from the stadium to the river front and people will begin to look at it as a great place to live," said Councilman Tommy Wells, whose Ward 6 is home to the Yards. "That's the best deal for the city."

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