New Safeway, apartment project give Petworth a face-lift

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Real Estate

For many years, residents and passersby considered the neighborhood around the Georgia Avenue/Petworth Metrorail station to be like a pretty face covered with dirt -- a potential beauty obscured by years of neglect.

But Petworth is undergoing a modernizing touch-up, one that developers and residents say is in line with other developments in tonier parts of the District.

In early 2014, a combination Safeway and apartment complex is due to open at the corner of Randolph Street and Georgia Avenue NW.

Gone is the old Safeway -- Petworth's iconic structure looming like a decaying clamshell in the neighborhood.

"Georgia Avenue has gotten a face-lift," said Joel Finkelstein, owner of Qualia Coffee, located across the street from the Safeway project.

When completed, developers expect new residents will be attracted to the 218 one- and two-bedroom apartments, rising five stories above the new 62,400-square-foot Safeway, about a block from a Metrorail station and a revitalized business corridor.

Rents will be set closer to opening, but current monthly rates for nearby luxury apartments are between $1,300 for a studio and $2,200 for a two-bedroom unit.

A dozen years ago, when Finkelstein moved to Petworth, local commerce was limited mostly to liquor stores and little bodegas. Now, along with his Qualia Coffee, a variety of upscale bars and restaurants have opened in the neighborhood surrounding the Georgia Avenue-Petworth Metrorail station.

"There is a funky aspect to the neighborhood, and I want to keep that," Finkelstein said. "It's just essential to have that access to a supply of good food."

Petworth's new Safeway, similar in format to recently built stores on New York Avenue, the D.C. waterfront and in Georgetown, are designed to be part of their neighborhoods for the next 50 years, said Marc Dubick, president of Duball LLC, the project's developer.

"There's nothing more significant to the community than having first-rate services," Dubick said. "If you want somebody to stay it the city, you need to give them the same services found in the suburbs."

Shopping in the suburbs is exactly what many Petworth residents felt compelled to do, said Joe Martin, a former advisory neighborhood commissioner for the area. Not too long ago, residents were afraid to walk the stretch of Georgia Avenue now being developed, said Martin, who has lived in Petworth for a decade.

Ashley Gelman, who moved to Petworth in 2009, said affordable rents and easy transit options made the neighborhood attractive. As for amenities, those were scarce for an area she described as a "food desert."

The arrival of the new Safeway and apartments designed by Duball suggest deep-pocketed investors believe in the neighborhood, and Martin said he hopes the development encourages more residents to walk the neighborhood and shop locally.

"All of this is playing out organically," Martin said. "For me, the next question is where the next big development will go."

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