Real Estate

Updated: Is Something Finally Getting Built at Florida and North Capitol?

The empty lot, owned by gas-station king Joe Mamo, at 1600 North Capitol Street NW.

UPDATE: Anastasia Kharchenko, a vice president with J Street’s retail division, confirms that she is “soft marketing” the plan to potential retail tenants. However, there is no projected timeline for construction to begin.

Bloomingdale, Eckington, and Truxton Circle are among the fastest changing neighborhoods in DC, rife with new condo projects and rowhouse gut-jobs. But the main intersection of Florida Avenue and North Capitol Street, where all three neighborhoods meet, has been slow to keep up, thanks in large part to the vacant lot in its northwest corner. For neighbors, it’s long been a point of concern—walking past the vast empty space at 1600 North Capitol Street, NW after dark, for instance, isn’t exactly comforting. Property records show that gas-station magnate Joe Mamo has been sitting on the 19,000-square-foot site since 2003, when he bought it for $825,000 (it’s currently assessed at $2,848,620). Three years ago, he finally seemed to be headed toward developing it, retaining highly regarded architecture firm Bonstra Haresign to design a seven-story residential building there. We asked Bill Bonstra, one of the firm’s name partners, about the project a couple of weeks ago, and he explained that progress had essentially stalled since last spring. He says Mamo felt “it wasn’t really going to be profitable enough of a project” and was going to look into alternatives for the site, such as a hotel. Going back to the drawing board, said Bonstra, could potentially involve starting a new planned unit development (PUD) process with the city—something that would take months. Basically, it sounded like anyone hopeful to see some movement on the land was out of luck.

Which is why we were surprised to see this come across our Twitter feed this afternoon. The brochure, from property management firm J Street Companies, depicts plans for an all-retail building on the corner. It solicits grocery, convenience store, and home improvement store tenants for the ground floor, and a restaurant for the second floor.

We have calls out to learn more and will update when we get additional information. But the time certainly seems right for something to finally happen with the property. DC recently announced that it will put the vacant city-owned property just across the street, at Florida Ave. and Q Street NW, out for bid next month, and developer Brick Lane is already working on a 15,000-square-foot mixed-use project with nine apartments on another corner of the North Cap/Florida intersection. Stay tuned…

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Marisa M. Kashino joined Washingtonian in 2009 as a staff writer, and became a senior editor in 2014. She was previously a reporter for Legal Times and the National Law Journal. She has recently written about the Marriott family’s civil war and the 50-year rebirth of 14th Street, and reported the definitive oral history of the Lorena and John Wayne Bobbitt case. She lives in Northeast DC with her husband, two dogs, and two cats.