H Street Community Development Corp on RIA NE?

By Stephanie Liotta Atkinson

In February 2004 the H Street Community Development Corporation purchased 2321 4th Street NE. (See that empty lot in front of the National Wholesale Liquidators and behind the BP? That’s it.) 

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According to old “Think Rhode Island Avenue” documents, the H Street CDC planned to develop a 170-unit apartment building on the site after demoing the “Heroin Hotel” that sat atop the parcel.  Nearly eight years later the Heroin Hotel is gone, but nothing has been constructed in its place.  With its proximity to the Metro, and Rhode Island Row about to blossom, one must ask: why is lucrative development stalled here?

When I called H Street CDC I was told that the person responsible for the RIA project is out of town until January.  Perhaps there will be a follow-up post when I get a hold of someone there…

It strikes me as odd that a corporation would simply sit on a mortgage and taxes for eight years.  So, I also called the Office of Tax and Revenue to investigate a bit more.  At 39,190 square feet, H Street CDC’s vacant land is assessed at $2,351,400.  According to OTR, H Street CDC owes $38,798 in taxes per year on its RIA property.  Incidentally, it hasn’t paid the September installment and what was once a $19K bill is now over $22K and climbing.  Anyway, is H Street CDC simply carrying $38,798 in annual taxes plus financing and demolition costs without any meaningful redevelopment plan or way to recoup its costs?  I don’t get it.  (While I’m on the subject of empty lots, I also don’t understand the vacant parcel at 13th and RIA.  Recall the graffiti-tagged sign asking whether it’s hot enough in Brookland? Yeah, I guess it’s not… More about that clusterF in the future.)

In any event, a look at H Street CDC’s website yields a noble plan for combating crime, drug-infestation and blight with a new 170-unit “mixed use high rise structure with housing, in-ground parking and retail” all within walking-distance of the RIA Metro.  So, H Street CDC: we’re knocking on 2012 – what’s the plan?

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10 thoughts on “H Street Community Development Corp on RIA NE?

  1. Thank you for the sleuth work here–please keep us posted on both this spot and the lot at 13th and Rhode Island. This is how change is going to happen: through engaged citizens asking questions, staying active and showing that people care about the avenue.

  2. Can’t wait to hear what you’ve dug up about 13th and RIA. I wish that sign would get torn down if they’re not going to build something soon!

  3. At least the 13th & RIA site is getting revenue. I have seen Church of The Living God La Luz Del Mundo
    at 1222 Rhode Island NE using this site for events requiring overflow parking. So, they must know the owners of this site in order to use it. They recently had a revival, a month or so ago, and had guards directing people to park on the site. H Street could do something similar, if they need the additional revenue.

  4. Good detective work. I had assumed that this lot was owned by the shopping center owners but I guess not. I would love to see this lot developed cooperatively with the shopping center and the other building owners that front RIA (Suntrust, McDonald’s, The Church, etc). I know this will cause the site to probably sit even longer but developing it piecemeal probably wouldn’t help the area in the long run and wouldn’t be as nice.

    Besides, if they built that building tomorrow it would stand kind of isolated and wouldn’t be too attractive on its own.

  5. GREAT detective work, Stephanie!

    At some recent community meeting I recall hearing that lot on the corner of 13th and RIA used to be a relatively high-end, high-rise apartment building (kind of like what you see on Connecticut Ave) but that it deteriorated over the years and eventually was torn down.

  6. Absolutely great detective work, I never knew that parcel wasn’t a part of the shopping center! Hopefully the new condos at 4th & RI will provide them with the push they need to realize this IS a viable neighborhood (they look fantastic from the outside, it would be nice to see what they did on the inside, hint, hint). I do agree, however, that it would be wisest to develop that whole parcel (including the plaza) as one unit, rather than piecemeal. I agree with other ideas (expressed here and elsewhere) like reconnecting the street grid and making a huge, well-planned development out of the area. Given that this parcel sits RIGHT on RIA, it’s super-important to emphasize mixed-use development there, to get the retail options we all need and provide a further incentive for future residents to move to this area. With the District adding over 15K residents in less than a year and a half, we need more housing, and what better way to provide that than in a nice mixed-use development basically on top of a Metro that is super-convenient to the rest of the city (and replacing vacant land and a poorly-used single-purpose shopping center). If we can make a portion of those new residents homeowners, even better (the relatively low cost of buying in this area would be a huge draw for people, if we could only show that future development/services are imminent). The area on that side of the Metro has HUGE potential given the proximity to Metro, the looming bridge to the Metro, access to the Met Branch Trail, Bikeshare, Zipcar, etc., etc. It’s just so hard to get everyone on the same page…it would be golden if some deep-pocketed developer, knowing about the accelerating growth of the District, were to pick up the whole parcel, including this piece, and develop it cohesively.

  7. Take a look at what the history of what the HDC did on H street and you would not be surprised at all. They spent millions upon millions, tore down and the best they could do was build a Blimpies or a Autozone. H Street did not happen until a private investor came in and bought the Atlas. Then other other private investors started coming in.

    They are under different leadership now, but they are also losing the government dole in the form of block grants. As far as I can tell, you might be better off if this group died and gave up their assets.

  8. This site is a block away from my house and I just don’t understand why it’s not being developed. It’s pretty prime as far as Edgewood goes, but I assume it has to do with financing. HDC probably bought the land without plans or money, hoping the land would go up in value or something along those lines. What that area DOESN’T need is another strip mall, like the H Street Connection. What it needs: MIXED-use, dense, a catalyst for neighborhood development.

    Ideally, plans for that site would go hand-in-hand with plans to redevelop the Rhode Island Avenue Center (Forman Mills/Safeway).

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