- The Washington Times - Monday, April 10, 2000

Plans to bring a major grocery store and shopping center to Camp Simms in Anacostia took a big step forward Friday when District officials signed an agreement with a private development team.

D.C.-based Dominion Development Corp. and Columbia, Md.-based Manekin Corp. want to build a 100,000-square-foot shopping center at Alabama Avenue and 15th Street SE. Officials from both companies could not be reached for comment late Friday.

The project depends on Super Fresh committing to the project at the city-owned site, which was historically occupied by the National Guard. Supermarket officials said the Minneapolis-based chain is interested in moving into the site.

The $20 million project would help the District reach a 30-year-old goal of revitalizing the property, and helping the neighborhood which has long needed additional retail services, and is now growing.

If all goes as planned, the developers will break ground this summer and open the first stores 18 months later, D.C. officials said. The entire complex is expected to take two years to build.

The shopping center would include a 56,000-square-foot grocery store facing Alabama Avenue, a 24,000-square-foot clothing store, and 26,000 square feet of additional retail space. Two restaurants are included in the plan.

While other parts of the city have seen some retail expansion and thriving office development, D.C. officials have had more trouble trying to persuade private developers to cross the Anacostia River.

"No one wanted to buy land east of the river," said one D.C. official.

Partly because of this wariness, D.C. officials plan to channel up to $8 million in federal grants and loans into the Camp Simms project, said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity. Tax increment financing, another economic development tool, may also be available for the project, the official said.

Developers have remained cautious despite a surge of residential development in Anacostia. About 2,000 homes are now under construction or planned in Anacostia, more than any other part of the city, Mayor Anthony A. Williams told the D.C. Building Industry Association Thursday.

More than half of these homes are located near the Camp Simms site, and are expected to open at the same time as the shopping center.

There are other signs of Anacostia's economic viability, according to D.C. officials. The average household income in the area is $38,000, and that contributes to $402 million worth of unmet retail demand by Anacostia's residents, according to a D.C. study.

The agreement with Dominion Development calls for the developers to lease the 10-acre site for 30 years, with options to extend the lease for 20 years longer.

Dominion also receives an option to buy the shopping center land for $1.7 million. But negotiations continue over what to do with the rest of the property, which is zoned for housing but is also where the developer hopes to build a movie theater.

Because of changes in the plan's layout, the project also must clear some zoning hurdles, the official said.

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