- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 16, 2007

An unsolicited offer from a developer has set off a bidding competition for three parcels of land owned by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority around Eighth Street and Florida Avenue Northwest in the Shaw neighborhood.

The site lies two blocks northwest of the Shaw-Howard University Metro station in an area undergoing rapid gentrification.

Developers say the site offers a rare opportunity to combine housing and retail in a mixed-use project near a Metro station.

“There’s just not that much developable land right now,” said Ken Johnson, chief executive officer of DCRealEstate.com, a real estate sales and marketing firm. “Close to downtown, near Metro, it’s a gold mine for developers.”

Metro’s search for a developer continues a “joint development program” to promote private real estate projects near transit stations.

The program follows the philosophy that encouraging transit use instead of driving is environmentally friendly and boosts the local economy.

“Anytime you can bring people to transit, it’s called smart growth,” said Jim Abdo, chief executive officer of Abdo Development, a firm known for its urban redevelopment projects. “And anytime you can bring viable retail to Metro, that’s a very good thing.

He said Metro was likely to win a high price for sale or lease of the land, which is used now for occasional flea markets.

Just this month, developers started advance sales on the Lacey condominiums only a few blocks away, with prices starting in the mid-$300,000 for the units. Construction is scheduled to be completed next year.

A bidding war for land and upscale condominiums would have been unlikely only six years ago, while the nearby U Street Corridor was still known primarily for nightclubs and auto repair shops.

“It’s in an area that’s definitely seeing a tremendous renaissance,” Mr. Abdo said.

Metro refuses to name bidders or the price they expect to get from the lots. The agency’s procedures required competitive bids after the first developer made an offer for the land.

“Right now, it’s still in the competition part of it,” said Joanne Ferreira, Metro spokeswoman.

Metro could either sell the land outright or lease it to a developer. The deadline for bids is May 31.

“We’re checking both lease and sale offers,” Mrs. Ferreira said. “That’s not been decided yet.”

Property Lines runs on Thursdays. Call Tom Ramstack at 202/636-3180 or e-mail tramstack@washingtontimes.com.

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