- The Washington Times - Monday, December 24, 2001

Tomorrow is Christmas, but folks like local housing activist Terry Lynch have been counting their blessings since August.
After years of delay, the District announced the sale of its long-vacant Mather Building on Aug. 28. It was a highlight in a busy year for the local real estate market, which managed to persevere despite the recession.
The city said it would sell the Mather Building, a stubborn symbol of urban decay in downtown Washington, to a developer who plans to convert it into condominiums and art studios.
Mr. Lynch and other housing activists rejoiced. For years, they complained that the city was missing a golden opportunity to build affordable housing on prime real estate near the MCI Center.
The good news didn't end with that announcement.
Last week, the National Capital Revitalization Corp. said it would sell its vacant three-acre lot at Fifth and K streets NW to a developer who plans a $101 million housing-and-business project.
The site housed the old National Wax Museum until 30 years ago, when it was bulldozed for an urban-renewal project that never occurred. Neighbors say the project, Mount Vernon Walk, will help link the city's historic Mount Vernon neighborhood with its booming downtown.
This was also the year that work finally began on Tivoli Square, a $28 million project in Columbia Heights that is slated to include homes, a grocery store, shops, restaurants and offices. The centerpiece of the project will be the restoration of the Tivoli Theater, an abandoned, 1920s-era movie palace at 14th Street and Park Road NW.
"Overall, I'm very thankful and feel blessed that we've accomplished all that we have. The Mather Building, the wax museum they're all important projects," says Mr. Lynch, executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, a church-backed group that pushes for new development in the District.
"But there was a lot of work we didn't get done. We didn't get new grocery stores in the city's poorest neighborhoods. We didn't land a new department store at the old Woodies building [downtown.] There's a lot of work that still has to get done," he says.
So while the ever-vigilant Mr. Lynch compiles his to-do list for 2002, Property Lines takes a look at other folks who are counting their blessings this holiday season:
The General Services Administration's press department. These guys finally got some relief in July, when the administration announced the federal Department of Transportation's new headquarters would likely be built in the Southeast Federal Center.
Before the long-delayed announcement, every commercial real estate reporter in town especially this one called the GSA press department at least once a week to find out when a decision on the new transportation headquarters would be made.
The announcement finally came July 18, and it was a doozy. The GSA endorsed a proposal by JBG Cos. to build a 1.35 million-square-foot transportation headquarters near the Washington Navy Yard. The Transportation Department is expected to bring thousands of new workers to the city's up-and-coming Southeast quadrant.
Pedestrians. It was the year of the town center in Washington.
Town centers pack homes, shops, restaurants and offices into tight areas, usually near train or bus stations. Because virtually everything in the center can be reached by sidewalk, folks can leave their cars in the garage and walk from place to place.
Developers moved forward this year with plans for town centers in Hyattsville, Greenbelt, Camp Springs, Gaithersburg, Prince William and Vienna. And virtually every one of the builders said they hoped to recreate the success of Dulles Town Center, the granddaddy of all town centers.
Arlington County. It was a tough year for Arlington, but things are looking up as 2002 approaches.
The September 11 terrorist attack killed 179 persons at the Pentagon, Arlington's biggest employer.
Then, in October, the Gannett Co. began moving more than 1,700 employees out of the Twin Towers in Rosslyn and into the company's new headquarters in Fairfax County.
This month, the Freedom Forum said it would close its Newseum journalism museum in Arlington next year because it needs to cut costs. The Freedom Forum plans to open a new Newseum in downtown Washington in 2005, but it had planned to keep its current facility open until 2003.
Things are looking up for Arlington, though. Businesses are snapping up the space in the Twin Towers left behind by Gannett, including one high-profile tenant: WJLA-TV Channel 7.
The ABC affiliate plans to move from the District's Van Ness neighborhood to the Twin Towers next summer. The station is building a state-of-the-art studio in the building, where it will broadcast its nightly newscast.
The news, live from Rosslyn, every night? That could do more to elevate Arlington's profile than the Newseum ever could.
Chris Baker can be reached at 202/636-3139 or [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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