- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 18, 2002

The group that manages neighborhood revitalization in the District chose four developers yesterday to rebuild six parcels in Columbia Heights, including some sites that were ravaged during the 1960s riots.

The National Capital Revitalization Corp. (NCRC), a government-chartered corporation that assists the District with economic development, agreed to sell the parcels to the builders for no less than $4.59 million.

The property is owned by the RLA Revitalization Corp., a NCRC subsidiary. Final prices for the parcels will be negotiated over the next few weeks.

Most of the parcels, which are scattered around Columbia Heights, are home to vacant lots or boarded-up buildings.

The developers plan to build more than 500 condominiums and apartments, shops, restaurants and parking spaces on the sites.

"This is historic because when you think about how long ago [the riots] happened, and we are finally getting to the point where we will put this community back together again," said Lloyd D. Smith, acting president and chief executive of the NCRC.

The corporation chose Columbia Heights Ventures, a partnership between the Donatelli & Klein and Gragg & Associates development companies, to rebuild the largest parcel, which stretches between 1415 and 1455 Columbia Road NW and encompasses portions of Irving Street NW.

The partners plan to build 203 apartments and 22 condominiums on the site, including some units that will be reserved for medium-income residents. More than 21,000 square feet of retail space and 222 parking spaces also are planned.

Most of the other developers plan a similar mix of apartments, condominiums and retail space on the other parcels.

On a parcel on the 3400 block of 14th Street NW, the Dance Institute of Washington plans to build a two-level community center with a dance school, a day care center and a playground.

"Columbia Heights is an area in transition. Its strength is its diversity, and we want to build on that," said Brian Barlia, a partner in the Triangle II Partners development company, which will develop two of the smaller parcels.

Residents of Columbia Heights, an eclectic neighborhood populated primarily by blacks and Latinos, packed the NCRC board of directors meeting where the development deals were announced.

"You listened to the community," Lawrence T. Guyot Jr. told the corporation's board, which met in the dining hall at the Kelsey Temple in the heart of Columbia Heights.

Mr. Guyot serves as a member of the Ward 1 Advisory Neighborhood Commission, a panel that advises D.C. officials on local policies. He said he doubted the corporation's ability to jump-start urban renewal in Columbia Heights, but said he had been proven wrong.

He praised the group for insisting the developers include affordable-housing proposals in their plans.

The Columbia Heights redevelopment is the second big deal for the corporation, which the District chartered last year to replace the old Redevelopment Land Agency.

The corporation's first major announcement was in December, when it agreed to sell the old National Wax Museum site in downtown Washington to a developer who is planning a $101 million housing-and-business project.

Two big projects in Columbia Heights restoration of the historic Tivoli Theater and construction of a Giant Food supermarket have moved slowly, but D.C. Council member Jim Graham said he expects the pace of those projects to pick up after the corporation's Columbia Heights deal.

"All of that will be helped along by the message that was sent here today. The message is that developers have a lot of confidence in Columbia Heights," said Mr. Graham, Ward 1 Democrat.

The Tivoli Theater, a 1920s-era movie palace at 14th Street NW and Park Road, has been boarded up since the 1970s.

Washington development company Horning Brothers plans to restore the theater, converting some of it to office and retail space, and build a Giant Food and town houses nearby.

The project got a boost in February when the District approved a zoning change that will allow the supermarket and town houses to be built.

The project is expected to be completed by 2004.


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