- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 4, 2003


  Howard University last week selected a development team to help it rebuild an area near its campus along Georgia Avenue NW, where the school hopes to transform a series of rundown buildings into apartments, a grocery store and a parking garage.
  The university chose High Street Residential, a subsidiary of Dallas real estate giant Trammell Crow Co., to be its lead partner in the $56 million Howard Town Center project. Other partners include Michelle Hagans, a prominent black developer in the District.
  “This represents a major vote of confidence from the private sector in this part of the world,” said H. Patrick Swygert, president of Howard University and a proponent of redeveloping Georgia Avenue, a corridor that still shows scars from the race riots of the 1960s.
  Howard Town Center will be built on an area roughly bounded by W Street NW to the north, Georgia Avenue NW to the east, V Street NW to the south and Eighth Street NW to the west. The project calls for 225 market-rate apartments or condominiums, 75,000 square feet of retail space and 500 parking spaces.
  The project is the next step in the university’s LeDroit Park Initiative, an ambitious plan to revive the blighted Georgia Avenue corridor. In recent years Mr. Swygert has moved several university buildings, including the bookstore and a medical museum, off campus to spur redevelopment in the surrounding neighborhood.
  Howard Town Center essentially would make the university a landlord for the apartments and the grocery store. University officials declined to say how much revenue the project might generate, saying it depends on several factors such as whether apartments or condos are built.
  Some of the parcels in the Howard Town Center belong to the District, but Mr. Swygert said the city has agreed to swap land to facilitate the project. The D.C. Council is expected to sign off on the deal by July, university officials said.
  Thirteen development teams competed to develop Howard Town Center, officials said. The school narrowed the list to three finalists before choosing the High Street Residential team last week.
  One of the criteria for the development is a Whole Foods-style grocery store because the neighborhood lacks one, according to Mr. Swygert, who said he is “confident” such a store would be successful.
  Not everyone is convinced. Terry Lynch, executive director of the Downtown Cluster of Congregations, a church-backed group that pushes for new development in the District, said too many poor neighborhoods have been promised grocery stores that never materialized.
  “Grocery stores are the most ephemeral kind of development proposals in this city. I will believe it when a lease has been signed,” he said.
  Ed Morgan, a Trammell Crow principal, said he is optimistic about the project. “We think the university puts a strong backbone in that community,” he said.
  The university has more than 6,000 employees.
  The first phases of the LeDroit Park Initiative, which began in the late 1990s, have worked, university officials said. For example, the bookstore has evolved into a kind of department store for the neighborhood.
  Mr. Swygert, a Howard University student in the 1960s, said he pushed for the initiative after he became the school’s president in 1995.
  “When I came back, I looked around, and the residential neighborhoods were strong but [Georgia Avenue] looked like the other side of the moon,” he said.
  

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