- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 8, 2006

Perseus Realty is leading an effort to form property owners into an association to promote business in an area of the District that stretches roughly from 13th Street Northwest to 16th Street Northwest and from H Street to Massachusetts Avenue.

Bob Cohen, president of Perseus Realty, is trying to garner support among local business and civic leaders to rename the area “Midtown” and market it as a separate district within the city.

He met this week with representatives from CB Richard Ellis, one of Washington’s largest real estate brokerage firms, and the Downtown Business Improvement District to promote the idea.

The group would be called the “Midtown Association.”

Major property owners in the area include the Akridge Co., JBG Cos., The Washington Post and Monument Realty.

The law firm Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe just signed a lease for about 100,000 square feet of office space near 15th and L streets.

“There’s almost $2 billion of construction going on in that area and nobody talks about it,” Mr. Cohen said. “That little segment has been leapfrogged for years, and it had no identity. My feeling is that with that much investment in the area, we need to work together to create a district.”

The new construction includes about $650 million for office space, more than $400 million for hotels and nearly $790 million for residential.

It is redeveloping an area that for many years was home to low-rent offices and a few rundown neighborhoods.

“It’s been overlooked for so long,” Mr. Cohen said.

The Midtown Association would operate on contributions from property owners initially and reinvest the money into revitalization projects.

Eventually, Mr. Cohen hopes the Downtown Business Improvement District, a city supported self-taxing district that encompasses most of the East End, will help fund the association.

A tentative business plan calls for the association to promote new tree boxes, public art and sidewalk cafe designs to improve the streetscape, increase property values and attract new retailers and restaurants. It would communicate with members through a newsletter, street banners, a web site and community meetings.

Mr. Cohen says he needs to raise at least $200,000 in contributions in start-up money.

Monument Realty and Buccini Pollin Group have joined him in trying to organize the Midtown Association.

Gerry Widdicombe, director of economic development for the Downtown Business Improvement District, said revitalization of the East End is a natural progression of redevelopment throughout the District.

“Because of the strong demand in the Washington office market, it’s getting the attention of other areas,” Mr. Widdicombe said.

In other news …

• Real estate developer Penzance Cos. is scheduled to break ground today on a 12-story, 250,000-square-foot office building at 455 Massachusetts Ave. NW.

The building is the first large commercial office project developed in Mount Vernon Triangle in more than 30 years. It is scheduled for completion in late 2007.

It is designed with a glass facade, two floors of street front retail outlets and four levels of below-grade parking.

• Property Lines runs on Thursdays. Call Tom Ramstack at 202/636-3180 or e-mail [email protected]

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