- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The D.C. Planning Office’s “center city action agenda,” expected to be announced next week, includes proposals for attracting visitors and business to parts of the District other than the Mall area.

The goal is to divert the District’s office growth to the Southeast Waterfront, the area north of Massachusetts Avenue and close to the new Washington Nationals baseball stadium, Harriett Tregoning, planning director, said yesterday.

Downtown Washington will be “fully built out” in five years, potentially hurting the local economy unless amenities are built away from downtown to accommodate the “surprising strength of our office market,” Miss Tregoning said.

New office, residential and retail developments will add 2.5 million to 6 million square feet to Washington’s real estate in each of the next five years, according to Planning Office estimates.

The center city action agenda calls for retail development, new parks and “streetscapes” with fountains and other attractions for tourists and employers.

The agenda is scheduled to be discussed publicly for the first time Wednesday at 6 p.m. in Room 102-B of the Washington Convention Center.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty’s Retail Action Strategy, announced last week, would use incentives to attract the stores Miss Tregoning said are needed for the center city action agenda.

Much of the agenda would rely on infrastructure investments, such as better sewers, lighting systems and roadways. It could include widening streets and sidewalks “to improve pedestrian flows or redirect traffic flows so that they enliven corridors,” said Sean Madigan, Planning Office spokesman.

Potential funding sources are public-private joint ventures or municipal bonds, he said.

“The growth is going to still continue in Washington,” Mr. Madigan said. “The idea is to make sure this is all thought out in a way that these places are not growing and evolving as islands, but there’s some thinking that ties them together.”

The Planning Office wants the public discussions that begin next week to firm up the details for the agenda that so far exist only as “broad brush strokes,” Mr. Madigan said.

The National Capital Planning Commission, the National Park Service, the D.C. Department of Transportation and local business improvement district are helping to develop the agenda.

In other news …

• After nearly four years of growth, Washington’s regional office market is slowing, according to the real estate information firm Jones, Lang, LaSalle.

Rents continue climbing, but so do vacancies as developers build offices faster than new tenants sign up to lease them, the firm reported.

“In the first quarter, 1 million square feet of space was added to the market with just one-third of that space leased at delivery, down from historical norms in the 50 percent to 65 percent range,” Jones, Lang, LaSalle stated in a market overview.

New tenants or owners took over 466,547 square feet of office space in the first three months of this year, the lowest quarterly total since the third quarter of 2003.

The firm blamed much of the slowdown on more moderate job growth than recent years.

The Washington area’s economy created 48,100 new jobs in the 12 months ending in February, down from more than 65,000 in 2005.

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

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