Bowser to push D.C. agencies east of the Anacostia
NEWS | August 27, 2019
Washington Business Journal | Bowser moves to push D.C. agencies east of the Anacostia, in a bid to prop up grocery-anchored developments
D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser wants to see more city agencies move east of the Anacostia River as part of a bid to boost grocery-anchored developments in Wards 7 and 8.
Bowser issued an executive order Thursday directing District officials to give preference to historically underinvested communities east of the river as they search for new office space. The mayor is hoping the change will send an influx of city employees to developments still working to get off the ground, giving retailers more confidence that they can invest in these projects.
The order allows agencies to consider any space in Wards 7 and 8, but it directs officials to give “strong preference” to developments that include new grocery stores and other retail.
District leaders have worked for years to bring more full-service grocers east of the river, considering the current dearth of options there — there are currently only three stores between the two wards — and Bowser reasons that driving more potential customers to these developments will drive market interest in each one. Skyland Town Center is currently on track to land a Lidl in the coming years, but other major projects, from the District-backed St. Elizabeth’s East redevelopment to Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners’ Shops at Penn Hill, are still open for potential grocers.
“We have a responsibility to consider how we can best support our neighborhoods and communities,” Bowser said in a statement. “No longer can we wait for these opportunities to be identified when we can use the District’s leasing power in underinvested areas to attract retail and provide services, and encourage others to do the same.”
Bowser’s move also comes as the District prepares to prioritize leasing space for its workers, moving away from owning its own buildings. As of now, the city employs about 37,000 people, split across 3.9 million square feet of owned space and 3.2 million square feet of leased space, according to Bowser’s order.
District officials expect that one of the biggest impacts will be on the agencies currently operating out of the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center, located at 2000 14th St. NW.
The city is gearing up for a comprehensive study of the building’s future, charting out a new path for the nearly 30-year-old center on the U Street corridor. The District expects to examine possibilities for Reeves ranging from a conversion to a mix of office and retail, or switching it to hotel and residential.
The analyze will consider the possibility that District workers could return to Reeves someday, should it include office space, but officials expect they’ll at least need to move out while a modernization is underway. That will precipitate the need for new leased space, with the search subject to Bowser’s new requirements.
However, in the near term, the District’s Department of General Services expects to kick off a search for 200,000 square feet for a city agency. Officials plan to release the details of that process later this month.
Bowser’s order also directs DGS to work up a report describing all District-held leases that are set to expire within the next five years, and any new needs for space they believe will crop up over the same time period. The agency will need to issue that report on Oct. 15 and April 15 of each year moving forward.