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What has been an underinvested commercial corridor in Anacostia for years is about to get an economic boost with a $14.6 million redevelopment.
District officials broke ground Thursday on a new 20,000-square-foot project that will repurpose an empty building on Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE between U and V streets SE into nonprofit office space and the first Busboys and Poets restaurant to operate east of the Anacostia River. The plan was first announced with fanfare in 2014. The refurbished building will contain the headquarters of the Far Southeast Family Strengthening Collaborative, an organization with about 70 staff that provides support services to Ward 8 residents. Busboys and Poets, owned by sometimes-pol Andy Shallal, will occupy the building’s first floor and is anticipated to create roughly 100 jobs.
“My hope is that this new facility will be a catalyst for more economic development east of the river and will become a central meeting place to discuss the incredible opportunities that exist in this community,” Shallal, who ran for mayor in 2014 and whose businesses offer hospitality training to locals, explained in a statement.
Mayor Muriel Bowser‘s office says the project is expected to be finished “in the fourth quarter of 2017.” It’s being financed with a $3 million grant from the District, $8 million in revenue bonds from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, more than $1 million in equity from the family collaborative, and over $2 million from the D.C. Property Assessed Clean Energy program, which supports sustainable real estate. This project represents the first time PACE money is being used with tax-exempt funds in the country, according to private administrator Urban Ingenuity.
The announcement comes as poverty in Ward 7 and 8 remains high despite the economic growth seen in the city after the recession. According to recent studies by the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute, more D.C. residents live under the poverty line today than before 2007, while the east-of-the-river poverty rate increased to 33 percent last year.
A rendering of the future office and retail building, courtesy of Collective Architecture and FSFSC, is shown below: