MRP's planned development at 965 Florida Ave. NW needs to be retooled to meet an affordable housing requirement.
MRP's planned development at 965 Florida Ave. NW needs to be retooled to meet an affordable housing requirement.

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On Feb. 3, 2014, two developers struck a deal that seemed poised to resolve a longstanding conflict and bring U Street NW-area neighbors what they desired: a mixed-use development with a Harris Teeter supermarket on what’s currently a vacant lot.

Nearly a year later, all of that is still up in the air.

In the summer of 2013, the Vince Gray administration surprised residents by picking a team led by MRP Realty to develop the city-owned lot at 965 Florida Ave. NW. The favorite to win the rights to the site was the JBG Companies, which owned an adjacent lot; combining the two would provide the necessary space to allow JBG to bring in Harris Teeter and extend W Street NW through the site—-a city priority. Neighbors were upset, and Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham demanded a fuller explanation than the one the city had given, which was that MRP offered more money and promised more affordable housing that wasn’t in micro-units.

Then came the deal that appeared to resolve the impasse. JBG and MRP agreed to a joint venture for the site last February that promised to allow for the W Street extension and the supermarket, likely by transferring a portion of JBG’s land to MRP so the latter would have enough space for these projects.

But more than 11 months later, that venture apparently hasn’t gotten very far. JBG and MRP still have not settled on a land transfer—-or even on the question of whether a transfer is needed. According to MRP spokeswoman Julie Chase, a grocer has yet to sign on to the project, and until one does, it won’t be clear whether that grocer will actually require enough space to necessitate a transfer. “It’s just a question of whether they’ll need it or not,” says Chase. “It’s still up in the air.”

Also up in the air, then, is the W Street extension. The land where the extension would go is controlled by JBG, which indicated earlier that it wouldn’t be able to build the extension unless it were awarded the 965 Florida parcel to allow for a larger, two-lot development.

JBG spokesman Matthew Blocher says his company is designing a two-tower project for its site. One tower will be around 165 units, while JBG is still assessing the best use for the second tower. Both will have retail, he says. On questions of the land transfer, Blocher referred me to MRP.

Chase says MRP is hoping to submit its plans to the D.C. Council for approval around Jan. 20.

Image courtesy of Ellis Development