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At a long-vacant site on New York Avenue NE, Douglas Development is hoping that the third time’s the charm.
The 15-acre site at the triangle formed by New York and Montana avenues and Bladensburg Road NE was supposed to be the site of one of the six Walmart stores coming to the District, but those plans fell apart when the Schaefer family, which owns the property, terminated its agreement with developer Rick Walker. Previously, developer Jim Abdo had hoped to build a mixed-use development there called Arbor Place, but he scrapped that plan in 2010.
Now Douglas is taking a stab at the site. Norman Jemal, a Douglas principal and son of the company’s founder and president, Doug Jemal, confirms that the company has the property under contract. The Washington Post‘s Jonathan O’Connell first reported the news.
According to city property records, Doug Jemal signed a $5 million option for the site in May. The final amount of the sale to Douglas has not been recorded yet with the city.
Ordinarily, developers might be wary of a property that’s proven so difficult to develop, in a part of the city characterized more by speeding traffic, budget hotels, and fast-food joints than by pedestrian activity or other attractions that might lure ambitious development. But Douglas has already placed a major bet on this stretch of New York Avenue, and it appears to be paying off. The company is undertaking a massive redevelopment of the vacant Hecht Company distribution center just two blocks to the west. Last week brought news that a Busboys and Poets restaurant and bookstore may be on the way at the Hecht site, in addition to other retailers and eateries. If the Hecht site is as successful a retail venue as it’s shaping up to be, it could signal a change for the corridor and make the newly purchased property more attractive to business and residential tenants alike.
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