The Akridge proposal for the city-owned site at 5th and I streets NW
The Akridge proposal for the city-owned site at 5th and I streets NW

At the corner of 5th and I streets NW sits a vacant lot that will soon be transformed into what’s been called the “gateway” to the Mount Vernon Triangle Neighborhood. Last night, neighbors packed into the trailer that serves as the Mount Vernon Community Improvement District offices and caught a glimpse of the future of that valuable city-owned site.

Or rather, four possible versions of the future: a residential building with a rooftop pool and daycare center, a hotel with a dog spa, a mixed-use complex with a Yes! Organic Market and a BicycleSpace, and an office building with a YMCA.

The city announced earlier this month that it had short-listed four development teams out of 10 applicants to develop the small but central site, currently used as a parking lot. The city was seeking a combination of apartments or condos and retail, with an affordable housing component. And yet only two of the four potential development plans conform with those wishes, with the other two shortlisted nonetheless, says city project manager Ivan Matthews, on the strength of the proposals.

The first presentation came from the developer Akridge, which has developed more than a dozen D.C. properties and is planning a major overhaul of Union Station. Akridge’s proposal, perhaps the most conventional of the four, calls for a 13-story residential building with 187 market-rate units and 21 affordable units atop 8,000 square feet of retail. Half of the retail would be market retail; the other half would go to a daycare center and a community space. The property would also feature a rooftop pool and a small courtyard.

An aerial view of the Akridge proposal, designed by architect Philip Esocoff

A rendering of the retail space in the Akridge proposal

Next up was the Peebles Corporation, the largest African-American-owned development company in America, which proposed a 13-story building with a 198-room hotel operated by Standard International. In addition, CEO R. Donahue Peebles said, the building would contain 59 residences, and the company would build 100 units of off-site affordable housing in Anacostia. Peebles said his team is working to bring a dog spa into the retail space. He pitched the hotel concept as one that would bring the city $8 million in annual tax revenue, which he said was $6 million more than a non-hotel use would generate—-something the city will surely consider in evaluating the proposals.

Peebles presents his hotel proposal

A rendering of the planned hotel project at 5th and I streets NW

The JBG Companies, which are slowly taking over the U Street NW area with an ever-growing number of developments there, proposed a 271-unit residential building with units ranging from studios to increasingly rare three-bedrooms, and with 27 affordable units. The plan also includes a Yes! Organic Market, the local grocer that has opened stores in underserved neighborhoods, and a BicycleSpace, the bike store that was located in Mount Vernon Triangle before moving to 7th Street NW, as well as an independent coffee shop. The JBG proposal features an interior courtyard open to the street, with free public Wi-Fi.

The JBG proposal

Retail in the JBG proposal

Finally, a partnership of Trammell Crow and CSG Urban Partners pitched a 12-story office building, with 11 floors of office above ground-floor retail. Although D.C.’s office market has struggled recently while the residential market has boomed, the developers argued that office creates the most value for the city, allowing them to offer the most money for the site—-something that has helped win over the city on other public-land dispositions. Among the ground-floor uses would be a 2,500-square-foot YMCA daycare center, which could also serve as a community space on the weekends and evenings, in addition to 7,500 square feet of other retail. CSG worked on the Anthony Bowen YMCA that recently opened on W Street NW.

A rendering of the proposed YMCA

The Trammell Crow/CSG building in the snow

All four proposals include improvements to the two small parks across the street from the site, Seaton Park and Milian Park. The neighbors “really wanted to see a park,” Matthews said, but the city couldn’t sacrifice the economic development potential of the site to convert all or part of it to park space. Instead, the city is working with the National Park Service to turn those two federally owned parks over to the District. Currently, the two parks are “underutilized,” Matthews says; they’re mostly just empty grass. The development proposals all involve bringing new functions, such as playgrounds, dog parks, and event spaces, to the parks.

The process for developing the 5th and I site is already well behind schedule. “We were supposed to have selected a development team by now,” Matthews said. “However, we received more proposals than we anticipated.” The city now hopes to select a development team by spring.

Renderings courtesy of Esocoff, JBG, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, and Trammell Crow; photo by Aaron Wiener