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Howard University and its development partner have canceled their agreement to build a large mixed-use development on Georgia Avenue near the Howard campus.
The D.C. Historic Preservation Office’s Steve Callcott confirms that his office received notice yesterday that Howard has terminated its development agreement with the Cohen Companies, the developer on the Howard Town Center project. The project, comprising the 2100 block of Georgia Avenue NW that includes the old Bond Bread building, calls for a residential building with 445 apartments atop a Fresh Grocer grocery store and other retail. In November, the D.C. Council approved an $11 million tax break for the development that D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar Gandhi deemed unnecessary.
Howard spokeswoman Kerry-Ann Hamilton confirms that Howard has canceled the agreement but declines to provide additional details, saying only, “We are assessing to determine the most effective way of achieving the goals established for the Howard Town Center.”
The Howard Town Center project was scheduled for a Historic Preservation Review Board hearing today and a Mayor’s Agent hearing on July 12. Both have been postponed as a result of the terminated agreement, Callcott confirms.
Howard has found itself in a tough financial spot recently, with one trustee warning that the university could disappear in a matter of years if tough choices aren’t made. The Howard Town Center property, which Howard acquired in 2008 in a swap with the city, is expected to bring the university between $1 million and $2 million per year in lease income—-provided it can be developed.
Update 4:55 p.m.: Hamilton says in an email, “The University took this action because developer failed to meet certain benchmarks under the ground lease and development agreements.” But she says she can’t elaborate on what those benchmarks were.
Howard Town Center rendering from the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development website