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The most attractive building sites sometimes take the longest to put together, since they’re composed of a bunch of little lots owned by people with varying degrees of willingness to sell. Just ask Gary Rappaport, who’s been waiting for over a decade for the city to gain ownership of all of Skyland, or Douglas Jemal, who’s finally put together enough Mt. Vernon Triangle for two new office buildings.
Such is the case with Bentley Plummer, a business partner of Anacostia River Realty’s Darrin Davis, who owns bits and pieces of land at the intersection of Minnesota and Pennsylvania Avenue SE. For the past few years, Plummer has been convincing the several property owners to participate in a new development, and now says he’s gotten signatures from people who collectively make up about 80 percent of the site (five owners have yet to be approached). They’d like it to be mixed use, with housing as well as retail and office space, or potentially some kind of medical center. But that will depend on whomever they find to actually develop the project.
“Everybody wants to do it, but we haven’t decided how it’s going to look like yet,” Plummer says. “Whoever puts up the cash will probably call the tune.”
Nobody with money has stepped up yet. Still, Plummer and Davis are talking to Talib Karim, who was briefly employed with the D.C. Department of Health Care Finance, and who thinks he might be able to bring in federal funds for a health center there. They’ve even brought Busboys and Poets owner Andy Shallal to see the site (although he seems to have his east-of-the-river neighborhood picked out already).
Of course, there’s always the District government. Plummer says he was inspired by the example of developer Tim Chapman, who got a hefty grant to lure Yes! Organic Market to his residential building right next door. The fiscal year 2013 budget also designated the Pennsylvania Avenue frontage a “retail priority area,” which comes with $5 million in bonding authority. Maybe this time Chipotle will be willing to listen.