Could the third time be the charm for Brian Brown?
The NextGen construction executive has been after the firehouse on North Capitol street and Quincy since 2003, submitting an unsolicited proposal before the city was even ready to dispose of the property. The District awarded him the building in 2006, and the future looked bright: Café Saint-Ex owner Mike Benson was to turn it into a brick-oven pizzeria in partnership with XM radio. Alas, Benson pulled out, saying the anticipated cost had doubled.
Two years later, Brown secured another tenant: Twyla Garrett of Cleveland-based Garrett Entertainment Corp., who planned a sleek bar called 2020 Martini, with a Mocha Fusion Coffee Lounge on the top floor. But her investment partner had been Lehman Brothers, and the restaurant concept died with the firm. In the mean time, Brown has spent tens of thousands of dollars of taxes on the building, which still lies vacant and boarded up.
Now, finally, Brown says he has another live one. A new tenant has signed a lease, subject to financing, and plans a sit-down Asian and Indian tapas restaurant called EC12—at 10,000 square feet and over 300 seating capacity, it’ll be the biggest place for miles. He’s optimistic that his bank will sign off, but considering the disappointments he’s has already, there’s no certainty in anything. Even the frustration of a community that’s been waiting for years to see the place developed counts for nothing when it comes to getting a loan.
“In the boom times it did,” Brown tells Housing Complex. “Right now, it’s just straight economics. They don’t care what your network is.”
Meanwhile, ever since the news of the lease leaked out on a neighborhood listserv, Brown says he’s been getting calls from politicians wanting to position themselves in the middle of EC12’s eventual opening. (Witness Sala Thai, the mini-chain in Petworth that brought out Mayor Adrian Fenty and Councilmembers Jim Graham and Muriel Bowser).
Who’s been calling?
“Everybody. Anybody who’s running right now,” Brown says. “Everybody wants to be part of it, because if it’s successful, they want to be part of that success.”