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New Life Planned for Mount Vernon Area

Community Improvement District Will Provide Additional Services

A group of businesses and residents in the Mount Vernon Triangle area will soon begin offering services that, along with planned development, will transform the empty lots and buildings in the area into a vibrant downtown reminiscent of the transformation of the area surrounding the MCI center.

And, because of the planned development of the Old National Wax Museum site within the Mount Vernon Triangle, Capitol Hill staffers may also find a new, affordable place to live.

Residents of the triangle area will have to agree to certain terms — mainly higher property taxes — to finance the Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District.

The Community Improvement District, or CID, is an agreement by most of the property owners and residents in the area to pay a supplementary property tax to provide additional safety and sanitation services that the city cannot provide.

Business Improvement Districts in Georgetown, Downtown, the Golden Triangle and Capitol Hill are already taxing businesses an additional percentage to offer safety and sanitation services above and beyond city services.

The existing Business Improvement Districts, such as those for downtown D.C. and Capitol Hill, however, do not tax residents of the area. A BID receives its revenue from businesses in the area. The Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District will tax both residents and businesses of the community, since much of the area is now underdeveloped.

Residents and businesses in the triangle will pay 20 cents per square foot of property annually. As additional development occurs in the area, the taxes will most likely rise to $1.40 per square foot annually. Under current legislation, the CID board cannot raise the tax by more than 3 percent a year.

The D.C. City Council has passed the CID and the mayor endorsed it last month at a news conference. The mayor has not yet officially approved the CID, which he must do before the CID can take action.

Gerry Widdicombe, director of economic development for the Downtown Business Improvement District, expects the CID to mail bills by April 15 and expects services to begin around May 1.

Initially, services to the area will include modest cleaning services such as putting up additional trash cans, Widdicombe said. In addition, the group will begin coordination with the police department to improve the safety of the area. Also, the CID will initiate marketing such as a Web site for the Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District to familiarize people with the project.

Those involved with the project stressed that the CID will not replace city services, but will enhance existing services.

Alexander Padro, Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for the Shaw and triangle area neighborhoods and chairman of the board of directors of Shaw Main Streets, said the city is limited in the services that it can provide because it does not take in as much revenue as many other localities since much of its land is tax-exempt.

“The city can’t do it all by itself. It’s not realistic with the burdens as a municipality that can’t tax [a portion of] its income,” Padro said.

Widdicombe said the residents of two existing buildings in the area, one housing mostly seniors, and one subsidized housing, would be exempt from the new CID tax.

Wax Museum Development

If all goes as planned at the Old National Wax Museum, more residents will soon be coming to the area.

Theodore Carter, president and CEO of the National Capital Revitalization Corporation, the company that owns the Old National Wax Museum site at Fifth and K streets Northwest where condominiums, apartments, restaurants, stores and a grocery are planned, explained how the demographics of the area will look.

“We’re looking for a mixture of young professionals and people who live in the Shaw community to the north who can relocate to more modern housing [as well as] married couples, people with children” Carter said. “It should be an ideal location for Hill staffers.”

According to the National Capital Revitalization Corporation, 20 percent of the units at the Old National Wax Museum site will be designated affordable housing. These units will also be exempt from the CID tax.

In addition, Widdicombe said future low-income housing projects in the triangle area will be exempt. Widdicombe, however, does not anticipate many of these projects in the area.

Dubick said individuals making 50 percent or less of $80,000, the average median income in the area, would qualify for the new lower-cost housing at the Old Wax Museum site. Dubick also said that rent for the units in general would begin at $600 to $700.

On Feb. 26, The National Capital Revitalization Corporation chose the Lowe Team to develop the Old National Wax Museum site. This development group includes Lowe Enterprises Mid-Atlantic Inc., CIM Urban Real Estate Fund LP, Bundy Development Company and the Neighborhood Development Company.

Marc Dubick, senior vice president of Lowe Enterprises Mid-Atlantic Inc., said the $135 million project should break ground 15 months from now.

Dubick said the project’s four partners will provide the equity for construction. In addition, he said that there has been some discussion about using bonds to finance a portion of the construction. Dubick stressed, however, that the partners have the capital to finance the project on their own if necessary.

The current plans for the site include a 55,000-square-foot Safeway, 54,000 square feet of other retail space, 476 condominiums, 202 apartments and 821 parking spaces.

Padro sees the new businesses as a positive since the nearest grocery store to this area currently is the Giant at Eighth and O streets NW.

“If there is a new Safeway people are going to go there,” Padro said. “It’s a matter of convenience for Shaw and the Mount Vernon Triangle.”

Padro does not expect the development in the triangle area to hurt businesses in the Shaw neighborhood. He said, however, that the Giant might feel the effects.

Tim Downey, president of the Mount Vernon Square Neighborhood Association, said he and other residents of Mount Vernon Square are excited about the development of the Old National Wax Museum site.

He and others in the neighborhood have been involved with the development of the site for about 10 years. Downey stressed that all of the developers have been interested in the ideas of residents in the surrounding areas.

Downey feels that the development of the triangle area will ultimately benefit the community and the surrounding areas.

“An advantage is having that area of the east end of Washington occupied by people who are living and paying taxes,” Downey said. “An advantage to [the Mount Vernon Square Community] is the retail, it will be really close by.”

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