3400 11th Street NW, in Columbia Heights: Many of us have walked past this rotting thing for years without a second thought. I always thought there would be tremendous potential in that space, for someone with the guts and good will to invest in it.
Then in 2006, that block of 11th Street started crawling out of the grave: Columbia Heights Coffee opened just a few doors away. Folks started renovating the vacant husk of a beautiful old victorian house across the street. Nearby, Red Rocks Pizzeria was coming...
I heard rumors about proposals on the decaying Bi-Rite Market, but it seemed frozen with inertia. Nothing was happening.
Most of those rumors were the result of a press release from the property owner 3DG LLC. In the release, the company says the original plan was to convert the building into a mixed-use unit with small retail at the ground floor, with an added 1.5 stories to hold six "high-end condominium units."
That plan went to hell with the housing market. DC was saturated with half-built condos, and many of those would likely become rentals now. So 3DG wisely retreated, and did a remix on the plan.
According to the release, the new plan was to snag retailers and restaurants "that will provide roof decks and outdoor seating areas that will certainly breathe life into the currently barren corner and promote a more pedestrian freiendly atmosphere." Current zoning on the site was not an obstacle, and it looked like the plan could move forward quickly.
That was 9oct06, and they expected to finish the thing by mid-2007.
So what the farting hell happened?
On 2aug07, the Washington Business Journal reported that Warehouse Theater owner Paul Ruppert had leased the space, after property tax assessments forced him to consider bugging out of his 7th Street location. Then, confusingly, the article said he had merely "signed a letter of intent" for 3,000 square feet of it.
So did Ruppert have it or not?
Evidently not. The terms of the lease were not agreed upon at that point.
JEEZUS, man, stop playing with my emotions!
The Warehouse would be an UNBELIEVABLY COOL thing to have in the neighborhood. They've hosted crucial experimental music events in the past, and honestly, I'm not sure WHAT their full impact has been on DC's art scene. But I was eager to find out, when I could walk to the place in ten (friggin) minutes.
Then, the trail went cold on the Warehouse connection. Silence.
The most recent thing I could find was a post from 3DG's John Goldman on the Columbia Heights listserv. In it, he announces (with a definite tone of victory) that three leases had been secured for the Bi-Rite lot.
The ground floor would become the Belgian-themed restaurant and bar Meridian Point (also reported by Prince of Petworth), and the upper floor would be shared between Solimar International (eco-travel agency) and 3DG's new home office.
Goldman confirmed that the building would still undergo a radical transformation; Well, it would HAVE to...but hopefully the design will mesh somewhat with the block, and not become yet another modernist eyesore.
He also promised to keep the North Columbia Heights Civic Association up to speed on the plan, at a future meeting.
So that appears to be the bottom line: No Warehouse, but we get the restaurant: European food and a billion Belgian beers. We could certainly do worse than THAT, my friends.
UPDATE 7feb: Thanks to commenter dcdude, who passed along a link to the architectural rendering of the proposed site. Apparently this was revealed at yesterday's NCHCA meeting. Same day as my post.
Had I been paying attention, I could've attended the meeting and reported something more meaningful. But ehh. Next time. We'll get 'em next time.