Three last Huset Park parcels remain undeveloped

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The residential part of the Huset Park development “perked along” in the beginning, according to Columbia Heights Community Development Director Scott Clark. But while nearly all of the Park View townhomes were built (230 of them, starting in 2004), two other phases—a planned mixed use project and a senior housing condominium building—fell victim to the economic downturn.

Three undeveloped parcels of the project are now in foreclosure. They were intended as the sites of the last 51 townhouse units (Phase 2B) at 37th and University avenues NE; 11,000 square feet of retail and 240 condominiums (Phase 3) also at the northeast corner of University and 37th avenues NE; and 80 senior condominium units (Phase 1B) west of the traffic roundabout on Jefferson Street NE. (The entire development is bordered by University Avenue on the west, 37th Avenue on the south, Jefferson Street on the east and 38th Avenue and Huset Park on the north.)

BNC Bank holds the mortgage on the foreclosed lots and Cassidy Turley, the bank’s marketing firm, has begun market studies. Clark said that when the project went into foreclosure, developer Shafer Richardson’s benefits and obligations—pursuant to their agreement with the city—fell back to the mortgage holder. It is likely that the city’s Economic Development Authority and the Columbia Heights City Council will need to discuss what will be acceptable, Clark added, as far as improvements and standards under which the property might be developed.

“What was approved in 2004 can’t be built in the foreseeable future,” Clark said. “Our role now is to wait and see what they come back to us with, in terms of what the market is.”

He said that the townhouse portion of the project had been successful. “Except for the last 51 units, this project worked. It seemed that the price points—in the $180,000 to $185,000 range—were right, and the townhouses appealed to first time home buyers.” Shafer Richardson brokered the property; Ryland Homes bought the land and built the units.

“Ryland wasn’t building on spec,” Clark said. “They had to have a pre-purchase down payment [before they could build]. Every phase was 100 percent populated.” The city had secured an agreement that only 5 percent could be rental property, which meant the rest would be owner-occupied. “From everything we’ve seen from [the city’s] inspections [department], that property is doing very well for itself.”

37th and Central

In other city development news, developer Christopher Little, who owns the vacant lot on the northwest corner of 37th and Central avenues NE, has found a potential buyer for the land, although the development will likely be smaller than originally planned.

Clark said O’Reilly Auto Parts, which currently leases space at 4239 Central Avenue NE, wants to stay in Columbia Heights and own a building, rather than rent one. City staff, the developer and O’Reilly are “into the implementation phase,” he added; the final agreements haven’t happened yet. “The EDA is considering the proposed reduction of square foot retail.” O’Reilly wants to invest in a 7,500-square-foot building, he said, although the EDA and city were expecting a 9,000-square-foot development.

Sheila Cartney, Columbia Heights Assistant Community Development Director, said that because the development is smaller, the city dropped a plan to give the owner $30,000 toward building a turn lane (into the business) for southbound Central Avenue traffic.

“They still have to do a turn lane,” she said. “But the city won’t be giving them any money toward it.”

Clark said that if all goes well, “O’Reilly will be closing on the property sometime next month, and will be looking at April for the start of construction.”