A stately clock tower, a large fountain, outdoor cafes, bustling shops and restaurants, and a cobblestone arts walk just yards away from a bike path and the Metrorail: All of these could become elements of a new neighborhood across from Catholic University’s main entrance along Michigan Avenue.
The university announced an agree-ment with Adbo Development on May 21 to build a mixed-use project on the nearly 9 acres of university property across Michigan Avenue just south of the main campus.
“This project will not only enable us to enhance the entrance to our campus, it will also create attractive amenities for students, staff and neighbors,” says Carl Petchik, CUA’s executive director of facilities. The buildings under construction would be five to eight stories tall, with small shops, restaurants and cafes at the street level and apartments and condominiums above. Some townhouses would also be built. In addition, the area might include art studios and performance space.
Julie Englund, vice president for finance and administration at CUA, who has led the planning for South Campus — including selecting the developer — explains some of the university’s goals for the development: “This will be a high-quality project that fits into the area aesthetically and creates a unique pedestrian-friendly environment — its own sense of place, a destination — where people will be eager to live and visit. If we accomplish that, we will have replaced our student residences on South Campus with a safe and stable neighborhood that is a bridge from CUA to Brookland. We hope that the effect on both communities will be transformational.”
CUA will sell some of the 9 acres and lease the rest. The university will demolish the three aging residence halls on the site and use money earned from the project to fund construction of new residence halls on the main campus. That will fulfill a longtime goal to bring all student housing onto the main campus. CUA officials expect to construct one or two residence halls next to Opus Hall, which is being built near Flather Hall and is scheduled to open by fall 2009.
To pick the right partner, university officials engaged in a three-year process and screened more than 40 development companies before selecting Washington, D.C.-based Abdo Development. “Jim Abdo and his company do a nice job of fitting into neighborhoods,” says Craig Parker, CUA general counsel and associate vice president, who is also in charge of community relations at the university. Parker points to D.C.’s Logan Circle neighborhood as one of Abdo Development’s noteworthy success stories. “Eclectic, boutique, responsive to neighborhood needs and desires — all of these qualities are part of the Abdo track record,” says Englund.
As part of that sensitivity to neighborhood needs, Abdo representatives have held about 20 meetings with the local CUA-area community. One of the discussion topics has been the business corridor in the heart of Brookland. “We want our project to strengthen the 12th Street business corridor,” says Parker. He notes that CUA and Abdo will avoid duplicating businesses that already exist on 12th Street.
The development plans are contingent upon city approval, which could take a year and a half. Assuming that all goes well, construction would commence thereafter and the development would occur over a number of years. — H.B.
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