DC’s New Downtown East of the River

You keeping up with everything happening at the corner of Minnesota Avenue and Benning Road? A big mixed-use project just delivered, an out-of-town investor is spending big bucks on a shopping center down the street, and Ward 7 will soon have the critical mass it’s long pined for. (Even the traffic light is changing, though that happens every 60 seconds or so.)

Yesterday, we snapped McCullough Construction’s Tom McCullough and developer Chris Donatelli outside their newest effort: Park 7, a 376-unit affordable housing project at Minnesota and Benning. Chris tells us the addition of new housing product and 20k SF of retail—combined with improvements Katz Properties is making to nearby East River Park Shopping Center—is why city officials are deeming the corner of Minnesota and Benning “the downtown of Ward 7.” Chris and partner Blue Skye Development are using Park 7 to make up for a lack of sit-down restaurants—having already signed Sala Thai for the building, with more concepts on the way.

The first residents moved in to Park 7 (which utilized low-income housing tax credits) last week; Chris and Tom tell us the total project cost was approximately $62M. In large part due to the arrival of Park 7, Katz bought East River Park in 2012 (aerial here, a reminder that if the bank doesn’t give you a loan, a commiserative pizza is just steps away) for $34M. It immediately made exterior upgrades to the Safeway-anchored project. According to Katz’s website, it’s almost 100% leased with only a few small spaces available.

The DC Department of Employment Services HQ—which sits in between Park 7 and the Minnesota Avenue Metro—has also been a big driver since it delivered in 2010. The 229k SF building houses 700 employees, adding even more bodies to one of the most highly trafficked locations in the city.