Hallelujah! Park Place Retail Might Actually Get Filled Soon

Park Place apartments at New Hampshire and Georgia Ave, NW

“Dear PoPville,

The tenants of Park Place were given notice recently that the building is for sale and we, as tenants, have first right to purchase. We are told that we have to form a tenant organization in order to make an offer. I think its fair to say that most people are not familiar with this process. I thought you might have some knowledge of this process or contacts within the DC real estate industry that can explain.”

Turns out the notice was just a formality – the building is not actually for sale it’s just one partner buying out another. And, thank the Lord, I’m told this will finally expedite filling the long vacant retail spaces. Updates as more info is known and leases are signed.

67 Comment

  • Ohhh. I was peeping through my hands because I was worried what awful awful no good icky chain you were going to announce was about to sign a lease.

    Now let’s cross our fingers that they are tasteful in who they lease to! Chipotle is an OK chain, Mezze Cava too. A coffee house a la diner would be fab. Pete’s Pizza omg. Paul Bakery, or some other independent bakery (Praline in Bethesda omg).

  • I really like that painted/installed grid on the street at that intersection.

  • It’s a shame the place has been vacant for so long… I’m not sure there are enough tenants in it to make buying the building possible though. I went to look at apartments there about a year ago and I waited for an hour to get a tour after signing in and the tour guide went out to lunch without telling me. I’m hoping they decide to put a cafe/lounge like Tryst in there, it would be a great business opportunity for that kind of spot.

    They have also been apparently throwing parties on the rooftop of that building on weekends too.

    The Starbucks at the Safeway is cool and all, but it’s a supermarket, not really a good coffee shop.

    The other thing I’d like to see is turn signals at that intersection (GA & New Hampshire. Living by there, I see so many people getting hit by cars there, and I also always see cops hanging out there trying to fill quotas for illegal turning people. People still make the illegal turns despite the signs because it’s a major intersection.

    Although I generally like the food at Sweet Mango’s I kind of feel that it has a negative impact on the neighborhood with all of the people constantly hanging around it washing their cars and the dumpsters attract rats and bugs a lot. They really should go upscale and clean that corner up, or get out.

    • Re: Sweet Mango’s negative impact on the neighborhood. Ohh, it goes beyond car-washing and dumpsters. Think illegal dangerous construction over and over, fires, nightclub-ish activities without permits, with huge lines to get in and party, lots of noise complaints …

      • I thought they changed the venting system finally so there won’t be any more fires, no? Also, I thought the nightclub thing was solved when DC almost shut them down due to illegal parties a couple years ago. Have they started up again?

    • Qualia is close by and one of the best coffee shops in the city. Is it the size that is a problem?

      Sweet Mango shouldn’t go anywhere – maybe the authorities should do more inspections with the trash or something like that, and ticket folks who block that right lane on New Hampshire because they’re too lazy to park around the corner. But the suggestion that they need to “go upscale” I think might elicit some angry responses. We need a mix of upscale, and quick, easy, and decent quality, of which the latter Sweet Mango provides well. Also, with the corner store right next to it, I don’t think it’s fair to blame the folks hanging out there solely on SM. Generally, I think the place contributes way more in character (the Chuck Brown mural is awesome) and good cheap food, than the way it detracts.

      • If the dumpsters and grease stains on the sidewalk went away from Sweet Mango’s I’m pretty sure that the giant rats and flies I see during the daytime would go away as well. They should have a way of cleaning their cooking equipment without a noisy pressure washer and blocking the sidewalk every evening.

        Qualia is a bit too pretentious for me, I want a place that can do frozen drinks and that actually doesn’t run out of cookies. Also, having plenty of places to sit, and outlets for laptops is a plus, not a “great feature which allows you to pay attention to the coffee more”.

        • Fair points about Qualia. And I don’t think we disagree that much on Sweet Mango other than it needing “to go upscale”, but maybe we have different understandings of that phrase. Following health codes can/should be enforced without them needing to change the character of the place. Be the squeaky wheel.

        • I don’t know about it being pretentious, but doesn’t Qualia actually have five different seating areas, doesn’t it? Front porch, back porch, main level by the bar, and 2 rooms upstairs? I’ve never seen them really full, so I don’t understand the cramped complaint.

          • The upstairs area does get pretty hot as none of the building is air conditioned.

          • +1 on the air conditioning. I mean, they roast beans in-house and no AC? No thanks. The existing space is also not used efficiently. Who wants to sit outside in DC in the summer while drinking coffee? It’s not like the offer frappucino-style drinks.

      • I am not convinced about Sweet Mango’s trash/grease handling techniques, but I’m glad they haven’t had a fire or shooting in quite some time. That said: “[t]he place contributes way more in character and good food than it detracts” is right on!

        • Sweet Mango is SHAAAAAAADY. Waste of a prime retail spot on Georgia. Agree on Qualia being too small and cramped.

          • I’m guessing you haven’t had a beef patty yet.

          • What? How? Are you trying to assert that they are some sort of front and are involved in illegal activity along with making Jamaican food or do you just not know what it means to be shady?

          • To funny, it sounds like you’re from Southern Maryland.

            SM can and should stay if they are doing well and living the life – the owners and employees that is.

            But give me a break! It is just nasty and smells for blocks away. Clean it up people, paint it, plant stuff, add seating and umbrellas and lights, expand and then police it properly; become a proper marker and leader in your community – and make a ton more money.

            NO excuse. Just Nasty…

            Talk about bad neighbors.

      • Qualia is probably the worst coffee shop I have ever had the misfortune of visiting. The staff are rude and condescending and the coffee is meh!

  • I wonder what indicates the TOPA notice in this instance is a mere “formality”. In my TOPA experience, sellers don’t give TOPA notices as a formality — they give them because they are required by law. And there have been a number of instances in the past few years where owners/sellers have structured their deal (including the transfer of partnership interests) in a manner that enables them to skirt the TOPA process. This is a tricky area of law. I don’t know anything about what is going on with this building or this particular proposed deal, but I encourage the tenants to take a hard look at the facts and their rights before drawing any conclusions.

    • Maybe they’re considering it a formality because the type of resident this place attracts isn’t typically the sort who wants to or is able to buy their building. People move in and out constantly. They’re drawn in by discounted rent, then once it goes up like $500/month they leave. The people who buy their buildings are the types who are settled there long term, and I just don’t get the impression that this sort of tenant is renting at Park Place.

      • The other option, though, is as a tenant association, selling their TOPA rights to a developer, which can get you a lot of money. My friend’s building did that this year, and he’s netting tens of thousands to move out.

        • That’s true, I forgot about that. A friend of mine in Dupont is getting a $20k payout in a similar deal.

  • epric002

    it’s about damn time.

  • Maybe the OP should contact the D.C. government’s Office of (the?) Tenant Advocate (OTA)?
    So if this is one partner buying out the other — is it Donatelli buying out the California-based equity partner that’s been vetoing prospective tenants for the ground-floor retail because they weren’t national chains?

  • For anyone not familiar with the backstory to this: The building is co-owned by two developers, and renting the street-level retail units requires them both to consent. The two developers have very different views about what kind of tenant they want in that corner unit — one prefers lowbrow chains (like the other retail tenants on that block), the other is more forward-thinking — and so it remains empty. The good news is that the developer who’s doing the buyout is the forward-thinking one. The bad news is that the process has been very, very slow. (In fact, one of the developers told me personally in the summer of 2012 that a buyout was imminent.) Also, the corner space is completely unbuilt, so even once the buyout finishes and they find a tenant, some extensive construction will be needed before the tenant moves in. Given all of this, I definitely wouldn’t expect anyone to be in that space in 2014, and even 2015 is optimistic.

    • Thanks, this additional information is very helpful, and I’m glad the more forward-thinking developer is the one that’s doing the buyout. Hopefully the TOPA notice means the final sale is close at this point. Any further insight as to what type of tenant this developer may have in mind for the empty spaces?

    • National chains /= Forward thinking

  • If tenants are interested in seriously pursuing this, I would highly recommend Eric Rome of Eisen & Rome PC. He is one of the top real estate lawyers in the area with expertise in apartments converting to condos or co-ops.

    • Also the tenants can form an association, assert their TOPA rights, and then sell them to a different developer/property manager. Housing Counseling Services or LEDC could probably give basic advice hook them up with a lawyer (not a free one though).

  • I will refresh my earlier list of top retail dreams for Park Place tenants:

    Businesses that would absolutely KILL it in in this spot with all the families in Petworth / Columbia Heights(note: stroller safeway)
    -Ice cream parlor (covers all demographics)…i’d settle for FroZenYo
    -Cartoon Cuts (there’s no dedicated kids haircut place in the District…being on metro would attract people from all over DC who don’t want to drive to Bethesda)

    Places that would make me super happy:
    -Brooklyn Bagel DC (really, this could combine with the bagel place, since people eat bagels in the morning, but not ice cream)
    -Quaker Steak & Lube (everyone likes wings. old people, young people, black people, white people, asian people)
    -Wiseguys Pizza North
    -Jetties Petworth
    -Astor Mediterranean East
    -Atlas Arcade North
    -Vace East
    -Rens Ramen South / Daikaya North / Toki NW
    -Wahoo’s Fish Tacos
    -Shake Shack
    -Baja Fresh / Moes / Qdoba / Taco Cabana (just to avoid the Chipotle competition)
    -Bicycle shop (in the big NH/GA ave spot)
    -G St Food

    Businesses that I really don’t want to show up:
    -Any cell phone store
    -Real Estate office
    -Coffee shop (between Starbucks and Qualia and the Coop I think we’ve got it covered now).
    -Barber shop / nail salon / massage envy

    • I second everything on your list, esp. the kids haircut place and Wiseguys would be awesome! I hope the powers that be are paying attention.

    • Taco Cabana! Haven’t seen one outside of Texas…but if it were at that plaza, let’s just say my waistline would be expanding about as quickly as their profit margin. From me, eating there 3x a day.

  • Prince of Petworth: YOU JUST MADE MY DAY!!!!!

    I would love to see a bakery, ice cream shoppe, sports bar or any other casual family restaurant go in here. Perhaps a gym. The space is a blank canvass filled with limitless potential for a retail business. Not only is it above the metro, but its also in the heart of Petworth near Chez Billy, the new Safeway/Condos as well as about 5 other residential condo/apartment developments.

    • It’s actually at the southern edge of Petworth (though certainly Petworth’s retail “heart” seems to be located in that area). 😉

    • There really isn’t room for a gym in those spots besides something like Crossfit (which is already coming to Upshur St under Annie’s!)

    • This is the 2nd time this week I’ve seen “near Chez Billy” used as a positive thing. Is there something specific that radiates from that place, or is it just that it’s a block or so from the metro, NH/GA, new Safeway?

      Is Chez Billy the new thing now? I live 5 minutes walk from there, and went once for my birthday right when it opened and didn’t “get it.” It must’ve been a Tuesday or something, because the place was empty.

      I second not in the “heart” of Petworth. Maybe the “head.” I’d say the heart is GA/Upshur.

      • I think the OP is referring to the fact that Chez Billy (and now possibly Crane & Turtle) are more destination type places. They draw people from all over DC. Bring new people to the neighborhood. More foot traffic.

        • It generally pretty full-ish on weeknight. Weekends a reservation is a must. When they added the beer garden (it’s outstanding!) it was a game-changer. I suggest you go back. Judging a place on a Tuesday soon after it opened its doors doesn’t seem like the best sample size. It’s grown leaps and bounds.

  • As long as we are making wish lists:

    – Stoney’s Pub
    – Duffy’s!!!!!
    – Baked & Wired
    – La Colombe Coffee
    – Astor Mediterranean
    – 5 Guys
    – Menomale or 2 Amy’s Pizza
    – Cactus Cantina/Lauriol
    – Red Hook Lobster
    – Dolcezza or Thomas Sweet (any ice cream!!!)
    – Sushi
    – Toki Underground (or any ramen)
    – Quality Thai or Chinese Restaurant (sorry, Sala Thai aint cutting it)
    – Upscale small artisanal market like Cork or Seasonal Pantry
    – The Brixton
    – Busboys & Poets
    – Any sports bar with good food would be most welcome.

  • Mr. Donatelli, if you are reading this, Moby Dick’s would be a great addition to Park Place. They already have a huge take-out following, which would be a huge help in having a restaurant in one of these smaller spaces thrive. We go out of the way to get take out from there, as there isn’t one near Park Place. We live near there and would be very regular customers!

  • While I agree with you, they aren’t going to get any of those businesses, it is too risky. Baja Fresh would be great, but I don’t think they are expanding, the opposite is probably true. Spots that depend on a strong lunch crowd will fail, so I doubt Chipotle would go for it, and a normal deli/sandwich shop, which would be too much to hope for, probably wouldn’t survive, either.

    You are right that family-friendly would work really well here. A Potbelly would work, I know it’s a chain, but they do breakfast as well as lunch and stay open fairly late, and appeal to families with kids. I doubt Shake Shack would open here, but Z Burger probably would, and once again the shakes would work for families with kids, the one next to the CoHi Giant is still hanging in there. More pizza is always an option, I haven’t patronized Manny & Olga’s since they got caught fencing stolen electronics. There is always demand for more pizza and wings.

    • I think you would be surprised at the number of people looking for lunch options in Petworth. The Coupe just a few blocks to the south is packed all day long. In fact, many of us in southern Petworth go there.

    • I agree with you about not patronizing Manny&Olga’s. But not with your choice of chain, Potbelly, Baja Fresh and Z burger all make me gag.

  • An Ice cream parlor and/or a bakery sound like fantastic ideas.

    I think this would be a great spot for the first BJ’s Brewhouse in the district as well.

    (we all know deep down inside that this place will eventually end up having a McDonalds…)

  • It’s worth keeping in mind that the retail spaces are not particularly huge (with the exception of the one at NH/GA), so some of the businesses people are talking about probably wouldn’t work.

    My vote is for combination ice cream parlor / bagel shop. Bagels in the AM, ice cream the rest of the day. Helps you withstand falls in seasonal business, being right above metro means people would grab one (or a dozen for the office) on their way to work. As I’m talking through this, I would accept a Dunkin/Baskin Robbins combo (which is effectively the same thing), though I’d really rather it was an actual GOOD bagel place like Goldbergs. Ice cream seems like it would require little beyond a few freezers and sinks, so the buildout for that is dirt cheap.

  • I would love to see a Cosi (second choice: Panera), a bagel place, and a frozen yogurt and/or ice cream place. And maybe a coffee place.

  • This is great news – finally this place can be a better anchor for this intersection/Metro stop.
    I love the idea of getting a bagel store by morning/ice cream shop by evening in there — appealing to people on the way to work and returning to home. We have soooo many fast food burger places all over the city — so I’m not a fan of another Z Burger/5 guys/ or other suburban chains etc going in. How about a healthier or more unique restaurant? Would also love to see a solid Thai or Asian cuisine type place (sorry Sala Thai).
    I agree that a kid’s haircut place would also do incredibly well!

  • Petworth has a lot of kids and now some hipster bars but it could really use a sit down American restaurant or quality pizza joint/ice cream parlor. Like an old time Farrell’s or a Shakey’s Pizza, but better and not a chain. We have quite a few good places – Highland Cafe, Epiphany BBQ, Petworth Citizen, Looking Glass – but nothing in that category.

    • Farrell’s or Shakey’s pizza… TropicBird, are you from Seattle?

    • The Petworth Citizen seems to do a better job of accommodating kids than most other places in the neighborhood.

      • Yes, Petworth Citizen are really awesome with kids. But both Chez Billy and Mothership have treated my little family of toddlers pretty frickin great too. I feel very welcome at all my neighborhood spots.

  • There are all the people downtown at work time but a lot of folks are at the Metro or the bus stops in the morning and evening who’d probably like good, fast takeout for on the way home. Then there are all the work-at-home, consultants, parents etc. who would enjoy a homey daytime place with coffee, tea, lunch, salads, and room to plug in or a kids indoor play/book area, and then at night a good beer & cocktail selection for the adults and hipsters. Hmmmm.

    • There is just as much (if not more) daily foot traffic at the Petworth metro than in Columbia Heights. Ditto on U Street. The foot traffic alone is enough to sustain lunch spots. The new Safeway has been PACKED at lunch because there are few other options.

      • I’m desperate for more lunch options in Park View, but there’s no way that Petworth metro has as much foot traffic as Columbia Heights. Columbia Heights station has twice as many daily boardings as Petworth, and the census tracts near the CH metro have about twice the density as those around Petworth metro.

        • +1. I too want more lunch options in northern Park View/southern Petworth, and there is a good amount of foot traffic in the area… but I don’t think it can be said that the Petworth Metro vicinity has MORE foot traffic than does Columbia Heights.
          On the occasions that I exit Metro at Columbia Heights after work (to run a Target errand or something), there are a ton of Metro riders exiting the station — more than the number exiting the Petworth Metro at the same time of day.

          • True. May not be equal to CoHi, but I agree there is enough all day foot traffic for lunch options.

        • DC Reynolds is open for lunch and is almost always empty.

  • orderedchaos

    How I would love to see the District finally get a Hard Times Cafe!

    Other good candidates IMO (some mentioned by other commenters) could be a bakery/cafe, bicycle shop, Vace, Nando’s Peri Peri, Taylor Gourmet, an old-school indie deli/sandwich shop… almost anything is better than empty.

  • anonymouse_dianne

    Almost any establishment having to do with food and/or drink would be hugely successful here. Not only do you have Metro commuters coming thru am and pm but there is always a significant number of bus commuters who hang out at that corner. I’m cynical tho given Donnetelos business model. They have squandered a significant retail opportunity for over 5 years. The business model for the “luxury” apartments is more of a bait and switch – raising the rent by $500 or more after the first year. Those units would have little appeal as condos, what with painted cement flooring and smoke detectors practically in the kitchen so you can’t do anything more than boil water without setting them off. I lived here for two years, and would have stayed if they hadn’t * raised the rent and * not delivered on the retail space as promised. A coffee shop was promised in 2010 and then abruptly vanished.

  • Here are my recommendations: 1) Hard Times Cafe (low price poinmt to bring the neighborhood together with a proven record of sound business management, 2) bank (local, credit union, or a big bank branch), and 3) a family-oriented sports bar, if that’s possible.

  • More lunch/deli options would be great, I would vote local and say Booeymonger could do well there, they have also teamed up with a frozen yorgurt place at their friendships heights location and that would satisfy the family friendly part of the deal

  • Hello–

    Just wanted to add — for any residents of the building — we still need MANY more signatures to form a tenant association and hopefully work with the new/continuing developer (or, as OP mentioned, exercise our right to purchase.) Please do email at [email protected] if you have any questions, as I’m directing those I don’t know to the case worker & attorney at the Office of the Tenant Advocate working with us; or stop by the apartment indicated on the flier at your doors to sign! (It’s hanging outside, so come by whenever is convenient.)

  • I think a Guapos, Woodside deli type place, or Hard Times cafe would be cool. Cava Mezza would be awesome. Decent pizza, especially now that Maroni Bros is closed. Oh, a Greek restaurant like Big Greek Cafe in Silver Spring or Greek Spot on 11th would be amazing. So excited!

  • unfortunately, it kinda makes sense that this retail space has been empty for so long. who the heck would want to rent it with the undesirable activity at this intersection? people regularly “hang out” in front of this storefront. I would not want to walk through those people to enter this retail space.

    • Then by your logic Columbia Heights should be a ghost town… People don’t “hang out” here. There is a bus stop near by as well as the metro. Welcome to the city.

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