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From ‘New City’ To New Warehouse: Douglas Development Pivots Northeast D.C. Site

Plans to create a massive new mixed-use neighborhood next to the National Arboretum in Northeast D.C. have taken a turn.

The 16-acre, triangular site bounded by New York Avenue Northeast, Montana Avenue and Bladensburg Road was previously planned for a major mixed-use project.

Douglas Development has long planned to build a 1.5M SF retail, hospitality and residential district on a 16-acre triangle of vacant land on the New York Avenue corridor, which it branded as New City DC. But those plans appear to be changing, as Douglas intends to start off development at the site by building a large warehouse. 

The D.C. developer is preparing to file a Planned Unit Development application to rezone part of the site for a 186K SF warehouse with 200 parking spaces, as well as rehabilitating a former school building into 25K SF of retail, UrbanTurf first reported.

Douglas didn't respond to Bisnow's request for comment. 

The company began amassing parcels on the site, bounded by New York Avenue, Bladensburg Road and Montana Avenue NE, roughly a decade ago. It purchased the first three parcels for $8.25M in 2014 and the remainder for $66M in 2017. 

Douglas could still pursue mixed-use development at the site, but the warehouse plans represent a drastic change from the mixed-use community the developer envisioned as “creating a new part of the city,” as founder Douglas Jemal described to Bisnow in 2019.

The prospect of a warehouse at a site long slated for a mixed-use neighborhood is already meeting with community pushback.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 5C is preparing to vote on a resolution opposing the plans at its meeting Wednesday evening. Douglas notified the committee of its plans and intent to file a PUD earlier this month.

“This is an enormous setback for the two-decade+ vision to build a vibrant mixed-use development here,” ANC 5C Commissioner V.J. Kapur posted on X, linking to a draft of the resolution

Since at least 2016, Douglas had planned 338K SF of retail, 2,380 residential units and 178K SF of office built in phases, according to its website.

But in 2017, the developer began soliciting buyers for the northern portion of the site, the Washington Business Journal reported at the time. It was looking to offload at least half of the acreage to other interested developers while retaining the retail-heavy southern portion for its own development.

In November 2019, Jemal told Bisnow the plan was to break ground within the next 12 months. 

The property sits across the street from the Ivy City neighborhood, where Douglas has delivered a variety of retail, including a Target, as well as a 335-unit apartment building, the Hecht Warehouse, which it completed in 2016. Douglas is one of the largest landlords and developers in D.C., with more than 14M SF under ownership.