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MidCity Acquires Church Site Next To RIA Project For Future Development, Despite Appeal Risk

The 1,700-unit redevelopment of Northeast D.C.'s Brookland Manor community remains delayed by an appeal, but developer MidCity has just scooped up another piece of land to expand its site. 

An aerial rendering of MidCity's 1,700-unit RIA development

MidCity Tuesday acquired the site of the Historic Berean Baptist Church at 1400 Montana Ave. NE, directly across the street from Brookland Manor, for $5.85M.

The church is selling its property but reached an agreement with MidCity to lease it back for 18 months with the potential for future extensions, said Marcus & Millichap First Vice President of Investments Cameron Webb, who represented the church along with Marcus & Millichap's Josh Feldman and Ryan Smith. 

The property, a 39K SF lot bounded by Montana Avenue, Rhode Island Avenue, Evarts Street and Saratoga Avenue NE, includes a one-story former bank building that houses the church, a front lawn and a parking lot in the back.

The Historic Berean Baptist Church site at 1400 Montana Ave. NE

The church retained Marcus & Millichap in March to market the property and received about seven offers before putting the site under contract in May with the highest bidder, MidCity. 

"The area changed a little bit, and they also saw the opportunity with the market and being able to capitalize on the development that's going on in the city," Webb said. 

MidCity, which has owned the Brookland Manor community for 40 years, plans to partner with the church for events and use the property as a community gathering space for its residents in the short term. 

"The church will remain in place for some time," MidCity Vice President Madi Ford said. "We've talked about having more space for community activities for some time, and this just happened to come along. We want to offer a really high level of resident services." 

The site plan for MidCity's RIA development, with its newly acquired 1400 Montana Ave. NE parcel highlighted

MidCity's plan to redevelop the 20-acre Brookland Manor property into a 1,700-unit project, branded as RIA, would include replacements for the 373 existing Section 8 housing units, 181K SF of retail, likely anchored by a grocery store, and a public park.

The Zoning Commission filed its written approval of the plan in early April, and the following month an opposing group of residents filed suit with the D.C. Court of Appeals. Similar appeals have led to the court vacating the approval of major projects such McMillan, Barry Farm and the nearby 901 Monroe, and delaying over a dozen others. 

The first phase of the RIA development would take place on Block 7 on the southern portion of the site. That phase, which has received full approval from the Zoning Commission, would include a 200-unit affordable building for seniors and another 131-unit apartment building. After relocating residents from that part of Brookland Manor to other units on the property, MidCity in late May invited residents to help begin the demolition of the 80-year-old buildings. 

Following the appeal, MidCity said it will be forced to consider options such as pursuing a more modest, by-right development plan or even selling the Brookland Manor property. With the appeal yet to be resolved, Ford said the acquisition of the church site does not remove the possibility MidCity could sell the site or reverse course on the project. 

The zoning map for 1400 Montana Ave. NE shows it split between mixed-use and residential designations.

If MidCity is able to redevelop Brookland Manor, Ford said it sees the adjacent church site as a potential development play down the road. The site's zoning designation splits down the middle between the higher-density Rhode Island Avenue corridor, which has seen a host of new development in recent years, and the lower-density residential neighborhood to the south.

The portion of the site closest to Rhode Island Avenue is designated MU-4, allowing for mixed-use buildings up to 50 feet tall, plus a 12-foot penthouse, with a floor area ratio of 2.5. The other piece of the site is zoned RA-1, allowing for residential buildings up to three stories with a floor area ratio of 0.90.

The current zoning would allow for up to 97K SF of development, according to Marcus & Millichap's marketing materials for the site. MidCity could increase the site's allowable density if it gets the Zoning Commission to approve a planned-unit development application, the same process that led to the appeal currently delaying its RIA project. 

"There's definitely a potential for [development] down the road," Ford said. "Right now with our PUD appealed, we're not really sure what we're doing with the entire piece of land. We wouldn't redevelop it if we choose to sell or not redevelop because of the appeal. But the purpose of purchasing it is to redevelop in the future."