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Long-Awaited Shaw Redevelopment Gets Key Approval, Slated For 2023 Start

The redevelopment of a historic property in Shaw that has been envisioned for more than 15 years has earned a key approval, setting the stage for construction to begin next year on a new hotel, residential building and public space.

A rendering of the Bond Bread Factory redevelopment from Georgia Avenue and W Street

The redevelopment of the Bond Bread Factory and Washington Railway & Electric Co. garage received the green light during the Historic Preservation Review Board meeting on Thursday, one month after its application was filed. After quickly clearing a hurdle that stymied a previous effort to redevelop the site, the developers now expect to break ground on the project next year.

Bo Menkiti, whose Menkiti Group is part of the Bond Partnership that Howard University selected to develop the site in 2019, attributes that progress to the new plan's significant emphasis on historic preservation.

"This is the culmination of many challenges to the site coming to, ‘Wow, we’ve got something really great,’" Menkiti said. "People are really excited about the depth and the thoughtfulness of this plan."

The plan includes 469 residential units, a 180-room hotel and just over 50K SF of retail. The developers — Edens, The Menkiti Group and Fivesquares Development — also plan to open a nearly 20K SF central public courtyard underneath the historic ceiling trusses in the WRECO garage and to extend public space throughout the site. 

The plan also includes 179 parking spaces, which an approving staff report from the Historic Preservation Office said was reduced from previous plans in order to avoid digging underneath the Bond Bread Factory building.

The interior courtyard of the Bond Bread Factory and WRECO Garage redevelopment is planned to feature historic trusses originally incorporated in the garage structure.

The project, previously known as Howard Town Center, has been a part of the DUKE District Small Area Plan, which guides development in Shaw, since it was created in 2005.

This is the second time Howard University has advanced a plan for the two sites. Between 2006 and 2009, the university acquired both historic structures and cleared them out in anticipation of developing its town center project.

That initial plan called for demolishing both structures, leading to objections from the HPRB, and to the D.C. Preservation League nominating the Bond Bread Factory and WRECO garage for inclusion on the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites in 2013.

Howard then restarted its efforts in 2017 with a request for qualifications, and it said it received more than 20 responses before narrowing the competition down to six finalists. It selected the team of Menkiti, Fivesquares and Edens in April 2019. 

The Bond Partnership met with the Historic Preservation Office five times between March and August, and it also met with local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions, main street partnerships, civic associations and other organizations to earn their backing for the project.

“It's gratifying to see so much support,” said Andy Altman, a former D.C. planning director and co-founder and principal of Fivesquares Development firm. “People still, 15 years later, are still empowered by that connection.” 

The work that the Bond Partnership has undertaken to bring the project to fruition comes as Shaw has seen considerable development, much of which has been spurred on by Howard itself.

An overhead view of the proposed redevelopment for the site of the Bond Bread/WRECO garage site

Most recently, that has included a proposal to develop two parking lots at 2251 Sherman Ave. NW and 2047 Ninth St. NW that could see up to 500 residential units. Howard is also pursuing a life sciences center at Georgia Avenue and Bryant Street NW with Capstone Development, Quadrangle Development Corp. and Edens that could include 400 residential units.

And MRP Realty is also putting the finishing touches on The 9th, a 310-unit project just north of the 9:30 Club and about a block from the Bond Bread/WRECO garage project.

All of those projects have been developed through ground-lease deals with the university, a strategy it is using to drive revenue and support the growth of the historically Black neighborhood.

Menkiti is enthusiastic about his firm’s project contributing to the reinvigoration of Shaw. In addition to opening up the property to the public through the courtyard and retail, the partners are also planning details like pavers with quotes from historic figures.

Ultimately, the developers hope to create a new cultural hub and center of gravity for Shaw.

"Bond Bread WRECO is the opportunity to make a historic statement about the university. It’s going to have the most retail, it’s a place to connect," Menkiti said. "We had an obligation to be the heartbeat of this whole district."