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GSA Looking To Sell Warehouse On Prime Development Site Near Ballpark

With a new building or construction site on seemingly every corner in the booming Capitol Riverfront neighborhood, one prime site near Nationals Park has sat noticeably quiet. That could be about to change. 

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The warehouse building GSA is selling at 49 L St. SE, two blocks from the ballpark

The General Services Administration is preparing to sell a one-story warehouse on a 0.68-acre site at the corner of L and Half streets SE. The lot's current zoning would allow for a development of up to 13 stories and roughly 275K SF. 

Developers can begin bidding on the site on Oct. 1. The GSA auction, first reported by neighborhood blog JDLand, will be open for 60 days. 

The site, at 49 L St. SE, is in one of the fastest-growing areas of the city. It sits one block from the Navy Yard Metro station, two blocks north of Nationals Park and about four blocks from where the new Whole Foods is opening in W.C. Smith's Agora project. 

"It's a prime development site given its location," Capitol Riverfront BID President Michael Stevens said. "The first use people will consider is residential. Whether it's rental or for-sale will be dictated by the development ethos of the firm that wins the auction." 

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A rendering of Jair Lynch's Half Street project

One block south of the site, Jair Lynch and JBG Smith are building dueling mixed-use projects on opposite sides of Half Street that will create a new retail corridor leading to the ballpark. 

“Half Street extending to the north is a logical extension, so I think the developer would look at ground-floor retail in some capacity,” Stevens said.  

The warehouse has sat on the site for years as multiple attempts at new uses for the site have failed. In 2013, a group of residents tried to create "Half Street Market," which would have been similar to Union Market or Eastern Market. That proposal fell through after the group could not pull together the necessary financing, Stevens said.

Then in 2016, the D.C. government was looking at buying the site to create a homeless shelter. During that process, which also fell through, Stevens said several developers reached out to the BID to ask why it had not been offered to private companies given its development potential.

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Capitol Riverfront BID President Michael Stevens moderating a panel at Bisnow's Capitol Riverfront event in July

Among the developers who expressed interest in the site at the time, Stevens said, were Ruben Cos. and Related Cos., which just delivered their One Hill South project a block north; Englewood LLC, the builder of the adjacent Homewood Suites; Toll Brothers, which is building Phase II of Park Riverside across the street to the north; and MRP Realty, which is planning a residential project across the street to the west. 

“It has been a long process, and everyone suggested if the site had been made available to the public, there would have been multiple bids,” Stevens said. “They were all looking for a mixed-use or residential project to go on that site.”

After learning the GSA is putting the site up for auction, Stevens said he emailed all of the interested developers, and he expects many of them will bid on the site. 

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MRP Realty principal John Begert with MRP associate Lauren Bosso at Bisnow's Capitol Riverfront event in July

MRP Realty principal John Begert said he anticipates the company will bid on the site, but it is too early to say for sure, and he still wants to take a closer look at the GSA's specific terms.  

“We love the area, and we are across the street. I’m sure we’ll take a look at it,” Begert said. “It has good zoning and it’s on a good corner in a great location. I think it will get a lot of interest.”

The developer is still planning its project across the street at 41 L St. SE. Begert said it could be either rental apartments or condos with ground-floor retail. He expects the new development site will also be utilized for its retail potential.

“We’re going to do retail on the west side and this site would likely have retail, and you’ll have double-sided a block or two north of a robust entertainment program," Begert said. "I think the retail will be very valuable."

Toll Brothers delivered the first 287-unit phase of Park Riverside in 2015 and is building the 308-unit second phase, which sits across the street from the warehouse site and is expected to deliver in 2019. Toll Brothers Marketing Director John Piedrahita said the company is looking at the site across the street for another potential development. 

"We are continually looking for new development options in D.C. and consistently evaluate available opportunities, including this one," Piedrahita said.