Inside MRP's Massive Northeast D.C. Project Featuring Alamo Drafthouse
Metro riders, cyclists, pedestrians and drivers passing by the Rhode Island Avenue station over the past two years have undoubtedly seen a series of new buildings popping out of the ground, and that development is now welcoming new residents and bar-goers.
Bryant Street, MRP Realty's mixed-use development on the site of the former Rhode Island Avenue Shopping Center, opened its first apartment building, Coda, in November and it is preparing to deliver another two-building apartment offering, The Chase, later this month. Metrobar, the outdoor bar featuring an old train car, began serving drinks last month.
The project's highly anticipated anchor, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, is preparing to open later this year, as are its other retail offerings, including the Bevy food hall, an F45 fitness studio and District Dogs, a canine daycare and training facility. MRP and its Bozzuto apartment leasing team gave Bisnow a tour of the development Wednesday.
This first phase, featuring 487 apartments across three buildings and 85K SF of retail, is just the start of the development that MRP hopes will become a destination for the region and a catalyst for new development in the Edgewood neighborhood and the Rhode Island Avenue NE corridor.
The full Bryant Street project is planned to have 1,500 residential units, 250K SF of retail and 1.5 acres of green space. MRP Development Manager Matt Bailey said the firm hasn't fully determined the timeline and number of phases for the project, but he said it will likely start construction on the next buildings by the end of 2022.
"We're really creating our own hub," Bailey said. "I like to think of it as our own neighborhood within Edgewood."
With most of the Phase 1 retail not delivering until later this year or early next year, MRP wanted a way to create immediate activity on the site, so it decided to turn one of its future development parcels into an outdoor bar.
The company brought in Metrobar, a new concept that features an old Metro car outfitted to include a bar and seating inside. The outdoor space also has picnic tables, games like cornhole and giant Jenga, and a projector screen for showing movies and sports games. It serves a variety of local beers and liquors, and it brings in food trucks to feed its customers.
The space inside the train car is still being built out, but Metrobar opened last month with a secondary outdoor bar in an old shipping container; it is now open Thursdays through Sundays. Metobar co-owner Jesse Rauch said he sees the concept as an amenity for the Bryant Street residents and as a draw for people from across the city.
"For these residents, we're hoping we're their neighborhood bar," Rauch said.
He also said he expects to receive a surge of new customers when movies begin playing across the plaza at Alamo Drafthouse.
An Austin-based movie theater chain that serves food and drinks along with its movies, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema emerged from bankruptcy last month and confirmed it still intends to open its two future D.C.-area locations, one in the Crystal City neighborhood near Amazon HQ2 and the other at Bryant Street. The chain has two operating locations in the region, in Ashburn and Woodbridge, Virginia.
The Bryant Street location, expected to open later this year, will be in a 55K SF stand-alone building that includes 5,500 SF of separate retail space on the eastern-facing side that is still available for lease. Bailey said he sees Alamo Drafthouse as the anchor for the project's first phase.
"The Alamo is a huge draw for us," Bailey said. "It’s a very good brand with national recognition. It's a great tenant to have. It's something that D.C. has really needed. I can’t remember last time a new theater was brought to market, especially around here, so having that void filled on our site is huge."
The next major retail offering that MRP hopes will draw people to Bryant Street is the 10K SF Bevy food hall, slated to open later this year or early next year, on the ground floor of The Chase. The hall will have nine food stalls with separate businesses serving a variety of cuisines, such as seafood, chicken, poke and a juice bar.
The developer also signed fitness studio F45 and dog daycare facility District Dogs to open in the Chase building. The first phase still has several available retail spaces. Bailey said it is looking for retailers that will be an amenity for apartment residents and ones that will draw people to Bryant Street.
"That’s what mixed-use development nowadays is about," he said. "Especially in an urban environment, you don’t want to be five Metro stops away from your fitness studio or your local watering hole, you want those amenities on-site ... The retail is not as successful without residents, and the residential buildings aren't as successful without retail."
In addition to the retail offerings, the development team also hopes the amenities, unit finishes and a host of murals from local artists will drive renters to its buildings.
The Coda, a 154-unit building fronting Rhode Island Avenue, is the project's boutique product with lower rents and fewer service and amenity offerings. It was the first building at the project to deliver, with leasing starting in November.
The lease-up started slow because of the coronavirus pandemic, Bozzuto General Manager Sarah Egerton said. She said it only leased a handful of units between November and February, but leasing then ramped up exponentially as the spring began, and she said the building is now more than 90% leased.
"It started off really slow," Egerton said. "Then people got a vaccine, were looking to come back to the city and were looking for a new type of place to live."
The building started off by offering two months of free rent as it sought to compete in D.C.'s supply heavy apartment market, Egerton said, and its website now advertises 1.5 months free for select units.
The Coda's one-bedroom units, including smaller junior one-bedrooms and larger one-bedrooms with dens, have monthly rent prices in the $1,600 to $2,300 range. Its two-bedroom units, also including some smaller ones and others with dens, have rents in the $2,400 to $3,600 range.
"The entire city was dropping rates," Egerton said. "We were conscious of making sure we were not too high or too low for the market."
The amenities in the Coda building include a fitness center, a first-floor courtyard with grills, a penthouse lounge with an outdoor terrace, a lobby with seating areas and a mezzanine level with spaces for remote working.
It also has bike storage and a bicycle repair station, a pet grooming area and a parking garage with 75 vehicular spaces. The Coda building also has several murals in the lobby, fitness center, courtyard and parking garage from local artist No Kings Collective.
The Chase, featuring two separate buildings with ground-floor retail on either side of the project's main street, is expected to begin leasing later this month after its inspections are finalized, according to MRP. It sits just steps from the Metropolitan Branch Trail and the elevated walkway to the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station.
Bailey said he sees the transportation accessibility as a main draw to the project, for renters and retail customers alike.
"It has Rhode Island Avenue, a major thoroughfare in and out of [the] city, one of [the] more popular bike trails around [the] city that takes you up to Brookland and down to the Capitol, and that is right on our site, and then you have the Metro station," Bailey said. "That’s a huge selling point, not only for residents, but for the retail community as well."
The amenities at the Chase building include a fitness room with yoga space, a library area with private workrooms, a lounge with televisions and a fireplace, a first-floor courtyard, a private dog park and pet spa, and an indoor-outdoor penthouse amenity space with a rooftop pool.
The Chase building has studios with monthly rents in the $1,600 to $1,800 range. It has one-bedroom units with rents in the $1,800 to $2,400 range. Its two-bedroom units are in the $2,600 to $3,500 range, and its three-bedroom units range from $3,600 to $3,800.
SK + I Architecture was the master planner and the designer of the Chase and Coda buildings. It worked with MSA Interiors for the Coda building's interior and Hartman Design Group for the Chase building. Oculus served as the landscape architect, and Clark Builders Group was the general contractor.
The future phases of the development will be built on the western portion of the site, where retailer Forman Mills continues to operate. Another building that formerly housed Big Lots is planned to feature pop-up uses before the future phases begin.
Bryant Street is already serving as a catalyst for additional development in the area. District Growth's Sanjay Bajaj has two nearby Rhode Island Avenue projects planned, and he told Bisnow last month he sees Bryant Street as a demand driver. Jair Lynch and Wilkes Co. are planning a large mixed-use project across Rhode Island Avenue from Bryant Street.
Bailey said that he has hoped Bryant Street would spur more developers to build in the area, but he said it has also built off the growth of earlier projects near the Rhode Island Avenue station, including Urban Atlantic's Rhode Island Row and Douglas Development's Brookland Press.
"I think there’s a ton of gravity we can bring to the site," Bailey said. "I’m hoping this is a catalyst. Jair Lynch tied up stuff across the street, I like to think that’s a play off what we’re doing. We're looking forward to it because it’s all about synergies. We're looking to create a place."