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Long-Planned Office, Affordable Housing Project In Congress Heights Advances Under New Developers

A rendering of the mixed-use project planned next to the Congress Heights Metro station.

A long-planned mixed-use project in Southeast D.C.'s Congress Heights neighborhood is moving forward under a new development team.

Standard Real Estate Investments, Trammell Crow and NHT Communities acquired a seven-property assemblage next to the Congress Heights Metro station, the team announced Wednesday. 

The team said it could break ground later this year on a mixed-use project with 240K SF of office and 179 affordable housing units. The developers plan to build using an already approved Planned Unit Development that received a two-year extension in October. 

“This intricate transaction is a giant step toward unlocking the benefits of this extremely well-located site through the office project we’ve planned with Trammell Crow Company and the affordable housing units that NHT Communities will develop,” Standard President Jerome Nichols said in a release.

Nichols, a former Washington Football Team player who previously worked at CBRE Investment Management, co-founded Standard in 2020 along with Robert Jue. 

Part of the 2-acre site, including the southern entrance to the Metro station, was sold to the development team by WMATA. The remainder of the site was sold by Congress Heights Community Training and Development Corp. and CityPartners, which had been involved in previous efforts to develop the site, the Washington Business Journal reported, adding that the sale totaled $12.5M.

CityPartners had previously partnered on plans to develop the site with Sanford Capital, a now-notorious landlord that has sold its D.C. portfolio after a series of lawsuits and investigations. Sanford had transferred the three apartment buildings it owned on this Congress Heights site to CityPartners in 2018, but the Congress Heights SE Tenants Association filed a lawsuit claiming the transfer violated D.C.'s Tenants Opportunity to Purchase Act. 

That lawsuit has now been settled along with this sale, the team said in the announcement, and the tenants association included a statement in support of the project, praising its affordable housing component. 

The 179 apartments planned for the site would be set aside for those earning 30% to 80% of the area median income. NHT Communities is leading the development of the affordable housing component, which it said is slated for a Q2 2025 delivery. 

Trammell Crow is partnering on the development and leasing for the project's 240K SF of office space.

The team said the office space could be ready for occupancy by 2024, but it didn't say whether it would break ground speculatively without a tenant. D.C. has suffered from record-high office vacancy in recent quarters, and Congress Heights doesn't have a large, established office market. The developer told WBJ it aims to attract a government tenant, and the District has sought to use agency relocations to help spur investment in underserved neighborhoods. 

St. Elizabeths East, a major mixed-use development sitting steps from this project in Congress Heights, benefited from that strategy last year with the District's announced relocation of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to a planned 200K SF building on the campus. 

The project is the latest in a series of developments moving forward on Metro-adjacent land around the region, as WMATA has sought to capture the value of its real estate by partnering with developers. The transit agency said this Congress Heights sale delivered $3.1M to Metro to support its operations, and it will retain operational control of the station and its entrance.