Prospective tenants interested in UDC’s Van Ness retail properties include well-known national and regional companies, UDC said at an August 5th virtual community meeting on its 2021-2030 Campus Master Plan. The university is also looking at converting one building on campus into apartments for students and faculty.
DC zoning regulations require the District’s universities to submit campus plans every ten years. These regulations are intended to promote well-planned and designed campuses, encourage long-term planning, minimize negative impacts to the surrounding neighborhood, and provide transparency to the planning process.
The UDC Campus Master Plan is for its main campus at Van Ness. However, Troy LeMaile-Stovall, UDC’s chief operating officer, said that the university is taking a look at all of its facilities during this process, including its research farm in Maryland and a hangar in Virginia.
LeMaile-Stovall also explained UDC’s now-extensive retail spaces are part of this institutional planning process, but not the Campus Master Plan. Community members who attended the first meeting on the plan in February had been frustrated by limits on the discussion.
“If we add these buildings to this zoning, we could not do retail in these buildings,” he said. Through its purchase of 4250 Connecticut, its master lease of 4225 Connecticut, and the law school at 4340 Connecticut, UDC controls about 90 percent of the vacant retail space at Van Ness.
LeMaile-Stovall showed attendees renderings of 4225 and 4250 that he said show “how we’re thinking of activation of the retail and activation of the buildings that we have along Van Ness.”
“Even with this Covid situation we are committed to activating the retail along Connecticut Avenue,” LeMaile-Stovall said. “We have not wavered in that.”
UDC is working with the brokerage KLNB to recruit retail tenants, and LeMaile-Stovall said a number of what he describes as “high-quality potential tenants” have approached the university. He said the retailers were of national and regional prominence, but he could not say more. Some parking at 4250 Connecticut would be devoted to retail.
The retail, he said, has important community and campus benefits. “I get excited about the idea of a student being able to… sit down and have a couple of coffee” and engage in conversation with a campus neighbor, LeMaile-Stovall said. “And many of our students need those types of jobs.” The income from leases is another important benefit. UDC will need that revenue to support its presence at 4250 and 4225 Connecticut, he said.
An interesting tidbit about 4225 Connecticut came up after Lemaile-Stovall brought up the first rendering above. One community member commented that leaving the former Walgreens as a two-story building seems like a “missed opportunity” and asked whether UDC would consider redeveloping the site. LeMaile-Stovall clarified that UDC only holds the master lease and does not have control over its development. He did say that the owner approached UDC a couple of years ago with the idea of adding housing by building up. But no action was taken by the owner.
After the retail update, LeMaile-Stovall got to the heart of the meeting – an update of UDC’s ideas for the 2021-2030 Campus Master Plan.
Among the ideas under consideration:
- All faculty offices would be moved to 4250 Connecticut Avenue.
- Building 44 would be developed into apartments for students and junior faculty.
- Building 41 would be demolished and rebuilt to house the DC Archives.
- Building 43, which provides the heating and AC system for the whole campus, would be demolished since all buildings would be rehabbed with their own systems.
- The Theater of the Arts would be improved and programmed in partnership with Van Ness Main Street.
- The tennis courts would be enclosed with more housing built above.
- The university would incorporate green roofs and solar as much as possible.
LeMaile-Stovall also mentioned the outdoor amphitheater, which UDC is moving to improve right away. The university wants to activate it as soon as possible in partnership with Van Ness Main Street and are asking for ideas from the community.
The draft campus plan is to be presented to the community for feedback in a couple of months, LeMaile-Stovall said. But he won’t be there to talk us through it. He is leaving UDC at the end of August to join Maryland’s technology and biotech incubator, TEDCO, as executive director and CEO. David Franklin, his deputy, will step into the role.