UDC is in negotiations with Bernstein Management Corporation that could give the university control of the office and retail space at 4250 Connecticut Avenue.
Troy Lemaile-Stovall, UDC’s chief operating officer, explained at the September 17th meeting of ANC 3F that UDC’s buildings are overdue for modernization, and the university needs swing space. Building 41 is currently being emptied, some of it into the former Walgreens at 4225 Connecticut Avenue. UDC controls the master lease for the Walgreens and has long-term plans to renovate and activate the retail, but in the short term it is using whatever space it can for offices and classrooms.
The next building set for modernization is Building 44. That is why UDC wants 4250 Connecticut, the office building being vacated by Fannie Mae in November.
UDC’s plans could include the retail space, as well. Lemaile-Stovall said he could not respond to questions about negotiations for the ground-floor retail due to a non-disclosure agreement with Bernstein. But he said everything was on the table, and he stressed that retail is an important component of a vibrant campus that is attractive to students. UDC partnered with Van Ness Main Street and Bernstein in a 2017 study of Van Ness retail possibilities, and Lemaile-Stovall reiterated UDC’s commitment to a continuing partnership with Van Ness Main Street in the development of an active retail area for students and the community.
UDC currently controls the ground-floor retail at 4340 Connecticut Avenue (the UDC law school), retail space at the UDC Student Center at 4200 Connecticut, and the former Walgreens at 4225 Connecticut. Adding 4250 Connecticut would put the university in control of nearly all the unleased retail space at Van Ness.
The only retail space UDC has activated is at 4340 Connecticut. Acacia Food and Wine is on the north side of the building. DC Public Libraries has control of another storefront at 4340. It’s currently the temporary home to the Washingtoniana Collection. Previously, the Cleveland Park Interim Library used the space. Next door, Van Ness Main Street has an office and a pop-up shop which can move when the street frontage is leased to a retailer.
Retail spaces in the UDC Student Center have been empty. However, UDC recently gave permission to Van Ness Main Street for another pop-up shop in the Connecticut Avenue storefront.
What impact will these negotiations have on leasing the retail space at 4250? And will plans for the facelift of the building move forward? 4250’s owner, Bernstein Management, was invited to the ANC 3F meeting but declined to send a representative. Bernstein President and CEO Josh Bernstein told Forest Hills Connection he couldn’t comment because of the non-disclosure agreement.
Gary Malasky, chair of Van Ness Main Street’s Economic Development Committee, thinks there is a way forward that satisfies the needs of all stakeholders. He writes:
Previously Bernstein has communicated significant progress in finding appealing retail tenants for 4250. This progress and Bernstein’s promised building improvements could be lost if UDC takes over the building.
A win-win for all parties, including the community, would be the following:
- UDC leases the office/classroom space it needs on the upper floors of 4250
- Bernstein maintains control the 4250 retail space
- Bernstein obtains control of UDC retail space in its other buildings
In this way, Bernstein can continue and accelerate the progress it has made in finding quality tenants to occupy 4250 and other vacant or under-utilized space presently controlled by UDC. In addition, Bernstein would have the capital to provide tenant improvement allowances which are typical in retail leasing.
Lemaile-Stovall hopes there will be a deal in time for a closed-door session of the UDC Board of Trustees meeting on September 26th. UDC wants to have this wrapped up by the beginning of October, at which time they would make it public. Then it would need approval from the DC Council’s Committee of the Whole, chaired by Phil Mendelson.