Plans by 4250 Connecticut’s owner, Bernstein Management Company, to lease retail space and to upgrade building facade have ceased as the University of the District of Columbia pursues a lease-purchase of the property.
UDC is seeking the DC Council’s approval first for a three-year master lease, then capital budget funding for purchase. Troy LeMaile-Stovall, the chief operating officer of UDC, told ANC 3F’s November 20th meeting UDC is optimistic that it will hear about capital funding this budget cycle.
“The District has not told us no, that they are not going to provide the funds. It’s just a matter of when,” LeMaile-Stovall said.
UDC is pursuing a master lease of 4250, first and foremost, for swing space. The university has had to “completely abandon” Building 41 because its 40-year-old HVAC system is failing. Some staff and classrooms are moving into the former Walgreens at 4225 Connecticut. Building 44 is next on the renovation list. “We’ve had issues almost on an hour-by-hour basis” with the HVAC system, said LaMaile-Stovall.
4250 Connecticut would be used as office and classroom space during the renovations, and it would continue to serve that purpose if UDC succeeds in securing funding for a purchase of the building.
If the DC Council agrees to a purchase, UDC wants to convert Building 44 into student housing. A public-private partnership would fund this renovation. If UDC does not get the funding for the 4250 Connecticut purchase by the end of year two of the lease, UDC will look at other options on campus for student housing.
UDC planned to submit the contract for a three-year master lease of 4250 to the Council for December approval. UDC is also working on a Letter of Intent with Van Ness Main Street on activating retail at 4225 Connecticut (the former Walgreens) and 4340 Connecticut (the UDC law school) as soon as possible, and at 4250 Connecticut once “we get clarity that we’re going to have it for the long term,” LaMaile-Stovall said.
UDC expects to hire a broker to handle the retail at all three locations. UDC hopes to have one on board within three to nine months and retail leased in 4340 and 4225 Connecticut within the next two years. Stovall was most optimistic about leasing out 4340 Connecticut first. While it waits for news from the Council about funding the purchase of 4250, UDC will entertain short-term leasing and pop-ups that do not require lease improvements.
Retail is important to UDC, LaMaile-Stovall said, in attracting and providing jobs for students. But it also “has to be retail for the neighbors, for the embassies, for commuters, and we will be looking for help from all of you to guide our decision-making.”
Another guide, he said, is a 2017 retail study, which was a partnership between UDC, Van Ness Main Street and Bernstein Management. This study took into consideration the demographics of the resident, worker and student populations and found far greater demand and than spending in the neighborhood on grocery, general merchandise, clothing, and health and personal care. It also found considerable unmet demand for full-service and fast-casual restaurants, building materials, home furnishings, and electronics and appliances.