UDC expects its Connecticut Avenue retail will be fully leased by next summer – and restaurants, a grocery store and a fitness center are among those interested in the spaces, a university official said.
UDC’s new chief operating officer, David Franklin, spoke at the November 5th meeting of the UDC Community-Campus Task Force about the ground floor retail at 4250 (previously owned by Fannie Mae) and 4340 (the UDC law school) Connecticut Avenue. KLNB, a brokerage firm, was hired by UDC to find tenants for these spaces. Franklin said medical and financial services providers also showed serious interest.
As for 4225 Connecticut Avenue, for which UDC holds the master lease, UDC President Ronald Mason said there has been little interest from retailers. The building has been empty since Walgreens closed its Van Ness location in 2015. However, Mason said Wilson High School is looking for additional space, and that this building might be a possibility.
ANC 3F Commissioners David Cristeal and Carolinn Keubler, along with Commissioner-elect Stan Wall, brought up the possibility of building up 4225 for housing, given its prime location at a Metro station and in the midst of a commercial corridor. Although UDC does not own this building, Mason suggested forming a focus group including ANC commissioners and Gloria Garcia, the executive director of Van Ness Main Street, to brainstorm ways to activate this site.
The next major discussion of the evening was student enrollment. Mason said the university lost about 600 students for the fall semester due the pandemic, which has impacted university enrollment across the country.
Enrollment was falling short of UDC’s goals prior to the pandemic, however, and its draft 2021-2030 Campus Master Plan has no clear goal. Both Hall and Cristeal pressed UDC on growing enrollment significantly given that Van Ness needs a vibrant campus to support its businesses. They also said they would support removing an enrollment cap imposed by the Zoning Commission a decade ago. An early version of the 2011-2020 Campus Plan set the goal at 10,000. It was instead capped at 6,000, due to community concerns at that time.
Avis Russell, UDC’s general counsel, said she would take this recommendation back to the Board of Trustees for consideration.
UDC’s strategic plan, “The Equity Imperative,” sets a 2028 goal of 6,000 students for the entire university, which has three campuses. The current enrollment at Van Ness is about 2,200. At a previous community meeting on the campus plan, Franklin’s predecessor said the Van Ness campus has capacity for 10,000 students.
Previous campus plan discussions have included adding student housing at two campus locations, by renovating Building 44 and decking over and building on top of the tennis courts. Franklin confirmed that the university eventually hopes to house around 600 students on campus. This moved the task force conversation to the tennis courts, which at one time were available for community use. In March, the DC Council approved a $2.4 million dollar contract for repairing and upgrading the courts. Cristeal brought up the issue of community use of the courts once the work is complete. Franklin said that was under consideration.