The Slumbering Development Giant That Grew Overnight in 2021

  • December 23rd 2021

by Nena Perry-Brown

While the DC area continues to transition to a new pandemic-era status quo, the time has come once again for UrbanTurf to reflect on the state of real estate over the past year. This week, we refresh our collective memory with a 2021 Year-in-Review series.

Friendship Heights

Recent years have been rough on the Friendship Heights neighborhood, which exemplified the culmination of the retail decline hastened along by the Covid-19 pandemic.

In 2020, a slew of shops in the neighborhood closed, creating over a half-million square feet of vacant commercial space, and the Mazza Gallerie mall sold at a foreclosure auction. This spring, the Urban Land Institute released a report on the status of the neighborhood that straddles DC and Maryland and what could be done to revitalize this "naturally-occurring retirement community", where no new housing had been built since 2010.

By the end of the year, however, signs have begun to emerge that change is on the horizon.

A section of potential heights and densities, from ULI report. Click to enlarge.

At least 1,000 new units of housing, along with tentative plans to reposition the retail environment, have been proposed along this slice of the Wisconsin Avenue corridor over the last nine months. In late May, developer Tishman Speyer announced that the Mazza Gallerie mall would be redeveloped into a residential/retail project, and another slate of announcements followed shortly afterward.

Massing of 5500 Wisconsin Avenue development. Click to enlarge.

In June, a proposal surfaced to replace the former Brooks Brothers and Saks Jandel site on the Maryland side of the neighborhood with 380 apartments above 15,000 square feet of retail and a woonerf. A food hall was announced in July, just as signage went up for one of the area's first Amazon Fresh grocery stores. The Abraham and Laura Lisner Home for Aged Women also got the entitlement ball rolling to add 93 affordable senior units to its site on the DC side of Western Avenue.

Preliminary massing for Friendship Center redevelopment. Click to enlarge.

And the momentum only continued in the fall, with another proposal shared to raze and redevelop the Friendship Center site with 350 units above 12,000 square feet of retail. Last month, several neighborhood stakeholders formed a BID-like alliance, just as new plans came to the fore to pursue a 214-unit redevelopment of the former WTTG-Fox 5 headquarters on Wisconsin Avenue after its tenant relocated to Bethesda this past summer.

The preferred redevelopment vision identified by ULI. Click to enlarge.

And ample opportunities remain to redevelop sites in the neighborhood. The WMATA bus garage is slated to be replaced in 2025, creating the opportunity to co-locate housing as part of new construction, and the site of the former Lord & Taylor department store is also in play. Amid all of these projects also comes the opportunity to improve the pedestrian and bicyclist experience along the neighborhood's main thoroughfares, another aspect the ULI report detailed extensively.

UrbanTurf looks forward to how this new pipeline continues to evolve throughout the next several years.

See other articles related to: year in review 2021

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/the-slumbering-development-giant-awakened-the-neighborhood-that-grew-a-pipe/19061.

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