Sunday, April 29, 2012

Riverside at Poplar Point Place

Pobrecito de Jeff Epperson.

Dude bought some land on Poplar Point, intending to develop a half-billion dollar mixed-use project. He tried to get Walmart, then he tried to lure a Homeland Security contractor. But eight years later he hasn't drawn a tenant or acquired the lots that separate the parcels he does own. Now his land is going to auction.

Presumably some new speculator will purchase these 10 properties for the same reason Epperson bought them in the first place: The city and federal governments have visionary plans for just about every square inch of land in all directions around the site.

(1) Poplar Point; (2) Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge; (3) Barry Farm; (4) St. Elizabeths West; (5) St. Elizabeths East; (Not Shown) Anacostia Streetcar Extension.

But this can't all happen at once, and you hear much less buzz these days about Poplar Point than you do about the District-owned portion of Saint Elizabeths, or nearby Skyland, due in no small part to the selected Poplar Point developer withdrawing its winning proposal three years ago. And the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) won't even begin to think about breaking ground on the South Capitol Street project until the three new spans of the 11th Street Bridge, located just upstream, are complete. The new Sheridan Station is a nice reminder (though not without problems of its own) that the Barry Farm plan is underway, but at last week's budget oversight hearing, the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) stated that the redevelopment plan from 2006 needs to be updated and his office will soon solicit a new master planner for the site.

One dark horse player to keep an eye on at Tuesday's auction is Bob Nixon. The Hollywood producer-turned-activist and founder of the local non-profit Earth Conservation Corps (ECC) believes that developing the wooded Poplar Point would be an act of environmental injustice, and he put up this sign on the the two lots his organization owns to prove it:

Earth Conservation Corps will be an important ally to the District Department of the Environment (DDOE) in achieving a number of the objectives outlined in its new Vision for a Sustainable DC, such as cleaning up the Anacostia River. But Nixon's zeal to keep Poplar Point au naturale conflicts with Mayor Gray's sustainability goal of adding 250,000 net new residents to the city's population, many of whom will presumably live in new neighborhoods and housing units created on previously undeveloped sites like Poplar Point.

No matter what, the federal government will require that the Poplar Point developers retain at least 70 acres of parkland, but if Nixon wants to block development completely, he could start by taking his checkbook up to the office of Alex Cooper Auctioneers.

On Tuesday, Epperson and company will say adios to the bulk of their Poplar Point holdings, owned officially by Poplar Point North LLC, Poplar Point South LLC, and Poplar Point One LLC. Interestingly though, they will not be letting go of three small properties owned by Poplar Point East LLC (to the author's knowledge, there is no Poplar Point West LLC), suggesting that the persistent developer may not be quite ready to give up on Poplar Point completely.