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District Seeks Developer for Lincoln Theatre Properties, Reaches Deal with Howard on Bond Bread Building Exchange

Thursday, April 24, 2008
Press Advisory for Immediate Release

(Washington, DC) Mayor Fenty on Thursday announced the District will develop two city-owned properties behind U Street’s historic Lincoln Theatre and use a portion of the funds generated by the project to support the theater’s ongoing operations.

“The Lincoln Theatre has an incredible history and great potential,” said Mayor Fenty. “This is a perfect example of what we can do when we leverage our assets to get better amenities for our neighborhoods.”

The District has issued a solicitation seeking development partners to build on two city-owned properties and above an alley located behind the 88-year-old theater. The site could accommodate about 90,000 square feet of development and the potential uses include office, hotel or housing – any housing built on the site must reserve at least thirty percent of the units for affordable housing. A preliminary analysis of the site suggests office uses, particularly to house non profit organizations, are the strongest use for the site and would provide shared parking for the Lincoln Theatre. But the District also found that housing and boutique hotel uses may also be feasible.

The Lincoln Theatre is owned by the District government, but it is managed by the non profit U Street Theatre Foundation. The non-profit organization is slated to receive a five-year license agreement beginning this summer with the District to continue and expand its management of the theater. The District is also requiring that any development will provides ongoing financial support for the theater and include at least 7,500 square feet of flexible event space, including a restaurant-quality kitchen, which would be managed by the theater management.

The District’s support of the theater has been ongoing, including $1.5 million for capital improvements that are nearly complete. For years, the District has provided the non profit with annual operating support directly from the city budget. Mayor Fenty in his proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2009 proposed $500,000 in operating support for the theater. This new approach could provide the theater with a sustained funding stream, which would enable the theater managers to focus more on programming. Bids for the sites are due on July 18, 2008.

The Lincoln Theatre project is an important element of the “DUKE: Development Framework Plan for a Cultural Destination District within Washington, DC’s Greater Shaw/U Street” plan, which was approved by the DC Council in 2005. The framework plan lays out an ambitious agenda for accelerating the rebirth of the corridor by adding new housing, retail, restaurants and cultural attractions.

Mayor Fenty also announced on Thursday that the District recently signed an Exchange Agreement with Howard University, where the university will receive the District's Bond Bread Building at 2114-2146 Georgia Avenue, NW. In exchange, the District will receive a 63,400 square foot site owned by Howard at the intersection of Florida Avenue and Sherman Avenue, NW.

The exchange – which was approved by the DC Council in December 2006 – will make way for the long-anticipated Howard Town Center, a project where the first phase will include more than 300 units of housing; more than 70,000 square feet of retail including a full service supermarket; and parking spaces.

The District plans to issue a solicitation for a development partner for the site it receives to develop a mixed-use project with more than 300 units of housing – 30 percent of which will be affordable. The project will also likely include neighborhood servicing retail and offices. This solicitation will be released this year.