(Washington, DC) – Today, Mayor Muriel Bowser and the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) announced a plan for a new grocery store to come to the long-vacant retail site at Capitol Gateway Marketplace, located in Ward 7 at the intersection of East Capitol Street NE and 58th Street NE.
“Earlier this month, we were proud to celebrate the groundbreaking of the new Lidl Food Market at Skyland and today, we will restart this long-stalled project and take the steps necessary to deliver a full-service grocer and other retail amenities to the residents of Ward 7,” said Mayor Bowser. “Our residents and families East of the River deserve an array of fresh and healthy food options and we will not stop until that goal is fulfilled.”
Mayor Bowser has requested the Council of the District of Columbia authorize the use of eminent domain in order to initiate action at the long-stalled Capitol Gateway Marketplace and make the long-promised grocery store a reality. Absent eminent domain authority, the site – located in an area underserved by fresh food retailers – will likely continue to sit vacant until at least 2037, since there is no legal or financial reason for the developer to advance the project.
Plans for a grocer and mixed-use building at the site were introduced in January 2002 as part of a Planned Unit Development (PUD) that also envisioned senior housing, affordable, moderate, and market-rate housing units for purchase and rent. The Capitol Gateway Marketplace was to include a grocery store, a sit-down restaurant and a mixed-use building with 312 residential units and 18,000 SF of ground-floor retail uses. In 2016, the retail anchor, Walmart, abruptly withdrew from the project. Since then, the developer has not delivered a grocery store, other retail or any residential units, and the entire site has sat vacant.
The need for a new grocer in the Ward 7 community is urgent. Food access is a critical social determinant of health, and it is in the public interest to provide where lacking. There are currently only two existing full-service grocery stores in Ward 7, serving 80,669 residents, of which 92% are African American. Only 3 of the District’s 79 full-service grocers are located East of the River. By comparison, some neighborhoods west of the river average one grocery store per 10,000 residents. The Capitol Gateway Marketplace site is located in an area census tract defined as having low income and low food access by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The delivery of a new grocer at the site would put an additional 10,700 residents living East of the River within one mile of a grocer.
The eminent domain authority is one of several critical steps to bringing a new grocer to the site. DMPED has also submitted a contract for Walmart to pay the District $6.685 million to take assignment of its sublease, which will help the District move forward with future development at the site. In addition, DMPED has secured a preliminary commitment from one of the largest grocery store operators in the area to deliver an approximately 55,000 square feet grocery store that would anchor the Capitol Gateway Marketplace and bring fresh food options to the community. DMPED will work to make a formal announcement on the grocery store in the coming weeks.
“Providing access to fresh food and advancing delayed projects are top priorities for Mayor Bowser,” said Deputy Mayor John Falcicchio. “On Tuesday, our partners on the Council will have the opportunity to work with us to deliver a new supermarket in Ward 7 and fulfill a promise to our residents that was made at the turn of the century. Food justice is an emergency, and together we need to take these immediate, bold actions to deliver it.”
Mayor Bowser’s efforts at Capitol Gateway are part of the Mayor’s broader effort to increase food access to underserved areas of the District. Most recently, the Mayor created a $58 million Food Access Fund and changed the Supermarket Tax Credit to focus eligibility on areas most in need of grocery stores, expand support to more fresh food retailers, and add community engagement requirements for grocers. Additional food access efforts include the Nourish DC Collaborative Fund created to provide flexible loans, catalytic grants, and technical assistance to emerging and existing locally owned small food businesses in the District.
“Today we are setting in motion a significant breakthrough in the long-stalled development of Capitol Gateway. When this legislation is passed, we will be on the fast track to opening another new grocery store in Ward 7. Though the East End of the District remains underserved, we are making progress to eliminate food deserts and bring equity to residents of Wards 7 and 8, who live with far fewer grocery and shopping options than residents who live west of the Anacostia River,” said Ward 7 Councilmember Vincent C. Gray. “Earlier this year we broke ground on a new Lidl grocery store in Skyland. We will continue to find public resources and work with partners in the private sector to develop retail options and deliver amenities to residents in underserved neighborhoods.”
The Capitol Gateway project began with a $30.8 million HOPE VI grant awarded to DCHA in 2000 from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to redevelop East Capitol Dwellings, Capitol View Plaza, and Capitol View Plaza II (collectively “Capitol Gateway”). The HOPE VI contract covers a combination of several parcels bisected by East Capitol Street and adjacent to the Prince George's County, Maryland line.