The Corner at Eastern Market

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Location: Washington, D.C., USA. Capitol Hill area in D.C., historically significance, was a declining neighborhood

Sensitive design and a long-term commitment to one pivotal commercial block has helped turn around a declining neighborhood in Washington, D.C. The new development, known as The Corner at Eastern Market, has fostered a sense of location and fortified the local community’s pride in their surroundings. This project demonstrates the viability of architectural revitalization to attract ideal tenants and generate additional income in a troubled area.

The northwest corner of 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, S.E. defines one of the gateways to the U.S. Capitol; the Washington landmark is directly visible from the corner. In 1988, 7th Street, was in a state of decline. The local grocery store closed, Kresges soon followed suit, and other retailers were moving elsewhere. Area business and building owners, seeing no potential in their community, had invested little in their commercial properties. One developer decided to take a chance on the corner. He negotiated long-term ground leases on four adjacent lots and purchased a fifth. He hand-picked retail tenants, drawing seven of ten owner-operators from the surrounding Capitol Hill community. He used local surveys to determine what shops the community needed or desired, and gave them precedence.

At one corner, the developer had an existing single-story store with a basement. While renovating the property into sub-grade office and at-grade retail, he gambled that he could obtain a variance to increase the floor area ratio from 1.5 to 3.0 and to increase the lot’s height limit. He had the structure fortified with structural steel to support an additional three floors.

In order to reach a consensus on the design and function of the buildings, he met with numerous neighborhood community organizations. The site’s proximity to a Metro stop assisted in justifying the increase in density. The City approved, and the second phase of three additional floors was completed in 1990.

The developer took great care and expense to ensure that the facades of each building contributed to the artistic imprint of the corner. The buildings complement one another and the neighboring historic and contemporary buildings in exterior pattern, color and form. The addition at 660 Pennsylvania Avenue continues the art moderne style of the original Kresges building. Public spaces, such as the sidewalk cafes, were carefully defined to highlight the area’s accessibility and appeal.

The completion of The Corner at Eastern Market was the beginning of a process to transform the corner. The corner complements the Victorian Eastern Market at the opposite end of 7th Street, and together they have infused new life into 7th Street such that the sidewalks and cafes are now full of people not just on weekends, but on weekdays and nights as well. Pedestrian activity in the neighborhood has increased significantly while crime has decreased. Other local commercial property owners have begun to restore and improve their buildings.

Read more at this project's website.

Transect Zone(s): T5 center.
Status: Complete
Project or Plan's Scale: Building
Features: Mixed uses, Rail/fixed guideway transit, Transit oriented development.
Project team designers: Weinstein Associate Architects
Project team developers: Golding, Ken Stanton Development Corporation

Previous site status: Redevelopment


paytonc's picture

It's solid urbanism.

I didn't know much about the backstory when I visited this -- it was completely at the suggestion of another CNUer who happened to think of its coffee house when I suggested a meeting near Capitol Hill. Still, it's a great little mix of shops that turns the corner well (from Pennsylvania, which is clearly the main drag, to 7th, which has many small shops leading up to the public market). All local, independent businesses in a handsomely detailed, timeless building that pushes the envelope a little bit on the neighborhood's low-rise scale.