By: Aaron Kraut
A long-awaited mixed-use apartment and retail development is coming to the vacant lot at Carroll and Maple streets in Takoma, just across the Washington, D.C., line from the Old Town Takoma Park business district.
Chevy Chase-based real estate company Federal Capital Partners announced on Jan. 12 they acquired the $36 million, 156-apartment Takoma Central project. Despite Takoma Park’s reputation as a haven for the type of small, independently-owned shops that line Carroll Street, leaders there said the new four-story project with 8,000 square feet of ground floor retail should help the area.
The property has been bare since a different set of developers in 2006 proposed a condominium development and razed the auto repair shop that stood on the site. Pennye Jones-Napier, who owns The Big Bad Woof pet store across from the site on Maple Street, said it has left a large gap on Carroll Street. Grigsby said the Trohv gift and home goods shop that opened last April across Carroll Street has brought people across the District line into Takoma Park’s busiest commercial area.
“What we’ve seen is they draw new customers who haven’t been to this area before, and then those folks go find a cup of coffee, check out some of the other shops, or have something to eat in Takoma Park,” Grigsby said. “Since they’ve come, they look around to see what else there is.”
Last fall, Grigsby said 12 new businesses had opened in Old Takoma in the past two years while five vacancies remained.
Wade Casstevens, Federal Capital Partners’ vice president of development, said that low retail vacancy rate attracted his company to an area that hasn’t seen the type of transit-oriented, mixed-use development common in Bethesda, Silver Spring and Wheaton.
“We just sort of believe in that sub-market,” Casstevens said. “When we were doing retail research, there were not a lot of retail vacancies. We interpreted that to mean it was an attractive place.”
Jones-Napier said she’d like to see affordable retail space that features small businesses instead of large national chains.
“The Takoma community is very, very dedicated to supporting small businesses and there have always been problems with any type of chains coming in,” Jones-Napier said, “especially if they're going to hinder the business that’s done by the smaller businesses.”
Trohv owner Ben Homola said the potential for a mixed-use project across the street was one reason he chose his Takoma location. While his store relies on customers from other District neighborhoods who access Old Takoma by Metro, he said he’s garnered plenty of support from Takoma Park residents.
“If it was going to be a self-storage place or that type of project, I wouldn’t have moved here,” Homola said. “I have a very large number of regular customers all based in Takoma Park. I feel like we have been accepted.”
Federal Capital Partners joined Washington, D.C.-based Level 2 Development and Bethesda-based SGA Companies on the project, which will be built in two phases and completed by late 2013, Casstevens said.
Ward 1 Councilmember Seth Grimes, who represents residents near the Carroll Street business district, has been fielding questions about the project’s progress and impact. Grimes said he’s encouraged the building will include green features, including an underground garage, and doesn’t think the ground floor retail will hurt the Old Takoma businesses residents hold dear.
“It is transit-friendly development that will bring new businesses and new residents to a welcoming community,” Grimes said.
“I think it will be a great benefit,” Grigsby said. “It will help develop a contiguous commercial corridor.”