Garden vs. grocery

That’s what the Capitol Area Development Authority (CADA) is now pursuing for its controversial Site 13, the block bounded by 14th, 15th, P and Q streets that is home to the Mandella Community Gardens.

CADA drew the wrath of gardeners last summer when it moved forward with plans to redevelop the site. But a proposal to include a smaller garden, housing and a grocery store—sorely needed in the central city—muted some of that criticism.

The request for proposals yielded three suitors. Two of these proposals included a grocery store, but CADA last week opted for the third proposal, Fremont Mews, which was submitted by H. Williams Advisers, Inc./The Spinnaker Companies.

“Including a grocery store created more intense usage [of the land] than we liked or the Capital Area Plan intended,” states Tom Kigar, director of Developmental Service at CADA. “Additional traffic, services, parking, all are impacts that we are concerned about. This site has always been seen as a residential site.”

Kigar explains that Fremont Mews achieves the vision of residential use set forth in the Capital Area Plan and creates an identity for this neighborhood by having housing on the streets, creating residential addresses and blending the proposed development with the current surrounding neighborhoods.

While voicing a desire for a grocery store, CADA required only two mandatory factors for any proposal they would consider: at least 45 residential units on the site and a minimum of 19,200 square feet for a community garden on the site or a 25,600-square-foot garden off-site.

All three proposals met these requirements, but only Fremont Mews opted to keep the community garden on-site, thus preserving the Mandella Community Garden presently situated on this block.

“The development of this proposal sees the community garden as an asset for development, indeed as an amenity,” Kigar said. “We see that as something valuable.”

Also giving the preferred proposal a boost was the announcement of plans to build a grocery store nearby at 19th and S streets.