Sometimes, in the midst of a downturn, an idea comes up that many people can embrace and look forward to. So it may be with Georgetown developer Anthony Lanier’s latest idea: to turn the vacant property he owns at the prominent juncture of M Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW into an open-air market during the coming holidays — and perhaps beyond.
“It will be a kind of open-air food and retail place for Washingtonian mobile entrepreneurs,” the EastBanc founder said at the Georgetown-Burleith advisory neighborhood commission’s Sept. 29 meeting. “It will be a place of ongoing change for the neighborhood. But our primary objective right now is to have space to accommodate everyone who wants to celebrate the fall holidays. Initially, there will be setups for pumpkins, food, local vendors and retail.”
“We’re just developing ideas now,” Ian Callender, owner of Suite Nation — and self-described “cultural architect” — told The Georgetowner, as he checked the cleanup of the site on Oct. 8. “Mr. Lanier hired me to develop the property into a vibrant, usable community space out of an eyesore. We welcome ideas and partnerships with local groups and individuals. We’re considering how to have mobile vendors, tented and heated table areas and gathering places.”
The Rose Park Farmers Market at 27th Street is one local entity that may be jumping on board. “The market has been so successful this summer, with over 700 people attending a late August market and over 300 today,” said Gail Daubert, new Friends of Rose Park president, at the market on Oct. 7. “We are excited about the idea to extend it through the holidays at a space just a few blocks away.”
The property is a triangle, bordered by Rock Creek Park, M Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, across from the Four Seasons Hotel. Fronting on land belonging to the National Park Service, it was the site of a gas station for decades. When Lanier bought it five years ago for some $4 million, he remarked: “I think it’s one of the most important sites in the city. It’s the entrance of Georgetown and it shouldn’t be a gas station.”
Lanier hired Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura to design a building for the property and asked Georgetowners to “keep an open mind.” His plans, which have gone through several phases of review by the Old Georgetown Board, include a five-story building with residential units averaging 2,000 square feet each, atop what he has promised will be a high-end restaurant with an outdoor seating area.
“But because of the economic environment due to the pandemic, plans have been stalled. Now we are trying to figure out a symbiotic approach for usage of the property that will contribute to the Georgetown community,” Lanier said. “With a little bit of luck, plans will be completed and underway by November. Maybe it will go year ’round.”