Catholic University to Develop 8.6 Acres of “South Campus” Property

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The Catholic University of America (CUA) is in the early stages of developing 8.6 acres of campus property at the corner of Monroe St. NE and Michigan Ave NE. The property, referred to as “south campus,” consists of five individual parcels ranging from .07 acres to 5.21 acres in size (see map).

According to CUA chief counsel Craig Parker, the primary reason for developing the parcels is to generate revenue for the university’s plans to build three new campus dormitories on John McCormack Road. The University has reviewed proposals for the south campus properties from eight developers and expects to sign a letter of intent with the finalist by the middle of summer.

The university is considering a mixed use residential/retail development for some or all of the properties, although few details are available at this stage. Mr. Parker emphasized: “we can’t say for sure what is in or out of the project until we talk to the neighborhood.”

Similarly, Mr. Parker said no decisions had been made regarding building heights. He stressed that “height will be determined in collaboration with the neighborhood.” However, expectations are for taller buildings to be located close to CUA and Michigan Ave NE. Building heights would then decrease as the development approached residential areas.

“We are sensitive to the fact that there are single-family homes that are adjacent [to the proposed development] on the south side” said Mr. Parker.

Once a developer is selected, the university will start working with the community on the details of the development. According to Mr. Parker, outreach to local Advisory Neighborhood Commissions (ANCs) began in June 2006. More recently, CUA has participated in the D.C. Office of Planning’s Small Area Plan for Brookland.

CUA anticipates a two-year long process for drawing up the plans. This will include working with the District and the community to obtain the necessary zoning adjustments and planning approvals. Construction would not begin before the end of 2009 at the earliest.

Mr. Parker said that the university has a number of “guiding principles” for the project. One of the guiding principles is to ensure the development is an asset to the neighborhood. The objective is to create something “that reflects and contributes to the unique character of Brookland,” said Mr. Parker. He also stated the goal of improving connectivity between CUA and Brookland by making the Monroe St. bridge more attractive.

Another key tenet of the project is to include “neighborhood-serving retail” that complements the 12th St. commercial corridor. Mr. Parker noted that at neighborhood meetings, community members consistently mention the desire for more retail amenities in Brookland. Locating attractive retail stores next to the campus is also intended to make the university more appealing to prospective students.

CUA has evaluated the developers on a number of criteria. The selection process includes a review of their financial and organizational strength, their track record working with D.C. neighborhoods, their track record successfully delivering similar projects, the quality of their vision, their architectural strength, and the quality of their construction. Mr. Parker stated that the project will adhere to all city norms and regulations for affordable housing.

Catholic University has found it necessary to build additional dorms on John McCormack Road due to the success of their efforts to increase enrollment. In the mid to late 1990’s undergraduate enrollment dropped to approximately 3,000 students. CUA has recently brought levels back to approximately 4,000 students. The sale and/or lease of the south campus properties will fund the construction of the new dorms.

Mr. Parker was enthusiastic about the possibilities the development had for both the university and the neighborhood. “We have the opportunity to make a really unique place,” he said.

Note: the editor of Brookland Heartbeat has a part time job at Catholic University.