Will the redeveloped Reeves Center 'bring back Black broadway?' New proposals place heavy emphasis on the arts, and could include a Dave Chappelle Comedy Club, restaurants, and a Songbyrd Music House location.
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Will the redeveloped Reeves Center 'bring back Black broadway?'

People cross the street at the intersection of 14th and U Streets in 2018, with the Frank D Reeves Municipal Center building in the background. Pablo Martinez Monsivais /AP Photo hide caption

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Pablo Martinez Monsivais /AP Photo

Two development groups seeking to redevelop the historic Frank D. Reeves Municipal Building, located at a vibrant intersection along the U Street corridor, made their revised pitches during a hearing Thursday night. The proposals feature a range of ambitious cultural and entertainment standouts, including a potential food hall, a hotel, and a Dave Chappelle Comedy Club, according to the proposal documents.

The District first solicited ideas in 2020 to convert the 97,000-square-foot government building at 2000 14th St. NW into a "mixed-use development with office space, affordable housing, and neighborhood serving amenities." The Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development reworked the request for proposals in December, citing a need to move complex IT systems from the building, which currently houses multiple city agencies. Mayor Muriel Bowser's administration also wanted to make the bidding process more equitable and the updated RFP placed an emphasis on honoring the U Street Corridor's Black history and culture.

Two minority-led groups have emerged as the front-runners. One group, Reeves CMC Venture, comprises team members from CSG Urban Partners, MRP Realty, and Capri Investment Group; the other, Legacy Community Partners, is led by the Menkiti Group, Dantes Partners, and EB5 Capital. Washington Business Journal first reported on the new proposals.

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Both proposals include a new headquarters for the NAACP, which announced in 2020 it would relocate from its Baltimore offices. They are also required to include at least 100,000 square feet of office space, according to WBJ.

Reeves CMC is planning a 535,955-square-foot development that would feature a 116-key hotel, 322 units of mixed-income housing, and space for arts groups and educational programs. Specifically, it would feature retailers, including a "restaurant concept" by Top Chef contestant, restaurateur, and author Carla Hall, as well as a comedy club bearing Dave Chappelle's name. He's reportedly building a separate club in Ohio. (Chapelle, a D.C. native, has stirred up local controversy in recent years over transphobic jokes he's made — the comedian announced last year that a theater at his alma mater Duke Ellington School of the Arts would no longer be named after him.)

The group's plan also includes a 17,000-square-foot Frederick Douglass Plaza and 200-seat Marion Barry Jr. Amphitheater. One wing of the building would be home to a number of arts nonprofits and businesses, including the VIVA School of Dance, dance studios for The Ailey School, recording studios for the Washington Jazz Arts Institute, and a child development center run by Christian Tabernacle.

A look at the arts and culture offerings included in the Reeves CMC plan. Reeves /CMC Venture hide caption

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Reeves /CMC Venture

The Legacy Community Partners plan focuses on a Marriott-owned Moxy Hotel with as many as 180 rooms, and a 296-unit multifamily residential development with a complex featuring townhomes and senior housing. A Marion Barry Square would bring in guests with a 8,500-square-foot food hall with 13 businesses, Constellation Theatre Company performances, a D.C. Central Kitchen training hall, and a Northwest D.C. location for Songbyrd Music House.

Both developers say they will "bring back" or "revitalize" Black Broadway — the nickname for the U Street Corridor that once buzzed with performers and Black-owned arts and entertainment businesses. Their plans also include renovated parking accommodations and room for the farmer's market that currently operates on the corner of 14th and U Streets each weekend, per WBJ.

The city says it will stick to its original deadline and begin construction by summer 2025.

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