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Housing, Hotel and Wegman’s? The Possibilities Floated for Former Fannie Mae Site

***Published February 28, 2017 by UrbanTurf

Late last year, Japanese developer Sekisui House and Roadside Development partnered up to purchase Fannie Mae’s headquarters at 3900 Wisconsin Avenue NW.

Now, Roadside is visiting with community stakeholders to solicit ideas and get feedback on what the developers are interested in seeing on the ten-acre site.

The primary, E-shaped building will likely be the only structure currently on-site that will be retained. Built in 1958, the steel-frame building has no columns inside and Roadside envisions that the legs could house different uses.

At a community meeting on Monday night, Roadside floated ideas, including using the northern leg as a space for arts classes and performances, the southern leg as a hospitality space with uses like a spa or hotel, and the center leg as a restaurant. Another idea is to take advantage of the grade change by inserting a high-end grocer — Roadside mentioned Wegman’s as an option — under the northern leg of the building. Other retail and restaurants would be arrayed behind the E-shaped building along a pedestrian through-way.

Roadside pointed out that the challenge is to bring people into the body of the site from the street rather than to have traditional ground-floor retail framing the street as can be seen further down Wisconsin Avenue. The development team has already met with the Historic Preservation Office to discuss the idea of using glass structures to extend the legs of the E toward Wisconsin Avenue or inserting other structures on the sides of the site to invite people inward.

The roughly 2.5-3 acres of green space just between the outer wall and the Fannie Mae building will be activated into some sort of community amenity space, with potential uses to include an interactive fountain, performance area or wintertime ice-skating rink. Rodman Street will also be extended to create a direct connection to the park behind the site where 39th Street dead-ends.

Eventually, the site is expected to house as many as seven buildings that will include a mix of housing including condos, apartments and townhouses, as well as below-grade parking. Roadside is aiming to develop the site by-right rather than seek a planned-unit development.

While plans are forming, they remain in the nascent stages. Fannie Mae isn’t relocating its offices to their future home in the old Washington Post headquarters for at least another two years. Roadside expects to continue meeting with the community over the next 30-45 days before returning with more-detailed plans.

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