Michele V. Hagans' years-long effort to create a large-scale retail development took an important step to becoming reality when Hagans, a number of elected officials, businesspeople and members of the community took part in a groundbreaking ceremony at the construction site on Ft. Lincoln Drive in Northeast.
Among those at the February 2 groundbreaking included Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.); Mayor Vincent C. Gray (D); Victor Hoskins, deputy mayor for Planning and Economic Development; D.C. Council Chairman Kwame R. Brown; Councilmember Vincent Orange and Brian Monday, regional president for TD Bank.
When the project is completed, The Shops at Dakota Crossing will boast a 430,000 square-foot retail center, which will be anchored by a Costco, Shoppers Food Warehouse, and Marshalls. The rest of the space will be home to local, regional and national retailers.
Hagans, managing partner of Fort Lincoln Retail, LLC – the joint venture team developing the project that includes CSG Urban Partners and Trammell Crow Corporation – represents an economic renaissance for Ward 5 and the District.
"This has been a long time coming," said Hagans, 62. "This is the vision I had in the 1990s."
Hagans, who is also president of the Fort Lincoln New Town Corporation, said she expects Costco to open its doors in November of this year and the other stores will follow. She said she is in negotiations with another major retailer but declined to name the company until a deal is completed.
All along, Hagans said, the original master plan envisioned a town center with one million square-feet of government office space.
"After my father's death, I saw this as a great retail site so we changed the master plan to include retail. This is really my vision. Development was always my father's (goal) and I kind of stepped it up. This has some fingerprints of mine," she said with a chuckle.
Hagans elaborated on what it means for the city and community.
"This will have a huge impact on the city and attract dollars inside and outside of the city," she said. "We will start a new trend and reverse old regional shopping habits: We are working not only to keep D.C. dollars in D.C., but also to increase the inward flow of suburban dollars generated from the thousands of commuters who pass by this location on a daily basis."
The shopping center is located just inside the District line by South Dakota Avenue, N.E. and very close to Route 50 and I-295.
Bob King, a longtime Fort Lincoln resident and Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner, exulted over the prospects of the project finally coming to fruition.
"I've been an ANC commissioner for 29 years and I spent 25 of those years supporting the project," he said. I've guided this along with Michele Hagans through zoning, (the concerns of) residents, getting and losing anchor (stores). The groundbreaking was a heck of a day for me. Dr. Martin Luther King used to ask, "How long? Not long. People would ask me, How long? Not long!"
King said the retail center will offer amenities that Ft. Lincoln residents and those in surroundings areas have long craved. For too long, he said, residents who live in the area have not been able to enjoy the benefits of high-quality, large-scale retail projects.
"It's a great day for me and the seniors who make up the majority of the residents in Ft. Lincoln," he said. "They can't even buy in bulk. They have to have 'buying clubs.' We will have two sit-down restaurants and a bank."
One resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said she'd believe it when she sees it. She said she has been waiting for this promised project since she moved to Ft. Lincoln decades ago.
"They have had groundbreakings before, made promises and nothing's happened," she said. "I hadn't heard about this groundbreaking and none of my neighborhoods talked about it so I guess nobody knew. They have made promises and those promises have been broken."
Among the "neighborhood friendly" amenities are a centrally located Main Street, several public plazas providing outdoor seating and dining and for pedestrian activity, open spaces and enhanced walkways that link those on foot to nearby communities.
King said any number of reasons is to blame for the project taking almost 30 years to become reality.
"Like anything else, we had to get anchor stores," he said. "Shoppers agreed to come then backed out, and deals for other stores that would have been anchors fell through. There were competing developments across the city – the economy had a lot to do with it."
Hagans said the project had to overcome a range of infrastructure and related problems, including the issue of curtailing additional storm water runoff, wetlands issues and "a couple of development partners who didn't share my vision."
But she lauded the commitment of retailers like Costco, which she said, hung in with her through the labyrinthine process. City officials have also partnered in demonstrable ways, financially and otherwise, Hagans said.
"The city is really part of this agreement," she explained. "They have had a continual oversight role in this project ... the land is federal land never owed by D.C. but now they will have 44 acres of tax revenue."
City government officials have given $10 million in tax incremental financing (TIF), which Hagans anticipates will be repaid in the first five years after the project opens from tax revenues; and an additional $5 million.
"The number dollars the city has contributed based on the revenues makes this a win-win for everybody," she said.
Hagans said the 44-acre site will be environmentally friendly, create 1,200 permanent and construction jobs, and shoppers will be able to take advantage of 2,000 parking spaces. Sustainability plays an integral role in the construction aspects of the project. The anchor stores will be Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) - certified buildings and designs that will keep their carbon footprint minimal. Some buildings will have garden roofs, others cool roofs. Storm water runoff from parking lots will be collected and filtered and rainwater from anchor stores' roofs will also be collected, directed to cisterns and used to meet the center's landscape irrigation needs.
Gray and Hoskins are most pleased with the expected $634 million the $60 million development will generate over the next 30 years. Of equal importance they said, is that Dakota Crossing will help keep some of the estimated $1 billion a year in revenue that migrates to surrounding jurisdictions.