By C.N. Staff Writer
The long-talked about Skyland Shopping Center, which sits at the crossroads of Good Hope Road SE, Naylor Road SE and Alabama Ave. SE, held its groundbreaking in mid-March. The Ward 7, 18.5- acre site will be anchored by Wal-Mart and maintain the existing CVS that currently sits in the center.
Mayor Vincent Gray, a Ward 7 resident of Hillcrest, led the ceremony along with other councilmember’s and development partners said, “If we got nothing else done in this administration,” said Gray, a resident of nearby Hillcrest, “we were going to get Skyland done.” Gray made the Skyland development a centerpiece of his 2010 campaign.
The dilapidated shopping center will produce the Wal-Mart and mixed-use building with 100,000 square feet of retail space and 263 residential units. That number will eventually rise to 480, including 48 affordable units. Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander (D) said the center will create three hundred construction jobs as well as permanent jobs which she said she hopes will go to D.C. residents.
The development timeline is set to begin this year, with the land development and utility work scheduled for completion by late summer 2015. Phase one of the project will include the vertical construction and the actual building of Wal-Mart along with the residential build out, of about 250 apartments. The current CVS will be remodeled and by September 2017 the center hopes to have its ribbon cutting ceremony.
Recent Ward 7 resident, Christen Hill, said, “I can’t wait to see the center developed. I moved to this area from the Brookland neighborhood because of the affordability, but there are no amenities. I hope the center will bring more entertainment so I can spend money in the community.”
The project is comprised of a development teacm that includes a partnership between Rappaport Cos., WC Smith, Skyland DC LLC, the Marshall Heights Community Development Organization and the East Washington LLC, an affiliate of the Washington East Foundation. The $220 million project will include 476 residential units and 342,000 square feet of retail at build-out.
Community residents have said they are happy to see the project move forward after last year’s threat to halt the project after the District Council passed the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA). The LRAA bill would have require Wal-Mart, and other non-union big box retailers, to pay minimum hourly wages and benefits of $12.50 an hour. Wal-mart officials said if the mayor signed the bill into law they would pull out of the Skyland development, but Gray vetoed the bill.
Gray said, “Folks have been waiting for three decades for something to be done at Skyland.” Once completed, the development will be one the largest real estate project in a District neighborhood east of the Anacostia River.