For the past few years the development buzz that had been steadily growing around Ft. Totten, is now becoming a dull roar. Previous projects in the neighborhood, including K. Hovnanians continually growing townhouse develpoment and The Fort Totten Station apartment and retail complex, pale in comparison to the The Morris & Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation's newly approved project.
The Cafritz Foundation is a private non-profit development organization whose efforts are focused solely in the District of Columbia. Of the more than $314 million dollars in grants since 1970, a majority of their disbursements have been focused on one of 4 areas: Arts and Humanities, Community Services, Education and Health. None of their previous projects may meld these four areas together into one the way that the planned Art Place at Ft. Totten will.
The proposed and recently approved Art Place will reside on a 17 acre plot between Galloway and Ingraham St. NE along South Dakota Ave. The entire complex (once completed) will be comprised of an estimated 929 housing units, a 60,000-square-foot grocery store and a 47,000-square-foot museum. This monumental feat of construction would not be completed until 2017. In the near term, the first phase of construction is slated to start in a few months. Currently the land is occupied by the 1950's era Riggs Plaza apartments, an unassuming conglomeration of six to eight brick three level apartments. Some area and Riggs Plaza residents feel that the proposed plan is too grand and modern for the quiet neighborhood. These are the same residents who are controversially being forced to relocate to other properties in the city for the two years construction will take (the displaced residents have, however, been guaranteed residence in the new apartment complex at the same rate they currently pay). Others are welcoming to project with open arms, citing the added access to amenities and cultural attractions as benefits. "I think that the project will give a much needed boost to the local area's economy. The proposed children's museum and art center will give the community a much needed cultural center" said one local resident.
Combine the Art Place Development with the proposed conversion of Bertie Backus Middle School into the University of the District of Columbia's new Community College and you would have quite a complex residing at the corners of Riggs Rd. and Galloway St NE. No matter which way you slice it, the Ft. Totten Metro Re-Imagination is on the march. The one thing for sure is that you can either get in line or get out of the way.
**The Washington Post article about proposed Art PlaceProject