Foggy Bottom’s business scene has boomed since The Avenue opened last year, marking the start of increasing commercial investments by the University as it continues to develop nearby properties.
The deserted pit that stood at Square 54 just four years ago has become a more than 500,000-square-foot commercial and residential powerhouse, bringing in millions of dollars in nonacademic revenue for the University and the city.
Now called The Avenue, the complex includes an office building at 2200 Pennsylvania Ave., six eateries, 333 apartments, Whole Foods Market, Citibank, NIH Federal Credit Union and a children's day care. Four of the restaurants accept GWorld.
GW’s 60-year lease with the real estate firm Boston Properties is estimated to pump $9.1 million annually into the endowment for academics, financial aid and construction projects, like the adjacent Science and Engineering Hall. Washington Business Journal named the $220 million deal on The Avenue the "deal of the year" for 2011, calling it "one of the most successful mixed-use developments in recent history."
The apartment building is nearly 100 percent occupied a year after opening, Peter Johnston, senior vice president and regional manager for Boston Properties, said. The Avenue's 333 apartments go for $2,000 to more than $6,000 monthly, drawing in many young professionals, but he could not release more precise demographic information.
“I think, without exception, all of the retailers’ sales are exceeding their expectations, and I think anyone who’s gone to those establishments can attest to that,” Johnston said, adding that he could not estimate The Avenue's revenue total since opening.
Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz, who oversaw the University’s development of The Avenue, said the neighborhood has transformed in the last year. He pointed out that he commonly saw just one taxi near the Foggy Bottom Metro two years ago, but now sees "a gazillion" in the evenings, with businesses bustling throughout the day.
“There’s people coming from all over the city,” Katz said. “It’s becoming a real destination.”
The Avenue has become a model for future development sites, like the segment of Pennsylvania Avenue that GW plans to turn into office space with ground floor retail. The Science and Engineering Hall and the structure along Pennsylvania Avenue will also feature retail space – likely restaurants, Katz said.
Katz added that leasing land to restaurants has allowed the University to free up about 50,000 square feet previously used to provide food service in GW buildings.
The Avenue was one of 29 finalists in the Urban Land Institute’s Global Award for Excellence, which recognizes properties that make a positive impact on their neighborhoods.
Foggy Bottom resident and adjunct professor Myron Belkind coined The Avenue the “Champs-Elysées of Foggy Bottom,” after the iconic Parisian street known for its luxury shops and cafes.
“All the bustle of the area, with diners enjoying their meals and drinks and camaraderie in an outdoor setting,” remind Belkind of the streets of Paris, he said.
Junior Max Lesser said the complex revolutionized campus dining when it opened last year. As a freshman in Thurston Hall, Lesser said he would visit J Street even though he did not enjoy its options and considered it a waste of money.
He began purchasing his groceries from Whole Foods after it opened and still returns to the complex even though he lives off campus.
"If I’m going to eat on campus, I eat here," Lesser said while finishing a meal at the Mediterranean restaurant Roti.
"The ground floor retail has really added to the neighborhood and community and I believe that ground floor retail is something that the community has always wanted," Foggy Bottom and West End Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Asher Corson, an alumnus, said.
Sarah Ferris and Kierran Petersen contributed to this report.