Pennsylvania Avenue restaurants await answers on GW construction plans

Hatchet File Photo

Media Credit: Hatchet File Photo

Mehran, an Indian and Pakistani restaurant on Pennsylvania Avenue frequented by students, plans to move to a new location in Foggy Bottom.

Correction Appended

Administrators have yet to pick a developer for its 11-story office building along Pennsylvania Avenue, which local business owners say has kept them waiting far longer than expected.

GW will demolish a row of townhouses and local businesses – some of which have sat on Pennsylvania Avenue for decades, like Thai Place, Mehran and Panda Cafe – to build the office complex early next year. But those restaurants still haven’t heard the final word about when they need to relocate their spaces.

Alicia Knight, senior associate vice president of operations, said last week that GW was still interviewing potential developers, but maintained that the project was not delayed.

“We are still on track and plan to make an announcement this spring,” she said in an interview.

GW had predicted it could begin planning construction as early as 2014, according to its website.

Businesses will receive six months’ notice from GW before having to vacate their locations, Knight said in January, but only one has left since the project was announced in November 2011. The D.C. Council recently held a hearing to resolve issues around an alleyway that will need to be adjusted in the construction process.

Five-year Mehran employee Kamran Khan said he expected to be notified by the University in March and has begun scouting new locations for the restaurant, including a spot on 21st and L streets, where he said rent is twice as expensive as their current location.

Panda Cafe manager Lisa Zheng said she has not heard anything from the University and does not know when they will be expected to leave their space.

Thai Place will move into their new location at 2101 L Street next month, and will keep their current location until the University kicks them out, though owner Dia Khanthongthip said Tuesday that she would prefer to stay in their current location.

“I like being here because it’s close to campus, and we’ve been here for over 10 years, so we know everything here: the students, the people working around here. We really love this location,” Khanthongthip said.

The only business to move out so far is Froggy Bottom Pub, which had been in its Pennsylvania Avenue townhouse for 14 years. It moved to a more upscale location on K Street last May.

Owner Hien Bui said the restaurant moved out early to ensure they got a better location, adding that the University was “very vague” about their construction plans.

“It is a very uncertain future over there. I don’t do that. I left because there was no guarantee that by the time it was time to leave, we could find a good location,” Bui said.

The University will put forward about a $4 million benefits package with the project, including perks like affordable housing on F Street, a real-time Metro information board, a subsidy for local businesses to lease office space and landscaping around the President Condominium at 22nd and I Streets.

The University will use revenue generated from the new office building for academic and research efforts, administrators have said.

This post was updated Feb. 28, 2014 at 9:40 p.m. to reflect the following correction:

The Hatchet incorrectly reported that the D.C. Council approved the reconfiguring of the Square 75 alleyway. The council held a hearing on the matter, but did not vote. We regret this error.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.