Businesses relocate in preparation for University building demolition

Media Credit: Sarah Urtz | Assistant Photo Editor

Both 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. and Rice Hall will be redeveloped into commercial spaces by 2022, officials said.

Two University buildings will be missing from campus when students return this fall.

GW partnered with the construction company Boston Properties in 2017 to demolish and redevelop 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. and Rice Hall into commercial spaces by 2022. Shop owners in the 2100 Penn complex said they were forced to relocate their businesses as a result of the demolition, which is slated to begin in October.

Sean Sullivan, the senior project manager at Boston Properties, said the University worked with his company to develop Residences on the Avenue apartment complex in 2011, and the company is “very eager” to work with GW to develop 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. and Rice Hall. Rice Hall will be demolished in August.

Sullivan said Boston Properties is also working with Pelli Clarke Pelli Architects and WDG Architecture to design the new complex. He said there are no plans for specific vendors to move into the renovated building at 2100 Pennsylvania Ave., but the building will include commercial spaces, like restaurants and a daycare.

“The selection and lease negotiation with specific retailers or restaurants will develop over the next two years,” he said in an email.

Sullivan said the District Department of Transportation still needs to review the final traffic control plan while the demolition is underway, which will limit parking spaces on Pennsylvania Avenue and 21st and I streets. He said Boston Properties plans to complete the redevelopment plan in the first quarter of 2022, and retail spaces will open the following year.

University offices previously housed in Rice Hall, including the Title IX office and the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, were relocated to other campus buildings earlier this semester to prepare for the demolition.

University spokeswoman Maralee Csellar deferred comment to Boston Properties.

Cathy McNeal, the manager of Esteem Cleaners, which was previously located at 2100 Pennsylvania Ave., said the University’s notification at the end of last year about the demolition was a “shock and surprise” because her business had been housed in the building for about 30 years.

“For them to run out small business and try to tear it down and put in a new corporate development with just restaurants, it’s not fair,” McNeal said.

McNeal said she initially worked with Mark Diaz, the University’s chief financial officer, to find a new location for her business when she was first notified about the demolition, but she has not yet been able to find a new complex to lease.

McNeal said she moved out of the complex in March and has been taking customers’ clothes to be cleaned at Bubble Cleaners in Arlington, Va. until she finds a new location.

“I’m just trying to keep everything together so if we get the place that we want on K Street then we won’t have much of a problem in trying to build that business back up,” McNeal said.

Alvaro Pessotti, the owner of Kiko’s Shoe Shine, said he closed his shoe repair company in 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. last month in anticipation of the demolition, but he still owns a shoe shine in The Shops at 2000 Penn.

“There is nothing that I can do,” he said. “I had to shut down the business. I lost all the clientele that I did for several years on that place.”

Pessotti said there is “no guarantee” he will be able to return to the 2100 Penn complex after renovations are complete because the building will be under new management.

Antonio Puglisi, the owner of Puglisi’s Hair Cuts, said Boston Properties notified him of the demolition last year and gave him an initial Dec. 31 deadline to move out of the complex. Puglisi said he worked with Boston Properties to extend the deadline because he could not immediately find a new location, and his business will move out of its current space in 2100 Penn Saturday.

“I’ve been here all my life, 60 years,” he said. “We have a good business. People who come in the shop for 40 or 50 years, for generations of family.”

Puglisi said he struggled to find a new location because the cost of rent is relatively high in the neighborhood, but he eventually negotiated with Boston Properties to occupy a space in The Shops at 2000 Penn.

Jody Rosenstein, the director of operations at the patent law firm Sunghrue Mion, PLLC, which is housed in offices at 2100 Pennsylvania Ave., said her employees are excited about the redevelopment of the building because they will relocate to the eighth and ninth floors of The Shops at 2000 Penn.

“I’ve been here 30 years and I thought, ‘Well, the building could use a little love, so if it’s going to come down and have a new building, I think that’s great,’” she said.

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