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August 18, 2010 Published in 2010 In Review, Business

As Businesses Close, Calvert Redevelopment Becomes Reality

By James Cullum

The shops and restaurants at the Calvert will be closed due to renovation by property owner UDR. (Photo: James Cullum)

In the next two years no one will live or work at the Calvert high rise on Mount Vernon Avenue.  Next week, the City will release a widely supported proposal from the property’s owner, United Dominion Realty Trust, to redevelop the property located near the corner of West Glebe Road.

Attorney Duncan Blair represents UDR. “This development will take a building that contributes very little to its immediate environs and create an active streetscape which then begins to link Del Ray with Arlandria, which is a catalyst of the recently completed Triangle project across the street, to create it as a more cohesive part of Alexandra,” he said. “Many people think Arlandria is in Arlington. It’s a development catalyst. It’s energy in the community.”

UDR bought the property six years ago, and, since then, added new elevators and a new electrical system. The building would be redesigned inside and out, including the V-shaped roof.  A five-story LEED certified apartment building would also be built on the property, increasing the number of efficiencies and one-bedroom apartments at the Calvert from 187 to 320. Shops and restaurants would also be moved closer to the street. There will be an underground parking garage to hold 500 cars, an outdoor plaza and green space.

All existing residential tenants at the Calvert have year-to-year leases. No new leases are being signed and UDR estimates that starting in 2012, the building will be empty from attrition.

Del Merei Grille owners Mary Reid and her brother-in-law Eric Reed will be closing in five weeks. (Photo: James Cullum)

Del Merei Grille owners Mary Reid and her brother-in-law Eric Reid will be closing in five weeks. (Photo: James Cullum)

One tenant, the Del Merei Grille, will shut its doors forever in five weeks. Mary Reid and her brother-in-law Eric Reid opened the restaurant five years ago. “The development is good for the neighborhood but it’s sad for us,” Mary said. “The landlord wanted us out. They want to have construction start in the beginning of 2012. It’s better to be the first one out than the last one out with these construction projects.”

In the interim,  “My parents own Monroe’s [1603 Commonwealth Avenue], so I’ll be there for sure. We’ll certainly keep the catering open,” Mary said. “I’m looking for a new space. Some people I know are saying to go to Arlington but I’m an Alexandrian and I’ll stay here. I also have two little ones and a husband who owns a landscaping company, so I don’t know right now.”

Del Merei’s last day is Friday, September 24. “We’ll do last call and keep the doors open as long as possible. We’re going to have a big party,” Mary said.

City Councilman Rob Krupicka favors the Calvert redevelopment. “The redevelopment will include new retail space closer to Mount Vernon Avenue with new and more parking in the back. There is a transition plan for stores moving into new spaces. The overall project has had a lot of community support,” he said.

Bombay Curry will be closing its doors after 15 years in business. (Photo: James Cullum)

The businesses at the Calvert include: Mia’s Market, Nail Chateau, Pho King [Vietnamese], the Bombay Curry Company, Video 8, Pizzaiolo Café and Bar, Calvert Cleaners, Alexandria Appliance Services and Jackson Hewitt Tax Services.

Christine Ponzi owns Pizzaiolo Café and Bar. “We’re under the same thing that’s going on with Del Merei and the Bombay Curry Company. We signed a confidentiality agreement and I can’t talk about what we’re discussing,” she said. “We’re in the process of negotiating when our lease will end, but we actually don’t know how much longer that will be. I think, from [UDR’s} stance, they aren’t going to be building anything for another year and I think they want to keep their tenants as long as they can.”

Mia Kim opened Mia’s Market 11 years ago. This year has been the best financially for her since 2007. “I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Kim said. “The store has become my life. I don’t know what I would do without it. Everyone loves it. It’s a little community store. I don’t know how much I have on my lease. I have to look, but it’s way past 2013.”

Kim concedes that Mia’s Market may be gone in the near future. “I want to stay, but I have a meeting next week with the landlord. If they give me a good offer, then I’ll move,” she said.

The Planning Commission will discuss the plan at their September meeting.