Thanks to a great tip by Elevation DC, the Hill is Home learned about a new development project slated to become a café with upstairs apartments near Watkins Elementary (1247 E St. SE). We caught up with the site’s developer/owner to learn more about what he’s hoping for the space.
LW: Why did you pick that particular site for a café?
HH: The property on 1247 E St. SE, has historically been a mixed-use property, with an intended retail space on the ground floor per the original design dating back to 1898, when it was a corner store. We acquired the site as a mixed-use property, with the ground floor used as office space for many years.
In developing our plans for the property, we relied on a few pointers in deciding on the future use of the ground floor:
- Our discussions with neighbors and previous tenants of the property revealed that many neighbors felt that the neighborhood could use an additional public space where people could meet and grab something to eat or drink.
- My own experience from European cities where I have enjoyed the presence of small retail shops on every street.
- The location itself with its large windows, multiple entrances and availability of outdoor space lends itself perfectly to a neighborhood amenity.
- The field at Watkins Elementary will generate foot traffic. We are concerned that we’re not in a major commercial area or on a thoroughfare, but we are hoping that there is enough activity at Watkins to support the space in addition to immediate neighborhood traffic.
- The demographics of the Hill East neighborhood.
Ultimately, we had the space and we thought that converting it from an office function to a neighborhood amenity, specifically a light foot and beverage outfit such as a café, is a good idea.
LW: What type of cafe do you hope for it to become?
HH: While no marketing/design plan has been formulated, I can see the café being a blend of institutions like The Coffee Bar (S and 12 St. NW), Big Bear Café (R and 1 St. NW) and Pleasant Pops (Florida and 18 St. NW), with a change in offering that would appeal to a younger crowd and their parents because of its proximity to Watkins.
LW: Do you hope for outdoor seating? Alcohol sales?
HH: We do hope for outdoor seating; a key asset of the property is the availability of a large outdoor space set back from the street and on a corner lot, making for an appealing setup. We are just a half block from Pennsylvania Ave. without the noise or traffic. And at this point, we aren’t planning for alcohol sales.
LW: Do you have any interested operators or are you having any conversations with people who might be interested?
HH: We have not commercialized the space nor reached out to anybody to gauge the level of interest yet. Our main effort is the renovation of the residential part of the property, which should be wrapped up end of November and at that point we will start marketing the space.
LW: As a resident of Hill East this is all really exciting! When do you think the cafe could open?
HH: I think we should have something going by spring 2015.