Residents Question Maple View Flats Development, City Officials Optimistic About Starbucks

Residents gathered last month seeking answers and opportunities at a meeting organized by Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White. Photo: John Muller

In his first public appearance following a series of controversial remarks on control of the weather, Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White (D) at the R.I.S.E. Demonstration Center in Congress Heights last month faced a group of constituents with questions and concerns about the inner workings of the Maple View Flats development on the 2200 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.

“We want to give some updates,” said White. “I want to go back real quick to figure out how we got here.” While reviewing the development’s timeline, White asked activist Charles Wilson to confirm his facts. White continued, “I guess, around 2012, Tim Chapman won the bid for Chapman Development for the Big K Liquor site, which eventually became the Maple View Flats project. And I remember during that time it was a lot of turmoil … it was a lot of meetings.”

At yet another meeting, without the aid of any visual presentation or handouts, officials representing Chapman Development, Bozzuto Construction, the Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity and Councilmember White’s office fielded questions and concerns from residents who expressed frustration with the development’s apparent lack of reciprocal employment opportunities and community benefits.

When completed, Maple View Flats, on the former Big K site, will contain 114 affordable housing units, within a building frame of 116,000 square feet, across four levels of Type V-A wood-frame, over a one-story podium and two levels of parking totaling 52,000 square feet of below-grade parking. Features of the development include a rooftop amenity terrace, community room, bike storage facility and fitness center. On the ground floor will be 15,000 square feet of street-facing retail space where city officials have announced Starbucks Coffee has an interest in opening a 2,500-square-foot Opportunity Cafe.

Construction Timeline
Despite two days of high-profile protests last month, which caused workers to be sent home early, according to Nick Fratino, a project manager for Bozzuto, 40 percent of construction of the $50 million Maple View Flats development is complete. Fratino announced Bozzuto was still accepting up to seven subcontracting applications for opportunities to complete remaining work including caulking, garage striping and asphalt, fencing and gates for garage access, alley and brick caulking and electric work for secure door entry and security cameras.

“Our concrete actually topped out last week, [March] the 21st,” said Fratino. “Tracking to finish our wood framing by early May. Looking for the building to be completely weather-tight in July. And then we’re going to be moving into unit turnovers in September, October, which is everything contained within the building.”

The completed building is expected to be delivered by November of this year.

Starbucks Opportunity Cafe
According to city officials, the Starbucks planned for Maple View Flats is part of a national initiative launched in 2015 to bring Starbucks stores to 15 “diverse low- to medium-income communities by 2018.” Last year, an Opportunity Cafe, which has been used in other countries, opened in East Baltimore. Approximately eight stores have opened as part of this program. The Starbucks in Anacostia would follow this model, according to officials with the Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity.

Similar stores designed to create job opportunities for youth and support local economic development have opened in Ferguson, Mo., Phoenix, the Jamaica neighborhood of Queens, N.Y., and Chicago’s Englewood neighborhood, with other stores planned to open in Birmingham, Long Beach and Miami. These stores aim to strengthen local communities by creating jobs, working with minority-owned businesses and providing job training spaces for nonprofits to engage with local youth.

“Starbucks at Maple View Flats would be a game changer for Anacostia!” Forest Hayes, senior advisor in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Greater Economic Opportunity, declared in an email following the meeting. “We are determined to provide a fair shot for all District residents to share in the prosperity of our great city.”

Resident Reactions
Throughout the meeting, a number of residents seeking employment opportunities rose to speak, along with those who offered personal insights and advice gleaned from previous experiences with community development work.

Native Washingtonian Anthony Moore, whose father Robert Moore served as Mayor Marion Barry’s first director of the Department of Housing and Community Development, encouraged local activists to strategize and organize “before the shovel is in the ground.”

Residents demanded that officials explain the circumstances of the city’s transfer of the Big K lot to Chapman Development for $1. Jauhar Abraham, an apparent informal advisor to Councilmember White, repeatedly said, “We need a meeting with Tim [Chapman].”

Native Ward 8 resident Robin McKinney, who recently purchased a condominium around the corner from the development on Talbert Street, attended the meeting to gather information for herself and neighbors who have watched the vertical construction rise amid their panoramic sightline of the city. “Most of the constituents that live in this single member district, where the flats are located, want a Starbucks and other stores,” McKinney said. “We are ready for a positive change and we are moving forward.”