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WUSA 9: Sense of Community Emphasized at Campus Groundbreaking

November 09, 2011

Monroe Street Market — a $200 million mixed-use development on The Catholic University of America’s southern edge — will unite the University and surrounding neighborhoods, several speakers said this morning during a groundbreaking ceremony for the project.

The University has partnered with developer Abdo Development, residential real estate company The Bozzuto Group, and real estate investment company Pritzker Realty Group on the project, which will ultimately consist of a progressive mix of uses: approximately 720 residential units, 45 townhomes, 83,000 square feet of street-level retail, 15,000 square feet of artist studio space, a 3,000 square-foot community arts center, and 850 parking spaces.

Before a tent overflowing with spectators, Catholic University President John Garvey joined Tom Bozzuto, chairman and CEO of The Bozzuto Group, and Jim Abdo, president and CEO of Abdo Development, on a cloudless morning for the groundbreaking. Also present were representatives of the partnering companies along with D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, D.C. Councilmember Harry Thomas, Jr., and other D.C. government officials.

Garvey said Monroe Street Market was important to both the University and the neighborhood and that it provides the “opportunity to strengthen our relationship with Brookland and provide [it] with access to the same amenities our students will enjoy.”

He also noted the new neighborhood will enhance the student experience at CUA.

“We need to worry not just about where students take their classes and where they go to church, but also their access to retail, restaurants, arts, and culture,” he said. “All of these things are going to be possible in the neighborhood for the first time in ways they weren’t before.”

Mayor Gray said the planning and cooperation that went into creating the development should serve as a “prototype” for “how to craft constructive relationships between universities and the communities within which they live and the communities that they serve.”

“All too often we spend time fighting about whether universities are going to have their students living on campus or off, whether their growth is going to encroach on life and the amenities in the community,” he explained. “This [Monroe Street Market] is exactly the opposite. Catholic University is integrating itself in the community by bringing retail, amenities, and a constructive relationship to the University and the surrounding community.”

Abdo noted that while some universities are known as “land grabbers,” Catholic University was putting 8.9 acres back into the city’s tax base.

“They’re doing that to further their vision, to make their experience at Catholic better, but also, and probably more importantly, to create connectivity to the very neighborhoods that surround them, to enhance the experience of Brookland.”

The Bozzuto Group has a history of working with higher education institutions, says Tom Bozzuto, and it’s something he takes much pride in.

“As we start Monroe Street Market, we understand that we are not just starting a real estate project,” he said. “We are adding to the neighborhoods and improving the connection between the University and these neighborhoods. We take that responsibility very seriously. We will be contributing members of this community.”

Councilmember Thomas said that “making sure the project connects to the community and neighborhood” is the most important part of the real estate development.

One of the hallmarks of Monroe Street Market is a large plaza that will be located directly across Michigan Avenue. It will be named Bishop O’Connell Square in honor of former CUA president, Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M. It was during his tenure that the vision of developing the University’s south campus took shape.

Although Bishop O’Connell, who now serves the Diocese of Trenton, N.J., was unable to attend the ceremony, his remarks were read by Abdo.

“I was privileged to play a small part in the transformation we celebrate today,” he said. “I am deeply grateful for, yet undeserving of, the naming honor you have given me.”

Cathy Wood, vice president for finance and treasurer, was recognized by several speakers for her pivotal role in ensuring the project stayed on track. Garvey noted that she had put “more time and energy into it than anyone else.”

“I am very pleased that we had the groundbreaking,” Wood said after the ceremony. “There’s been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into this project. It is so exciting for Catholic University that we are experiencing this groundbreaking today. It’s going to transform the area.”

Although she will have graduated by the time the development is complete, senior politics major Leslie Martin of Parsippany, N.J., said she was “inspired” by the project and the cooperation among so many city leaders to bring it to fruition. Martin, who is also speaker of the Student Association General Assembly, said she thinks Monroe Street Market will draw more students to the University and that one day she’ll be a “proud alum” who will return to see its completion.

The groundbreaking took place on the University’s campus near the corner of Michigan Avenue, Northeast, and 7th Street Northeast, where the development project will commence.

The multi-phase development is located on five city blocks in Washington, D.C.’s Brookland neighborhood, adjacent to the Brookland-CUA Metrorail station. The first phase, consisting of 562 residential units, is scheduled for completion in summer 2013.