Metro wants to fetch at least $2.15 million by selling a large corner lot in Columbia Heights. The catch? The land, covering more than 7,000 square feet, is currently home to a dog park.
It is not officially managed by the city as a dog park, but it has been used as one since 2009. The lot features vent shafts for the Green and Yellow lines below ground. Metro considers it “surplus,” and hopes to use the proceeds from a sale to create “additional revenue for capital and operating expenses,” according to a Jan. 15 release. The transit agency is also marketing seven of its other surplus properties throughout the area—including a second in the District.
But the Columbia Heights lot is particularly valuable, situated at 1100 Park Road NW, on a row of popular restaurants. Furthermore, the parcel is within walking distance of both the Columbia Heights and Petworth–Georgia Avenue Metro stations. It is zoned for mixed uses already, helping to make it “prime for development,” as the transit agency said in its release.
Some residents see the site as more than a dog park, though, and are pushing the District to acquire it from Metro so it can be kept that way. It “is not only a dog park but a meet-up spot for community walks, cleanups, and events like Dia de los Muertos and ‘Mardi Paws,’” says Angelica Castañon, an advisory neighborhood commissioner for ANC 1A who represents the single-member district that covers the parcel. “It would be a shame to lose a space that is so vital to community health and engagement, especially since access to green space is expected to decline as new residents enter the District.” A nonprofit civic organization called 11th and Bark is petitioning for D.C. to bid for the land so that it can save and spruce up the dog park.
A spokeswoman for Mayor Muriel Bowser, whose administration would have to submit a bid to Metro to buy the land, says officials are assessing their options. If the District is unable to purchase the lot, it could always identify another site for a dog park, the spokeswoman adds.
Ward 1 Councilmember Brianne Nadeau, who represents Columbia Heights, also says this is an option. “We’ve started looking nearby for an alternative location,” she says. “That’s sort of Plan B. I haven’t given up [on D.C. acquiring the property].” Last year, after residents learned that Metro was weighing a potential sale, Nadeau was able to get $1.5 million set aside in the District’s capital budget to procure the parcel. Metro says it gave D.C. first right of refusal to buy the land “at market value” in 2018, but ultimately a deal between them did not work out.
A spokeswoman for the transit agency says Metro—through NAI Michael, the real estate firm it has retained to handle the disposition of its surplus properties—will accept letters of intent to purchase the parcels through February. “Metro has an obligation to taxpayers to get the highest possible value from any property sold,” she notes. “In the case of multiple offerors, there will be an opportunity to provide their ‘best and final offer’” before a transaction takes place. The parcel in Columbia Heights has a “minimum public asking price of $2.15 million.”
Castañon, the ANC commissioner, says she is hopeful that Bowser’s administration will make a “fair market value offer” on the property. Nadeau says she thinks this is possible, based on conversations she has had with the mayor, but would not want for the District to enter into a bidding war with private developers, out of concern for limited taxpayer dollars. “I will admit I wouldn’t recommend spending that much on a site if it wasn’t already in use,” she explains.
Whoever buys the dog-park site must keep the vent shafts unobstructed, according to Metro.