By Southwester Staff
Along a nearly empty sidewalk adjacent to a closed elementary school, the screen over a chain link fence in Southwest flutters gently in the unseasonably cool spring breeze. It surrounds an empty lot where, were it not for the COVID-19 pandemic, the sounds of children playing might be intermingled with workers shouting orders over hammers and saws. The future of the site now seems as unclear as the prospect of returning to so-called normal anytime soon.
As financial markets are roiled by the pandemic, some building projects are being put on hold. The Shakespeare Theatre Company’s “The Bard” project has been shelved until further notice, according to the press office.
The Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) and the developers on “The Bard,” Erkiletian Development Company, “are taking a pause to see how the financial markets respond to Covid-19,” said an STC spokesperson in an email. The project was approved by the D.C. Zoning Commission last June, and construction was set to begin in the fall, according to a 2019 STC news release.
The project’s planned unit development (PUD) was approved in January 2020, explained STC Executive Director Chris Jennings. “During this time,” Jennings wrote to the Southwester, the company “proceeded with the schematic design and development phase to create a LEED Gold certified building that will be energy efficient, environmentally conscious, and externally in accordance with nearby residential spaces.”
On March 24, 2020, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser ordered the closure of non-essential businesses, including theaters. Meanwhile, construction projects were excluded from the order as essential businesses. The STC had begun “implementing some special considerations for the SW community, like special discount nights,” which Jennings explained have been suspended temporarily “while…theatres are closed.”
“The Bard,” as approved by the city last year, is to include “administrative offices, rehearsal spaces, and a costume shop for Shakespeare Theatre Company, as well as condominiums, including several affordable three bedroom options for D.C. families,” according to the STC news release. The site marked for development is the empty lot on the corner of I and 6th Sts. SW, adjacent to Amidon-Bowen Elementary School and across I Street from the Duck Pond. The lot currently sits vacant.
The STC has “decided to pause” The Bard “due to the current coronavirus crisis.” However, Jennings wrote, the STC is “looking ahead” to when it can “break ground on STC’s new administrative home.”
Author’s Note: This is part of a series on the redevelopment of the old Southeastern University site inSouthwest. These articles serve to provide information for the greater community, and not to take aside on the development debate.