Stephen Starr’s planned Italian restaurant/market for the Georgetown Market building has been delayed as the restauranteur and the developer seek approval to take over the historic building. This is according to multiple sources familiar with the process. Despite the delay, however, the project does seem likely to proceed eventually.
The issue at the heart of the delay is one that GM has discussed many times before. As GM wrote in 2019 when he first reported the project:
The plans for the space were shown and described. As you can see from the floor plan above, the idea is that there would be a market/bakery/gelato/espresso area in the front of the building. And then the rest of the space would be taken up with space for the kitchen and seating areas for the restaurant. It would appear then that the market element of the plan would be rather small, one might say token. That’s notable since federal law actually requires the space to be used as a market.
In other words, in order to be approved as a tenant, the concept needs to satisfy the requirement that it actually be a market. The initial proposal apparently did not fully satisfy that. (GM reached out to Starr Restaurant Group and Jamestown Properties, which manages the property, but did not hear back.)
The DC government is required to sign off on the project, which it has not done yet. Additionally, the Citizens Association of Georgetown also needs to sign off on it. This is because CAG originally sued DC in the 1980’s to compel the city to actually enforce the market requirement (which itself is a product of a 1966 federal law). CAG’s suit came in response to the state of the market as it was run by Herb Miller’s Western Development since 1979. It alleged that Miller wasn’t operating the market as a true food market in the vein of Eastern Market but was instead hosting vendors selling snacks.
Miller’s venture went kaput in 1985. CAG settled its action the same year. The settlement was fairly explicit in what would satisfy the market requirements. Here are a few of its provisions:
The market remained vacant for years after this settlement was reached. But in 1992 Dean and Deluca arrived. And since Dean and Deluca’s business didn’t quite meet the requirements of the 1985 settlement, an amendment was signed in 1992. Given that that amendment was tailored specifically to Dean and Deluca, and new amendment is necessary for the Stephen Starr proposal.
CAG representatives inform GM that they are very much in favor of the project although they did request that the market component be increased from the original plan. GM understands that Starr agreed.
The city still needs to approve the proposal. But GM has learned that “good news is on the horizon” on that front. Of course approval is still just the first step. Actually constructing the project and getting all the necessary licenses, etc., will take time as well. So keep up hope, but maybe don’t hold your breathe in the meantime.