Peterson Companies sets stage for $30 Million conversion of Ontario Theatre

The Peterson Cos. plans to launch a $30 million redevelopment of the former Ontario Theatre slated to include 80 for-sale condo units and 9,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.
Courtesy of The Peterson Cos.

The Peterson Cos. plans to launch a $30 million redevelopment of the former Ontario Theatre slated to include 80 for-sale condo units and 9,000 square feet of ground-floor retail.

The Peterson Cos. is setting the stage for a $30 million redevelopment of the former Ontario Theater in Adams Morgan into an 80-unit residential condominium building.

Peterson demolished portions of the 62-year-old building’s facade in February in preparation for the six-story structure, which is also slated to include 9,000 square feet of ground-floor retail along Columbia Road and 17th Street NW. Peterson plans to start vertical construction this fall with an estimated completion of the building in spring 2015.

The Ontario will be the Fairfax-based developer’s first residential project in the District and would be one of the largest for-sale multifamily developments under construction in D.C. outside of CityCenterDC’s planned 216-unit Residences at CityCenter. Peterson has not yet settled on a new name for the planned building.

Stuart Prince, senior vice president of Peterson’s residential division, said he believes the site is the ideal place to launch his company’s first residential development in D.C. and is confident it will appeal to young professionals seeking to own space in the neighborhood between Columbia Heights and Kalorama. Peterson has retained McWilliams Ballard to market the planned units, which Prince estimated will start around $200,000 and could reach in excess of $600,000.

“We are looking more toward an urban buyer, and we view the neighborhood and downtown D.C. as the amenity,” Prince said. “I think we’ll certainly have a focus on young professionals, but I think we’ll have a fair share of empty nesters as well.”

Peterson bought the Ontario at 1700 Columbia Road from George Pedas in December for about $8.3 million, or roughly $475 per square foot, according to D.C. property records.

Prince noted the project comes as Peterson is wrapping up construction on its for-sale condominiums at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, and the Ontario’s redevelopment will allow Peterson to shift the workers involved in that project to the former movie theater.

The Adams Morgan neighborhood is made up of a collection of older buildings and eclectic architecture. Closer to 18th Street, Glancer Properties LLC is working to convert the historic First Church of Christ Scientist building at Champlain and Euclid streets into a 227-room hotel.

Prince said Peterson plans to showcase the building’s planned retail space to prospective tenants at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual real estate convention in Las Vegas later this month. He said he is hoping for a strong mix of retailers to help enliven the streetscape along Columbia Road. The 1700 block of Columbia Road includes a handful of apartment buildings and service-oriented businesses, including an insurance agency and a liquor store.

Peterson retained The Eisen Group to design the planned residential building. It will include a range of studio, one-bedroom and two-bedroom units, though Prince noted about 80 percent of the building will be made up of studios or one-bedroom units.

The building will include some tributes to the former Ontario, including some of the building’s art deco elements like a corner canopy, poster cases and “coming attractions” marquee signs. It will also feature private balconies, about 35 underground parking spaces and a rooftop terrace overlooking downtown D.C. and the National Mall.

, Staff Reporter-Washington Business Journal