Washington's "Heart and Soul"

Speculation about the fate of the site of the old convention center in Washington D.C. has been rampant for years. It finally looks like a deal is in place.

Hines and Archstone-Smith are the main developers of what will be an $850 million blockbuster project.

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and a commercial development team have agreed on an $850 million deal to build retail shops, apartments and condominiums on public land where the city's former convention center once stood.

The development will be built on two-thirds of the 10-acre parcel, which is the largest undeveloped property in the District's urban core south of Massachusetts Avenue.

The mayor, in a news conference yesterday morning at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, said the project would become the District's new retail center.

"This project will be -- in almost anybody's definition -- the heart and soul of downtown," Fenty said. "A live, work and play environment unlike anywhere else in Washington, D.C."

The development team of Hines and Archstone-Smith plans to build two office buildings, two condominium buildings and two apartment buildings on the land, with construction slated to begin in January 2009. About 20 percent of the housing will be reserved for low- and middle-income tenants. The developers plan to complete the first buildings in 2011.

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