IMA Pizza Backs Away From Barracks Row
by Larry Janezich
IMA Pizza will not open its quick casual pizza restaurant at 415 8th Street, SE as planned. In a letter to the many community entities involved in bringing the new business to Barracks Row, Streetsense – the building owner- says “the combination of the unusually lengthy Special Exception process and the multiple demands and constraints imposed” on the proposed business’ owner, Steve Salis, were responsible for the decision. Salis is now said to be concentrating his efforts on another market within the city.
The Special Exception process refers to an exception from the zoning regulations for Barracks Row which bans fast food restaurants. Getting an exception requires any new fast food restaurant to meet more than a dozen criteria and it appeared that IMA Pizza was well on its way to achieving that, having already gotten the approval of the Capitol Hill Restoration Society. The application for the exception was scheduled to come before ANC6B’s Planning and Zoning Committee on February 7. In addition, there seemed to be wide spread support for the restaurant in the community.
All this raises the issue of whether the special exception issue was the determining factor in the decision. Salis, did not respond to a request for comment. (Ed. note: Salis subsequently did comment, as follows: “It really came down to the timing of everything. I was hoping for a spring launch when this all started, but realizing this was not feasible due to a handful of things that have been out of my control I had to pursue other opportunities in order to meet my spring delivery goals.
Obviously unhappy at the turn of events, the Streetsense letter goes on to say their goal is to lease the space to a user that will activate and enhance the 400 block of 8th Street, SE, but notes that the “process to do so has been extremely challenging.” The letter closes with an expression of concern that financial pressure on the project – which will be ready to lease by the end of March – “may require us to depart from the original goal.”