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David Adjaye-designed mass timber structure will be a business incubator for D.C.-area entrepreneurs

Retail Centers

David Adjaye-designed mass timber structure will be a business incubator for D.C.-area entrepreneurs

The building is all-electric, equipped with PVs, battery storage units, and heat pumps.


By Peter Fabris, Contributing Editor | June 2, 2023
Construction was recently completed on The Retail Village at Sycamore & Oak,
Rendering courtesy Adjaye Associates

Construction was recently completed on The Retail Village at Sycamore & Oak, a 22,000-sf building that will serve as a business incubator for entrepreneurs, including emerging black businesses, in Washington, D.C. The facility, designed by Sir David Adjaye, the architect of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, is expected to attract retail and food concepts that originated in the community. 

The building, located in Congress Heights, which has a 38% poverty level—more than double the District’s average rate, will provide a venue for job creation in the economically disadvantaged neighborhood. Michelin star chef and humanitarian Jose Andres will mentor Retail Village restaurant owners. The project was partly conceptualized and will be fully managed by members of the Congress Heights community.

The structure was constructed with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)-certified, sustainably harvested mass timber. The entire structure, built using screws instead of nails, can be taken apart and reused.

A plinth is used as a focal point for gathering and creates a viewing deck into the multiple programs held in the education centers, as well as for retail incubators, outdoor dining spaces, and a performance pavilion. The structure is open-air with a canopy that offers protection from the elements and cultivates a sense of intimacy or ‘community within community’ when visitors gather underneath.

An environmental canopy collects rainwater and generates electricity from photovoltaic panels. An all-electric building, Sycamore & Oak will demonstrate the efficiency and effectiveness of solar energy, battery storage, heat pumps, and induction cooking, according to a news release. Some of the furniture used locally sourced wood from recovered street trees.

The project, scheduled to open the public on June 14, has already won an award from the D.C. Department of Energy and Environment for demonstrating equity and inclusion in sustainable construction.

On the project team:
Owner and/or developer: STE15 LLC, a joint venture of the Emerson Collective and Redbrick LMD
Design architect: Sir David Adjaye, Adjaye Associates
Architect of record: Winstanley Associates
MEP engineer: CSCE
Structural engineer: Structurecraft
General contractor/construction manager: Banneker Communities

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