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Paul's Wholesale Florist Co. Inc Moving Out of Washington

Guest Scott

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A week ago, Dennis Paul made a decision that could drive his business out of D.C.


The second-generation owner of Paul's Wholesale Florist Co. Inc. put the 1.9-acre parcel on Eckington Place -- north of the intersection of New York and Florida avenues NE -- up for sale.


Co-owners the Paul family and the Abdow family of McCallum Sauber Wholesale Florists Inc. -- the last two remaining wholesale florists in the city with a 45 percent market share -- said that given the slate of planned mixed-use developments abutting them, they no longer fit in the neighborhood.


"It's a very reluctant decision on our part, and our first choice is to relocate in the District," Paul said. "We are not looking forward to moving to the suburbs."


Paul's move exemplifies the changing land uses within D.C., where development of residential and commercial uses in the popular mixed-use format is driving away industrial businesses. Already, most of the nearly half a dozen wholesale florists in the region are located in Jessup, Md.


A study conducted by the District's Office of Planning last year of industrial land in the city found that development pressures were especially threatening to sites located near Metro stations.


"We would love for them to stay on," said Deborah Crain, the neighborhood planner at the Office of Planning for the area in which the wholesale flower market is located. "FedEx and Pepco are still there, so I am not sure why the [wholesale florists] feel they have to move," she said.


"We would like to [stay] where we are now," Paul said. "But we don't want to be a nuisance to our new neighbors." The wholesale business by its nature involves deliveries and pick-ups starting at dawn, and use of large trucks, vans and supply vehicles that find it difficult to negotiate residential lanes with cars parked on both sides of the street. "We would rather be at a site where there's enough flexibility to support a business like ours," Paul said.


This is not the first time that these florists have had land-use changes drive them out of a neighborhood. Up until the mid-1980s, Paul and a half a dozen or so other wholesale florists used to operate in the blocks between 12th and 13th streets on H St. NW and between 13th and 14th streets on Eye St. NW.


Paul and the Abdow family sold their parcel facing Franklin Park in 1986 to Hines for redevelopment into two office buildings.


"We were 10 years late in moving out of there," Paul said. "All of the office development around us made it difficult for our customers to find parking and their vehicles were towed. Our location became a big problem."


The florists fear a repeat of such a scenario when in a few years from now Trammell Crow Residential completes more than 600 residential units southeast of the flower center.


Already, the neighborhood to the north has seen building up of residential homes and condominiums. After more than four months of mulling over their options, the florists asked Cassidy & Pinkard Colliers to market their site.


The site is expected to generate interest both from commercial and residential developers, said Jane Shister, senior vice president of Cassidy & Pinkard Colliers, who is handling the listing.


A new owner can build as much as 500,000 square feet of office or hotel space without needing a zoning change. While a residential developer would have to seek rezoning of the site.


The florists would possibly lease back the center until they found a new home. However, the 52,740-square-foot industrial/flex building developed at a cost of $7.5 million for wholesale flower sales may not survive under the new development plans.

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