Kevin “Scooty” Hallums and Ian Callender at the site of the new Sandlot. Photograph by Eman Mohammed/Washington Business Journal.
Ian Callender stood in the middle of a rubble-strewn lot in southeast DC, surveying what will be his biggest project yet: Sandlot Anacostia. Tall, soft-spoken and dressed in a limited-edition North Face jacket and Jordan 4 Retro Raptor sneakers, Callender watched Suitland Parkway traffic meander past the dirt lot around him. “We are here at phase zero,” he said. It was evident.
But in June, this area east of the Anacostia River will be transformed into a nearly 28,000 square foot outdoor concert hall, event space and food garden. The place will feel more like a festival than a bar, with DJs, live go-go performances, freshly squeezed juice cocktails and a rotating cast of popular restaurants operating out of shipping container kitchens. There will also be a drive-thru pickup area intended to serve residents of surrounding communities whose nearby options are primarily fast-food chains. Ultimately, Sandlot Anacostia will become part of the Bridge District, an ambitious mixed-use development near the new Frederick Douglass Bridge slated to open in 2024. Groundbreaking for both projects is today. Sandlot Anacostia is set to open the weekend of June 16 with a Something in the River festival featuring free concerts and community events – inclusive film at Pharell Williams’ Something in the Water festival on the National Mall the same weekend , where passes start at around $300.
This will be Callender’s fifth Sandlot space in the area, one of a series of temporary gathering places located in previously vacant areas in Georgetown, Tysons and other locations. Sandlot Anacostia has a ten-year lease, making it the concept’s first foray into semi-permanence.
Callender, the son of Guyanese immigrants, grew up in Mitchellville and went to DeMatha. He learned about real estate from his mother, who started her own residential business. They often spoke of empty or abandoned spaces in the car on the way to church: “That would be a good barbershop or a market.” Essentially, Sandlot was born out of that kind of thinking. “I’ve always sought to identify space,” he says. “I just do real estate in another way.”
In 2005 Callender started an events company, which he still runs and which is now known as Suite Nation. He then launched the popular Blind Whino event space in a long-vacant Southwest church. The original Sandlot opened in 2019 near Audi Field. He is also involved with the Arena Social Arts Club, a DC nonprofit that showcases minority artists and curators, and serves as a Commissioner in the Mayor’s Office of Nightlife and Culture. An avid sneaker collector since childhood, Callender wears as many hats as designer shoes.
But the Anacostia Sandlot has a special meaning. He and a longtime friend and business partner Kevin “Scooty” Hallums cater to an area that isn’t well served by DC’s hospitality industry, and they plan to use the new space to spotlight black business owners, artists, and culinary professionals. They’re bringing a massive shipping container kitchen, food truck, and trailer, all free to restaurateurs, caterers, and chefs of color in hopes of bridging the food desert gap in Ward 8 and providing more food options. that the region lacks.
“Culturally, African-American entrepreneurs don’t have the advantages of our counterparts,” Callender says. “We expressed our support for DC natives and provided a path to success.” Part of his goal with the Sandlots has been to “show what our community needs, not just the black community, but the community as a whole. And that’s a beautiful thing.
A version of this article appears in the May 2022 issue of The Washingtonian.