Monday, December 09, 2019

Valor Development Moving on New Residential near H Street Corridor

Developers are set to break ground this month on an $11 million dollar residential project that will bring 84 new condominiums to DC's H Street Corridor.  The five story building will  replace vacant church buildings at 1350 Maryland Avenue NE, at the intersection with 14th Street and south of H Street.

1340 Maryland Ave. - Rendering: Valor Development
Will Lansing of Valor Development, project developer, told DCMud plans call for one and two-bedroom units and a roof deck.  Former plans called for a mix of retail and residential, but the latest of the iteration of the project is residential only.  Eichberg Construction is the general contractor on the project and the architectural firm is PGN Architects.  Launched under the moniker The Maia, the name of the project has also changed, Lansing said.  The building's new name is The Maryland.

"I think it will be a nice [building] for that neighborhood," Lansing told DCMud.  "For the most part, that neighborhood is all row houses, a scattered bunch of small condo buildings, but otherwise mostly apartments, so we’ll be pretty much the only condo inventory coming online in that neighborhood for a while."

DC's District Department of Transportation (DDOT) says it expects to start streetcar service with 10 stops along a two mile stretch of H Street by 2014.  The city also says this first of several lines in the proposed future $1.5 billion DC Streetcar project, when it goes online, will raise property values all along the H Street corridor.  Now, two retail clusters anchor the east and west ends of the corridor, and The Maryland is on new developments are sprouting up beyond the street too.

*Amanda Abrams contributed reporting for this story.

Today in Pictures - DC's First Walmart

Washington D.C.'s first Walmart may be a year from completion, but the building is already well underway.  The mixed-use building at 77 H Street, NW, broke ground this spring, the first of 6 planned for the District to get underway - an 80,000 s.f. Walmart in the middle, apartments on either side.

"The planning and preparation is moving ahead quickly," said Charlie Maier, an outside spokesman on behalf of Chevy Chase-based JBG Companies. JBG Rosenfeld, JBG's sister company which focuses on mixed-use retail and will also partner on the project. Walmart has already signed its lease for the site, which will be known going forward as 77 H, as it will line up along H Street on its southern edge.

MV+A Architects, which designed the Whole Foods at 15th and P as well as mixed-use projects in Tyson's Corner, Alexandria and Herndon, along with The Preston Partnership, creator of the Kentlands plan in Gaithersburg will serve as designers, Maier said. JBG has already gotten its construction and zoning permits for the apartment and retail complex that will be built on the site, he said. "We've already started planning for a groundbreaking," he said.

Earlier this week, parts of the Ward 6 site along H Street, not far from Massachusetts Ave., and Union Station had been fenced-off and signage erected. The complex will include about 300 apartments on 280,000 feet along H Street and an 80,000 square-foot store. 

Washington, D.C. retail and real estate news


Q and A with Francisco Beltran and Angel Betancourt
by Beth Herman

Very much a family affair, the revered late 1980's-era Woodley Park Lebanese Taverna, 2641 Connecticut Avenue NW, is one of six restaurants, four cafe's and a market in the industrious Abi-Najm kin's epicurean gallery. Undergoing a complete demolition, Principal Francisco Beltran of Design Republica and project manager Angel Betancourt of Potomac Construction Services reimagined the 165-seat, 4,300 s.f. space. DCMud spoke with Beltran - veteran of more than 100 restaurant designs - and Betancourt about the venue, which reopened in early November.

DCMud: From a general perspective, what did the renovation entail?

Betancourt: It was a total demolition resulting in a more open feeling and contemporary design.

DCMud: Did anything survive the former design?

Betancourt: We did retain the cross-vaulted ceiling, though removed a lot of beams so the ceiling looks higher.

Beltran: The cross-vaults were something the family had invented back in '88, and that became the heart and soul of the restaurant. However previously, they'd had bulkheads that concealed air ducts and crossed the dining room horizontally that connected at points of the cross-vault. When we removed them, the illusion of a much grander ceiling, though it was already at 15.5 feet, was created. Removing the bulkheads gave a lot of verticality to the space as it's very linear and narrow.

DCMud:Was the space reconfigured in any way, and if so for what purposes?

Beltran: The restaurant had taken over an adjacent space in the mid-90s, making it into the private dining room - but it had no connection to the front of the house and people felt they were not dining in the heart of the restaurant. In the new design that space became the kitchen, and the new private dining room was conceived as a part of the main dining room.

DCMud: There appears to be a lot of sumptuous custom mill and tilework.

Beltran: The way we chose to finish the walls, floor surfaces and more was based on the Lebanese tradition of using hardwoods like walnut, much of which is reclaimed wood.Tabletops throughout are reclaimed walnut.

The main floor is assimilated wood plank flooring that's made of porcelain. It provides the illusion of warm hardwoods but is much more durable and non-slip. Custom concrete tile was used on the bar faces, and will be used on the storefront facade later on.

Carpet tiles in the restaurant are recyclable and have an oversized print and more of an antique look, which gave a warmth and character to the main dining room.

DCMud:  The private dining room appears to be swaddled, if you will, for luxury and sound.

Beltran: In that space, we used a floor-to-ceiling striping pattern where we alternated walnut hardwood planks in between 18-inch wide fabric panels, actually Homasote boards with batting, for dimension. We wrapped green tea leaf velvet fabric. All three major walls are encased in wood and velvet panels.

In the other part of the restaurant, we used copper velvet fabric for the banquettes treated with Nanotech stainguarding.

DCMud: Can you speak to the lighting?

Beltran: All lighting is LED. Chandeliers were custom made in Egypt specifically for this project. The chandeliers in the wall that divide the private dining room from the main dining room are Moroccan lanterns that we find in most Lebanese Taverna restaurants.

DCMud: Does the new restaurant resemble any of the others?

Beltran: From the time I first starting working with the family, in 2000, it was clear they didn't want their spaces to look like anything cookie-cutter, or a franchise. Each restaurant is specifically designed and detailed within the community - each has a different look and feel. And it's always a team effort, as the family, chefs and staff are deeply involved. The food, service and friendliness may be the same, but the experience of the surroundings is completely different. And the family treats each restaurant like it's their only one.

DCMud: More like Louis Sullivan's contextual architecture, perhaps.

Beltran: Each speaks the language of its community or neighborhood.

DCMud: You began working for family in the restaurant business when you were 14 years old, something that evolved to later experiences with renowned chefs/restauranteurs Victorio Testa, Roberto Donna and others. Is your hospitality design work a strategic outcome of this?

Beltran: I knew in junior high school I wanted to be an architect. Combining food and design was more of a coincidence, though, when the first architecture firm at which I worked  did a restaurant. I said, 'I know all this,' so it was a natural blending and I never looked back.

DCMud: Is there a particular D.C. building that has impacted you as an architect?

Beltran: It has to be the Holocaust Museum. It's not so much the displays but the actual path through the building - the lighting. It's the way the walls enclose and direct you to experience the space - something very successful, very powerful and moving. I try and do that with my restaurants. I want to tell a story and give a different experience in any point of the restaurant - not just have it be one big open space where you see everything and know what it is. If you sit in different areas, they should evoke different feelings and emotions.

Downtown Bethesda Project Heads Back to Planning Board

A hotel is back in the plans for Woodmont East, the long-planned JBG Companies development on Bethesda Row, if the Montgomery County Planning Board accepts the latest amendments to allow redevelopment of an additional site -- Artery Plaza -- that is an existing 11-story office building at 7200 Wisconsin Ave.

New plans include a hotel with as many as 230 rooms along with additional retail and office space, to be considered by the planning board during the April 12 hearing. JBG nixed plans for a hotel in 2009 because of market trends, instead designating the area as office space.

The County already approved the Project Plan and Preliminary Plan in 2008, and approved an amendment to those plans in 2009. The board also approved the site plan in 2009.

JBG now proposes another amendment to allow additional development of an adjacent site. Total development including new and existing space now could include the hotel, 81,165 s.f. of retail space, 755,739 s.f. of office space, and 210 residential units (with 12.5 percent MPDUs), according to the revised staff report prepared for the hearing. The additional property brings the site to 5.82 acres with 4.85 acres available for developing the more than 1.2 million square foot project.
2009 rendering of Woodmont East

Matthew Blocher, Senior Vice President at JBG, said the company is unable to discuss the project until after the hearing.

But according to the staff report, proposed construction will take place in three phases with some office and retail space created in all three phases. Residential units will be built in the first phase. The hotel will follow in the second phase. The third phase entails redeveloping the Artery building with two upper floors of office space and ground-floor retail.

Federal Realty Investment Trust (FRT), owners of half the Woodmont site, partnered with JBG for the development project designed by Shalom Baranes Architects.

The planning board is no stranger to Woodmont East proposals. The board first heard plans for the site in 2007, at which time it denied the application for further consideration of the project’s impact on Capital Crescent Trail. The developers agreed to reroute the path along Bethesda Avenue.

Other concerns included the impact on buildings already onsite. The new staff report states only a stand-alone restaurant and an office building fronting on Bethesda Avenue will be removed, while Landmarks' theater will remain. Already approved plans call for third-phase construction of residential space to replace an existing parking deck.

Staff-recommended conditions on approval of the new amendments still include specific measures to keep the trail open during construction, provide an alternate route and install signs to guide trail users. Other conditions in the report require a green roof, LEED Rating Certification with an effort to achieve LEED Silver, and traffic mitigation measures. This will take place directly across the street from redevelopment of the parking lot into condos and apartments.

Bethesda, Maryland, real estate development news

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Diplomacy by Design

Q and A with Chris Snowber

by Beth Herman

In an effort to reconcile the discerning but disparate tastes of a homeowner couple in Cleveland Park - she liked sleek and modern and he preferred traditional - Chris Snowber of Hamilton Snowber Architects diplomatically embarked on a renovation of a 1910 Foursquare. Also, because the historic district site projected deep into other residential lots, a previous owner had received what Snowber calls "a lot of push back" from the neighbors when seeking a rather large addition to the home. The house was eventually sold, sans addition, and the proposed three-story new addition for the current homeowners was smaller, receiving the community's imprimatur. The redesign involved a new 1,400 s.f. addition on three levels, as well as renovating the original 4,200 s.f. residence's two floors, basement and attic space. DCMud spoke with Snowber about the multifaceted project.

DCMud: First, what was the program for this renovation?

Snowber: The rooms were segregated with small openings between them. As with a lot of these older homes, the kitchen was broken off and small. Our mission was to expand it and have it connect to some living spaces, specifically a family room and playroom space. We then wanted to connect those spaces to a screened back porch and deck which opened to the yard. We wanted to extend the house but not overtake the substantial backyard.

DCMud: And how did you address the clients' divergent tastes under one roof?

Snowber: The real difference between them was about the style of the finishes and the image of the house. For instance the idea of an open kitchen that would connect to the rest of the house was a common denominator, but the character of the spaces - use of traditional moldings, elaborations of fireplaces, choice of cabinetry - was different.

DCMud: So there was agreement soon after take-off?

Snowber: Even though we started off with a more transitional design - paneled cabinet doors, etc. -  when the wife discovered some very modern oak and stainless steel Bulthaup kitchen cabinets, this really set the tone for the rest of the work.

DCMud: If you jettisoned the idea of transitional, or middle ground, can you elaborate on how the design was executed?

Snowber: Quite often the resolution for that is a design with a mixture of more modern furnishings and cabinetry and trim that is less heavy and more abstract than the existing house might have had. But in this case went to two extremes: The kitchen and family room (new addition in the back of the house) are very modern, both in the cabinetry and window detailing and also the fireplace surround. In the rest of the house, like the living room, dining room and front hall, we went even more traditional. We removed all of the existing trim - all of the crown, base, all of the window treatments, replacing them with heavier and more elaborate trims than were there in the first place. The house had a Craftsman look, and we actually made it much more formal.

DCMud: So rather than compromising, you played these two styles against each other.

Snowber: That's right. Then when we started furnishing it, both in the new and existing parts of the house, the furniture is very modern. So while the dining room has a brand new fireplace and traditional but new coffered ceiling, the table and light fixture are quite modern. In short these rooms have very modern furniture in this very traditional context.

DCMud: Did you retain the original flooring, which appears to be rough-hewn?

Snowber: We did - and it's a narrow oak. In the kitchen, though, the floor is granite pavers.

DCMud: What about the second and third floors, and the basement.

Snowber: The home had six bedrooms and ended up that way, but they're configured differently. On the second floor, the whole back of the house is the master suite. The wife has an office on that floor also. The third floor has a guestroom for the client's parents who visit, plus an office and a playroom with loft and balcony for the kids. The basement contains a large playroom with desk area, a side entrance mudroom and an au pair suite.

DCMud: From the exterior, the back of the house appears to be more open.

Snowber: Whenever you're dealing with historic houses in D.C., there are different standards for what goes in the front and back of the house. We got to use two-over-two windows in the back, where preserving the historic fabric was less important, whereas in the front the openings had to be of a more traditional scale. Interestingly the two-over-two windows are also from an historic area - more Victorian in nature. And they gave the windows some scale, so as not to be wide-open pieces of glass.

DCMud: Speaking of modern, traditional and historical, is there a particular structure in the area that informs your work - and your spirit?

Snowber: There's a building I like that many do not know about. It's the River Road Unitarian Church in Bethesda. Built in 1964 by Keyes, Lethbridge, Condon, it won a number of architecture awards. It's both modern and traditional in a lot of ways and has a certain Alvar Alto-esque (Finnish architect) quality. Whenever he designed buildings, he'd design them along with the furnishings. Here it's the use of natural materials - wood, brick and steel. It's asymmetrical but still feels like church with a masterful manipulation of light - a real spiritual space. This makes it pleasant to be in at all different times of the day and in all seasons.

Photos courtesy of David Reeve Photography.  Washington DC real estate news

Thursday, January 17, 2013

JBG's 13th and U Street Project Moving Forward--But Sans Hotel

JBG has launched big plans for a U Street hotel sometime around 2007 that have been percolating ever since.  But now that the hotel idea has been scrapped, plans to build an apartment building on the site have picked up speed and construction may begin as early as next summer.

The hotel idea was tossed around in early 2012. In its place at the corner of 13th and U streets will be a large residential building designed by David M. Schwarz Architects that will hold around 138 units and include ground floor retail. After many months of community meetings, JBG finally submitted a PUD to the Zoning Commission in September; earlier this week, the commission held an initial hearing action and deemed the project ready for a public meeting. That will probably occur in early March 2013.

It’s been a very long road that’s nowhere near done. A first round of meetings earlier in the year with the U Street Neighborhood Association, ANC 1B’s design committee, and the full ANC led to the developers making some substantial adjustments to the eight-story building: its height was lowered to 86 feet, the seventh and eighth floors were set back by 5-6 feet, and plans for a rooftop pool were eliminated in response to neighbors’ concerns about noise.

That was the plan delineated in the PUD. Once the basics of the building’s shape and contents were worked out, JBG representatives met with neighborhood groups again to discuss the project’s design elements. Those have also been fully approved by the community, and an initial hearing with the Historic Preservation Review Board is scheduled for next Thursday.

As for design, the project won’t need to incorporate any historic facades; the site is currently home to a bland, low-slung strip that holds a Rite-Aid and a Pizza Hut. “But we do need to design a building that’s in context with the historic neighborhood,” said Leary. The resulting design is a classical-style building that led one zoning commission member to remark on the building’s unusually ‘historicist’ look. That was intentional, explained JBG reps, who said that Schwarz has gone to great lengths to look at precedents in the neighborhood and incorporate them so that the building looks as though it's been there for years.

All of the units—a mix of one- and two-bedrooms—will most likely be rentals and will include 12 affordable units that fulfill the District’s inclusionary zoning requirement. At an average of 970 square feet, the units will be a bit bigger than those typically found in new high-rise buildings. “We’re serving a different market—more of a mature renter-by-choice who wants to stay in place,” said James Nozar, a development manager for JBG.

As far as retail goes, the company hasn’t decided on the exact balance yet. So the only element fully in place is the Rite-Aid, which will return to its corner spot after construction is finished.

Some of the meetings that occurred this year between JBG and the neighborhood were an effort to determine the project’s community benefits package. In the end, the PUD submission contained a general clause that JBG would contribute $600,000 for amenities like streetscape improvements, alternative transportation options such as Capital Bikeshare or Zipcars, establishment of a business improvement district, and school or recreation programs. Exactly how the funding will break down will become clearer once the zoning commission's public hearing occurs.

JBG reps say a mid-2013 groundbreaking is possible, but construction is more likely to begin in the third quarter of next year.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Reviving Springdale

by Beth Herman

Prominent in Montgomery County agricultural circles, newlyweds Edward and Deborah Lea moved into a 2 1/2-story stucco house on 27 acres circa 1837-38. A gift from Edward's father, Delaware transplant Thomas Lea, Sr., the property in still-bucolic Brinklow, Maryland became home to a young couple who, along with their progeny, would continue to impact the community.

Nee Springdale Farm, the Leas became stalwart stewards of an agricultural site that also supported a tenant house, spring house, smoke house and a stone mason-constructed bank barn. Credited with acquiring one of the first threshing machines in Montgomery County, Edward became a progressive member of the local horticultural society, one of the founders of the Sandy Spring Farmers' Club and incorporators of the Savings Institution of Sandy Spring. According to historical records, Edward Lea "...reached out for better ways of doing things in home and farm."

At the end of a multi-year search for a singular 18th or 19th Century property, homeowners Johanna and Larry Weekley acquired Springdale Farm which had succumbed to years of complacency by well-meaning but aging subsequent homeowners. But just as it had reflected the Leas' ambitions and agrestic achievements (Deborah made local history when she became the first in her area to successfully can applesauce after 1850), Springdale would also become a manifestation of the Weekleys' passion as curators of regional history and coveted antiques. Perhaps paramount to that, it would become a pristine canvas for what unarguably was Larry Weekley's transcendent botanical vision.

Brass tacks

"To begin with, we needed to remove a bad addition in the back of the house," said JoAnn Zwally of Ashton Design Group, adding the program was to replace it with an historically correct one. The addition would contain a new kitchen, family room, master bedroom and bath. The rear facade would include a half moon-shaped terrace with wide steps that would eventually overlook one of the homeowners' many gardens. A neo-Colonial two-story porch with columns and a metal roof, added in the 1930s and which spanned the entire width of the facade, would need to be replaced with a Greek Revival porch with simple square columns and a wood roof - emblematic of the period.

According to Zwally, removal of the 1930s porch revealed evidence of footings and marks on the front facade indicating the exact placement of the structure's original porch. By the same token, it also required clean-up of dirt mounds used as fill in raising it up to the height of the front door, which had covered basement windows and some of the stone foundation, also resulting in considerable termite damage.

Restoring the 856 s.f. two-story tenant's house occupied in generations past  by various farm hands who were given shelter, certain foodstuffs and a garden (and which was later leased out by the Weekleys), refurbishing its kitchen, flooring, single bathroom and walls was on the agenda. The homeowners were then able to move in to be closer to the larger renovation of Springdale's primary residence.

Room with an historical view

In historical design, Zwally noted symmetry is a key component. Accordingly, the addition's kitchen reflected this in its fenestration. Double-paned banks of windows, which extend down to the sink and stove, match banks on the other side - divided by a French door. A kitchen farm table was forged by local craftsman Dr. Joe Reitman, who also made an armoire for the master bedroom. The Weekley's son Jon, log furniture maker and owner of Denver-based Medicine Wolf Co., created the kitchen's rustic corner table and a pair of aspen and spruce rocking chairs on the master bedroom balcony. (In an even later renovation, a butler's pantry was fashioned from a space off the kitchen, replete with undercounter Sub-Zero refrigerator, and items such as granite countertops were added.)

In the new family room, a fireplace mantle was reused from the demolished 1930s addition, and in fact the house now boasted six working fireplaces including a new one in the master bedroom. While the existing ones, whose chimneys were relined during the renovation, had black slate facades, the fireplace in the new master was faced with delicate Delft-style tiling.

A foyer in the existing house was refreshed to follow the dominant navy and terracotta colors in a Hamadan tribal rug in the Weekleys' possession. Expressed in Greeff wallpaper in a spectacular Phoenix pattern germane to the Colonial period, the motif follows a wooden staircase all the way up to the residence's third level. Fabric that accompanied the Greeff paper was used for window treatments in the living and dining rooms, and navy accents can also be found in the new family room and kitchen and in bedrooms. In the living room, a Weekley family 18th Century Chippendale clawfoot wing chair was covered in a navy and terracotta flame stitch.

Arbiters of Colonial good taste, many of the home's antiques had a familial provenance through Johanna Weekley's ancestors, the Hyde family. Journeying from 17th Century England to Connecticut and ultimately settling in 18th Century Bath, Maine, the Hydes - founders of iconic (and still thriving) Bath Iron Works - passed down a Connecticut cherry Queen Anne highboy, the aforementioned wing chair, 18th Century Delft chargers, brass andirons and more. Additional antiques acquired for Springdale included a Hepplewhite mahogany bow front chest with original brass and a New Hampshire-forged grandfather clock.

Upon construction the house had not been electrified though was naturally updated over the decades. Still there was no overhead lighting in the existing part of the house and care was taken during the renovation to honor that fact, except for a foyer fixture and dining room chandelier. In the addition, recessed lighting was used.

Quarter sawn oak flooring found in the existing part of the house, milled from local trees, was repaired and preserved. Zwally also noted that when refurbishing the home's third floor beams, plaster was removed to reveal actual trees with bark and pegs, presumably taken from the property at that time to build the structure. The home's existing exterior is stucco over brick; the addition is stucco over frame.

Gardens in stone

Outdoors, and when Larry Weekley, who has since passed away, retired, he exorcised his inner landscape architect and put it to work suffusing Springdale's acreage with an explosion of flora rivaling the massive scale gardens of European palaces and grounds. Zwally said in many ways the focus of this property is its magnificent gardens.

"The original property had many specimen trees," she explained, noting the Leas and successive homeowners, the Mannings, were interested in cultivating such. "Larry bloomed each spring. He built walls. He built wattles. He built ponds." As a result of a serious drought one year, he constructed an underground water system to ferry water to his gardens in the future. The old stone bank barn erected on the property when the Leas moved in was destroyed by fire in the 1940s, its ruins resurrected and repointed by Weekley into a walled-in, deer-proof garden defined by irises, peonies, roses, foxgloves, hybrid daylilies, baptisia, mums and more.

Currently on the market for $1,399,000., Springdale Farm's "bonus room" comes in the guise of its original spring house. Used by the Leas and Mannings to cool milk and butter, Zwally said it is delightful inside even on the hottest summer day, and the Weekleys used it to cool beer for their generous summer parties.

"At Christmas they always made the best eggnog served in little Limoges cups," the designer recalled of her years in the homeowners' social circle following Springdale's renovation. "You'd sit by a roaring fire. It was the highlight of my season."


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