Thursday, August 31, 2006
A mixed-use development along I-270 at Wootton Parkway in Rockville is about to get bigger, and though the size is not notable by a city in the midst of a development boom, the developer hopes to attract national attention. Tower Companies, a North-Bethesda based developer, has already completed office space at Tower Oaks, a gleaming silver highrise overlooking the highway, a familiar but little-contemplated building the developer sites as "Washington DC’s first green office building."
Tower now intends to expand the site into one of the largest LEED Gold Certified mixed-use projects in the country, including 200,000 s.f. of office space, 100 "luxury" condominiums, a 200-room hotel and a 75,000 s.f. executive-style health club and spa. The "gold" designation is the premier LEED certification for measuring the environmental impact of the development. The existing office space earned its awards by features such as super energy efficiency and air-scrubbers that ventilate the air every 55 minutes.
"Going Green is a major trend in housing development across the country," says Marnie Abramson of the Tower Companies. Tower Companies, founded in 1947, began a major shift in its approach to real estate at the beginning of the 1990’s, when the company began to pursue a policy of environmentally conscious development in Washington DC. Today, The Tower Companies sites itself as the 20th largest purchaser of Green Energy in the country and are internationally recognized as authorities on Green Building Technology, setting new standards for green development in business, residential, and retail real estate environments.
The Tower Oaks project will be green throughout: condos, a green hotel, a fitness center and a green office building. Another office building is already under construction and Abramson expects it to be completed by June 2008. "Green gives you more buck for your condo dollar," she said, adding, "it comes down to good business sense; the technology is improving and as it improves and people get better at using it, the prices will continue to drop for developers and construction companies."
Abramson described the growth and cost benefits to firms like Tower over the past few years. The investment in green technology is paying off and it’s going to continue to trend upwards. "It is the next big thing in development." She added that the condos will begin construction after that and will be built to coincide with the construction of the hotel.
In another project, Tower Companies announced today that it is teaming with the real estate firm Lerner Enterprises (whose owners have killer seats at all Washington Nationals games) to purchase wind-renewable energy to power a D.C. office building called Washington Square at 1050 Connecticut Avenue, as well as for their combined headquarters in Bethesda.
Arlington-based Pepco Energy Services, a subsidiary of D.C.-based Pepco, will supply more than 64 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy for the two buildings, which total more than 1 million square feet, making Tower Pepco’s largest commercial purchaser of green energy. Lerner's and Tower's use of eco-conscious energy will help offset carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas. Tower partner Jeffrey Abramson says in a written statement that the agreement "demonstrates that wind renewable energy credits can also be a viable option to meet our country's energy needs through a sustainable resource and reduce air pollution and the threat of global warming at the same time."
Part I: Going Green - New Condo Roofs Will No Longer Pollute
Speculation about the reasons for the plan’s demise centered on potential construction costs. Construction companies may have perceived the project - designed to have a large, curving glass and steel facade - as being so architecturally sophisticated as to exceed reasonable construction costs.
Furioso is known for his background in the arts, having redeveloped the former Hudson Automobile showroom building at 1515 14th Street into a center for the arts, with his restaurant Viridian on the ground floor featuring regularly changing art shows, and art galleries on the second and third floors. The building, originally constructed in the 1930s was part of the 14th Street "auto-row" – a series of car dealerships.
The aborted condo project, which was to include additional arts-oriented retail, had been delayed in zoning and permitting. Emma Saal, an associate of Furioso, describes his style as very modern. She added that he was one of the originators of a now much-used mixture of glass and steel that makes use of the classical attention to detail. Saal points to one of Furioso’s signature projects as an example of his style. "Solo Piazza," she says (SoLo – or South of Logan) "is a perfect illustration of his combination of classical detail within a modern structure." Saal points to Solo Piazza’s floor to ceiling fenestration and multiple colors for the masonry as capturing the essentials of that style’s attention to detail while reinterpreting the building in a modern manner. "It’s very Giorgio," said Saal, "old and new in a modern setting; clean lines with a crown of steel and wood."
Saal added that regardless of what Furioso does with the 14th Street property, she’s certain it will be a great architectural addition to the Logan Circle area. "The restaurant, or a boutique hotel; either will be designed with the same great attention to detail and the wonderful modern flair that makes Furioso unique."
Washington DC real estate development news
Tuesday, August 29, 2006
The project has allocated three retail spaces, with two already rented by Trade Secrets and Zawadi. Gilford Corp. is the builder for the $18 million Columbia Heights project. The Solea project is comprised entirely of LSDBEs or, Local Small Disadvantaged Business Enterprises.
Matt Morrin of NCRC views the Solea as an excellent example of cooperation between public and private entities working together during the development boom. "It’s a good model and you can see it across the country," said Morrin. "It’s one of several types that work to facilitate the development of private projects that take into account the needs of the local community by providing affordable housing."
Morrin added that NCRC wanted to make sure a voice representing the local community was heard, and said Jair Lynch, with its experience, made the process a success. "It worked out well,” said Morrin, "this is a positive trend for future development projects.” Sorg expects the project to be completed by late 2007.
Monday, August 28, 2006
National Development Company (NDC) has begun a new condo project at 12th and Massachusetts Ave., in Northwest DC. The New Plaza will feature 37 condominiums in a historic 7-story, Victorian-style building. NDC, also in the midst of developing the Lofts of Brightwood, will offer condos in two phases, with the first phase apparently geared for less renovation and quick occupancy, and a second phase of the project to more fully renovate the remainder of the units. Pricing for the first phase will begin below $200k for a studio, with sales to begin in 2 weeks, nearly matching pricing for the Grant across the street at 1314 Massachusetts, which began sales several weeks ago.
Saturday, August 26, 2006
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has been working to provide "green" grants to building development projects in Washington DC.
Doug Siglin, Director of Federal affairs, is optimistic about the impact of eco-friendly designs on the environment.
"This is all pretty new," he said, "but the anecdotal evidence is starting to give us a good sense that we’re on the right track with these grants." Siglin and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation are currently reviewing grants for "green" roofs in certain areas of DC such as the project by developer ICP at 801 Virginia Ave. in Southeast DC. Several green roofs are already under way; PN Hoffman is currently building one at the Alta and developer Bogdan Builders recently announced plans to include green features on the roof at Logan Station, a condominium now going up on 12th & R.
The Foundation has been working to protect the bay from run-off that flows from the Potomac River. The environmentally friendly "green" roofs cut down on the amount of rain water going directly from the roofs to the Potomac. The roofs act as small forests and lower the amount of toxins going from the roof to the river and from the river to the bay.
Among the major projects the Foundation has been involved with are the greening of the roof for the new Federal Department of Transportation in the Anacostia Waterfront Project. The Foundation provided $100,000 for the roof. "That this really is the way to go," said Siglin. "In Germany we’re hearing that green roofs are lasting 45-50 years versus only 20 years for a conventional roof. That adds up to substantial savings over time."
"DC is ahead of the rest of the country on this; we’re pointing the way and it’s a worthwhile change in development."
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Jack Johnson, Prince George’s county Executive, called the project a winning investment for the people of PG County and cited it as an example of "smart growth" in the Capitol Heights community because of the link between the condominium-based development and the Metro system.
"Transit-oriented development," said Johnson, will provide easy access to Metro lines, retail and dining, "right where people live."
The ICON condominiums will be located at the intersection of Addison Road and Central Avenue, at the Addison Road Metro Station. The project consists of 400,000 square feet of residential, retail and commercial property, including 170 "luxury" condominium units, 25,000 square feet of commercial space, fitness center, business and media centers, a recreation lounge, and a roof-top swimming pool and picnic areas. Construction of the condominiums is expected to be completed by Summer 2008.
Proponents of Smart Growth view projects like the ICON Condominiums as beneficial to the community. These multi-use developments reduce congestion in and on the infrastructure by connecting housing to Metro stations which can reduce the amount of automobile traffic on freeways.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
But is there more to it? Canyon Ranch Living aims to provide a kind of hermetically sealed environment in which residents live in condominiums, above dietetically-correct restaurants and health spas.
As the company webpage says about its on-hold
In other words – imagine the experience of what Canyon Ranch calls an "urban village" - right off of I-270 and
Imagine feeling just like you really do live in a city; without ever having to bother with actually living in a city.
As one analyst, familiar with the real estate market on the east coast put it: "This isn’t California or Florida; status in the DC area is driven by your connection to the government or wonky group, not really where or how well you live. There is a market for holistic living as a social status symbol – it just isn’t the DC region."
The Canyon Ranch Project is part of a partnership arrangement between Canyon Ranch and the Penrose Group, of Tysons Corner. Canyon Ranch would receive up front payments and management fees to run the development.
Jan McIntire, Senior Director of Corporate Communications for Canyon Ranch has a different view and says the feedback they’ve received from their guests confirms a viable market in the
"Knowledge of what our guests who live in and around "
That view is supported by a veteran real estate agent of the DC-area development boom who sees the Canyon Ranch project as a potential success based on the demographics of the area, but possibly a victim of rising costs in construction and the rise in mortgage rates.
"It’s a successful model," said the agent, "there are a lot of people who do want that feeling of being in an urban environment but without the hassle and they want the amenities; the spas, the holistic approach, the restaurants."
In early August, JBG Companies announced that it has decided to put "on hold" its plan to build a 23-story building on top of the metro’s Ballston-Marymount University Station, and is actively considering alternate possibilities for the site. The Spire project (formerly known as the Fairmont) was to replace the soon-to-be-torn-down INS building at the corner of N. Fairfax Drive and N. Vermont Street, and was supposed to be the last piece of JBG’s Arlington Gateway project, which also contains a office/retail building (completed in 2005), the 411-condo unit Continental (2003), and the Westin Hotel (2006). The Spire was to contain 237 condo units and 9,200 sf of first floor retail. As part of JBG’s deal with the county, the company agreed to pay $11 million towards the estimated $50 million cost for construction of an underground passageway for the new western entrance to the metro station – what effect this delay will have on construction of the entrance is not yet known, though the county has indicated it has no plans to renegotiate with JBG on this point. In the meantime, JBG officials are contemplating turning the Spire into apartment rentals, and saving the option of converting them to condos at a future date.
Mayfair Mansion, the former home of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshal, is being renovated. The building, constructed in 1946, in the Colonial Revival Style, occupies the area once used for the Benning Race Track. The Mayfair was the project of Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux, who wins - hands down - the contest for most interesting name for anyone involved in the field of development in Washington DC. The building was designed by famed local architect, Samuel I. Cassell. Cassell was the architect at Howard University and designed many of the buildings on the campus. The Mayfair has 569 housing units and was declared a city historical landmark. It was one of the first buildings to be designated to provide subsidized housing in the Washington DC. Preservation and Development Corp. and Marshall Heights Community Development Organization purchased Mayfair Mansions in a bid to preserve affordable housing in the District. Tenants of the apartment complex in Ward 7 picked the two nonprofit organizations to buy and redo the complex last year. The D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development provided a $24 million loan to fund the purchase. The proposed plans for the complex include maintaining 409 units in the affordable rental pool and converting 160 units to affordable condominiums. Renovations are scheduled to start early next year.
Monday, August 21, 2006
In The Zone: DC’s Inclusionary Zoning Implementation Act of 2006 Addresses Moderate and Low-Income Housing
However, a spokesperson for the office has confirmed that the version currently available on its Web site will match the Final Ruling expected for the 25th. The Final Ruling is a controversial rule stipulating that developers of new housing include units for rent or sale at below-market rates to both moderate-income and low-income individuals and families. The Commission has not yet determined which areas of DC will be covered by the Act. The mapping of areas to be covered by the IZ Act is still being determined, meanwhile permits for development projects will use the existing rules and regulations.
Thirty six areas are under consideration for the IZ; among the factors being reviewed are area density as well as types of construction methods used by developers.
In its posting, the Commission acknowledged concerns by members of the development community that mandatory IZ could hamper or even destroy the District’s housing boom, and in response called the boom a "relatively short-lived phenomenon," that could fizzle as quickly as it began. The Commission’s main rationale was that while the future of residential development was not predictable, the need for "workforce housing" must be addressed immediately.
The mapping of the District for establishing which areas will fall under the IZ is scheduled for the beginning of October, 2006.
Saturday, August 19, 2006
Friday, August 18, 2006
Begun in 1999, the project has gone through several phases including a plan by the late Jack Kent Cooke to build a new stadium for the Washington Redskins; a plan defeated by a coalition of neighborhood groups. The current plan calls for development of 165 acres with 1.9 million square feet of office space, 135,000 square feet of retail space in addition to the 600,000 square feet already in use at the Yard, and 1700 units of housing.
Justin Wilson, former President of the Del Ray Citizens’ Association, is optimistic about the on-going development project at the Potomac Yard.
Wilson was one of many in the Del Ray community who were shocked to learn that there was a plan to relocate the local fire station from Windsor Avenue to the Potomac Yard – and Wilson and the Association insisted on a discussion with both the developers and the City. "The city got caught behind the eight-ball,” said Wilson, “But they’ve caught up with the issues facing the community and the development companies are responding to our needs."
Enter the site’s developers, Pulte Homes, Inc. and Centex, which agreed to finance the relocation of the firehouse and to pay for new equipment, according to Wilson. The master plan further calls for the developers to straighten Route 1 and rebuild the interchange and overpass. As in many communities, the developers have already agreed to subsidize 60 units of low-income housing, providing communities a fast, free way to provide affordable housing, an issue that long vexed planners in recent decades.
Helen McIlvaine of the Office of Housing has addressed the issue of affordable homes at the Yard, in meetings between the City, developers and community members. The proposal calls for the affordable housing to be based on yearly incomes of $54,000/yr and rents of, $1,500/month.
Among the features proposed for the new state of the art fire station are a community room to be used by both residents and fire department trainees, as well as the construction of individual sleeping quarters that will be able to accommodate the growing number of women in fire suppression.
Community concerns have also been expressed regarding noise abatement for the homes above the proposed fire station.
Alexandria Fire Chief Gary Mesaris stated that the new location in the Potomac Yard would still allow for a 4 minute response time to emergencies in Del Ray; a time still within accepted limits. Among the proposal being considered are the maintenance of two fire stations; one at Windsor Avenue holding the HAZMAT Response team and the new one at the Yard.
American Tower Spokeswoman Lori Philbin said, "American Tower is working diligently to finalize the schedule for dismantling the Tenleytown tower." The company has fought the city for several years about the status of the tower, construction of which was halted approximately halfway when neighbors protested the size of the structure that sits adjacent to several others on Wisconsin Avenue, close to the highest elevation in the city.
The massive iron tower was being constructed around the historic Western Union tower, built by noted DC architect Leon Chatelain. The Western Union tower was intended to form part of a "radio triangle" of microwave radio-stations linking Washington, Pittsburgh, and New York, and was originally designed to serve as a relay point for the Wideband System and other national security communications systems. In conjunction with the City and through a series of lawsuits, the newer addition was stopped several years ago and has since sat unused.
Philbin added that, American Tower is, "...focused on removing the tower as expeditiously as possible while ensuring the safety of residents, contractors…and to ensure minimum disruption to businesses and vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the neighborhood."
No final date has been set for completion of the dismantling.
Tuesday, August 15, 2006
Monday, August 14, 2006
Sunday, August 13, 2006
Friday, August 11, 2006
Labels: Silver Spring
Thursday, August 10, 2006
Friday, August 04, 2006
Thursday, August 03, 2006
Labels: Clark Realty, Cleveland Park, new condos, Sorg and Associates