Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mount Vernon Place Church Square Project Breaks Ground

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The National Capital Revitalization Corporation (NCRC) has broken ground on its $145 million Mount Vernon Place Church Square development, a unique 300,000-sf residential and office complex to be carved out of a piece of (and also above) Interstate 395 at 3rd and H Streets, NW. The project will be tackled in two phases. Phase 1, which was just started, will be a $45 million, 90,000-sf office complex scheduled to be completed by the end of 2007. Phase 2, while still being finalized, is expected to be a 20,000-sf, 300-unit residential building with underground parking, plus a 10,000-sf, kindergarten-through-third-grade school. About 20% of the units are to be affordable housing. Phase 2 is expected to begin in March 2007. The project is being developed by MQW LLC, a joint-venture of the Mount Carmel Baptist Church, the Wilkes Company, and Quadrangle Development, and falls within the larger Mount Vernon Place Initiative, comprising 11 projects on five city blocks between 3rd and 5th Streets, and Massachusetts Avenue and K Street.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Previews Begin This Weekend for The Takoma Condos

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Interested buyers will have their first chance to preview the model units for The Takoma, the newly renovated and updated Wedgewood Apartments, located at 111 Lee Avenue in Takoma Park, near the metro station. The Takoma, by NOVO Development, will feature 46 units with hardwood floors, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, private parking, and a fitness center on site. Studious start at $159,900, one bedroom units at $234,900, two bedroom units at $279,900, and three bedroom units at $329,900. Visit The Takoma Web site - http://www.thetakoma.com - for preview information.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Luzon to Break Ground in Early October

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After years of sitting vacant and forlorn in the no-man's land on Pennsylvania Avenue between Georgetown and Foggy Bottom, its dull yellow paint peeling and metal fire-escapes rusting, the historically designated Luzon apartment building is ready to begin its new life as a high-end condo building. In early October, Intrepid Real Estate LLC will break ground on the new Luzon, which will incorporate the existing building at 2501 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, plus new construction on the next-door lots. Plans call for 16 large units (2600 to 4000 square feet each) in the eight-story building, with elevators that will open directly into the condos. Pricing is expected to range from $1.8 million to $4.5 million, with the Milan-built kitchen units costing $100,000 per unit alone. The Luzon - originally built in the late 1800s – was designated a historic building in 1990, which ensures its fa├žade will be preserved during this renovation. In addition, the original bell tower at the top will be restored. With the soon-to-be-completed Columbia Residences and new Trader Joe’s grocery store across the street, the Luzon will certainly be a sought-after address once again.

Ecco Park Sponsors Open House Today

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Ecco Park - the new project unveiled recently in Takoma Park, has announced an open house for Today from noon to 3pm. The catered event will promote the much vaunted green project going in one block from the Takoma Metro. Designed by SGA Architects, this project will remove and clean the site now operating as a truck storage area and gas station, offering 85 moderately priced homes a short commute to Silver Spring and downtown.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Brandon at 14th and W Street Goes Bye-Bye – Donatelli Steps In

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The names may change, but the corner at 14th and W Street NW remains hot. It appears the land at 1407 W Street where AB-Urban Development was planning to build The Brandon condominium project has been sold to Donatelli Development, and the company has wasted no time breaking ground on an as-yet unnamed 12-unit building for this spot, with a completion date of Fall 2007. Sales are expected to start late this Spring, with pricing believed to be a bit below the current rates for this neighborhood. With the Union Row and View 14 projects being built across 14th Street and new condos going up the road in Columbia Heights (in addition to all the new retail opening and planned for the area), the 1407 W Street project will join a crowded yet highly desirable field.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

NCRC Announces Rhode Island Ave. Development

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NCRC has announced that it intends to start work on an apartment building at the Shaw Metro next Summer. NCRC, the publicly-chartered organization charged with spurring economic development in the city, will begin construction of the 96-unit apartment building on the 1/4 acre lot known as Parcel 42, at 7th & Rhode Island Avenue, NW, across the street from the Shaw/Howard Metro station. The project will take shape on the northwest corner of the intersection, close to a spate of other development, including West*Group's much-heralded Broadcast Center One project which is expected to start construction around the same time and bring 185 condos and substantial office space to the area. Parcel 42 will offer 46 parking spaces and 7500 s.f. of retail on site, and will be facilitated by RLARC, a subsidiary of NCRC.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

ClubCondo DC Launches Condo Blitz

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A group of developers and marketers announced today the launch of ClubCondo DC, a single-day marketing event for urban condos (www.ClubCondoDC.com). As many as 10 developers are expected to participate in the event, to be held from 3pm to 8pm on October 14th at Lima Restaurant & Lounge on K Street. The event will admit a limited number of pre-registered individuals to a catered showcase of some of DC’s biggest downtown developers, who will in turn offer a number of one-time incentives for buyers. Lima, Felix Design and Washington Life Magazine will be co-sponsoring the event, with entrance gifts provided by DC’s downtown retail community, including Bang Salon, Wine Specialist, Durkl, VIDA, Skin Lounge, Georgetown Tobacco, Logan Tavern, Stop Smiling, Mint Fitness and others. The sponsors will provide an open bar and food for the duration of the event, at which purchasers will receive special incentives if they make non-binding reservations on a new condo. Developer participants will be announced the week before the event; website registration is required.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Just Put That Condo on My Card...

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Consider this the ultimate step in impulse purchases: On September 15, American Express Company announced that it will now allow a selection of its cardholders to use their Amex cards to make a down payment when purchasing a condo. American Express is rolling out its new program in conjunction with the New York-based real estate firm Moinian Group for sales of the new Atelier luxury condominium in midtown Manhattan, though the company sees expanding it should the program prove successful. Plans call for condo buyers to earn reward points (possibly one point for every dollar charged) or frequent-flier miles, as well as extend the timeframe for meeting down-payment requirements. Those in the financial world are intrigued by this move. "I find this program to be quite interesting," said Rami Futerman, Managing Partner at F&M Mortgage Group, LLC. "From experience, this program needs to be implemented properly in conjunction with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac guidelines, to avoid disqualification of the borrower/buyer from getting a traditional mortgage." That being said, Futerman believes such a program, if it came to DC, would probably "increase the sales and financing for the high end condos that are now springing up around the metro area." Where there is a will to buy real estate, it seems the market will always find a way....

Brentwood Shopping Center Nears Completion

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Development continues to spread around the red line’s Rhode Island Avenue metro station, with news that the Brentwood Shopping Center is nearing completion at the intersection of Rhode Island Avenue and Brentwood Road, NE. The new 58,000-sf strip mall will house 8 new stores, including a much-needed bank, but not a good non- fast food restaurant for this part of town. The center is to begin scheduled shop openings by the end of September (with all shops open by the end of October). With nearby new condo projects starting to spring up in Brentwood, such as the RIA at 1007 Rhode Island Avenue and a Metro Properties project at 1300 Rhode Island Avenue, we can anticipate further retail development in this neighborhood soon.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Developer, CVS Battle Over Gallery Place Location

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Sometimes, the big glamorous world of real estate development can be tripped up by the most basic landlord-tenant disputes. This week, Yeni Wong, the owner of the building housing the CVS Pharmacy store at the northeast corner of 7th and H Streets NW, filed suit against the retail store for refusing the vacate the space despite receiving an eviction notice this past Spring. Ms. Wong’s development company, Gallery Tower, owns the building at 801 7th Street, and has plans to redevelop this and the next door Kam Fong restaurant building (807 7th Street) into a 50,000-sf, four-level office/commercial space, as well as build her Gallery Square condo project (25 units) on top of the 807 7th Street space. Guess we'll see you in court....

Friday, September 15, 2006

Capitol Hill's Medlink Site Receives Downsized Zoning Approval

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Resolving a long-simmering battle in the Capitol Hill neighborhood, on Monday, the DC Zoning Commission officially voted to downsize the zoning for the Medlink campus site, located at the corner of 7th Street and Massachusetts Avenue, NE, completing actions they first approved this past May. The owner of the former hospital site, Peter Shin, has harbored plans to develop the south side of the plot into high-end condominiums (while keeping the health facility at the northern end), and have the residential buildings built up to the limits allowed by the hospital’s zoning classification – a classification allowing higher, larger buildings than the normal residential designation. This plan has been fought against by the Near Northeast Advisory Neighborhood Commission, which argued the "upzoned" hospital designation should not apply to these new buildings. In May, the DC Zoning Commission voted in favor of the community, and lowered the building height for any new construction. Shin is now contemplating two options: Either leasing the south side also to health providers, or transforming the existing facilities on the site into residential units.

No Radicchio for You! Balducci’s Decides to Bypass Penn Quarter

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It seems as though the off again – on again saga of the proposed downtown Balducci’s gourmet grocery store has finally sputtered out. This week, Balducci’s firmly announced it will not open its eagerly anticipated store in the ground-level retail space in The Jefferson on 7th Street NW between D and E Streets. The past few months have seen plenty of conflicting statements on the status of this project, with Balducci’s officials often stating the store was in doubt, yet never letting go of the company’s leasehold on this 21,000-sf space. The District was even in on this drama, offering to not only waive the store's real estate taxes for 10 years and the sales taxes on its construction, but to also throw in some additional incentives. But in the end, Balducci’s decided to instead focus on its existing holdings and not expand. JPI, the developer managing this retail space, intends to soon meet with Balducci’s to discuss termination of its lease, thus freeing the space up for another grocery chain, such as Magruder's or A&P Fresh Market, to step in and set up shop.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

New $175 Million Complex in Howard County Anticipates Planned Growth

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While one member of the DCmud team fondly remembers a dive bar he frequented in decades past along the old industrial rail lines in Savage, Maryland, the proposed $175 million complex just announced for this area should contain a few watering holes to cheer him up. Petrie Ross Ventures, an Annapolis-based developer, has been granted the right (the state will sell the company the land) to transform the 15-acre state-owned parking lot next to the Savage MARC station (bordered by Route 32 and Dorsey Run Road) into a pedestrian-friendly complex of offices, residences and shops – all geared toward the public transportation and housing needs of nearby Fort Meade, the population of which is expected to grow as a result of the Pentagon's recent decision to expand operations at this Army post (almost 10,000 new personnel are expected to work there within the next few years). The proposed Savage Towne Centre will contain two 13-story buildings with 260 housing units (no decision yet on if they will be apartments or condos), as well as two office buildings, two restaurants, a hotel, and 53,000 square feet of retail space. There will also be a five-story garage with 1,000 spaces built alongside the MARC station, plus another 1,000 spaces for use around the complex. Construction is expected to begin in 2008, with completion in 2011.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Braddock Metro Boom

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On September 7th, the Alexandria, VA Planning Commission held a working-session to share its ideas for the development of the area around the Braddock Metro Station. The vast development area includes parts of Fayette, Queen and Paine Streets, a 7-acre parcel directly behind the Braddock Metro station, as well as the historic Parker Gray neighborhood. The proposed project would develop up to 2.4 million square feet of residential space and 1 million square feet of retail. The city is considering numerous options, including multiple condominium developments with street level retail, 3000 square feet of retail space along Fayette St., and construction of a Harris Teeter supermarket at 621 N. Paine Street to replace existing warehouses. The commission emphasized the need to preserve what it called a "habitable scale" in terms of the size of the new buildings and the need for open spaces adjacent to the proposed new construction. The Commission expects the total number of housing units built to range between 1500 to 2000, and that development could take 3 to 4 years. The commission also expects an undetermined number of the units to be sold at "affordable," below-market rates.

Friday, September 08, 2006

As the Turnberry Turns...

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In our latest installment of the Turnbery Towers tale, the Best Western Hotel, located at 1850 North Fort Myer Drive in Rosslyn, has officially closed, making way for construction of this new high-end condominium building. The Turnberry Group is expected to strip the interior of the hotel down to the studs, as well as start demolition of the exterior of the building this October. Official groundbreaking for the new residential building is set for January 2007. The 247 condos at Turnberry Towers (ranging from 1-bedroom to 3-bedroom (configurable to 5-bedroom) units) start at $800,000 and go up to $7 million for the penthouse (slightly higher than the typical night’s stay at the Best Western) – Turnberry reports that approximately 30 percent of the units have already sold. While all units feature amenities such as Miele appliances and terraces, the units are to be delivered "designer-ready" – it’s up to you to finish them. When complete, Turnberry Towers, designed by BBG-BBGM, will be the tallest building in Rosslyn, and the most expensive in the DC region to boot.

Eight-Story Office Tower Planned for Silver Spring’s City Place Mall

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According to F. Scott Fitzgerald, there are no second acts in America, but it looks like Silver Spring never got the memo. Derided for years as the failed White Elephant of development dreams past, the City Place Mall in downtown Silver Spring is ready for its rebirth as a retail/office complex. Dierman Realty, the majority owner of City Place Mall, is planning an eight-story office tower of 160,000 sf over the existing mall space, which was opened in 1992 on the site of the old Hecht's department store. While no tenants are signed, the developer believes downtown Silver Spring's recent boom will prove attractive. The office tower will have a "contemporary" design by the architectural firm Morris Ritchie & Associates, and is expected to include environment-friendly features such as "green roof" to provide natural insulation and limit run-off. Construction is not expected to begin until all approvals and permits are set, possibly in two years.

Silver Spring Real Estate development news

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

New Condo Project Develops in Shaw

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Georgetown-based MCN Corporation has announced that sales have begun on a 15-unit condo downtown called the Marion. The condominium will be built on quiet and historic Marion Street in the Shaw neighborhood of DC, 2 blocks to the Shaw Metro Station, in the shell of what is now a 3-story ‘50’s apartment building. The condo conversion is one of the larger condo projects undertaken by MCN, which has designed and built a number of single family suburban homes and several downtown commercial spaces. Prices will range from the mid to upper $100k’s for studios, and mid to upper $200k’s for a 1-bedroom condo, with two 1-bedroom units offering “private” gardens and parking available on site. The Marion is said to have an “architecturally contemporary” – but largely unmodified – exterior, with interior spaces offering granite countertops, GE Ranges, dishwashers, microwave/ranges with hoods, double glazed energy-efficient windows, and maple, oak or cherry bathroom vanities with cultured marble counters and sinks. Sales by Domus Realty are now underway, delivery is expected within a few months. The surrounding blocks will be home to the Broadcast Center One project – the mixed-use project atop the Metro Station – as well as a number of large, historic shells intended to be commercially rejuvenated in the near future.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Conversation with Jair Lynch and Tania Jackson of the Jair Lynch Companies

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Live-work Housing Innovation Comes to DC.

Jair Lynch believes diversification in development is essential to being successful. “Last summer,” he said in an interview with DCRealEstate.com, “we knew the writing was on the wall regarding the development market; it was time to adjust.”

Looking back at the past few years of the development boom, Lynch, who is working to bring along his Solea condominium project, reflected on the incredible growth the DC area has experienced.

“From 2000 to 2004, 7500 units of rental housing went primarily to condo conversion,” he said, “and in 2004 alone it was 2500; an astounding number. Our team is always looking at economic indicators and we analyze the trends and the information.”

Lynch views Solea, located at 1414 Belmont St., (14th and Florida) between U Street and Columbia Heights, as a model for a new kind of development that works with the community and is in line with the evolving real estate market in Washington DC. Solea is being designed by the architectural firm of Sorg and Associates, a Washington DC-based company.

“We’re actors on a stage for a few years, “ he says, “but a building is a presence in a community for 50 years; perhaps 100 and we must be aware of that as we work with the community. That’s why community input was vital to our Solea project.”

Tania Jackson, Director of Community Policy for Jair Lynch Companies, agreed, adding “We had a ‘Community Committee’ we worked with; people from Columbia Heights who we informed about style issues, budget realities and our vision, but who were essential members of our development team; we listened to what they were concerned about, what they wanted in their community. What they wanted the building to look like.”

The $20 million Solea project is a joint venture with NCRC – National Capital Revitalization Corporation, and includes a development innovation new to the DC area – “live-work” units.

Live-Work homes are a recent design trend that was sparked in the San Francisco Bay Area during the dot.com boom years. The idea is that given the high cost of rents and office space, and the realities of today’s mobile-technology-based workforce, a home could be designed to include a living-space (traditional areas for a living room, kitchen, etc) and a loft-area for sleeping and a comfortable, presentable work environment for the entrepreneur and their customers.

Lynch and Jackson view these unique housing units as a reflection of the changing realties of urban life.

“One and two person firms are a growing part of the American business scene” said Lynch, “the technological changes of recent times have generated whole new paradigms in how people live and work and the ‘live-work’ concept recognizes that people need a space that has a different typology than what has been available previously in the traditional condominium market.”

The live-work concept at Solea will offer a variety of options, such as units with the work space below, and living space above – these “loft-style” apartments will have a more permeable work space than traditional condos. Lynch views it as a fairly radical departure from the urban-work and suburban-live model that has been the norm.

“Solea is size-appropriate,” he said, “it works with the scale of the Columbia Heights, Shaw area, and the project, the process of development, allowed us to get to know the people in the neighborhood; that’s unique for a development project, and I think it’s a good model for future development projects.”

“The soul of a place matters,” said Jackson, “Solea is going to be part of the soul of the neighborhood, not an intrusion.”

Lynch was expansive in his comments about the changes he sees and the responses he views as essential to how he wants development to work.

“Three worlds in DC have tended to stay separate,” he said, “Local, or neighborhood interests, federal employees or federal concerns, and the international, or expatriate community in DC. I think those worlds are starting to come together far more than they have in the past, and development in DC must answer that; it has to respond to it and blend with it, and I think we’re poised to catch that trend.”

Adding an acronym he hopes won’t annoy a certain West Coast firm of modest means, Lynch describes his vision further by referring to what he calls ‘ipods’ – ‘Interactive Places of Diversity.’ “Solea, with its live-work spaces, and the way it blends into the neighborhood rather than intruding and forcing the people who live there to adapt to it, represents the change in the structure of the DC environment; diversity is not just about race and class, it’s about different communities, federal and international and local, it’s about shared experience in a thriving dynamic urban environment. Solea reflects that, and we want to continue to grow this model of development. We feel it can and will succeed.”

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Plans for Silver Spring Music Venue Announced

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While it has been the southeastern side of the Colesville Road-Georgia Avenue intersection in Silver Spring enjoying all the artistic revitalization in recent years (the Round House Theatre, AFI Silver Theater), it appears that the northwestern side might soon be hearing the sounds of major musicians in the near future, as well as enjoying some of the redevelopment occurring in downtown Silver Spring. On Wednesday, Montgomery County officials announced a partnership that would provide $4 million in state and county money to bring the Birchmere Music Hall to the old art-deco J.C. Penny building at the corner of Colesville Road at Fenton Street. The Birchmere – a long-time stalwart of the Del Ray, Alexandria, scene on Mount Vernon Avenue (old-timers like us will also remember its original location in Old Town), has supported many major singer-songwriter talents, including well-known performers such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lyle Lovett, and John Hiatt. According to officials, this plan – if it receives final approval from the Montgomery County Council - would see the Lee Development Group donate 9,000 sf of land to the county, and the Birchmere make an unspecified investment of money as well as lease the renovated building from the county for its second area venue. Birchmere owners said in a statement Wednesday that they expect to open in 2009, assuming negotiations are finalized. This project is seen as a boost to development of the northwestern side of downtown Silver Spring, which has watched while the major redevelopment enveloped the rest of downtown. Bruce H. Lee, president of the Lee Development Group, told the Washington Post that he is supporting this proposal because he believes it will have a "Broadway effect that will really animate [this] side of [Colesville Road], which desperately needs it."
 

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