Monday, December 31, 2007

Preservation, Demolition and Construction...Oh My

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Interior demolition has just been completed on 3030 Clarendon Blvd. in Arlington, most popularly known as the old E-Trade building. Developer Saul Centers Inc. (SCI) is still awaiting final approval from the county and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) for full demolition. As the building is cleaned up, SCI expects construction permits in January from Arlington County for the three mixed-use buildings it plans to construct on both sides of Clarendon Blvd near the Clarendon Metro stop, to front Wilson Blvd, N. Highland and N. Garfield Streets. Completion of the entire 521,000-s.f., Clarendon Center project is anticipated for 2010.

Because the project requires excavation, demolition and construction work close to the subway tunnel that runs under Clarendon Blvd., WMATA has to approve the project. As a result, Saul will have to put monitoring devices on the tunnel to make sure it isn't jeopardized in the construction process, and keep close tabs on its integrity. WMATA typically does this when projects are within a proximity of 50 feet near subway tunnels.

Plans call for a two phase development: Phase I will be a 244-unit, 12-story apartment building, landscaped courtyard and 80,000-s.f. office building, on the south side of Clarendon. Phase II, on the smaller north block between Clarendon and Wilson, will house a 6-story office structure. All three buildings will have ground floor retail totaling 42,000 s.f, and are seeking LEED certification. Back in 2003, the design plans were recognized by the Washington Smart Growth Alliance. This is also the first Arlington project that complies with the Clarendon Metro Station Area plan.

Saul was able to plan for the gargantuan buildings with a little help from its neighbors; in order to increase building size, Saul obtained density rights from two historic buildings: The Leadership Institute on the SW portion of the south block, and the Underwood Building, at the northwestern-most point of the north block, in return for their historic preservation. In addition, Saul will safeguard two retail facades made of limestone and art-deco elements on the north block; the facades will be dismantled, cleaned and stored until the surrounding construction is complete, when they can be safely returned.

“The community involvement in the design and development of this project has been tremendous. By responding to that input, we believe Clarendon will enjoy a landmark project that will truly complement its distinctive character,” said Mary Beth Avedesian, Vice President of Acquisitions & Development at Saul Centers Inc.

Post construction, these two blocks may serve as the newest neighborhood hot spots, as there will be plenty of outdoor seating, with wider sidewalks and streetscape improvements thanks to the project design team of Silver Spring-based Torti Gallas. Most notably, a brand new Crescent Plaza will be built on the corner of Clarendon Blvd. and N. Highland Street, garnished with a fountain fronting N. Garfield and commissioned artwork by DC resident Lisa Scheer, a Professor of Arts at St. Mary's College of Maryland.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Zoning to Shaw: Just Wait

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Sights have been set on revitalizing O Street market (pictured, looking north) as a retail anchor for Shaw since the idea hit Roadside Development back in 2002 when it acquired the property. But the Planned Unit Development application has been held up with the Zoning Commission due to height problems, and residents are getting anxious to see their commercial hub come to life. Now, thanks to some design modifications, Zoning has finally designated the project for public scrutiny, but has yet to schedule Roadside and its supporters on their agenda.

Initially, Roadside slated the market for renovations to accommodate new retail space, but heavy snow brought the roof down both on their plans and the building itself in February of 2003. Since then Roadside formulated a $250 million revised plan to not only bring the historic market back to its original splendor but to fill four acres of land between 9th, 7th, P and O Streets, NW with residential and commercial space.

"Our goal is to create a high quality, interesting project that will be the centerpiece of a great neighborhood," said Armand Spikell a principal at Roadside.

In August, the Historic Preservation Review Board approved revitalization of the site and the Mayor's agent for historic preservation ok'd partial demolition because of the development's special merit, leaving the Zoning Commission as the only entity standing between Shaw residents and their commerce. But a lack of agreement between Zoning and the developers led to three months of hearings; an October 15th meeting ended with Zoning's complaints about the 110-ft. building height, and despite fervent support from Councilmember Jack Evans who called upon the Zoning Commission to "Reconsider their decision and approve this project as proposed," they sent the project back to the design phase again on November 19th.

"Our patience is running out," wailed Evans after Zoning's decision, and who could blame him - the community has been patiently waiting since 2003 for their 70,000 s.f. Giant grocery store and more than 12,000 s.f. of commercial space. Add to that a mix of roughly 650 condos and apartments (80 of which will be affordable housing for seniors), two levels of underground parking, a 180-room hotel (not yet flagged) and the grand reopening of 8th Street, and Shaw would truly have its anchor...and some very happy campers.

But size matters. In the October hearing, Commissioner John Parsons was quoted as saying "I just think these 110-foot buildings are just totally out of scale with this community." Either Parsons' had never looked across the street at the three-block long, 110-foot Convention Center and the neighboring 108-foot residential building, or he chose to ignore them. According to Spikell, Zoning justified the adjacent 108-foot building because its livable area ends at the 90-foot mark, whereas Roadside would have used their upper two floors for residents.

Members of the DC Office of Planning appeared at the Zoning meeting in November to argue for the project, noting its proposed LEED certification, traffic alleviation in the form of underground loading docks and truck courts, and overall consistency with the community's desire to have a retail anchor. More importantly, they reasoned that the building is graded, and that the highest points of the buildings sit back from the street.

Finally, zoning approved the project for "set down" at the December 10th meeting - meaning it will be open to public participation, but it ended up costing Roadside. In order to get past Zoning's disapproval, developers nixed the residential space planned for the top two floors. In order to compensate for that loss of potential income, Roadside deleted 100 parking spaces and 20 affordable housing units from the overall scheme to reduce construction costs.

The next step is Zoning's public hearing which has not been scheduled - but it will be at least thirty business days from now due to statutory laws requiring advanced notice to relevant parties. Roadside hopes to be in the ground by late 2008, but with Zoning delays some will be happy to get CityMarket at O by the turn of the century.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Historic Board Downsizes Buckingham Plans

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DC-based Georgetown Strategic Capital (GSC) is drafting a mixed-use development at the intersection of N. Glebe and N. Pershing Drive in Arlington. The retail-oriented project will create roughly 45,000 s.f. of commercial space replacing a number of existing stores currently on the site, which GSC has vowed to bring back to the new property, sans Glebe Market. Although figures have yet to be ascertained regarding the residential components, sources indicate that the numbers being contemplated by the developer are likely to drop.

GSC presented their design plans to the Historic Affairs and Landmark Review Board (HALRB) in Arlington last week, but no decision is being sought, yet. Board members gave largely disapproving feedback on the concept design plans, mostly finding dissent in the density, massing and size of the project, all but calling for the numbers to be reduced. The developer and architectural team, Cunningham + Quill Architects, to modify their proposal before the next meeting.

Arlington's historic review process makes such informational sessions routine, giving developers a chance to vet their projects before formal submission. GSC plans to sit in on sessions through 2008 in order to prepare a strong application for a Certificate of Appropriateness, the Historic Board's proverbial thumbs-up. Rebeccah Ball, a Historic Preservation Planner with HALRB, implied that the approval process is quite tedious; hence developers allocating months of foreplay for the board.

The project plans call for the destruction of several commercial buildings west of Glebe Road, including Glebe Market and a CVS, among others; replacing them will be a set of four-story structures with an undetermined amount of apartment units and workforce housing, and retail. Although GSC has development rights on all four corners, the majority of redevelopment will be taking place on the two sites that front Glebe Road: between N. Pershing and 2nd Rd. N, and between N. Pershing and 3rd Rd. N.

"HALRB made broad brush recommendations about how they would like to see this change, to be more compatible with the neighborhood in terms of massing, scale and design. These are recommendations the board is putting forward at this time, to make this a better project," Ball added. Despite the seemingly beneficial qualities of a better retail for the Buckingham Historical District, sources indicate the the impact on the neighborhood would be large, but the developer has taken a methodological approach to resolve the board's issues, presenting pieces of the project one at a time. HALRB expects to discuss the project again very soon.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Tenley Solicitation Extended to January

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The deadline for responding to the Tenley Library / Janney School RFP has been extended by the DC government to January 4th. Developers were asked October 31st to submit proposals for a "world class mixed-used development" (but don't even think of building more than 5 stories) on the site of the now-demolished Tenley Library at the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Albemarle Street, which will include rebuilding a state of the art library as well as renovating the existing 43,000-s.f. school and constructing an addition for its cramped students.

Development of the land, currently owned by the District, has been addled by the incongruent needs of interested parties, pitting at odds the DCPS (public schools), DCPL (public libraries), the Office of Planning, retail-starved neighbors, and local anti-development activists that have a near perfect record in the community. As DCmud reported in October, the process began in 2005 when Roadside Development, developer of the just-completed Cityline Condominiums across the street, assembled its own development plan after discussion with neighbors, offering school renovation and a free library (the dated library having been shuttered in 2005) in exchange for the right to build residences above the new public library. The plan was obviated when DCPL came up with its own plan, but when that failed to launch, Roadside came back to the table to offer an amended plan. But by then Tenleyites had recently downsized another condominium on Wisconsin Ave. and successfully removed an adjacent (and admittedly monstrous) tower from the top of Tenley hill, and successfully petitioned the DC government to open the process to competitive bidding.

The District issued general specifications for the project, including doubling the size of the historic school, construction of a 20,000-s.f. library, and providing 30% of the new housing units for low-income residents, in keeping with the Comprehensive Plan's stricture for development of DC-owned property. The RFP also suggests that bidders incorporate retail into the project. Because plans for the library are already underway, DCPL has requested that residential units be built next to its new facilities, rather than over it, to avoid delaying its opening.

Offerers are being asked to provide their vision for the site as well as work with school and library officials to incorporate their uses, as well as provide a "meaningful community outreach." In accordance with the District's Comprehensive Plan, the site could also potentially be used for housing and retail, specifically street-level retail, that would enliven the Wisconsin Avenue commercial corridor. The site is less than a block from the Tenleytown-AU Metrorail Station.

DC Seeks Developers for 2 NE Sites

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The Office of Planning - more bureaucratically known as (breathe in) the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (ODMPED) - has issued a Solicitation of Offers for development of two sites east of the Anacostia, in northeast, as part of its New Communities Initiative. The two District-owned sites, one a boarded up three-story apartment building located at 4427 Hayes Street (rendering pictured); the other consisting of seven vacant lots, totaling 17,500 s.f. of land on the 4800 block of Nannie Helen Borroughs Drive, are intended to become mixed-income residences, with a third of the housing aimed at families falling below 30% AMI. Hayes Street, which sits within walking distance of the Minnesota Ave. Metro station, has sat vacant for 12 years and had been on the drawing board of now defunct NCRC, which had intended to turn the project into 28 one and two-bedroom condos for mixed-income residents. Bids on both properties are due January 9th.

Friday, December 21, 2007

RFP Issued For Dalecarlia Plant

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The U.S. Army Corps. of Engineers is accepting proposals to construct a Residuals Collection and Treatment Facility at The Dalecarlia Water Treatment Plant located at 5900 MacArthur Blvd, NW (pictured, thanks to the technology of Google). The total bundle will encompass construction at four separate locations: Dalecarlia Resevoir, Dalecarlia Water Treatment Plant, Dalecarlia Forebay site and Georgetown Reservoir site. The estimated value of the entire project has been estimated at $50 to $100 million; the deadline for proposal submission is set for January 3, 2008.

Southwest: School is Out, Condos are In

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Nearly a year after the the city's $6.2 million sale of the vacant Randall Junior High School to The Corcoran College of Art and Design, the mold is finally setting for the new mixed-use project at 65 I Street, SW, the soon-to-be largest residential building in the quadrant which will incorporate elements of the 50-year-old Randall school and new art facilities for Corcoran. The project's overseer, Monument Realty, and design firm Shalom Baranes Architects, have to go back to the drawing board one final time before the final action hearing on January 14th with the Zoning Commission.

MR Randall Capital LLC, a legal entity created by the developers, will own the entire mixed-use structure. Corcoran is selling their real estate to MR Randall for an estimated $8.2 million, and is set to retain a condo interest in the 100,000-s.f. facility it will occupy. All has not gone cosily for MR Randall however; the Planned Unit Development application has had some turbulence in the past few weeks. At the behest of the Office of Planning and the Department of Transportation, some minor changes had to be made to alleviate traffic concerns. As of the December 10th zoning hearing, new problems arose. A group called Square 643 Associates LLC, is worried about the project's potentially negative effects on their already-approved P.U.D. for the historic Friendship Baptist Church, just across the street. To add insult to injury, their legal representative from Arnold & Porter LLP, went on the record before Zoning to complain that the H Street facade was "not sufficiently rendered at the street level to enhance pedestrian experience." (Proving again that high fences make good neighbors.)

ANC Commissioner David Sobelsohn had mixed feelings about the project yet the "net positive" for the community, largely presented in the benefits package offered by Corcoran, pushed him and his colleagues into unanimous support. "We are concerned because its going to be a huge development, and the access to the [residential] building will be through one of four partially or fully closed streets. [But] after final analysis we were very pleased with the benefits that will come to the community."

Assuming no more impediments arise for the project, SW will soon see the construction of this 499,843 s.f. brand-spanking-new development, 100 feet high with roughly 480 condominiums, more than 100,000 s.f. of new Corcoran facilities and three levels of underground parking. In a conversation with DCRealEstate.com, Shalom Baranes Principal Patrick Burkhart described the look of the new building: "As a counterpoint to the symmetry of the restored Randall School buildings along Eye Street, the new residential structure set behind them is a studied assymmetrical composition of ochre brick, metal and glass, whereby the new compliments the old through contrast."

The $6.2 million that Corcoran coughed up (which was subsequently donated to the school system's maintenance fund - thank you Mayor Fenty) began a long list of "donations" the gallery will be making to the city, including: An "After School For All" program for DC Public Schools, 96 affordable condominiums in the new building for families earning up to 80% AMI, preservation and renovation to the "significant portions" of the Randall school, an assortment of scholarships to neighborhood undergraduate and graduate students, and a host of other community-oriented services including a Randall Neighborhood Day which will offer free admission to Corcoran's 17th Street Gallery (including special exhibits) every year, beginning next Thursday, December 27th. Corcoran is planning to move into its newest campus no later than 2011, making it the third functioning space after its main building on 17th and the gallery in Georgetown.

To be sure, the architectural team will be hard at work to assuage the recent dissidence. In the meantime, the NCPC will give their slant on January 3rd, regarding whether L'Enfant would have supported it. Well, that's not exactly their criteria, but that's a future story.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

2300 Penn: One Step Closer to Workforce Housing

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Last week the Zoning Commission approved a proposed action to build a mixed-use residential project at 2300 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, leaving the P.U.D. (Planned Unit Application) to be reviewed by National Capitol Planning Commission (NCPC) at its January 3 meeting before a final decision can be made. Inside sources assure DCmud that NCPC will rule that the project does not impinge on Federal interests, thus clearing the way for the Zoning Commission and bringing Chapman Development LLC one step closer to completing its long awaited and highly supported project to the Fairlawn community. Zoning commissioners have yet to set an official date as to when they will take final action, but a tentative agenda puts it on their January 14th schedule.


DC-based developer Tim Chapman has created an affordable residential opportunity for the Fairlawn neighborhood, just over the Anacostia River and adjacent to its namesake park. Chapman is offering 100% workforce housing for residents earning up to 60% AMI in the 118-unit rental building. In a special public meeting last week, the community all but unanimously backed the project; 18 form letters were submitted as public testimony in favor of Zoning's approval - none in opposition. Chapman even received rave reviews from a few key politicos; including Councilmember at Large Kwame Brown and political wild-card Councilmember Marion Barry, who submitted his two-cents in approval.

Currently, the 31,000 s.f. lot sits occupied by row houses. McLean-based design architects Computecture Incorporated designed the building to integrate the texture of the surrounding neighborhood. The structure's facade will be comprised of a two-tone light brick design and Hardie Plank siding around the 6,000-s.f. courtyard that the building encircles. The 59-foot apartment building, bounded by Prout Street, Pennsylvania Ave and two public alleys, will also house 8,000 s.f. of retail on the ground floor.

Chapman's CFO Steve Lawrence discussed his view on the firm's newest project: "Chapman Development is excited to participate in the construction of 2300 Pennsylvania Avenue. The company is dedicated to providing quality workforce housing in the District. We consider this a gateway project for Pennsylvania Ave, S.E." Although the development team has yet to determine the project timeline, their hopes are that ground breaking will start sometime early next year.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Eastern Market Rehab to Begin Soon

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Bids have closed on a project that will revitalize Eastern Market at 255 7th Street SE, confirming Mayor Fenty's promises to rebuild more than six months ago. The Office of Contracting and Procurement received a total of five bids ranging in price from $7.5 million to $11.5 million and expects to finish due diligence on the final contract just after the new year, when the award package will then travel to the Office of the Attorney General for review. A hierarchy of approvals, on average a 15-day process, will commence at that point, after which time the DC Council will have 10 days to approve the contract. Although no sources were willing to give a timeline for reconstruction of the historic flame-gutted market, it has been estimated that efforts would begin as early as January.

The three alarm fire caused an estimated $20 million in damage to the 134-year old building on April 30 2007, the same day the Georgetown Library burnt down, requiring more than 150 firefighters to quell the destruction. The market, designed by Adolf Cluss (the architect behind the Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building), had been in constant operation until that fateful Monday morning in April. The fire destroyed most of the South Hall, where the vendor's stalls were housed, and destroyed the roof above. Vendors have since been moved to a temporary location across the street, until the South Hall can be returned to its former glory.

A Notice to Proceed - the governments nod to begin construction - will be given shortly after the council approves (hopefully in January). Once the thumbs up is given, contractors will have a maximum of 400 days to complete the project. If all goes according to plan, we should have the historic structure back in action by Spring of 2009.

Condos Even the Washington Post Can't Hate

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J Street Development and equity-partner Westbrook Real Estate Partners will hold the official ground breaking ceremony for their office condominium building tomorrow at 111 K Street NE, where pedestrians like us can watch big-wigs drop their golden shovels into the dirt. Each of the nine floors will be its own 9,000-s.f. condo (presumably sans granite countertops). Among the A-list invitees for the ceremony is Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and her former intern, Mayor Fenty; the latter has yet to reserve a seat for the event, although the J Street staff undoubtedly hopes he'll show, fedora and all.

The 90,000 s.f. addition of commercial space, only a block away from the bustle of Union Station, will be presented as an 11-story building with a self-described "grand two-story lobby," thanks to the design strategy of Gensler Architecture Worldwide. J Street has incorporated all of the necessities to facilitate commerce, a 3,000 s.f. conference center on the second floor, underground parking, 1,000 s.f. of retail, a rooftop terrace and most importantly, a prime commuter location. 111 K will serve as the first of a pair of offices J Street has planned for the 1st and K intersection. The second, just across the street at 100 K, will offer double the amount of office space and 7,000 s.f. of retail on a lot ten-times as large; a tentative construction timeline puts groundbreaking late in 2008.

111 K is not striving for LEED status, although green features have been incorporated into the overall design. As with most DC's newest buildings, it will house a green roof atop its tinted glass, use recycled construction materials and utilize an assortment of energy star equipment.

“We feel that 111 K Street is a terrific opportunity for office condominium owners," said Jay Bothwell Principal and Senior Vice President of Design and Construction at J Street. The design, Bothwell added, allows owners to "control their facilities costs in a uniquely designed Class A office building in an exciting and well situated area of the District." With regards to avoiding the typical leasing procedure, Bothwell added, "We're very pleased with the way the market has responded to this relatively underutilized product." 111 K Street is set for completion in mid-2009.

Monday, December 17, 2007

A Common Building for Petworth

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Petworth's newest multi-family, Georgia Commons, will break ground by early next summer, according to developer Jair Lynch Companies (JLC). The 130-unit apartment building with 22,000 s.f. of retail will go up two blocks north of the Petworth Metro station by JLC and development partner AHD Inc. (Affordable Housing Developer). The pair was awarded the contract to build by the National Capitol Revitalization Corporation in 2006. The $38 million project, at 3910 Georgia Ave. NW is being designed by EDG Architects and Frank Schlesinger Associates.

JLC is the only developer that has two projects accepted into the eco-friendly pilot program LEED Neighborhood Development, which encourages Smart-Growth, transit-oriented development. According to the Congress for New Urbanism, an anti-sprawl organization with similar goals as Smart Growth, the new LEED program is "a joint venture of the Congress for the New Urbanism, the US Green Building Council, and the Natural Resources Defense Council...just as other LEED systems have improved building efficiency and energy performance, LEED-ND will reward efficient use of land and the building of complete and walkable communities." According to Tania Jackson, Director of External Affairs at Jair Lynch Companies, the new LEED designation targets sustainability on a macro-level instead of just "sticks and bricks." JLC's two LEED ND projects are Georgia Commons and the upcoming Solea, a mixed-use project at 14th and Florida, NW.

When completed, Georgia Commons will hold five-stories of mixed-income residential apartments organized around a central courtyard, sitting atop one level of street retail and two underground parking levels. It will be a contemporary structure, fitting into the Georgia Ave overlay zone, which aims to catalyze retail activity. "It's contextual but contemporary," said Don Tucker, Principal at EDG Architects. The project is a bit behind its original deadline, but is said now to have the financing in place to begin construction within 6 months.

Friday, December 14, 2007

After Renovations, DC Gets New Charter School

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Community Academy Public Charter School (CAPCS), an organization dedicated to "providing a world-class education rooted in an ethical culture," is giving the derelict Samuel H. Armstrong Manual Training School (pictured, circa 1910) at 1400 1st St., NW, a complete overhaul in preparation for the coming school year. The historic Armstrong School underwent environmental abatement (aka. cleanup of all the crap that has accumulated over the past decade) in October; renovations are set to begin in January.

The Armstrong building, which served as an adult education center until being closed in 1996, once served as one of the first high schools in DC for African American students. Since '96 the building has been vacant; the interior has suffered tremendously but the facade of the building will be kept as-is.

"It was in pretty bad shape inside, because it hadn't been occupied in more than a decade," said Cecelia Blalock, Director of Communications at CAPCS. "The outside has held up well. We're very excited about the prospect of bringing back the Armstrong School to the position it once held as an important element in the community," Blalock added.

CAPCS currently operates four charter campuses in DC, and is seeking new opportunities; their governing charter allows them to educate no more than 4,250 students - they are currently at the 1,000 mark. Thus CAPCS's purchase of the Armstrong School back in 2005 from the District. With the help of a $25 million DC revenue bond, CAPCS will prepare their fifth location for more than 800 students. The school is expected to open in the fall.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

DC Tries Again with Old Carnegie Library

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In advance of an RFP, the Office of Planning sought inspiration from a group of University of Notre Dame School of Architecture students yesterday, in an attempt to transform the Carnegie Library into an integral part of Mt. Vernon Square. During a hefty portion of yesterday afternoon, students presented their design visions for the library both before an architectural review board and the general public. The raw talent of the soon-to-be graduates is being used to wrest new ideas (free of charge) for the ancient and mostly unused building; according to inside sources, this academic brainstorming serves to guide the focus of an RFP that the Office of Planning will soon issue for century-old library.

Carnegie donated an estimated $300,000 to build the Beaux-Arts style library in 1899. It was officially dedicated in 1903 as the Central Public Library - designed as a “closed-stack library,” meaning books and periodicals were stored out of public reach requiring visitors to request their materials from library staff. Slowly, the 60,000 s.f. structure became too cramped to serve the community and was replaced by a more modern Martin Luther King Junior Memorial Library in 1972, leaving the Carnegie vacant for the rest of the decade. Partial renovations were made to the structure in the 1980s to fulfill the needs of the University of the District of Columbia, but in 1999 DC’s Historical Society raised $19m in attempts to convert it into a museum dedicated to the history of our fair city. The City Museum of Washington DC opened in May 2003, but the projections of how many tourists would visit proved overly optimistic - consultants not realizing that tourists were trying to get out of Shaw, not into it - and the building was overtaken by the National Music Center in 2006.

Now, efforts are being made to rejuvenate Carnegie's legacy, although the Office of Planning would not comment on how or for what purpose. Yesterday morning's presentation, largely filled with technical descriptions and design rationale, was made in front of a board of professional judges from Franck Lohsen McCrery Architects Inc. and Grenfell Architecture. The latter presentation went two hours in the office of The Historical Society of Washington DC for District residents where UND students discussed their designs, creative motivations and the economic and preservation needs that their concepts fulfill.

"The students came to this project with no agenda," said Kara Kelly, Director of Communications at the University of Notre Dame School of Architecture. "They can be objective, creative, and are not hindered by any political situation." Graduate students, untainted by the doldrums of innumerable planning, zoning and ANC meetings, are apparently what the District needs to help inject life into DC's greatest symbol of Carnegie's altruism. Apparently, the students also required some time-off from the corn fields and countryside; DC served as a wise curricular choice. "What better Classical architecture can be found than in DC?" Kelly pointed out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Public Land to Go on Endangered List?

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Councilmember Harry Thomas will introduce legislation today to overhaul the way the District privatizes its land - part of the debris left from the big bang of September's botched West End redevelopment plan. The official nyet to the District's sale of three parcels of land to Eastbanc Inc., came from the council during a public hearing in early October; now crusading residents, appetites whetted, are pursuing the issue of public land disposition on the whole. Councilmember Carol Schwartz made an attempt in mid-November to garner public interest in the issue by holding a roundtable to flesh out ideas about changing the land disposition process. Now, bringing action to the rhetoric, Councilmember Thomas will present a protection bill for public property to drive the nail further into the coffin of public-private partnerships.

Councilmember Thomas' bill resulted from a draft created by the People's Property Campaign (PPC), a resident-led division of Empower DC. PPC's vanguard effort to compose legislation materialized with the help of myriad supporters: Tenley ANC 3E Special Committee, Save Our Schools, Dupont Circle Citizens Association, Foggy Bottom Association and Benning Library Dynamo to name a few.

The bill lays out prerequisites for public land disposition; "The People's Property Bill would require, before disposing of any public property, a detailed explanation of why it has no other viable public use," according to the Library Renaissance Project - an active member in the campaign to retain property in public hands. In addition, the bill calls for a comprehensive inventory of public properties, a community development plan and a master facilities plan.

"Public property has found its protector. With an open door, an open mind, and decisive action - [Councilmember] Thomas is setting a new standard for responsiveness," said Robin Diener, Director of the Library Renaissance Project.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Stanton Square to Rise Soon

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Stanton Square, a 187- single-family townhouse community to be built on 8 acres between Hillsdale and Fort Stanton, received the official endorsement of the Zoning Commission last week. Horning Brothers, the development firm behind the project, is preparing to break ground on the first of three phases by early Spring 2008; some units are projected for delivery around September of the coming year. The timeline for construction on the remaining two-phases is largely dependent on the celerity of phase one sales.

Horning Brothers promised to reserve 63 of the homes for "workforce" housing, 20 of which will be set aside for families earning up to 60% AMI and the remaining 43 units for families earning up to 80% AMI. In addition, Horning will create a new chapter of the MANNA Homebuyer's Club, a "peer support group and homeownership counseling program," according to MANNA.

The project, including green space, is being designed by Vienna-based Lessard Group. Design of the new community will feature a pseudo anthology of architectural styles found throughout DC. "The fronts of the townhouses have a mix of Federal, Colonial and Transitional Victorian (...as opposed to Invariable Baroque) architectural styles," according to a Zoning Commission description of the project.

Stanton Square's assemblage of two and three story town-homes is self-described as "[Dazzling] your senses with an array of quality features and stylish design that add up to a homeowning (sic) value unmatched by anything available in the city," as stated on their website. Sales for the homes are to commence at the beginning of next year.

Residents Win Fight for Historic Community

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Yesterday's Montgomery County Planning Board meeting couldn't have fared any better for the score of residents that testified in support of preserving and officially naming the Falkland Apartments as an historic community (see Thursday's post). Executives at Home Properties, the owner of the 70-year-old apartment community, are probably not as elated about the setback for their development plans.

Less than 24 hours ago, the Planning Board decided on the record that the Silver Spring apartment complex is a "key part of history and should be preserved," according to the Maryland National Capital Park and Planning Commission. This decision comes in the wake of community activity (petition-signing and all) to preserve the site.

The Planning Board's decision last night initiates a full historic designation process, which begins with the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), then comes back to the Planning Board for further review and finally goes before the County Council – who will make the ultimate decision on whether the property deserves historic landmark status.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

JPI: "Luxury Rentals" Everywhere

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JPI topped out on two of its four projects in southeast DC, the first set of residences that will be completed in the heavily-developing ballpark district. Both the Jefferson at Capitol Yards, a 448-unit luxury apartment building, and the Mercury at Capital Yards, a 246-unit "luxury" apartment building, are slated for completion next summer - not quite in time for the Nationals' season opener in their new home. WDG Architecture is behind the industrial design of the Jefferson and the "edgy" metallic design of the Mercury.

JPI still has two more projects coming into the home stretch; 909 at Capitol Yards (pictured) which will house 237 "luxury" rental units and 6,000 s.f. of retail and restaurant space, being delivered in mid-2009, and 23 Eye Street, a 419-unit (you guessed it) luxury rental building with 15,000 s.f. of retail space; JPI plans to break ground on this (anticipated) Silver LEED certified building in the fall of next year. In total, JPI will add more than 1,300 units to the ballpark district, accounting for 20% of the total number of new residences that are being built in close proximity to the new ballpark. The total cost of JPI's investment: $470 million - and they won't be selling a single square foot.

By the middle of 2009, JPI will have effectively gentrified a neighborhood in record time, pioneering the way for the near-dozen development companies that are currently building within the sector. The residential projects that will follow JPI's lead include: Capitol Quarter by EYA, Onyx on First by Faison/Canyon-Johnson, the massive Half Street development by Monument Realty, 1345 South Capitol Street by Camden Development, Velocity Condos by Cohen Companies and The Yards by Forest City. But wait, there's more. Together with the onslaught of residential developments set for the South Capitol Corridor, District residents will receive a slew of commercial space: SC1100 by Ruben Companies, 1111 New Jersey Ave by Donohoe and 1015 Half by Opus East, just to name a few.

According to our favorite chronicler of all things Southeast, blogger JD, "It is expected that in the next 15 years the "Capitol Riverfront" area covering both Near Southeast and Buzzards Point will include approximately 12 million square feet of office space, 9,000 new housing units, and 600,000 square feet of retail."

D Day for "New Deal" Housing?

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At 3 PM today, the Montgomery County Planning Board will decide the fate of a collection of duplex and three-story apartment buildings, located on 22 acres of land at the intersection of East-West Highway and 16th Street in Silver Spring, MD. Home Properties of New York, the owner of the Falklands Apartments, has submitted an application to raze some of the buildings, created in the wake of FDR's New Deal programs, despite their placement on a list of historic "potentials" - a catalog of possibly-vintage properties that the county has protected from destruction until officially determined as being devoid of historic value.

Home Properties is attempting to demolish a third of the apartments on the northern half of the site in order to clear the way for a collection of new buildings: a mixed-use set of apartments and stores which will create 1,059 residential units, a 50,000 s.f. grocery store and 15,000 s.f. of retail. Demolition of the existing housing needs to be cleared by the Historic Preservation Commission.

The site has been under historic evaluation since 1985; at that time Falkland failed to satisfy the requirements of historic designation. Unfortunately for Home Properties, the real estate may boast some intrinsic historical value. Aside from being the first garden apartment complex in Montgomery County, the Falkland Apartments were inaugurated by Eleanor Roosevelt in 1937. The Falkland residences were created to satiate the rapidly escalating swarms of people that were moving into the area following the inception of FDR's New Deal programs; Montgomery County's population grew by more than 70% during this period.

The apartment complex was reevaluated again on August 15 of this year, when the commission concluded that further investigation was required; on the whole, the site was deemed "eligible" for classification on the Master Plan for Historic Preservation. Home Properties has argued that the apartments are not suited for designation because of the failed 1985 valuation. Members of the community have opinions to the contrary; the Planning Board received more than a dozen letters pleading for historic designation of the site - there were no letters pleading for a mixed-use development. County Planners have recommended that the Planning Board consider all three of the parcels that make up the Falkland Apartment buildings as eligible for historic designation, leaving an all or nothing choice to the County Council.

Georgia (and Low Income Housing) on My Mind

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A pair of District agencies are planning to redevelop a strip of Georgia Avenue just south of the Metro Station as part of a "New Communities Initiative." The partnership between the Office of Planning and Economic Development (OPED) and the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) seeks to develop the Park Morton community in Ward 1. Last week, the Office of Planning publicly considered a draft of the plan which proposes to broadly (and drastically) change the economic environment of the Park Morton area, a section of the Park View neighborhood located in between Georgia Avenue and Warder Street. The community response was unanimous in support for the draft that includes a compendium of objectives: protect affordable housing in the community, improve economic integration, decrease crime, replace publicly subsidized units, create workforce and market-rate housing opportunities, create better jobs, education, training, human services and other programs for the community; no word on whether it will solve our dependence on foreign oil.

The process for redeveloping Park Morton began in February 2006, when designated as a development site by a Council resolution. Despite a flood of new development over the past seven years, the Park Morton area is still beleaguered with areas of severe poverty that lack the fundamental elements of a healthy community. Park Morton, an area where only about 40% of residents own their homes and the median household income is roughly $45,000, was thereby recognized as a possible site for a New Communities program, a public entity described as a "comprehensive partnership to redevelop the physical and human architecture of neighborhoods characterized by violent crime and poverty," according to the District's CFO, Natwar M. Gandhi.

The overarching goal is to create mixed-income communities with "integrated services that offer...better housing, employment and educational opportunities," according to the draft plan. Their vision for Park Morton involves the replacement of 174 new public housing units, adding social services services within the community, creating east-west connection to break down barriers that segregate communities, and forming new open space and passive park areas. The overall site plan would create a "moderate density mixed-income community of...152 replacement units, 7 homeownership units for current Park Morton residents and 317 market/workforce units for a total of 477 homes," according to the draft.

The plan notes a lack of retail and office space in the general area, yet points out that although demand is high, Park Morton would not serve as the ideal commercial space for consumers. 53,000 s.f. of retail is in the pipeline for the Georgia Avenue corridor, with an estimated 40,000 s.f. of unmet demand remaining post-implementation. A deficient supply for office space was also found in the area, despite a 10% vacancy rate for rental office space.

The entire redevelopment window will span nine years, beginning in 2008, and is expected to cost an estimated $157 million. DCHA and OPED have an abundance of private firms collaborating on the project: DC-based development firm Banneker Ventures, nationally renowned environmental consulting firm Circlepoint, and design firms PGN Architects and WDG Architecture. Although the DC Council still needs to approve, OPED is determined to introduce the plan by the end for the month with the hopes of receiving approval by January.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Douglas Development Postpones F Street

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Jemal's Up Against the Wall LLC, a subsidiary of Douglas Development, has postponed tomorrow's public hearing in order to further prepare their plans for an 11-story mixed-use project at 1000 F Street, NW. The Office of Planning deemed the design worthy of public scrutiny three months ago but Douglas Development has rescheduled the hearing for January 24, 2008.

Douglas has proposed 91,000 s.f. of office space and more than 6,000 s.f. of ground-level retail to be constructed in an L-shaped corner building on the site, a mere block away from the Metro Center station and two blocks from Gallery Place. In addition, the ubiquitous developer will provide more than five dozen underground parking spaces to facilitate commuting-ease.

Most intriguingly, the two-story "Waffle Shop" on the site, the lease for which expired in September forcing the proprietors down the street, is going to be rehabilitated...and moved. Douglas had initially received approval to destroy the eatery by the Historic Planning Review Board, but the local community was distressed about losing their beloved landmark. Douglas met with the Art Deco Society of Washington, the DC Preservation League, the Historic Preservation Office and the Committee of 100 on the Federal City regarding the matter and agreed to save the waffle shop, bowing to community requests, by dismantling the shop piece by piece and relocating it to an undetermined site near Mt. Vernon Square, though Douglas has waffled on the exact location.

Due to further historical presence on the lot, Shalom Baranes Architects will craftily engineer the new office building to incorporate a historic commercial building on the southwest corner of the lot. Douglas Development will preserve the building's battered facade, storefront, windows and canopies, "returning the building to the way it appeared almost 100 years ago," according to the Office of Planning's set-down report.

Douglas Development acquired the site in the fall of 2006 from Maryland-based Greenhill Companies, for roughly $15 million. The Historic Preservation Review Board has extensively reviewed the plans and approved the concept along with local ANC 2C, which voted unanimously to support the project. Shalom Baranes is designing the structure with terra cotta facade to "[evoke] a similarity with [the] historic masonry buildings," according to the Office of Planning.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Monterey's Metamorphosis Ends Where it Began

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The Monterey, a 434-unit condo-conversion project developed by Annapolis-based Triton Real Estate Partners, is officially being re-converted back to apartments. The project, located at 5901 Montrose Road in North Bethesda, was originally stalled when Triton defaulted on their mezzanine loan and CBRE Realty Finance became full owner. Triton did begin selling condos in March of 2006 before defaulting, hawking one-bedroom units from the low $300s and three-bedroom units up to the mid $800s, but now CBRE is releasing contract owners from their obligations and refunding deposits, rescinding just over 40 of Triton's contracts-to-purchase in the months to come in an effort to facilitate the property's eventual sale on the open market.

"After substantial analysis of the marketplace and viability of the condo market right now, it was determined that the property is most suited to the rental market," said Paul Martin, Executive Vice President of Portfolio and CDO Management at CBRE. "We've revalued our interest in the property, and determined that the best course of action is for CBRE to sell."

This particular property has changed hands three times in only two years. It originally began as the 432-unit Pavilion Apartment building, owned by Home Properties LLC. Triton purchased it from Home Properties in November, 2005, much to the dismay of the Pavilion's tenants, and reportedly planned to spend $45 million on renovation efforts for the newly christened Monterey condominiums (concept pictured). CBRE assumed its role as full owner of the project in May of 2007 when Triton was foreclosed on, both at the Monterey and at a second condo conversion project, the Rodgers Forge in Towson.

The fate of the 16-story, three-tower complex will ultimately be an upscale apartment community; the north tower currently has more than 50 units that are completely gutted, remnants of Triton's unfinished business, along with 143 units that need minor refurbishment. The south tower holds 228 units that are nearly-completed condo units, which will be going for much higher rates since they provide upgrades like granite counter-tops, hardwood floors and other indicia of condo conversion that the aforementioned units lack.

Friday, November 30, 2007

Alexandria to Review Mixed-Use Development

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The Madison, a proposed condo development at 800 North Henry Street, will be under review Tuesday, December 4th at a public hearing held by the Alexandria Planning Commission. The project, a brainchild of Trammell Crow Companies (TCC), would add 344 condominiums, 23,000 s.f. of ground level retail and passive open space to a site slightly larger than a city block at the intersection of North Henry and Madison Streets, which falls under the jurisdiction of the upcoming Braddock Road Metro Area Plan.

The soon to be approved Braddock Metro Plan has hindered the Madison's actualization, as outlined by an executive summary released by the Planning Commission: "The Applicant has indicated that they have been waiting for the [Braddock Metro] plan to proceed and can no longer wait for [it] to be adopted." In the meantime, TC MidAtlantic Development III, Inc., a subsidiary of Trammell Crow, has applied for slight modifications to the initial development including: Increased building density, a reduction in the amount of required open-space and reduced parking requirements.

One of the issues that seems to be garnering the most attention is the traffic problem. A traffic study was done for the Parker-Gray area by Gorove/Slade Associates, Inc., for a project at 621 N. Payne Street, roughly three blocks away from the Madison site. The findings from that study proved that "The southbound North Henry Street corridor appeared to be over-saturated." The Planning Commission has compared traffic changes that would result from the Madison's inception against data from the Braddock plan; the official response to the traffic quandary went something like this: "The proposed project would generate fewer [AM] and [PM] trips (compared to the Braddock Plan), respectively. Within the context of the overall Braddock Plan, this is not a significant increase in traffic demand."

The site plan being reviewed next week depicts two separate buildings, a 138-unit structure on the southern portion of the site, and a 206-unit structure on the northern half. Design teams created the buildings using a variety of colors, construction materials and architectural styles to evoke the impression that the project is made up of many different buildings that were built over time, "typical of Alexandria blocks...to reduce appearance of mass and to relate to opposite block faces," according to the Planning Commission.

Developers wish to construct two courtyards totaling 20,000 s.f. of open space, 15% less than the amount required by the City of Alexandria. While details are still being worked out, it appears that TCC can compensate for this shortfall by donating to the Braddock Road Open Space Fund. An additional issue has come up regarding the original design; TCC's plan creates less parking than is mandated for a project of this magnitude - another potential topic for debate at the upcoming public hearing.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

NOVO to Finish Design of Kalorama Condos

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NOVO Properties is one step closer to converting two apartment buildings on the 1800 block of Vernon St., NW into condominiums. NOVO has planned to modernize and redevelop these almost century-old structures for some time now but the firm just recently received the go ahead from both the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) and the Historic Planning Review Board (HPRB) as of October. According to sources inside the firm, the local ANC has jumped on board as well, despite the project's ill-standing with some members of the community.

The now-vacant buildings used to hold 25 rent-controlled apartment units housing a combined total of 29,000 s.f. of space. NOVO plans to add three new units to the current mix, in addition to adding a four-floor modern bridge structure to connect the pair of stand-alone properties. Although the exterior will remain mostly as-is, the interior is planned for dramatic improvements; Bonstra Haresign has taken the design reigns and the two firms are currently in the midst of deciding the overall architectural scheme.

The property was purchased from Perseus Realty for $4 million in June of this year; though some have questioned the firm's handling of the property disposition. Some disaffected residents claimed Perseus, after offering generous stipends from $1,000 to as high as $15,000 to induce tenants to vacate their homes, used heavy-handed tactics (waterboarding?) to get residents out of the building. Councilmember Jim Graham and Mayor Fenty have investigated, but the case has all but fallen out of the public eye.

That being said, NOVO declined to comment on the record. Spokespeople for the company, however, did mention that the projected ground breaking is anticipated within the next year. NOVO is the developer behind The Takoma condominiums in Takoma Park, MD, and owns a number of medium to large sized apartment buildings throughout the DC Metro area as well as a smattering of properties located in Charleston, SC, Chicago, IL and Philadelphia, PA. The project will be built by Eichberg Construction.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

William C Smith Plans Major Housing Initiative in SE

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William C Smith Company has unveiled initial plans for the first of 1100 new residential units in southeast DC, some of which will start early next year. The first set of new condos, Brownstein Commons, is planned for the site of the recently-destroyed Trenton Terrace Apartments, located on the 1100 block of Mississippi Ave, SE. Brownstein Commons will share that plot of land with a second William C Smith development, Archer Park, to create a total of 240 new residences for Ward 8. The developer is planning to begin construction on the 234,000-s.f. project in the Spring of 2008.

As a result of focus groups held by William C Smith (who we shall now refer to, simply, as "Bill"), the developer believes that a large unsatiated demand for homeownership opportunities exists in the neighborhood. Bill has responded accordingly, planning to inject a large amount of for-sale projects into Ward 8 in the coming years. A source within Bill opined that the community is underserved for housing, resulting in DC losing residents to PG County for lack of affordable homes in Ward 8.

The current project is set to be completed in phases; Archer Park, strictly a rental community, will serve as phase one of the development and will be completed first, starting next spring. Design plans call for the construction of 66-affordable, two and three bedroom rental units reserved for families below 60% AMI - the rental portion is expected to cost more than $9 million and is being designed by SK&I Architecture. Brownstein Commons, on the other hand, will be comprised of 174 brand-spanking-new workforce housing condominiums, for families between 50% and 80% AMI, and will cost an estimated $36 million. Bill expects construction on the condos to begin in the Spring of 2009.

WCS has heavily focused their developments on areas east of the Anacostia River. On December 7th, the first new grocery store in 30 years will be opened in Ward 8 at the Shops at Park Village, a 112,000 s.f. retail project that WCS is just finishing at the intersection of Stanton and Alabama Ave, SE. The retail center will also be home to a Wachovia Bank, a hardware store, insurance company and dry cleaner. Other projects completed by the firm include Ashford Court, which began selling early this year, and The Villages of Parklands. In total, the firm has added more than 5,000 housing units to the District, at a total value of more than $250 million.

Help Wanted: 1600 North Capitol Seeks Developer

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A 77-unit mixed-use project will soon rise at the corner of Florida and North Capitol Streets, NW, if a suitable development partner can be found. The design of the project at 1600 North Capitol Street, NW, is currently being inked by DC-based Bonstra Haresign Architects, and the owner is now seeking a savvy developer to see the project through (phones are open, call now, don't wait). The 18,984-s.f. chunk of vacant land will house a 7-story, L-shaped building, with approximately 117,000 s.f. of space, serving both residential and retail purposes, according to the architects.

Florida and Q Street, LLC initially applied for zoning approval back in February of 2006; the typical zoning procedure ensued, but surprisingly, "There were no parties in opposition," according to the Zoning Commission. Other than a few minor changes to the design of the building's facade, the P.U.D. application went swimmingly. NCPC (National Capital Planning Commission) approved it in December of 2006, followed by Zoning's approval in January of 2007.

The now-approved P.U.D. application had requested that the zoning for the site be changed from C-2-A to C-2-B, which would allow for: An increase of residential lot occupancy to 75%, a 15 ft. increase in maximum building height to 65 ft. and "medium density" development on the lot by right. Yet in the same approval, NCPC and the Zoning Commission gave the nod for the design of a taller structure than the by-right zoning permitted, approving a 7-story central tower at the intersection of North Capitol Street and Florida Avenue; the building will now measure 81 ft. from N. Capitol Street, and 86 ft. from Florida Ave.

Of the 77 units, 73% will be one-bedrooms and 26% will be two-bedrooms; and one lucky person will get a three-bedroom unit. The plans also include approximately 5,000 s.f. of ground floor retail along Florida Avenue and two levels of underground parking to create a total of 84 parking spaces.

"We're anxious to continue work on implementing an important residential project in a fast-developing corridor of the city," said Bill Bonstra, Principal at Bonstra Haresign, "Mr. [Joe] Mamo has worked diligently with the community, hand in glove, to understand their needs. In response to community requests we've incorporated neighborhood retail into the project," Bonstra added.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

PN Hoffman Switches NW Project to Offices

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PN Hoffman has announced that their downtown condo project is now going forward as an office building. The building, at 10th and G St, NW, will change from market rate condominiums to a mixed-use commercial center. Two years in the making, the project will create 140,000 s.f. of Class A office space atop a newly constructed First Congregational United Church of Christ (FCUCC).

PN Hoffman has been working together with ER Bacon Development LLC to finish design plans; the purchase agreement of air rights above the church's land has been finalized as of October, while plans to rebuild a new, two-story church underneath the commercial space are still in progress. The existing church, built in 1959, is set to be demolished in December. According to PN Hoffman, development of the church will include "approximately 36,000 s.f. of space comprised of a sanctuary and social service area...the facility will provide spaces for conferences, lectures, offices, classrooms, and music events." As part of the church's resurrection, the apportioned social service space under the glass-and-steel office structure will be leased to the Dinner Program for Homeless Women - definitely a mixed-use endeavor.

The current church is in dire need of an upgrade, hence the uncommon leveraging of sacred air rights. Meg Maguire, Chair of the Site Development Task Force for FCUCC explained: "There are many things wrong with the church, it isn't handicapped accessible, all of the systems in the church are in really bad shape and need to be replaced, so we were looking at a huge investment. Even if we made that investment, at the end of the day we were not going to have the home that we would need in the 21st century...we were very fortunate to find, in ER Bacon and PN Hoffman, a partner...It's been an incredible team effort."

The commercial portion of the site will house eight stories of office space and include a third floor outdoor-terrace so cubicle inhabitants can grab a breath of fresh air in between long hours of business-as-usual. The building's design is set to achieve a LEED Silver rating by incorporating a green roof, use of recycled construction materials and minimization of water usage. The design will serve as PN Hoffman's very first venture into the world of commercial office development. PNH had previously planned to build 140 "luxury" condominiums above the homeless shelter.

Cunningham + Quill Architects is handling the office space design, while NY-based Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects has created plans for the church. Construction is set to begin in February, 2008 with an expected completion date in the fourth quarter of 2009.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pollinating Affordable Housing

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Construction on an affordable housing project in Parkside, is set to begin. The project will create 91 row-houses, a 24-unit apartment complex and 5 flats adjacent to the Cesar Chavez Charter High School on Hayes Street NE, and is currently being finalized by The Pollin Foundation. The Consolidated P.U.D. request has been reviewed in three separate public hearings before the Zoning Commission.

Current ownership of the property overlaps separate entities: the DC Housing Authority and the city, while the National Park Sevice holds some administrative jurisdiction over a few of the parcels. Most of the land currently sits unzoned, except for a small section which is being used for public housing. The foundation created by Abe Pollin - owner the Wizards and Verizon Center - proposes new rental units to replace the existing 42 public housing units on the site and 125 new affordable housing units available for incomes between 40% and 100% AMI; 83 of those units will be for sale.

One of the most unique aspects of this particular real estate deal is the project's financing. According to Mr. John Stranix, Pollin's representative before the Zoning Commission. "The Pollin Foundation would develop the houses and take no fee. My time as development manager is not [being] charged to the project." Pollin's philanthropic contributions to Parkside are well founded, according to Mr. Stranix at a zoning meeting over this past summer: "[Mr. Pollin] believes there's a dire need for quality affordable homes. His vision is to create communities that satisfy this need by providing mixed income affordable housing and that's the project we bring before you this evening." Mr. Pollin was unable to be reached for comment. The project will be reviewed by the National Capital Planning Commission on December 6th.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Homeland Security HQ Inches Forward

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In the last few months, the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) has moved closer to completing a Master Plan for St. Elizabeth's West Campus in Anacostia, the future home for the headquarters of both the Department of Homeland Security and the Coast Guard. The final Master Plan is now projected for submission in January of 2008.

GSA presented a Draft Master Plan, which included four separate designs for the campus, to the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) back in August of this year. In return, GSA has now received feedback from the organization regarding its qualifications, changes which will be included in the final version.

NCPC's comments on the design plan were extensive. Members of the Commission were partial to design 4 (pictured above), although the Executive Director's recommendation includes a request for more information "with regard to access and site screening impacts of each alternative" before a final decision can be made on the historic property. NCPC has also required modifications to "minimize the major, long-term, adverse impacts to the West Campus of St. Elizabeths," according to NCPC files. Some of these modifications include: the relocation of parking structures off-campus or below grade, the reduction of overall building heights and (my favorite) the reduction of the visual impact of the U.S. Coast Guard building by "modifying its massing, sitting and monolithic appearance."

The major impediment for the project is St. Elizabeth's designation in 1990 as a National Historic Landmark. The campus was established in 1855 by U.S. Congress as the first federal hospital for the insane. In later years, the site served as a hospital for Civil War soldiers; those that died were buried on-site in a now historic Civil War cemetery.

The St. Elizabeth's West Campus is currently home to 61 buildings, most of which were built before 1915, which house more than 1.1 million s.f. of space. GSA is proposing to restore about 75% of the existing buildings, and add roughly 3.7 million s.f. of new space to the 176 acre site. However, some worry that a development of this magnitude would overwhelm the historic features of the property; NCPC hopes to alleviate these concerns by heavily reviewing the designs in order to implement a unique plan that can accommodate historic placement.

Although design plans may not have been chosen, one thing is certain: the Department of Homeland Security needs a headquarters, and soon. Michael McGill, Public Affairs Officer for GSA's National Capitol Region explained why: "[DHS needs] a close proximity of decision makers to coordinate quickly and act. They need to establish a common culture, which requires that they assemble this critical mass." The current structure of America's favorite governmental organization is a widely scattered array of 18,000 employees housed in over 6.5 million s.f. of office space in 50 separate locations which are interspersed throughout the city.

GSA owns more than 95 million s.f. of space in the National Capitol region, of which 53 million is for lease. Jones Lang LaSalle is coordinating development the St Elizabeth's site, while The Smith Group is responsible for drafting the Master Plan; Perkins + Will will design the Coast Guard Headquarters.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Changes to Eckington Project to be Decided Tonight

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Tonight, NoMa West Residential I LLC will request a Planned Unit Development modification for the design plans for 618,000 s.f. of development on a 190,000-s.f. parcel in Eckington (or NoMa, depending on whether you are marketing the project or already live there). The vacant site at Eckington Place and Harry Thomas Way, NE, which falls within the NoMa BID, had already been approved for development as of October 2006, but since then both the applicant, Fairfield Residential, and the initial proposal, have changed. The new P.U.D. application seeks construction of only 1,000 s.f. of retail and a total 617,318 s.f. of residential space to be split amongst 600 units in three separate buildings.

Initial plans for the site were drafted by Fairfield (FF Realty, LLC) on behalf of the site-owner CSX Realty Development Corporation back in 2006. The Zoning Commission subsequently approved the P.U.D., signed June 22, 2007. Unfortunately for FF Realty, a new developer has stepped into their shoes, changing the design plans and ultimately the scope of the development.

Under the old plans, three large residential buildings, 27 townhouse units and five, four-story single family townhouses were to be constructed over 4.3 acres, with Q Street dissecting the property in order to "establish [a] street grid," according to a Zoning Commission summary. In total, a maximum of 636 residential units comprised of 739,951 s.f. of residential area would have been created combined with 15,084 s.f. of retail space for a total cost of $150 million. The modified P.U.D. reduces the amount of residential space by more than 120,000 s.f. and cuts the retail portion of the site by 90%.

The only remaining design from FF Realty's old plan will be the three mammoth buildings and the Q Street dissection. The first structure, Building 100, will have about 120,000 s.f. of floor area measuring 57 feet in height; Building 200 will house 250,000 s.f. of space at 64 feet and Building 300 will also have about 250,000 s.f. of space and will measure 61 feet in height. In addition to shaving the townhouses off of the plan, the new developers have also proposed to rezone the site from its approved C-3-C District, which allows 100% lot occupancy and permits building heights up to 90 ft, to C-3-A which reduces lot occupancy to 75% and allows a height of no more than 65 ft.

The modified P.U.D. will be considered for final action tonight. Prior to ZC's decision, they have required that NoMa West provide the Construction Management Plan and further detail as to the design changes.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Bethesda Developer Shelves Project

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Plans for a 250-unit development in downtown Bethesda were put on ice this week by Street Retail Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Federal Realty Trust, citing adverse community reaction. The project, when put into motion, will create a 250-room hotel, 56,000 s.f. of retail space and 250 "residential components" for downtown Bethesda at the NE corner of Woodmont and Bethesda Avenues (site photo pictured).

Phase one of the project, consisting of a single 5-story office building with ground-level retail and eight-screen movie theatre, already sits on the NW corner of the lot and is proposed to be incorporated into the new development. In order to accomplish architectural integration with the surrounding Metro Core District, design team Shalom Baranes Associates has concentrated building density in the northeast portion of the lot, gradually decreasing the concentration of construction to seamlessly transition into the southwestern low-density zones.

Last week, the Montgomery County Planning Department finally reviewed preliminary plans for the development, more than a year since they were originally submitted. During that time, developers have been hitting the streets, dedicating copious time to local government officials, Planning Department members and the community at large in an attempt to head off future dissent and incorporate feasible solutions into the overall plan. It has paid off; one notable example lies in the hubbub that arose when Capital Crescent Trail constituents found out they would lose their trail during the duration of the two-year construction period. As a result of community involvement the development team came up with three alternative solutions to the problem that subsequently satisfied the concerned parties.

Still, many don't want to see more development on what is now open green space, a factor accentuated by the PN Hoffman project approved just across the street. Maryland Politics Watch writer David Lublin opines: "Precisely because so much development is already approved near to that intersection is why more open space is needed." In turn, developers have pulled out because they want to meet those concerns before entering a public hearing.

John R. Tschiderer
, VP of Development for Federal Realty Investment Trust, stressed his firm's focus on community involvement. "[We] have been involved in creating Bethesda row for 13 to 14 years, and our investment in its creation has been through a public/private partnership. We have worked through the political and community leadership and the constituents thereof collectively, to create a very distinct and noticeable district. There have been many layers of benefit to all of those involved in the partnership and we are going to continue in that forum."
 

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