Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Razing Begins Monday on Old Capper Site

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"The bulldozers are ready," said David Cortiella, Project Coordinator at the District of Columbia Housing Authority, alluding to the demolition vehicles that will be unleashed upon the old Capper Seniors building this coming Monday, November 5. This correspondent's preference for dynamite notwithstanding, the slow work of demolition will take place at 601 L Street, SE, lasting approximately four weeks, clearing the way for a new construction project (pictured) to be supervised by Forest City Washington, the developer behind The Yards on the southeast riverfront and the Ballston Common Mall in Arlington, VA. EYA and Mid City Urban LLC will also work in collaboration with Forest City on the site.

The DC Housing Authority has been working to prepare for demolition since the beginning of September, carefully navigating the obstacle course that is the HAZMAT abatement protocol. As of tomorrow, all of the hazardous material on the site will have been removed and the raze permits will be in effect, paving the way for the future of the site. What lies in store is a 500,000-s.f. office building on the southern half of the lot and an undetermined number of mixed-income residential components on the northern half.

The redevelopment project began with destruction of two Capper residential buildings and the construction of two new residences in their place: Capper #1, completed in 2006, as a seniors' residence and Capper #2 for workforce housing, set to begin housing residents as early as next month. The office building, being designed by Shalom Baranes Associates Architects, is the third structure to materialize in the vast 32-acre Capper/Carrollsburg Housing Redevelopment - a project which has been funded by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development in the form of a $35 million Hope VI grant. The rest of the 32 acres will be developed in a joint effort by EYA, WC Smith, Mid City Urban and Forest City Washington and is proposed to house retail spaces, office buildings, condominiums, apartments and townhouses.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Brookland Eyes 10 Acres of Development at St. Paul's

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St. Paul's College, located between 4th St. and the Metro tracks in Brookland, is subdividing its 20-acre campus and has contracted with EYA to purchase and develop half of the property into 250 single-family townhouses. The college says it will monitor the $50 million project to ensure that the design vision of the college is realized through EYA's efforts.

The property, abutting the Trinity and Catholic campuses along 5th and 6th Streets, will be fed by extensions of Jackson and Hamlin Streets, and will house three and four story town-homes of two distinct design styles: a minority of the structures will feature gothic architecture matching the existing college building, while a vast majority are said to be in keeping with the design features reminiscent of the surrounding Brookland neighborhood. About 10% of the housing will be devoted to low-income households. Along with the homes, EYA has discussed constructing sidewalks along existing streets as well as building passive parks and courtyards to beautify the residential landscape.

The next step for EYA and the Paulist leadership is to appear before the entire ANC commission towards the end of this year. ANC 5C representative Silas Grant has met with the members of the community multiple times, but according to sources close to the process some people within the community feel that the construction and heightened traffic density could cause problems. Still, others see the single family homes has having a positive effect on property values for the community as a whole.

The P.U.D. was submitted in September and if all goes as planned it should be ratified late in 2008, putting EYA on schedule to break ground in the first quarter of 2009. Once the P.U.D. is approved, EYA will open up the bidding to contractors, although the Virginia based Lessard Group has already been chosen as the acting design architect and VIKA Inc., located in Maryland, has been designated as the project engineer.

Washington DC real estate development news

Monday, October 29, 2007

Mayor Fenty to Celebrate View 14 Construction

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Shovels will hit the dirt tomorrow at the official ground-breaking of the View 14 apartment building, a mixed-use development located at 2303 14th Street, NW. The $80 million development, a joint venture between the local Level 2 Development, LLC and Chicago-based Centrum Properties, will create 185 "sleek" apartments and 34,000 s.f. of retail space at the corner of 14th Street and Florida Avenue, NW.

Level 2 has been preparing for tomorrow's ground-breaking in several stages over the past two years; back in 2005 the main lot was purchased for $10.2 million from Petrovitch Auto Repair Inc.. Then, late in 2006, it bought the adjacent lot from Comcast for $3.2 million - a price which included the sale of the property and the cost of relocating the existing satellite farm which it housed.

Level 2 has focused much of its efforts towards recreating the area above the U Street corridor, working on a number of projects within a few blocks of the View 14 site. Late in 2006 they purchased the Nehemiah Shopping Center, located just across the street, and recently sold the property and the design plans. Level 2 has also completed some relatively smaller projects in the area including the Clift back in 2001 and the Mercury at Meridian Hill Park in 2005.

Within the P.U.D. for View 14, Level 2 agreed to offer $40,000 in contributions to local organizations, introduce itself as a new participant in DC employment programs and, most notably, contribute $1 million in funds which will be delivered by Level 2 principals David Franco and Jeff Blum to the Sankofa Tenants Association. The funds are being donated to enable 48 low-income households to purchase and renovate their building, the Crest Hill apartments, as part of an affordable housing cooperative.

Clark Residential will serve as the general contractor for the site while SK&I are the acting design architects. The expected completion date for View 14 is in the second quarter of 2009.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Office of Planning to Release Tenley RFP

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The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development will release the final Request For Proposal (RFP) for the Tenley-Friendship Library (old library pictured) and adjacent Janney School site on Monday, October 29. The solicitation for design plans will come more than a week after the library was demolished and several years after its closure for upgrade.

The RFP is the third stage of an arduous process for Tenley Library. Roadside Development, a DC-based development firm, had been approached by the community back in 2005 during its work on the CityLine project next door, and began to work on initial concepts. Toward the end of 2005, the public library agency (DCPL) claimed it already had a plan for the project and requested that Roadside suspend its work on a design plan so as not to impede the timeliness of development. Yet the DCPL project moved at such a dial-up pace that by the time a contractor was chosen and the designs had been completed, costs were much higher than originally expected and the entire project was scrapped.

Roadside came in for a second time, late in 2006, to approach the community and work on the project, but the community decided it was best that a competitive process ensue, for the betterment of the dual locations. Armand Spikell, a principal at Roadside, reflected on his early involvement in this process: “In the end, most of the community were in favor of a public-private partnership that would result in something better for both the library and the school, and there could be benefit from taking value of the air rights of that location.”

The site, located at 4450 Wisconsin Ave NW, is roughly 158,000 s.f., with the Janney School occupying a majority of the land – the school building itself consumes about 43,000 s.f. but the most recent draft of the RFP appeals for the school size to be doubled during development and that it be “[brought] up to current building codes…bringing it into compliance with ADA.” As it stood before, the old Tenley Library was only 18,000 s.f. – the solicitation will call for the addition of 2,000 s.f. of space for the new building, as well as the addition of a residential portion over the library. The Office of Planning has not determined whether the public land itself will be sold, maintaining a provision within the draft RFP which states that the District will enter into negotiations for the disposition “either through sale or a ground lease.”

Although each draft has been full of design guidelines for the library and school site, it has left the residential portion of the project undetermined – definitely the most controversial appendage to the public property given the stiff resistance the community has shown to nearly any type of development, such as the Maxim condo project next door which got downsized past the point of feasibility and now sits boarded and undeveloped several years after approval. The Request did outline an Affordable Housing element, requiring that 30% of the units be designated as affordable, with 15% priced for people at the 30% AMI or below and another 15% designated for residents earning 60% AMI or below.

The Public Schools district has apportioned a separate budget for capital improvements, however those resources will not be available for six years – posing a “time lag” problem for the immediate needs of Janney. While DCPL did not disclose the budgeted amount for capital improvements, this much is clear: the Public Library system will be seeking reimbursement for surrendering the air rights to the site. The surrounding community is divided in its views about the project – many have used the objectives of the Smart Growth Network, an EPA-funded developmental planning initiative of transit and pedestrian-oriented development, as a launching pad for their justification of the Metro-centered site.

Ward 3 Vision, a partnership between the residents of Ward 3 and the Coalition for Smarter Growth, in most cases looks favorably upon development projects that are transit-oriented. Tom Hier, chair of Ward 3 Vision, stated that he supports the RFP process "to learn how a public-private partnership may creatively achieve increased density, while potentially benefiting the library, Janney School and the community,” adding that “The city has invested millions of dollars in metro stations and we want to take advantage of that.” Opposing residents, including the Advisory Neighborhood Council, raise the usual red flags of density, over-development, and increased traffic congestion, though the site sits over the Tenley-AU Metro station. In addition, the ANC has recently passed a resolution stating that the land has not been designated as surplus, and that an RFP at this stage in the game is pulling the proverbial cart before the horse. Developers will have six weeks from Monday to submit their design plans for the site, and while some members of the community have raised concerns as to whether six weeks is enough time, the Office of Planning responded that an adequate window of opportunity has been provided for submissions.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Alexandria Condos Going to Auction

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On Sunday the 28th, Parkside Alexandria is due to auction 30 remaining condos in the 378-unit complex in Alexandria, VA. The Parkside, on N. Van Dorn Street, was originally an apartment building, converted to condos by Mid-City Urban, which claims on its website to have nearly $1 billion in housing units on the east coast. Sales for the Parkside began in early 2004 when condominium sales were in their hayday, but reduced pricing was not sufficient to move the remaining units that began delivery 18 months ago. Renovation work completed on the project in January of this year. According to the development page, the remaining units will auction at a minimum bid of $225,000 for units that had at one point started at $279,000.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Moody's Ranks Urban Markets

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Moody's real estate market assessment for the third quarter of 2007 was released this month, boasting the DC metro region as one of the top retail sectors in the nation with a score of 77 on a scale from zero to 100.The DC metro area was given a composite rating of 65, two points above its score from last quarter, compared to 71 nationally. Although DC didn't make it into the "five best markets" category because of low industrial (38) and suburban office (49) ratings, other competing cities like Miami (60), Chicago (63) and Philadelphia (67) received similar scores while New York City holds the number one spot with a score of 87.

The study breaks down and rates seven market segments in 53 of the nation's largest cities, then compiles them into a composite score. According to Sally Gordon, manager of the study and developer of the evaluation model, the composite score is a non-weighted straight average of the market segment ratings. The market segments encompassed in the study - suburban office, central business district (CBD) office, multifamily, industrial, retail, full service and limited service hotel - are rated based on a blend of variables, including supply relative to demand, current vacancy rate and change in vacancy over time, amongst others. New condo developments were not rated.

The figures enclosed in the study indicate that the ratings for DC's CBD offices dropped slightly to 66 due to an accelerating rate of construction which has widened the gap between supply and demand. However, even though demand for CBD offices is low, DC was still reported as having a vacancy rate that is among the lowest in the country, 6.4%, third only to Charlotte, NC and New York, NY. The multifamily rental market also received a strong rating of 82, although the vacancy rate was reported to be slightly higher.

According to the study, DC's retail sector also seems to be thriving, but developmental construction efforts are failing to satiate an apparent appetite for growth. The retail score of 77 is a healthy number which reflects a 4.7% surplus in demand, half a percent more than the national average. With that figure in mind, Moody's categorized DC as one of the "ten largest shopping center markets" in the country.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Demolition to Make Way for More Stadium Apartments

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Monday, October 29th will be the last day for the old taxi cab repair garage that stands on 1345 South Capitol Street. The site, which was once used by Bell Cab Company, was purchased by Camden Properties in December 2005, forcing Bell to move to its current location on First Street NE. The dilapidated building is to be razed to the ground next week, the latest residential development in the increasingly competitive ballpark area. Camden, a nationwide real estate investment trust based out of Houston, ended the bidding process for construction on October 17th, and is now in the process of deciding who will build the 365,000-s.f. project.

"Our goal for Camden 1345 is to create a residential project that will complement the urban environment of the new stadium and entertainment district," said Topher Cushman, Director of Real Estate Investment at Camden. Cushman added: "The building's open courtyards, unit terraces and rooftop amenities will provide residents with monumental city views as well as outlets to interact with the streetscape." And while a construction firm has not been selected, WDG Architecture - the company that received national kudos for its work on the Sallie Mae Headquarters in Reston, VA will be designing the structure.

The new $105 million development will be a mixed-use property with 3,000 s.f. of ground floor retail and 276 rental units, and is expected to be ready for ground breaking by December of this year. 1345 South Capitol will be the newest addition to a compendium of properties owned and operated by Camden in the DC metro area, including the Grand Parc on 15th Street NW, Monument Place in Fairfax, VA and Potomac Yard in Arlington, VA.

Friday, October 19, 2007

CityVista Opens in Mt. Vernon Triangle

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The CityVista mixed-use project will go to settlement on the sale of its first condominium unit today now that the development team, lead by Lowe Enterprises, has received its final authorization from the city to transfer title. When complete, the Mt. Vernon project will have a large impact on the neighborhood, delivering 441 condominiums, a 9-story apartment building, and Mt. Vernon's first retail sector with an "urban Safeway", Results gym, and a second helping of U Street's popular Busboys and Poets.

Today's sale is in the "L," the first of two condo towers, where the developer reports 90% of the units are already under contract. The "K" is currently 40% sold and will begin settlements next spring. The last building to finish will be the "V", the apartment building now under construction, on which the developers have entertained offers to sell outright.

The first occupancy at CityVista follows a long wait for the city's approval; the development team received a Certificate of Occupancy for the property back in August, but had been stymied in its attempts to convey the properties for lack of tax identification numbers, a problem an individual involved with the project said resulted from DC's failure to officially recognize Lowe as the owner of record on the property. The city - a partner on the project - has now issued the credentials, allowing the project to begin occupancy.

Washington DC real estate development news

1300 Rhode Island - New Name, New Birthday

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The developer of Brookland's next residential project have announced they will break ground next spring. The project, formerly known simply as 1300 Rhode Island Avenue, is also being re-christened Brookland Square. Republic Land Development plans to build the 350,000-s.f. structure for an estimated $75 million, with aspirations for it to serve the new residential center for Brookland, located only 2 blocks from the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station and a developing retail sector.

The name change comports with physical location: the actual development site resides on 2711 13th Street NE - not Rhode Island Avenue. Brookland Square is being managed by Republic Land Development, the developers behind Georgetown Park and Washington Harbour. Eric Colbert & Associates is designing the structure and Harkins Construction tentatively holds the contract to build.

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Thursday, October 18, 2007

Goodbye Benning Library

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Demolition of the Benning Neighborhood Library, located at 3935 Benning Road NE, began early this Monday morning and is expected to continue for four weeks until the site is completely leveled. Plans for the new structure are still undecided; the original design has been ditched and the architects for the site, Davis Brody Bond, have been forced to go back to the drawing board.

What is clear is that the new site will be the home of a 20,000-s.f. standalone library costing an estimated $14 million - including demolition, design, construction, equipment and supplies for the new library. Sources close to the process indicate that although a final design of the library has not yet been decided upon, the project management team is striving for LEED Silver certification, the third highest rating for "green" buildings. A community meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, October 23 at the library's interim site, 4101 Benning Road, to garner public input on the final design of the future structure.

Broadcast Center One Gets the Signal from DC

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The DC Zoning Commission approved the application this Monday for Broadcast Center One, a 300,000 s. f. mixed-use development on 7th and S Streets NW, a long-sought ruling that is expected to add impetus to the regeneration of the Shaw neighborhood.

In tandem with the Planned Unit Development zoning application, developers Four Points LLC and Ellis Enterprises also submitted a Land Disposition Agreement to the office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development last Friday for review by the DC City Council. A hearing is anticipated by mid-November.

"We are happy to report that we have concluded land transfer and subsidy negotiations," said Steven Cassell, project manager at Four Points LLC. "Radio One has both accepted a subsidy offer from the city and signed a letter of intent," Cassell added, referring to Radio One, the country's seventh largest radio broadcasting company which will be moving back to DC and into the new digs once the Broadcast Center project is completed. The $128 million development has been in the pipeline for over two years, but if all goes well at the hearing next month construction would begin soon. "Our objective is to be in the ground and digging by February," declared Roy Ellis, CEO of Ellis Enterprises.

The Broadcast Center One complex, with over 21,000 s. f. of retail space, 180 residential units for rent and 103,000 s.f. of office space, will be a blessing to many including the Shaw district at large. "Whenever you bring a company into a neighborhood, you've got real economic opportunity. It's the best thing since sliced bread," added Ellis who, amongst others, sees this development as having a drastic revitalization effect on the local Shaw community.

None will be happier about the deal's approval than Cathy Hughes, founder of Radio One. "Radio One was built with the good will and support of the citizens of DC. I cried for six months when we had to leave," said Hughes. The old Radio One headquarters, located on Nebraska Avenue, had lived out its lease almost ten years ago. Since then, Ms Hughes has awaited the day her company could return to its roots in the District.

Construction of Broadcast Center One will require a convergence of the minds for project managers from five separate companies: joint developers Four Points LLC and Ellis Enterprises, Jarvis Company who is acting as an equity investor in the project, Devrouax & Purnell who will be designing the office building and Eric Colbert & Associates, the architect behind the Broadcast Center residences. The targeted completion date for the project is in the second quarter of 2010.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Senate Square Closes Sales

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Broadway's ambitious Senate Square Towers project, which closed its sales office doors last month vowing to reopen in a few weeks, has quietly revealed that it will cease to sell condominiums in its 432-unit project, and will now finalize the construction to turn the project into a "luxury" apartment building. The 12-story towers at 201 I Street began sales in September of 2005, but as of the date of closure had no more than 150 units under contract, and was at least 6 months behind schedule for project completion. The first settlements had been anticipated to take place in November.

As the first residential project on H Street, NE, the New York-based developer had faced the daunting hurdles of selling a "luxury" building in a scrappy, low-density location that had yet to feel the effects of revitalization now taking place, just as the condo market was beginning to wane. Broadway eventually hired Shvo, a Manhattan-based condo marketing firm, to bolster the marketing efforts of McLean-based Mayhood, but sales remained lackluster, inevitably forcing prices down. Speculation had long pointed toward the project converting to a rental apartment building, and the developer had entertained offers to sell the entire project, and has now quietly changed its website to reflect its new status. And while other residential projects queue to break ground in the immediate neighborhood, Senate Square joins a long and well documented list of projects that could not garner sufficient selling prices to justify construction, turning instead to the fast-growing rental market, taking yet another whack at the shrinking supply of condos.

Monday, October 15, 2007

H Street End to Get Revision

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Bids have closed on a major District Department of Transportation (DDOT) project which will replace 200 feet of Maryland Avenue with a half-acre public park. The new park, dubbed “Starburst Intersection,” will replace a number of scattered traffic islands and leftover bits of sidewalk that currently sit on the pavement. This project is the first step in a $20 million DDOT program which will transform the H Street corridor from 14th street to Oklahoma Avenue.

“Starburst Intersection is the complicated junction of six roadways - H Street NE, Florida Avenue NE, Bladensburg Road NE, Maryland Avenue NE, Benning Road NE, and 15th Street NE,” according to the DDOT website. Describing the junction as complicated is an understatement; the intersection doesn’t seem to be working for anybody. According to Karina Ricks, Associate Deputy Director for Transportation Policy and Planning, it has been nearly impossible for pedestrians, cars, bicyclists and transit vehicles to make efficient use out of the six-street connection.

“Our primary objective was to create a livable community and to support the local economic development,” said Ricks. In order to exemplify the blight of the current interchange, Ms. Ricks discussed the convoluted path that local senior citizens must walk to get from their senior center, located at the northwestern-most point of the intersection, to the local stores just a few blocks east. “The seniors are in a very livable place where these amenities are so close,” Ricks said in reference to the nearby CVS Pharmacy and Hechinger Mall, “but they might as well be across town.”

The current intersection requires the crossing of three extremely busy, main streets in order to get from the senior building to CVS Pharmacy – a task not unlike Frogger - a game of threading traffic without getting squished. The new design will reorganize traffic in a manageable way, re-time the traffic signals to allow more time for pedestrians to walk and will force seniors to cross only one busy street in order to purchase their necessities. “It’s not just about the seniors,” Ricks added, “but they graphically illustrate the need for this improvement.”

The park will feature an 8' high, 30' long terrazzo panel commissioned by the DC Commission of Arts and Humanities, which will be surrounded by a number of recreational areas and fixed game tables where pedestrians can unwind. Additionally, the DDOT has included provisions for a large water fountain in the overall design. Although the DDOT will be providing the capital investment for the water structure, project leaders are still seeking a neighborhood organization to take stewardship over it. Starburst Intersection will also include a multitude of Low Impact Design features, making it an eco-friendly addition to the H Street Corridor. The Starburst Intersection is projected for completion in early 2009, and should be followed by the stalled trolley plan for H Street, but more on that soon.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Glebe Park to Get Face Lift

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Last week, the Planning Commission for the City of Alexandria unanimously recommended the approval of special use permits for a development proposed in Glebe Park. The total development package involves the construction of six new buildings, evenly divided between the fronts of Old Dominion and West Glebe Roads in Arlandria.

The properties currently existing on the site house 152 residential units, about a third of which serve as public housing, divided amongst three parcels of land. The construction process includes tearing down 120 of the existing residential components and rebuilding 78 of them as a combination of subsidized and market rate rental housing. The master plan also includes the renovation of two existing buildings on Old Dominion Road which will be absorbed into the development

The new plan is the result of an out of kilter real estate portfolio held by the Alexandria Redevelopment & Housing Authority (AHRA), a chartered housing organization created by the State of Virginia, which owns the land. The initial Glebe Park development was uniquely planned so that the market rate units, which made up a majority of the housing, would subsidize the public housing units. Unfortunately for ARHA the market rate rental receipts have not accrued enough revenue to refund the current $6 million mortgage.

To solve their financial troubles ARHA partnered with Eakin Youngentob & Associates (EYA) in a joint effort to analyze their public housing portfolio to make it profitable. The findings of this collaboration resulted in a two part resolution involving two separate properties owned by ARHA: the current Glebe Park property and the James Bland Community - a 194-unit collection of residences which occupy five contiguous blocks on N. Alfred Street. The first step involves the sale of land under the non-public housing units, located on the James Bland property, to EYA. AHRA would then use the proceeds of that sale to finance both the redevelopment of Glebe Park and the $6 million mortgage behind it.

The arrangement is not cleared for construction yet; sources close to the process speculate that the Planning Commission might deem the construction density too high, concerns which will surely be raised this Saturday, October 13, at a public hearing before the Alexandria City Council.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Official Ground Breaking at Park Potomac Place

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Ground breaking on the new Park Potomac Place office building is officially set to commence tomorrow. The colossal development site, spread out on more than 50 acres in Montgomery County off I-270, will host the ceremonial event where the site's largest office structure will stand. Already more than 60% of the building has been leased to Shulman Rogers Gandal Pordy & Ecker P.A., a Maryland -based law firm, which reserved over 65,000 s.f. The office compound is scheduled to be completed in 2009.

The Park Potomac Place, when finished, will be a massive mixed-use collection of structures encompassing: six condominium towers holding 450 luxury living residences, 150 individual brownstone townhouses, a 156-room hotel, 145,000 s.f. of retail space and a total of 570,000 s.f. of office space. Foulger-Pratt Companies, the developer for the site, will be building the condominium and commercial portions while Eakin Youngentob & Associates will be constructing the brownstones. Both companies are working together with SK&I Architectural Design Group to complete the entire complex by 2014.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Zoning Moves to Extend Comments on Capitol Place

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As a result of testimony from Stanton Park Neighborhood Association (SPNA) and Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6C and 6A in an October 1 hearing, the DC Zoning Commission moved to keep the record open for input on the Capitol Place Project, a proposed residential project on H Street's 200 block. The commission decided to keep the record open in an attempt to allow comments from the community at large to be documented before the board.

The SPNA has been reviewing the project in an effort to resolve community agitation over the density of the development straddling both the row house neighborhood on 3rd Street and the commercial H street corridor. The project, which has been conservatively valued at over $150 million by sources close to the development process, has endured two and a half years of review, suffering major architectural critiquing from neighborhood and community organizations. Designers for the Capitol Place are encircled by three distinct architectural contexts: the row house architecture adjacent to the proposed structure on G and 3rd streets, the modernist Kevin Roche-design of the SEC building on the opposite side of the road and the stonework motif used in the creation of Senate Square on H Street. The Capitol Place project team is being encouraged to incorporate all three milieux into the design of the 390,000 - s.f. edifice by the local ANC; a daunting task that Zoning is still evaluating.

The dilemma surrounding the proposal has progressed into an unprecedented zoning quandary. The square on which Capitol Place construction is to take place is comprised of four separate zones: “R-4, which is a zone for attached residences or row houses, C-2-A and C-2-B where some commercial uses are permitted and building height restraints and construction density are limited and C-3-C with much larger height and density restrictions,” explained Drew Ronneberg, the Chair of Economic Development and Zoning Committee for ANC-6A. This is the only instance Ronneberg or the Zoning Commission could recall where R-4 and C-3-C zones were in effect on the same square.

Zoning for the Capitol Place building allows the project team to build up to 110 ft. in the most northwestern corner of the square, and permits a high density of construction to take place within those 10 stories. The zoning commission, however, has required the plan to incorporate a gradual decrease in height along H street, diminishing the structure to just 55 ft. at the easternmost point. The G street fa├žade is proposed to shrink down to a stature of just 45ft in order to avoid dwarfing the flanking row houses. The zoning contrast is quite drastic, “It’s the only place in the city where zones for two to three story row houses, are sharing the same square that permits a 10 – 12 story building,” added Mr. Ronneberg, “They’ve done as good a job as you can to put a 389,000 s. ft. building on that lot.” Many sources close to the process think the two zones are incompatible, thus it is the zoning commission's movement to allow further community input; the record is now scheduled to close on October 22.

Friday, October 05, 2007

St. Martin's Housing Project to Break Ground in February

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After an onerous battle between residents of Eckington and the parish of St. Martins Church, plans are being finalized for groundbreaking on the new 178-unit workforce housing development on 116 T Street, NE, projected for completion in the first quarter of 2010. The apartment complex, totaling 241,000 s.f., is being designed as a Class A apartment building. It will hold 50 junior one bedroom units reserved as public housing for residents earning 30% of the Area Median Income with the remaining 128 units being comprised mostly of two bedroom apartments, available to residents who earn 60% of the Area Median Income. The project should break ground in February of 2008.

Upon completion, the project will serve as “the largest affordable housing project in DC,” said Reverend Michael Kelley, the pastor and leader of the project. “The bad news is that no one else is doing this type of thing,” he added. The reason for a lack of affordable housing developments in the District might be due to the clamor that these types of undertakings tend to cause within the community. St. Martins serves as the perfect example: when some of the neighboring residents discovered what was being constructed on the corner of Summit and T streets, a massive amount of lawyering commenced; they found a way to get an old convent, which would have been destroyed to build the apartment complex, classified a “Historic Building” with the Historical Preservation Society, effectively halting the development process. According to Reverend Kelley, some of the neighbors had a problem with “greed, race and class.”

Most of those community problems have been assuaged thanks to some tricky engineering and cunning design strategies by project architect Grimm & Parker and development manager NorthStar Consultants, who found a way to include the now historic convent (pictured) into the project by moving the massive structure 80 feet eastward. The move will be so astounding that U.K. based documentary program Mega Movers contacted Reverend Kelley to film the convent’s relocation. If the development schedule for the project can coalesce with Mega Movers’ production schedule, St. Martins could appear on the History Channel’s new season of the hit show.

The $41 million project will take the convent, which once served as a housing complex for nuns who taught at the St. Martin’s grade school, and merge it into the design of the apartment building. In 1990, the age-old convent was leased to DC-based Catholic Charities for use as a recovery location for drug-addicted mothers. Then in 2001, Catholic Charities began using the space as subsidized housing for recovering homeless men who needed supportive services and were unable to afford rent at market price. Now, Catholic Charities and St. Martin’s parish have decided that the building, which appears increasingly dilapidated with each passing day, the parking lot and the rest of the property would bode well as affordable housing for struggling adults. According to Reverend Kelley, it fits with the church’s mission – public outreach and social stewardship. Reverend Kelley added, “This speaks volumes about how the Catholic Church is putting Gospel beliefs into practice, or how we say here, taking our faith to the street.”

DC May Get its First Green Hotel in West End

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DC-based Perseus Realty, LLC has announced further details about the hotel it is building with partner Starwood Capital Corp., collaborating to build DC's first LEED-certified hotel, a 180-room hotel in at the corner of 22nd and M Streets (pictured above) in the city's West End neighborhood, as we reported in June, and the pair has now stated that the building will be a 5-star hotel and released renderings.

Connecticut-based Starwood recently began its new "1" chain of hotels with the groundbreaking in June of its first development in Seattle. The DC site will be the third hotel in the chain, following New York and Seattle, and the first hotel project for Perseus, but unlike its sister hotel in Seattle will have no retail or condominium element. In addition to seeking LEED certification through the U.S. Green Buiding Council (USGBC), Perseus intends to make this only the 2nd five-star hotel in the city after the Mandarin Oriential and the first in Northwest. This "will be the first luxury, eco-friendly hotel chain in the country, " said Gabrielle Kornely, Director of Marketing for Perseus, adding that one percent of profits will be donated to local environmental organizations.

Perseus expects to break ground in mid 2008 on the land it purchased from the Nigerian government, where the now-vacant Nigerian Embassy still stands, for which it reportedly paid $15.5m. While the developers have not yet opened any of the hotels - Seattle will be the first in early 2009 - and the DC site will not contain any independent retail, Kornely says the chain will provide appropriately luxurious services, including a "high end restaurant" and bar, and will be managed by Starwood when it opens in 2010. Construction is being coordinated by the architectural team of Leo Daly and Miami-based Oppenheim Architecture and Design.

Perseus Realty was formed in 2003, and broke off in 2004 into 4 real estate groups, each retaining the name Perseus in order to confuse real estate bloggers, but Kornely says the other Perseus entities are capital investment teams that do not develop on their own. Perseus (you know which one) is also in development of the YMCA property at 1235 W Street, NW, on which it will break ground next year. The YMCA include local retail, incorporating the historic row houses that front 13th St. The building housing the current Y will go away, but its facilities will be replaced and co-located with the retail. Perseus is also under construction on the Argent, a 96-unit condo in Silver Spring which broke ground this summer.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Alexandria Gives Thumbs Up To New Park

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The Alexandria Planning Commission yesterday recommended approval of the master plan for a 13.7-acre bio-friendly park, creating two 86,000 s.f. athletic fields and public facilities between Duke Street and Eisenhower Avenue. The entire $62 million cost is being footed by the federal government to compensate Alexandria for the problems associated with redevelopment of the Woodrow Wilson bridge and 7 ½ of miles of beltway. The final plan will be presented at a public hearing by the City Council on October 13th at 9:30 AM.

The Witter Property at 2600 Business Center Drive will accommodate the two athletic fields, one multi-use baseball field, 141 surface parking spaces and a multitude of pedestrian amenities. The master plan calls for three unique solar powered structures: two open air pavilions and public restroom facilities, totaling over 1,800 s.f. Although the structures are far too small to qualify for LEED certification, the nationally recognized benchmark for “green” buildings, the entire facility has been designed to be proactively bio-friendly. The three buildings will house solar panels or photovoltaic roofing shingles in conjunction with an efficient use of natural and low-voltage light to reduce electricity consumption. The plans include bioretention systems throughout the facility to collect and reduce rainwater runoff coupled with dense rain gardens on the southern edge of the property to help absorb and filter the water, a “natural” way to continually recharge the soil in the park with clean, recycled water.

The property was purchased in 2006 by the City of Alexandria for $12 million, but reimbursement of the acquisition price and construction of the facility are being provided by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) in a mitigation effort involving the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project. The FHWA began work on the Wilson Bridge traversing the Potomac River and connecting Maryland and Virginia via the beltway, in 1999, finishing earlier this year. Along with the replacement of the existing bridge, the plan called for upgrades to four interchanges along the corridor, with the underlying theory being that the rampant traffic issues that plague the area would be alleviated upon the project’s completion.

The entire Wilson Bridge Project, which has cost an estimated $2.5 billion to date, has caused “collateral” effects including noise pollution caused by the construction and additional traffic congestion along the corridor. The new corridor cut into the green pastures of Jones Point Park and led federal archaeologists to research and excavate the neighboring lots two blocks west of the entrance to the park where a lost cemetery was thought to have stood, in an attempt to preserve any archaeologically significant material. Development on the site dates back to the 18th century, when it was divided into separate parcels of farmland and a lone family cemetery. The Fruit Growers Express Company (FGEC) purchased it in 1926, using the land for the maintenance of railroad refrigeration cars. In 1989, CSX Transportation purchased FGEC and took ownership of the site, converting it and its existing structures for industrial use. Excavation of the site uncovered Freedman’s Cemetery, home to more than 1800 graves of freed slaves from the Civil War era. Dr. Pamela Cressey, an archaeologist for the City of Alexandria for over 30 years, thinks that this type of archaeology will become more prevalent prior to construction. “In the DC metro area and slightly beyond, we now have County Archaeologists that are operating as managers. As a result, more and more developers are doing archaeological surveys in all jurisdictions as a part of their county’s codes, practices and policies.”

The FHWA promised recompense in the form of a new recreation facility for the community and a memorial park for the freed slaves. Initially priced over $62 million, the new facility was intended to be built to the east as a massive deck above South Washington Street, serving as a screen where the local roadway crosses above the inner and outer loops of the beltway. Because of technical problems encountered in designing the massive urban recreation deck, the city scrapped the initial plans and divided the project into two developments: a smaller recreation deck screening the beltway, and a new recreation facility – the inevitable fate of the Witter Property if all goes well on October 13.

A. Morton Thomas Associates Inc., based out of Rockville, Maryland is the design engineer and sports consultant for the project, and. has provided their expertise on a number of large projects in the DC Metro area including the Atlee/Elmont Interchange in Ashburn, the Pentagon Renovation Program and the Watts Branch Watershed Restoration Study in Montgomery County.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Eastbanc To Start From Scratch On West End Project

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In a public hearing yesterday, the DC Council unanimously passed a motion to reconsider the sale of property on the West End to Eastbanc Inc. The Council then passed a second motion proposed by Councilmember Jack Evans to table the property disposition, which effectively ended discussions on the deal. “The die is cast,” Councilmember Carol Schwartz stated, in stolid reference to the fate of a development process which has caused uproar for some concerned residents of the West End.

Had the deal gone through, Eastbanc Inc. would have constructed a new library, fire station and police station on the public land while redeveloping the adjacent Tiverton apartment building. The Council had initially resolved to approve the development plans "in the belief that [the Council] was protecting the rights of the Tiverton tenants," said Evans, but in the end the entire council agreed that the West End community did not have ample opportunity for public input.

 

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