14th Street's Nehemiah Center, that vestige of bad architecture and short-sited urban planning, will soon be demolished to make way for a large residential project. Texas based UDR, which purchased the site last year, requested raze permits last week, and expects to begin demolishing the property by the end of the second quarter. UDR acquired the hopelessly outdated strip mall at 2400 14th Street from Level 2 Development, which took the project all the way through the existing, and currently approved, P.U.D. stage. UDR will implement Level2's plans, with some embellishment, at an estimated total cost of $130 million. DC-based Metropolis Development had initially purchased the option from Level2 for the rights to develop the site, but later sold the option for a profit to UDR.
The Nehemiah Center currently serves as a one-story retail building along 14th Street, within shouting distance from the U Street Corridor - currently a real estate hotspot surrounded by several ongoing and planned residential projects. Level 2 wanted to capitalize on the area, but opted to sell and concentrate on its View 14 project across the street, a project that it began as condos but that is now just beginning to come out of the ground as an apartment building. UDR's adaption of Level2's plans will replace the old retail with 17,000 s.f. of new retail, and add more units than the currently approved 225. Two weeks ago, UDR's team met with City officials to apply for an addition of 30 residential units to the overall scheme. The firm expects to receive comments regarding whether this increase is feasible within the next month, after which a Zoning Commission hearing will be required.
The building will rise nine stories above the 14th and U Street Corridor, advantageously perched as one of the higher buildings in the area on the slope that rises to Columbia Heights, offering the potential for the distant views rare in the District. The residential units will average 775 s.f. and were initially pushed through the planning process as condominiums, but according to sources at UDR, the market forced them to build out as a market-rate apartment building. There will be a number of affordable housing units as well as a 1,000-s.f. commercial space designated as educational, job training, retail space.
Behind the main building will sit a multi-level parking garage, half above-ground, an issue that has been one of the biggest sources of problems from the community. UDR held a public meeting in February to address the community's concerns about design and construction phases. Turns out the community is agitated over the abundant road and sidewalk closures that result from the numerous projects in the neighborhood. UDR will now phase the construction so that the parking structure would be the first to be completed, hoping to lessen parking and traffic concerns.
"Although we are a national multi-family developer, we understand the importance of local consultants who understand how things get done in their backyard. We want to bring people in who have those existing great relationships, who know how to develop projects in the city. So we felt comfortable," said Rodney Burchfield with UDR. Burchfield is referring to both Shalom Baranes Architects which is designing the new building, and Donohoe Construction, the General Contractor. "As an owner, we're looking to be a part of this new and emerging part of the District, and we want to be a great neighbor," Burchfield added.
Shalom Baranes' design will feature floor to ceiling glass views, private terraces, a rooftop pool and garden as well as a massive lobby and outdoor atrium. UDR will be going for LEED points but has not decided whether or not to strive for LEED certification.