Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Restoration to Rejuvenate Aging Eyesore in Shaw

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One of the city's more historic rowhouses will soon get a renovation and conversion to a multi-family building, now that the Historic Preservation Review Board has approved Community Three Development, LLC’s conceptual design for a rear addition to a historic row house at 444 M St. NW.

The house was built in the late 1870s and had fallen into disrepair (see picture); as a result, the Board had “previously determined that [the property did] not contribute to the character of the historic district.” After complaints from neighbors, in May 2007, 444 M St. became the subject of one of Mayor Adrian Fenty’s Ward 2 “Operation: Fix It” projects, wherein government agencies devote several days to improving a particular neighborhood. Representatives of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs built a temporary blockade to prevent use of the garage. But first, the Department of Public Works had to tow an equally abandoned truck from the property, apparently used solely for “illicit criminal activity”.

Now, Grant Epstein, the President of Community Three Development, LLC, intends to make Bob Vila proud. Besides renovating the gutted, deteriorating original row house, he plans to take advantage of the depth of the lot (194’) by building a four-story addition behind the original house. Epstein describes the project as “one structure with a courtyard in the middle… in order to provide light to all the units.” His current plan calls for eight units that would be designed for use as either condo or rental units.

Given that the Review Board has given the go-ahead, Epstein projects that creation of architectural drawings will last approximately six months, the process of receiving a permit will take two to six months, and construction should last about a year.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

814 Thayer Street Seeks Approval

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Tomorrow, the Montgomery County Planning Board will hold a hearing on a proposal to tear down the former site of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) in Silver Spring and construct in its place a modernist five-story condominium building.

The plan calls for a 52-unit residence at 814 Thayer Avenue, between Fenton and Grove Streets, a five-story building with shifting floorplates to create overlapping residences (see above rendering). The new condos, replacing the NAD building and adjacent parking lot, would include 45 market-rate residences and seven Moderately Priced Dwelling Units. In building residences, the project will address concerns of the Silver Spring Central Business District Sector Plan, which notes that currently the "disjointed pattern of commercial activity and the lack of a residential population [in Fenton Village] dilute pedestrian traffic - a key component of retail activity."

Because of regulations mandating that 20 percent of the project's area be developed as public-use space, the proposed condos would be set back 17 feet from Thayer Avenue, allowing for a 4,2620-s.f. public plaza, with plans for trees and other greenery, game tables, and two county-mandated art projects

Since its last reviewed submission in November, planners have consulted with an artist and can now provide more details about one of the proposed - well, mandated - displays, designed in honor of the NAD (now half a mile away, on Fenton Street): "Down-lit glass columns separate the work into panels of inspirational quotes to add color and vibrancy. The free-standing piece on the northeast side of the plaza will be a historic teletype machine...A glass piece of 'paper' will serve as an artistic intervention and show how Braille text was created by the machine."

814 Thayer LLC purchased the $4-million property, which currently houses an office building, in May 2006, and its development plan was first reviewed by the Montgomery County Planning Board in November 2007. The original NAD building dates back to 1965, and was purchased by the Association in 1971 for $640,000.

UPDATE: This project is a joint venture between owner/developer Banneker Ventures and co-developer Four Points, LLC. Banneker projects the project will break ground in fall of 2008 and complete construction the following year.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Parkside Terrace Apartment Renovation to Begin

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The Community Preservation and Development Corporation (CPDC), Washington DC's largest affordable housing developer, will announce on Monday the beginning of the reconstruction of the failed Parkside Terrace housing project. The renovation marks what District officials hope will be a watershed in the provision of affordable housing, many of which began amid utopian dreams of lifting up the working poor into self-sustaining communities, and ended as crime-ridden enclaves in dilapidated buildings. Officials expect to ready the building for occupancy by the summer of next year.


The twelve-story high-rise at 3700 9th St., SE, vacant since 2005, will be converted into 316 units of "affordable" rental housing, with seven floors of housing for low-income seniors with rental assistance by the DC Housing Authority. The remaining five floors will become "workforce housing" targeting small families, in all a $73 million project financed entirely by the city through the DC Housing Finance Agency through a bond program.

CPDC's own press release called Parkside Terrace Apartments, built in the late 1960's as a Section 8 housing provider, "a major source of blight" in Ward 8, despite early visions of a new era for occupants. Monday's ceremony will mark the beginning of a complete gut of the building by Harkins Builders, with hopes of a new start for working families, and of improving the general community. Let's hope the plan works out better this time.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Fenty Announces Petworth Metro Development Opportunities

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At a Friday morning press conference just north of the Georgia Ave-Petworth Metro Station, Mayor Adrian Fenty announced the District's intention to solicit development bids for three government-owned properties on the 3800 block of Georgia Avenue NW. Properties for bid are 3813, formerly Caribbean Cuisine, now empty; 3815, an empty storefront; and 3925-29, a vacant lot. The former two properties will be offered as one development unit.

Mayor Fenty gave a brief, grim history of the properties prior to their purchase by the District, highlights of which included foreclosure, the demolition of a half-standing and decrepit photo lab, and the discovery of a dead body. (Incidentally, one of the only operational businesses on the block is Latney’s Funeral Home.)

What will fill the decaying block? With bids due this summer and the District’s decision not coming until fall, no one knows yet. But Ward 4 Councilmember Muriel Bowser, also in attendance at the press conference, spoke of “quality retail, quality dining, and places for our residents to gather and stop taking their dollars out of our city.” Any residential development would include the requisite 30 percent affordable housing, and all projects would have to meet green building standards. Former President Clinton may belatedly get his wish for a revitalized Georgia Avenue.

Just steps away from the conference, Donatelli Development was hard at work on Park Place, its $60 million mixed-use project above the Metro. Donatelli has also purchased an empty lot with 10,000+ developable s.f. on the corner of the 3800 block. In addition, Fenty intimated that the Safeway Food & Drug across the street would undergo renovation or redevelopment of some kind.

Councilmember Bowser hopes this block of Petworth will serve as a “model for what we want to do along this entire corridor.” Mayor Fenty has long voiced support for Ward 4 development. As Bowser put it, “I like to think of this as the mayor putting the people’s money where his mouth is.

Basilica Lofts


Sponsored Announcement


Final phase: Beautiful new condominiums starting at $299,500 for spacious condos with two-bedroom plus den, with a three-bedroom, three-bath, three-level penthouse available. Basilica Lofts, the conversion of a historic row of storefronts into two and three-level lofts, named after the ideal vistas of the nearby Dome of the Immaculate Conception at Catholic University. Classically traditional on the outside, interiors evoke the best of true loft living - large, open spaces, long expanses of hardwood floors, Close to Metro, Catholic, and Trinity College, Basilica Lofts borders the booming NoMa neighborhood, now realizing the long-planned development of massive commercial space that makes it the fastest-growing neighborhood of DC. Only 3 units remaining.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Lincoln Theatre's Development Debut

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This morning, Mayor Adrian Fenty held a press conference to raise the curtain on the city's plan to save and develop U Street's historic Lincoln Theatre. The project will entail development of the parking lot behind the historic D.C. theater, with some of the resulting profits being earmarked to save the beleaguered venue. The 88 year old District-owned theater had received much press as of late, issuing warnings of closure unless it receives funding sufficient to cover its operating expense shortfall.

The Deputy Mayor's Office for Planning and Economic Development has now issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for developers interested in the space, located in back of 1215 U Street NW. We're guessing that few people will miss the 40 surface parking spaces; the Mayor opined that, when developed, the lot could hold a 90,000-s.f. building, possibly occupied by a hotel, offices, or residences.

Among the requirements for any potential developer: the stipulation that at least 30 percent of any housing units be set aside as affordable housing, as would be obligatory in any DC-owned property. Also, projects must include "at least 7,500 square feet of flexible event space, including a restaurant-quality kitchen, which would be managed by the theater management."

Ward 1 Councilmember Jim Graham, also in attendance, expressed his obvious excitement that the project has begun “moving and shaking.” He and Mayor Fenty both emphasized the importance of the lot’s development to the continued economic growth of the U Street area —and its benefit to Lincoln Theatre. As Mayor Fenty put it, “This is and was black Broadway” - and he wants to keep it that way - and by combining affordable housing, some needed development on U Street, and saving the theatre all in one act, we're guessing he'll get a standing ovation.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Washington Adventist Hospital Presents Silver Spring Move

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On Thursday, the Montgomery County Planning Board is considering the Washington Adventist Hospital's request to develop a 49-acre property in the White Oak region of Silver Spring. The hospital purchased the land in 2007 for $11 million after determining it had outgrown its century-old home at 7600 Carroll Avenue in Takoma Park, a 294-bed, 14-acre campus with 13 of those developable.

The hospital describes its current facilities as “crowded,” "difficult to access,” “aging,” and “inefficient.” Geoffrey Morgan, Vice-President of Washington Adventist’s
Vision for Expanded Access, WAH's strategic planning group, spins it more professionally, citing “a host of physical challenges related to a constrained campus.” The hospital’s property used to be bounded by woods, which have since been developed into a residential area leery of helicopter noise and confined by neighborhood- sized roads; i.e., slower route to the ER.

The new property is located about six miles north of its current location, on Plum Orchard Drive just off of Cherry Hill Road, less than a mile from the intersection with Route 29. The development plan calls for growth in two phases. The first includes construction of the main eight-story hospital, an ambulatory services center, two parking structures, and a medical office building; and later, construction of a second medical office building. Morgan’s theoretical timeline has the project breaking ground in 2010, with the first phase estimated to take three years.

Vision for Expanded Access has consulted RTKL Associates throughout the site planning and master planning process. According to plans, while the new facility will have approximately the same number of beds as the old, the increase in space means that most of them will be private, rather than shared. The hospital will feature “state-of-the-art equipment and technology, and more space for clinical services, including cardiac care, emergency medicine, oncology services, behavioral health care and other medical services. The new design also incorporates enhanced patient safety and improved visitor and patient flow throughout the facility.”

True to its Adventist founders, the hospital emphasizes its “holistic approach to community health care, which focuses on the well-being of mind, body and spirit of patients, visitors and staff.” In keeping with these beliefs, it is planning to build green and achieve LEED certification.

If the Planning Board recommends approval, the process will move to the Hearing Examiner and Board of Appeals for consideration, followed by the Planning Board. Morgan expects that zoning approval will take the rest of 2008. To move, the hospital must also apply for a certificate of need, administered by the
Maryland Health Care Commission.

Good luck, Washington Adventist Hospital. We hope you get approval stat.

A Giant Project on Wisconsin

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The long-awaited Giant grocery store and surrounding redevelopment, expected to bring life back to its location on Wisconsin Avenue near the National Cathedral, is a bit closer to becoming reality. Street-Works, the development and consulting firm heading the project, has said it is ready to move forward on the project and will file its zoning application within the next 60 days.
The development (rendering above) will replace the abandoned 1950's era G.C. Murphy Co. store and existing Giant, which will yield to a proposed 55,000-s.f. grocery and additional retail, residential, and office component. Parent company Stop & Shop owns the site bounded by Idaho Avenue, Wisconsin Avenue, and Macomb Street and divided by Newark Street, all of which now contains one-story retail, albeit partially abandoned, and surface parking.

"This project redevelops the site, which is pretty much functionally obsolete," Richard Heapes, principal at Street-Works, said. "It turns it into a pedestrian-oriented part of the neighborhood with wide sidewalks, trees, public spaces, and most importantly, a state-of-the-art grocery store. At the end of the day, it completes what is already there and brings it up to date."

The site is divided into two parcels: On the south side of Newark, developers will tear down the current Giant and construct a more modern facility in its place, as well as add 42,000 s.f. of small retail shops and office space. The block will also receive 21 residential units; 13 above the retail and eight townhouses along Idaho Ave. On the north side of Newark, developers are planning 30,000 s.f. of street-level retail with 124 residential units on the four upper floors. The retail will most likely be similar to what currently exists: service and convenience stores as well as neighborhood- serving restaurants. According to the developers, some of the current retailers will relocate to these new building. 400 new underground parking spots will serve the whole site.

Sizes and costs of the individual residential units are premature, but 10% will most likely be designated as affordable housing. And what new development would be complete without some green? Pedestrian- friendly public spaces are being designed to grace Idaho Ave. and Newark St. with trees, fountains, and places to sit. Street-Works is still deciding which green components to add to their buildings, which could include green roofs on the residential units. According to George Idelson, president of the Cleveland Park Citizens Association, "One of the things the community wanted was a lively streetscape. That is what the plan calls for, and it seems to be doing a pretty good job with that."

The old neon Giant sign will be incorporated into the new construction - a condition of the neighborhood association, reflecting their opinion that it has become an icon for the area. Developers are also aiming to fit the project in, architecturally speaking, with the existing buildings. "The design came from picking up the style that is already there in the adjoining neighborhood," Heapes said. "It is contextual. My goal for the project is to make sure people aren't going to look at the site as a project that is sitting in the middle of Cleveland Park."

The existing 18,500-s.f. Giant will stay open as long as possible until construction of the actual grocery store begins. After the application process, formal public hearings will take place, along with an open house meeting for any interested neighbors that will be hosted by Street-Works on the site itself. Idelson said this is just what the neighborhood needs: another chance to weigh-in. "I think generally speaking based on the public meetings, the neighborhood is anxious to have a new store," he said.
Street-Works hopes to have approval from the District by the end of the year with construction beginning in mid-2009. Construction will be phased, with the south parcel finishing before the north begins, altogether lasting 24 to 36 months.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Harris Teeter To Open First DC Store

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Harris Teeter, the North Carolina-based grocer whose very name seems to augur up-and-coming real estate development the way Whole Foods once did, will open their first Washington DC store Wednesday morning in Adams Morgan. The chain will open in the Citadel building at the intersection of 17th Street and Kalorama, between Meridian Hill Park and the Adams Morgan strip, in what has hitherto been a relatively residential section of the District.

The 37,000 s.f. building, owned by DC-based Douglas Development, was an old roller rink built in 1947, and had been vacant prior to the occupancy by HT. The Honorable Adrian Fenty will be on hand at the 10:00am ceremony to honor the city's newest taxpayer; the first of three Harris Teeters to eventually stock the District's shelves. Jenkins Row, JPI's new 247-unit condominium at 1390 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, has long been marketing the bourgeoise market, which was slated to occupy the first floor of the building in mid 2007, but has yet to open its doors. And just two weeks ago, the Mayor was at the mike at Constitution Square to announce that a lease for a 50,000 square foot version would open in NoMa in early 2011.

But meeting deadlines may not be HT's forte; the Adams Morgan store was originally scheduled to open in the fall of 2006, but issues such as delivery through the narrow and one-way streets that surround the building held the project at bay for some time. Jennifer Panetta, Director of Communications for HT, would only say that the delay stemmed from the company "trying to be a good neighbor," saying that specific requests took "alot of development."

But the grocer will make up for lost hours, shoppers will be able to obtain their Angus Reserve or choose from the "extensive selection of seafood" from 7am to 11pm. Which, coincidentally, beats Whole Foods.

Glenmont MetroCenter Facing Roadblocks

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The Montgomery County Council's traffic concerns may have put the brakes on—or at least stalled — a JBG Companies plan for Glenmont MetroCenter, a mixed-use development in Silver Spring. If approved, the project would be built on Glenallen Avenue between Layhill Road and Georgia Avenue, at the eastern end of the DC Metro's Red Line, the Glenmont Metro Station.

JBG intends to demolish Privacy World's 352 garden apartment units and replace them with new construction: 90,000 s.f. of retail space and 1,550 residential and live-work units. In June 2007, the Montgomery County Planning Board voted in favor of rezoning the project. But the MoCoCo gets the final say in whether the project can proceed, and it fears overburdening local roads; though JBG has offered to fund road overhauls, an agreement with the Council has not been reached. In January 2008, the Council remanded the project to the Hearing Examiner. A representative from the Council said it's now up to JBG to submit a revised proposal, at which point a new public hearing can be scheduled as early as June.

According to a representative from JBG, the company does not plan to make any fundamental changes to its proposal. Rather, they are putting together “additional traffic analysis,” which they will present to the County. JBG expects the public hearing to take place at some point this summer.

If it goes through, the proposed community would exhibit an urban street grid, with a central park and other public recreation spaces. Tantalizing features include pocket parks and, as the project website promises, the central plaza's "interactive water feature."

The pedestrian-, bike-, and Zip Car- friendly proposal was one of the Washington Smart Growth Alliance's 13 honorees in 2007 as a Smart Growth Project, meaning it is “both good for community and good for the environment.”

JBG confirms that they have not yet hired an architect for the project, which is still in the early stages of development. The company line? "While the architectural character of Glenmont MetroCenter has not been determined, the intent is for the architectural character to contribute in a significant manner to the quality of the streets, open spaces and neighborhood." Translation: The buildings will look lovely.

Very early estimates (the project isn't scheduled to be completed for at least eight years) put Glenmont MetroCenter’s townhouse costs at $500,000 to $600,000, condos at $300,000 and up, and rents at $1,500 to $2,000 per month. The tentative unit breakdown offers “about 1,300 apartments and condominiums and 250 town homes…including 3 to 4 story townhomes, 4 to 5 story multifamily dwellings, and up to 5 to 10 story dwellings over retail.”

JBG's other MoCo Metro-focused development projects in the works include Twinbrook Station and White Flint Crossing.

So, given the Council's traffic concerns, does the Glenmont MetroCenter stand a chance?

In JBG's favor is their emphasis on building a community designed for pedestrians and Metro users, with the county pushing for transit-oriented design. They also could benefit from the possibility that the county will build an interchange so that Georgia Avenue can run above Randolph Road. To the county's point: no matter how many sidewalks JBG builds, replacing 352 apartments with 1,500 residences and adding 90,000 s.f. of retail to boot will create more traffic at an intersection that is already a disaster at rush hour. But JBG might ask, if not at the Metro, where?

Friday, April 18, 2008

U Street Hotel in the Future?

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Trendy and quirky U Street, which has seen a spate of residential development of late, may get a hotel in the not too distant future. The plan, brought before the Cardozo-Shaw Neighborhood Association last week by JBG Companies, proposed developing the strip mall that currently houses the Rite Aid, a nail salon and dollar store, into a 10-story multi-use development.

Though in its very early stages and likely to evolve, the vision is to replace the current strip mall across the street from the Ellington Apartments, replacing it with a single building that would house underground parking, retail on the ground floor, a boutique hotel on floors 3-8, and possibly capped by two floors of residential to max out the density. The existing strip mall takes up most of the block on the south side of the 1300 block of U Street. The area falls within a historic protection zone, but no historic building would be affected.

With neighbors apparently in favor of supplanting the current retail, the largest obstacle, financing notwithstanding, will be to change the underlying zoning, which does not now allow for density sufficient to support this project. Phil Spalding, Commissioner for ANC 1B, says the development has local support, and that there will be "a strong push for retail to animate the street," speculating that some of the current retail could reopen in the new space, though stressing that the plans will likely see "another 9 or 10 redrawings" before construction could begin. Renderings are not yet available, but Spalding describes the current iteration as 'classical.'

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"1" Hotel Sees the Green Light at End of Tunnel

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Perseus Realty, LLC received a unanimous vote of approval from the Zoning Commission on Monday for their PUD of "1" Hotel, DC's first LEED certified hotel. They last met with the ZC at the end of February to hammer out more details on their project to be located at the corner of 22nd and M Streets in the West End neighborhood, across from the Ritz Carlton.

The 125,000 s.f. luxury hotel, pledged to be LEED Silver certified, will have between 148 and 170 rooms, depending on how many suites developers decide to create, on ten guest room levels. Perseus, along with Starwood Capital Group, purchased the land back in November 2006. The Nigerian Embassy and Asia Nora (see photo below) are currently on the site but will be demolished in order for construction to begin.

Starwood hopes to turn the "1" Hotel concept into the first global, luxury, green hotel brand. According to a source at Perseus, who asked not to be named until approval was completed, "In addition to the architecture, which is great, what makes this project special is more the concepts behind it and what it is trying to get accomplished. This is all new to DC. It is the first LEED certified hotel. It is definitely a work in progress, but we are all still really excited about it. This is a way for guests to act in an environmentally conscious way but still have everything they want and need."

The building will have an exterior layer of energy efficient glass to let in daylight during cold months and shield the rooms from heat during warmer weather. The guest rooms will have individual energy controls that will activate when a key card is put in place by the guest, in order to save on light and temperature control costs. The hotel will most likely use a greywater system, recycling "slightly dirty" water to use for heating.

Back in February, the ZC asked the developers for clarification on the "green walls" that are to run from floor to ceiling and divide the L-shaped building into three sections, as well as border the outside tea garden. The walls are made of a mix of plants that grow in both shade and light to give guests an outdoor-while-indoor experience. The walls also have a functional job, as they help to purify the air and get rid of pollutants. Perseus assured the commission the walls could be replaced in one-ft. squares, so that it will not eventually turn into a "brown wall."
Other issues resolved were clarification for an unnamed party in opposition about an abutting wall from the roof penthouse structure that came close to a property line, and the location of a garage entrance. Perseus is still going through the PUD process; their plans now go to the National Capital Planning Commission. NCPC will have 30 days to give their verdict. Developers have not yet released a construction time line.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Bridging the Gap to Roosevelt Island

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A plan to physically connect Roosevelt Island to the District by means of a pedestrian and bicycle bridge is gaining momentum. The 90-acre federal island park, dedicated to our nation's 26th President back in 1967, is currently accessible solely by way of the George Washington Parkway, and only via northbound, at that. At least for now. The proposal, heard before the DC Council's Committee on Public Works and the Environment in November, requests that the city work out a relationship with the District Department of Transportation and come up with nearly $35 million to pay for the span.

Dupont Circle resident David J. Mallof proposed the idea back in November, and has now sought the requisite sanctioning by the federal government. Mallof went to the Feds in early April and got a sit-down with James Oberstar, chair of the House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure Committee - apparently the Feds are not opposed to the bridge (no Ted Stevens jokes here, please), but won't do anything 'official' until the DC Council and Mayor Fenty support it. The Council won't approve without some show of public support for the project, so the next step is for a public hearing. If supported, the Council would only need to earmark 20% of the overall cost, with the feds potentially picking up a generous 80%. This puts the timing of the bill at least into next year, because it will be nearly impossible to get the financing inked into the new budget by budget deadline of June 3rd.

If it gets that far, it will still have to go to the Washington Council of Government, which is chartered to oversee multi-jurisdictional issues. In this case, WCG would be mediating between the federal government, the DC government and the Virginia government, because a second bridge would then connect the island to Rosslyn, Virginia.

The proposal is to connect the land in front of the Watergate Hotel to Roosevelt Island, then across to Virginia. Mallof chose the Virginia location to connect the bike paths that nearly converge in the area, and proposes that the bridge could not only provide recreational use, but also serve as a main thoroughfare for sweaty commuters biking in from Virginia, who currently have a more complicated route after crossing Key Bridge, which involves either descending stairs or threading Georgetown's traffic, though even at this location bikers would still have to face a series of frogger-like challenges to get to the Mall. Still, some are concerned about the visual obstruction down the river, which has few open vistas thanks to the series of vehicular bridges.

Aside from the practical uses, Mallof stresses that the park falls within DC's perimeters, not Virginia's, forcing DC residents to cross the Potomac and park their cars on Virginia soil in order to take advantage of their park. Roosevelt Island remains so lightly trafficked, thanks in part to its inaccessibility, that it still boasts a mature white-tailed deer population.

Monday, April 14, 2008

National's Get First LEED Stadium

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Today marks a new era in both Major League Baseball, and DC history. The US Green Building Council today officially designated the National's Ballpark as the first major stadium in the US of A to be LEED Certified. HOK Sport, the division of HOK Architecture specifically devoted to the design of athletic venues, received LEED Silver status, the third-highest step on the LEED ladder.

Before construction even began, developers removed the site's contaminated soil and shipped it off to Soil Safe Incorporated, which recycled it. After the site was replenished with fresh loam, construction teams buried six ginormous sand filters to prevent litter and "wash-down" water from finding its way into the Anacostia River. Also, because of the proximity to the Metro, bus and bike routes, the Green Building Council considers the site itself a contributing factor to the eco-friendly development.

HOK achieved LEED Silver certification through a number of different methods. First and foremost, the stadium was designed to save millions of gallons of water. This was done in two ways: Plumbing fixtures that conserve almost four million gallons of water were used in the construction. In addition, HOK designed the stadium to use air-cooled - rather than water-cooled - ventilation systems, an upgrade that will save an additional six million gallons of water.

Nats stadium also has a slew of recycling bins located throughout the ballpark; now fans can dispose of their Budweiser bottles appropriately instead of just tossing them. Roughly 20% of the stadium was built with recycled materials, and more than 5,000 tons of construction waste were recycled. For the final touch, HOK used efficient lighting, added a 6,300-s.f. green roof to collect rain water, and created signs around the park to highlight its eco-friendly aspects (we're not really sure how that helps global warming, but it was in the press release).

Gregory O'Dell, CEO of the Washington DC Sports and Entertainment Commission boasted: "Creating a green ballpark was as fundamental as any requirement when we decided to embark on this mission to build a new state of the art stadium for the Washington Nationals." Now if we could only come up with an eco-friendly (and stomach-friendly) design for a hotdog.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Takoma Shopping Center to Get Addition, Facelift

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The Takoma Metro Shopping Center, on the District's northeastern border at 6935 Laurel Avenue, NW, is undergoing design to add a new three story building next to the current structure. The site of the new building, formerly known as Lot 49 and which now sits vacant, should help satiate the retail appetite of the surrounding community. General Contractors were invited to submit bids on March 21st; the bidding phase will close April 24th in the hopes of a June start date.

Because the site serves as one of the main entryways into Maryland-DC, the current owners are seeking to increase the site's 'gateway' status by designing the new infill structure as a "billboard" for the neighborhood
to "mark [their] arrival into the Takoma Park Community," according to Wnuk Spurlock Architects, which is designing the new building as a visual centerpiece of the block. According to Joseph Wnuk, Principal at Wnuk Spurlock Architecture "The one main goal was obviously to continue the current street facade, the other was because of its location, it should act as an introduction to Takoma Park. One portion of the building is a little higher and has much more emphasis, like a tower. We were not trying to duplicate any traditional style, we weretrying to do it in elements of this time and day. In terms of its context, its modernist, but we are sympathetic both in the scale and in the materials, of what's in the area."

Wnuk Spurlock will have to incorporate a historic building that occupies a corner of the site, at the intersection of Laurel and Eastern Avenues. The architecture firm refers to the development as an "integral component in completing the center's street facade." Owners of the shopping center have plans to operate a brand new restaurant out of the top floor, and some additional retail on the lower levels. The site was left vacant due to a fire almost 50 years ago.

In order to further accomodate shoppers, Wnuk Spurlock redesigned the parking lot, trying to make it easier both on the eyes and on our vehicles by making a few aesthetic upgrades, like a retaining wall to seperate the property from a neighboring lot, and reworking the flow of traffic to enter and exit from Eastern Ave.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

First Step for Falls Church Affordable Project

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The Falls Church Housing Corporation, which provides affordable housing opportunities, currently awaits a formal staff review of its project at 350 South Washington Street, where it plans to demolish its recently purchased office building and a neighboring office building, and replace them with a seven-story, 'affordable' apartment building. The non-profit is preparing for their meeting with Falls Church City Council on May 12, officially beginning the public review process, in which organizations like the Architectural Advisory Board, the Planning Commission, and Zoning can have their say. FCHC hopes to get a final approval from the Council by the end of June so the arduous financing process can begin, all to begin construction by summer of 2009.

The properties to be redeveloped are owned by FCHC and Homestretch Inc., working together to bring down their separate office buildings and provide affordable housing. Homestretch, like FCHC, is an non-profit organization that serves lower-income families. But while FCHC is an affordable housing provider, Homestretch serves the community by renting transitional housing and offering services to families that are at risk of homelessness. The duo will work with Atlantic Realty Companies, the master developer, and the City of Falls Church. Virginia-based architect Butz Wilbern is designing the new building.

Homestretch acquired their building roughly six years ago, and rents out some of their building to local businesses, using the remainder for administrative functions. FCHC just purchased their building in February, with the goal of redeveloping it, and now leases two-thirds of the space. Carol Jackson, Executive Director at FCHC, pointed out that the firm has no interest in being a commercial property owner: "If we get turned down any step of the way [in the development process], we will be selling the building." Both firms use their respective commercial leases to subsidize the outstanding mortgages.

The two 1970's office buildings currently on the site will be cleared away to make room for a mixed-use 150,000-s.f. building which will hold office space for both firms on the ground floor, and offer 172 rental units for families earning 60% of the Area Median Income, or about $40,000. According to their November '07 pitch to the City government, the project will serve to restock the affordable housing supply in Falls Church, which has recently been depleted. "By the City’s own estimate, Falls Church: lost nearly 200 affordable rental units between 2001 and 2006; [has] a shortage of 262 affordable housing units in 2007 – not including 650 additional units that may still be lost through conversion or redevelopment; [and] suffered a 60 percent loss since 2001 in the number of for-sale units affordable to households earning less than 120%."

FCHC has referred to the development as turning "an isolated area of obsolete office buildings into well-located, quality affordable housing for a vital local workforce...who will otherwise be unable to remain in Falls Church." Said Jackson, "Like many of the older 'inner ring' suburbs, Falls Church is transitioning into an expensive, newly urban environment where property values have left behind 75% of the local workforce who are unable to live in the city where they work and contribute to the balanced economy Falls Church desires to foster."

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

2000 Wilson Waits on Approval as Apartments

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2000 Wilson, the dormant residential project that had once been discussed as condominiums, now appears to be commencing as an apartment building. Designs for a mixed-use project at 2001 Clarendon Boulevard in Rosslyn were submitted recently and are awaiting board approval, as Elm Street Development and WDG Architecture plan demolition for June, and construction in the third quarter.

The project, to be located on the eastern part of the area bounded by Wilson Boulevard, N. Rhodes Street, Clarendon Boulevard, and N. Courthouse Road, will now feature 141 rental apartments rather than condos. The plans call for an average unit size of 1,031 s.f., and will most likely not include affordable housing. The units will straddle 36,000 s.f. of ground floor retail, as well as about 250 underground parking spots. The exterior of the building will have facades of brick and corner balconies, generally rising five-stories, but tapering towards Wilson Boulevard and the eastern edge to utilize the incline of the land (see rendering).

Developers have included a "green," reflective roof, and plan to achieve LEED certification. Arlington County also decided the plan conforms to the Rosslyn to Courthouse Urban Design Study, an Arlington County working group designed to shepherd development of said area. After initially applying in 2005, Elm Street received rezoning approval in March of last year, giving them the go-ahead for demolition of a group of buildings that now occupy the space near the Courthouse Metro Station. The project will replace the 79 cent meals at Taco Bell, a car repair shop, several parking lots, and Dr. Dremo's, which closed for business on January 27th in anticipation of the long-anticipated demolition.

"Elm Street Development is looking forward to beginning construction this year on 2001 Clarendon Boulevard," said James Mobley, project manager at Elm Street. "We expect to welcome our first residents in 2010."

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

"Slumlords" Sued by District

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Last week, Mayor Fenty, together with the Interim Attorney General Peter Nickles and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, filed a lawsuit against 23 landlords whose residential properties have been found to have a "history of serious code violations" according to the District's petition. The District cites nearly 70 buildings across all seven wards of DC which "[suffer] from a history of neglect and indifference." The action will affect more than 470 rental units in total.

The District is capable of filing such a motion because of its status as a municipal corporation; last week's action is the first of its kind, where the District has taken action against more than one property in a single suit. “We’ve all seen the pictures and heard the horror stories from tenants of these buildings. It’s immoral to have human beings living in these conditions, and it’s against the law. With today’s action, it will stop," Fenty said, on the day of the filing.

Alan Heyman, spokesman for the Interim Attorney General, was kind enough to explain the petition as the last chance for slumlords. According to Heyman, all of the building owners have been persistent violaters of DC law in one of two categories: in lacking a basic business license, or lacking a certificate of occupancy. DCRA has exhausted its options in getting these buildings to comply with the law, which forces the Office of the Attorney General to act as its lawyer and file a complaint against the building owners. The petition is asking the courts to order building owners to comply with the laws of the District or deal with consequences such as fines, or even worse, being held in contempt of court. For 13 of the buildings, the District is seeking to appoint 'receivers' who will collect rent checks on behalf of the owners, and ensure that those funds are used to repair the respective properties.

Among the apparent targets of the District are the Stancils, five of whom are separately named by the District in its press release. Rufus Stancil, who has been on the District's 'slumlord-radar' for quite some time, was sentenced to six nights in jail in 2002, plus two years of probation, and ordered to live for 60 days in the very building that he was convicted of neglecting, 2922 Sherman Ave, NW, according to DCRA. At the time, the building had more than 429 alleged housing violations. David B. Tolson, founder of DBT Development, also makes the list, together with Deauville Partners, LLC, which together own 3145 Mount Pleasant Street, NW, which was recently charred in a highly publicized five alarm fire. This is not why Tolson is being called before the court, but rather because he had allegedly been renting out the building without a basic business license. The building which was engulfed in flames in early March, has accumulated more than 7,000 code violations over the years.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

NoMa Development Breaks Ground, Part VII

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On Monday, at 10:30am, Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and assorted camera-seekers will join developer StonebridgeCarras at 2nd and N Streets, NE, to break ground at for the first phase of Constitution Square. The developer will officially kick off its 1.6 million square foot project (pictured) at the ceremony, a mixed-use building that will include 440 apartments, a 200-room Hilton Hotel, a 50,000 s.f. Harris Teeter grocery store and massive office space - 589,000 in Two Constitution, and 350,000 in One Constitution. The project is the first major mixed-use project to break ground in the NoMA neighborhood.

StonebridgeCarras, with Chicago-based partner Walton Street Capital, had announced several major leases over just the past few weeks, including the Department of Justice lease of 88% of the office space of Two Constitution Square, and the 20-year lease of Harris Teeter, which hopes to open in late 2010. The project sits adjacent to the New York Ave. Metro station; the residential portion will be designed by Bethesda's SK&I Architectural Group. HOK Architecture is designing the office space; the project is being ambitiously designed to achieve a LEED Gold certification by the U.S. Green Building Council.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

By Rite Development in Columbia Heights

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3DG, a District-based architecture and full-service development firm, is now spreading the word about its $3 million plan to redevelop the Bi-Rite building (pictured) at 11th and Park Road in Columbia Heights. 3DG will create a two-story, mixed-use building out of the current one, and plans to offer retail and office space. The development firm made the April 15th groundbreaking announcement today.


Before the shovels have even hit the dirt, 3DG has invited DC restaurateur John Andrade to operate a new two-story restaurant out of the ground floor and below-grade level. Andrade, current owner of Asylum in Adams Morgan, plans to open Meridian Pint in the new building, which will offer American "comfort-food," a "generous vegetarian/vegan section," and downstairs lounge area.

Along with housing Meridian Pint, the new building at 3400 11th Street will also offer office space on the second floor; half of which will be occupied by 3DG and the other half of which will house Solimar International, a DC-based sustainable tourism consultant.



The building itself has been vacant for six years, formerly serving as a liquor and grocery store. According to 3DG, the current structure is "low-slung and out of scale with the rest of the neighborhood." Accordingly, the firm claims it will "transform the prominent corner by applying a modern design language" and "[insert] a second story, set back some 22 feet." 3DG also plans to add an "object wall" which will serve as a 'dramatic design element' within the structure, and catch the eyes of passersby.

"There are so many aspects of this project that we're proud of...Bringing such a fantastic restaurant to the 11th Street corridor. And, we hope, raising the bar for architectural design in the area," said 3DG CEO John Goldman. On the topic of design, Goldman went on talk about the building's 'level of green'. "While we're not going to be going for a LEED certification, we will be building it as sustainably as possible."

Although the ceremonial groundbreaking is taking place on the 15th, actual construction can generally be expected to start within the month, according to Goldman. 3DG plans to deliver later this year.

Bad News for Brookland Condos

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Brookland Square, formerly known as 1300 Rhode Island Avenue, will now go forward as an apartment building. The 326-unit condo project was initially approved as such back in 2006, but Columbia General Rhode Island, LLC and Republic Land Development sent a letter to the Board of Zoning Adjustment on March 4th requesting modification of the approved plans, to switch the condo to a rental building. In a BZA order dated Tuesday, the Board approved the modifications.

"The Applicant contends
that it has spent a considerable amount of time attempting to reduce construction costs and improve the economics of the project, particularly given the very difficult economy and housing market," the approving order stated.

BZA, obviously no Pollyanna when it comes to the economy or housing market, stated gloomily "Because the condominium market in the District of Columbia (and nationwide) has stalled and is predicted to not recover for several years, and the economy, and in particular the credit markets, has dropped to recession or near-recession levels, the Applicant has been forced to redesign the project and convert it from a condominium to a rental apartment building and to undertake numerous and significant cost-cutting efforts in order to reduce construction costs and make the units affordable to the rental market."

Developers will re-work the design plans to meet the needs of an apartment building, including reducing the size of the units and adding two units per floor, for an overall increase of 10. Each of the fourth-floor private rooftop terraces have been eliminated; alas, doing away with the need for the spiral staircases leading up to them. Finally, an on-site leasing and management office will be added to the ground floor, reducing the size of the ground-floor residential units.

Eric Colbert Architects
is the designing the building while Republic irons out the project's financing - a groundbreaking date is anticipated by the third quarter of this year.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

City Homes at Fort Lincoln

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56 new townhouse- style condos may soon greet visitors entering DC from Maryland on Bladensburg Road, if the Board of Zoning Adjustment can be convinced. Developer Fort Lincoln-Eastern Avenue, LLC, is planning a set of townhouses to be built on a 2.5 acre site in the developing northeast neighborhood of Fort Lincoln. The developer pitched City Homes at Fort Lincoln to the Board of Zoning Adjustment yesterday, and will hear the final outcome on Tuesday at a special public meeting.

The announcement is being held up as the BZA awaits a report from the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission. The plan, as originally submitted, was to build 62 units in 31 stacked townhouses but those total figures have been reduced to 56 units in 28 townhomes. The townhomes will be split between four separate buildings on the L-shaped site bounded by Fort Lincoln Drive to the east, Bladensburg Road to the west and Eastern Ave to the north.

The condominiums will average approximately 1200 s.f. each, with two to three bedrooms per unit and their own rear loaded garage. Another 56 spots will be located in the driveway. The current submission to zoning calls for a 40,000 s.f. rain garden adjacent to Bladensburg Road to help treat storm water as it leaves the site.

The Office of Planning, in their memo to the BZA dated last week, supported the project, calling the current site "underdeveloped," among other things. The location seems a popular location for residential uses; the Washington Overlook Condominiums, the Thurgood Marshall School and the Pineview Court Condominiums all sit within shouting distance of vacant site.

OP also cited the project's compliance with the Fort Lincoln Urban Renewal Area Plan, better known as FLURA. Adopted in 1972, FLURA established a "new town" site in the area bounded by S. Dakota Ave to the west, Anacostia Park to the south and Prince George's County to the east. The plan aims to create "an attractive and racially, socially, economically and functionally inclusive community" in a "physical arrangement of activities and uses which respect the area, environmental character and maximizes urban amenities and livability." OP concluded that City Homes at Fort Lincoln "generally [furthers] the overall goals and objectives of the [FLURA] plan," and recommended BZA's approval.

Developers are targeting the working-class and expect prices to range from $275,000 to $375,000, adding that they hope this helps continue the urban renewal plan for the Fort Lincoln area. "We're excited about this project. It is work-force housing. It's really aimed at schoolteachers, police officers, firefighters. It's housing that will allow them to live in the city they are working in," said Cell Bernardino of Fort Lincoln Realty

According to the Concordia Group, a partner on this project, the ANC is in support of the development. Construction is expected to begin in the fourth quarter of this year, pending Zoning approval. Fort Lincoln Realty is currently building Dakota Crossing, also in NE. Construction began in the spring of 2006 and is still continuing; out of 209 townhouses, about 150 have been sold, from $450,000 to $500,000 each.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Armenian Museum to Renovate & Build Near White House

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At the close of last week, the Historic Preservation Review Board gave unanimous approval to a concept design for the new Armenian Genocide Museum of America, which will take up its residence at the former Federal-American National Bank at 615 14th Street, NW. DC-based Martinez & Johnson Architecture designed the restoration and addition to the limestone-clad historic bank, designated as a landmark on both the DC and National Register.

The
Armenian Genocide Museum of America will fully restore the 'elevated bank', a term used for banks that house their main hall on the second floor, both inside and out, to its former Neoclassical glory. Exterior workwill include the removal of a superimposed facade that Hahn Shoe Store, the longtime occupant of the street-level space, had constructed long ago, as well as a general restoration of the building's "vault-like exterior design," as described by HPRB.

Along with exterior upgrades, AGMA will restore the historic two-story banking hall, along with many other non-historic areas such as the former boardroom on the building's top level. According to Rouben Adalian, Director of the Armenian National Institute, the fact that the building is being turned into a museum will actually enhance the historical restoration process because so much focus is being devoted to the building's aesthetics.

With the intent of avoiding unnecessary stress to the
historic travertine stairs from 14th street up to the central door and to accommodate the crowds it will surely attract, AGMA will construct a modern glass tower on an neighboring vacant lot to the east of the future-museum. The new building, which will be equal in height to the former bank, will serve to circulate the public through the exhibit, housing stairs, elevators, public amenities and generally serve as a public entrance. Said Adalian: "It will be a modern glass tower that will complement the historic building and a lot of care and attention is being given to make sure that it is a proper fit."

"The reason the museum board has been inclined toward a glass tower, something that lets in a lot of light, has a symbolic meaning, to the extent that genocide is a horrible story to recount. The old building, which is a very closed structure with dark interior spaces, seems to be a fitting setting for telling a dark story. And the glass tower stands in a contrast to that in order to let in light on the subject matter, to invite the public to come and visit and to learn from this terrible event and about the value of human rights."

The museum will be devoted to the Armenian culture, and as an educational exhibit of the genocide of over a million ethnic Armenians (plus some Greeks for good measure) by the Ottomans, starting in 1915; a fact still hotly contested by the Turkish Republic.
 

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