Friday, November 28, 2008

A Threequel for the Arlington's Crystal House

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Developer Archstone is moving ahead with plans to bring a third phase of residential development to their Crystal House condo and apartment complex in Arlington's Crystal City. Currently comprised of two 12-story towers with 400 units apiece, Archstone intends to add 252 new "lofts" to the development, bringing the total of on-site residential housing up to 1,075 units.

Located at 2000 South Eads Street, the developer is adding to their extensive portfolio in the Crystal City area. Once completed, the 270,000-square foot addition will neighbor the other two so-named buildings on South Eads Street, built 40 years ago as the first apartment-condo highrises in the neighborhood and the first to use the name "Crystal", generating a trend the other developers followed and that eventually lent its name to the area.

Though Archstone Vice President Daryl South tells DCMud that the developer “expects to have building permits within two months,” he declined to comment on when the project might begin construction. Torti Gallas will design the project. Archstone is one of the largest investors in apartment buildings nationwide.

Arlington, Virginia real estate development news

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Half Street Digs Itself Out of a Hole

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After weeks of speculation, construction is underway at Monument Realty's Half Street residential project. The site, directly across from the Nationals' ballpark, was dug in the first months of 2007, with Monument's 275,000-s.f. office project rising on the northern portion of the crater. But when the remaining 2-acre hole sat vacant as the market was free-falling and funding of residential projects evaporated, speculation ensued about its demise. The hole became metaphorical as well as literal once it was revealed that Lehman Brothers, in a hole of its own, had an equity stake in the project.

But after 18 months without activity, construction is now underway on the site. Workers now seem to be assembling a subterranean parking garage at Half and N Streets SE - presumably a component of the hotel and 340-unit residential buildings planned for the site. And while the developer will not be able to hit their original target of a 2009 completion date, it does seem that rumors of the project's death have been greatly exaggerated.

"Monument is pursuing financing for the residential projects at the corner of N and Half Streets, SE. Clearly the changes in the market have made that task more difficult, but we have not made any plans to refill the excavated hole," says Monument Executive Vice President Russel Hines. "In addition to the office building [55 M Street SE], which will finish up in January, we are also building a portion of the garage that extends under the residential buildings – so, yes, there is some construction underway at this time."

In a related item, some portions of the Half Street project could be getting a new address, if a measure before the DC City Council goes through. According to the Washington Examiner, a vote next week will determine if a three-block portion of South Capitol Street (that also happens to border locale célèbre, Nationals Ballpark) will be renamed “Taxation without Representation Street.” Among those most directly affected by the switch would be Camden USA – which just happens to have a $105 million mixed-use project in the planning stages that fronts the avenue in question. We can see the signs now: Taxation without Representation Street Lofts now available! Have fun with that one, marketeers.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Bethesda Gets Affordable

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The Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission (HOC) scored one for the good guys last week, when the Montgomery County Planning Board approved the Edgemoor Phase IV Site Plan and, in turn, insured the construction of a new affordable housing development in Bethesda.

HOC intends to bring 12 Moderately Priced Dwelling Units (MPDUs) to a 5,350 square foot lot at 4917 Hampden Lane in downtown Bethesda. Designed by MHG Architects, the project will take the form of a four-story, brick facade apartment building with a "traditional one-family front porch." Other amenities planned for "transitional housing" facility include a landscaped courtyard "tucked" into the building's rear and a party room for entertaining. The Planning Board has encouraged HOC to pursue LEED certification for the building.

HOC has also made an additional commitment to bring “10 percent on-site Public Use Space along the [70 feet of] frontage of Hampden Lane” – a move which should appease the numerous residents in the immediate area (after construction is wraped up, that is). The site stands along a residential-retail corridor that adjoins the upscale City Homes townhomes development- also across from the Shoppes of Bethesda shopping center and roughly 1200 feet from the Bethesda Metro.

Bringing a development made up of 100% affordable housing to Bethesda required a little bit of give-and-take from all the parties. The site was initially under the control of Hampden Associates LLC, which had planned to bring a 60-unit condo development to the site and a neighboring parcel. In December of 2004, the County proposed a landswap, wherein Hampden Associates traded 4917 for another county-owned parcel on the corner of Hampden Lane and Arlington Road. That project is still scheduled to break ground in the first half of next year.

The project also survived complaints waged by four residents with property on the street, who had been hoping to welcome the Hampden Associates project as their new neighbor and proposed moving HOC’s project to another Bethesda location. In the end, letter of support from Charles R. Loehr, Park and Planning Director of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and Peter Engel, Real Estate Division Director of HOC seemed to sway the Planning Board’s favor. Demolition of the vacant house currently standing 4917 Hampden is expected to commence early next year.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Organic Grocer in Columbia Heights to Build in March

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Richmond-based organic grocer Ellwood Thompson’s Local Market has announced it will start construction on its second location (and first District store) in March of next year. The grocer, which announced its intention to occupy the space last month, will build out the 15,000 square foot store inside the DC USA at 14th and Irving Streets NW. It’s an area that Ellwood Thompson’s CEO, Ryan Youngman, saw as a perfect fit for his stores’ locally grown, organic produce.

ET bills itself as supporting "sustainable practices ...supporting local farmers" with food "free of artificial flavors, colors, preservatives and sweeteners." Said Youngman: "We’ve always seen DC as market that could really handle it. It’s always been on our list of places to go...We’re one independent store and wherever you grow, you want to get your biggest possible audience."

After meeting with nearly 20 developers and scouting locations across the city (including PN Hoffman’s storefront at Union Row, now occupied by Yes! Organic), Ellwood formally partnered with MV+A Architects to resurrect a derelict storefront at 14th and Irving that the architecture firm had been seeking to fill with a viable tenant. Once completed – with historic facade intact - the new Ellwood Thompson’s will share the block with a recently opened Washington Sports Club location and Best Buy.

According to Youngman, the local community registered almost immediate support once word got out that his organization was vetting it as the possible location for an independent, health-conscious grocer – a feeling that was reciprocated on Ellwood Thompson’s end as well. Says Youngman:

We really just loved the walk of it. We loved the people and the activism aspect of it. I’ve got thousands of e-mails of testimony from people who wanted us to come up there...we just got hit after hit after hit and we’d like to profess our undying gratitude. After 800 or 900 e-mails, it just became the obvious location for us. This is also an economy where we really need to be in a place where the discretionary income is there and it’s under-served in that area. Giant is cranking away up there, but there’s no alternative for a grocery.

Washington DC-based Prince Construction has been selected to build the project. Construction is slated to begin in March of 2009.

Convention Center Marriott Awaits Zoning Approval

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Final plans for a new Convention Center Marriott will head before the Washington DC Zoning Commission tonight for a public hearing. Now dubbed the Washington Marriott Marquis, adjacent to the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, it is expected to catch little to no flak, as it conforms to the non-residential zoning standard already in place, and has been pushed for by District officials.

Additionally, Marriott is developing the project in unison with the Fenty administration under a handy piece of city legislation entitled the Public Space Utilization Act – which allows the Mayor to "enter into lease(s) with private parties for the rental of the space above or below streets and alleys in the District." That Act, however, leaves final approval of any such lease to the Commission, which will tonight discuss how the plans on hand sync with city regulations concerning building height, off-street parking, and traffic flow – all areas Marriott’s draftsmen appear to have to managed meticulously.

The plans for Marriott’s parcel at Massachusetts Avenue and 9th Street NW call for construction of a new 1,150 room hotel with a two-level underground garage. Additionally, the AFL building currently on the site will get an extreme makeover into a 42 room “boutique hotel” connected to the main facility at several junctures. The PEPCO power station eyesore on the block will remain (but possibly receive an aesthetic makeover) and an underground tunnel linking the Marriott to the Convention Center’s east end will be constructed. Marriott has taken on Quadrangle Development Corporation to assist in the development process and has enlisted TBS Architects and Cooper Carry Architecture to design the project. Marriott hopes to garner a silver LEED certification for their flagship facility.

It is, however, important to note that tonight’s meeting will not address the project’s second planned component one block to the north, on the opposite side of L Street NW. Sean Madigan of the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development told DC Mud in 2007 that Marriott had abandoned plans to build a smaller, secondary hotel wing on that site and had instead chosen to redevelop the AFL building. The development team has yet to present any concrete ideas about what may happen with that parcel.

Tonight’s meeting is being held tonight at the Office of Zoning Hearing Room (441 4th Street NW, Suite 220) and begins at 6:30 PM. The proceedings are open to the public, so this would be a good chance to get a head start on booking a room for 2012 inauguration.

Washington DC real estate development news

Friday, November 21, 2008

Clark to Add Residential to Lonely Atlas District

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Metro area developer Clark Realty is moving forward with their planned Arboretum Place project - a 430-unit condo/apartment development at the tail-end of the H Street corridor - aka the Atlas District.

Described by the developer as a "multifamily luxury apartment community," the project will sit on a 5-acre vacant lot located at 1600 Maryland Avenue, NE. A firm timeline for the project has yet to be established, but Clark’s publicity contact at PR firm Tomb & Associates, Joy Lutes, tells DC Mud that "Clark's intention is to move forward with the project and break ground after the first quarter." Designs for Arboretum Place are being handled by the Preston Partnership.

In furtherance of the project’s “luxury” qualifier, the developer plans to outfit the community with a pool, a business center, a gym, entertainment space and gardens – amenities competitive with other H Street developments like Senate Square and, eventually, Capitol Place. Clark hopes to attract local retailers, though it is incorporating only about 5,000 s.f. of retail space on the site. In a neighborhood best known for outlets like “Fish Sandwiches” and “Alex Carry Out,” it will likely be a welcome and necessary change.

But nothing on H Street happens quickly: note the talk of development at places such as Capitol Place (on hold), the District's H Street Corridor Revitalization Plan, the H Street trolley line (always pending), and the District's Starbust reorganization plan for the nightmare intersection at Maryland Ave / H Street / Benning Road, to name just a few of the ambitious projects that have garnered far more time and money in outreach and planning than actual construction. Maybe next real estate boom.

Washington DC real estate development news

Goodbye to the Social Safeway

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In the latest salvo of the supermarket wars, Safeway is moving ahead with plans to start from scratch in Georgetown. Within the next year, the so-called "Social Safeway" at 1855 Wisconsin Avenue NW will be torn down to make way for a new "state-of the-art" facility that will better utilize the site and increase their market share as more and more of their competitors move from the suburbs to the inner city.

"Basically, what we're trying to do is to meet the standards of the District of Columbia. There's been a call for activating the streetscape more and trying to eliminate parking lots in the front of these large developments," says Safeway spokesman Craig Muckle. "Secondarily, it'll enable us to make our store larger to fit the type of amenities that we like to offer our customers."

However, there’s no rush to stock up on milk and toilet paper before the present location closes its doors. Muckle described the timeline for the new store as “in flux” and stressed that many of the details pertaining to the new development have yet to be finalized.

While Safeway has not yet revealed the developer and/or builder attached to the project, they have named Torti Gallas as their choice of architect. Some of Torti’s initial designs have already been presented to the community and are currently undergoing revisions – which will only see the light of day after local residents get first crack at them. “We don’t want to surprise the community,” says Muckle.

At present, the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs has approved a raze application for what is, after all, an unsightly brick box, and the Historic Preservation Review Board has given their go-ahead to the project as well. Safeway higher-ups are presently engaged in the design review process with the US Commission of Fine Arts, the Old Georgetown Board and the ANC 2E – but remains dedicated to getting the new project in the ground as quickly as possible. According to Muckle, “This is an important project for us and we’d like to make it happen sooner rather than later.”

The new Social Safeway is just one component of the company’s redevelopment strategy for the District. After opening a new flagship store at City Vista this past September, the national supermarket chain announced a new initiative that would see them renovate all of their 17 DC locations by 2011 and add two new stores, as well – one for Petworth, and another at South Dakota Avenue and Riggs Road NE. Plans for a new Georgetown store were not specified in their announcement.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

New Tenants for New Developments

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Less than a week after Deputy Mayor Neil Albert assured the development community that prominent organizations would "still [be] leasing space here in the District," his words appear to be ringing true. Several developers behind major projects in both Washington and Northern Virginia have announced freshly inked deals this week, despite the tubercular state of real estate market.

Forest City's sprawling Southeast Waterfront development, The Yards, went public on Monday with news of two new tenants for the project's retail component - the Boilermaker Shops at 200 Tingey Street SE. Delaware-based brewery, Dogfish Head, has signed on to open a brewpub in the converted nautical manufacturing facility, as Forest City also nears an agreement with an as-of-yet unnamed jazz club for the site. Once completed in 2010, the Boilermaker Shops will boast 45,000 square feet of retail and up to five in-house restaurants.

Forest City’s slate at the Yards also includes a commercial office building at 401 M Street SE – which, according to the Washington Business Journal, will soon be home to the District’s third Harris Teeter grocery store. Also on the brown bag front, there is talk of a Whole Foods Market for the William C. Smith & Co.’s neighboring Square 737 project.

Over in the District’s second development hotspot, NoMa, another project nearing completion is also rapidly running out of vacancies. J Street Development’s 90,000 square foot condo complex at 111 K Street NE now has confirmed three not-for-profit organizations as soon-to-be tenants: the Sierra Club, the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and, most recently, YWCA USA – the latter of whom will occupy the building’s entire 11th floor. According to sources at the NoMa BID, the Gensler-designed building is now 60% leased and will deliver on-time in 2010.

Meanwhile, projects across the river in Arlington are working towards deals with even the most cash-strapped of clients – like the Arlington County government. The Monday Properties-controlled site at 1101 Wilson Boulevard (the pre-2002 home of the Newseum) is being pursued by the County Board as the possible site of a new Cultural Center – as part of a sweetheart deal the developer cut with the Arlington officials late year to facilitate the much beleaguered development of their project at 1812 North Moore Street.

County authorities estimate that it would take $4 million to convert the 53,826 square foot facility into a viable cultural venue. However, Monday won’t be seeing one cent from the County until next year’s numbers start to become clearer. “I will only recommend proceeding with the center once the County’s 2010 budget is clear, and only if a viable center can be developed with no new general tax revenues,” said County Manager Ron Carlee in a prepared statement.

If the County passes on the deal, the space will be given back to Monday “in exchange for approximately $10 million for the value of the public benefits.” At present, the terms of the deal would allow the County to occupy the space rent-free for the first 10 years of a 15 year lease. The Rosslyn Business District has already contributed $1 million towards construction costs associated with retrofitting the former museum.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

"Affordable Luxury" Coming to Southeast DC

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With a style they're labeling "affordable luxury," M&A Development and the Neighborhood Development Company are bringing 15 new condo units to 1751-1759 W Street, SE. The development is being marketed with some flair, such as the third dubbed "Fab Five” units – affordable apartments reserved for the "income restricted" - "once in a lifetime" prices that start at $104,900. (Maybe true if you were born after 2003, anyway.)

Coming in with 2, 3 or 4-bedroom floorplans, development at the W Street Condos will be divided between adjoining rowhouses, backed with 21 parking spaces, and surrounded by what the development team describes as "secure, gated landscaped grounds." Sizes of the 3 and 4-bedroom units is said to surpass 1,800 square feet, while residents are expected to benefit from the development’s lack of through traffic.

Uniquely, the homes are modular, built and assembled off-site, then inserted into their respective building’s frame. Although originally intended to open for business in fall of this year, NDC is now projecting a second quarter 2009 completion date for the new condos.

Like some other small scale projects underway in the burgeoning community, the W Street Condos are already touting their close proximity to major Southeast redevelopment initiatives in the offing. The W Street Condos press packet lists no less than 13 projects in "Anacostia and Congress Heights" that it reassuringly directs attention towards – none of which have have yet moved beyond the initial planning stages but which, nevertheless, may someday actually occur. These include the redevelopment of St. Elizabeths East, the Poplar Point Soccer Stadium, the Anacostia streetcar line and the Anacostia Gateway. We hope they do. Axis

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Two-Story Addition to Silver Spring CBD

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8227 Fenton Street LLC is turning a surface parking lot into a new - albeit small - mixed-use development to Silver Spring. Located in "the Fenton Village revitalization area of the Silver Spring CBD," the site will soon house a new 9,226 square foot building, featuring ground floor retail and second story office space. The project will host three identically-sized retail outlets, per the developer's intent "to provide a building design with the greatest flexibility for future retail uses."

Gabe and Kathy Fontana, the husband and wife team behind the Fontana Real Estate Group, are behind the LLC that will build on their parcel - currently an informal parking a lot in the Easley's Subdivision of Fenton Village - within an area described by county authorities as "a mix of multi-cultural shops, neighborhood-serving retail, business services, small office buildings, and auto-related businesses.” Fenton Village proper happens to currently serve as buffer between downtown Silver Spring and the greater suburban development beyond – a situation which had some members of the Montgomery Planning Board (MPB) questioning the place of two-story shopping center within the redevelopment zone.

But because the way to a county planner's heart is to hand out "green" public areas, the MPB was assuaged by the developer’s offer to include 700 square feet of green space on site and the building’s intended use as local retail. From their viewpoint, it was hard to deny that anything would be more beneficial to the community than another big ol’ Silver Spring vacant lot. Additionally, with hundreds of residential units planned for the immediate area from developments (such as SilverPlace, Studio Plaza, 814 Thayer and Moda Vista), the intent is to add a dash of consumer retail to an area clogged with large office towers.

8227 Fenton is being designed by MV+A Associates. Therrien Waddell will serve as general contractor. Construction is expected to begin in April 2009.

Silver Spring real estate development news

Monday, November 17, 2008

Union Row Says Yes! We Can

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Mayor Adrian Fenty, DC City Councilmembers Jim Graham and Muriel Bowser, and PN Hoffman CEO Monty Hoffman today cut the ribbon on the new Yes! Organic Market at 14th and V's Union Row condominium development.

"This really epitomizes so many great things for Washington, DC," said Fenty. "One, the restoration, revitalization and resurgence of 14th Street…Not only in the $150 million Union Row project, but the…$1 billion worth of investment in the Columbia Heights and U Street area over the past several years.”

The new 5,500 square foot grocery store at 2123 14th Street marks the first retail outlet to open in PN Hoffman-developed, SK&I-designed high-rise development. Other shops coming soon to the mixed-use, mixed-income building will soon include a new drycleaners, a 6,000 square foot Eatonville restaurant from the owner of Busboys and Poets, and a new CVS - which opened its doors today as well - with slightly less fanfare.

Graham praised PN Hoffman’s stewardship of the project. “Others had tried to assemble a parcel of sufficient size as to build something that really meant something here. If you look back at [the Warehouses at Union Row], you can just how real genius it took to bring us here today.”

The Union Row store marks the fifth such location in the Metro area for the 40-year-old, locally-owned organic grocery chain. Next up, Yes! owner Gary Cha plans to open a new storefront along Georgia Avenue in Petworth and, according to Monty Hoffman, there is talk of bringing another to their development at the Southwest Waterfront.

“It’s not all bricks and mortar – it’s about programming as well,” said Hoffman. “We tried many different grocers before and none had the courage and vision that Gary did.” Union Row completed construction a little more than a year ago.

SilverPlace Splits with Developer, Forges Ahead

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The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission's (M-NCPPC) new headquarters - tentatively titled SilverPlace - has incurred a few shake-ups over the past few months, but is otherwise inching toward fruition in the center of the Silver Spring Central Business District.

While plans for the site have grown much more specific since DCMud last reported on the development, one major detail has done a volte face: the Montgomery Planning Board (MPB) has nixed a 2006 proposal by SilverPlace LLC that had served as the development's template until last month. A press release issued by the County stipulates that the "Planning Board and SilverPlace LLC were unable to reach agreement on key terms, such as land pricing."

In the same session that the deal was declared kaput, the MPB also clarified their intentions for a new mixed-use headquarters. First and foremost, it will be built before any proposed residential component. Secondly, it will consolidate all staff offices, whereas they currently operate no less than four buildings for the same purpose. Thirdly, it will meet the standard for LEED gold certification. Lastly, the project will eventually be mixed-use with residential and infrastructure components that mesh seamlessly with the Silver Spring suburbs surrounding the parcel at 8787 Georgia Avenue.

Of most import to the development community, however, is the MPB’s plan to “reduce the public cost of the project by selling part of the property to a private developer” – a plan which is sure to irk Harrison Development, Spaulding and Slye, and Bozzuto Group, the firms behind the SilverPlace moniker. It has also been further asserted that the housing component will include a minimum of 30% affordable and AMI housing.

Dan Hertz of the M-NCPPC told DCMud that the County is not actively seeking out proposals from other developers at this time, but will be “going to our board on December 4th and going over the timeline with them on that day. It depends on the market and our ability to make progress on the office building portion.”

The project is also expected to receive a budget appropriation from the County Council in December. The MPB will be holding a Community Meeting at their current headquarters this Wednesday, November 19th at 7:30 to brief the public on the recent changes incurred during the development process.

The MPB had still been acting in concert with the SilverPlace LLC as recently as June, when they jointly participated in a week-long community design workshop. Despite Silverplace LLC’s departure, the site is still expected to develop into 300 new units of housing and public park/garden featuring an array of “mature oak trees.” Lacey

DC's Best Penthouse

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2424 Lofts - Washington DC's most amazing penthouse: 3800 s.f. of urban oasis overlooking downtown DC.

Friday, November 14, 2008

DC Lauds SE Development

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Mayor Adrian Fenty, Washington Nationals President Stan Kasten and various District officials gathered at today Nationals Stadium for a press conference with a two-fold purpose. First, to pat themselves on the back for the redevelopment initiatives currently underway in Southeast, and second, to ensure the public that those projects are still very much on track, even as the commercial real estate market remains perilously on edge.

"A lot has happened in just over a year since the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation was dissolved into the rest of the government," said Fenty. "I think, from my perch, that there's probably even more decision-making, fast action and decisiveness by having the Council and Executive Branch in charge - with no fault going down on the input of the community and making sure we follow the original plan."

Fenty also gave a brief rundown of the $8 billion worth of development, infrastructure and community projects targeted at reinvigorating the city’s waterfront: Poplar Point ($2.5 billion), the Southwest Waterfront ($198 million in TIF/PILOT funds), Hill East ($1.4 billion), Park at the Yards ($42 million), Marvin Gaye Park ($7.7 million), Canal Park Development Corp.’s as-yet unnamed Ballpark District park ($13.1 million), the South Capitol streetcar line ($30 million), the 11th Street Bridge project ($260 million), the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail System ($50 million), Diamond Teague Park ($16 million), the St. Elizabeths plan (as-of-yet unbudgeted) and various community initiatives such as the Green Summer Job Corps, an online water quality monitoring system, a new stormwater rate structure and the Anacostia 2032 plan – which seeks to make the polluted river “boatable, swimmable and fishable in 25 years.”

“I’ll tell you what’s going to happen along the Waterfront in the decades and years and months and days to come,” said George Hawkins, Director of the District Department of the Environment. “We will have a cleaner river. We will have a better environment…At the same time, we are going to bring almost unparalleled economic vitality and jobs to this city.”

With regards to the economy, Mayor Fenty presented an optimistic view of the impact the fiscal crisis is having on projects heading down the development pipeline. “The national economy, as everyone is aware, is having an extremely hard time. The District of Columbia is not immune from that, of course, but there is a certain degree of insulation and there’s a large degree of momentum, which is allowing a lot of projects…to continue to go forward,” said Fenty.

Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, Neil Albert, followed up Fenty’s remarks by characterizing developers with stakes in Southeast projects as “still very bullish,” despite a dearth of client interest in the commercial real estate market. “While some of the surrounding areas are having difficulty leasing space, they're still leasing space here in the District,” said Albert.

Interested citizens will have to chance to examine the marketplace for themselves this coming Saturday, November 15th, as the District hosts a “Community Education Fair” at Nationals Park. Several District agencies, local developers, community groups, and local not-for-profit organizations will lead bus tours to the site of upcoming projects and panels on the Southeast redevelopment. For more information, visit the District’s website.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

New Knolls for Congress Heights

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Hartford, LLC and Bryant Mitchell Architects (BMA) will put the finishing touches on the Knox Hill Village subdivision next year with 16 new, affordable townhomes. Entitled Hartford Knolls, the project constitutes the final phase of development for the Village project that consists of 109 homes built between 1994 and 2001.

Currently the site of site of a 32,000 square foot vacant lot, the parcel on the 2800 block Hartford Street SE will soon house 16 3-bedroom, 3-bath garage-centric townhomes. Hartford and BMA are betting that the Knolls’ proximity to what they have deemed the “Alabama Avenue Renaissance corridor of Anacostia,” the Congress Heights Metro and the planned redevelopment zone of St. Elizabeths Hospital will make an easy sell in tough housing market. Prices are planned to start at $309,990.

According to Melvin L. Mitchell, Managing Partner of Hartford, LLC and CEO of BMA, the development received DC Board of Zoning Adjustment approval in April 2007 and expects building permits to be granted before the end of the month. The first homes are expected to deliver in the spring of 2009.

Washington DC real estate development news

Hyattsville Hanging in There

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Hyattsville - otherwise known as "that place in between Washington DC and College Park" - has been undergoing a significant reinvention for the past two years, courtesy of real estate developer EYA. Their Arts District Hyattsville project is currently midway through its plans to drop nearly 500 new rowhouses and condos into the sleepy Prince George's County hamlet, less than two miles from the DC line. With a splash of urban design fundamentals - gridded street layout and sidewalks - and one dash of "aw shucks" small town neighborliness, EYA is hoping to make the once-overlooked township a new upscale alternative to the communities that surround it.

Once home to a strip of dilapidated warehouses and auto body shops, Hyattsville's main drag, Route 1 (Baltimore Avenue), is bearing the majority of development. On the west side of Route 1 - the West Village - 132 units and 35,000 square feet of retail are already largely complete, while the east side is advertised as the eventual destination of 440 residences in Phase II of the development. Even for a developer known for the heroic size of its projects - Capitol Quarter, Park Potomac, and National Park Seminary at Forest Glen, to name some - the "Arts District" is an ambitious, contending with the lack of native commerce to lean on.

EYA's solution is the “live-work” unit – a townhouse with 450 square foot storefront on the ground level with a 1300-square foot residence above, providing both residential and commercial activity not dependent on attracting big-box retailers.

Angelisa Hawes is owner of the first such unit to open for business in Arts District. After purchasing her new home in November of last year, her shop, the Book Nook Bookstore, opened its doors this past February. She says the Arts District is drawing new clientèle to the once blighted area. "It's people who live in the Arts District, but I've also had people coming from Cheverley, Bladensburg, Mount Rainier, College Park and University Park" said the recent DC transplant.

These small entrepreneurships will soon be paired with the larger operations EYA has lined up for the area – a village market and new Busboys and Poets, Tara Thai and Weight Watchers locations are among those planned in Arts District's Phase II component. EYA is also currently seeking a tenant for a 3,500-5,000 square feet space on the East Village's planned "restaurant row.

But construction of the even larger East Village - planned to include 200 condos, 220 row houses and up to 40,000 square feet of retail - was supposed to commence in the beginning of this 2008, yet remains a vacant lot surrounded by promotional renderings and "coming soon" signs. According to Aakash Thakkar, EYA’s Vice President of Development, 45% of the East Village's planned retail space has already been leased and construction will be begin - market conditions being what they are - once they hit a threshold of between 55 and 60%.

"[Retail is] the first and foremost priority. The reason is, we’ve got housing on the other side and the area has great housing stock and there are lots of residents there. People are hungry for good retail and restaurants. We think there’s a real market to get that going as quickly as possible," says Thakkar. "Once we get that lease done, we can start construction and we’ll be delivering space to tenants about 6 months from when we start…The hope is that we start first or second quarter of next year."

If the the West Village is any indication, the second half of development should be well received – the homes already built have richer detail than the cookie-cutter suburban town center designs so prevalent in new town centers, and the project was awarded the seal of approval by the Smart Growth Alliance, which advocates for live-work communities and sustainable practices for the economy and environment.

The project does, however, boast quite a few vacancies, despite an initial influx of sales that began two and a half years ago (the first two waves of “live-work” units sold out, while the other models all have vacancies). Today, there is a 70% occupancy rate, with 38 units yet to sell. As recently as November 3rd, the developer initiated 15-20% price cuts for those units still on the market.

"We have multi-family development on that side as well, but again, we’re kind of looking at the market and just trying to forward a timeline that makes sense," says Thakkar.

Nonetheless, current residents remain are unfazed by the delays facing their new community's continued redevelopment. "Living in DC, there's so many people and you're kind of a blind face. When you go into a restaurant [here], people recognize you and say 'Hey, how's your baby?" says Dawes. "It's been a good move."

Hyattsville, MD, real estate development news

Logan Circle Penthouse for Sale

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