Though it may be hard to believe, U Street still has a few rough edges without the pizazz of chic bars and swanky loft apartments, but not for long: enter Utopia at the corner of 14th and U, where developers assert a construction timeline is nigh. Robert Moore of Georgetown Strategic Capital LLC (GSC) is the optimist behind Utopia's assemblage of parcels into a mixed-use residential and retail project; Moore recently shared with DCMud how his long gestating plans are coming into focus.
Though the Utopia project was "hammered by the economy in '08 and '09," said Moore, the team is deep in the process of "inking" an agreement with a large financial institution. Moore indicated everything has to "go through the lawyers," but that he could make an announcement about financing and a timeline "hopefully in the next couple weeks." With financial backing secured for the $93.5 million project, the team will then put together construction drawings and obtain permits, reportedly over the next nine months. Moore said construction would likely begin in 2011 and complete in 2012.
The Utopian vision is for 220 residential rental units on the corner of 14th and U Streets, with the building and all entrances facing 14th Street. Historic structures along U Street would remain, while their less historic neighbors will be sacrificed. An approved curb cut means that two levels of parking will be accessed from 14th Street, loading will take place in the back alley. Just a block from the U Street Metro, the new project will offer 150 parking spaces to service both retail and residential uses. The building with be tallest on U Street at 90 feet, stepping down to 65 feet, then 45 feet on the south side as it moves away from U Street. Moore plans 20,000 s.f. of retail and a roof top pool.
Though most of the buildings on 14th Street will be demolished, the historic structures along U Street will be spared by setting the project 60 feet back from U Street. Architect Eric Colbert of Eric Colbert & Associates said that the design process was highly collaborative, including near-monthly meetings with organizations such as the Dupont Circle Conservancy, the ANC and the Historic Preservation staff. Developers have pledged use of materials in keeping with the style of the neighborhood; team members consulted the community on window designs, and window and brick colors.
One "very important" aspect of the design, according to Colbert, is the density, which is greatest near U Street and gradually "terraces down towards the residential neighborhood to the south." Additionally, the architects "broke-up the facade" so that it reads as "different rowbuildings rather than some blockbuster building," according to the architect. The terracing is designed to provide a "sense of hierarchy of scale" instead of providing a flat, box-like facade from the street.
The team has not determined whether or not it will seek LEED certification, though Colbert assures us that "we are definitely going to make it as green as possible...it's definitely the trend."
Washington, DC real estate development news