Friday, January 29, 2010

L'Enfant Plaza: Feds to Try Again?

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Stalin would be proud. Discouragingly wide boulevards, dominant central government buildings, architecture that reduces human interaction, and a monumental plaza that minimizes individual interference with state symbolism. Such is the state of L'Enfant Plaza - a wrong turn off the Mall for most visitors that conveys the feeling of having intruded into restricted space. Fear not, the government that built the plaza is going to try again.

The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) will begin a public examination of how to transform the area into a "model sustainable community" that will "improve mobility, urban design, and land use; and...capture, manage and reuse most of the energy, water and waste on site." Beginning on February 2nd, the urban planning body will hold public meetings to help create the 10th Street Corridor "ecodistrict."

It wasn't intended to be this way. With federal oversight, planners in the 1950's buried the old working class neighborhood in the name of urban renewal, paving farms, razing homes and history in the name of progress. With such tourist-beckoning buildings as the Department of Energy and U.S. Postal Service headquarters, L'Enfant Plaza resulted from the schemes and designs of such notables as I.M. Pei, who designed the expansive concrete, and the government, which sought to remove the messiness of humanity. According to Jane Freundel Levey, Director of Heritage Programs at Cultural Tourism DC, the area was once a place to shop or grab a bite with plenty of taverns and a vibrant nightlife.

Forget for a moment that there is no 10th Street, nor is the defined area a "corridor." The environmentally friendly rehab is still a rough concept, but one without limitations as to the scope. The task force at work on the project is comprised of such disparate organizations as DC and federal property owners, the GSA, the Smithsonian Institution, the Department of Education and the U.S. Postal Service, to name just a few. Then there is the group of "directly affected stakeholders" such as CSX, JBG, WMATA, WASA, HUD, PN Hoffman, and Republic Properties, a group of owners that will form a second tier of cooperation. Can such a coalition get anything done, much less make an inviting community out of a concrete jungle? According to Diane Sullivan, Sustainability Planner for the 10th Street Corridor Task Force at NCPC, yes. "The group is generally very excited about this, they see this as a great opportunity."

Barriers, both physical and figurative, are formidable. But according to Sullivan, all things are possible. A new Georgetown-like community worthy of a family stroll? "Nothing is off the table at this point." As a first step, the task force will create a framework based on infrastructural upgrades such as changes to the on- and off-ramps of the highway and new street grids. Once that is determined, the landowners will be included in ways to develop within the new framework. Sullivan says the resulting mixed-use district may just include new residential districts. "Part of the framework was to incorporate residential space, we recognize that right now it's largely a federal precinct, but residential is not off the boards." But of course private landowners will ultimately be able to decide how best to use their space, and all plans at this point are mere possibilities.

To wit, JBG is currently working on an impressive $40m renovation of its underground plaza, and will be presenting a plan to the task force for coordination with the broader principles of redevelopment. Bill Dowd of NCPC told DCMud there is an imperative to prevent the federal buildings from "being barriers." As to how much change is possible, the answer will not be known for some time. While NCPC's Sullivan says it will be necessary to "look beyond buildings themselves," it is not yet clear how the project will be funded. Other attempts at developing Southwest have failed, such as the ill-fated attempt to bring the Children's Museum from northeast DC to southwest. It is also unclear whether federal property owners, with an increasingly circle-the-wagons mentality, will allow radical change in their midst, or whether planners will allow I.M. Pei's plaza to be rebuilt, despite its alienating qualities, a factor that seems essential for the task force's goal of connecting the riverfront to the National Mall.

In the end, that will not be up to NCPC, as JBG owns the land, and NCPC will be providing the study but not dictating the outcome to either its private or public partners. Elizabeth Miller, Senior Urban Planner and Project Manager for NCPC, says the plaza itself "is part of our study area. We will be looking at public space but any changes to the plaza are up to the owners. Our goal is to bring appropriate parties to the table, and to look at how far should we go." But she stresses that a "redevelopment scenario" is merely one alternative, and that it is at least theoretically possible that NCPC will recommend no changes to the design.

NCPC says the timeline will be 6-8 months to get task force members up to speed, then a year or so to conduct a redevelopment feasibility study to look at a range of alternative for individual properties and the corridor as a whole. Beyond that all guesses are hypothetical. The first meeting will take place February 2, 6pm at 401 9th Street, NW.

Washington DC real estate and development news

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Fancy Schmancy Bike Racks for Downtown DC

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Unless you ride a bike to work, you probably could not begin to guess where one might find a bike rack in downtown DC. The Golden Triangle BID is hosting a contest to bring art to the streets and make sure you notice those bike racks in the future. After successfully installing the "Bike Here" rack in Dupont in Spring 2009, the BID is looking to add a few more to its 43 city blocks. Artists of all kinds are encouraged to submit a design to get a chance to have their work publicly displayed and to win a $1,500 honorarium.

The BID's goal is to bring a vibrancy to the street level and remind people of alternative transportation methods. That said, a winning design need merely be capable of supporting two bikes upright by its frame. It's not practical, it's art.

Designs are due March 4th, selection will happen in April 2010 and final installation should occur by summer 2010.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

New Restaurant for Georgia Avenue

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On Tuesday, District officials and developers broke ground on what will become a first class restaurant on the historic site of the former Billy Simpson's House of Seafood and Steak. The District originally sought proposals for the site in April 2008, selected a developer in September 2008, and in March 2009 the property was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The development team, Donatelli Development and Mosaic Urban Partners, is working with the Hilton Brothers, known for their restaurants Gibson and Marvin in the U Street corridor, to bring the new retail to the Petworth community.

According to Rachel Preston, an Advisor at Mosaic Urban Partners, the project is fully financed. Preston said the team has begun interior demolition and the project could be ready as soon as this summer.

A press release from the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development's office said the historic restaurant operated in the 1960s and 1970s and was an "oasis" for leaders of the Civil Rights movement as well as home to the political forum "Round Table 9."

The development team also won the right to develop on another plot of land at 3825-3829 Georgia Avenue, in the form of a small residential building of approximately 12 units with ground floor retail. These developments continue the trend for the neighborhood, also home to Donatelli's Park Place built on top of the Georgia Avenue/Petworth metro station.

When the new yet-to-be-named restaurant opens it may just breathe new life into the "up-and-coming" neighborhood, much like U Street (where the restaurateurs currently operate) and Columbia Heights (where Donatelli's projects changed the face of the neighborhood). That, at least, is the hope.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

GWU Makes Claims to Historic Fame

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Part of the George Washington University 2007 campus plan was an effort to create a special historic district on the Foggy Bottom campus. While that has not yet happened, this week the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) will consider a precursor, granting historic landmark designation to five campus apartment buildings and one office/studio. The HPRB Staff Report recommends that all six buildings be designated as landmarks in the District of Columbia Inventory of Historic Sites and further recommends submitting the structures to the National Register of Historic Places. Recognizing the buildings as historic bolsters the effort to create a contiguous district around the GW campus.

The high-rise apartment buildings, according to HPRB documents, were largely built in the 1920's and 1930's when the area around GW saw a surge in demand for housing, thanks to the recently engorged federal government. The buildings are now used as residence halls; GW students/alums might remember The Everglades, The Flagler, The Keystone, Munson Hall and Milton Hall. Several of the buildings actually fall outside of the proposed historic district, but are considered historically significant enough to be landmarked along with structures inside the proposed boundaries.

The John J. Early Office and Studio would also receive historic designation. The studio was once the workspace of, you guessed it, John Earley, an artist, architect and engineer. We have him to thank for the idea for all the pre-cast concrete we see on buildings today. According to the HPRB staff report, you may have seen Earley's personal work on the ceiling of the Reptile House at the National Zoo or at the Justice Department. Located at 2131 G Street, the building is set back from the street and sits across from the new School Without Walls.

According to Bruce Yarnall of HPRB, the proposed historic district has not yet come before the HPRB; this week's review will merely examine elements within the plan for an historic district within Foggy Bottom.


Washington DC real estate development news

Monday, January 25, 2010

McGinty's Takoma Theater: After 86 Years, is "The Party Over"?

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The battle between Milton McGinty, the 82-year old owner of the historic Takoma Theatre and Washington DC's Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) came to a head on Friday. McGinty appeared before the Mayor's Agent, arguing that his proposed apartment complex was a project of special public merit and that the failure to issue permits would cause him unreasonable economic hardship, appealing an earlier HPRB recommendation to block redevelopment.

As Director of the DC Office of Planning, Harriet Tregoning served as the Mayor's Agent, hearing testimony from McGinty, friends and former associates and Takoma residents. Tregoning gave McGinty until January 29th to submit documents supporting his claim that the theater can no longer remain operational without causing him undo financial strain. The community, including groups like the Takoma Theatre Conservancy will have seven days thereafter to respond to McGinty's new evidence.

According to McGinty's testimony at the hearing, he has spent more than $250,000 on renovating and repairing the theater since 1983, when he purchased the theater for $300,000. The theater, designed by architect John J. Zink, was built in 1923.

McGinty began leasing the theater for public plays and performances in 1995. In early 2007, he closed it down, then drew protests from the Takoma Theater Conservancy when he sought permits to raze the building to pave the way for office space. The HPRB blocked that, and McGinty worked with architect Paul Wilson to draw up a new plan to convert the space into a 43-unit, five-story apartment building while maintaining the theater's original facade and including a 100-seat venue. Last October, the HPRB once again disapproved of granting permits for a plan that called for demolishing 75% of the theater.

At the time of the hearing, McGinty had made no plans for public space in his design, nor had he planned the inclusion of an affordable housing component to the project outside what the Zoning Commission requires by law. Another strike: while arguing that his project is of "special public merit," McGinty added that the designs were "nothing out of this world."

Despite the community's reaction to the plans, McGinty was resolute in his decision to convert the space, testifying at the hearing that since 1983 he's been on the front lines working to put the theater "together piece by piece."

"It's easy for others to vote to preserve the theater. That's free," McGinty argued, and maintained that he has not received any formal offers from community members or developers hoping to purchase the property - though that's unlikely to happen, considering McGinty placed the property in a family trust to prevent a sale and told DCMud in August that he never has - and never will - consider a sale.

When asked whether or not he had taken into consideration HPRB's recommendations with his architect, McGinty said "no." He was equally clear on his position for the future of the theater as a public performance space under his ownership, stating that "after 86 years, if you'll pardon the expression, the party's over."

Depending on McGinty's ability to proffer evidence that maintaining the property without development would cause him undo financial strain, the party may, in fact, be over for development plans as well.

Washington, DC real estate and development news

Central Union Mission Pursues Gales School, Again

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The District has issued a Request for Proposals to revive the Gales School at 65 Massachusetts Avenue, NW. Officials must be hoping for a better result than the previous efforts to develop the building shell, a swap with the Central Union Mission for its land at 3500 Georgia Avenue - a site that might now be part of the Park Morton Development. The announcement indicated DC was seeking offers from private companies and non-profits to renovate the historic building (circa 1881) and operate it as a homeless shelter, capable of serving upwards of 150 people each night. The RFP is the first sign that the furor over previous efforts have subsided, and the dilapidated building will once again provide services to the city's homeless.

The District ran the building as a homeless shelter between 2000 and 2004. In the proposed trade, DC would have gained the Georgia Avenue property and the Mission would get use of the school as a shelter, plus an additional $7 million. But the exchange was derailed by an America Civil Liberties Union lawsuit claiming an Establishment Clause violation - i.e. separation of church and state - because the trade would, according to the suit, result in a "net gain" of $12 million for the Mission, which the ACLU objected to because the Mission requires homeless men to participate in religious services in return for room, board and counseling services.

In the face of the lawsuit, the Mission proposed to move the shelter to Georgia Avenue, only to face fierce community opposition to a homeless shelter and more opposition when the plan changed to a mixed-use residential and office project. That changed in October when DC Officials announced that the development team of the Park Morton Project, Park View Partners (Landex Corp., Warrenton Group and Spectrum Management), would be absorbing the Central Union Mission Property as part of Park Morton, though Park View has not yet solidified that agreement with the Mission. (Image below at left)

David Treadwell, Executive Director of the Central Union Mission, said that the deal with Park View Partners is a "long-term contract" that cannot be finalized until negotiations between the District and the developers are completed. That said, the property is "off the table as far as a swap with the government goes" said Treadwell. With the swap option gone and the $7 million spent long ago elsewhere, the Mission will now compete for the Gales School. Treadwell said it was his understanding that the concerns raised in the lawsuit had more to do with the cash payments than with the land swap, so the Mission will submit a response to the Gales School RFP.

Treadwell added that he hopes the new proposal will "work for everybody, that is fair to everybody and acceptable to the community" because the Gales School is a "great location for serving the poor and the homeless." Still, the Mission's offer will depend on its ability to raise funds for a project that ultimately will not be a revenue creator, and which may be torpedoed again if perceived to contain any sort of subsidy, a problem that non-religious organizations would not face. Treadwell said the Mission's offer will likely call for an addition to the building of approximately 5,000 s.f. for a new kitchen, classrooms and storage space to serve 150 or more men a night. The project will likely cost $12 to $14 million, "we are entering with fear and trepidation," said Treadwell.

As for the lawsuit, Treadwell said he cannot speak for the ACLU or other parties of the suit as to whether the new arrangements and changes to the original plans will have resolved any concerns. The Gales School was designed by Edward Clark, the Architect of the Capitol, and named for DC's 8th Mayor.

Washington, DC real estate and development news

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Onyx Apartments

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Onyx Apartments, 1100 1st St., SE, Washington DC
Faison, a Charlotte-based developer with a big stake in the DC condo market, having developed the Whitman and 1010 Mass, partnered with Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund (i.e. Magic Johnson), a major fund for urban redevelopment projects, to build the Onyx, a 14-story residential tower at First & L Sts, within the Capitol Riverfront BID. Construction began in November 2006 and finished in early 2009. The Onyx on First, developed 266 residential units over a four-level underground parking garage with approximately 210 parking spaces, with a striking glass/brick exterior. The majority of units, designed to attract entry-level professionals, are small, and originally sold as a condominium, ranging from the high $200k's to the high $300k's with an average size of 725 s.f., but in early 2008 converted to an apartment building. Onyx residents have a public courtyard, game room, bike room, floor-to-ceiling windows, and pool. The name "Onyx on First" is a play on the address and the nearby baseball stadium, and 1 block from Metro. Designed by Esocoff & Associates.

Post your comments about the Onyx below:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

EYA Ready to Demo Another Old Town Low-Income Project

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After nearly 4 years of planning, developer EYA is getting ready to demolish one of Old Town's numerous subsidized housing relics and replace it with a mixed-income community. EYA reports that demolition should be underway by March on 808 Madison Street, part of the James Bland Additions community on the northern edge of Old Town Alexandria.

Old Town Commons will add 245 market-rate and 134 affordable homes, renovating five full blocks of Old Town, replacing the 194 units of affordable housing built in 1954 and owned by the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA). Current residents will be relocated on site or transferred to other available ARHA housing in the community.

The EYA project will continue in phases, one phase per block, allowing for many residents to remain in their homes until new space becomes available, though public housing residents are not guaranteed a space in the new project. The developer began the process in 2006 when it responded to an RFP released by Alexandria, which it won in the summer of 2006. As part of the agreement, the developer will buy the land beneath the market-rate units, money which ARHA will then put toward funding the public housing units.

Across the five phases, the housing breaks down into 159 market-rate townhomes, 86 market-rate condos and 134 subsidized apartments. The first phase includes 37 market-rate units and 18 subsidized units with the remaining phases following a similar pattern of 2/3 market-rate to 1/3 public. The first phase units should complete by the end of 2011.

The homes will be a mixture of architectural styles, designed by project architect the Lessard Group. According to Jennifer Hebert of EYA, the primary streets, such as Madison and Wythe, will have "very traditional Old Town" designs, while the new secondary streets "will feature a more modern architectural style." EYA told DCMud that subsidized and market housing will be interspersed and that the exterior will cloak such distinctions to "ensure that the overall community has a consistent look." According to Brian Allan Jackson, a Senior Vice President at EYA, both type of units will be built to LEED for community standards, like their Capitol Quarters project in D.C.

EYA also developed several projects in the immediate vicinity, including Chatham Square and Potomac Greens, both collaborations with EYA and county-funded ARHA. EYA is also now building Glebe Park, another partnership between EYA and ARHA, with funding from Alexandria that will be repaid through land sales at Old Town Commons, and have caused more than a little hand-wringing at the thought of sponsoring more low-income housing within Old Town. Glebe Park broke ground in August for the construction and rehabilitation of 102 homes off West Glebe Road, with completion scheduled for late 2010. Jackson said the two projects combined will likely amount to $200 million in total project costs.

Alexandria Virginia real estate and development news

CityVista

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CityVista Condos, 475 K St., NW, Washington DC
CityVista Apartments, 460 L St., NW, Washington DC


The CityVista complex in Mt. Vernon Triangle is comprised of 3 separate buildings: the "L" at City Vista with 149 condominiums, the K at CityVista with 292 condominiums, and the "V" with 244 apartments, which completed and began renting in Q3 2008. The K is 12 stories high with underground parking, with 59 subsidized condos. The L is slightly smaller, taking up 134,000 s.f. with 119 market rate and 30 low-income units. The project was built on the site of the former wax museum, in an area that still struggles with many underutilized lots that had offered promising development.

CityVista features 110,000 s.f. of retail - an "urban" Safeway with banking and dry-cleaning services, hardware store and Results gym. Building amenities include rooftop terraces and pool, a one-acre private elevated interior plaza, and underground parking. Developed by a group led by Lowe Enterprises, and by L.A.-based CIM, Bundy Development, and NDC, with land acquired from now-defunct NCRC. Architectural design was by Torti Gallas of Silver Spring and Michael Marshall, construction by James Davis Construction Company. Groundreaking occurred in May, 2006; sales, by Mayhood, began late 2005. Occupancy began in September, 2007 with delivery of the first units at the L, completion of the entire development was in late 2008. Condo prices started in the mid $300's for one-bedroom condos, mid-$400's for two-bedroom condos.

Post your comments about CityVista below:

Friday, January 22, 2010

Brookland Gets its Art On

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One of the first new developments in the Brookland Community to actually break soil may be close at hand, as the Dance Place and Artspace forge ahead with plans to create a $13 million arts campus. The trickling begins as developer Artspace seeks subcontractors, with bids due February 5th and the first phase of construction scheduled to begin in March. The site is currently occupied by the Brookland Studios and an existing Dance Place building on 8th Street, just three blocks from the Brookland Metro Station. First on the boards: a 41-unit artist live-work building, with a new or renovated dance studio for phase 2.

Artppace's affordable live/work units will house struggling artists and their families, providing them with gallery and studio space. Half of the units will be available to households earning less than 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI), with the other half set aside for households earning less than 50% AMI. The four-story building will rise no higher than 48 feet in the low-density neighborhood. A unique twist - residences will feature open interiors, wider hallways and hospital-sized elevators, allowing for the transport of large art materials or finished pieces of art. The southwest corner of the ground floor will naturally be available as a performance space that opens to the plaza, connecting to the new Dance Place once the latter is complete. The 57,000 s.f. project will provide 22 parking spaces below grade and should complete by the Summer of 2011. The building will have a green roof and Artspace will be partnering with DC Greenworks for the installation.

For phase 2, Heidi Kurtze, Director of Property Development at Artspace, says the team will spend much of 2010 "researching" and raising funds before deciding on the design for the dance studio. Preliminary plans submitted to the Office of Planning called for a new two-story theater and two-story storage space on the ground floor of a (possibly) four-story building with classrooms, changing room and office space on the top floors. Though Kurtze said without enough capital the team might have to renovate the current building, rather than the preferred option of a new structure.

Artspace has been working with Dance Place since 2007. Kurtze described the relationship as a "true collaboration with a local arts organization that is already thriving in the community."

The development team selected Bognet Construction Associates as the general contractor, designs for the residential building are by Hickok Cole Architects.

The new plans come at at time when other large-scale developments in the area are still crawling through the planning or pre-construction periods. Project's like EYA's Chancellor's Row and Abdo's project with CUA are still a long way from realizing the promised renaissance in Brookland.

Update: The District Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) is a partner in the Artspace project. DHCD will provide $10.4 million in stimulus funding and $1 million in low-income housing tax credits to the Artspace residential project in recognition of the role of the arts in revitalizing neighborhood, according to DHCD spokesperson Angelita Colon-Francia.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Local Governments Seek to Transform Wheaton Downtown

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Ten sites in Wheaton are up for grabs now that Montgomery County, the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and Metro, a.k.a. the "Public Team" which individually own the properties, has released a request for qualifications for a public-private partnership to develop and transform any one or combination of the ten spaces in the Wheaton Central Business District. The plots total 11.7 acres, all within 1,200 feet of the Wheaton Metro station.

The three land owners are working together to create a constellation of new development to build a "high quality...vibrant community" with increased density that will transform the Wheaton CBD. Projects should be transit oriented, mixed-use developments that create active open space and promote pedestrian-friendly transit. The two-tier process will first rate the developers' "creative vision" and ability, saving project specifics for the second stage of application process.

Housing options should include moderate-income, workforce housing and live-work units such as art studios. The ten lots include both contiguous and stand alone plots. Depending on the owner, the property may be either leased or purchased. Expect a localized price spike, as developers may combine other parcels in their proposals by showing they will have the ability to control adjacent parcels for future development.

The properties are listed in groups, though each can be developed individually. Group A includes a Parking Lot on Price Avenue, a garage on Fern Street and Veterans' Park on Reedie Drive, a total of 2.62 acres. In the case of Veterans' Park, a developer would be required to "identify a replacement location for the park that enhances its impact upon the public realm."

Group B holds the bulk of the space with 8.02 acres, including three Montgomery County-owned parking lots, a Montgomery County Regional Service Center on Reedie Drive and two Metro properties. Concept plans for the Regional Service Center should address replacement locations for the services normally provided by the site.

The Metro offerings include a bus bay on Georgia Avenue and a 1.94-acre garage on Veirs Mill Road. Metro requires any developer with plans for the bus bay to develop an interim site prior to construction and an alternate permanent location for the facility in close proximity. Metro is not seeking replacement of the garage, which connects via a pedestrian bridge to the Westfield Wheaton Mall. However, any developer seeking to "better integrate these facilities with transit oriented development" would need to replace the "existing uses at appropriate levels of functionality," with replacement costs borne by the developer.

That leaves the sole member of Group C, a 1.06 acre Montgomery County-owned parking lot on Blueridge Ave. Despite the tie to Metro, the team is requiring that applicants replace all five parking lots with "appropriate levels of replacement parking/capacity."

Submissions are due March 19th, a pre-submission conference with site tour will be held February 2nd. A short-list of candidates will be released on April 14th, at which time the second phase information will be released.

Wheaton real estate and development news

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lincoln Condominiums

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2004 11th St., NW, Washington DC
2001 12th St., NW Washington DC

The Lincoln Condominiums may only offer 176 units, but with only 4 floors of residences takes up nearly the entire block, and was therefore designed with two main entrances, both just off U Street. The Lincoln was completed in July of 2000, well before the big condo boom in the U Street corridor. The Lincoln was named for the famed U Street theater a block away. The site was once home to Thompson's Dairy, which churned out as much as 35,000 gallons of milk per day from farms throughout the region. The wood-framed sits atop a concrete parking structure, with a quiet interior courtyard. The site was developed by Delores Johnson, who acquired the property from the Marion Barry administration in a deal that later raised questions about what taxpayers got out of it. The Lincoln was designed by architect Eric Colbert and Bush Construction. Real estate sales were by the Mayhood Company.

Post your comments about this project below:

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Bozzuto Asks to Delay Mt. Vernon Development

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The Bozzuto Development Company is asking DC for a two year delay on its planned residential development on New York Ave in Mt. Vernon Triangle, even as neighboring residential projects progress. Just last April Bozzuto Development Company President Toby Bozzuto told DCMud he hoped to begin construction in 2010. That now seems highly unlikely, so to be cautious the developer will go before the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) next week to request a two-year extension.

The Bozzuto property will sit across from City Vista and adjacent to Yale Laundry, which just started construction on its second phase, despite ongoing sales that began in the summer of 2005. The WDG Architects-designed 13-story building at 460 New York Avenue, NW would include 87 residential units for a total of 85,555 square feet on a site currently occupied by an empty lot and two vacant, deteriorating buildings.

Nothing is likely to happen soon. William McLeod of the Mount Vernon Community Improvement District told DCMud he was unaware of any updates or changes in the status of the development, and Sean Stadler, Associate Principal Designer at WDG said there had been no progress on the project since its initial zoning approval and that the developer had not begun hiring a general contractor.

The developer originally received Zoning Commission approval in April 2008 for zoning amendments. The approval sanctioned Bozzuto's plans to move the three-story historic structure, dating from 1902, to an area zoned for smaller development while leaving the remainder of the lot for the larger residential building, which on New York Avenue will reach 130 ft in height. A ground floor fitness center (despite the Results gym at CityVista) and two levels of below grade parking will reportedly round out the development. The developer received approval in January 2008 from the HPRB to raze the two-story 1870s historic building because of the dire condition of the structure. Once the 1902 historic building is relocated on the western edge of the site, it will receive a full renovation to include 6 of the planned apartments.


Washington, DC real estate and development news

Getting to Bethesda's Medical Center

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Most Bethesda residents have given little thought to crossing Wisconsin Avenue from Metro to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. But those that have get that inchworm-on-the-road feeling, and now that the facility is due to swell with thousands of new workers, urban planners are trying to do something about that. To that end, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) will hold a public information session on Tuesday to discuss potential options to improve pedestrian interface with the 7 lanes of autobahn.

Thanks to a federal BRAC decision to close the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and consolidate it at Bethesda's National Naval Medical Center, Montgomery County officials and the surrounding community have been working together to prepare for the influx of 2,500 employees and half a million (annual) visitors and patients expected to frequent the new location beginning in September 2011. Tuesday's meeting will include information on proposed options to provide more efficient transit options.

The state had tasked Metro with completing the study after it received $20 million DOD grant to improve transit access to the medical center. In July of 2009, WMATA released an environmental impact study that detailed several options for moving people safely and efficiently from the Metro across Rt. 355. The study looked at options including an improved intersection, a shallow pedestrian tunnel, deep elevators and a below-ground mezzanine, a combo of shallow tunnel and deep elevator and even an elevated pedestrian bridge.

According to MCDOT Deputy Director Edgar Gonzalez, shortly after the Metro study the County applied for a share of the $1.5 billion in TIGER (Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery) funds, including options like pedestrian and bike crossings. To prepare for that award, MCDOT has undertaken its own environmental impact study, exploring a variety of options that, unlike the Metro study, are not restricted solely to pedestrian access. Gonzalez said the study has examined a range of options from pedestrian, to pedestrian and bikes, to having emergency vehicles connect between the NIH and Navy Medical.

Some local groups and residents have made serious and public accusations against MCDOT claiming secretive government plans and auto access via an underpass, but Gonzalez insists that claims of a 4-lane auto underpass are "totally inaccurate" and that the very idea of a "secret plan is stretching it."

You can find out for yourself at the meeting on tonight at 6:30 PM. The meeting will be at the Bethesda Chevy Chase Regional Services Center at 4805 Edgemoor Lane.

Bethesda real estate and development news

Monday, January 18, 2010

New Development Potential for Corcoran's Randall School

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The Corcoran College of Art and Design may have found a suitor for its project at the Randall Junior High School at 65 I Street, SW, after more than three years of setbacks. An announcement could come as soon as March, when Corcoran will have to renew their approved development plan with the Zoning Commission. Until that time the community will have to continue their long wait for new development at a neighborhood eyesore.

Kristin Guiter, Manager of Media Relations for the Corcoran, would only confirm that "the Corcoran has entered into negotiations with a potential development partner."

That's great news for a development project that has faced uncertainty since the Corcoran purchased the 50-year-old, 80,000 s.f. middle school from the District government in November, 2006, for a reported $6.2 million dollars.

No news yet on who the new mystery developer might be or what changes might happen to the previous designs by
Shalom Baranes Architects. Guiter says that "at this point, we are not prepared to release details since an agreement has not been signed."

Originally, the Corcoran had hoped to convert the school into a combination of apartments, studios, classroom, and display space. But when its partnership with Monument Realty dissolved last spring, plans for two nine-story residential towers with 420 units of housing and 100,000 s.f. of college facilities were scrapped.

But with its first zoning approval expiration coming up this March, news of a possible development partner couldn't come soon enough.

ANC 6D Commissioner David Sobelsohn said "we in the community are anxious to get this project underway. We're very concerned that this building has been sitting vacant and empty all this time." Sobelsohn added that the ANC voted unanimously on Monday to support the Corcoran's efforts to be granted a two year PUD extension with the Zoning Commission on "the condition that various community benefits agreed upon in 2007" remain intact in any new agreements. The ANC Commissioner noted that the new developer will likely be announced once the PUD is extended. "The development partner probably wants to be sure that the PUD is in place," said Sobelsohn. Corcoran is not yet on the Zoning Commission calendar for PUD extension.

Washington DC real estate development news

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Senate Square Apartments

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Senate Square Apartments, 201 I St., NE, Washington DC
Senate Square Towers are part of the redevelopment of the old Children's Museum site. The museum itself was turned into a condominium, the remaining land was sold to Broadway Development of New York. Broadway and architect Esocoff and Associates designed and built the 432-unit pair of towers, completing in late 2007. While under construction, the developer attempted to sell the project as condos, but with prices as low as $410 per square foot, only 150 sold, all of which were then canceled when the project converted to apartments for rent.

Senate Square Towers - the Lexington and Concord - are 12-stories each are masonry structures with metal windows and precast concrete and stone trim, and feature an 80' rooftop pool and sizable fitness center. Within walking distance of Union Station, the Metro, and the Capitol, Senate Square towers also share a common amenity space with Landmark Lofts - a historic building in the central courtyard that serves as a business and conference center. H Street is also supposed to have streetcar service, but that remains an elusive goal. Bozzutto Management began leasing the apartment building in 2007, but leasing rates were initially very slow until prices were lowered and incentives given. In 2009, Broadway lost control of the project for lack of payment; the building will be auctioned February 22, 2010.

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Saturday, January 16, 2010

Jenkins Row Condominiums

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Jenkins Row, 1391 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, Washington DC
Jenkins Row was originally designed as an apartment building, converting after the start of construction, and both finishes and amenities reflect the original intent (more amenities, less expensive finishes). Contracting problems forced the delay of construction, and many of the original buyers to back out. The 247-unit wood-framed building finally delivered in September of 2007, with prices starting from $250,000 for a studio and from $378,000 for one bedroom, prices that ultimately went down considerably.

Located adjacent to the Potomac Avenue Metro, two metro stops from the Capitol Hill Office Buildings, Jenkins Row features a fitness center, front desk receptionist, underground parking, and encircled central courtyard with water fountains. In 2008 a Harris Teeter opened on the first floor. The project was built by JPI of Texas, which later disbanded its DC operations, and designed by SK&I Architectural Design Group. The building was designed to look less massive than it is, with varying architectural styles on the facade.

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DC Gets Bids on Georgia Avenue

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Yesterday, two development teams threw their hats in the ring to develop a 15,000 s.f. parcel at 6925-6929 Georgia Avenue, NW, across from the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. The District released an RFP in October, looking for a group to plan, finance, build and operate a project that may include mixed-income housing, community-serving retail, and cultural amenities. The vacant lot is zoned for R-5-B, with height limits set at 50 feet and a maximum lot occupancy of 60%.

According to Sean Madigan, Communications Director for the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, only two teams met the 3 PM deadline on Friday. Madigan indicated the project managers for the site would be moving quickly to review the applications and announcements about the proposals might become public as soon as this week.

Washington DC real estate development news

The Saratoga

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The Saratoga Apartment Building
4601 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington DC

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Carillon House Apartments

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Carillon House, 2500 Wisconsin Ave., NW, Washington DC, 20007
The Carillon House Apartment building is a massive 50's era apartment building offering up a few amenities for its studio and one-bedroom apartments, like limited garage parking, shared washer/dryer, very small fitness center, 24 hour front desk with some concierge services, storage spaces, bike room, and small roofdeck, but offers decent rates, and a solid Wisconsin Ave location on main bus routes (but not near Metro). The apartment building sits across from a park in the middle of trendy Glover Park, one of the best little retail strips around, with a Whole Foods across the street to boot. And if you're into espionage, the Russian Embassy is next door. The Carillon House lobby is updated and pleasant, though the interior finishes remain pretty spartan, and include the original parquet floors, but are well maintained. Despite the austere white brick facade, which looks like it could be an adjunct of the old Soviet Embassy, the neighborhood is vibrant of full of good retail, and the only large apartment building in Glover Park proper. The Carillon sits on the rise above Glover Park, so the bonus views are on the south side, where going only a few floors up yields dramatic views over the city. The building was topped by an electronic carillon for many years, broadcasting music to the neighborhood every day at noon, and was the first Washington DC apartment building with central air conditioning.

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