Monday, August 30, 2010

Shaw Community, Public Officials, Set to Celebrate CityMarket Groundbreaking Wednesday

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Approved by the HPRB way back in August of 2007, and then by Zoning in May of 2008, Roadside Development's mixed-use CityMarket at O project apparently has a long shelf life. Developers have regularly attempted to quell the usual doubters with news of restructured financing, and updated timelines, but will finally lay uncertainty to rest, as a groundbreaking shindig is dated for Wednesday afternoon of this week. Festivities could include some palpable political tension, as mayoral candidate rivals political-polling master Vincent Gray and the Smart-car-piloting Mayor Fenty will likely both be in attendance. After the two year stall in action, a strategy becoming evermore popular in development world, Roadside's shovel plunge at CityMarket is an important step in the revitalization of the Shaw district.

Now residents are set to receive their long-awaited attention with a one million s.f. urban infill project that will solidify, restore, and protect the historic facade of the enduring O Street Market, constructed in 1881 and now only a shell, as well as populate four lonely acres of mostly abandoned land between 9th, 7th, P and O Streets, NW with residential (over 600 units) and commercial buildings (87,000 s.f. of retail). Shalom Baranes Architects has been trusted to oversee the design process. A heavy snowstorm destroyed the roof the Market building in 2001, but architects and developers are confident the building will be restored to its original grandeur. Project architect Andrew Taylor says that they intend on avoiding a monolithic design theme, and that each building will have its own personality. "There is an effort...to create a composition of buildings surrounding and drawing attention to the Market, using modern elements that pick up on the more playful elements of the Market's Victorian architecture."


The project also includes the demolition of the current Giant grocery store, with plans for a much grander replacement. Roadside says of the planned Giant: "The new store will combine the charm of the 19th Century with 21st Century efficiency to create one of Washington's largest food stores and the East Coast's most unique and interesting shopping experiences." Stabilization of the O Street Market building for the purpose of preservation, and protection from subsequent ground excavation, is the first order of business, beginning this week. Demolition of the current Giant is next on the agenda, scheduled for later this winter, with the 24-month shot-clock commencing on January 15th, counting down the time developers have to deliver the new grocery store. The redevelopment won't be fully realized until sometime in 2013. Clark Construction is handling general contracting duties.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

North Bethesda Developers Seek Density as Solution to Sprawl

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Developers of North Bethesda, having just completed the county's tallest residential building and the Pike's largest recent project, are hoping for an encore. Now nearing completion of the North Bethesda Market, developer JBG has begun courting the community for a second phase, seeking an increase in density for new office and residences that will produce demand for the 200,000 s.f. of retail built in the first phase.

Developers of Rockville Pike in North Bethesda have long hoped that if development continues, and smart urban planning matches pace, the congested corridor might make the triple-jump to a walkable urban district. JBG unveiled initial plans to the community last week, still just conceptual, that would add 745,000 s.f. of development with a 40% increase in density to the block just north of its current project. JBG isn't the only player in the game, as the White Flint Sector Plan highlights several other major developments in the area, including Federal Realty's "Mid-Pike Plaza," and LCOR's White Flint development. JBG submitted initial plans to the Montgomery National Capital Park and Planning Commission early on Friday the 27th, depicting additional retail fronting Rockville Pike and a series of residences on the block behind it. Approval could take anywhere from 18 to 24 months, so construction on the newest phase is not expected to start until late 2012 or early 2013.

After announcing earlier this summer that Florida-based restaurants Season 52 and Dolcé Amoré Café, along with furniture juggernauts Arhaus, will join Whole Foods and L.A. Fitness at the round table of tenants in the nearly completed North Bethesda Market, JBG hopes to broaden the scope of NoBe (or NoBeMa, take your pick) with an array of new residencies, office space, and expanded retail options. NoBe sales representatives said they are hoping Whole Foods will open for shoppers by spring of next year.

The new site extends the Market north to Nicholson Lane, replacing three low density 40-year-old office and retail buildings, and one new office and retail building. Torti Gallas will stay on as the planning architect. One of the goals in maintaining some sort of unifying theme within the development is the extension of Paseo north into Phase II.
Paseo is the "concept of an intimate, pedestrian-oriented, retail lined street" that is meant to tie together the residential and commercial aspects of the project.

Senior VP of Marketing Matthew Blocher depicts the community feedback so far as positive, as developers expect the enthusiasm surrounding the opening of the first phase to carry over as they continue to unveil second stage plans. But one of the obstacles to moving forward with redevelopment is getting the community and county officials on-board with the increased density. Developers say a minimum base density of 3.5 FAR is necessary to buoy the requisite investment, and appropriate given the proximity to the White Flint Metro, but authors of the White Flint Sector Plan currently recommend 2.5 FAR. County officials have been keen on spurring the kind of redevelopment that JBG is pursuing across the region, but have also been conscious of just how fast that growth is developed.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Penrose Square Town Center in Arlington is Under Way

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Carbon Thompson Development, the Herndon- and Dallas-based developer, has donated a parcel equal to approximately half the area of the Penrose Square open space plaza as part of an agreement with Arlington County to emphasize the creation of usable public space along what is being conceived as three miles of pedestrian-friendly commercial boulevard. When finished, the $80 million, 4-acre Penrose Square mixed-use development at Columbia Pike and S. Barton St. will include 299 rental units, 30,000 SF of retail, including restaurants and retail, a new 47,000 s.f. "flagship" Giant grocery store, and 700 parking spaces, mostly underground. Site owner B.M. Smith chose Carbon Thompson, which started construction in June when it demolished Adams Square and began the two-year construction project. with financing from Wachovia Bank, RBS Citizens. Foulger-Pratt Construction of Rockville is the general contractor and Heffner Architects PC of Alexandria the designer of the buildings. "We went through the form-based code process with two architects. One focused on residential and the other on the retail portion of the design. Ultimately, we went with Heffner Architects because they have experience in both types of development," reported Jim Mertz of Carbon Thompson.

The project took advantage of the Columbia Pike Form Based Code, which is optional to developers, but significantly reduces the public review process for getting projects approved. An appointed citizen group and county officials drafted the code collaboratively. They outlined measures for regulating the location of the building site; architectural standards, including building materials, facade design, placement and appearance of windows, doors and parapets; building envelope standards, which specify building height by stories rather than floor-to-floor height; and streetscape standards, which regulate public right-of-way elements like sidewalk width, treescape, civic plazas and open space. There were no stylistic specifications in the code. Although the project conforms to the form-based code, because there was no provision for a grocery store in the zoning regulation, Penrose Square had to resubmit for approval as a 4.1 site plan project. A minor detour, the site plan submittal process ensures that the development is mindful of its neighbors during the construction process and allows for the demolition of existing structures, foundation setting, ground-level garage permitting and building construction approvals in stages.

"Form-based codes allow for greater development density. The point of this development was to spur economic growth and activity along Columbia Pike. The county spent four years meeting with citizens determining what they wanted it to be," said Mertz.

Penrose Square is located within walking distance of the already completed Halstead and Sienna Park developments. The town center at Penrose will be easily accessible to both drivers and those who prefer to walk, but overall, the area will function like a walkable community.

Penrose Square: The Open Space Plan

When Penrose Square is complete, you will be able to experience monolithic radio communication in the heart of Arlington County's Columbia Pike revitalization corridor. Last July, DC Mud wrote a story on The Virginia Department of Transportation's plans to link key locations along the Columbia Pike zoning district via streetcar. Zeroing in on Columbia Pike between South Cleveland St. and South Barton St., imagine two sculptures carved out of white granite and about 100 feet apart oriented on a NW to SE diagonal. Each slab is poised upward and has rough, irregular edges, and each faces the hollow elliptical paraboloid concavity of the other. Designed by California sculptor Richard Deutsch in collaboration with the DC-based landscape designer OCULUS, Echo will mimic the way sound travels across radio waves. The shape and orientation of the concavities of the sculptures will be orchestrated to convey even very low amplitude sound (like a whisper) from one granite station to the other. From 1913 until 1941, a nearby site on Columbia Pike was home to three radio-communication towers - the "Three Sisters," which sent some of the first radio signals to the Eiffel Tower in Paris in 1915. Deutsch's sculpture refers to this local history at the request of the 12-member, citizen-run Working Group that the Arlington County Board put together to help conceive of the design for Penrose Square.
Less means more planning
The two-piece interactive sculpture will be set on a quadrangle with a paved central plaza, buffered with a bosque terrace feature with outdoor seating to the northeast, a bermed lawn buttressed with retaining walls to the south, a zero-depth water feature to the southeast and another smaller lawn with tree canopy and retaining walls to the west.

"We envision that people using the grocery store and adjacent buildings will be coming to the park to relax and take a break. We have designed custom, movable seating for the bosque and a fountain with 27 jets at different heights that people will be able to walk up to and touch. The space is designed to accommodate large-scale events and large crowds, as well," remarked Marjorie Salcedo, a landscape architect and project manager on Penrose.

According to the meeting minutes of a July 2008 meeting of the citizen Working Group, "The Group aimed to pursue a square that would: be scaled to relate to the adjacent buildings; form a synergy with adjacent retail shops; be flexible enough to address daily needs as well as host special events; be inclusive and welcoming to people of all ages and abilities; be oriented toward transit; provide strong visual and physical connections to Columbia Pike; offer a variety of seating opportunities; and adhere to the design guidelines for civic squares contained in the Columbia Pike Form Based Code."

The future Super Stop station, designed by Arlington County for buses, will run parallel to Columbia Pike south of the 33,000 SF plaza, which will be build in two phases. Phase I is estimated to break ground in Spring of 2011.

Friday, August 27, 2010

EYA Announces Construction Start for Brookland Metro Project

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After last week's announcement of Bozzuto-Pritzker Venture's new alliance with Abdo in developing the $200 million project on Catholic's South Campus, every propogator of real estate news (including DCMud), was happy just to have something printable during a lazy August. But the cash infusion into the neighborhood was good for other developers too; namely EYA, which rebroadcast the news in advance of its own groundbreaking around the corner. The area's current access, or lack thereof, to quality, independent eateries and retail is regrettable, and any chance of more commerce, whatever the time-frame, is good news. Now piggybacking on these housing-market huzzahs, EYA has given the area's residents and real estate news junkies more to cheer about, announcing that their expansive LEED-certified residential development will break ground on Tuesday. As proof of the regional renaissance, EYA also notes "the massive 40+ acre Dakota Crossing development and the Rhode Island Avenue Metro redevelopment".

The 10-acre field of grass EYA purchased from St. Paul's College is now tilled, and come the first week of September foundations will go in and construction will start moving vertically. EYA expects to deliver their first townhouse models in February or March of next year. Upon completion the whole project will bring 237 Lessard Group-designed single-family townhomes to the former campus field. The townhouses are currently being offered from $470,000 to $590,000. According to EYA, only 206 of the total will be officially "luxury townhomes" while the remaining 31 will be marketed as "affordable dwelling units." Half will go to those unit-dwellers (a.k.a. humans) earning 50% Area Median Income (AMI) and half to those earning 80% AMI.

EYA began marketing their Chancellor's Row houses in May, before they had even finished constructing their sales center. Not to be misled by the subtle art of neighborhood cartography, neighborhood watchdogs have pointed out that the "Brookland Metro" development lies a few blocks west of the unofficial "official" dividing line (9th Street NE) of Brookland, in Edgewood.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

Mount Vernon Triangle Scores Another Development

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Already a presence in the blossoming NoMa district next door, Paradigm looks to extend their influence into the neighboring Mount Vernon Triangle with the construction of a commodious 390-unit rental building at 425 L St, NW. Paradigm's nearby student-housed Washington Center opened a few months ago, and the company continues to manage the imposing Meridian at Gallery Place just down the street. According to Paradigm project manager Jimmy Dotson the new property is intended to be a "bold, urban building with all the modern comforts of home." The building will rise fourteen stories above ground, and root itself three levels deep into the earth to provide below grade parking for residents.


Like the majority of newly built rental buildings these days, amenities include a top level pool and club room, as well as an expansive lobby and fitness center. Dotson conceded that sustainable aspects are not a major focus on this project, and that the building will not be credentialed as green, but at least a few unique, environmentally conscious features like hybrid and electric car refueling stations in the parking garage are being worked into their plans. Few travelers up New York Avenue will miss the surface parking lots that will be replaced, or the warehouse at eastern corner that has sat unused for years.

Parc Rosslyn
Collins & Kronstadt of Silver Spring, MD is the architecture of record, but responsibilities for the design have been mostly shouldered by the team at Architecture Collaborative, Inc. in Elliot City, MD. Collins & Krondstat and Paradigm are familiar partners; as the firms collaborated in an effort to bring to life Parc Rosslyn in Arlington, VA, completed in 2008. This most recent design process was at least partially governed by the aesthetics of their soon-to-be neighbors like CityVista Apartments to the west and Yale Steam Laundry to the north on New York Avenue. Inspired by their surroundings, designers have forged an angular but sleek amalgamation of brick and glass, with accents of steel, granite, and metal paneling. The color scheme will wedge its way into the middle of the spectrum, somewhere between the light-tan bricks of City Vista and Yale's richer-toned burgundy bricks. Paradigm Construction will undertake general contracting responsibilities, and is in the process of awarding subcontracts.

Building permits are to be finalized soon, and although developers have not yet officially closed on the pending financing, Dotson says team is in "very good shape" to square away the remaining logistics and put a shovel in the ground by mid to late September. If things go smoothly, developers expect their first delivery in the spring of 2012, with completion of the building wrapping up later that fall.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Argos Rescues Firehouse, Brightens HPRB's Day

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The D.C. Preservation League, which annually issues a list of the District's most endangered properties in hopes of scaring developers into action, and preservationists into sign-painting and check-writing, has recently issued its new list for the year. This year the Preservation Leauge has focused it's 2010-attention on the preservation and renovation of the District's neglected firehouses. A special emphasis was placed on pre-WWII firehouses and police stations. Thankfully, two years ago Argos hammered out a deal with the District to redevelop two foresaken buildings: Firehouse No. 10 at 1341 Maryland Avenue, NE and Police Precinct No. 9 Station at 525 9th Street, NE. Developers refer to the two renovations as the Capitol Hill Condominiums, "The Station" and "The Engine House" respectively. In 2008 the Historic Preservation Review Board designate Engine House No. 10 as a Historic Landmark. While the 115-year history of public use of the firehouse will be sacrificed for the purpose of private residences, the character of both buildings, and their attractive, storied facades will be maintained for the enjoyment of passers by and history-lovers alike.

Designed by architect and firehouse specialist Leon Emile Dessez (1858-1919), erected in 1894, and completed in 1895, HPRB claimed in 2008 that the structure "is probably the best and most characteristic example of a Victorian-era firehouse still owned by the District." Sorg Architects has tackled the challenge of retrofitting the building with two market rate condos and two smaller affordable units. The former police station on 9th Street will be an almost identical project, with just enough room for an additional condo. The footprint of both the Engine House and the Station will be strictly maintained, with both facades to be restored with masonry refurbishment, various touch-ups, and only the slightest of noticeable augmentations. Windows and doors will be replaced, fading paint of old will be stripped away, and the addition of a few small second floor awnings will ready the building for residents. The interiors on the other hand will be completely gutted and overhauled - the roof, walls, flooring, HVAC, plumbing, electricity, and the works will all be replaced.

An unusual occurrence in the development world, construction on both projects began exactly on time, breaking ground two months ago as originally promised. Work is now chugging along with completion of each building expected in April of next year.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

Canal Park Party Scheduled for Tuesday

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Work on southeast DC's grand Canal Park will be set in motion on Tuesday, at least officially, when the District holds a formal ceremony to celebrate the new park that will grace the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood a few blocks from Nationals Stadium. Actual construction has not yet been scheduled, but the park's caretakers are showing progress, having just selected Davis Construction to build it and Blake Dickson Real Estate to locate a suitable restaurateur for the pavilion on the park's southern end.

The 3-acre park will offer a variety of water features, but its most iconic feature will be the pavilion designed by Studios Architecture. Wayne Dickson of Blake Dickson notes that Canal Park will be an environmental improvement as well as an aesthetic one, and projects that the Canal Park Development Association will select a "family-oriented" restaurant that offers positive synergy with its green locale.

Despite the lack of hard start dates, promoters are sticking to a late 2011 completion date . The design incorporates a boardwalk, "rain garden," three pavilions, ponds, a large fountain, sunken amphitheater, and seasonal ice rink

The District is picking up a $13.5m tab to ensure the success of the park in what is destined to become the centerpiece of the neighborhood. The bill is a relative steal compared to what DC spent on the stadium next door, and the Lerners can't even charge for admission. Total costs for the project have not yet been determined. William C. Smith & Co., one of the early developers in the area, is an organizer of and contributor to the park development association.

Philadelphia-based OLIN is the landscape architect for the project. The federal government still owns the land in arrangement that gives full control to the District, which in turn has a 20-year agreement with the Canal Park Development Association to develop and manage the land. The canal that once ran across the site connected the Anacostia to Tiber Creek (now buried under Constitution Avenue), which ran to the C&O canal.

Washington DC real estate development news

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Northwest One Project Aims to be First New Residence in Northwest One

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Northwest One's race for the first residential project is showing some contest. The development team for the SeVerna had forecasted earlier this year that their 60-unit affordable housing project would get moving this summer, which DCMud reported last spring, but construction has not yet taken place, and now William C. Smith & Co claims their $80 million, 314-unit "classy, rental building" will in fact be the first to break ground - next spring. But not so, says Jose Sousa, a spokesman with Mayor Adrian Fenty's office, the SeVerna's developers settled on their property August 12 and will be breaking ground, at least officially, "in the next couple of weeks."

The District has already built the Walker Jones Education Campus, a school and recreation center, officially the first successful portion of the redevelopment plan, but it remains unclear where its next students will come from, as neither the Severna developers ( MissionFirst Development, The Henson Development Company and Golden Rule Apartments, Inc.) nor William C. Smith have offered a definitive date for actual construction. William C. Smith's proposed building will stand twelve stories tall upon completion,
with a small ground-floor retail component, a first installment on the larger Northwest One Initiative (part of the New Communities Project), a $700 million redevelopment project in Ward 6, providing a makeover for the scarred, crime-infested real estate extending from K Street in the
south to New York Avenue in the north, and stretching from North Capitol Street in the east to New Jersey Avenue in the west. In 2007, the Mayor and DMPED awarded the rights to the redevelopment project to One Vision Development Partners headed by William C. Smith & Co in partnership with Jair Lynch, with Banneker Ventures and affordable housing provider Community Preservation and Development Corporation also involved with portions of the larger project. As promised, the building will offer 93 affordable units, 30% of the total apartments.

The first parcel (out of a total of 5 or 6) will be situated on the corner of North Capitol and M Street, NE, technically in NoMa. Architectural designs are courtesy of Eric Colbert & Associates; William C. Smith-affiliated WCS Construction will build the structure. Architect Brian Bukowski says the industrial nature of this part of DC was the major inspiration for a unifying aesthetic theme. "We wanted to give the building an updated post-industrial flavor," Bukowski explained. The exposed fixed post steel, generous use of red brick, and angular, geometric fenestration seem to bear out his claim. But if on whole the building brings to mind a downtown warehouse, the ten two-level townhouses serve as a friendlier introduction to the large facade on the M Street side of the building. The townhomes and accompanying courtyard will help relate to the residential-nature of the immediate neighborhoods. Loading and and parking access will be relegated to the opposite site of the building on Patterson Avenue. A roof penthouse will crown the building.

The main rooftop will not only provide panoramic views, but will also be ornamented with a landscaped green terrace and lap pool. A rain harvesting cistern on the roof will conserve run-off and curb water consumption; low-flow showers will further aid the conservation effort. On what will likely be a crowded roof are several solar panels, funneling electricity to the building's energy grid. In the end, residents will be able to brag about one of the greenest roofs in the city, collecting water, converting the sun's rays into usable energy, and deflecting thermal load with it's organic plant life, all aspects in an effort to earn a LEED Silver certification, with the possibility of becoming the first LEED Gold-rated multifamily residential building in the District.

William C. Smith is in the final steps of negotiating the lease agreement with the District, and although financing is not in place, developers are working toward securing funds, still optimistic that groundbreaking will happen in the late first quarter or early second quarter of next year. A request for subcontracting bids has been issued by WCS, a sign that the developers and teammates are serious about moving forward. The estimated 20-24 month construction time places delivery in the early part of 2013.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Rhode Island Avenue Northeast: Development "Hotspot"

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The corner of 4th and Rhode Island Avenue, NE, may be one of the District's least celebrated corners, but an area hitherto untapped by real estate developers, is finally getting attention. Thanks to PERS Development, a plan to remodel an abandoned 32-unit building at 329 Rhode Island Avenue NE will soon be underway, making way for "hip, boutique, luxury condominium homes." Just a few blocks east of the Rhode Island Ave - Brentwood Metro, the project will build off the local momentum of Baltimore-based A&R Development Corp's 8.5 acre, $108 million project (including 274 new residential rental units and 70,000 s.f. of ground floor retail) that broke ground this spring on the former WMATA parking lot, making the vicinity a "transit oriented developer hot spot." PERS Development is a young and ambitious team with four completed projects under their belts, and now two more in the works. All four of their finished developments have sold out, the last being Sky DC in Randall Highlands. On their four previous projects, PERS has specialized in small, moderately-priced condos. But as advertised, this endeavor seems destined to be slightly more high end than the units sold in Randall Heights for $200,000. However, while PERS President and CEO, Ramin Bassam is promising a "very, high-end boutique product," a price point between high $200,000s and $350,000 proves value also remains a priority. Marty Zupancic of Marcus & Millichap brokered the deal that sees the property travel from the reluctant hands of the previous owner Byung S. Shin of BSS Partnership to the more purposeful and enterprising hands of the developer.

The development will come as welcome news to local residents, but especially so for neighbor Steven Conn who several months ago compiled a slide show of evidence in an effort to convince DCRA that the building at 329 Rhode Island was a hindrance and hazard to the community, and therefore should be classified as "blighted." Local blogger Dan Silverman gave voice to Conn and his cause by highlighting the property with the honorable distinction of the Horse's Ass Award. The District was in the midst of designating the building as blighted and condemned only two months ago, but PERS was able to step in, usher through the necessary building improvements, and remove said designations, enabling the financing and property transaction to go through, and development plans to move forward. The top floors of the building were significantly damaged by a fire that raged in the evening hours of July 31st last summer. While the neglected building, singed, dirty, and windows boarded, is an eyesore at the moment, its proximity to the metro and its location on a highly visible island-like street corner, makes the property apparently attractive to real estate developers. In a press release, Bassam stressed that: “This project represents a great opportunity to fulfill the growing demand for luxury condominiums in the District of Columbia by delivering a high end product in an under-served submarket at a time when supply is getting tight. It has just the type of character and location that we have been looking for.”

SGA Arcitects have been contracted for the design, and initial renderings should be finalized later this week. The building will transform from a sordid blemish of a property into ultramodern, highly-wired chic condos. Each unit will be outfitted with wi-fi and iPad docking stations. Other amenities include a state-of-the-art glass-enclosed gym, a rooftop deck outfitted with a European shower, and various community lounges. Units will be planked with natural bamboo flooring. The bottom floor will reserve room for five retail tenants, an amenity that new owner Bassam says is desperately needed in the neighborhood. "A late weeknight trip to the McDonald's across the street is an at least twenty minute wait in line, there are not enough retail options at the moment," explains Bassam. The often elusive project financing of the acquisition and needed construction, normally the last piece of the development puzzle, is already in place, compliments of Bethesda-based Monument Bank.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

Monday, August 23, 2010

Zen and the Art of Prison Design

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by Beth Herman

In a toney Boston hotel bar officially and affectionately known as "The Clink," imbibers toast a promotion, an engagement or a vacation, but steps away the ghosts of storied inmates such as Malcolm X and Sacco and Vanzetti have far less to celebrate.

Located inside the city’s plush Liberty Hotel, The Clink, along with the rest of the property, was part of a $150 million acquisition, renovation and construction process that turned the pre-Civil War era Charles Street Jail into a 300-room luxury hotel, opening in 2007, and retaining some of the former correctional facility’s ambience such as the tiers which guards would patrol and a 90-foot central rotunda.

Prior to the Liberty Hotel venture, however, and about 130 years after the Charles Street Jail opened, a somewhat unprecedented inmate class-action suit had resulted in Federal Judge W. Arthur Garrity Jr.’s findings that the facility, with amenities that included an “exercise” yard where inmates simply marched in a circle, did not meet “constitutional minima,” meaning it did not conform to the prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. In 1980, Judge Garrity ordered a new jail built on the premises, and newly-minted Washington D.C.-based HOK architect James Kessler, now a senior principal, began an unwitting journey into justice design that to date has spanned 30 years.

Working in conjunction with Boston-based architects Stull and Lee Inc., Kessler recalled the design of a new Charles Street Jail was a situation that involved five parties: the mayor and city council, which had diametrically opposed agendas; the Commonwealth of Massachusetts; the Department of Corrections; the plaintiffs or inmates. “All five parties came to every design meeting,” Kessler said, adding there was little or no trust among the entities. In the end, the HOK/Stull and Lee, Inc.-envisioned project was never built, with the Commonwealth taking over responsibility from the city and building another design at a different site. “It was very unusual. I’ve never had a situation like that since,” he reflected, calling it a great learning experience and most “formative” for him as a young architect, especially in the realm of prison design. “There’s the architect, the technical side, the operational side – all complex and important – all key to its success – but they exist in a world of politics and larger priorities…,” Kessler said.

2010: A Video Odyssey

Increasingly, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, with issues such as sustainability and skyrocketing operating costs at the forefront of holistic justice design, Kessler and HOK colleagues, credited nationally for prison reform of the design kind, and who count among their more regional achievements the Montgomery County Correctional Facility near Clarksburg, Md., Prince William-Manassas Regional Adult Detention Center and Virginia’s Fluvanna Women’s Correctional Center, look for ways to expedite and streamline operational components such as inmate/visitor communications. Because a correctional facility operates 24/7, 365 days a year, much like a hospital, and with 90 percent of the budget spent on operations and 75 percent of that on staffing alone, concepts such as inmate video conferencing with visitors are swiftly replacing conventional face-to-face visitation and resulting in lower operating costs.

In the past, according to Kessler, when someone came to visit an inmate, movement of the inmate through the secure facility was exceptionally time consuming and staff-intensive. In more modern facilities like Prince William-Manassas detention center, visitors entering the facility interact with inmates via video, precluding the need for the latter’s procession through the building and prolonged staff involvement. In the event of an attorney, psychologist or social worker visit where privacy is paramount, the professional can go to an isolated booth also equipped with video capabilities. “Maybe you lose a little something,” Kessler conceded, referring to more personal interaction, “but we know information can be conveyed quite well with video: it’s not just a phone call.”

1785: A View to a Kill (or not)

From earliest times and by popular literary example in Dickensian times, when prisons were essentially dungeons with populations randomly consisting of men, women and children thrown together to fend for themselves with no supervision, little thought was given to matters of crowd control. In 1785, Age of Reason English philosopher and social theorist Jeremy Bentham had famously conceptualized the Panopticon, a prison concept that went through 40 years of machinations but which, mostly for political reasons, was never built. Largely by virtue of its circular design, the Panopticon would have allowed officials to consistently observe prisoners from key vantage points without their knowledge. In this regard, operating costs would decrease because fewer staff would be required to be on duty as inmates would never be sure who, how many, or if anyone at all was watching (but they’d surmise it was better not to take a chance). Subsequent prisons throughout the world have reportedly been based on the Panopticon principle, which espouses the theory that “observation is control.”

According to Kessler, in prison life observation clearly is control, something he recalls an HOK colleague, formerly with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, explaining to him at an evolutionary time in his own career. Widely self-educated in prison history and inmate psychology (he calls upon experts such as cultural anthropologist Anita Wilson, an expert in prison subcultures), the confluence of both is integral to creating modern facilities that address the needs of changing prison populations that include men, women, juveniles, the mentally and physically challenged, violent criminals and an elderly component.

1998: You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

Incarcerated women, for example, are more likely to change, or want to change, Kessler said, noting “an incredibly high percentage – more than 50 percent – have been abused as children.” Statistically they also have more health issues than men, and 75 percent are mothers with the added burden of being away from their children, exacerbated by having been abandoned by their own parents in similar situations. “They are in that cycle,” Kessler affirmed, adding that they characteristically suffer from low self-esteem, which essentially indentures them to men, and are also generally the sole support of their families (often parents as well as children). When they serve time, in an interesting twist, they are relieved of all of those constraints and responsibilities with time to spend on their own health and development, so they adjust much better to prison life.

In the past, and sometimes at present, Kessler said parity issues arise vis-à-vis men’s prisons, with fewer opportunities and programs available to women who comprise a much smaller percentage of the prison population. When he and his team embarked on a $38 million design of Virginia’s Fluvanna Correctional Center for Women, which opened in 1998, included in its context were a large medical facility, a computer center where inmates do actual data processing and receive money for their families and an area where they can learn to repair motors and small appliances. In correctional facilities such as Shakopee (Minn.) Women’s Prison,
also an HOK project, in-cell trundle beds exist so children can occasionally spend the night with their mothers to preserve or deepen the parenting bond.

One of the goals during incarceration, Kessler explained, is to ameliorate the anger that defines inmates. According to Kessler, because research has determined women have a much greater need for privacy than men, requiring them to live in open dormitories would very possibly build on that anger rather than helping to relieve it. At Fluvanna, though the initial concept identified 50-person dormitories, Kessler fought to build double cells, though tethered to a dormitory budget which was much less. “We arranged a design where we used four day rooms (surrounded by double cells) and made a very simple, inexpensive cross-shaped housing unit,” he said. Cells were “dry,” with toilets located in common bathrooms, which is better by sustainable standards. With a toilet in each cell, according to Kessler, by code 100 percent of the air must be expelled, and with it the heating and cooling. Without in-cell plumbing, air can be re-circulated out into dayrooms with savings on ductwork.

2003: Field of Dreams

Near Clarksburg, Maryland, the creation of the modern 900-bed (notably expandable to 1,100) Montgomery County Correctional Facility, opened in 2003 with an emphasis on sustainability, presented design challenges that included addressing environmental issues inherent in its rural 300-acre site while providing what officials called a humane environment for inmates. Located at the headwaters of Ten Mile Creek, a registered trout stream, Kessler and his team tipped the site so all the runoff was collected in one area and allowed to cool before it was discharged into the stream. Constructed on the site of a sludge entrenchment area, sludge was tested and found to have aged to the point of zero-toxicity; it was retrieved and stockpiled for organic topsoil.

Inside the facility, which utilizes recycled rubber flooring in parts, low-VOC paint and sealants, a day room made of sustainable oak and 30 small pulse boilers instead of one large boiler for hot water conservation, tiers of glass allow natural light to permeate the space from an outdoor recreation yard. Each cell has a window, something Kessler’s research and experience reveals is critical to an inmate’s emotional well-being and resulting behavior, which consequently affects the need for special staffing measures that can translate into dollars. Double cells do contain toilets, which Kessler said “…is a very important administrative tool: It means they can lock them in their cells.” Direct supervision, a modern metamorphosis of “observation is control,” means the guard is situated at a desk right in the middle of things. “It’s not based on physical force,” Kessler explained. “It’s based on authority and psychological authority. It’s based on mutual respect, and that’s from where the authority derives.”

Kessler summarized his work in justice design by affirming that the first priority is to make the facility as efficient as possible, because that’s where the “big dollars” are. He maintains this is balanced with keeping it safe and secure, keeping the staff safe, keeping inmates, visitors and the community safe. “As architects,” Kessler said, “we have social responsibilities and certain sensitivities, perceptions and skills to deal with unusual situations for the people that work in them, the people that visit them and for the people that are in them, because they are still human.”

Sunday, August 22, 2010

CityVista Apartments Sells to Gables

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Gables Residential has announced it has purchased The CityVista apartment building in Mt. Vernon Triangle from Lowe Enterprises. The 244-unit "V at CityVista" was completed in August of 2008 but had been on the market before its completion, with numerous suitors having come close to reaching an agreement to purchase from Lowe. The sales price of the building was undisclosed.

The CityVista complex, developed through a partnership with the DC government, which still owns the land with a long-term lease, was the most successful of the residential developments in Mt. Vernon Triangle. The 441-unit condominium is also selling its last few units this month, the retail section is now almost fully leased.

Atlanta-based Gables Residential owns numerous large apartment buildings throughout the greater Washington DC area, as well as nationally, with over 38,000 apartment units under management, according to its website.

Washington DC real estate development news

Friday, August 20, 2010

Abdo Gets Equity Injection, Catholic Plans to Demo University Buildings

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This past winter the Zoning Commission exchanged self-congratulatory pats on the back and awkward hugs with Jim Abdo as they approved plans for a large mixed use development project in Brookland. In late July the Greenbelt-based Bozzuto Group announced it was pairing up with Pritzker Realty Group LLC of Chicago to form a $75 million joint investment fund in multifamily housing; and early this week the joint-venture revealed that a significant portion of that fund was being invested in Abdo's plans to develop Catholic University's South Campus. The new partners would not reveal the exact amount of their equity investment, but it's deemed healthy enough to move forward with plans for the $200 million development to break ground in spring of next year. As part of the brokered agreement, Bozzuto Construction will operate as general contractor and Bozzuto Development will partner with Abdo as co-developer of the site. While the rest of the working world has gone on August vacation, and projects across the metro area have petered out and evaporated in the sultry summer sun, the Catholic University project offers hope that the market is showing small signs of life.

Starving artists will be well fed with high-end studio space.
The center piece of the new project and first phase of construction will be the Arts Walk buildings across from the Brookland Metro Station. The 15,000 s.f. ground floor will consist of 27 studio spaces where artists can work on, display, and sell their pieces. The wide, open public space between the two structures (the "arts walk" itself) will allow this creativity to spill out of the studios and onto the sidewalks, and will also be a place to feature sculptures, public art exhibits, and kiosks for rotating studio-less artists. The arts walk will dead end into a public piazza with a bubbling water fountain and more public space for artsy festivities. The tree-lined Monroe Street, beginning at the Michigan Avenue intersection and running to the Monroe Street Bridge, will serve as the main street of the campus, the backbone of the development. The wide thoroughfare will be home to 83,000 square feet of diverse, pedestrian-friendly street-level retail, much of it student-oriented: coffee shops, pubs, book shops, bike shops, you name it. On top of all this, the development team will stack several floors of residencies, 720 apartments units in all (approximately 63,000 s.f. will be reserved as "workforce" housing). Also included in the works are 45 townhomes to be marketed for purchase. The townhouses will help transition the taller Monroe Street and Arts Walk apartment buildings into the abutting lower-rising neighborhoods of Brookland and Edgewood. A total of 850 below-grade parking spaces will accommodate residents and shoppers alike.

New South Campus main street: a place to shop, and tailgate?
On Wednesday, the District received raze applications for three South Campus buildings (Spalding, Spellman, and Conaty Halls), showing concrete efforts to make way for the development, and further proof that these guys weren't joking around and real progress is being made. Catholic University requested the permission to destroy the three dormitories, writing: "CUA's expectation is that the South Campus development project will provide a financial return to support the renovation and construction of residence halls on its main campus, [and] will provide amenities that will benefit both the neighborhood and the students and employees of the university." Although ground will not officially break until 2011, The Berg Corporation, experts in the art of destruction, have been contracted to demolish these three buildings in the near future.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Centex Feeling Confident in Wheaton

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Planners have been busy working on all the new developments getting ready to launch near the Wheaton Metro station, but walk a half mile north to the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Arcola Avenue and you'll find a busy construction site. Where eager students once sat glued to their physics texts at Our Lady of Good Counsel High School (since relocated to Olney), bulldozers now rule as townhouses rise to completion. The high school was demolished in 2007, with the Rafferty gymnasium the only original structure remaining. Centex Homes of Dallas, TX began building on the 14-acre site in 2008, and have now completed 85 of the originally proposed 190 homes. But in late July, the Montgomery County Planning Board approved Centex's request to raze the Rafferty Center to make way for an elaborate open field, intended for the "general play" of their new residents. The total approved number homes will now soar from 190 to 194, as Centex proposes to add new townhouses to abut the new parkland. As now planned and approved, the completed Leesborough Townhomes will consist of 143 townhomes, 45 condominiums or "garden units," and six single family homes.



Local residents were holding out hope that the county would maintain the gymnasium as a recreational facility or that Centex would develop the building into a mixed use space involving community amenities and additional office space. But the County announced in June that is was scrapping its plans for renovation of the Rafferty Center, and clearly Centex wants nothing to do with it as well. However, the County does have plans to develop another full service community recreation center on the southwest quadrant of the Georgia Avenue and Randolph Road intersection. The $20 million project will be fully stocked with basketball courts, a state-of-the-art gym and other recreational amenities. But as expected, there will be a significant time lapse separating the leveling of Rafferty and the opening of the new facility; planners can't begin the project for at least another four years, when the Randolph Road site, now serving as staging area for Inter-County Connector highway construction, opens up.

Looks ready for a pick up soccer game.
All in all, this is a positive sign that Centex is confident in demand for more housing. With development plans stalled across the metro area, it remains one of the few active site. It is a welcome reverse from the direction Centex was forced into several years ago, as it pulled the plug on a few large projects scattered about the metro area. The completed townhouses are currently being offered from the upper $300's.

Wheaton Maryland real estate development news

Capital One Proposes a Remake of Tysons Campus

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Following on the heels of Fairfax County's plan to transform Tysons Corner from a beltway exit to a citified, walkable community, financial giant Capital One has filed new plans for its Tysons Corner development, embracing the shift by proposing to turn its planned office park into a mixed-use model of urban planning. Capital One ensured future value of the land when it donated 3 of its 29 acres for an upcoming Metrorail station expected to open in 2013, a move it now seems ready to take advantage of.
Capital One had been approved for a 4-building office park on the 26-acre site just inside the beltway that it bought in 2000, but has built only one tower; in its place the company has now designed a mix of offices, parks, retail, residential and public spaces for what might someday be a live-work-walk community. No definitive time frame has been established. Capital One acknowledges that the economic outlook doesn't yet justify much of the construction, saying it has "no immediate plans" to develop the site. But "should the need arise," the bank wants an approved model in place and has stretched out its implementation over years as the climate in both financial institutions and real estate world improve.

Consolidation of Capital One's headquarters began back in 2002, when it built a 14-story headquarters on its newly acquired site. But rather than build out the remaining 3 buildings with their combined 560,000 s.f. of space, despite finally nearing capacity with 1000 employees, McLean based Capital One proposes to build on the new Tysons redevelopment plan and take the campus "in an entirely different direction" with a daunting 5 million s.f. of development. If approved by the county, the "vibrant urban center" would hold 2.1m s.f. of office space rising up to 392 feet (though just 28 stories), 980 to 1230 residential units rising 20 stories, as well as hotels, parks, plazas and retail, all connected to the Tysons East Metro station.

Few others have opted to launch similar projects; Quadrangle Development delivered the only new office building in 2009 and has held back on its approved residential development. But Capital One may have at least something in their wallet, since it is proposing a 15-story office building adjacent to the current headquarters and connected by an elevated walkway. It calls the building "the most likely to be constructed in the near term." The streetscape will be entirely reconfigured in what it calls an "urban grid system." Because the site is within a quarter of a mile of the new Metro station, density limits are eliminated, giving the region perhaps its best chance at a building that sets a new record for the area's tallest, possibly exceeding, just barely, Rosslyn's planned 390-foot Central Place tower. Capital One's application to the county will shoot for the USGBC's green building certification on each of its buildings by using green or reflective roofs, rainwater retention systems, pervious pedestrian paths, and a preference of foot traffic over vehicular access. Despite the nod to sustainability, the development will extend Scotts Crossing Road over the beltway and connect to Jones Bridge Drive on the west side of I-495, better connecting the overly wide roads that criss-cross the area.
County officials would not estimate the time frame for evaluating the application, a process that would include public hearings and studies, and presumably a series concessions between the county and Capital One; officials say they have not yet given input on the development plan.

Architects and planners envisioning the urban context include Bonstra Haresign as Urban Planner and Architect and William H. Gordon Associates as Civil Engineer and Landscape Architect. David Haresign, then Principal and Director of Architecture for Ai, assisted Capital One with initial site selection and designed the original master plan and the headquarters building, now iconic to the beltway bound as a curving "billboard" facing Tysons with the financier's logo. Like its planned successors, the first tower employed infrastructural adaptations to environmentalism, such as water-reducing plumbing, underfloor air distribution systems, pervious paving and local sourcing of materials, features not yet common at its inception.

Fairfax County real estate development news
 

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