Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Atlantic Plumbing Site Breeds Grittiness, Controversy

The Atlantic Plumbing site, which is being redeveloped by JBG and New York architect Morris Adjmi, currently stands as a fairly dilapidated set of abandoned buildings surrounded by residential pockets and, of course, the 9:30 Club. But the developers expect to begin demolition and have prepared concept-designs later this summer and to have finished the development completely by early 2015, according to the project manager, JBG's James Nozar.

The area is split into three parcels, not-so-confusingly denoted as A, B and C. Parcel C is north of Florida, include a “burned out shell of a church, a warehouse and a parking lot,” but this site is on hold at the moment.

Parcel A is next to the 9:30 Club, on the northwest corner of 8th and V streets. It’s abandoned save for the small bit the 9:30 Club uses as storage. The inconspicuous collection of buildings will be replaced by a 10-story building, and will be the first to start construction.

Parcel B is to the south and is essentially a 13,000 s.f. square (redundant as a square foot square is). A 6-story building - shorter because it falls within the arts overlay while Parcel A does not - is slated to pop up here.

The site was originally subject to a PUD obtained by Broadway Development in a joint venture with Walton Street Capital. JBG bought the property at auction, though Walton Street Capital remains a joint venture partner.  The PUD has since expired. Nozar expects the new development to span 350,000 s.f. and include 350 units over a floor or two of 5,000 to 15,000 s.f. of retail and for Parcels A and B to be under construction by next spring or summer.

“Our plan is to go in under the current zoning and move forward with that without asking for any zoning release,” Nozar said. He hopes the new retail will feed off the existing retail, especially the large crowds drawn almost nightly by the 9:30 Club’s concerts.

“We really want to engage existing retail that’s there,” Nozar said. “We want to take advantage of the activity that’s there on the street. The 9:30 Club is always going to be there. There’s always going to be people on the street.”

With the purpose of having the site retain a “grittier, more arts and cultural oriented” feel, JBG hired New Orleans native Morris Adjmi as its architect based on designs the development team had seen in Brooklyn (see photos above). With Adjmi, JBG felt it could create contemporary design while being true to the neighborhood.

“We thought the area has a grittier, edgier feel. It kind of has a Brooklyn kind of vibe, at least as far D.C. has that,” Nozar said. “We want the building to feel like its always been part of the neighborhood."  Adjmi said he wants to draw on the “context of what is there now: a mix of industrial forms and … vines and plants overtaking some of the buildings.”

“I like this idea of mixing in the industrial landscape and combining that with some really natural green elements,” Adjmi said. “I think those together will fit into the site and be really interesting architecturally.”

Adjmi has an interest not just in making the buildings seem like they’ve always belonged, but in making them seem like they’ve always been there.

 “I grew up in New Orleans, and I was always fascinated by two things: the incredible architecture but the fact that that architecture almost looks better in its arrested and decaying state,” he said. “It’s possible to build architecture that relates to both history and the context of the place but transcends the simple mimicking of forms.”

Presumably referring to a Washington City Paper article, Nozar said JBG has “gotten some flak from reporters from bringing in architects who aren’t in D.C., but we did that on purpose.” Lydia Depillis of the City Paper, in an update on that post, calls the headline “a mildly sarcastic indignation over a New York architect coming to Washington,” but many of the commenters seem earnestly peeved about the out-of-towner. 

Adjmi said he has no intentions of making the building look like a "New York Building." “I don’t want this building to look like it flew in from New York. I want it to look like it belongs there,” he said. “Nobody’s going to know where I’m from when they see the buildings.” 

Washington D.C. real estate development news


Anonymous said...

Kudos to JBG for having the balls to bring in an architectural firm who is actually creative and innovative. DC needs some new blood.

Anonymous said...

I am really excited to see the designs they come up with for these parcels. I think this area will be fantastic once it is developed.

Anonymous said...

Looks cool. Is the 350 units for only one phase of the project or is that across all 3 phases? Thought the project was previously going to have 700 units total.

Anonymous said...

Agree that JBG has picked someone who know's how to design a building that has some character. Just the fact that he looks at context to inspire him is more than can be said of our local starchitect wanna-be's. Make it look like a New York building if you want, it'll be better than the neo-modernist crap that passes for cutting edge here.

Anonymous said...

JBG is underdeveloping this plot. Should have proceeded with the old Broadway 700+ unit PUD. We need density!!

Anonymous said...


You shouldn't presume what people mean--James tells me he understood the sarcasm in my post. If that's what you were referring to as "controversy," it's pretty thin grist.

- Lydia D.

Anonymous said...

The renderings look great to me.

But I don't know which is worse about this article - the author's use of "not-so-confusingly" instead of "aptly" or his attempt to gin up controversy via Lydia's obviously sarcastic article. Does an editor review this stuff before it's posted?

Anonymous said...

Nozar said. “We want to take advantage of the activity that’s there on the street. The 9:30 Club is always going to be there."

Uh, until it isn't. It used to be at 930 F Street. Yes, I'm old enough to remember.

Anonymous said...

@ Lydia,
If you want to play the ironic pose, it helps hitting the mark, or else you end up looking like the type who let's this kind of criticism gets under their skin.


Anonymous said...

And while the builders may love the foot traffic from the 9:30, it will be interesting to watch the new residents who buy there knowing full well the 9:30 has been there for over 15 years will be shocked and appalled at the loud noise they just discovered right next door!

Anonymous said...

Great Job JBG!!

On other note, maybe Susan bla bla that has multiple sites in SHAW will look at this and LEARN to change her ugly taste... Also who at DCRA even has approved Susans designs.. I want to puke!!!

Ken on May 24, 2012, 2:00:00 PM said...


We understand your sarcasm was intended, we were referring to the commenters that had a more serious issue with JBG's choice of architect. Thanks for the clarification.

Anonymous said...

Based on the three images in the article, it's hard to know what to expect. The one at the top, with the arches, is hideous and looks like the cheap phony historicism that DC already has too much of. The second photo looks okay -- kind of boring but at least not pretentious. The bottom photo looks really intriguing. I just hope we get something innovative and not more crappy fake history.

Dave on May 24, 2012, 4:06:00 PM said...

Will the 9:30 club be forced to move in a few years? Why can't the owners of the new property recreate the plumbing supply store?

"Something is better than nothing"

Anonymous said...

Umm, Dave of the previous comment: I'm confused. Your first thought, about the longterm viability of the 9:30 Club, seems savvy. Your second, recreating the plumbing supply store, is bizarrely naive.

I believe that the 9:30 Club's building is protected by historic designation. That doesn't mean the 9:30 Club itself will be there forever, or even indefinitely. Doubtless it will eventually move on or shutter, that's the way of things. But the building doesn't obviously adapt to many uses other than performance venue. So the property owner doesn't have much incentive to boot out 9:30.

Anonymous said...

I hope we get some really hip mid-century modernist building with a unique grid of glass and steel.

Anonymous said...

Can you please provide a map showing the different parcels, the SF of each parcel, and the units being built at each site? Some of this information is provided for some of the parcels, and some is confusing. For example, parcel B is said to be 13,000 SF of land and that it will house 350,000 SF of development in six stories.

Anonymous said...

Go JGB with a design that looks more urban, shows less glass and is not another DC cookie cuter building.

Anonymous said...

The 9:30 club owns the building. They aren't going anywhere. The official Owners name: "ITS MINE NOW LLC" gotta love those guys.

IMGoph on Jun 2, 2012, 11:35:00 AM said...

Can you go back in and redo the map you link to? There's no 'parcel A' listed on it. Though your article says 'parcel A' is at the NW corner of 8th and V, the map has that labeled as 'parcel B.' Just need to get that fixed and straightened out.


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