Friday, December 28, 2012

First Look at Parcel N at The Yards

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Parcel N at The Yards. Image: Robert A.M. Stern
New renderings have been released of "Parcel N," one of two new apartment buildings planned for Forest City Washington's The Yards mega-development in DC's Capitol Riverfront neighborhood.

Robert A.M. Stern is the primary design architect on the "Parcel N" project, WDG is the architect of record.  Planning for the building is still in the design stage, although architects said they expect permits for the 340,000 s.f. structure to be secured by May 2013, with a groundbreaking set for August of 2013, according to WDG.

Parcel N at The Yards. Image: Robert A.M. Stern
Forest City broke ground this summer on the other project, "Parcel D", directly catty-corner to Parcel N.  That building is being designed by Shalom Baranes.

The Foundry Lofts, a 170-unit adaptive re-use project and the first residential building in the group, completed last year.  In June Forest City secured funding for an adaptive reuse project called The Lumber Shed, described as the The Yards' "retail centerpiece".  Another adaptive reuse of a century-old building into retail and restaurants, The Boilermaker Shops, is set for opening this spring.

Parcel N at The Yards. Image: Robert A.M. Stern
Plans for parcel N include an 11-story, 325-unit building at 310 Tingey Street with ground floor retail, two courtyards, a rooftop pool, a small green roof, and a LEED target of gold.

Peter Garofalo, architect with Robert A.M. Stern in New York, said the building's design references the area's industrial architectural tradition.  There used to be an old foundry on the site, Garofalo said, but it was torn down in the 1970's.

"What we are striving to do is build a building that references historical essences, but updates them in a playful and modern way and stitches those two vocabularies together..." Garofalo told DCMud.  He said the design features glass on top of a traditional base.  Materials include glass, concrete, and dark metals.

Parcel N at The Yards. Image: Robert A.M. Stern
Garofalo said the building's design also features a zig-zag pattern across the east face of the building.  "That was done so that in the future, when the rest of the parcel is being built out, it will create diagonal views up and down 4th street for those residential units."

Designers anticipate one and two-bedroom units that Garofalo called "standard DC-sized," and don't foresee any micro-units.  "There is some debate about it, but I doubt that is going to be included," he said.

Parcel N at The Yards. Image: Robert A.M. Stern
Washington D.C. real estate development news

Your Next Place

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The awesome penthouse of a breathtaking boutique building, this unit is like a plum-sized diamond crazy-glued to the top of a grapefruit-sized ruby.  A two-level masterpiece of a condo, this place has ceilings that are super high (insert your own "legalized marijuana" joke here), immaculate hardwood floors (if I ever become a male stripper, Immaculate Hardwood is going to be my stage name), and recessed lighting (uh ... I got nothing.).

The designer kitchen sports stainless steel appliances, Silestone counters, and a breakfast bar that's perfect for flinging junk mail onto (no one eats breakfast anymore except for babies and retirees).  Upstairs, are the bright, wide bedrooms, all of which have dramatic views.  But the real highlight is the private rooftop terrace.  If I lived in this place, I'd rent the indoor rooms out as storage compartments and just live out here all the time.  With over six hundred square feet of patio space, you could probably land a helicopter out here, though there's a good chance it might collapse the roof.  If you decide to try it out, make sure you tape it for me.


The building is only a block from Meridian Hill park, still the best place in the city to drift off to sleep on a blanket on a warm summer day and wake up to a homeless person frantically touching himself while looking at you through a gap in the hedges.  (True story.)  It's also right between two metro stations, so you can alternate between the two and make your morning commute, like, three percent less depressing.  Hey, with the retirement age rising steadily (according to one study, the average 40 year old today won't be able to stop working until 18 to 24 months past physical death), every little bit counts.

1435 Chapin Street NW 305
$650,000
2 Bedrooms, 2 Baths







Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thoreau Slept Here

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by Beth Herman   


In his quest for an unembellished life, transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau took to the woods with perhaps a not-so-novel battle cry. "Our life is frittered away by detail," he famously wrote. "Simplify. Simplify."

In their pursuit of a renovation and addition to a 1950s modern house that would reflect a Thoreau-esque aesthetic, and also court the abundance of mature trees around their Arlington, Virginia property, homeowners Jed and Marie joined forces with award-winning architect Patrick Carter of Reve Design Studio to achieve their goal.

'The client had a 1 1/2-story house with a master suite, kitchen and living room on the first floor and a tiny hallway with two secondary bedrooms on the second," Carter said of the 1,666 s.f. residence. "It was an open floorplan and though not really a formal space, there were no informal places for the kids to play." At certain times of the year, it also provided a view of the D.C. skyline.

Parents of two young children, Jed grew up in a modern Michigan home designed and built by an architect father. Marie is a card-carrying minimalist, according to Carter, and creating a modern-minimalist residence for a growing family that tipped its hat (or roof slope) to nature was a tall architectural order.

With a program to keep the master on the first floor and add 549 s.f. by reconfiguring the upstairs to maintain the two children's bedrooms, but add a family room, home office/music room (the family plays multiple instruments), and also retain a portion of the roof deck as a second floor balcony, Carter reached out to Mike Madden and John Page of Madden Corporation (construction) and Andrew Greene of Potomac Woodwork. A prodigious use of custom millwork came to define the new space, including a strong display of sandblasted rift-cut oak door panels between the family room and office/music room.

"Sandblasting eats away at the soft grain and leaves a physical texture - not just a visual one," Carter explained. The result of a "tricky" treatment in the drywall, when the closet doors are closed there are five equal segments: two wood and three wall.

With the design driven largely by Marie's need to compartmentalize and eliminate clutter, the house, which had virtually no storage, received a series of ample closets with double doors in the new space. Keeping the rooms open, furnishings are sleek and spare, including designs by LeCorbussier, Marcel Bruer and Charles and Ray Eames. And because you're up in the trees, Carter explained, keeping a clean color palette was imperative to draw attention out to the home's exterior. To that end white oak flooring, originally found on the first level, is carried through upstairs, along with pristine white walls and ceiling.


Room with a view
"Because the house is on a hill in the woods, and there's no yard, having a way to be outside was important. We wanted to keep that outdoor space on the second floor," Carter said of the now Ipe-decked balcony with tongue-in-groove cedar ceiling, citing the tree house effect as a key design component. Double-paned, low-E floor-to-ceiling windows, operable at the bottom and at full length on the ends, give the effect of "stepping out into the trees," as does the bay that cantilevers out, extending beyond the building's main box envelope.

With Jed an Air Force Academy graduate, the idea to represent the roof line as an inverted wing also provided the opportunity for a Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie-style moment inside the home. As the roof butterflies with the low point at the center of the house, the occupants' experience of the space is compressed, beginning with the 8-foot. ceiling height, and then swept up and out through the expansive glass, where the ceiling is 10 feet.

On the exterior, bronze accents and siding in muted green tones - specifically Benjamin Moore Nantucket Gray and Celery Salt - harmonize with the surrounding Evergreens and other arbors. Carter worked to preserve the existing 1950s brick and matched its natural-hued mortar with the exterior paint choices so not to create additional maintenance issues for the homeowners.

Cable rails, creating an open and closed railing system, were a device to open up the outdoor space as much as possible. Though the house is in the woods, there are neighbors on either side and across the street. "It was a balance of privacy and openness, of taking advantage of the views and still allowing privacy if you're out on the deck," Carter explained.

Showing you the door


Recalling that the first time he went to the Arlington house a solid wall atop a brick wall prevented him from finding the front door, opening the front to engage the street was paramount for the architect. "It was a little foreboding and unapproachable," Carter said, identifying a rhythm of open and closed cable railing systems that now punctuate the building.

Seinfeld and I


With a nod to the episode where Jerry's new girlfriend, a victim of capricious lighting, looked alternately angelic and haggard, Carter's lighting tenets include horizontal lighting as opposed to direct, overhead, which he firmly eschews. "Some architects tend to fill a room with recessed lights, somewhere in the middle, which is not always flattering when they shine down on you," he explained, adding the key is to light the room's perimeter so it bounces off the walls for a gentler result.

Delving into his architecture philosophy, the professed closet Frederick Law Olmsted said the way he thinks about work is in terms of something "subtractive.

"A lot of architects think about design as additive," he explained. "They say you're creating a building on the land, so you're adding something to it. But when I get into design, it's a lot like pushing and pulling of volumes so you're breaking the box - carving out spaces. In this project you see it on the front porch and how it works with the bay window above above that protrudes. On the second floor the deck is recessed."

Citing a personal mantra and phrase, "levels of 'insidedness'," as a student Carter recalls an architecture professor who told him a door is more than a hole in the wall. "It's all about approach and that level of 'insidedness,'" he affirmed. "Are you inside when you climb the stairs to the front porch? Are you inside when you cross the threshold of that beam and column? What about when you're covered but then you take a step to the right and you're not? Architecture is about creating a progression - a series of stills." 













Photos courtesy of Paul Burk

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

10 Questions with ... Jim Graham

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From his leadership at the Whitman-Walker clinic through the darkest days of the AIDS crisis, to his days teaching at GW and Georgetown Law, to his work on the City Council, Jim Graham has been one of the most influential - and thanks to his trademark glasses and bow ties, most recognizable - pillars of DC cultural life for going on four decades.

1.  What's a typical weekday for you?

Start emails at about 7:30 AM, work until 8 or 9 PM

2.  What or who is your biggest influence?

Prayer        
         
3.  What neighborhood do you live in?
         
Adams Morgan

4.  What is your biggest DC pet peeve?
         
Gum chewing and ballpoint pen clicking

5.  What is the #1 most played song on your iPod?
       
(1) "And I Am Telling You I'm Not Going," from "Dreamgirls." (Jennifer Hudson)
(2)  "Jesus Is The Best Thing," Rev. James Cleveland
(3)  "Symphony No. 5," Gustav Mahler

6.  Favorite DC haunt?
         
Ben’s Chili Bowl    
         
7.  What's your favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon?
         
Rest

8.  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
         
Havana

9.  If you couldn't be a councilman, what would you be?
         
Law professor

10.  Name one thing most people don't know about you.
         
I am a naturalized citizen.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Your Next Place

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This corner duplex in the exclusive steel-and-glass tower of 22 West is one of the finest units in a building full of very fine units.  You enter into a long, swanky foyer; I like a foyer, as it gives you a little half-beat to transition from "out there" to "in here."  Like if you go to a party at a place with a foyer you can do that thing where you pretend to be taking off your coat or whatever but you're actually just dawdling and asking the host in hushed tones, "is my ex here yet?  How do they look?  Bad?  How bad?  Like 'they should get their apartment tested for radon gas' bad?  God, that makes me happy."

Farther in, you enter the stunning lofted two-story-tall living room that opens onto a private garden (!).  Though the pied a terre is somewhat common in high-end New York places, you rarely see this sort of thing in DC.  (In that way it's similar to European models, and non-Dad jeans.)  The gourmet kitchen counters are nonstop Carrera marble, thus insuring you'll end up standing helplessly puzzled in the middle of the kitchen several times a week, because putting dirty dishes on Carrera marble is just insane.  There's even a guest bedroom on the main level that also opens onto the private garden, so when your friends visit you can really subtly rub their faces in your success.


Upstairs, the lofted second level features a truly luxurious master bedroom suite, with its own small living room area and a huge, Vegas-style bathroom.  If this was your bedroom, you could absolutely never have to go downstairs except to get more ice once in a while and sarcastically ask your teenage children, as they play Xbox and sext their peers, "haven't you moved out yet?"  There's a separate gated entrance, so you can avoid the requisite stop-and-chats with the other tenants (can't put a price on that), and a rooftop pool for the building's use where you can go and ogle your neighbors' stretch marks and wonder how THAT sleazy-looking guy can afford to live in the building.  (He can't; it's me, and I've snuck in just to use the pool.  Go ahead and rat me out, but if you ever want to sell your place and have an open house, I'll write that I came and saw a four-inch-long silverfish in the kitchen.)

1177 22nd Street Northwest #1-A
$1,589,000
2 Bedrooms, 2 Baths





Thursday, December 13, 2012

DC's Massive Pipeline Project Being Rethought

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Area watersheds.  Image: DC Water
Billions of dollars in spending set aside for a massive pipeline project to keep polluted DC water out of area waters could get delayed and re-channeled to more decentralized infrastructure like rain gardens, rainwater harvesting, trees and rain barrels - that is, if DC's independent water authority gets its way.

The sea change in the city's 20-year timeline for cleaning up area rivers will happen only if DC Water can renegotiate a 2005 federal decree to build the full tunnel system.  That consent decree from the Environmental Protection Agency emerged out of a lawsuit over DC's management of runoff in which several environmental groups were plaintiffs.

A decision on the future flow of the city's $4.6 billion Clean Rivers Project could come in the next week or so, a spokeswoman with the city's water authority, The District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority, or DC Water, told DCMud this week.

"It might shift to a more green solution, or it might be a hybrid of the two: green and gray," DC Water spokeswoman Pamela Mooring told DCMud.  Green infrastructure, here, refers to infrastructure that absorbs or uses water before it enters the sewer system in the first place.  Gray solutions refer to engineering to deal with runoff after it happens - in this case, a massive tunnel infrastructure project to build underground storage tanks for overflow.

The water authority is making efforts to re-focus the Clean Rivers Project for an eight-year pilot "Low-Impact Development" program.  The proposal could emphasize infrastructure like rain barrels and rain gardens instead of pipes that have been the mainstay of water channelling.  DC Water says that approach - if it proves successful - could render two future pipelines, planned to keep run-off out of the Rock Creek and Potomac waters, obsolete, possibly saving millions of dollars.  It notes that other cities including Kansas City and St. Louis have already experimented with similar versions of green infrastructure.

Blue Plains Treatment Plant. Image: DC Water
DC Water says revising the plan could save rate-payers millions of dollars and slash $120 from the monthly water bill increases forecast by the end of the decade.

Old System, Old Problem

Regardless, consensus holds that the city must do something about its dirty water problem.  About one third of DC's water system was built in the 1800's, before pipe systems separated storm water, or run-off from non-permeable surfaces, from sewage.  That part of the system is called a combined sewer system (CSS), and when heavy rains like those from Hurricane Sandy hit the low-lying city, the CSS can't handle all the water and dumps it - along with sewage - into area watersheds, reducing water oxygen levels and killing wildlife at 53 documented places.

A portion of the pipeline system planned for the Anacostia River is already under construction.  In 2011, DC Water awarded a $330 million contract to a joint proposal from Traylor brothers-Skanska-JayDee (TSJD) to build the first part of the system.  The pipe, 23 feet in diameter, would be laid 100 feet underground and extend 12,500 feet from southwest DC, along the Potomac and under the Anacostia to about RFK Stadium.  Slated for completion in January, 2018, the massive system will hold dirty water from the CSS until it can be piped to the Blue Plains Treatment Plant for processing in dryer weather.  Of the scale of the project, DC Water General Manager George Hawkins called it "absolutely huge." "The machine our teams will use to build these tunnels is the size of a football field," and needs to be assembled underground.
Image: courtesy Mike Bolinder,

Riparian Repair - "Not a Zero Sum Game"

Although he supports a low-impact development approach, Anacostia Riverkeeper Mike Bolinder said it's an approach that he supports in combination with the full, planned tunnel system.  "In general I love the idea of green infrastructure, but there is a consent decree in place."

Bolinder said yearly sewage overflow into all three DC watersheds amounts to 2.5 billion gallons.

On the money question, Bolinder said the CSS under the city was built in the time of Abraham Lincoln, so it makes sense that replacing it will cost some money.  There is also the cost of maintaining and monitoring the efficacy of low-impact development.  "If they don't maintain rain gardens, they stop retaining stormwater," Bolinder said.  "Then we have the same system that we had beforehand, with a couple of rain gardens."

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Morning Real Estate Fix

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Rockville town square to be redeveloped, finally (Greater Greater Washington)  Years after the rest of Rockville saw development take hold, and after many failed attempts, the gaping hole in the center is finally about to see its own construction.

Foreclosures starts lowest since 2006 (Wall Street Journal)  Foreclosure starts in November were 13% below October, for the lowest monthly start in 6 years.

Mortgage rates up after Fed announcement (Mortgage News Daily) A slight shift in the way the FRB approaches monetary policy played out as jittery banks raised rates slightly.

Davis Brody Bond digs in at St. Elizabeths (Architects Newspaper)  The architectural firm, chosen to build the St. Elizabeths pavilion, has created a subtle design for the historic property.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Arlington Adds Affordable Housing to Columbia Pike

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An 83-unit mixed-use affordable housing complex built on the site of a Shell gas station in Arlington is set to break ground early next year, according to developer AHC, Inc.

"We're scheduled to start construction on February 1" said John Welsh, Vice President of the Multifamily Division at AHC, Inc.  "And we plan to have the building done in eighteen months."

The $13 million, six-story building is designed by Cunningham + Quill Architects and will include ground floor retail space and two levels of below-grade parking.  The building is designed around a central courtyard, and the retail space faces Columbia Pike.  Plans call for the building to be built on two adjacent parcels - one at 870 South Greenbrier, largely a surface parking lot and undeveloped scrubland, and one at 5511 Columbia Pike, the former site of the Shell station.  Though that parcel did require environmental remediation - mostly the excavation and removal of contaminated soil - Welsh says that the previous owner handled it before selling to AHC.


The project will be funded, in part, by a $6 million loan from the Arlington County Affordable Housing Investment Fund (AHIF), and AHC's Multifamily Revolving Loan Fund, which consists of federally-funded Community Development Block Grants.  According to reports, 19 dwellings will be affordable to families making 50% of the AMI ($53,750 for a family of four), with the remaining 64 dwellings affordable to families earning 60% of the AMI ($64,500 for a family of four).

No word yet on who might occupy the retail space.  "Tiffany's turned us down," said Welsh, when asked about potential tenants.  "Just kidding."

Arlington, Virginia real estate development news

Morning Real Estate Fix

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15-unit apartment in Petworth to become condo (Urban Turf)  4226 7th Street to become the latest condo conversion, by owner Goldstar Group.

What's in the zoning update?  Fewer parking minimums (Greater Greater Washington) Changes to the planned zoning update will remove some parking minimums for certain smaller projects and for downtown.

Bethesda residents balk at 7 story apartment project downtown (BethesdaNow.com)  The West Lane project has been criticized by neighbors as too tall for the area, despite being surrounded by taller projects.

70 I Street, SE, sells for $165m (JD Land) The building was one of three originally built by JPI as part of its Capitol Yards project.

National Housing Survey results (Fannie Mae) Things are improving in the housing market - at least as measured by consumer confidence.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Phase One of Southwest Waterfront Redevelopment All but Approved by Zoning Commission

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Last night, the massive redevelopment of Southwest’s waterfront inched a couple of notches closer to reality. DC’s Zoning Commission held a proposed action hearing for the project’s first phase, approving information that had been newly submitted and asking no follow-up questions.

That sets up the $1.5 billion project, technically titled The Wharf and comprising 3.2 million square feet in total, for a final action hearing next month, which at this point should largely be a formality. After that, developers PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette will be in the clear to begin applying for permits and seeking construction financing.

This was a very short, perfunctory hearing. On November 14, the commission approved three out of the development’s four parcels for the second stage of the PUD process, which examines public benefits, architecture and design (the first stage, which looks at height, density and zoning issues, was approved late last year).

But the members had questions regarding the last parcel; most prominently, they worried that the residential building on 6th Street lacked direct entrances and looked unusually stark. In response, the developers changed the facades, pushing the residential building back five feet in order to allow for direct entry by residents.

“This is a significant improvement,” said Commissioner May, who’d expressed concern at last month’s meeting. “I’m pleased with this result.” The commissioners had no other questions.

That means all four parcels, each of which contains one or two buildings, have been approved—“knock on wood,” said Shawn Seaman, a PN Hoffman principal and project director for the development. The team has a lot to accomplish in the next few months, and the estimated start date has been pushed back a few months from earlier predictions. “We’re looking at a groundbreaking early in the second quarter of 2013,” said Seaman. 

This first phase of development will eventually bring 1.5 million square feet of retail, residential, hotel and office space to the area, along with four piers and several open spaces, including a three‐acre waterfront park. The Hoffman-Madison team sees the project as eventually matching internationally-known destinations like San Francisco's Embarcadero and Pike Place Market in Seattle.

Washington, D.C., real estate development news

The Shaw Shine Redemption

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Q and A with Suzane Reatig  
by Beth Herman


Heralded for her consistent redesign and accruing revitalization of D.C.'s deteriorating Shaw neighborhood, where she practices architecture, Israeli-born and Technion-educated Suzane Reatig of Suzane Reatig Architecture continues to shine a tenacious light on Shaw's blighted blocks. Moving to Maryland during the 1975 recession, Reatig toiled for two years as a carpenter before finding work for various architectural firms, finally posting her own shingle in 1989. While her award-winning buildings are considered affordable as opposed to luxury designs, they are tantamount to the latter in many respects and celebrated for their exuberant facades, spare spatial qualities and prodigious use of natural light and air. DCMud spoke with Reatig about her latest multifamily project in Shaw.

DCMud: What is the genesis of the 623 M Street building, your eighth building in 20 years in Shaw, which we understand didn't start as a housing project at all.

Reatig: The existing building with eight apartments was in terrible shape, next to a church. The occupants were elderly, and they could walk to the church, though the building had a lot of exterior  steps which made it hard for them. The client, with whom I'd worked on another project, asked me to design a ramp. It really didn't make sense because there were also stairs inside the building these people would have to negotiate on their way to the ramp. I was able to convince the client that something more drastic was needed: a new building.

DCMud: But how did that work in terms of displacing an elderly group of residents - even temporarily?

Reatig: I was doing another building for the client on 7th Street and told him we would have some of the units accommodate these people for a while. Then we could bring them back. Interestingly, some of them loved the other building so much, they let us know they were going to stay.

DCMud: Did this alter the M Street design in any way?

Reatig: When we realized the elderly residents were not coming back, we added a mezzanine (with staircases) to three top floor units, making them larger and fancier. These could be rented at market rate and there were nine units in all.

DCMud: What about the site itself, which we understand was a real challenge?

Reatig: We were dealing with only a 4,700 s.f. site, including building and parking, and all the zoning regulations. But we achieved the design, in three stories, with an elevator though it was no longer critical in terms of the residents' needs. The exterior is concrete and has brightly-colored panels.

DCMud: Can you explain the absence of wood in this design, and perhaps in some of your other projects.

Reatig: We could have built it like you build houses, but it's an urban design, so for noise and fire safety purposes we do it the way highrises are built.

DCMud: Some may say there's an absence of sustainable elements in the M Street building, but you have other ideas about that.

Reatig: To build sustainably, you want to build something that will stand a long time and that people will want to use. It's not about LEED points but rather if it's built well, it will endure and people will continue to be comfortable living there.

DCMud: Tell us about the interiors, with your signature focus on light and ventilation.

Reatig: The lower six units are one bedroom, 800 s.f. The top floor (three units) are 900 s.f. with the mezzanines, and a roof deck. Some apartments have three exposures so they are more like a house. Glass is low-E with a mix of fixed and operable windows. The units have cross-ventilation. There are exposed polished concrete floors.When they were marketed, they rented immediately. I've said before that whenever we design housing, we do something we would want to live in.

DCMud: You have spoken a great deal in the past of infill architecture, like this building on M Street. So how does it reflect the neighborhood vernacular?

Reatig: Actually it's very different than the surrounding buildings, which are very old and a brown brick - very monotone. We have a building that is cheerful and makes people smile. You can always see the light inside and lots of color.

DCMud: In what ways does your considerable stint as a carpenter in the '70s affect your work today?

Reatig: It gives me something important in terms of understanding materials as we don't always consider how things are built. I also have a great appreciation for these people who do the work. I always tell the contractor that as architects, we do a small portion of the work. They are the ones who build and are much more important than us, though the teamwork is also very important.

DCMud: Speaking of a city that thrives on teamwork, is there a particular D.C. site that appeals to you?

Reatig: There are a lot of buildings I love in D.C. like the Corcoran and I.M. Pei's National Gallery. I love buildings like the Freer that have courtyards. The Portrait Gallery enclosed theirs in glass, but I loved it when it was open and you could sit there with fountains and trees. It was lovely - a real oasis.

Photos courtesy of Alan Karchmer.
 

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