Monday, April 30, 2012

New Wheaton Site for Mixed-Use Residential

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The Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is offering another parcel for development in Wheaton, this one zoned for a potentially large residential and retail development.

The closed-bid offering posted last week for a 3.83-acre vacant lot at 11507 Georgia Avenue in the Wheaton Central Business District. The new space is in addition to two other parcels previously offered up for development.
Map of lot for sale and neighboring area. Source: WMATA website

Jonathan Walk, an associate with Jones Lang LaSalle Americas Inc. working with WMATA to facilitate the transaction, said the group realized it could sell the vacant lot while pushing for development of a nearby site.

"This is something where they know they don’t need this land -- they’ll never need this land," Walk said.

Montgomery County recently up-zoned the lot with the Wheaton CBD and Vicinity Sector Plan. The new CR zoning allows up to 250 apartments and 80,000 s.f. of retail. WMATA will retain an underground easement and a small piece of the southwest corner of the lot. Initial bids are due June 15.

This deal could be easier than some, Walk said, because it involves a fee simple transfer instead of a ground lease or joint development effort.

WMATA has been selling land for redevelopment like the JBG Companies development planned for Florida Avenue and the Monument and Akridge developments at Half and M streets.

At the same time WMATA hopes to acquire a much bigger parcel, the transit authority is searching for 7 to 10 acres in the District for bus garages.

Wheaton, Maryland, real estate development news

Morning Real Estate Review

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CoStar: Sustainability a factor in government leasing (Washington Post) In the wake of Earth Day, examining the impact that two different but related factors — cost and sustainability — are expected to play in attracting and retaining federal office tenants here in Washington.

Stunned Home Buyers Find the Bidding Wars are Back (Wall Street Journal) A new development is catching home buyers off guard as the spring sales season gets under way: Bidding wars are back.

More singles living alone and loving it, despite the economy (USA Today) Census data released last week says 31 million households in 2010 consisted of just one person, 4 million more than 2000.

 Walmart's 6 DC stores: Some will be urban, some won't (Greater Greater Washington) When Walmart announced it would open 6 stores in DC, many wondered whether the stores would use urban or suburban layouts. With the plans for all the stores finally available, now we know.

Wegmans, large corporations could fill vacant D.C. sites (WTOP) Supermarkets and large corporations, and the jobs that go with them, may be in store for two D.C. neighborhoods as the city government considers leasing space on two partially vacant sites to a series of private businesses and retailers.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Your Next Place

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Who doesn't love a huge two-level three bedroom that's also reasonably priced?  No one, that's who.  It has universal appeal and is perfect for pretty much any situation.  A lot like an Ed Hardy trucker cap, except, you know, the complete opposite.

Located in the Leah, on Capitol Hill, this huuuuuge three bedroom is all class.  Though it's new construction, the brickwork and architecture is perfectly in keeping with the neighborhood, while still maintaining that distinct patina of "newness."  The living room is massive, with acres of hardwood, and discreet recessed lighting, the kitchen is immaculately outfitted, and you walk through to a sweet wooden deck in the rear of the building.  Upstairs, the master bedroom is almost embarrassingly large.  I mean, the master bedroom alone would make a fantastic loft apartment. I bet you could fit two regulation Slip n' Slides end to end in here, which is definitely something to keep in mind for next Valentine's Day.


Again, it's new construction, which I think I like.  I mean, I appreciate some finely-aged woodwork and classic architecture as much as the next guy, but a new place has its upside.  I was in my apartment's crawlspace the other day, and I found a single white sock up there, leftover from a previous tenant.  I don't know why, but it really disturbed me, it was like a metaphor for the impermanence of life, like when you're out with your significant other and run into one of their exes.  Say what you want about a new building, but you will never ever find someone else's sock in the crawlspace.

324 12th Street NE #4
3 Bedrooms, 2.5 Baths
$769,900







Washington D.C. real estate news

Friday, April 27, 2012

Work Begins on Founders Square Residential Building

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Excavation has begun for the 17-story, mixed-use residential and retail building at Founders Square called The Place.

Crews are digging at 4000 Wilson Blvd. in Ballston to prepare the lot for construction, said Kevin Shooshan, leasing and marketing director at the Shooshan Company. Preparation work for the proposed LEED Silver building includes cleansing the soil at the former brownfield site.

Construction of The Place (left) is underway. An office building (right) also is planned for the site.
KBR Building Group received the construction contract last month and began work soon after, a spokeswoman for the company said. She said construction would be completed by early 2014, but Shooshan said the building would be finished at the end of next year.

The Place has nearly 9,000 s.f. of retail space below the residential units. Shooshan said he is not yet leasing space, but a roughly 5,000 s.f. area targets a restaurant/bar, with the rest well-suited for smaller restaurants and cafes that cater to the businesses and residents in the area.  On average, apartments are just under 800 s.f.   Residents -- especially those on the upper floors -- will have views of the District to the east, Shooshan said. There will be 280 parking spaces on four below-grade levels.

Shooshan closed in February on a $71.1 million loan from SunTrust to build The Place, one of four buildings slated for the company's mixed-use development designed by RTKL that includes residential, office and hotel space with about 25,000 s.f. of retail spread throughout.

A few months ago, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) moved into a 13-story, 350,000-square-foot, LEED Gold office building completed in the first phase of development.

The Donohoe Companies is working on an 11-story, 182-room, LEED Silver Residence Inn by Marriott just to the south, crews have already built up to the sixth floor.

The fourth building, just east of The Place at 4040 Wilson Blvd., is planned as a 20-story, 400,000 s.f., LEED Gold office building. Work has not started on the last building.

Arlington, Va., real estate development news

Morning Real Estate Review

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A Healthier Real Estate Market, But For Whom? (Forbes) Congress is looking at relaxing the 102-year-old law that caps the heights of buildings in Washington, D.C., and that seems like a pretty good thing to me.

Federal Realty to Start on Phase One of $250M Mid-Pike Plaza  (Globe St.) Federal Realty Investment Trust expects to break ground within 90 days on its long-anticipated redevelopment of Mid-Pike Plaza here, CEO Don Wood tells GlobeSt.com.

Carr Breaks Ground on CBD Office; Preps for Bethesda Project (Globe St.) On a misty, overcast Thursday morning Carr Properties broke ground on what is still a rarity in the Washington DC market: a new office development, in the CBD no less, that is 72% pre-leased to two tenants.
Sales contracts for US homes rose in March to highest level in almost 2 years (Washington Post) An index that tracks the number of signed contracts to buy U.S. homes rose to its highest level in nearly two years last month, the latest sign the battered housing market is slowly improving.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

HPRB Hears Hine Project Changes

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Changes to the Hine Project, such as reducing the height of a penthouse, improving transitions and adjusting facades, helped resolve some issues for the Historic Preservation Review Board, which voted today to approve a staff report recommendation that concludes "the revisions improve the compatibility of the conceptual plan and (are) consistent with the purposes of the preservation act."

The Board last approved a concept review for the development effort at the old Hine Junior High School Site near Eastern Market in August, at which time Board members offered guidance for further plan development.

Architect Amy Weinstein, a principal at Esocoff and Associates/Weinstein Studio, presented the revised plans and explained the changes to the Board, many members of which were not part of the initial concept review.

Changes include:
  • The alley side of the residential building on C Street was redesigned using different materials to set apart the base, core and top of the building similar to the front design.
  • New design features throughout the development include panel brick ornamentation, rolled coping in cast stone and copper, and bridged bay projections.
  • The 5-story piece on 8th Street transitions to the rest of the building with rolled edges and varied materials.
  • At D Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, the bays are extended and bridged to connect the retail spaces.
  • A larger setback and reduced height moves the penthouse above the office building at 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue farther out of view.
  • Twisted brick columns were added to the windows and clustered at the corner of 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.
  • The plaza component at 7th and C streets now has more of a "late Victorian vocabulary."
7th Street
Although the Board did approve the staff report, members voiced concerns with the project.

Recommendations for continued development included more attention to the C Street alley design, reconsidering the water feature, looking at ways to better transition from residential to office space, and - this being DC - reducing building height.

Stanton-EastBanc team is developing the site, Oehme van Sweden is the landscape architect.

Washington, D.C., real estate development news


Today in Pictures - CityCenter

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Work on CityCenterDC continues.  The project's plans for nearly 700 units of housing, 185,000 s.f. of retail, and 520,000 s.f. of office space are now rising well above ground.  Below are recent pictures of the site. 









Morning Real Estate Review

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5 surprising facts about Washington home values (Washington Post) Home values in the Washington DC metro area decreased just slightly, by 0.1 percent, in March from February, according to real estate database Zillow, now back to April 2004 levels. The median home value in Washington is now $301,900.

Brookfield Plans Rebirth of 'Monarch' Office Asset (Globe St.) Brookfield Property Group, a unit of Brookfield Asset Management, has acquired a largely vacant office building for an undisclosed price. Brookfield is planning capital improvements to reposition the 110,000-square foot, three-story asset, located at 1375 Piccard Dr.

Window shopping is becoming window dressing (Greater Greater Washington) According to industry experts, retail is rapidly evolving into little more than an amenity to enhance the value of housing and office spaces above.

DC Offices with Leasing Upside on the Block (Real Estate Alert) A developer is shopping a Class-A office building near Capitol Hill in Washington that could fetch about $250 million from core-plus investors.

Peterson Cos. Inks H&M: More Than Just Price (Globe St.) The Peterson Cos. has secured fashion retailer H&M to fill much of the space left by the departed Borders at its Downtown Silver Spring mixed-used development located, as the name of the project suggests, in Downtown Silver Spring.

Edens purchases Cap City Diner for Union (Washington Post) Monday night, sometime after midnight, the Capital City Diner went on a short joy ride on the streets of Washington and landed in the construction zone right next to the former, fire-ravaged D.C. Farmers Market, a mere 1.5 miles away.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Affordable Housing Complex Delayed

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A proposed 59-unit affordable housing project in Alexandria, at the corner of East Reed Avenue and Route 1/Jefferson Davis Highway, has been delayed a year after developers at AHC, Inc. missed a mid-March deadline for their affordable housing tax credit application.  Developers are now aiming for a March 2013 application.

Though the project has been in the works for almost two years, a number of issues prevented the application from coming together in time. While city planners supported the project, calling it "an excellent opportunity to secure affordable housing, with minimal City financial support, in an area that will soon redevelop in a way that would likely make such a project unfeasible in the future due to escalating land values," they also raised concerns over the streetscaping. Planners also cited the possibly inadequate amount of parking contained in the proposed design (0.7 spaces per unit rather than their preferred ratio of 1.1 spaces per unit), and redesigns couldn't be produced in time to accommodate required public hearings and the tax credit deadline.

The proposed project, designed by Bonstra | Haresign, would assemble the city-owned parcel at 3600 Jefferson Davis Highway with three privately-owned adjacent parcels at 120 and 118 E. Reed Avenue (which AHC currently has under site control), as the site of a five-story multi-family apartment building, owned and operated by AHC.  Preliminary concept plans call for one- and two-bedroom units at 60% of AMI (about $56,000/yr), though the exact orientation of the building is still under discussion.

"We're still talking about the exact placement of the building," said John Welsh, Vice President at AHC, of the present timeline.  "Ideally, we'd like to conclude zoning and planning by the summer, apply for the financing in March of next year, close sometime in July, and then start construction in the fall.  The city is still interested, they've just asked for some followups.  We're going to keep this thing going."

Complications relating to funding may also have contributed to the delays.  The project is being funded by a complicated package of tax credits, AHC investment, and an approximately $1.1 million affordable housing loan from the city.  AHC would pay market value to the city for the vacant lot at 3600 Jefferson Davis Highway, but would seek to defer this payment (with interest) until after the 15-year tax credit period.  The addition of a parking garage caused the amount of the required city loan to balloon, necessitating another analysis by the City Office of Housing, and a redetermination in the amount of the loan.

AHC, Inc., a nonprofit developer of affordable housing, has developed 38 housing projects since 1975 containing over 3,200 units; this is their first project in Alexandria.

Alexandria, Virginia real estate development news

Morning Real Estate Review

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Holy crap, 14th is so hip!  (NY Times)  A short photo essay of all the hipness that is DC's 14th Street.

Garish palace irks some neighbors in Great Falls (Washington Post)  A 25,000 s.f. of-a-mansion, in homage to Louis XIV, upsets neighbors who learn to make do with only 10,000 s.f.  Note that the story is listed under the 'crime' section.

February's Case-Shiller numbers show a 3.5% decline (Economic Intersection)  The year-over-year decline was worse than expected, but some experts think that maybe this is the bottom, and this time they mean it.

Norton says she's torn on the Height Act changes (CityPaper) As a self-styled smart-growth proponent, the idea makes complete sense to Norton, but she's worried about alienating the fanny-pack toting crowds.  And being skilled in bureaucratese, she'd like to see a study done on the issue.

St. Elizabeths master plan drops some pretty renderings (CityPaper)  On DC's side of the historic campus, pretty pictures may be just the thing the project needed.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Changes Slow and Steady in Mount Rainier

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About 18 months ago, Prince George's County approved the amended Mount Rainier Mixed-Use Town Center Zone Development Plan to guide the city toward greater development and prosperity focused on the area of Rhode Island Avenue and 34th Street, a bid to reshape the city's urban heart and stimulate economic expansion in the historic commercial core.

"We haven’t seen a lot of changes yet," Mount Rainier City Manager Jeannelle Wallace said. "But we will, probably, in the next few months."

The City purchased land for re- development, continued a grant program, repurposed a vacant lot and will support the upcoming Citizen Paint Project.

Wallace said the City understood its importance as a gateway between the District and Maryland and purchased the former funeral home and a former liquor store in an effort to generate a new development.

"We wanted to have an impact," she said. "And you can’t do that when you have other people who own the property and control the development. So now we do."

The old funeral home sits empty at the intersection of Eastern and Rhode Island avenues, greeting traffic into and out of the District. The City put it out to bid for redevelopment with at least eight companies expressing interest in the project. Proposals now are due by May 30.

Wallace said the City would like to see a 3- or 4-story mixed-use building with retail on the ground floor, residences and office space on upper levels, and some form of onsite parking. But other plans for the site also will be considered -- the height and uses are not set in stone.

"Primarily we’re looking for something that will increase pedestrian traffic along that corridor," Wallace said, adding that contributing to the arts district and incorporating green features also would be nice.

Nisey Baylor, president of the Mount Rainier Business Association and owner of Nisey’s Boutique, said the group has not formally pushed for any one use at the site. But she said there is a real interest in bringing more retail to the city.

“People are always going to spend money,” she said. “It’s never going to stop. I see that. I feel that. I know that. We want businesses in Mount Rainier. We welcome and try very hard to work with businesses … to help them succeed.”

An RFP for the former liquor store has not yet been issued. But another vacant property already has a new life as a “kiss and ride” lot near City Hall. Wallace said the City purchased the lot for about $145,000 from a hopeful owner who was unable to acquire enough adjacent property for development. The new lot contributes to the bigger plan to improve public transportation, bicycle use and pedestrian traffic in the area.

While the city’s efforts are a step in the right direction, and the business association is working to attract new businesses, it has not been enough to realize the full vision of the development plan.  “The vision is beautiful,” Wallace said. “But whether or not it’s cost effective or even feasible at this point is another thing.”

The plan talks about widening sidewalks, increasing bicycle access, burying utility lines … – all things that require money and work. Wallace said some of the bigger changes will only come with significant development. With the real estate market still in recovery, big development has been hard to find.

But the city and residents seem committed to making the smaller steps toward change.

Wallace said the city recently received paperwork with a new agreement and funding extension that allots $125,000 to the Facade Improvement Program. Gateway Community Development Corporation (Gateway CDC) previously managed the program, funded by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, but the city took over last summer. Initial funding expired in December, prompting the extension request.

And based on Baylor’s experience, changing the fa├žade can make a huge difference. She recently utilized available grant funds to help offset costs for redoing her storefront. Simply updating her storefront, she said, encouraged people passing through to stop and look around. She encourages other businesses to do the same.  "When one customer stops in they see everybody,” she said. “That’s why everybody needs to do something.”

The community will join forces to liven-up one key property. The funeral home destined for redevelopment is the site of the April 28 Citizen Paint Project led by Gateway CDC and Joe's Movement Emporium.

"In the interim between it being demolished and now, since we are an arts district, the community has gotten together and we're going to paint the entire building," said Michael Gumpert, Executive Director of Gateway CDC. "First we’re going to clean it, then we’re going to white wash it, then an artist is going to design a mural and the community will paint it in."

The paint will be temporary, but organizers and community leaders hope the enthusiasm for improving the City will help push them closer to the vision in the Town Center Development Plan.

“I am hoping that with each year, something more and more has happened,” Baylor said. “I really believe in the very near future that we’ll see lots more of the architectural change. I really believe all these plans will come in the next 3 to 4 years.

“But we just gotta wait it out. And you gotta be a part of it.”

Mount Rainier, Maryland, real estate development news

Morning Real Estate Review

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State Services Organization signs a 15-year renewal for 237,848-square-foot of space in Washington (Virginia Business) In what is being described as the largest private-sector lease transaction in Washington, D.C., this year, the State Services Organization (SSO) Inc. has signed a 15-year, 237,848-square-foot lease at its current location at 400-444 N. Capitol St. NW.

CWCapital Selling $345 Million of Distressed Real Estate Debt (Bloomberg Businessweek) CWCapital Asset Management LLC, a firm specializing in troubled commercial mortgages, is marketing $345 million of distressed debt in its biggest sale ever as investors circle souring loans.

Short Sales Higher, Prices Lower (CNBC) Buyer traffic is strong, supply of homes for sale is low, and yet home prices continue to defy the usual formula, falling again in March.

Creating Amazing Outdoor Spaces (Patch) Whether you want to remodel or simply redecorate, when it comes to creating an outdoor space, it’s important to think beyond the typical to achieve amazing.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Gales School Groundbreaking for Central Union Mission

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Work to convert the city-owned Gales School into Central Union Mission's new home will kick off May 7th with a groundbreaking ceremony.

The gutted building at 65 Massachusetts Ave, NW, provided a raw canvas for the Mission and Cox Graae + Spack Architects to create a space for the new shelter and homeless resource center. Plans also show a small rear addition to the building.

Forrester Construction will build out the interior, which will include spaces for the Mission to continue providing shelter, meals, and programs for homeless men in 34,000 s.f. of new and renovated space.

The Mission will rent the Gales School from the City for $1 per year, a deal reached after the Mission won an RFP for the project nearly 2 years ago that was subsequently contested. Renovations will cost the Mission about $12 million. The low rent and practically new building should leave more money in the Mission's account in the long run for provision of its services.

Deborah Chambers, director of communications and outreach for the Mission, said that while the group owned its current home at 14th and R streets Northwest, the maintenance and utilities costs on the old building are exorbitant. A part they recently needed for the out-dated elevator cost $7,000, she said.

The money saved on repairs can help support the additional 50 or 60 residents the Mission is expected to house at the Gales School. It also will provide the new services needed for a daytime shelter for residents. The 110 men who call the Mission home now must leave after breakfast, she said, but the new location will have recreation rooms, computer labs and classes accessible throughout the day.

"Being able to provide the men with conditions and surroundings and beds that will help lift their self-esteem is something we're greatly looking forward to," Chambers said. "We bandaged this place, we have things holding together with staples and tape, but surroundings help somebody feel like there is a possibility and there is a future. We hope to provide them with those kinds of amenities."

Renovations should be completed next April. But the Mission must be out of its Logan Circle building in February pursuant to a contract to purchase inked several years ago but not yet executed.

Chambers said there could be a 30-day gap in service between leaving their current location and opening at the Gales School, and that some residents will go to the group's camp in Brookeville, Md., while the rest will rely on local homeless shelters and service providers.

The Mission has tried to move for several years. A previous deal for the Gales School fell through when the ACLU sued, claiming the award of the RFP by the city to the Christian-backed Mission violated the Constitution's Establishment Clause. Community protests then prevented a move to Georgia Avenue and Newton Street, leading the Mission to pursue a mixed-use development at the site instead.

With the Gales School finally secured, plans to redevelop the Mission's Logan Circle property can move forward, too.

Developer Jeffrey Schonberger (Alturas LLC) has been planning to renovate and expand properties at 1625 - 1631 14th Ave., NW since 2006, pending relocation of the homeless shelter. The new retail and residential project is scheduled to break ground in less than a year.

Washington, D.C., real estate development news

Morning Real Estate Review

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Freddie Mac Names Top Multifamily Lenders for 2011 (Globe St.) CBRE Capital Markets, NorthMarq Capital and Berkadia Commercial Mortgage were the highest-producing multifamily mortgage sellers of 2011 for Freddie Mac, with the firms completing $4.13 billion, $2.14 billion and $1.68 billion in deal volume, respectively.

Northeast DC a new haven for restaurants (Washington Post) In an area once devoid of good restaurants, eateries are springing to life.

Norton a wet towel on amending height limits (Washington Post) While Gray and Issa join forces to support some simple amendments to the federal height limit laws, Norton throws cold water on the idea.

Anatomy of a failed condo project (Washington Post) The Post takes a look at the failure of the Oasis, an ill-conceived townhouse and condo project that sits empty on Florida Ave., a victim of bad development and architecture.

Lowball offers disappearing as market improves (Boston Herald) Though not a scientific survey, the national market seems to be losing lowball offers, a sign that things are improving.

Architect Demand Grows For Fifth Consecutive Month (CoStar) Demand for the services of architects rose modestly for the fifth straight month in March, prompted by a growing number of commercial real estate development projects on the drafting table for future construction, according to the Architecture Billings Index (ABI).

CoStar: Foreign investors still interested in D.C.'s office market (Washington Post) Recent transactions have reaffirmed overseas investors’ longtime interest in the District of Columbia’s core office market.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

New Parks Plan for NoMa

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NoMa BID released its new Public Realm Vision Plan Friday night for the growing community of residents, shops and offices. The vision includes three parks and a "modern, monumental gateway."

With 1,200 apartments already leased and 2,200 more under construction, there are plenty of residents looking for space to relax, play, and interact. The vision offers ways to create the space they need.

"To me, neighborhoods are about ... the interaction of people both with the environment and with each other outside their own private places," said NoMa BID President Robin-Eve Jasper. "So parks are just a critical part of that. And we have disaggregated what a park is around the concept of what jobs do people hire parks to do."

With that in mind, the Public Real Vision Vision Plan was borne. According to a Friday press release from NoMa BID, the vision focuses on four sites:
  1. The Plaza: A public gathering space at First and L Streets, NE
  2. The Tracks: A recreation and train-watching venue between the railroad tracks and Second Street, NE at K Street, NE
  3. A casual neighborhood park at Florida Avenue and N Street, NE
  4. The Gateway: To enliven and add color to the intersection of New York and Florida Avenues and First Street, NE, the plan envisions large, colorful obelisk-type structures greeting residents and visitors on their way to and from NoMa and Washington, D.C.
The vision plan is a preliminary look at what could be created in NoMa, but details have not been worked out. According to the press release, Councilman Tommy Wells introduced legislation that could created funding for the parks.

The press release states that property owners with land next to the proposed sites "have been approached, and many are considering ways they can incorporate the NoMa parks ideas into their own future developments." Translation: NoMa has potential for traditional neighborhood amenities, but its going to take a village.

Washington, D.C., real estate development news

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Your Next Place

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By Franklin Schneider

Is it me or does this house look sort of like the White House? It does, doesn't it? Don't think I didn't lean against one of those pillars and pretend to be Obama for a second, crowd of fellow open-housers be damned. ("Honey, why did that asian Jeff Foxworthy lookalike just shout, 'I'm the king of the world!'?")

This house is a mansion's mansion - sprawling, sophisticated, and it has everything you could possibly ask for in a house. A library? Check. Six fireplaces? A sun room? A den? Wet bar? Marble foyer? Gourmet kitchen? Whirlpool bath? It's got all that and more. It has so many rooms they ran out of names for them and listed one as "Other Room 1." (I would put a foot of cat litter in there and turn it into a huge litter box, but then I'm lazy and disgusting.)




The master bedroom is HUGE and has an adjoining sitting room, so it's sort of like its own little apartment. The kicker being that you also have the entire rest of the building to yourself. There are also his and hers master bathrooms, which is huge. I maintain that an effective definition of "you've made it" is not ever having to share a bathroom with other people, i.e. being able to use a q-tip and then just drop it on the floor with no repercussions, ever. If there's more to life than that, well, I'm just not interested.

The house is in Cleveland Park, so it's steps away from shopping, restaurants metro, etc. It's also very close to Rock Creek Park and Pierce Klingle Mansion, which is one of the few places in DC that's nicer than this house. I guess it could be good having that place close by; living in a mansion like this could easily turn you into a raging egomaniac. It might be marriage-saving if you could just walk over every few weeks and look at the Klingle Mansion and be like, "Oh, wait."

3539 Williamsburg Lane NW
5 Bedrooms, 6 Baths
$2,450,000




Washington D.C. real estate news

Friday, April 20, 2012

Restaurant, Apartments Headed for 10th and V?

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Sorg Architects placed on hold its plans for a new residential building at 10th and V streets Northwest while it leases space to a restaurant and converts the historic church into apartments.

"We’re not moving forward with that portion of the project," Nikki Sorg said about the previously proposed 37-unit condo building. "But we are looking to activate the property. That's why we're getting an awesome tenant that should help to enliven the neighborhood."
First African New Church (right) before exterior restoration work stands
next to another Sorg Architects condo building, The Visio and Murano.



Sorg is negotiating a lease agreement with a restaurateur to open up shop in the Koons Roofing Building on the V Street side of the lot. While the name of the restaurant cannot be released until the deal is finalized, Sorg said it will be a "local provider."

Rumor has it a local food truck might be planting more permanent roots, but it hasn't been confirmed.

Just around the corner on 10th Street, the neighboring First African New Church reportedly soon will get a new lease on life as an apartment building, says Sorg, though the project has long been touted by Sorg as nearing development.

Sorg plans to create four rental units in the historic church ranging from 800 s.f. to 1,300 s.f. in some combination of one- and two-bedroom floor plans. Sorg would not say how many of each were planned, nor would she specify a contractor, so a quick start date seems unlikely.

Renovations will begin this spring or summer, Sorg said, and they will be completed in the fall. The apartments will incorporate traditional church features like the tall ceilings and large stained-glass windows. Sorg said it is "a simple renovation really using the incredible volumes available in the building."

The most recent permits listed online are a supplementary permit and for constructing a fence around the property. A building permit issued Sept. 9 references three apartment units, not four, in the zoning review. When asked about building permits, Sorg said she did not have specific information about them.

Suman Sorg acquired the property in 2003 for $1.3 million under the name Morning Bright LLC, one of the former names of the Baptist church. Crews now have worked on the exterior to restore the badly deteriorating church. But until recently, nearby residents complained of poor upkeep citing fallen bricks littering the alley and vermin on the site.

Bryan Martin Firvida, a past president of the U Street Neighborhood Association who pushed to make the church a historic landmark, said he was happy to see signs of improvement, especially the recent effort to secure the property and fix the roof.

Now he and other residents are ready to see the vacant lot again become a positive asset to the community. "I would love, at the end of the day, seeing life breathed back into that church, and that parcel developed ... turning that back into a tax-revenue producing lot," he said.

Brian Card, president of the U Street Neighborhood Association, said he is open to hearing plans for the residences and new restaurant. They could be great additions to the community, but he said he thinks people want to have a sense of what is planned and the opportunity to offer suggestions.

He also expressed interest in seeing a new building at the corner of 10th and V streets eventually reenter the plans. The new building would fill in an empty corner and offer new housing options for residents.

"I think we're looking for a constructive addition to the neighborhood that fits into the context of the designs," Card said, adding that residents typically are focused on size and materials.

Martin Firvida and Card both welcomed the opportunity to talk to Sorg Architects about their latest plans for the site. They said the last time formal plans were presented to them was in 2006, and they would appreciate the chance to pick up the conversation now that construction is on the horizon.

Washington, D.C., real estate development news

Update:
An earlier version of this post listed the architecture firm as Sorg and Associates.

Morning Real Estate Review

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Legalize Skyscrapers (Slate) The District of Columbia, the larger region, and the country as a whole would be better off with an even bolder plan that brought true skyscrapers to D.C.’s central business district.

U.S. Previously Owned Home Sales Unexpectedly Fell in March (Bloomberg) Sales of previously owned U.S. homes in March unexpectedly fell for the third time in the last four months, showing an uneven recovery in the housing market.

False, alarmist flyer agitates Chevy Chase on zoning update (Greater Greater Washington) A flyer being distributed in Chevy Chase is trying to alarm residents with a combination of outright falsehoods and misleading spin.

Retail vacancy rates down slightly in first quarter (Washington Business Journal) Vacancy rates for grocery-anchored shopping centers at the end of 2011 were down slightly from a year ago, according to a Delta Associates retail research report.

Marine Corps may acquire prime Barracks Row parcels for new housing (Washington Business Journal) The Marine Corps will have no choice but to acquire property on Lower Barracks Row for its new barracks and support space, the Corps announced Wednesday in a status report on its ongoing master planning efforts.

Ahead of the Bell: US Housing Starts (CBS News) U.S. builders likely started work on slightly more homes in March. A gain would suggest many are more hopeful that the troubled housing market is slowly healing.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Construction for Cathedral Commons a Step Closer

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A sign today announces the parking lot of the now-closed Giant Food at 3336 Wisconsin Ave. will close April 23 to prepare for construction of Cathedral Commons. The grocery store closed last week, but the parking lot remained open. Crews also have removed the classic Giant sign on the building.

Bozzuto, Giant's financial partner for the project, posted a site plan yesterday for the $125 million mixed-use development that will span two blocks along Wisconsin Avenue.

Street-Works is developing the site that will have a new Giant Food anchoring 128,000 s.f. of new retail space. The site also will include 137 apartments, eight townhouses and 500 parking spaces.

A raze permit for the Giant as well as other parts of the 3300 block were approved Jan. 30th by the Historic Preservation Office according to documents released by the Office. Permit applications for the 3400 block also were filed.

Washington, D.C., real estate development news

Tiny House Warms Locals' Tiny Hearts

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Washington DC isn't exactly known to attract those with modest ambitions – I'm still flabbergasted at how often I hear the phrase “changing the world” used unironically at happy hours – so I was surprised at how enthusiastically the tiny house was received.

Parked randomly in the middle of a Wangari Gardens in Petworth, there was a 30-minute wait just to pop inside and look around, even in the intense midafternoon heat. (Though in all fairness I think quite a few of the people in line thought they were waiting to use a porta-potty.) At only 130 square feet (no, I didn't forget a zero), the tiny house, the Fencl model, manufactured by Tumbleweed Tiny House Company, looks at first scarily tiny, like a coffin with a roof over it. But it was definitely cute. During our wait in line, most of the conversation overheard centered around its endearingly miniature proportions.

“Someone should do a reality show starring the tiny house,” said the woman in front of us to her companion. “You could take it from city to city for each episode and live in it with a tiny dog and everywhere you stop you could have a tiny romance and at the end of the episode you could have a tiny epiphany. Like, 'this week I learned that blue is not that flattering of a color on me. But it still looks okay, I guess.' All you need is a host.”
“You'd be perfect,” I said, leaning over to my girlfriend. “You have a tiny heart and a tiny soul.”
She continued looking straight ahead. “Do you want to talk about what you have that's tiny?” She asked.
I have no idea what she was talking about. The heat was getting to her, I think.

But once I got into the tiny house, I realized that it was not that tiny at all. You enter into a small but serviceable main room; you could absolutely fit a modest flat screen and one or two pieces of slim furniture in there. Behind that is kitchen; equipped with a sink, a two-burner stove, a small college-type fridge, and a water heater (under the sink), it's surprisingly functional. You may not have acres of counter space, but you could certainly cook a full meal. And look at it this way, if the meal turns out to be less than impressive, you could just blame it on the kitchen. At home, cooking in a full kitchen, you've got no excuse but incompetence. Off the kitchen is the bathroom, which was impressive. A full shower (the hot water heater in the kitchen is good for five minutes of hot water) and a toilet; no sink, but you can install one above the toilet, Japanese-style.

Up above is the peaked sleeping loft; it can accommodate a queen-sized bed, and at its highest point, it's 3' 8”, so sitting up in bed is not out of the question (though standing up is). I climbed up there and laid down and it was basically like being in a really nice tent. It was cozy and even womblike. Throughout the tiny house there was, as you might imagine, a huge amount of built-in shelving, on every available surface, though bringing your ceramic cat figurines and laserdiscs to your new minimalistic tiny house seems a bit counter-intuitive. The house I saw, the interior was unvarnished pine, leaving the particulars of the final product up to the consumer. There are a lot of tiny house blogs online showing the looks people have gone for, though I will say that if you're lazy like me, you could probably convince yourself that the unpainted wood looks “rugged” and “austere.” Since the tiny house is so tiny, heating is quick and inexpensive; the literature claims that the stainless steel fireplace in the main room can heat the house in conditions as low as -35F.

Bottom line, the tiny house was absolutely nicer than any dorm room or efficiency apartment I've ever been in. When you add in the portability and efficiency, I think we'll be seeing a lot more of these in the future. Whether they'll be in the District is uncertain; many models of tiny houses, like the Fencl, can be kept on a trailer, thus evading local zoning requirements. Larger ones could run into problems, being in a gray area between house and shed. There's been talk of rewriting the local zoning code to accommodate more alley lots and accessory housing (both of which would be tiny house-friendly), but at the moment, you might want to keep your tiny house in Maryland or Virginia.

More notably, the mood at the exhibition was celebratory, if not downright fetishistic. People were snapping pictures, touching the house, waiting half an hour just to step inside for a minute, like pilgrims at Lourdes or something. Just five years ago, with the economy booming and the concept of American maximalism still intact, I think the tiny house would've been met with eyerolls and contempt. But in this post-recession moment of cultural reconsideration and humility (even if it is forced), the tiny house is now emblematic of virtue, of modesty – above all, of enlightenment. The same cultural tides that have rendered the SUV the official vehicle of the tacky and philistine have reached housing culture; behold, the Prius of homes. What it lacks in square footage and spare rooms, it more than makes up for in environmental karma and financial practicality. After all, imagine what you could spend all that money on that would've gone to 25 years of mortgage payments on a McMansion. Fine wine instead of box wine, a month in Europe instead of five days in Rehoboth, working twenty-five hours a week instead of fifty. When it comes to cramping your quality of life, the tiny house is nothing, compared to the tiny life.

Photos via Flickr/AtomicLlama
 

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