Thursday, August 31, 2006

The Greening of Development: Eco-Conscious Development in DC

Part II in a Series:

A mixed-use development along I-270 at Wootton Parkway in Rockville is about to get bigger, and though the size is not notable by a city in the midst of a development boom, the developer hopes to attract national attention. Tower Companies, a North-Bethesda based developer, has already completed office space at Tower Oaks, a gleaming silver highrise overlooking the highway, a familiar but little-contemplated building the developer sites as "Washington DC’s first green office building."

Tower now intends to expand the site into one of the largest LEED Gold Certified mixed-use projects in the country, including 200,000 s.f. of office space, 100 "luxury" condominiums, a 200-room hotel and a 75,000 s.f. executive-style health club and spa. The "gold" designation is the premier LEED certification for measuring the environmental impact of the development. The existing office space earned its awards by features such as super energy efficiency and air-scrubbers that ventilate the air every 55 minutes.

"Going Green is a major trend in housing development across the country," says Marnie Abramson of the Tower Companies. Tower Companies, founded in 1947, began a major shift in its approach to real estate at the beginning of the 1990’s, when the company began to pursue a policy of environmentally conscious development in Washington DC. Today, The Tower Companies sites itself as the 20th largest purchaser of Green Energy in the country and are internationally recognized as authorities on Green Building Technology, setting new standards for green development in business, residential, and retail real estate environments.

The Tower Oaks project will be green throughout: condos, a green hotel, a fitness center and a green office building. Another office building is already under construction and Abramson expects it to be completed by June 2008. "Green gives you more buck for your condo dollar," she said, adding, "it comes down to good business sense; the technology is improving and as it improves and people get better at using it, the prices will continue to drop for developers and construction companies."

Abramson described the growth and cost benefits to firms like Tower over the past few years. The investment in green technology is paying off and it’s going to continue to trend upwards. "It is the next big thing in development." She added that the condos will begin construction after that and will be built to coincide with the construction of the hotel.

In another project, Tower Companies announced today that it is teaming with the real estate firm Lerner Enterprises (whose owners have killer seats at all Washington Nationals games) to purchase wind-renewable energy to power a D.C. office building called Washington Square at 1050 Connecticut Avenue, as well as for their combined headquarters in Bethesda.

Arlington-based Pepco Energy Services, a subsidiary of D.C.-based Pepco, will supply more than 64 million kilowatt-hours of renewable energy for the two buildings, which total more than 1 million square feet, making Tower Pepco’s largest commercial purchaser of green energy. Lerner's and Tower's use of eco-conscious energy will help offset carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas. Tower partner Jeffrey Abramson says in a written statement that the agreement "demonstrates that wind renewable energy credits can also be a viable option to meet our country's energy needs through a sustainable resource and reduce air pollution and the threat of global warming at the same time."

Part I: Going Green - New Condo Roofs Will No Longer Pollute

Furioso Condo Project on Hold – Commercial Development Considered

Giorgio Furioso’s project to develop the vacant lot on 14th Street, next to the organic restaurant Veridian, is on hold, a representative of Furioso Development said. Furioso had been approved by the Historic Preservation Review Board to build an ultra-modern condominium next to and above 1515 14th Street, but may instead pursue opening a second restaurant or boutique hotel on the site.

Speculation about the reasons for the plan’s demise centered on potential construction costs. Construction companies may have perceived the project - designed to have a large, curving glass and steel facade - as being so architecturally sophisticated as to exceed reasonable construction costs.

Furioso is known for his background in the arts, having redeveloped the former Hudson Automobile showroom building at 1515 14th Street into a center for the arts, with his restaurant Viridian on the ground floor featuring regularly changing art shows, and art galleries on the second and third floors. The building, originally constructed in the 1930s was part of the 14th Street "auto-row" – a series of car dealerships.

The aborted condo project, which was to include additional arts-oriented retail, had been delayed in zoning and permitting. Emma Saal, an associate of Furioso, describes his style as very modern. She added that he was one of the originators of a now much-used mixture of glass and steel that makes use of the classical attention to detail. Saal points to one of Furioso’s signature projects as an example of his style. "Solo Piazza," she says (SoLo – or South of Logan) "is a perfect illustration of his combination of classical detail within a modern structure." Saal points to Solo Piazza’s floor to ceiling fenestration and multiple colors for the masonry as capturing the essentials of that style’s attention to detail while reinterpreting the building in a modern manner. "It’s very Giorgio," said Saal, "old and new in a modern setting; clean lines with a crown of steel and wood."

Saal added that regardless of what Furioso does with the 14th Street property, she’s certain it will be a great architectural addition to the Logan Circle area. "The restaurant, or a boutique hotel; either will be designed with the same great attention to detail and the wonderful modern flair that makes Furioso unique."

Washington DC real estate development news

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Jair Lynch, NCRC Plan U Street - Columbia Heights Condo Project

Jair Lynch Companies has made a deal with NCRC – the National Capital Revitalization Corporation, to develop a property above the U Street corridor at 14th and Florida, NW, in Washington DC. The project, called the Solea, is going to be a mixed-use property which will include low-income housing. NCRC has 2,000 housing units in its pipeline, of which 27% are designated as affordable to very low income buyers. Sorg and Associates, the architectural firm designing the Solea, has had a productive relationship with NCRC. A representative of Sorg described the building design as unique and said that it will stand out among the recent development along U Street.

The project has allocated three retail spaces, with two already rented by Trade Secrets and Zawadi. Gilford Corp. is the builder for the $18 million Columbia Heights project. The Solea project is comprised entirely of LSDBEs or, Local Small Disadvantaged Business Enterprises.

Matt Morrin of NCRC views the Solea as an excellent example of cooperation between public and private entities working together during the development boom. "It’s a good model and you can see it across the country," said Morrin. "It’s one of several types that work to facilitate the development of private projects that take into account the needs of the local community by providing affordable housing."

Morrin added that NCRC wanted to make sure a voice representing the local community was heard, and said Jair Lynch, with its experience, made the process a success. "It worked out well,” said Morrin, "this is a positive trend for future development projects.” Sorg expects the project to be completed by late 2007.

Monday, August 28, 2006

PN Hoffman Plans New Condo in Penn Quarter

Following up information first reported this May, Washington DC PN Hoffman has announced preliminary plans to redevelop the church located at 10th & G Sts., NW, into a 140-unit condominium building. The developer will raze the First Congregational Church currently on the site to construct a "super contemporary" building. The agreement has not yet been finalized, leaving details about the project’s design still fluid. No construction or sales dates will likely be available this year. The project is located adjacent to the old Convention Center, slated to become an enormous mixed-use development by 2009. This latest acquisition adds to the 4 large projects the developer is already building in the area, and to several other sizable projects in the developer’s pipeline.

NDC Begins Another Mass Ave. Condo Conversion


National Development Company (NDC) has begun a new condo project at 12th and Massachusetts Ave., in Northwest DC. The New Plaza will feature 37 condominiums in a historic 7-story, Victorian-style building. NDC, also in the midst of developing the Lofts of Brightwood, will offer condos in two phases, with the first phase apparently geared for less renovation and quick occupancy, and a second phase of the project to more fully renovate the remainder of the units. Pricing for the first phase will begin below $200k for a studio, with sales to begin in 2 weeks, nearly matching pricing for the Grant across the street at 1314 Massachusetts, which began sales several weeks ago.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Going Green - New Condo Roofs Will No Longer Pollute


The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has been working to provide "green" grants to building development projects in Washington DC.

Doug Siglin, Director of Federal affairs, is optimistic about the impact of eco-friendly designs on the environment.

"This is all pretty new," he said, "but the anecdotal evidence is starting to give us a good sense that we’re on the right track with these grants." Siglin and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation are currently reviewing grants for "green" roofs in certain areas of DC such as the project by developer ICP at 801 Virginia Ave. in Southeast DC. Several green roofs are already under way; PN Hoffman is currently building one at the Alta and developer Bogdan Builders recently announced plans to include green features on the roof at Logan Station, a condominium now going up on 12th & R.

The Foundation has been working to protect the bay from run-off that flows from the Potomac River. The environmentally friendly "green" roofs cut down on the amount of rain water going directly from the roofs to the Potomac. The roofs act as small forests and lower the amount of toxins going from the roof to the river and from the river to the bay.

Among the major projects the Foundation has been involved with are the greening of the roof for the new Federal Department of Transportation in the Anacostia Waterfront Project. The Foundation provided $100,000 for the roof. "That this really is the way to go," said Siglin. "In Germany we’re hearing that green roofs are lasting 45-50 years versus only 20 years for a conventional roof. That adds up to substantial savings over time."

"DC is ahead of the rest of the country on this; we’re pointing the way and it’s a worthwhile change in development."

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Developer To Break Ground on a $70m Development in PG County

Dawn Limited Partnership has announced it is ready to break ground on a $70 million development project in Prince George’s county. Located near the Addison Road Metro Station, plans for the project include "luxury" condominiums, retail and restaurant space. The site is part of Prince George’s County Addison Road Metro Town Center Development Plan. (and for those of you who are desperate for yet one more acronym, try: PGCARMTCDP…for those of you were English majors: think of it as a pop grammar quiz).

Jack Johnson, Prince George’s county Executive, called the project a winning investment for the people of PG County and cited it as an example of "smart growth" in the Capitol Heights community because of the link between the condominium-based development and the Metro system.

"Transit-oriented development," said Johnson, will provide easy access to Metro lines, retail and dining, "right where people live."

The ICON condominiums will be located at the intersection of Addison Road and Central Avenue, at the Addison Road Metro Station. The project consists of 400,000 square feet of residential, retail and commercial property, including 170 "luxury" condominium units, 25,000 square feet of commercial space, fitness center, business and media centers, a recreation lounge, and a roof-top swimming pool and picnic areas. Construction of the condominiums is expected to be completed by Summer 2008.

Proponents of Smart Growth view projects like the ICON Condominiums as beneficial to the community. These multi-use developments reduce congestion in and on the infrastructure by connecting housing to Metro stations which can reduce the amount of automobile traffic on freeways.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Canyon Ranch Living Project in Bethesda on Hold

The Canyon Ranch concept may have hit a snag in its march into Maryland. A combination of increased mortgage rates, and increased construction costs have caused the $1 billion dollar project in Bethesda to be put on hold for 30 days.

But is there more to it? Canyon Ranch Living aims to provide a kind of hermetically sealed environment in which residents live in condominiums, above dietetically-correct restaurants and health spas.

As the company webpage says about its on-hold Maryland project: "Imagine a spectacular home that’s also an experience. At Canyon Ranch Living – Bethesda, everything comes together to bring out the best in you – the all-healthy environment of renowned Canyon Ranch, luxuries at every turn, and the nation’s finest urban village."

In other words – imagine the experience of what Canyon Ranch calls an "urban village" - right off of I-270 and Old Georgetown Road on 53 acres owned by the Camalier family, one of the largest private development companies in the region.

Imagine feeling just like you really do live in a city; without ever having to bother with actually living in a city.

As one analyst, familiar with the real estate market on the east coast put it: "This isn’t California or Florida; status in the DC area is driven by your connection to the government or wonky group, not really where or how well you live. There is a market for holistic living as a social status symbol – it just isn’t the DC region."

The Canyon Ranch Project is part of a partnership arrangement between Canyon Ranch and the Penrose Group, of Tysons Corner. Canyon Ranch would receive up front payments and management fees to run the development.

Jan McIntire, Senior Director of Corporate Communications for Canyon Ranch has a different view and says the feedback they’ve received from their guests confirms a viable market in the Bethesda area.

"Knowledge of what our guests who live in and around Bethesda want and expect from Canyon Ranch Living makes us feel confident we’re on the right track."

That view is supported by a veteran real estate agent of the DC-area development boom who sees the Canyon Ranch project as a potential success based on the demographics of the area, but possibly a victim of rising costs in construction and the rise in mortgage rates.

"It’s a successful model," said the agent, "there are a lot of people who do want that feeling of being in an urban environment but without the hassle and they want the amenities; the spas, the holistic approach, the restaurants."

JBG Puts Ballston Spire Project on Hold


In early August, JBG Companies announced that it has decided to put "on hold" its plan to build a 23-story building on top of the metro’s Ballston-Marymount University Station, and is actively considering alternate possibilities for the site. The Spire project (formerly known as the Fairmont) was to replace the soon-to-be-torn-down INS building at the corner of N. Fairfax Drive and N. Vermont Street, and was supposed to be the last piece of JBG’s Arlington Gateway project, which also contains a office/retail building (completed in 2005), the 411-condo unit Continental (2003), and the Westin Hotel (2006). The Spire was to contain 237 condo units and 9,200 sf of first floor retail. As part of JBG’s deal with the county, the company agreed to pay $11 million towards the estimated $50 million cost for construction of an underground passageway for the new western entrance to the metro station – what effect this delay will have on construction of the entrance is not yet known, though the county has indicated it has no plans to renegotiate with JBG on this point. In the meantime, JBG officials are contemplating turning the Spire into apartment rentals, and saving the option of converting them to condos at a future date.

Mayfair Mansion Development


Mayfair Mansion, the former home of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshal, is being renovated. The building, constructed in 1946, in the Colonial Revival Style, occupies the area once used for the Benning Race Track. The Mayfair was the project of Elder Lightfoot Solomon Michaux, who wins - hands down - the contest for most interesting name for anyone involved in the field of development in Washington DC. The building was designed by famed local architect, Samuel I. Cassell. Cassell was the architect at Howard University and designed many of the buildings on the campus. The Mayfair has 569 housing units and was declared a city historical landmark. It was one of the first buildings to be designated to provide subsidized housing in the Washington DC. Preservation and Development Corp. and Marshall Heights Community Development Organization purchased Mayfair Mansions in a bid to preserve affordable housing in the District. Tenants of the apartment complex in Ward 7 picked the two nonprofit organizations to buy and redo the complex last year. The D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development provided a $24 million loan to fund the purchase. The proposed plans for the complex include maintaining 409 units in the affordable rental pool and converting 160 units to affordable condominiums. Renovations are scheduled to start early next year.

Monday, August 21, 2006

In The Zone: DC’s Inclusionary Zoning Implementation Act of 2006 Addresses Moderate and Low-Income Housing

The Washington DC Office of Planning has postponed the posting of its Final Ruling for the Inclusionary Zoning Implementation Act until August 25, 2006.

However, a spokesperson for the office has confirmed that the version currently available on its Web site will match the Final Ruling expected for the 25th. The Final Ruling is a controversial rule stipulating that developers of new housing include units for rent or sale at below-market rates to both moderate-income and low-income individuals and families. The Commission has not yet determined which areas of DC will be covered by the Act. The mapping of areas to be covered by the IZ Act is still being determined, meanwhile permits for development projects will use the existing rules and regulations.

Thirty six areas are under consideration for the IZ; among the factors being reviewed are area density as well as types of construction methods used by developers.

In its posting, the Commission acknowledged concerns by members of the development community that mandatory IZ could hamper or even destroy the District’s housing boom, and in response called the boom a "relatively short-lived phenomenon," that could fizzle as quickly as it began. The Commission’s main rationale was that while the future of residential development was not predictable, the need for "workforce housing" must be addressed immediately.

The mapping of the District for establishing which areas will fall under the IZ is scheduled for the beginning of October, 2006.

DC Office of Planning Final Ruling

Saturday, August 19, 2006

DC Waterfront Redevelopment Plows Full Speed Ahead

The Anacostia Waterfront Corporation (AWC) has reached the final round of its Survivor competition and selected two teams out of five original bids for the next phase of the waterfront project. The two teams are, Madison/KSI Waterfront Partners and PN Hoffman, Streuver Brothers Eccles and Rouse. While neither team is known for its Brando impersonations, both are considered experienced in waterfront development. Keeping the real estate and development world in agonizing suspense, the AWC expects to make an announcement regarding the finalist in the Fall of 2006. The criteria used to select the two finalists included, qualifications and experience, vision, development approach, implementing strategy, financial framework, and, (apparently because of a pressing need for yet one more acronym) LSDBEs – Local Small & Disadvantaged Business Enterprises. The AWC expects to develop the 47 acres of land by selling exclusive rights to one of the firms which will create an area that enhances the community, provided business opportunities for small, local disadvantaged companies, and generates tax revenue for the city. Elia Kazan could not be reached for comment. (You youngsters out there can Google that one.)

Friday, August 18, 2006

In Potomac Yard, Developers to the Rescue

When city planners for Potomac Yard found that public works projects were needed, they did what city planners across the country are increasingly doing: They turned to the developer to provide city services.

Begun in 1999, the project has gone through several phases including a plan by the late Jack Kent Cooke to build a new stadium for the Washington Redskins; a plan defeated by a coalition of neighborhood groups. The current plan calls for development of 165 acres with 1.9 million square feet of office space, 135,000 square feet of retail space in addition to the 600,000 square feet already in use at the Yard, and 1700 units of housing.

Justin Wilson, former President of the Del Ray Citizens’ Association, is optimistic about the on-going development project at the Potomac Yard.

Wilson was one of many in the Del Ray community who were shocked to learn that there was a plan to relocate the local fire station from Windsor Avenue to the Potomac Yard – and Wilson and the Association insisted on a discussion with both the developers and the City. "The city got caught behind the eight-ball,” said Wilson, “But they’ve caught up with the issues facing the community and the development companies are responding to our needs."

Enter the site’s developers, Pulte Homes, Inc. and Centex, which agreed to finance the relocation of the firehouse and to pay for new equipment, according to Wilson. The master plan further calls for the developers to straighten Route 1 and rebuild the interchange and overpass. As in many communities, the developers have already agreed to subsidize 60 units of low-income housing, providing communities a fast, free way to provide affordable housing, an issue that long vexed planners in recent decades.

Helen McIlvaine of the Office of Housing has addressed the issue of affordable homes at the Yard, in meetings between the City, developers and community members. The proposal calls for the affordable housing to be based on yearly incomes of $54,000/yr and rents of, $1,500/month.

Among the features proposed for the new state of the art fire station are a community room to be used by both residents and fire department trainees, as well as the construction of individual sleeping quarters that will be able to accommodate the growing number of women in fire suppression.

Community concerns have also been expressed regarding noise abatement for the homes above the proposed fire station.

Alexandria Fire Chief Gary Mesaris stated that the new location in the Potomac Yard would still allow for a 4 minute response time to emergencies in Del Ray; a time still within accepted limits. Among the proposal being considered are the maintenance of two fire stations; one at Windsor Avenue holding the HAZMAT Response team and the new one at the Yard.

Tenley Tower Starts Coming Down

The monolithic tower that has stood half-built across from the Tenley Metro is finally beginning to come down, according to its owner. American Tower Spokeswoman Lori Philbin said, "American Tower is working diligently to finalize the schedule for dismantling the Tenleytown tower." The company has fought the city for several years about the status of the tower, construction of which was halted approximately halfway when neighbors protested the size of the structure that sits adjacent to several others on Wisconsin Avenue, close to the highest elevation in the city. The massive iron tower was being constructed around the historic Western Union tower, built by noted DC architect Leon Chatelain

The Western Union tower was intended to form part of a "radio triangle" of microwave radio-stations linking Washington, Pittsburgh, and New York, and was originally designed to serve as a relay point for the Wideband System and other national security communications systems. In conjunction with the City and through a series of lawsuits, the newer addition was stopped several years ago and has since sat unused. Philbin added that, American Tower is, "...focused on removing the tower as expeditiously as possible while ensuring the safety of residents, contractors…and to ensure minimum disruption to businesses and vehicular and pedestrian traffic in the neighborhood." No final date has been set for completion of the dismantling.

Washington DC commercial real estate news

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Whither the Whitehurst Freeway?

Yes, it has been an eyesore since erected in 1949, and yes, it cuts off Georgetown from the rapidly redeveloping waterfront area. But this almost mile-long elevated highway over K Street to the Key Bridge also provides quick access to and from downtown for thousands of Virginia and Maryland commuters, and eliminates potential traffic nightmares on the already claustrophobic streets of Georgetown. With such a conflicted existence, no wonder the battle over the future of the Whitehurst Freeway is often heated, with business leaders and the new luxury condo owners along the elevated road advocating demolition (more traffic means more business, and no freeway means unobstructed water views and increased condo values), and long-time residents and commuters favoring its preservation (especially considering it just received a $35 million overhaul and upgrade in 1998). The latest salvo arrived in late July, when the board of the Georgetown Business Improvement District (BID) voted in favor of removing the freeway. The Georgetown BID will next make its recommendation of a preferred alternative after an upcoming presentation by DC transportation officials. District officials have also proposed demolishing the Whitehurst and making K Street a 4- or 6-lane through street. That is, if they can ever solve the long-time curse of this project: How to connect K Street to both Key Bridge and Canal Road, which differ in elevation by 60 feet, in so short a road length.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Condos - Not Just for Kids Anymore

DC's latest condo conversion isn't reaching for the coveted 20-something market, or even the 30-somethings. 40-somethings? Forgetaboutit. You'll need to be 62 to purchase at the Thomas Circle Residences, a refurbished senior living center at 1330 Massachusetts Ave., NW, offering both assisted-living and "independent senior living." Developed by the Carlyle Group and managed by McLean-based Sunrise Senior Living which manages an international portfolio of senior living centers; condos start at $262,000 for a studio and $669,000 for a 3-bedroom unit, with condos selling as the old units are renovated. While this venture is not a nursing home, an array of services is provided, from 24-hour nursing service to meal packages and free bus service, but health care doesn't come cheap: Condo fees start at $317 and service fees start at a belt-tightening $1300. And yes, federal law prohibiting age discrimination in housing says they can keep you young kids out - laws aren't written by 20-somethings.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Architect to Build New Takoma Condos

Sassan Gharai, of Bethesda-based SGA Architects, is designing and developing a new condominium to take shape in Takoma this Fall. Ecco Park will feature 85 units and 6000 s.f. of retail space in a 4-story building adjacent to the Metro, on a contaminated site now housing a truck rental facility and gas station. The infill project will incorporate green elements - such as a green roof and recyled products - but will not likely be LEED-certified. Patios or balconies are planned for a majority of units, as well as underground parking and exterior fenestration combining metal, stone, and glass; with sales to begin in September and groundbreaking this Fall. Gharai is currently building the Butterfield House on Capitol Hill which should deliver early next year.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Massive Redevelopment of Falkland Chase Apartments in Silver Spring Planned

It appears the Falkland Chase Apartments, the historic apartment community built in 1937 on 22 acres in downtown Silver Spring along the 16th Street - East-West Highway axis, is in for some major redevelopment. According to sources who attended an August 10th community meeting at the apartments and, plans call for the northern portion of the old Falkland Chase complex to be completely demolished, and ultimately the whole community will be redeveloped into biggest project ever in Silver Spring, totaling 1,050 apartment units (the complex now only holds 450 units) in a group of high-rises. In addition, it is expected that a major grocery store such as Harris Teeter will anchor a string of retail shops planned for the development. A timetable has yet to be announced, but between this project and the Gateway project in south Silver Spring at East-West Highway and Georgia Avenue, this area is quickly turning into a metropolis.

Silver Spring, Maryland commercial real estate news

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Air Force Memorial Tops Out

The Air Force Memorial in Arlington – those blue, twisting structures rising slowly near the Pentagon – achieves its final height on Friday with placement of the 14th out of the 15 blocks that will eventually comprise the three curling spires. Designed by the late James Freed of Pei, Cobb Freed, the monument is meant to evoke the wispy contrails of the Thunderbird bomb-burst formation. The 3 spires, now sheathed in blue wrap, will be revealed in the next few weeks to expose the stainless steel structures beneath. The tallest of the 3 spires will reach its maximum height of 270 feet on Friday with the placement of the 14th hollow block to top out the tallest of the structures. The $30m project, paid for through the Air Force Memorial Foundation by private donations, is being built by Centex construction and should be completed by late September, well in time for the October 14th dedication ceremony.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Centex Cityhomes Announces Silver Spring Project

Dallas-based Centex, known mainly for its suburban home communities, continues its foray into more urban condominium building by officially announcing its plans for the old auto-repair garage and lot at 1200 East-West Highway (across from the recently completed Silverton, just blocks from the metro stop. The project, called "Cityhomes at 1200 East-West," will likely contain a 14-story, mixed-use building, including 247 condos (ranging in size from 715 to 1365 sf) and approximately 10,600 square feet of retail space on the first floor. Centex purchased the property in May and will be starting construction this year; no sales date has yet been set. With the huge Gateway project underway across the street and development plans for 1200 Blair Mill Road, this south Silver Spring intersection will soon be bursting. The project should be ready in early 2008. Maybe this will give the city enough self- esteem to take down the "Silver Sprung" signs.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Cleveland Park Condo Gets ANC'ed

Bethesda-based Clark Realty Capital is planning to move forward with its condo development in the of Cleveland Park neighborhood of DC despite unanimous opposition by the local ANC. Clark has vetted plans before height-obsessed DC residents for a 5 to 6-story building at 2950 Tilden St., a site just off Connecticut Avenue that sits adjacent to Clark’s last project, the 9-story Connecticut, and a five-minute walk from two Metro stations, but has gotten a cool reception by the ANC for its "towering" height. The building would contain a maximum of 49 condo units in 87,500 s.f. of space. The Sorg & Assoc. design would start at two stories at street-level and step gradually up to 5 or 6 stories, culminating in a green roof with penthouse terraces. Clark expects a zoning decision in September and a ground-breaking in 2007.

Ft. Totten to See Major Mixed-Use Project

Lowe Enterprises has announced they intend to develop approximately 9 acres of land next to the Ft. Totten Metro station after having joined two local developers that recently purchased the land. The Metro station serves both the Red and Green lines but the area, isolated by the CSX lines that bisect the neighborhood, has seen no residential or commercial development - until now. The project is intended to add for-sale and rental housing and substantial retail space, though the composition of the development has not yet been finalized. Though the Metro stop is known more as a dot on the Metro map than a destination, Centex and Clark Realty Capital have both announced large projects nearby - making Ft. Totten the next Petworth (which is the next Columbia Heights - which is the next U Street). Clark's project, already begun, will provide several hundred rental units to the area.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Chianti Conversion?

Hard as it may be to envision, the possibility of a District without old standby A.V. Ristorante Italiano may soon come to pass. Months of whispers were proven true this week, when developer Douglas Jemal finally confirmed that he bought the Mount Vernon Square lot where A.V. now sits, for an undisclosed price, with plans to purchase the rest of this block on New York Avenue between Sixth and Seventh Streets NW (between the new Convention Center and the in-progress Yale Steam Laundry condo project) for conversion to office and retail space. A Washington institution, A.V. has been serving old-school red-sauced pasta and wine to regulars since 1949. The restaurant is expected to close in October 2007.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Monument Realty Cancels 2nd Condo

Monument Realty has confirmed they are abandoning their second large condo-conversion project in as many months, citing a strengthening of the rental market and a weakening of condo sales in certain submarkets. Sales at The Prime, a 256-unit building at 1452 N. Taft St. in Arlington, near the Courthouse Metro station, have been halted, and the building will return to its former status as an apartment building to be managed by Monument. The DC-based developer bought the 14-story, 4-year old apartment building last year, and began sales in February of this year, with approximately 50 of the units having received written contracts. The Prime was to have been completed by the end of the Summer. In June Monument canceled sales at the Park Center in Alexandria, a 571-unit conversion, of which only about 60 units ever sold. The developer still has five other projects – mostly conversions - actively selling in the area, including the famed Watergate Hotel, where 13 of the 96 planned coops have sold. Monument added that it sees “very strong condominium demand…in the medium to long term,” and that “buyers who are waiting for condominium prices to drop further may be surprised to see that they do not.”

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