Thursday, November 30, 2006

Community Groups Withdraw Opposition to H Street Project

It appears that the back-and-forth, neighborhood vs. developer dance that has been occurring over the proposed development planned for the 600 block of H Street NE has come to an end, with the community groups opposed to the project now stating they back the developer. H Street Ventures LLC is planning on turning 601-645 H Street NE into a 312,000-square-foot residential, retail and office complex valued at nearly $150 million. According to documents filed with the DC Board of Zoning Adjustments, the developer is hoping to build 240 residential units, with 13,000 sf of retail space and 180,000 sf of office space. The community’s concern focused on the nine-story building H Street Ventures was hoping to build between two existing buildings in this space, specifically its height and scale compared to the rest of the block, citing that it violated the H Street Overlay guidelines regulating the construction of buildings over 6,000 sf (thus necessitating a special exception). Hoping to quell community opposition and gain this exception, the developer worked with neighbors to reach consensus on a reconfigured, more pleasing scale for the building that adhered to all the other Overlay guidelines, and proved its exemption would not set a bad precedent for future construction on H Street. The DC Board of Zoning Adjustment still needs to decide by December 5 whether to grant the developer’s zoning relief request, but with opposition now quieted, this should be approved.

Corcoran Buys Randall School, Plans New Art Space and Apartments

Long the desire of many dreaming developers, the vacant Randall School at Half and I Streets in Southwest DC has finally found its future purpose. On Wednesday, the Corcoran Gallery of Art announced it has purchased the 80,000-sf building from the DC government for $6.2 million, and has hired Monument Realty to manage its renovation. The Corcoran, which has outgrown its home on 17th Street near the White House, envisions using half of the fixed-up school for studio, classroom, and display space for its larger-scale art collection, while converting the other half of the building into apartments. As part of its deal with the city, the Corcoran will offer some space in Randall to artists who used to lease space in the building. For this project, the Corcoran will sell Randall to Monument for $8.2 million, which will then manage the building. The Corcoran is donating its profit from the sale to the city’s public school modernization fund. As for the apartments, while numbers are not yet known, twenty percent of the units will be affordable housing.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A Different Shade of Green for Maryland

Following on the heels of DC's move two weeks ago to draft legislation requiring private buildings to implement energy-conservation measures by 2012, the Montgomery County Council is set to approve a bill that would approach the "greening" of construction a little differently, offering incentives such as tax-breaks and reduced building fees to those builders who comply with the news standards starting in 2008. The "Green Buildings" bill, which would make Montgomery County one of the most environmentally forward metro areas in the country, will apply to new and public buildings of 10,000 sf or more, and motivate developers to install low-flush toilets and build roofs using plant covers through a combination of reduced building fees and tax rebates.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Trailer Park – 1, Developer - 0

When looking across the Washington metropolitan region, it often seems the development of new residential and commercial projects, buildings, and neighborhoods is proceeding at an unprecedented pace, bringing with it the ongoing issue of how to ensure and protect affordable working-class housing for those either already living or working in this increasingly pricey region. A microcosm of this ongoing battle is playing out now in Fairfax, one of the country’s most affluent counties, where just last week residents of a long-standing, affordable mobile home community learned they won’t have to move to make way for a new high-priced town home development … for now. The Penn-Daw Mobile Home Park along Route 1 below Alexandria first learned of their imminent displacement in February 2005, when the owner of the park and a nearby shopping strip sold the land to developer JPI, which planned to build its $100 million Kings Crossing project (pictured), containing 872 residences and town homes, 215,000 square feet of retail, a 150-room hotel, and 160,000 square feet of office space over 33 acres. The residents of the park banded together to save their homes, or in the worst-case scenario to work for a fair financial outcome to ensure they could find new places to live. For the past year, the residents and JPI battled to find a workable solution, but just last week JPI decided not to move forward on its plans, citing a soft real estate market along with the inability to reach an agreement with the trailer park. The Penn-Daw residents are now contemplating ways to safeguard their homes for the future, whether it be working to buy the park themselves or having Fairfax protect it from development.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Silver Spring Transit Center Breaks Ground

On Monday, November 27, Montgomery County and other officials finally broke ground on the new Silver Spring Transit Center project, the $75 million transportation hub planned for the existing Silver Spring metro site. The center, which will be named in honor of retiring Senator Paul Sarbanes (pictured with other public officials at the groundbreaking ceremony), will transform the 5.7 acres in front of the metro station where the bus depot now is located (and across from the Discovery headquarters) into a three-level transportation center (the first two levels for buses, the third for metro’s Kiss and Ride, taxis, and some parking). The project will also feature two condominium buildings containing 450 units, a 200-room hotel, 25,000 sf of street-level retail, and a public plaza. The private development is being handled by Silver Spring Metro Center Partnership/Foulger-Pratt Development. Architecture by Zimmer, Gunsul and Frasca. The transit center is expected to be completed by Summer 2009.

Senior Condos Take Shape in Bethesda

Sunrise Senior Living Management has begun construction on its latest senior living condo project, a 323 unit complex at the junction of River Rd. and I-495 in Bethesda. Built on a 16-acre site that had been forested until construction began, Fox Hill will provide 240 condominium units built in semi-traditional Craftsman style, as well as 83 assisted-living rental units when the project is complete in the first quarter of 2008. Located adjacent to a golf course, Fox Hill will offer a putting green, spa and full concierge amenities, as well as an additional assisted-living center with 83 rental units and 24-hour nursing care. This is the fourth local project for McLean-based developer Sunrise, which claims itself as the largest provider of senior living services in the country and is concurrently developing the Residences at Thomas Circle in downtown DC. Fox Hill began sales of its units, which range from $450,000 to $1.6 million, in mid 2005 and reports that more than 50% of its condos have sold.

The project follows shortly on the heels of the closing of Canyon Ranch, the massive mixed-use project nearby that targeted seniors but failed to reach critical mass and pulled the plug in August of this year.

Friday, November 24, 2006

New Condominium to Open in Anacostia

Longwood Properties is planning to renovate a mid-century walk-up 2 blocks from the Congress Heights Metro Station and convert it into condos. Located near the redevelopment underway at Camp Simms, Congress Place is offering thirteen 1, 2 and 3 bedroom units; with 1-bedroom condos starting in the low $100's and 2-bedroom units to start at $175,000. This project joins a slate of redevelopment projects converting presently dilapidated buildings into small condo project, many of which have been gutted by time and need a full restoration. Sales to begin after Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Waterview Sales Office to Open in January

After many months of repeating the “coming soon!” mantra, it now appears that the sales office for Waterview – the massive office, hotel and condo project located at 19th and North Lynn Street in Rosslyn – will be ready for business in mid-January 2007. JBG started construction on this project in March 2005, and expects to complete it by the end of 2007. The first tower, which will be 29 stories and overlook the Potomac, will feature 136 luxury condos sitting above the 160-room Hotel Palomar. The 620,000 sf of office space in the second tower has already been leased. The two towers will be connected by a 4th-story terrace, which will feature 7,180 sf of retail, above the Rosslyn metro.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Plan for Old Convention Center Site Approved

Move over, Cirque du Soleil tents and bad public art – there is a big redevelopment plan ahead for the old DC Convention Center site. On Wednesday, November 21, the Deputy Mayor's Office of Planning and Economic Development, after months of community input, approved the master plan submitted by developers Archstone-Smith and Hines for a $650 million complex on this 10-acre site, containing 686 residential units, 415,000 sf of office space, and 280,000 sf of retail. In addition, over 100,000 sf of land is being reserved for a new DC library. The project will also contain 1,700 underground parking spots and a public plaza, plus feature the reconnecting of both 10th Street and I Street through the site. The project is anticipated to generate over 7,000 construction-period jobs and 5,217 permanent jobs, plus $30 million a year in new tax revenues. Construction is expected to begin in 2008. Additional renderings can be seen here.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Villages at Pepper Mill Project Breaks Ground in PG County

The Addison Road metro station will soon have a new neighbor (well, in 2010, that is), as developers Structures Unlimited and Foster Communities broke ground last week on The Villages at Pepper Mill, a $36 million residential project on the old Baber Village public housing site in Capitol Heights. The community will contain 96 townhouses on 20 acres, with sales expected to start in late 2007. The Villages at Pepper Mill will join the Icon, a 170-condo project near the metro at the intersection of Addison Road and Central Avenue that broke ground this past August.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Plans Announced for The Village at Leesburg Project

On November 16, Kettler and Cypress Equities officially announced their joint venture’s development plans for The Village at Leesburg, a major mixed-use project to be located along Route 7. According to plans, Kettler will handle the residential side of the project, providing 350 condos and building a 300-home adult residential community. Meanwhile, Cypress will develop 464,000 sf of retail, including a Wegmans grocery store and restaurants, and 200,000 sf of office space. Kettler may also oversee construction of additional office space and a hotel. A major selling point with the town and Loudoun County is the developers’ commitment to build a new highway interchange and overpass at the intersection of Route 7 and River Creek Parkway. Construction is expected to start in Spring 2007.

Eckington Fairfield Residential Project Now Off?

Despite earlier reports that groundbreaking would start in June 2007, it now appears that Fairfield Residential and CSX Realty Development will not be pursuing their $150 million mixed-use development at Eckington Place and Harry Thomas Way, NE. Word on the neighborhood Bloomingdale blog is that CSX has decided to not sell the land for this project. The development, to be located on 4.3 acres across the street from XM Satellite Radio and north of the Fedex center just off the intersection of New York and Florida Avenues, was to feature three buildings containing up to 675 condo units, 15,000 sf of retail, and almost 800 parking spaces, with about 70 of the units reserved for workforce housing. The project was to also extend Q Street NE through the project, and connect it to the nearby Metropolitan Branch Trail (which travels under New York Avenue and then becomes elevated over Florida Avenue alongside the Red Line tracks). 

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Congress Grants Approval to Federal Land Transfer to DC


The gears of legislative process grind forward, and fans of soccer and baseball (and development!) should feel some joy. On November 16, the US Senate approved legislation (the House ok’d it earlier this month) that will transfer dozens of Federal land lots located in the District to the DC government, including title to 100-acre Poplar Point (pictured) across the Anacostia, considered to be the site for DC United’s new soccer stadium and additional development, and smaller properties along Potomac Avenue that will make up part of the new Nationals baseball stadium complex. Also included in the transfer are 66 acres around the old DC General Hospital at Massachusetts Avenue and 19th Street SE that are targeted for a new major development featuring housing, retail, and parks. Besides gaining this land for economic development, it will also bring in needed tax revenue, as the Feds didn’t pay property tax on the lots.

DC to Developers: Be Green

If legislation just drafted by the DC Council is approved next month, Washington might soon become the model for major cities looking to become more environmentally and energy friendly. The new bill would initially require all new DC-owned projects (offices, schools, housing, etc.) between 2007 and 2009 to meet “green” standards, with this requirement extended after 2009 to all building receiving more than 20% percent public financing. By 2012, DC will require every new commercial building over 50,000 sf to meet the green guidelines. This would mark the first time a major city has required private developers to follow green standards. “Green” requirements (which are defined by the Green Building Council) include such things as using recycled materials, placing plantings on roofs to help with water run-off and temperature control, more walking-friendly designs, etc. Those opposed to such a measure claim it will greatly add to constructions costs. However, supporters assert it would be much less, plus there are savings in the long term with more conservation-oriented designs. Now only if these green designs and plantings could absorb all the hot air emissions coming from Capitol Hill....

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Our Long National(s) Nightmare is Over...

Well, until something else comes up, that is. But it appears a major step has been taken forward in the ongoing saga of parking next to the National’s new ballpark in Southwest DC. On November 14, the DC Council finally approved legislation that would put two three-story, free-standing parking structures north of the stadium (and one two-story structure south of it) in time for its opening in Spring 2008. This vote overruled the DC Zoning Commission’s ruling this past July banning such a parking solution, finding it would harm economic development in the area. Back when the ballpark project was first announced and everything was smiles and roses, soon-to-be-ex Mayor Williams envisioned a below-grade parking solution to allow for mixed-use development above the garage as part his Anacostia revitalization plans, and went so far as to reach an agreement with developer Herb Miller to build two 13-story condo towers on the site (this fell through in September when DC Sports and Entertainment objected about the project’s financing). However, the Lerner family – the new Nationals owners - wanted less expensive free-standing, above-ground parking, as they feared a more ambitious plan wouldn't be ready in time. In the end, Mayor-to-be Fenty pushed forward the Lerner plan. The vote this week at least solves what was shaping up to be a major headache - the city is required to provide 1,225 parking spaces by March 1, 2008 or face heavy penalties. One can only hope that the same efforts placed into this parking situation will be put into building a winning baseball team – if so we’ll have some World Series victories coming.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

JBG Begins Construction on Capitol Hill Office Building

JBG has begun construction on its newest office project at 300 New Jersey Ave., NW, located across from the U.S. Capitol and bordered by New Jersey Avenue, First and D Streets. 300 New Jersey Avenue will be a 10-story, 255,000 s.f. office building adjacent to JBG’s 51 Louisiana Avenue, a 5-story office building built in 1935. The two buildings will be connected by a glass and steel 9-story atrium capped with a trapezoidal skylight and interconnected by platforms and bridges that will resolve the differing building heights. The project will offer 9 foot ceilings and floor to ceiling glass along the perimeter walls with Capitol views when finished in 2009. Designed by London-based Richard Rogers Partnership (RRP), its third in the United States. In late 2005, Richard Rogers Partnership was selected to develop 3 World Trade Center in downtown Manhattan.

In March of 2006, JBG leased approximately 150,000 s.f. of the building to Jones Day, one of the world’s largest law firms and currently occupies the adjacent building. Clark Construction Group of Bethesda, Maryland, has been selected as the project’s general contractor. Dallas, Texas based HKS is the architect of record.

JBG is very active in the greater DC market with condominiums, apartments and office buildings, nearing completion on its Waterview project in Rosslyn with 160 hotel rooms, 620,000 s.f. of office space and 136 luxury condos, as well as its Marriott Wardman project, and just beginning its project to renovate and convert the 1300-room hotel in Woodley Park into condos and apartments.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Historic St. Elizabeths Hospital to Get Makeover

Last week, District planning officials finally completed their proposal for what to do with the well-known St. Elizabeths Hospital site in Southeast Washington, announcing that they intend to clear way for 2 million sf of office space, retail, and high-end apartments. The St. Elizabeths campus site - designated a National Historic Landmark – consists of mostly vacant, poorly maintained 19th century terra cotta buildings (many of these will be preserved). It is located next to the Congress Heights metro, and is poised to be the centerpiece in this rapidly revitalizing area. The District owns about half of this vacant site (the federal government owns the rest, and is planning to move the Coast Guard HQ and DHS offices to this location). The District, once the proper zoning has been approved, would like to develop the site in gradual phases, starting in 2008 with the construction of 260,000 sf of office and 150,000 of residential in the section closest to the metro station. The rest of the development would take place over the following decade. No word yet if an apartment will be saved for former St. E resident John Hinckley Jr.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Navy Makes Way for Peace on the Mall

A new building with a lighted, wing-like roof will soon loom over the Capital Mall near the Lincoln Memorial, if recently submitted designs are approved. The United States Institute for Peace (USIP) received preliminary approval by the National Capital Planning Commission last week for plans to build its headquarters at 23rd and Constitution Avenue, NW, conditioned on the building's aesthetic deferral to the Lincoln Memorial one block to the south. Designed by Moshe Safdie of Massachusetts, the Institute would stand 118 feet at its highest point - about 10 stories - though grading around the site will diminish the scale of the project, with a precast concrete skin and capped by a series of "undulating spherical and toroidal segments" made of white translucent glass that will be lighted after dark. The Federal Government has appropriated $99.2m for development on the southern corner of the Naval Potomac Annex, which currently uses the space for parking, in exchange USIP will provide 140 garage parking spaces to the Navy. The Commission on Fine Arts has already approved the concept, but several commissioners voiced strong concern about the lighting overshadowing the monuments or overwhelming the Mall.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Southwest Waterfront Project Hits Rough Seas

It was all smiles and seemingly smooth sailing ahead in early October, when the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation (AWC) announced the DC-based venture of PN Hoffman and Struever Brothers Eccles & Rouse as the winning team for its $800 million project to develop the 47 acres along the Southwest waterfront into "maritime-themed" housing and retail. But now comes word that this much-watched project might be running aground over questions regarding transfer of the land, now owned by the National Capital Revitalization Corp. (NCRC), to the AWC. The NCRC states it was promised incentives by DC for the land transfer, including $25 million in cash, $25 million in land parcels along Georgia Avenue, and 25 acres at the McMillan Reservoir site, while the DC Council is now only promising the McMillan land – a deal not acceptable to the NCRC. Legislation is expected to be introduced in the DC Council this week to end the stalemate. But even if this succeeds, the AWC is also dealing with demands by JBG Cos., a developer bypassed in the selection process but which controls half of the development site via its venture with two existing businesses on the site. JBG is asking the PN Hoffman team to negotiate with it and be involved with this development project – something the winning team is bristling at doing. The AWC is trying to find a workable solution to this unexpected headache. Stay tuned for the results...

Update: On November 7, the DC Council’s Economic Development Committee passed legislation resolving the land swap issue. Under this bill, the NCRC will transfer its waterfront land to the AWC in exchange for the $25 million, the other DC land parcels, and 25 acres of the McMillan site. The full council is not expected to vote on this bill – which may still be altered - until November 14.

College Park Approves New Mixed-Use Project

Last week, the College Park (MD) City Council voted unanimously to approve a mixed-used development proposed by JPI Management for the intersection of Route 1 and Cherokee Street that would include 160 condo units, a 4,000-sf gym, and 35,000 sf of retail, all surrounded by 45 townhouses. This development was at first rejected in 2005 when presented to the Prince George’s County Council, which expressed concern that the original plans for a residential-only project did not conform to the College Park’s master plan for Route 1. However, JPI’s reconfiguration of the project to a mixed-use development has dissipated this opposition. JPI has also agreed to provide shuttle bus service for residents of this development through 2010 to help ease congestion along Route 1. Construction is expected to begin in early 2007, with a completion date of early 2008.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Canal Park Advances Near Ballpark


The National Capital Planning Commission gave approval this week to the design concept for Canal Park in Southeast DC, a gritty piece of land near the new ballpark currently used to store school buses. The current plans, paid for with a grant by the National Endowment for the Arts, will encompass three full city blocks between I and M Streets, and between Canal and 2nd Streets. The District government, which currently owns the site, will transfer the land to the Anacostia Waterfront Commission for development and maintenance. The park will be broken up by K and L Streets, but the AWC will take steps to make the park more pedestrian-friendly, including narrowing the streets from 34 feet to 28 feet and adding raised crosswalks. The park will feature an amphitheater on the South side along M Street, a boardwalk along the western edge and large, open green space, but its most prominent attribute will be its water theme, with aquatic gardens fed from storm run-off and water attractions accessible to the public. Design of the park is intended to evoke the canal that used to run across the site, connecting the Anacostia River to the National Mall.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Macy Announces New Project on U Street

Macy Development has announced the development of a new project at 1900 Vermont Avenue, called Evanti Row, that will renovate 10 existing rowhomes for residential occupancy when the project is complete in late 2007. Prices are expected to start in the $700k's. Designed by Zahn Architects, sales will likely start in early 2007. Evanti Row is named after Madam Evanti, the first internationally-renowned black opera singer, who hailed from the neighborhood. Macy is currently working on several other DC projects, including the Basilica Lofts, The Gaslight and The Venetian.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Sales Begin for Abdo’s Wooster and Mercer Lofts Project

After many months of waiting, Abdo Development, LLC, officially announced on November 1 that it has started sales for its Wooster and Mercer Lofts project at Clarendon Blvd. and Queen Street in Arlington. The Mercer Lofts building will house 34 condo units averaging about 1,500 sf, while its sister building Wooster Lofts will contain 53 units. Both brick structures will feature 17-foot ceilings and floating stairs, penthouses with 21-foot high living spaces, private roof terraces, and underground parking and storage. There will also be a garden pool between the buildings. Pricing begins in the $500,000s and goes up to $2 million. Delivery is expected by early 2007.

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