Friday, August 31, 2007

Old Town Loft Gets Virginia's First "Green" Ranking

Old Town Alexandria condos developmentThe United State Green Building Council (USGBC) today awarded Developer William Cromley its first LEED- certification for a condominium in the state of Virginia. Cromley Lofts was awarded "Gold" Status by the industry’s governing body for its sustainable design, the first building in Alexandria to be certified as ‘green’ and the first such condominium anywhere in the state. Cromley Lofts is a new eight-unit condominium, an adaptive re-use of a century-old warehouse in the center of Old Town Alexandria.

As we reported last Spring, the Lofts were Designed and built by William Cromley, retaining most of their historic structure and original features that make them worthy of the "loft" moniker, in an era where the term is thrown around loosely, and include warehouse-sized windows and original curved wooden support beams. Cromley supplemented the project with historic, if not original, construction material, including wood floors fashioned from centuries-old heart pine culled from the aged timbers of a dismantled Georgian textile mill, making the floors possibly older than the city in which they sit. In sync with loft style of New York, Cromley Lofts adds modern features to accentuate the architecture and history, with all-glass tiled showers, double stainless ovens in the kitchens and bamboo cabinets. The sales Grand Opening will take place in September.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification is a third party verification process created by the USGBC in 2000 to promote the cause of green building. Green features taken into account at Cromley Lofts include proximity to Metro, vegetated green roof to reduce ambient air temperature and runoff, water-sparing plumbing fixtures, highly efficient heating and cooling mechanisms, non-CFC based refrigerants, use of salvaged, reused or rapidly renewable building materials, use of low VOC materials, built-in bike storage, interior design to maximize natural light, and double the required insulation, to name just a few. Says Cromley, "Green design is dynamic and beautiful, it isn't tie-dye and yurts anymore." The "Gold" level awarded is the 2nd highest designation, which run, in order, certified, silver, gold and platinum.

William Cromley has an architectural legacy in the neighborhood's homes, many of which he designed and built to work within the historic framework of Old Town's architectural heritage, an accomplishment that moved Alexandria to name an Old Town street in his honor. Sales and marketing by DCRE.

Washington DC real estate and retail news

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Senate Square Closes Sales Office, Temporarily


After months on the gossip wagon (whatever that even is), the Towers at Senate Square will be closing its offices - at least temporarily. According to the sales office, Broadway's ambitious development - 432 condominiums in two 12-story towers - has paused with the closing of the sales office, effective today. New York-based Broadway began selling the units in September of 2005, and had reportedly sold about 150 market rate units before making the decision to take them off the shelf to evaluate "refinancing" of the project. Sales had been "temporarily halted" weeks ago when the developer paused sales in order to 'adjust its pricing'; upward, they have been saying, but kept the sales office open, now the sales office will remain closed until September 24, according to the sales staff. Broadway had been accepting but not ratifying contracts in the interim, leading to speculation that the project would change in scope. The pair of buildings are expected to complete in November.

The Towers, located adjacent to the Amtrak line on H Street, has been offering no shortage of amenities, including an 80' rooftop lap pool, green roofs, running track, and concierge, all within a gated community. Broadway has been one of the few residential pioneers on the booming corridor, but numerous residential and commercial projects are in the offing on H Street, which itself will be eclipsed by the volume of construction immediately to the north and west in NoMa.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Southwest Office Block to be Redeveloped

Southwest DC doesn't get the redevelopment spotlight much, its safe to say. Sure, there are always plans, but nothing much seems to happen. This month, however, one of its many '60's era buildings began a four-year redevelopment project, turning one of the largest middle-aged federal office buildings into an environmentally-conscious, modern piece of real estate. Renamed "Constitution Center", the 2.1m s.f. office building at 400 7th St., SW, (occupying the full block between 6th & 7th, D & E Sts.) has now begun renovation to bring it into the 21st century. Massachusetts-based owner David Nassif Associates has hired K Street-based SmithGroup, the nation's 6th largest architecture and engineering firm, to redesign the heavy edifice into a more transparent and contemporary structure. The new design will include LEED (green) building techniques, though the developers have not yet committed to seeking LEED certification, as well as floor-to-ceiling glass curtainwall, laminated insulated glass, and (this being Washington), a more "blast-resistant" exterior. The open courtyard will become a "heavily landscaped private courtyard", says David Varner, the lead architect on the project.

The finished product - sometime in early 2011 - will offer 1.4m s.f. of above-grade office space (no retail space is planned), 15 acres of underground parking - the largest private underground parking in the city - and installation of the largest "chilled beam" HVAC system in the country, which is a very good thing, we're pretty sure, since they've apparently been using it in Europe for years. James G. Davis Construction is performing the work. The Department of Transportation, the last occupant, vacated the property in June.

Constitution Center (the Nassif Building) dates back to 1970, when it first opened, designed by none other than Edward Durrell Stone, who designed a number of local office buildings and was accused of designing the Kennedy Center. Architect SmithGroup also designed the Chesapeake Bay Foundation building in Annapolis, and the first Platinum LEED-certified (the highest level) federal building, in Colorado. No tenants have yet queued up for the project.

David Nassif Associates won the right to develop the site in the mid-60's in an RLA (Redevelopment Land Agency) competition, says Varner, because the land was considered "blighted" under the NCPC Comprehensive Plan, having been vacant at the time. Much of the land nearby developed at that time had replaced old neighborhoods, demolished in the spirit of 'urban renewal' and to make way for the never-completed inner beltway, the only completed portion of which became the Southwest Expressway.

Washington DC real estate and retail news

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Uline Arena to Get the Douglas Touch

The has-been Uline Arena is once more, thanks to Douglas Development. The old skating rink, located at the corner of 2nd & M Streets, NE, adjacent to the Amtrak lines, seems to have been used for just about everything, but as we reported last year, developer Douglas Jemal of Douglas Development purchased the property back in 2004 with the intention of making it a thoroughly modern mixed-used facility, including condos and office space. Now the Washington Business Journal reports that Jemal has teamed up with the Wilkes Company to develop the area. Wilkes owns the land on the north side of M, and the two will apparently work in concert to develop the properties. Wilkes is the midst of redeveloping a sizable chunk of Mt. Vernon Triangle, with Madrigal Lofts, The Sonata (now complete), and Mount Carmel all on its resume.

Jemal, love him or hate him, has been the force and inspiration behind much of DC's development, including Cleveland Park and Penn Quarter, and most notably the new Convention Center. Counting cranes in the area may soon become hard to do, with the new Marriott scheduled for construction soon, the recent groundbreaking of Union Place at 1st and K, MRP's $350m Washington Gateway project at the intersection of New York and Florida, Constitution Square on 1st Street, the New Yorker going in soon one block south of the Uline Arena, and of course the massive would-be development of the Florida Avenue market and Burnham Place, Akridge's long-term plan to build above the tracks north of Union Station.

Friday, August 24, 2007

14th & U Corner Gets an Upgrade


The long-vacant lot and deteriorating building on the northeast corner of 14th and U Streets in northwest DC - one of the few development holdouts on trendy U Street - will finally be developed; the owner plans a retail center that will connect both properties when completed later this year. The longtime owner of the building is renovating the historic façade on the corner, with only slight changes to the exterior, and constructing a new building on the vacant lot that abuts it on the north side. The new building will have three floors with over 10,000 square feet, and both buildings will be dedicated entirely to retail, and expects the pair to be ready for leasing by October. Bochle & Gates Architects designed the new space, the leasing agent says that none of the space has yet been rented, and that they are working to get a restaurant to occupy the ground floor.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

DC Bureaucrat Seeks Rich, Ambitious, Type-A Developer for LTR

Hard working DC bureaucrat, ISO experienced, rich masochistic-type for long term relationship.
The Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development has issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) for Poplar Point, the mostly vacant site along the eastern banks of the Anacostia River in Ward 8. DC's purpose in issuing the RFEI is to "identify highly qualified developers who have the creative vision, demonstrated experience and organizational and financial capability and capacity to plan, construct and potentially operate a world-class mixed-use development and waterfront park."

Developers whose only experience includes conversions of 4-unit apartment buildings into condos need not apply - Poplar Point is expected to become a residential, commercial, cultural, and recreational development - 130 acres in all - with one mile of Waterfront, one of the key sites in the District’s $10 billion Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, with the potential for a soccer stadium, and sitting directly across from the new baseball stadium to boot.

Despite its location just across the river from the new stadium and a short drive to the Capitol Building, with views of the downtown skyline and monuments, Poplar Point is "an underutilized and isolated" collection of federal facilities, according to the District. The District’s vision for the redevelopment is embodied in the Anacostia Waterfront Framework Plan and includes "high-quality development, an emphasis on urban waterfront life, a commitment to environmental stewardship and the preservation of community character that fully engages local residents, community groups and other stakeholders..." Interested suitors should have thick skin too, as if working with the aforementioned groups won't get contentious enough, neighbors have already protested the "upscale" nature of the project, contending that hotels, conference centers and stadiums will not provide services they need, or will be able to afford.

The Anacostia Waterfront Initiative eventually proposes new parks, trails, housing, retail, office space and cultural amenities over the next 20 years, connecting residents of nearby Barry Farm, Hillsdale, Fairlawn and Historic Anacostia to the river.

Responses to this RFEI are due by October 19, 2007 at 12 pm. The District expects to select a development partner before the end of the year.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Bethesda's Auburn Avenue Project Approved


The Montgomery County Planning Board has unanimously approved plans submitted by Auburn Building Associates LP, for Auburn Avenue, a condominium project to be located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Auburn Avenue and Norfolk Avenue in Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle - across the street from Imagination Stage. The approved plans call for a 126,000-s.f., nine-story building featuring 60 residential units (nine being moderately priced dwelling units),19,000 s.f. of office space, and 12,000 s.f. of retail (with DCmud hoping the Italian deli now at this location finds a home in new the building). There will also be a two-story, below ground parking space for 140 vehicles. Although final renderings of the project have not been released, initial designs included extensive use of glass along the northeastern perimeter of the building. Bethesda-based SK&I is designing the building.

The developer, which has already announced that DC artist Mindy Weisel will create an oxidized green copper structure for the façade of the building, hopes to have the final site plan and all project specifics ready around the end of the year. The county had approved the project up to 110 feet, but the developer is planning to cap the project at 90 feet. The site is currently occupied by two and three story office buildings.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

New Yorker Back on Track

Back in 2005, plans for the New Yorker condos had raised hopes for more revitalization in a struggling section of Northeast DC when developer KL Associates announced its intention to build a 44-unit condominium at 300 L Street, but shovels never quite hit dirt. Now the developer says it plans to pick up on the long-stalled project, rescaling the project from 44 to 32 units (the image below is the old version) in a ‘condo townhouse’ style, with Zahn Design taking over from Hickok Cole as project architect in a complete redesign of the size and scope of the project. The project will still take up the entire street front between Abbey and 3rd St., on the north side of L Street.

KL hopes to break ground by early 2008; the city has already given approval to remove the existing warehouse on site but the developer does not have immediate plans to begin demolition. Larry McAdoo of KL Associates scrapped the original design because construction costs, including the steel and concrete to be used in the first design, had been too high to support the project. The new design will utilize a wood frame with brick exteriors, according to McAdoo. A larger unit size, averaging from 1000 to 1500 s.f., will also replace small units envisioned in the first go-round, though a greater number of units would be permitted, thus allowing the townhouse style, which McAdoo says is more in keeping with the "Capitol Hill style" architecture. An additional bonus will of course be the massive office space of NoMa being built just a few blocks to the west, an area that - back in 2005 - was just a vast wasteland, with a forgotten bus depot and a few vague promises about redevelopment.

Washington DC real estate and retail news

Friday, August 17, 2007

Portico Condo Springs to Life

Portico condo Silver Spring Patriot Group
With excavation mostly complete, construction is getting ready to begin on the Portico, a new condominium in the center of Silver Spring. The 151-unit building had long been planned for the vacant lot on Fidler Lane, between Cubano's restaurant and McDonald's, but was halted when neighbors in an adjacent new development complained (typical) about the density and parking. The Patriot Group purchased in the land in 2003, anticipating starting prices to be around $200k, but the controversy slowed the project and the developer eventually agreed to sell the pre-construction plans to Centex. Centex in turn pulled the plug on most of its urban projects, including the Portico, as well as Scene (Arlington), 1200 East-West Highway (Silver Spring), Pavilions at Huntington Metro (Alexandria), and Pavilions at Takoma Metro (DC).

Silver Spring commercial property AR Meyers, Centex, Patriot GroupThe project has been approved by the county and excavation is now underway, the Patriot Group anticipates completion in late 2009. Located just a short walk to the Metro in Silver Spring's central business district, the new condo is being designed by Silver Spring-based AR Meyers & Associates as entirely residential, no retail, which the developer states is prohibited by zoning code.

Silver Spring commercial real estate news

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Flats at Blagden Alley Back to Life

When we last visited the Flats at Blagden Alley in July 2006, developer Walnut Street Development had canceled sales of the condo project before breaking ground, with sources saying only one of the 45 units had gone under contract, with the developer stating a likelihood of pursuing residential rental space in the near future. The Flats are indeed coming back, again as condos, but this time as ‘affordable’, to be built by North Carolina-based Self Help, a non-profit whose mission is to “create ownership and economic opportunity for minorities, women, rural residents, and low-wealth families.”

The Flats will front M St., the alley and 9th St., one block from the Convention Center in the heart of Shaw and directly across from the Whitman. WSD’s version, designed by Eric Colbert, had been priced from the high $200’s to the $800’s; the new plan calls for one-bedroom units to start in the upper $100’s to mid $300’s, with target incomes from the mid $30,000’s to the mid $80,000’s. The original project was designed to be a mix of 45 residential condos, ground floor retail, artist lofts, and office space for associations and small businesses; the revised plan calls for 49 one-bedroom condos and 14 two-bedroom condos. Self Help says it expects completion in late 2008.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Residential Units for Hilton Washington?

As a part of a larger hotel revitalization project, the Hilton Washington, north of Dupont Circle, could be seeing residential units in the near future. After buying the Hilton for $290 million in May, L.A.-based Lowe Enterprises Inc. and Beverly Hills-based Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds LLC are considering adding a yet-to-be-determined number of residential units to the 1,119-room hotel.

Harmar Thompson, Senior Vice President of Lowe Enterprises said developers are in the process of doing the initial schematic design and massing. He added, “We haven’t formalized anything yet; we are going through detailed work with the community and the Office of Planning.” According to Thompson, more details, including a decision on condos vs. apartments and number of units, will be announced in September.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

NOMA Waitin' for First Residential Building

The Cohen Companies’ Union Place, the first of several residential buildings planned for the NOMA Business Improvement District (BID), held their ceremonial groundbreaking this week. At the project’s completion, the development will include 700 residential units two blocks from both Union Station and the New York Avenue Metro Station at 3rd and K Streets, NE.

Designed by Bethesda-based GTM Architects, the project will be built in two phases; the first, named the “Loree Grand” after Loree Murray, a neighborhood leader and activist, is slated for completion in mid 2009 and will include 212 apartments in a 10-story structure, some of which will be voluntarily designated as affordable workforce housing by the developer. Though not bound by the affordable housing requirements that accompany deals with the DC government, the developer has allocated 11 percent of all apartment homes as affordable. Phase one will also deliver an interior public courtyard, "green" roof, childcare center, fitness center, 4,000 s.f. of retail space, and underground parking that will allow one space per unit. Phase two is planned to raise the height to 14 stories. Rick Conrath, principal of GTM and project architect, says the K Street frontage will allow an attractive street presence, with wide sidewalks permitting a generous separation between vehicular and pedestrian traffic; conforming to DC's vision of the avenue as a walkable boulevard with cafes and shopping.

At the completion of both phases, the project will have seven different floor plans that range from junior one-bedroom units starting at 516 s.f., to two-bedroom-plus-den units of more than 1,400 s.f., as well as an indoor/outdoor swimming pool opening onto the courtyard. Cohen has acquired 42 separate properties and is in good company among other large-scale developments likely to begin soon, including Archstone Smith’s project at 1st and M, and MRP Realty’s Gateway Project at the intersection of New York and Florida Avenues.

Elizabeth Price, President of the NOMA BID, tells DCMud that almost 3 million s.f. of development will break ground in the now-vacant neighborhood by the end of the year, including the neighborhood’s first hotel, the Courtyard by Marriott. Plans for a grocery store are also in the works, the name of which has not yet been announced.

With 1500 rental apartment planned for next year, Price noted, “Everything that is planned as residential in NOMA for the next 6-12 months is rental, which is not a surprise given the condo market. The first phases are planned as apartments, but many have second phases that may change to condos.”

The seventh in the District, the NOMA BID was established in March and is bounded by Massachusetts Ave. on the South, North Capitol Street on the West and Q and R Streets on the North. It extends beyond the CSX/Metrorail tracks on the East.

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