Tuesday, September 30, 2008

DC Signs Agreement with SW Developer

Deputy Mayor Neil Albert and PN Hoffman CEO Monty Hoffman today signed a noteworthy Land Disposition Agreement (LDA) enabling Hoffman- Struever Waterfront LLC, the developer selected last January, to move forward with plans to bring 2 million square feet of mixed-use development to the Southwest Waterfront.

Entitled by the LDA to “master developer” status, Hoffman-Struever will now be allowed to name, design and develop the $1.8 billion (including $198 million in publicly financed assets) project with little government direction. Deputy Mayor Albert, via a press release issued by PN Hoffman, described the project as “a true public-private partnership.”

The same statement outlined the developer’s intentions to make the site a “world class mixed-use waterfront destination” with public parks, three hotels, a Maritime Center, commercial office space, retail outlets, and more than 700 housing units. Hoffman envisions the site as serving as the missing link between the Baseball District and "revitalized M Street corridor" and the National Mall. In all, the project will encompass 26 acres of land and another 25 of marina area.

Still, any construction at the site is years off. The LDA is essentially the developer's contract to purchase; the city will not be able to transfer the massive parcel to Hoffman-Struever until 2011, at the earliest. The City Council must still vote on the LDA, which will get its first vetting at hearings on October 6th before the Committee on Economic Development. The Mayor's office expects a vote on the subject by November. Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut & Kuhn was named the master architect in June of last year, officially making the team - officially comprised of PN Hoffman, Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse, McCormack Baron Salazar, ER Bacon, Acresh, Gotham, City Partners and Triden - the most unpronouncable development team on the east coast.

Georgetown Neighborhood Library Rising from the Ashes

DC Public Library - Georgetown library rebuilds after the fire
The District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL) this morning held a pre-BID conference in the gutted interior of the Georgetown Neighborhood Library (GNL), which suffered severe fire damage in April of 2007. Full funding for the project has already been allotted by the DC government, but designs for proposed renovations and additions by architects Martinez & Johnson are still months away from completion. Georgetown Library after the fire

In the meantime, DCPL and the construction manager for the project, Smoot Construction, are now offering contractors three different BID "packages" that can get underway in the coming weeks: hazardous material removal, historic salvage and protection, and supply of site facilities. Following final approval of the architectural designs, Smoot projects that 14-25 more packages will be advertised to facilitate a spring 2010 reopening. Library officials went on to assure the construction representatives in attendance that any current litigation pending against the DCPL will in no way affect the timetable or funds assigned to the project.

Proposed modifications to the original 1930s building include an addition to the library’s firstGeorgetown Library - DC commercial real estate news floor, new stairways, elevators and internal systems, demolition of several existing walls, and the complete refurbishment of fire-damaged library accoutrements. Historic wood Washington DC commercial real estate for salefixtures on site will be removed and restored off-site, while the library’s basement will also be reconfigured into a more user-friendly space. Luckily, the building’s facade suffered only minimal damage - the library’s concrete and steel skeleton and masonry walls rendered it essentially fireproof – and will not need significant restoration.

The initial cause of the 2007 fire was chalked up to faulty wiring. Capitol Hill's Eastern Market, which notoriously also caught fire on the very same day as the GNL, received $2 million to rebuild from the DC government two weeks ago.

Georgetown real estate news 

Monday, September 29, 2008

Residential "Village" Springing Up in Arlington

This coming fall, Silver Spring-based hotel and golf course developer Sunburst Hospitality will open its first residential project, Vista on Courthouse, in Arlington's Courthouse District. The development sports a blend of townhomes, duplexes and apartments two blocks from the Courthouse Metro station.
Construction at the former Quality Inn site began in the summer of 2007, after languishing for more than 2 years after receiving the go-ahead from the Arlington County Board. Two hotel structures on the site were razed to make way for the new WDG-designed, 11-story, 507,735-square foot tower. Vista will feature 252 rental apartments - with 14 reserved for affordable housing - and floorplans ranging from 1100 to 2400 square feet apiece. In addition to rental units, the developer has also inserted 24 brick facade townhomes, 4 duplexes and 7 “plank townhomes” into the grounds that will go on sale upon completion of the project. Coming in at a cost of $88.5 million, Vista will feature an in-house movie theater and bar, a fitness center, game room, outdoor pool and park.
While the project at 1200 North Courthouse Road is not seeking LEED certification, its website features a laundry list of features labeled “green” - including its “Metro-centric” location and storm water recycling system. Another highlight of the design: a supremely-private, 3-story underground parking area that features direct access to individual units from self-contained, closed door garages – much like one would find adjoining any home in the suburbs. This touch - coupled with sidewalks and private streets - is part of the developer’s strategy to create a “village” atmosphere in the middle of downtown Rosslyn. Construction on the project is being handled by the Donohoe Construction Company.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

11th Street Brimming with New Condos

One stretch of Shaw just got a little bit more crowded. At present, there is not one, not two, but three competing condominium developments vying for dominance on a two block stretch of 11th Street NW: the Logan Park by the Murillo/Malnati Group (MMG), the Renaissance at Logan by Habte Sequar and, most recently, Providence Eleventh Street Lofts by Willco Residential. As we’ll explore below, all are highly comparable, so what makes this more than just a choice between apples…and more apples?

The Logan Park, located at 1616 11th Street NW, is a 16-unit “European-designed” boutique building and the oldest project on the block. Despite being completed in spring of this year, 4 units in the building remain unsold and unoccupied. The 5-story structure designed by Lucarelli, Montes & Wells features a shared green roof, a parking garage, on-site storage and boasts a location only blocks from the Metro. Prices are advertised as beginning at $299,000, but don’t let that title fool you; although it bears the Logan name, the project is located firmly with the boundaries of Shaw proper.

Right next door to (and in direct competition with) the Logan Park stands the Renaissance at Logan at 1618 11th Street NW. Although priding itself on catering towards the “urban buyer,” the 16-unit building (not unsurprisingly) features many of the same amenities as its neighbor, including the ever-popular common area roof terrace, the same Metro-oriented location and, of course, the Logan nametag. The prices, however, are similar, but somewhat divergent – units at the Renaissance start at $315,000.

Then there’s the new kid on the block, the Providence. The 4-story Willco Residential project, located at 1515 11th Street NW, currently has all 8 units in the renovated 1920’s space on the market via Coldwell Banker. Named for the street car line that used to run down 11th, the Providence is offering 1 or 2-bedroom lofts that range from 840 to 1550 square feet. The project was built out by McCullough Construction and also sports prices in the low $300,000 range.

So there you have it: 28 condo units waiting to be snapped up on either side of Rhode Island Avenue NW. Given the recent developments in the condo market (and beleaguered progress for Shaw itself) only time will tell if 11th Street will come out of this a new hotspot or real estate deep freeze. Let the price wars begin…

Friday, September 26, 2008

Its Fun to Dig at the Y-M-C-A

map: Groundreaking of Anthony Bowen YMCA - Perseus Realty and Capmark Investments, design by Davis Carter ScottMayor Fenty, Councilmember Jim Graham, ANC chairman Dee Hunter and numerous YMCA officials today attended the groundbreaking of a new mixed-use development at 14th and W Streets NW, the current site of the YMCA Anthony Bowen.Groundreaking of Anthony Bowen YMCA - Perseus Realty and Capmark Investments, design by Davis Carter Scott The 263,000 square foot project is being developed by Perseus Realty LLC in conjunction with Capmark Investments LP and the minority owned DC-based FLGA Real Estate Group. The $97 million development, entitled 14W, will include the construction of 231 rental apartments (including 18 affordable), a new 46,000 square foot YMCA and 12,200 square feet of retail space. Designs for the project by Davis Carter Scott and Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum Inc. (HOK) encase the ground-level retail outlets in townhouse facades and place the residential quarters above Designs for the project by Davis Carter Scott and Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum Inc. (HOK) encase the ground-level retailthe new YMCA. Future residents can look forward to amenities such as a billiard room, a 24-hour business center and concierge, catering kitchen, bar, rooftop garden and a 1-year membership to the YMCA. HPRB green-lighted the project in May when it approved the demolition of the existing buildings on the site.

The Mayor was adamant in his support of the development. “It’s the young people that we have at the front of our focus for this project,” said Fenty. “The projects, programs and lives that have been impacted by the YMCA are too numerous to mention…You have our commitment that whatever it is– from deferments to operations to transportation to the help of any other DC government agency – we will give it.”

The new $15 million YMCA is the fruit of more 2 years of active development on the part of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington (YMCAMW). When completed, it will include a wellness center, child care facilities, office space, rooftop terrace, community meeting rooms and – as its centerpiece – a 25-meter indoor pool. Although the current facility has been vacated for demolition, its community services have been relocated to various “borrowed” spaces throughout the city.

The YMCA Anthony Bowen has a rich and storied history in the Savoy Court: New condos in Washington DCDistrict. The organization was named for a Prince George’s County slave who relocated to Washington after purchasing his freedom; he then went on to co-found the nation’s first African-American YMCA in 1853. The current incarnation of the YMCA that bears his name first opened in 1912 and has stood at its present location since 1978 – a time when the U Street corridor ran rampant with violence and drugs.

“Anthony Bowen had a dream and it’s the centerpiece of that dream that’s become the reality for what we have here today…an unwavering belief that the evils of our past do not dictate the possibilities of our future,” said Angie L. Reese-Hawkins, CEO of the YMCAMW. “We’ve replaced the fear and distrust with families and…people who are committed to the community. This is what the nation’s capitol is all about.”

14W is being financed by the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS). Clark Construction has been contracted for the development and is predicting a late 2010 completion.

Washington DC retail and real estate development news

Suburban Hospital Set for Expansion


Plans for the proposed expansion of Bethesda's Suburban Hospital went before the Montgomery County Planning Board yesterday morning. The expansion is a hot button issue for administrators and local residents alike, as it would nearly double the hospital's footprint on its 15.2 acre Old Georgetown Road site - leading to road closures and an extensive reconfiguration of hospital services. Board members were quick to note that they had received "several pounds of correspondence" regarding the matter.

It’s easy to see why. Plans drafted by Minneapolis-based Ellerbe Becket call for the demolition of the neighboring, 17,000 square foot Lambert building, the hospital's current parking facility and 23 private residences. In their stead, a new 4-story, 300,000 square foot building will include private patient rooms, physician office space and a new Surgical Wing that will house 15 high-tech operating rooms. Additionally, a new 7-story, 1,138 space parking garage will also be added to the site. These measures would bring the number of patient beds to 294 upon completion in 2011.

The Planning Board summarily approved a measure to abandon Lincoln Street, which will provide an additional 36,126 square feet of right of way between Old Georgetown Road and Grant Street. The current emergency entrance on Lincoln would be relocated to McKinley Street on the opposite side of the Suburban facility. After hearing a marathon of pro and con testimony from 40 or so homeowners in the area, the Board approved the expansion proposal in a 3-2 vote. Final word are whether or not the special exception to the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Master Plan granted by the Council can now move forward will come from the Board of Appeals, when and if the case is brought before them (as it almost surely will be).

Suburban Hospital was built in 1949 and expanded out to its current form between 1955 and 1964. Hospital administrators insist that the new construction would allow them to expand into new state-of the-art fields such as robotic and radiologically guided surgery – important additions for one the nation’s top ranked trauma centers. Their efforts are being countered by the Huntington Terrace Citizens Association, who worry over negative impact on property values. In turn, hospital supporters have formed a coalition of their own, Suburban Hospital 2020. You can watch the fireworks fly for yourself when public hearings are held on October 6th, 7th, 14th and 17th.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Update: Watha T. Daniel / Shaw Library

A quick update for everyone out there in Mudland that's been following the ongoing redesign of the new Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library. The District of Columbia Public Library (DCPL) has posted new Davis Brody Bond renderings (at right) and additional information about the project on their website. The brief statement adds a few new wrinkles to the library's plans, including the fact that they are aiming for a LEED silver certification. It also posits that groundbreaking is still planned for this fall with a 2010 completion date.

Truxton Circle in FLUX?

Blake Dickson Real Estate - JF Cooke Elementary
Responding to the Office of Property Management's (OPM) request for proposals concerning recently closed public schools, a coalition named FLUX, - comprised of members Washington Project for the Arts (WPA), the Warehouse Theater & Gallery and Artomatic - has submitted their own pitch to convert JF Cooke Elementary (located 30 P Street NW) into a community-oriented arts space.Washington DC charter schools as surplus real estate
The proposal - which was drafted by Kim Ward, Executive Director of the WPA, Adam Griffiths, Membership Director of the WPA, and Paul Ruppert, co-founder of the Warehouse - lays out the group's plans for transforming the 43,500-square foot, 3-story educational facility. The primary modifications would consist converting the second floor and former library into artist studio space and gallery, respectively. Other modifications would involve the kitchen, theater and HVAC System – all of which would amount to a total cost of roughly $400,000.

Proposal co-author Griffiths told DCMud what the Truxton Circle community stands to gain from the addition of a large-scale arts center to their neighborhood:
FLUX would act not only as a local arts destination, but as a regional destination. Theatre productions, gallery shows, art events, and studio tours would be open to the community. The extended outdoor space also allows us to host outdoor sculpture exhibitions, weekend art markets and festivals—all benefits for the community that would be implemented by the FLUX center...we plan to collaborate with a strong community arts partner to implement an arts education component for residents of the immediate community and the District.
The members of the FLUX coalition will be making a return appearance before their local ANC board next month and hope to do more community outreach on the matter in the coming weeks.

The OPM will respond to all proposals by the 29th. Clarke Interiors has already committed to undertaking the project should plans for the center be approved and FLUX projects the renovations to take no more than six months. “Artists have an excellent knack for reusing spaces in creative ways,” said Griffiths. The proposal can viewed in full at the Bloomingdale blog.

Washington DC retail and real estate news

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Shaw Redemption

Five metro area developers came together last night to highlight their major (and we mean major) plans for the District's Shaw neighborhood. Hosted by the Shaw Main Streets initiative, the developers on hand included Douglas Development (Wonder Bread Factory), Marriott Hotels (Washington Marquis Marriott), Roadside Development (City Market at O), Metropolitan Development (Kelsey Gardens) and Hines Interests (CityCenter DC).

Douglas Development
The keynote of Douglas' presentation was the long-gestating revitalization of the former Wonder Bread Factory at 641 S Street NW. Contrary to initial plans, the building will not be razed. The developer has obtained the original plans for the facade and will, to the best of their ability, restore the building to its original 1922 appearance. An additional story will be added to bring the building up to 5-stories and 150,000 square feet. The project has been summarily approved by the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) and is aiming for groundbreaking in approximately 7 months, following permit approval. The developer expects construction on the GTM-designed facility to take no more than a year. Once completed, the former Wonder Bread facility will neighbor the proposed Radio One development (the outline of which can be seen in the accompanying renderings).

Several other Douglas projects underway in Shaw were also briefly touched upon. The developer’s proposed development at 600 New York Avenue NW is on hold due to the current economic situation and "lack of synergy," as is their proposed redevelopment of the Howard CVS.

Other projects, however, have had much more luck getting off the ground. The former site of Popeye’s at Florida & N Streets NW will complete its expansion and renovation in the next 3-4 months and will house a Fatburger chain restaurant, a cell phone retailer and office space. Another Douglas mixed-use development at 9th & N Streets, NW will include ground floor retail, office space and apartments. Although poised to begin construction in the coming weeks, leases for the site will not be sought until the project is completed.

Marriott HotelsThe long-proposed (circa 2001) Washington Marriott Marquis Hotel at 9th Street & Massachusetts Avenue, NW, long envisioned as an anchor servicing the Washington Convention Center across the street, is now slated to break ground in the first quarter of 2009. Overseen by the Quadrangle Development Corporation and designed as joint venture between TBS Architects and Cooper Carry Architecture, the building comes in at over 1 million square feet. The 13-story project will feature 1250 rooms, 2-3 restaurants, a ballroom and meeting space and a 400 space underground parking garage – all enclosed under an all-glass atrium. Additionally, the Pepco power station and AFL building currently on the site will also be incorporated into the hotel’s footprint, with the latter being converted to hold 42 hotel rooms. The Marriott representative on hand described it as “one of the most complex projects we’ve ever worked on.” The project is hoping to achieve an LEED silver certification.

Roadside Development

The City Market at O is shaping up to bring big changes to the current site of Giant Food on O Street NW. The mixed-use development will feature a new Giant store that will retain the old façade of the O Street Market and was hailed, as least by the pitchmen, as outclassing the new CityVista Safeway in both style and function. Additionally, the site will give way to a new 200 room, limited-use hotel, a large-scale fitness center, a 6000 square foot independent restaurant featuring a local chef, and 600 apartments and condominiums targeted towards “young professionals.” 8th Street will also reopen for pedestrian use between the two buildings on the site, parking for the facilities will be moved underground. Roadside showcased some interesting architectural features on the buildings, including a 2-story projection on the residential building – currently referred to as “the diving board.” The developers are currently in negotiations with the Deputy Mayor’s Office for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) to receive Tax Increment Financing for the project and are hoping for a September 2009 groundbreaking.

Metropolitan DevelopmentThough Metropolitan’s Kelsey Gardens has been recently covered by DCMud, the developer still had a few surprises on hand for their presentation. Architects will employ the increasingly common urban technique of breaking the 14,800-square foot, 297-unit building into five distinct facades, in order to affect the appearance of being constructed during different time periods by different architects. Roofs of the “buildings” will be 50% green and feature both private and public terraces. The development will be complimented by 2 levels of underground parking that will feature preferred parking spaces for “energy efficient vehicles” (i.e., hybrids). The project is shooting for 2011 completion.

Hines Interests
The final presentation of the evening concerned the redevelopment of the site of the old convention center, Hines Interests and Archstone’s CityCenter DC project. Designed by Foster + Partners and Shalom Baranes Architects, the 10-acre site is being envisioned as “a new neighborhood for downtown.” Comprised of 4 separate parcels centered around the now-closed (and eventually to be reopened) intersection of 10th and I Streets NW, the ambitious project is to include 400,000 square feet of retail space, 1,074 residential and hotel units, 1,064,000 square feet of office space, more than 2000 parking spaces and a public park. The hotel on the site is envisioned as a 4 or 4 ½ star facility, while the developer is aiming to lure home furnishing and fashion retailers (possibly a department store) as well – in order to serve the needs of downtown residents and not specifically tourists. The Hines representative on hand posited that the project was 85% ready to go and would be seeking general contractor in the next few weeks.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Whitman-Walker Goes High-Rise Residential

The JBG Companies are moving quickly with their proposed redevelopment of the soon-to-be former headquarters of the Whitman-Walker Clinic. Located at 1407 S St. NW, flush with the corner of 14th, current plans call for the construction of a 7-story residential building to be complimented with ground level retail. The as-yet untitled development is aiming for a late fall 2009 groundbreaking with completion slated for two years thereafter.

The Shalom Baranes-designed building will contain between 120 and 130 residential units in its 120,000 square feet and top out at 75 feet above grade. Although floorplans and designs have yet to finalized, Andrew McIntyre of the JBG development team told DC Mud that the developer is "definitely leaning towards high design, efficient units." JBG is currently engaged in talks with the city government regarding the inclusion of affordable housing in the project.

The development should be an alluring addition for local businesses, as it will stand on a block that already houses several chic inner-city destinations such as the Café Saint-Ex, the Pulp boutique and the Black Cat nightclub - venues that are filling up the rapidly developing 14th Street retail corridor. JBG is currently vetting prospects for the site that include a grocery store, a pharmacy and a restaurant. “It will be a complement to the retail that you find up and down 14th Street and in the whole Logan Circle neighborhood,” said McIntyre. “We’re really excited to building over in that corridor. There’s a lot of opportunity at such a vibrant location in the city.”

Since the developer acquired the parcel at 14th and S Streets NW last June, designs for the development have been undergoing both internal reviews at JBG and before the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). Having made the necessary revisions according to the HPRB’s specifications, designs will once again go before the Board in October.

JBG acquired the Whitman-Walker Clinic’s administrative headquarters last June for $8 million, though the facility will remain operational until the end of the year. McIntyre characterized the developer’s relationship with the prominent local HIV-AIDS and social services organization as a win-win situation for both parties:

“They are actually condensing their operations into their other existing building. We stepped in because Whitman-Walker was looking to fund the shortfalls from their operation through other sources. This was an opportunity for us to help them out and a very mutually satisfying opportunity from the standpoint that we really believe in their mission.”

Insider Interview: Scott Pannick of Metropolis Development

Scott Pannick, the founder and CEO of the Metropolis Development Company, is preparing to launch his fifth and largest condo project on the 14th Street corridor - the Metropole - and find out what he thinks of his latest project, how having a Harvard MBA helps give perspective on market fluctuations, and what would happen if he had to do it all over again.

How did you break into the development game?

I was a commercial broker for almost 20 years. The last 10 of which I spent acting as a representative for large institutional and corporate users in the development of corporate headquarters. Though I was a broker - I was in fact representing people in their real estate transactions and not the principle - nevertheless, I was actually acting in the role of a developer.

Was that here in the District or out of state?

I did projects here in Washington and elsewhere. I built the headquarters for the Educational Testing Service in Princeton and the headquarters for Bristol-Meyers Squibb in Princeton. I built the headquarters for Core State Bank of Delaware, close to Princeton in Lawrence. I also did the American Red Cross Headquarters here. The last project was to represent the federal government in the development of the headquarters of the Department of Transportation – although in that case I didn’t act as a developer, I acted as a representative for the government and, at the end of the day, hailed the competition to name the developer.

You started with Langston Lofts on 14th and then built three more on the same street. Was there an initial vision to stay on that corridor from the beginning, or was it just serendipity?

The two first buildings were almost simultaneous. One was Langston Lofts on the corner of 14th and V Streets and the other was Lofts 14 on the corner of 14th and Church. If you look at District zoning from Georgetown across, for the most part, you see fairly low density zoning and 3 and 4-story maximum buildings. The first time that you see zoning that pops up higher than that is 14th Street. That was also incidentally just where the development line was, where the renovated versus the un-renovated was. So, 14th Street was a very logical place to look to pursue development.

If you knew now what you knew 8 years ago, what would you do differently when developing a project in the District?

In all honesty, if I knew then what I know now, I never would have done this. From my perspective, the biggest obstacle has been construction. Construction is an enormously difficult business in its simplest times. It has turned out – and everyone has experienced this – that condominiums are, frankly, more complex than virtually anything. I had a construction manager who worked for me for a while who had built BWI Airport and made the comment that condominiums were more complicated that airports. It’s a building that has enormous density in it – in other words, there are kitchens, baths, independent mechanical units and every unit has its own plumbing system and its own selection of finishes. So you’re building a building with 80 or 90 individual units, all of them different, all them having complexity.

If contractors can do one thing and do it repetitively, it’s great. But because of the fact that this is urban in-fill development, it’s very very space constrained. And because of those space constraints – and lot lines limitations and Historic Preservation Review Board input - you end up building with 90 units using 35 different floor plans. If you’re out in the suburbs and you’ve got no lot line restrictions, you can work it out so all the units are the same. But when you are building in the city, literally every side of the building is constrained by height and lot lines, so you are trying to fill that box with usable space. It becomes impossible to just take something and repeat it.

Is your newest building, the Metropole living up to your initial vision?

I think it’s actually better than I had anticipated. I think it’s a beautiful building, it sits magnificently on the site and I think – I’m a developer so I have prejudices – if you’re going to live downtown, where better would you want to live? It’s kind of where the action is. There are two premier axes – one would be 14th and P and U Street being the second because it’s another street that goes all the way across town.

What sets the Metropole apart?

I think a number of things. One of my criteria working with the architects [RTKL] is that I want all of the units to have some kind of ‘wow factor.’ There are lots of units with 18 foot ceilings or floor to ceiling glass – lots of very exciting space. We were fortunate to be able to negotiate a contract with Vida for a major fitness facility in the building, which obviously in today’s world is something that people are interested in. We put 70 extra parking spaces into the building that will be available to the public, but will also be available to residents if there mother-in-law comes for a stay.

Lastly, I’d say that the architecture of the building is more dramatic than most others. If you look down the north side of P Street, there are 4 new buildings. We built the 2 buildings on the west and the east end of the block and if you look at the architecture, I think it’s more exciting. Higher end finishes and higher end materials.

What is your take on the current crunch that the housing market is undergoing?

I think it has two ways in which it affects us. One is that across the board for buyers of everything – whether it’s housing or corporate financing or whatever – money is more difficult to obtain. Therefore, lending criteria are more difficult and it strains some buyers. Many buyers have equity from previous homes and have no problem with it, but clearly, the credit crunch is a factor certainly for first time home buyers and people with poorer credit.

Secondly, the overall real estate and general economic news just makes everybody nervous and causes them to pause. The fact of the matter is that if you look at the DC condominium market, there are no more than 2 or 3 projects at most that we would consider to be comparable to our own without really looking at significant compromises on location or finishes. There’s really a very, very limited supply. It’s not like New York where there’s 25 buildings or even 50 that you could look at. In Washington, if you’re planning on living in a really high quality building, there’s really only 2 or 3 buildings that you can look at.

But the problem we have is that you turn on the nightly news and you hear the generalized problems in the housing market. Housing prices may be continuing to fall in Des Moines, but they did not ever fall in downtown DC. We didn’t lower our prices and I don’t of any high quality product that has either. Yet at the same time, the condominium inventory over the last 18 months has diminished dramatically - both because there continued to be sales and because projects have converted from condominium to rental.

I’ve been through this for 25 years and there is an absolute pattern that occurs every single time. The market gets soft – whether it’s by over-supply or credit crunch or poor economy – and everybody stops building. The market tightens and prices go up. Now whether that occurs in 6 months or 18 months is always hard to predict, but the fact of the matter is that I would bet that 3 years from now – and it could be 6 months from now – that prices go up and they’re going to go up fast. All of the sudden, people are going to say, ‘Whoops, there’s no more supply’ and grab for the last units. Then we’ll go into a 3 year period where there will be no product. Nothing. And people will say, ‘When are you going to build another building?’ And that’s the way the cycle goes.

Do you ever see yourself tackling a Metropolis project outside of the District?

You know, I’ve been asked that question many many times and I always say no. I did a lot of commercial projects in other jurisdictions, but real estate is a very local business –in terms of knowing the markets, knowing the players and knowing products. I’m not a guy who is interested in developing a big company with a big staff, so that we can do this on kind of a formulaic basis. I’d be more inclined to do projects that feel comfortable to me because of my own knowledge base.

I also am – for reasons of global warming and urban sprawl – ultimately an urbanite. I believe that cities are healthier for our planet. I could go to other cities and know nothing about them. I could go to the suburbs and feel like I was contributing to the decline of the planet.

What would consider your proudest accomplishment?

Probably the Metropole and I say that seriously. The earlier buildings I think came out beautifully, but they were, to some degree, learning experiences. Many of things that I saw in the earlier buildings that I was not as comfortable with we’ve now overcome as obstacles. Now I look at the Metropole and it’s a beautiful building. I’m very excited about its delivery in the next couple of weeks.

What is your dream project?

I’m going to contradict everything I just said. I think it would be really exciting to build a skyscraper. What happens when you build a really big building like that is – because of the magnitude and scale of it – you can put all sorts of amenities in it. A thousand unit complex can afford to support many more amenities. I’ve always been much more excited by big projects.

But that is going to be impossible to do on 14th Street. I do have some future projects, but they’re going to be on the same scale as we’ve worked on so far.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Trammell Crow Brings a Big Budget to Arlington

Arlington Virginia commercial real estate brokerageThe residential arm of Dallas-based developer Trammell Crow Residential (TCR) today announced imminent groundbreaking for its latest "luxury rental apartment community" in south Arlington. The project, entitled Alexan Twenty-Four, was first announced last summer, and is being billed as joint partnership Prudential commercial real estatewith Prudential Real Estate Investors (PREI), a division of Prudential Insurance Company of America that commands over $20 billion in net assets.

The 217-unit development will include 20 units reserved for affordable-housing and will come in at five stories once completed. The developer is promising "resort-style amenities" for future residents, including "a pool, clubhouse, fitness facility, game room and business center."

The uniquely titled project gets its name from its location at 2400 24th Road South, the former site of an Econolodge motel, following its "Alexan" brand. Despite the parcel’s pedigree, the Bank of America will be supplying $70 million in construction. The site stands roughly a quarter mile from the bustling intersection of Glebe Road and I-395.

A press release from the developer hypes the site as "a natural extension of the famous Rosslyn-Ballston corridor," one that also includes the boutique “urban village” of Shirlington, Columbia Pike and the historic community of Nauck.

Alexan 24 is expected to commence work shortly with a scheduled delivery date somewhere in the third quarter of 2010. TCR broke ground on its last project, the Alexan Carlyle, last January.

Arlington Virginia retail and commercial real estate news

Savoy Court Condominiums

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Washington DC real estate news

Friday, September 19, 2008

Developer Chosen for 5th & I

The District of Columbia announced this morning that it is partnering with developer Donohoe Companies to bring a high-end hotel, retail outlets and jazz club to the soon-to-be booming Mount Vernon Triangle. In a press conference held this morning, Washington DC Mayor Adrian Fenty laid out the changes that will soon be coming to the District- owned site at 5th and I Streets NW and praised developments in the area as a whole.

"It's important that we move these projects fast, that we get them out to developers who know what to do with them and I think that...in less than a year we've demonstrated that we're not just holding onto these properties," said Fenty. "We're allowing them to be developed for the benefit of the community."

Those benefits will take the shape of a 475,000-square foot development, titled Arts at 5th & I. The project will center around a new 260-room ME Hotel from luxury Spanish hotelier, Melia and also include - promoters say - a bicycle retailer, hardware store, book store/café and new outlet for the Zenith Art Gallery. Perhaps most exciting for local residents, who lobbied the city for more entertainment-oriented projects in the neighborhood during the 6 month bidding process, will be the addition of a new music venue in the form of the Boisdale Jazz Club – the first US location from the London-based chain of nightclubs.

A new apartment complex sporting 166 apartments will also be springing up on the site, with the developer pledging to a minimum of 50 affordable-housing units within the building. Rounding out the proposal is a 238-space underground parking garage. Groundbreaking is a projected 18 months away, following approval by the City Council.

Jad Donohoe of the Donohoe Companies outlined future plans for not only 5th and I, but the rest of the Mount Vernon Triangle area as well. “We’re going to take this lot and then move up 5th Street and take out those vacant properties,” he said. “[Donohoe is going to] redevelop that entire street and build on the investment that the city has already made in CityVista.”
The District’s selection of Donahue comes at the end of a 6 month bidding process that saw JBG, Buccini/Pollin, Potomac Investment Properties, and the winning Donohoe-managed joint proposal that included Holland Development, Spectrum Management, and Harris Development, all vying for a contract to build on the coveted Ward 6 parcel. With regards to how Donohoe’s joint proposal edged out the competition, Deputy Mayor Neil Albert said:
I took a look at their work and was very impressed with it. The community wanted entertainment as part of the development and they had a jazz club, which was well received…and then, they were going to pay us $7 million for this piece of land. They definitely had the best proposal. And that’s not just our rating, but community support was overwhelmingly in support of this proposal.

The 5 & I site was transferred into the city’s portfolio in October 2007 in the wake of the National Capital Revitalization Corp.’s (NCRC) dismantlement. DC's Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development then issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) early this year. The District is negotiating subsidies for the project with Donohoe at present and hopes to generate approximately $85 million in tax revenue from the Arts at 5th and I project.

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