Friday, May 29, 2009

Artomatic Does Southeast in Style


High culture and high-rise office space don't often collide, but they did today as DC arts organization, Artomatic, opened the doors on its landmark 10th anniversary exhibition at Monument Realty's new 275,000 square foot,Artomatic DC, Monument Realty, Velocity Condos, retail LEED silver-certified building at 55 M Street, SE in the Capitol Riverfront. With galleries on each of its nine-stories, this year's Artomatic celebration overlooks Nationals Park and the city's monumental core, while featuring the work of more than a thousand artists of just about every discernible sort – painters, sculptors, videographers, musicians, tattooists, poets, dancers and more. And, to wash down that load of multimedia, bars, retailers and vendors -- including the Hard Times CafĂ©, Red Bull, Cake Love, Busboys and Poets and the Flying Dog Brewery – are scattered throughout. The city legislators present, including Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, touted this year’s festivities as the beginning of the “new 20003.”

“We’re no longer an emerging neighborhood. We’re here,” said Capitol Riverfront BID board member and Cohen Companies Executive Vice President Eric Siegel – who, in his acting his role with the latter organization, helped develop the Velocity Condominiums project a stone’s throw away at 1025 1st Street, SE.

BID officials are projecting that Artomatic will draw some 70,000 visitors to the neighborhood (now dubbed “The ‘Front” for short) during its five-week run. The exhibition is open to the public starting today, Friday, May 29th at noon. The opening gala Washington DC non-profit artwill begin around 8 PM tonight and feature a fire dancers, 24 bands and performances and a discussion with PostSecret creator Frank Warren.

Artomatic 10 will close up shop on July 5th, but until then, the exhibition will available for perusal on Wednesdays and Thursdays from 5 pm – 10 pm; Fridays and Saturdays from 12 noon -1 am; and Sundays from 12 noon – 10 pm.

And, having just returned from the sneak peek, let me state it plainly: it's pretty kick-ass.

Washington DC commercial property news

DC Proposes Tax on Co-op Sales

The Washington, DC Council has proposed taxing the sale of co-ops in the District, a move that would bring the transaction tax on co-op units into tax parity with the sale of fee simple and condominium sales. The new tax measure, buried deep in the Fiscal Year 2010 Budget Support Act of 2009, proposed by Chairman Vincent Grey, proposes to add a transaction fee to the sale of a co-op unit for both the buyer and the seller - 1.1% for sales under $400,000, 1.45% otherwise.

The sale of co-ops, technically a transfer of an economic interest rather than transfer in title, is not currently taxed by the District of Columbia; the proposed law would add an "economic equivalent" tax at the same rate as the transfer (tax on the seller) and recordation (tax on the buyer) taxes currently imposed by the District. While co-ops represent only a small fraction of real estate transactions, the District reckons it could pull in an additional $5m to $6m per annum for the next few years with the additional tax burden, compared to the $118m the District siphoned from transfer and recordation taxes last year.

The absence of recordation taxes is one of the few incentives to buying into a cooperative, most of which have more onerous rules than condominiums, carry underlying obligations to the purchaser, and bestow on the Board of Directors the power to reject applicants, all of which tends to suppress the price of co-ops below that of an equivalent condominium. The tax would take effect next year. In other words, sell now.

Lofts 14 Condominiums

Lofts 14, Metropolis Development, new condos, RTKLLofts 14 Condos, 1401 Church St., NW, Washington DC, 20005 
Lofts 14, by Metropolis Development, converted a three-story warehouse and auto showroom of Mott Motors, with a fourth floor added to the original structure, EHT Traceries, Langston Lofts 14, RTKL, DC condos, Metropolis Developmentenveloped by a new five-story building for 85 units in the building. Metropolis incorporated historic features such as the original brick, adding a new building that envelops the old warehouse. Newer features include hardwood floors, granite and stainless appliances, common roof deck, balconies, terrace or patio, bike room, storage, and underground parking. This was the 2nd project for Washington-DC based Metropolis Development, after Langston Lofts, which has focused its efforts entirely on the 14th Street corridor near Logan Circle, before going bankrupt over its handling of the Metropole. This project stretches from 14th St. along Church Street, a EHT Traceries, Langston Lofts 14, RTKL, DC condos, Metropolis Developmentone-time industrial strip, rare in Washington DC, that was, within a few years of this project's completion, fully converted into a trendy condo strip. The interior design is very modern, with bamboo floors, floor to ceiling windows, exposed ductwork, and Scavolini Italian cherry cabinetry. Architecture by RTKL, historic incorporation by EHT Traceries. The condominium originally sold out in 2005. 

Washington DC real estate news

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Work Begins on Capitol Riverfront's "Crown Jewel"


Developer Forest City Washington broke ground today on the latest Capitol Riverfront redevelopment initiative: the Park at the Yards. Located between Nationals Park and the Navy Yard, the $42 million, 5.4 acre park, designed by M. Paul Friedberg and Partners, was touted as "the core" and "crown jewel" of the greater Yards development. Once complete, the area will feature 2700 new units of housing, 400,000 square feet of retail and 1.8 million square feet of office space. The park’s first phase, scheduled for completion next summer, is set to include “vast open lawns” and landscaped gardens along a riverfront promenade that will incorporate an extension of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. Future work will include three retail pavilions, including one in the historically-protected Lumber Shed adjoining the site, with the end result of creating a world class waterfront destination.

“A world class city has to have a world class waterfront…This I think is the biggest piece of that and generations of Washingtonians are going to be thankful that this day occurred,” said DC Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Meanwhile, FCW President Deborah Ratner Salzberg told DCmud that other, more retail-centric pieces of the greater Yards puzzle, such as the Boilermaker Shops at 200 Tingey Street, SE, continue to fall into place. According to Salzberg, roughly 50% of that space is now leased and the FCW development team recently returned from a conference with potential retailers.

Despite rumors of business being slow in the from-scratch neighborhood surrounding the ballpark as construction continues, Claire Schaefer, Deputy Executive Director of the Capitol Riverfront BID, said that approximately 1,600 new residents are now in place in the area’s various rental and condo buildings, with that number expected to climb to 2,000 by year’s end. According to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, the Yards alone will host some 3,700 Southeast newcomers once work finally wraps sometime in the twenty-teens. Those figures will surely be helped along by the vast number of transit-oriented, “’smart growth” projects coming along as the riverfront coalesces - expanded bus services, water taxis, street cars and even horse-drawn buggies being among the options explored for a site that once hosted a government compound known as the Southeast Federal Center.

“You have to put all these pieces together to get to today…[This is] how a neighborhood gets transformed,” said Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, who facilitated the nation's first public-private partnership on federal land for the Yards project. “It is especially important to the neighborhood and city that there be a way to reach our river from which we have been isolated forever. This is a part of the city that has been opened to the people.”

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

H Street Country Club Now Open

After many a stop and start, the Atlas District's H Street corridor will finally see the long-awaited H Street Country Club open tonight. Brought to fruition by DC developer/restaurateur/man-about-town Joe Englert (who also counts the Rock and Roll Hotel, The Red & The Black and Palace of Wonders among his stable of popular destinations for area nightlife) and co-owners Ricardo Vegara and Blair Zervos, the 6800 square foot, 300-seat restaurant at 1335 H Street, NE, will offer up "Mexican cuisine with both southern and northern accents," (we don't know the difference either) along with beers, margaritas and tequilas of the same pedigree from along their 40-foot, tartan-covered bar.

The real crux of the HSCC’s appeal, however, is the in-house entertainment. Just as the nearby Palace of Wonders specializes in turn-of-the-century Fortean curiosities, the HSCC is will highlighting the best and rest of American pastimes with pool tables, shuffleboard, skeeball and, yes, mini-golf. The club’s second story hosts a 9-hole putt-putt course, designed by Arlington-based artist Lee T. Wheeler, which affords customers the chance to “shoot through the corridors of U Street, around the Washington Monument, and past towering K Street Lawyers” for a whopping seven bucks a pop. Baby back that, Chiles.

Washington DC real estate development news

New Condo Report: The Argent

Argent Condos, 1280 East West Highway, Silver Spring, MD
The sales center at The Argent, Perseus Realty LLC's $37 million Silver Spring condo building, has opened its doors and DCmud was among the first to peruse some of its 96 for-sale units. The Argent is something of a curiosity in DC metro area because, as other similarly minded residential developments in the area have converted to rentals, The Argent is forging ahead in a condo market gone south. Home Properties' 1200 East West Highway building, directly across the street, is under construction and hoping to finish up early next year - advertising only rental units - while the Portico, once envisioned as a condo, is now leasing. Other projects in the area have simply failed to materialize.

Nonetheless, the developer is hoping to combat any possible sticker shock by dropping prices on units once scheduled to start in the low $400s. As of today, a 636 square foot studio is going for $247,900, while prices top out at $553,900 for 1435 square two-bedroom with den. The building’s sole three-bedroom unit, located on the second floor, is priced at $570,900, measuring in at 1426 square feet. Those prices increase by roughly $3,000 the higher you climb in the building’s nine-stories - but don’t hold your breath for amenities while you’re up there.

"There’s a rooftop terrace. It’s walking distance to the grocery store and all the different shops…Unfortunately, there’s no pool [and] no exercise room,” said one of the sales

representatives working the project. The JSA Inc.-designed development is rounded out by a plaza/sculpture garden, fronting on East West Highway, that was designed by local artist Mary Ann E. Mears. The building opened on May 22nd.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

District Takes a Stab at Building Secure Evidence Depot


The District broke ground this morning on the Metropolitan Police Department’s new Property and Evidence Warehouse at the former site of the DC Village emergency shelter at 34 DC Village Lane, SW. The $20 million, 30,000 square-foot project is being developed as a joint venture between the Office of Property Management (OPM) and Akridge Development.

The Mayor’s office is pegging the project as "state-of-the-art" with features including a "computer-automated storage system for logging and retrieval of evidence," "video event logging of transactions," "radio frequency handheld portable terminals,” and “refrigerated units for storing DNA samples.” According to the original bid, the evidence warehouse will contain roughly two million items, including “narcotics, possible biohazards, cash/valuables, guns [and] oversize items” – some of which, according to legal guidelines, must be retained for up 65 years.

Though never explicitly stated, some of the security measures lined-up for the new warehouse seem targeted at reducing the reams of missing evidence – including “$16,453 in currency, seven revolvers, one shotgun, one BB gun, one derringer, marijuana, amphetamines and cocaine” – that failed to turn up during a 2008 audit of the MPD’s present facility at 2235 Shannon Place, SE. Per Washington, DC Mayor Adrian Fenty’s follow-up on the project’s status last February, the District also intends to cut costs by moving from the privately-owned building that they currently lease to the federally owned Southwest parcel. Several sites, including the largely abandoned St. Elizabeths Hospital in Anacostia, were bandied about before the OPM settled on the DC Village site that had itself been closed in October 2007 due to “poor living conditions.”

The District plans to have their new facility up and operational by the fall of 2010 and to qualify for, at the very least, a LEED silver certification.

Monday, May 25, 2009

New Shaw Library Seeks Out Stimulus Funds


Three years after it was initially scheduled for completion, work is finally underway on the long awaited Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Library. And the fact that excavation is now bristling along at the Rhode Island Avenue, NW site, courtesy of Forrester Construction, isn’t the only piece of good news for Shaw bibliophiles. Officials at DC Public Libraries (DCPL) now tell DCmud that some features originally envisioned for the new library –but that had to be shelved following drastic budget cuts in 2008 – could be restored, courtesy of an application for $282,000 worth of federal stimulus funds that is currently pending with the District Department of the Environment.

"[In] the initial design, we hoped to have a vegetative green roof on the library,” said DCPL spokesman George Williams. “From the conceptual design to putting together how much it would cost to actually build the library, the vegetative green roof was a feature that initially we could not afford. With the availability of stimulus funds, we thought it would be a great opportunity to put the roof back on…It was something that the library wanted and that the community around the library wanted as well.”

Moreover, the community has been wanting any sign of progress on the new 20,000 square foot, LEED-certified, Davis Brody Bond-designed library since its’ predecessor closed in 2004. Though the project formally broke ground this past November, work at the site has only recently geared up – a slow pace, even by DC standards. Nonetheless, DCPL pledges that not only were the delays warranted, but that they’ve also found a means to keep the public updated on progress at the site.
“[We were] making sure that we had all the appropriate permits, approvals and traffic plans taken care of…I don’t believe that our end time changed and we’re looking at scheduling the new library to open in spring 2010,” said Williams.        "We are now doing excavation and foundation work. There are roughly nine milestones [during construction] and we are now on the third…We’re going to put signs up that track what those milestones are as we reach them.”

According to DCPL, the milestones they have to achieve are, in ascending order, steel work, building exterior, interior construction, interior finishes and finally move-in. The agency is putting the building’s penultimate stage of development up for public debate and will hold sessions to “check out the interior finishes and furniture choices” at the Watha T. Daniel/Shaw Interim Library on June 15th from 12:00-1:00 pm, June 16th from 5:30-6:30 pm, June 17th 12:00-1:00 pm and June 18 from 5:30-6:30 pm.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Golden Arches Go High-Rise in Downtown Bethesda

Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School students will have one less parking lot to congregate in now that New York-based developers, the Clarett Group, have gotten the go-ahead to demolish the existing McDonald’s franchise at 4500 East West Highway and replace it with a nine-story office building.

The site – which currently houses the fast food chain, a small office building and a vast amount of surface parking – is to be re-appropriated for a new 98-foot, nine-story high-rise that will feature 13,300 square feet of ground level retail. The prominent downtown Bethesda location – just a block from the aforementioned high school and the Bethesda Metro Center – is intended to house a new restaurant and a few commercial outlets above three levels of below-grade parking. The rest of the Shalom Baranes-designed development will go towards Class A office space and a green roof.

However, to receive the approval of the Montgomery County Planning Board (MCPB), the development team was forced to acquiesce to a laundry list of county demands: the building must be completed in one construction phase, achieve a LEED silver certification, provide – at a minimum - 20% public use space.

In order to live up to the latter of those specifications, Clarett will install a 4500 square foot public plaza with “plantings, a water feature, and artwork” at the corner of East West Highway and Pearl Street. A final decision on the choice of artwork lies with the Montgomery County Art Review Panel, which is expected to announce their decision soon. According to Planning Board staff, the proposed plaza is a “direct response” to the provisions of Bethesda Sector Plan and will “serve as a gateway to downtown Bethesda.”

Furthermore, the site is also to be incorporated into the Georgetown Branch Trail, a local biking path that shadows the route of the upcoming (and much debated) Purple Line. Two 5-foot wide on-street bike paths will be laid along Pearl Street in order to connect it with the popular footpath, for a total of 6885 square feet of on-site public use space. Pearl Street itself was once proposed a Purple Line stop for Bus Rapid Transit –before the MCPB instead moved in favor of a light rail system. Given the close proximity of the high school and the heavy hiker/biker traffic in the area, Planning Board staff pledged that these infrastructural improvements will keep the “emphasis on safety and pedestrian access.”

After a preliminary hearing last October, Clarett’s final project plan was approved by the MCPB on December 4th. The MTA Purple Line Project team has also ruled that the plans present no conflict with their plans for a light rail system, as have the Maryland State Highway Administration and Montgomery County Department of Transportation. Construction is expected to commence in the fourth quarter of 2009. James G. Davis Construction Corp. will serve as general contractor.

Friday, May 22, 2009

DC Announces Contenders for Eastern Market School Site


Fresh off last week’s announcement that Eastern Market will reopen in June, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development has gone public with their short-list of candidates for redevelopment of the nearby Hine Junior High School at 335 8th Street, SE.

The 43-year-old, 131,300 square foot educational facility was shuttered in 2007, in order to redirect $6.2 million worth of school funds towards leasing costs for the District of Columbia Public Schools' headquarters at 825 North Capitol Street, NE. Now, according to ODMPED officials, the various proposals aim to repurpose the Eastern Market site for “combinations of new housing, office space, nonprofit space and neighborhood-serving retail.” The six contending teams are:

1. The Bozzuto Group/Scallan Properties/Lehr Jackson Associates/E.R. Bacon Development, LLC/Blue Skye Development/CityStrategy, LLC

2. Equity Residential/Mosaic Urban Partners

3. Quadrangle Development Corporation/CapStone Development, LLC

4. National Leadership Campus/Western Development Group

5. Stanton Development Corporation/Eastbanc Inc./Autopark Inc./The Jarvis Companies/Dantes Partners

6. StreetSense/DSF/Menkiti Group

District administrators will be hosting a community showcase of all six proposals on June 10th at Tyler Elementary at 1001 G Street, SE. The meeting will begin at 6 PM and is open to the public.

Bethesda Row Gets a Workout

Bethesda Maryland retail for lease - Bethesda RowAs we blog, Virginia-based general contractor LF Jennings is hard at work on the latest commercial property addendum to Federal Realty Investment Trust’s success at Bethesda Row, the Champs Elysees of DC's yuppiedom. This time, they're working on a new, 45,000 square foot Equinox Fitness Club at Woodmont Avenue and Elm Street, across from Austin Grill.Equinox Fitness construction by Federal Realty to start at Bethesda Row

Based on designs by Hickok Cole Architects, the three-story, LEED-certified uber-gym will be constructed out of “steel, brick, veneer and curtainwall,” according to the builder, and feature two levels that will include a basement pool. In keeping with the project’s aspirations of eco-friendliness, current plans call for a green roof that will “retain and filter rain water” for re-use in the development. Though the luxury workout spot will abut the decidedly less dapper Shoppes of Bethesda strip mall on one side, wealthy fitness buffs should be able to get a clear view of Bentley Bethesda from the top.

Hickok Cole Architects designed the LEED-certified gym at Bethesda Row - retail for leaseWork at the site began late last month and is likely to complete in spring 2010. That’s just about the same time that FRIT and the JBG Companies will be readying themselves to break ground on the mixed-use retail/residential towers, tentatively titled Woodmont East, on Bethesda Row’s southern side at Woodmont and Bethesda Avenues – meaning there’s beaucoup development in the works for America’s second most liveable city come the New Year.

Bethesda Maryland retail and real estate news

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Southeast Seniors Get New Housing

A vacant lot at 2620 Bowen Road, SE in the Barry Farm community will soon be home to the Bowen Senior Apartments – a 37-unit apartment building for independent sexagenarians of Ward 8. Specifically described as a non-assisted living operation, the 23,502 square foot project is being spearheaded by the Bowen Group LLC – a partnership between Seattle-based senior care developers Second Family Inc. and property owner Shilda Frost-Labule.

"[My] history is that I’ve been a registered nurse for over the last past 30 years, and I have a history in working with pediatrics and elderly care," Frost-Labule told the DC Board of Zoning Adjustment in January 2007, shortly before receiving approval for the project. “I entered a RFP to provide housing for persons with disabilities in 2002, and during that time, I had several conversations with Department of Health, Department of Aging, and the Housing Authority, and they all were supportive of the project, stating that there was a great need for assistance with the elderly in the Southeast area…[That’s] when I bought the property.”

Designed by EDG Architects of Bethesda, the $3 million project is being funded through a combination of private loans, four housing trust funds and tax credits. Beyond providing merely new residences for area residents ages sixty and up, the development will also offer residents a wellness center to “provide services for individuals that might have chronic illnesses,” a multipurpose room and a shuttle service to provide “access to Metro, to shopping, to social, cultural events, as well as medical appointments.”

Once completed, the Bowen development will count the Howard Hill Apartments, Oxford Manor Apartments and another vacant parcel set aside for a future Hope VI housing project among its new neighbors. Hamel Builders will oversee construction when it begins later this year and will be accepting sub-contractor bids until 5 PM on June 9th.

DHCD Seeks Developers for Vacant DC Properties

Washington DC's Department of Housing and Community Development's (DHCD) Property Acquisition and Disposition Division (PADD) has issued a Solitication for Offers for six long-neglected sites throughout the city with the intent of redeveloping them into a mix of affordable units and workforce housing. All of the residential properties are either vacant lots or dilapidated residential complexes: 3401 13th Street, SE; 4 -14 Q Street and 14-16 Florida Avenue, NW; 1715-1717 28th Place, SE; 1335 R Street, NW; 922 French Street, NW; and, lastly, 1713 New Jersey Avenue, NW – the latter being a site initially purchased in January's vacant property auction, but returned to DCHD after its would-be owner defaulted on the first payment.

"For some [of these properties], this isn’t their first showing. This isn’t the first time they’ve been out there. We’ve been looking for opportunities to…convert them into affordable housing…We’re stepping up our efforts to re-introduce these properties, so they don’t just sit and cost the city money to maintain,” said DHCD spokesman Angelita Colon-Francia, who also detailed for DCmud just how and why these six sites were selected from the District’s hundreds-strong catalogue of vacant properties.

“Some were eminent domain, some were tax foreclosures, some were inter-agency transfer of property, but, basically, these are properties that have been in our inventory for a long time…What we’re trying to do is to get them back into use and generate affordable and workforce housing out of them,” she said.

Prospective developers are welcome to bid on as many, or as few, properties as they see fit. The scope and size of the various revitalization efforts, however, will depend on area zoning statutes, as some sites are designated for single-family use, while others are zoned for multi-family development. The wide variety of locales and regulations governing the various sites hasn’t allowed DHCD to predict exactly how much housing will be generated after the projects are awarded – but nonetheless, they’re adhering to strict set of guidelines that makes a clear distinction between which will sites will be required to host affordable and/or workforce units.

“The bottom line is that all of them have a requirement that all buildings have 30% of the units identified as affordable at 60% or less of the Area Median Income (AMI),” said Colon. “There are two exceptions to that: the New Jersey Avenue property and the one on French Street. For those, we’re looking more at workforce. They’ll have to be at or below 120% AMI.”

As of Tuesday, 11 potential bidders have taken up DHCD on their solicitation and Colon encourages developers and non-profits “with the capacity and qualifications” to apply. To that effect, DHCD will be holding a pre-bid conference on June 8th to “fill in the blanks.” The meeting will begin at 2 PM at DHCD headquarters at 1800 Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard, SE.

In the meantime, the solicitation is available in hard copy format only and can be picked up at the DHCD offices. Final proposals are due to agency by 3 PM on June 24th. Colon-Francia says the selection process timeline will be contingent on the number of responses received.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Arlington: Finish or Demolish Bromptons at Cherrydale

The Bromptons at Cherrydale, a 22-unit, mixed-use townhouse-style condo and retail development at 3800 Lee Highway that has stood unfinished since 2006, must now either be either be fully completed or demolished, per an agreement between the Arlington County Board and developer Ed Peete.

After selling out the condos during the banner year for condo sales that was 2004, work on the Bromptons stopped in March 2006 after County inspectors found the structure to be faulty, with uneven floors and load-bearing members incapable of bearing the building’s weight. The developer laid the blame for the structural deficiencies on the project's structural engineers – whom Peete later took to court over the matter, though Peete is still working with the project architect.

Meanwhile, beginning in 2007, the developer pledged that he would demolish the work already underway, re-pour the foundation and begin the Bromptons anew. After two raze permits were granted – and lapsed – the County officially declared the quasi-building a "blight" in September 2008 and authorized legal action action against the Ed Peete Company, with the hope of recouping the estimated $600-900,000 of taxpayer funds required to demolish the building on the County’s dime. The County Attorney’s case was scheduled to be heard next week, but has been called off in the light of the settlement announced today.

According to Board Chairman Barbara Favola, today’s agreement “eliminates the uncertainty of this project that has become such an eyesore in the Cherrydale neighborhood.” Per the terms of the settlement, the Peete and company must “make the necessary repairs to complete the approved site plan project and bring it into compliance with the building code within an agreed timeline,” while giving the County the right to carry out demolition should the project not “proceed in accordance with a detailed timeline that specifies each incremental step in the re-design and repair process.” Peete will also be putting $250,000 in escrow to contribute to the cost of any eventual raze and work is set begin again at the site as early as next month. According to the County, the building’s exterior, along with sidewalks and landscaping, will be the first features attended to, so that “the community can begin to enjoy the benefits“ as soon as possible. WHA will remain onboard as the project's architect.

Arlington, VA real estate development news

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Glover Park Stripped of Old Club

The Glover Park Gazette reports that JP's Niteclub will be demolished this week, more than a year after a fire gutted the strip club. Following a final approval from the good guys at the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs last Friday, demolition of the club at 2412 Wisconsin Avenue, NW will proceed this week.
According to representatives for the general contractor, The Construction Guild, LLC, the teardown will begin today and, once complete, will be followed immediately by construction of similarly-scaled, two-story commercial structure - though, at present, site owner Alafoginis Family LP, has yet to secure a tenant for the planned retail space.
The family-owned strip club has remained vacant since a fire damaged the property in January 2008 after 20 years of selling some of DC's most expensive Budweisers and quality, uh, niteclub operations. In the intervening months, two new businesses have opened on either side of the derelict building: the Gin & Tonic Tavern and Z Burger, a local fast food joint. Neither has offered comparable entertainment.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Newfound Humanity in Arlington

Habitat for Humanity of Northern Virginia will soon convert a 50-year-old Arlington apartment complex into low income housing, pending county approval. Known to area residents as the Perry S. Hall Apartments, Habitat will update the aging facility at 2912 17th Street South and then, in a move not usually associated with non-profit developer, put all 12 units of housing in complex up for sale as affordable-rate condos.

But neighbors shouldn’t fret over more low-income housing going up next door, says the developer. Since purchasing the property from Wesley Housing in 2005, the building has remained entirely vacant and George Lane, Project Manager for Habitat NOVA, tells DCmud the revitalized Hall Apartments will contribute to, not detract from, thank you very much, the surrounding Nauck neighborhood.

“[It’ll be] a major improvement to the neighborhood. If you drive by what’s there, it’s a pretty raggedy looking old building. No one’s done anything to it in 25 or 30 years and what we’re doing will blend in with the neighborhood. It’s colonial-style and it’s going to look very nice. There will be brick used in it…and a lot of nice window features. The units will be updated with modern appliances and plumbing and all that,” said Lane. “We’re building the same sort of housing [middle-class buyers] expect to live in today. We’re just building it for people who don’t make as much money.”

According to Lane, the development team – which also includes Creaser/O’Brien Architects – met with local Nauck residents last year to present designs and has stated the intention to ensure that locals already living in the area with be given “an equal, if not preferred opportunity” to purchase condo units. At present, they are scheduled to be available to those making between 20% and 60% AMI. Though Habitat famously relies on a stable of volunteers to construct their homes, the developer stresses the quality of the colonial-style apartment building will be on par with that of any professionally built project.

"Habitat uses a lot of volunteers for finishes. They’ll hang the drywall, they’ll install the insulation, they’ll do the carpentry and they’ll paint…All electrical, mechanical plumbing and things of that nature…are all done by professional contractors,” said Lane. “We sub-contract that out to other companies.”

Surprising to most will be the fact that this is not Habitat of Northern Virginia’s first foray into world of condominium development. They’re currently under construction on another, 9-unit development, entitled the Maple Ridge Condominiums, at 4150 Stevenson Street in Fairfax. Another Fairfax condo project, the 12-unit Westbrook Forest, was completed in 2007. And, following an upcoming Planning Board hearing, Habitat hopes to have the Perry S. Hall condos join them in short order.
“If all goes well [at the May 19th hearing]…then we’ll settle our building permit. Hopefully, the County will turn those plans around in a month or two and we’ll be able to start in mid to late summer,” said Lane. The project is scheduled to wrap up by the spring of 2010.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Eastern Market Set for Grand Reopening in June

Mayor Adrian Fenty announced yesterday that Eastern Market, Southeast Washington’s famed and historically protected marketplace that was damaged by a fire in April 2007, will re-open – with much fanfare – on Friday, June 26th. The surprise pronouncement of the restoration’s completion came at the end of a tour of the facility, led by Office of Property Management (OPM) Administrator Curtis Clay, that highlighted the $22 million worth of both new and soon-to-be restored features in the works for the area landmark.

The development team – led by OPM, along with Quinn Evans Architects, the Minkoff Company, Keystone Plus Construction, FEI Construction and The Temple Group – plans to reinstate the North Hall’s former use a center for community activity and arts events with a new demountable stage and dance floor. Meanwhile, Fenty stressed that all of Eastern Market’s original vendors will return to their former locations in the building’s Southern Hall, while their temporary home across the street will be repurposed for an as-of-yet undesignated community use.

Additionally, Eastern Market’s basement level will feature a newly relocated pottery studio and, in a first for the 138-year-old complex, new amenities which will include air conditioning and separate men’s and women’s restrooms. OPM was also quick to point out a newly-installed sprinkler system, with the hope that it will prevent the type of incident that led to the market’s shuttering for two plus years.

Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells, who was absent from the afternoon’s proceedings due to a family illness, released the following statement via press release:

"I’m thrilled that Eastern Market is on the verge of reopening. The devastating fire was a blow to our whole community, but the way in which the city rallied around the Market as more than just a building proved how important it is to the fabric of our neighborhood."

That neighborhood will be able to celebrate the project’s completion en masse the day after the ribbon-cutting. Fenty, who called the market a “sparkplug” of community activity, went on to announce that a celebration will be held on Saturday, June 27th along the newly refurbished and soon-to-be reopened 7th Street, SE, which abuts the eastern face of the market.

According to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, “[OPM] and the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) worked together to minimize disruptions and complete projects simultaneously. The new street includes upgrades of the roadway and roadbed and installation of new brick sidewalks, granite curbs, utilities and lighting.” The street will be open to traffic Monday through Friday, but remain closed on weekends to serve as, in words of DDOT Director Gabe Klein, “a pedestrian plaza.”

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

DC’s Newest Development District is…the Florida Avenue Market?

Just around the corner from the ongoing revitalization effort that is NoMa, the Office of Planning (OP) is setting its sights on a similarly minded redevelopment initiative: transforming DC’s wholesaler haven, the Florida Avenue Market, into a “vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood that protects the look and feel of the historic retail markets” while also bring new residential, retail and office projects to the Northeast site.

With the aid of CORE Architecture and Design, EHT Traceries, Inc. and Economic Research Associates, OP released their findings on just how to achieve that seemingly insurmountable task (the surrounding area includes two of the District’s most notorious neighborhoods: Trinidad and Ivy City) late last month in the Florida Avenue Market Small Area Plan. The report details an impressive list of obstacles in the way of redevelopment – even for a city with as many impressive redevelopment challenges as Washington.

Though the crime rate in the surrounding communities goes unmentioned, here’s what OP sees as its primary concerns. Firstly, current zoning statutes prohibit residential development in the industrial zone - a problem that two nearby developments, the Washington Gateway and the Gateway Market and Residences, have been able to circumvent through the PUD process. Secondly, the Market area is comprised of 120 lots with 68 different owners – a ratio that will make acquisition by the city a costly, confusing and time consuming proposition. Lastly, of those lots, many are, in the words of OP, “underdeveloped” or vacant, which gives potential developers little or nothing to work with.

However, OP hopes to relieve that burden somewhat with their framework for potential redevelopment. Taking into account the site’s historic significance (the Center Market first opened in 1802; the flagship Union Terminal Market in 1928), current conditions and infrastructure, current economic and real estate analyses, and community input – “achieved through a series of community planning sessions, property ownership workshops, and through an Advisory Committee” that included City Councilmembers Tommy Wells and Harry Thomas, Jr., the ANCs 5 and 6, Gallaudet University, and Apollo Development – OP has arrived at a preferred mix of commercial and residential uses for the market area (pictured). In an ideal scenario, the Florida Avenue Market will become a new destination by linking NoMa, the New York/Florida Avenue Metro and the neighboring Gallaudet campus into cohesive, walkable and, yes, friendly, whole.

To that effect, the plan outlines extensive overhauls for each prime thoroughfare in the Market area - including the to-be-reopened 3rd Street – with rehabilitated historic buildings, public parks, new signage and linkage to the Metropolitan Branch Trail. All of this would be done according to “Deaf Design Space principles,” in order to make the area welcoming for Gallaudet’s 1500 strong student population. Sound like a challenge? It will be, but OP hopes to relieve some of the burden from developers by encouraging a 20% tax credit towards the renovation of historic buildings on site.

Presumably to fill in the many remaining question marks (and gear up for an oncoming onslaught of RFPs), OP will be hosting a “Mayoral Hearing” concerning the Market on May 18, 2009 from 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM at Gallaudet’s Merrill Learning Center Building . The meeting will be open to the public - with questions and comments on the Area Plan encouraged. OP’s two-part plan for the Market can be read in its entirety here.


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