Friday, April 30, 2010

Anacostia's First Green Condos

A ribbon cutting today in Anacostia marked the opening of Ward 8's first "green" condos in what was once an abandoned eyesore in the community. The new Fendall Heights condos, at the corner of Fendall and V Streets, SE, adds 29 newly renovated units just blocks from the also newly renovated Frederick Douglas House. The affordable housing project, restricted to first time home buyers, was developed through a joint venture with ARCH Development, a non-profit community development organization, Fendall Partners, and $170,000 in pre-development support from the District Department of Housing and Community Development.

Through a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) the development team funded the installation of a living green roof to control surface run-off and reduce heat absorption for structure. Other green features include energy saving double-pane windows, pipes made of recycled plastic instead of copper and 100% energy efficient furnaces. Inscapestudio designed the reconfiguration of the building and the green elements.

The gutting and interior renovation began just about two years ago and the units should be complete by the end of June, according to Anthony R. Bolling, a spokesman for the developer. In addition to the 22 2-bedroom units an 9 1-bedroom units, Fendall Heights provides 3,000 s.f. of community space for artists studios. Condos will start at $125,000. When originally envisioned, some of the condos were intended to be reserved for artists, though none have been set aside. Bolling is confident that the units will nonetheless appeal to artists, not to mention a welcome relief for neighbors who have watched the building "sitting vacant and deteriorating for decades."

ARCH, as a non-profit developer, supported the community and the project through its Training Center. District residents, as part of ARCH's Training program, were trained in construction techniques and gained on-site experience throughout the conversion of Fendall Heights.

Washington, DC real estate development news

ArtSpace: Lofty Ambitions in Brookland

Today, Dance Place and Artspace will break ground at noon on a new $13 million, government-sponsored arts campus, Brookland Artspace Lofts, at 3225 8th Street, NE. The site, three blocks from the Brookland Metro, is currently occupied by the Brookland Studios and existing Dance Place. The project will bring new affordable artist housing and performance space to the northeast community and mark the "beginning of a new era in urban development," according to a press release. Lofty ambitions.

Artspace's affordable live/work units will house struggling artists and their families, providing them with gallery and studio space. Thirty-nine of the units will be available to households earning less than 60 percent of the area median income; two units are set aside for Dance Place.

The four-story building will top out at 48 feet so as not to stand out in the low-density neighborhood. Artspace is adding a green roof as part of a community service project and will partner with DC Greenworks for installation. According to Jim Bognet, president and co-founder of general contractor Bognet Construction Associates, “the building will also feature a mosaic tile installation that will be provided by community volunteers." DC-based Hickok Cole Architects designed the building.

Though an initial plan called for an additional building for Dance Place to create a "campus," the team has scaled back their ambitions to an overhaul of the existing dance studio. “Artspace will support Dance Place in its effort to renovate its existing theater space" said Heidi Kurtze, Director of Property Development for Artspace Projects, Inc. in a press release. The two projects will potentially be linked by an outdoor plaza and performance space between them.

The District Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) will provide $10.4 million in stimulus funding and $1 million in low-income housing tax credits in recognition of the role of the arts in revitalizing neighborhood.

Washington, DC real estate development news

Thursday, April 29, 2010

NCPC To Hold Web Forum on Park Plan

On Thursday at 1pm, DCMud will host a live web dialogue with the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) to discuss CapitalSpace, a partnership between the District, National Park Service, and NCPC to improve access to and the quality of DC's many local parks.

After a public comment period, NCPC adopted the CapitalSpace final plan on April 1st, and Commission staff is now working to implement the recommendations. NCPC's web panelist will be Julia Koster, Director of the Office of Intergovernmental Affairs for NCPC and former development coordinator for the Governor's Office of Smart Growth in Maryland. DC's park system, uniquely challenged by overlapping governing bodies and high tourist traffic, not to mention neglect, now has plans for the first revamp in 40 years spearheaded by NCPC, the planning body for the federal region that oversees development on or near federal land and coordinates the area's capital improvement plan.

CapitalSpace sets out "six big ideas" that, in short, seek to better connect the parks with each other by "weaving a greenway" through the neighborhoods from park to park, improve the parks, and connect the parks with DC's underutilized rivers.

1. Linking the Fort Circle Parks: Creating a walkable green space with historic significance by connecting the series of defensive forts built to encircle DC during the Civil War - a function of the McMillan Commission of 1901 that set out to establish "Fort Drive," a green beltway around downtown DC. Only small sections of the green roadway were ever established.

2. Enhancing Center City Parks: With 30 percent of the city’s future housing growth and 70 percent of job growth likely to occur downtown and along the Anacostia River, downtown parks add vibrancy, but place high demand for active uses.

3. Transforming Small Parks: Of the city's parks, 67% are small - less than one acre. NCPC plans to refurbish small spaces greater recreation and for "cultural and historic commemoration."

4. Enhancing Urban Natural Area: On top of providing recreational areas, the parks serve an ecological function as well - providing "pathways for wildlife" to move around the city.

5. Improving Playfields: DC's various athletic fields, of which there are more than 1,000 throughout DC, will be accorded "the highest level of planning and upkeep." Designs include better lighting, synthetic turf, and an online system of registering and reserving fields.

6. Improving Public School Yards: A plan to improve the 30% of the District's playgrounds, fields and courts that are run by the DC Public Schools (DCPS).

Factors that influence regeneration of the parks: Some 68% of parkland in DC is controlled by the National Park Service; 35% of DC children between 10 and 17 are obese; DC has 12.9 acres of park per 1000 residents (7617 acres) - one of the highest in the nation; DC has .217 athletic fields per 1,000 residents - one of the lowest ratios on the east coast; the District Department of Transportation manages about 250 small parks in DC; Washington DC is expected to increase from in population from 600,000 to 700,000 by 2025.

Washington DC real estate development news

Not Your Grandmother’s Church

Washington DC design - architects and churches
church design, Washington DC, Hartman Cox architectsIt’s like walking an ecclesiastical tightrope.

In an effort to renovate centuries-old or even mid-century churches with 21st century acumen, practitioners of the art have learned to strike a delicate balance between old and new, sacred and sustainable. The journey from what was and is, to what needs to be, is often complicated: the act of mixing preservation with practicality a sort of alchemy at which even Harry Potter might marvel.

“With existing buildings of this kind, the important thing to remember is that they have an enormous amount of embodied energy,” said Hartman-Cox Architects Partner Mary Katherine Lanzillotta, whose D.C.-based firm is responsible for such projects as St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church School, McLean, Va.’s Immanuel Presbyterian Church, and a Duke University Divinity School addition. “The resources that the parishioners put into them from the original construction, both financially and emotionally – for us to keep these buildings active and vibrant is one of the most sustainable things we can do,” she said.

Shepherds of more than 100 church renovations and original construction from New York to Florida, Arlington, Va.-based Kerns Group Architects Principal Tom Kerns indicated challenges on the church front vary in style and scope. These include building or expanding sacred spaces without forfeiting intimacy, installing air changes to code to eliminate the “sick building” syndrome of 20 years ago and creating spaces that assist young families or entice teenagers to come to worship in the first place.

Washington DC design - Kerns Group ArchitectIn this regard, St. Petersburg, Fla.’s First Presbyterian Church – one of the city’s largest –is no different than many houses of worship whose parishioners include overscheduled teens. With school, sports, jobs and other, perhaps less structured attractions vying for young people’s attention, the church, built in the mid-1960s, was without a contemporary space for its youth population to gather. According to Kerns, “The mission of the youth center was to have a place to hang out on Friday nights,” and also to serve as a venue for a Wednesday night praise service and other spiritual activities. Completed three years ago by raising the roof within the existing structure, the two-story assembly space for 150 people boasts LED colored lighting for its performance stage and dances, and a computer lab for homework. A nursery and day school classrooms occupy the bottom floor. “It’s been very successful,” Kerns said.

Holy Trinity Parish in Georgetown - Washington DC church designAt Holy Trinity Parish in Georgetown, Washington’s first place of Catholic worship dating back to 1792, an original chapel on a hill built by Bishop Carroll - first bishop of the hierarchy of the U.S. – had become a convent and then a parish office over its 200-year lifespan. A commission to restore the chapel and renovate the entire campus presented a great challenge for Kerns Architects, but one they embraced. “They (the Jesuit community) asked us to restore the chapel and at the same time to express the juxtaposition of this 18th century building with today’s liturgy,” said Kerns, who completed the project about 10 years ago. According to Kerns, exposing the original container – the entire volume – revealed old wooden trusses the architects left as they were. The tower’s interior timber framing was also deliberately exposed, and concealed lighting placed in window sills. With an eye toward additional sustainability, local artisans were engaged to design custom altars, tabernacDurham, N.C., Hartman-Cox’s expansion of Duke Divinity School was an exercise in ecclesiastical efficiency. Duke University, Hartman-Cox Principal Lee Beckerles and light fixtures. Campus renovation included staff offices, meeting, and various support spaces. Two courtyards promoted fellowship and facilitated the physically challenged.

“It was a pretty high professional gauntlet to run,” Kerns said, in light of its Georgetown geography. The project took several years and included a year and a half in review, including the Commission of Fine Arts. In the end, much of the 26,000 s.f. project was built below grade to conceal it, which was expensive, but within the framework of a project of this scope.

In 2005 in Durham, N.C., Hartman-Cox’s expansion of Duke Divinity School was an exercise in ecclesiastical efficiency. Duke University was particularly concerned about the site, according to Hartman-Cox Principal Lee Becker, “with the chapel essentially a small cathedral in Collegiate Gothic style and the campus very cohesive.” Designed by Horace Trumbauer in 1934 with Julian Abele as architect/draftsman, the surrounding campus included a 1974 addition “that is a miserable building,” Becker said. A cloister connection piece - the original divinity school - was parallel to the chapel, with an engineering building and library also on site. An approximately 26-foot drop existed between the chapel and the cloister.

“They asked us to fill this in,” Becker said about the drop, “and do something with the cloister.” The building, which is an education building, had to multifunction as classroom and performance space, as well as service and practice space for the choir, requiring acoustical capability. “And it had to have a real ecclesiastical feel,” Becker added. Using Indiana limestone and “Duke stone” for the exterior (Duke has its own local quarry) to match the chapel, a symmetry evolved. “Also, at that time, the university was not seeking LEED certification for buildings,” Becker said, “but it would have qualified.”

Church renovation and design in Washington DCAccording to Hartman-Cox’s Lanzillotta, the LEED certification process is expensive for ecclesiastical buildings and institutions. “When you’re dealing with donor dollars, federal or state dollars, or other forms of fundraising, it may not be the best use of their resources for the documentation,” she said, noting that site selection, mechanical systems, lighting design, drought resistant landscape design, and the envelope – all are sustainable in her firm’s work, with or without certification.

“Architecture is a service profession,” Kerns of Kerns Group Architects said. “They (the churches) hire us to solve a wish list or set of problems." Rather than the quest for LEED certification, “ …what’s at the top is to solve space needs: not enough classrooms or gathering space or accessibility.” Accommodating young families with appropriate facilities or space to grow the music program are their priorities. “But as practicing architects, we’ve been using sustainable ideas for our whole careers,” he said, noting that sometimes more than other clients, churches are more committed to the project and want to be good stewards of the funds they have for their needs or mission.

Duke Divinity School photographs by Bryan Becker

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

New Georgia Avenue Development Requires Dump Truck of Cash

An unassuming four-story residential building will pop-up at 2910 Georgia Avenue over the course of the summer and within in a year's time will have all 22-units sold. That, anyway, is the prediction of developer Art Linde, President of ASL Development Corporation, who has been working in "emerging areas" in the District for 20 years - areas like 14th Street in the '90s and U Street a decade ago. His fairly standard four- or five-story buildings often sit in the shadow of a larger project's spotlight, but today, a new condominium project with a firm timeline and construction financing seems like a relative star in areas hit by stalled development, like lower Georgia Avenue.

Linde purchased the property for $560,000 from Howard University in November 2009, applied for construction permits in December 2009, will begin construction this May and expects to deliver 10 months later. A stunning timeline in today's climate and no easy feat. Linde said he always signs his own loans, never takes financing from "the government or metro," but for this project he had to hand over a "dump truck full of cash" to secure a loan from Bank of Georgetown. Linde is unique in that he actually had a dump truck and enough cash to fill it. As he said, some developers today would not even be able to buy of one the units in his new building. A one-bedroom will run around $220,000 and a two-bedroom around $300,000. Yeah, times are tough.

The Developer described buying the lot as a "no brainer" because of its location on a "wonderful little street" in an area with a "rich history." Project Architect Eric Colbert and Associates said the design "gives harmony to adjacent structures" in the largely residential townhouse neighborhood. The project will be brick with large double-hung windows and bays that step out into the public space to "break down" any appearance of mass said Colbert.

The matter of right development will come in at five floors, plus a penthouse, and will be no higher than 50 feet. A side yard area will be covered in brick and provide 11 parking spots for residents of the one- and two-bedroom units. What about retail? Linde said the area has a dearth of quality housing and is rife with vacant lots. "You need to put heads in beds before you start building any retail," asserted Linde. Adding, "doesn't do any good to put in a Trader Joes... or a Starbucks if there aren't any people to drink the coffee." Considering his dump truck of cash, perhaps there's something to this philosophy.

Small though they may be, the developer said he takes care with his buildings, making sure the interiors are well built. They sand and finish the wood floors in place, no Masonite or cheap pieces of lumber. The windows are double hung wood, no vinyl. In short, "nothing that fell out of the back of a Home Depot truck," said Linde.

Though everyone seems to be "hoping" to start construction "very soon" and to deliver in the "next year," for once, it might actually be true.

Washington, DC real estate development news

North Bethesda's Latest Project to Break Ground

North Bethesda better brush up on its knowledge of protons and neutrons because there will be a lot of particles moving around when construction starts this summer on the Nuclear Regulatory Commission building. On Monday, developer LCOR received a final approval from the Montgomery County Planning Board to build a new 362,000 s.f. office building at North Bethesda Center Metro, a.k.a. White Flint, a.k.a Rockville. About a year ago, LCOR, in a partnership with USAA Real Estate Co., won out over several competitors for the opportunity to build the project for the General Services Administration and in October signed a lease that will make the new building home to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission for at least 15 years. According to Mike Smith, VP of LCOR, the project should begin construction in mid to late May; a formal groundbreaking will take place May 17th.

Approximately 1,300 NRC employees will occupy the new 14-story building, across from the NRC campus, which has been designed by HOK to meet LEED Silver certification. The new government building will join LCOR's residential project, Wentworth House, which delivered in 2008. That project brought 312 units and a brand new Harris Teeter to North Bethesda, on a 32-acre site approximately halfway between downtown Bethesda and downtown Rockville. In total, LCOR's project are to bring eight highrise buildings to the area, encompassing eight city blocks (when subdivided), and will include 1,274 multifamily housing units at its completion, but little has happened on the site, which remains nearly in the state as it was when it served as a golf course.

Smith was hesitant to predict the future of any of the other buildings, saying "we are waiting for market conditions to improve" before beginning work on the "next residential or another commercial project." The developer has not filed any plans with Montgomery-National Capital Park and Planning Commission for additional developments on the site.

CB Richard Ellis and Transwestern represented the LCOR-USAA joint venture (officially North Bethesda Center Office One, LLC) in the lease transaction, commercial real estate tenant rep firm Studley represented the GSA. Turner Construction will serve as general contract.

North Bethesda real estate development news

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Anacostia River Park Unveiled Today

The District's $8 million Diamond Teague Park project officially opened today after breaking ground a little over a year ago. At 10:45 am today (11:15ish Fenty Standard Time), the Mayor and his entourage of Fenty for re-election volunteers gathered together with Earth Conservation Corps volunteers and Florence and Ivory Teague - parents of the slain teenager for whom the park is named - for a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Located at First and Potomac SE on the Anacostia River, Diamond Teague Park's first steps toward fruition began when Mayor Anthony Williams facilitated jurisdictional control of the land and the defunct Capitol Pumphouse from the Federal government and into the hands of the District in 2006.

Before his murder in October 2003, 19-year old Diamond Teague served as a member of the Earth Conservation Corps, a non-profit organization committed to engaging youth in "activities that restore and clean the Anacostia River and surrounding communities." As part of its agreements with the District, Coastal Properties, a commercial dock operator, has agreed to hire students from the Corps to help maintain the park.

The park's two piers include a 250-foot commercial pier for the water taxi service that became available last summer and a 200-foot pier for docking kayaks and canoes. If funding comes through without a hitch, a concrete and steel, pyramid-shaped memorial designed by Byron Peck of City Arts could be showing up at the site by late October of this year. The Landscape Architecture Bureau designed the project.

Although the park is largely funded by the District, Maryland-based developer Florida Rock shelled out $800,000 toward the project as part of the community benefits agreed to in the PUD for it's neighboring RiverFront on the Anacostia development.

Washington, DC Real Estate Development News

Room and Board

Newly renovated interior with hardwood floors throughout, charming antique fireplace mantles, open, airy space and a stunning roof deck addition. Marketing for a new condo? No; a description of the new Room and Board store coming to the 14th Street scene this June. Adding to the design/decor corridor along 14th Street, NW, the new DC flagship location for the Minneapolis-based home furniture retailer is nearing completion at 14th and T Street in the old Taylor Motor Building. Last June, the retailers purchased the vacant, four-story building at 1840 14th Street, with plans to transform it into a fully rehabbed showroom and sales location. The company retained DC architects Eric Colbert and Associates to design the extensive renovation and work as a local advocate to get approvals from Historic and Zoning.

Area residents have been eying the progress especially now that the scaffolding came down and a new sign was added last week to the 14th Street side, both portending the opening, scheduled for early to mid-June. The new store will offer 36,000 s.f. of open show room space on three floors and a roof top area. A roof deck with a wrap around glass balcony offers fantastic views of the Logan and U Street area--the perfect place to contemplate life and design on a sunny day. If only they were putting in a coffee shop...

The retailers tasked Project Architect Eric Colbert with exposing much of the interior structures - like the original concrete beams. As you enter through the large glass doors from 14th street, the space opens before you, drawing your attention to the "grand staircase" and the streaming light flooding the store from the new windows that replicate the original single-pain industrial sash windows. Keeping with the retailer's request, Colbert and McCullough Construction built 3/4 walls that act as partitions anchored to the ground, not reaching the full height of the ceilings, where the duct work and pipes are exposed "in a neat and orderly manner," according to Colbert. The architect also attempted to recreate contemporary showroom windows, using steel details in canopies and bays to create something that looked like it may have been "added recently, but has the feeling and overall effect of the original concept."

The addition of a rooftop area posed the challenge of integrating "aesthetics of an addition with the existing structure to make it harmonious" said Colbert. He added, "a sophisticated addition to an historic building does not try to mimic the historic building because then there is no immediate story on how it evolved over time." On average the addition is set back 20 to 30 feet on all sides except that with the adjoining building. Colbert designed a wood deck with a tempered glass handrail set back an additional four feet from the edge to prevent visual obstructions of the historic area.

A construction manager from McCullough walked us through the project pointing out unique details for the store, like the slabs of wood for the floor that upon closer examination had a pattern of swirls and flourishes meant to look like an old mill room floor. Then there are the five fireplaces throughout the building, stone and iron frames will integrate antique mantles (salvaged from area homes) into the new space. On the interior walls that were covered in plaster and stucco during one of the space's many incarnations, the builders are applying a thin brick facade, closer to what the interior looked like when first built.

The store will act as a showroom for furniture, where customers can try out a couch, pick out a fabric and then order their newest piece of furniture for delivery. By showing furniture on location, but not selling pieces then and there, the store will minimize the number of deliveries and traffic in the alley and neighboring street.
You can check it out yourself when it opens in June. Don't forget, the rooftop is BYOL (bring your own latte).

Washington DC real estate development news

Monday, April 26, 2010

Condos Fail at Alexandria's Nordic Press Site

It's a fabulous condo project: the citizens' associations have supported it, the city heartily endorsed it and even gave it a special zoning exemption, and at a meeting to present their plans the developers reportedly even got a standing ovation for turning an outmoded printing plant into an attractive "gateway" into Alexandria. The only glitch is that it will never be built.

In fatter times, the Nordic Press condominium development would have been a no-brainer, bringing 28 residential units to the 800 block of Slaters Lane in Alexandria. But the developer, Diamond Property Co., bought at the wrong time, and now the 16,000 s.f. property has gone back to lender Cardinal Bank, which has leased the property to another printer, ending hopes for a transformation of the site into something less industrial.

The developer has had plans since 2005 to demolish the warehouse, just off the GW Parkway on the northern tip of Alexandria, in favor of 28 one- and two-bedroom units designed by Rust Orling Architects. The project was intended to be green enough to meet the USGBC's Silver certification, and would have required the developer to undertake streetscape improvements. The city had even approved a rezoning from commercial-industrial to residential, no easy feat, noting that the area had undergone a thorough transformation, with even more residential planned for next-door Potomac Yards. "Everything was good except the economy," lamented architect John Rust, who would have overseen the design.

The last tenant, Nordic Press, closed its doors last year, raising hope that the building would be readied for demolition, but with construction financing nil, the bank took control of the property in December of last year. Sources familiar with the project say Cardinal Bank has now leased the property to ABC Printers, ending the possibility of another developer picking up the designs and approvals. County records show the property traded for $2.2m in December, less than the $2.7m that Diamond Slater LLC paid for the land in 2005.

Alexandria Virginia real estate development news

Takoma Overlook: Conversions Continue

Not every condo developer is sitting on the sidelines, waiting for the market to improve. Even in the suburbs, some are betting that the lack of competition means that condo conversions are still viable. To that end, DC-based Tenacity Group is still converting units in their Takoma Overlook project from rental apartments to market-rate condos. The team purchased the Hampshire Towers apartments in mid 2006 for $15.3 million and rechristened them Takoma Overlook; the 1960s high-rise at 7333 and 7401 New Hampshire Avenue is just outside DC in Takoma Park neighborhood of Maryland. In 2007, the team's general contractor, Monarc Construction, began gutting the rental units and converting them to for-sale condos ranging in size from efficiencies to three-bedroom units.

The team at Monarc construction completed renovations on the first phase, covering the 94 units of the north wing, in December 2009, now 50% sold, according to the sales office. Now the team is working on both the South and West Wings (not of Jed Bartlet fame) to convert yet more units. The work in the West Wing's 44 units is now underway, with 8 units sold; the development team expects the first units to be ready by June. Work has even begun on the 94 units of the South Wing, which should begin delivering by the end of this year. The team is largely delivering one-bedrooms first because of demand; three-bedrooms will come last. Greg Coupe, Project Manager at Monarc Construction, said the project could finish as early as December.

The building is FHA approved, with one bedrooms from $124,500 and "huge" two-bedrooms from $229,500. Sales began in October of 2007.

Takoma, Maryland real estate development news

Friday, April 23, 2010

O Street Market: The Possibility of Progress

Despite yesterday's Historic Preservation consent approval of a one-time, two-year extension for Roadside Development's O Street Market and next week's scheduled extension at the Office of Zoning, the O Street Market project is closer to birth than it has been in years, and signs of progress are appearing. The project received Zoning approval in July 2008, an approval which will expire this summer unless the extension request is granted. The project team is now working with the District Department of Transportation and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to obtain construction permits so that in September, Roadside can begin the process of bolstering and securing the existing structure. Construction will likely follow in "Spring of 2011." The Shaw neighborhood may see progress yet.

The O Street Market has stood at the corner of 7th and O Streets, NW, since 1881, now deteriorating with the roof having collapsed in 2003. Roadside Development purchased the site in 2002 and began their plans to reinvent the site and with it a key section of Shaw. In late June, 2008, the DC government announced a deal to provide a $35 million tax increment financing (TIF) to help the developers bridge a financial gap and achieve the $260 million needed for the project.

Roadside Development's founder Armond Spikell said the Shaw neighborhood has "suffered" over the years from various set backs and that "quite frankly our project is one of the sore spots in the neighborhood, as it exists." But Spikell also believes that once developed, the O Street Market project will be "no question...the catalyst to put the neighborhood over the top." The project will be an "economic engine for the neighborhood" added Spikell, providing over 600 jobs during construction and 400 full-time equivalent jobs once completed.

The two-block, mixed-use project will include 611 residential units, 86 of which will be subsidized by the city, senior housing, a 189-room hotel, a 516-space parking garage and 88,000 s.f. of retail: 57,000 s.f. Giant and 31,000 s.f. for additional vendors. The six architecturally distinct buildings, designed by Shalom Baranes Architects, will cover two city blocks between 7th and 9th Streets, and O and P Streets. The project will re-open 8th Street, lining it with retail and new residential, serving as "the hub" of the new mini-community, according to the developers.

At the Shaw Main Streets Meeting last September, a Roadside representative indicated that the current Giant would close its doors January 15, 2011. Now, Susan Linsky, a Roadside spokesman, said the Giant will not close until the group is ready to begin serious construction in "spring of 2011." Under its contract with Giant, the developers have to provide four months notice, which can only be given after permits are secured and construction financing is in place. Shaw residents can continue to enjoy their ho-hum Giant until further notice.

Construction, whenever it starts, will begin with a site-wide excavation, including the area under the historic market. There the team will dig out two levels of parking to serve the grocery, residential and hotel. The below-grade garage is a welcome improvement in urban planning, replacing the street-facing row of truck bays that hogs 9th Street with a single-purpose truck ramp for all deliveries to the hotel, residential and grocery store. Also underground will be a 14,000 s.f. "back of house" space for Giant's behind-the-scenes operations; no mysterious swinging doors to rear nether regions. Roadside is contractually obligated to complete the Giant within 24 months of vacating the space, meaning a new store could open by spring 2013.

The Grocery store will be "much bigger and a lot more interesting" than any other in city, claimed Spikell. By including the old market, the design will rebuild the 42 ft. high roof with a monitor skylight window, 150 ft. in length, down the center. Spikell hopes that as people enter the store through an area with baked goods and prepared foods they will look back at the old market, divided from the rest of the store by the skylight, and get a "special feeling from the ceiling height and all that light coming in." Beyond the ethereal elements, the store will be "much larger" than most urban customers are used to and will have "a greater offering" of products, according to Spikell. Think cheese bar and a large prepared food section.

Once the garage and grocery are finished, the team will build the hotel space and the market-rate apartments along 8th Street, followed by affordable senior housing on 7th Street and finishing with the proposed condo units along 9th Street. The team has not yet formalized an agreement with a general contractor.

Washington, DC real estate development news

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Buying Into Utopia

Though it may be hard to believe, U Street still has a few rough edges without the pizazz of chic bars and swanky loft apartments, but not for long: enter Utopia at the corner of 14th and U, where developers assert a construction timeline is nigh. Robert Moore of Georgetown Strategic Capital LLC (GSC) is the optimist behind Utopia's assemblage of parcels into a mixed-use residential and retail project; Moore recently shared with DCMud how his long gestating plans are coming into focus.

Though the Utopia project was "hammered by the economy in '08 and '09," said Moore, the team is deep in the process of "inking" an agreement with a large financial institution. Moore indicated everything has to "go through the lawyers," but that he could make an announcement about financing and a timeline "hopefully in the next couple weeks." With financial backing secured for the $93.5 million project, the team will then put together construction drawings and obtain permits, reportedly over the next nine months. Moore said construction would likely begin in 2011 and complete in 2012.

The Utopian vision is for 220 residential rental units on the corner of 14th and U Streets, with the building and all entrances facing 14th Street. Historic structures along U Street would remain, while their less historic neighbors will be sacrificed. An approved curb cut means that two levels of parking will be accessed from 14th Street, loading will take place in the back alley. Just a block from the U Street Metro, the new project will offer 150 parking spaces to service both retail and residential uses. The building with be tallest on U Street at 90 feet, stepping down to 65 feet, then 45 feet on the south side as it moves away from U Street. Moore plans 20,000 s.f. of retail and a roof top pool.

Though most of the buildings on 14th Street will be demolished, the historic structures along U Street will be spared by setting the project 60 feet back from U Street. Architect Eric Colbert of Eric Colbert & Associates said that the design process was highly collaborative, including near-monthly meetings with organizations such as the Dupont Circle Conservancy, the ANC and the Historic Preservation staff. Developers have pledged use of materials in keeping with the style of the neighborhood; team members consulted the community on window designs, and window and brick colors.

One "very important" aspect of the design, according to Colbert, is the density, which is greatest near U Street and gradually "terraces down towards the residential neighborhood to the south." Additionally, the architects "broke-up the facade" so that it reads as "different rowbuildings rather than some blockbuster building," according to the architect. The terracing is designed to provide a "sense of hierarchy of scale" instead of providing a flat, box-like facade from the street.

The team has not determined
whether or not it will seek LEED certification, though Colbert assures us that "we are definitely going to make it as green as's definitely the trend."

Washington, DC real estate development news

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