Thursday, May 20, 2010

Capitol Hill: Razing Townhouses, Raising Money

Fifteen historic homes on Capitol Hill have been pulverized to make way for what appears to be a surface parking lot. The townhouses (pictured below last year) happened to sit where the Louis Dreyfus Property Group plans to build Capitol Place, a 380,000-s.f. mixed use development with 302 residential units and 20,000 s.f. of retail.

In April, DCMud reported that Dreyfus had applied for, and received, an extension of their zoning application, giving them more time to find financing for the mixed-use project. But construction crews from Aceco, based in Silver Spring, are now tearing down the last bits of the century-old homes, and unconfirmed reports suggest the site may be used as a surface parking lot to raise money for eventual construction. Dreyfus could not be reached for comment. While the zoning application for a PUD extension was approved, the raze permit for the old homes was issued in June 2008, a permit that came with a two-year time limit.

The block misses the Capitol Hill Historic District - a legislatively demarcated zone which ends at F Street, NE - by one block. The demolition was an unexpected move given a recent conversation DCMud had with the Developer. Just last month, Robert H. Braunohler, Regional Vice President for Louis Dreyfus Property Group, left the impression that movement was not imminent. "At this point we are actively trying to raise money to go forward with a project that will be part condo and part rental," said Braunohler, added that the project does not have "a firm construction schedule."

Capitol Place was designed by New York-based Cook + Fox Architects. For more pictures of the demolished buildings, so our last story on the project.

Washington, DC real estate development news


Like what it was said...

Sucks. That's a big problem with DC's planning, they give a raze permit even if the person doesn't have the wherewithal to build. If the company goes bankrupt, oh well, there's just a big whole where beautiful buildings used to be, and now...a surface parking lot. Someone in DC is asleep at the switch.

Anonymous said...

Is this inside or outside the H Street Overlay? Parking lots aren't allowed by the Overlay Plan and DDOT won't issue curb cuts.
Not sure what's worse: an ugly vacant lot or an ugly parking lot.

Anonymous said...

I live nearby and checked that block out when I saw the excavators appear. I would say that the mix of historical and non-historical buildings was about 50/50. Half the buildings looked like they were from the 1980s.

And now that the buildings are gone, I would like to see Capitol Place built. H Street is/will be a major transportation corridor, and it makes sense to have high-density buildings on it. A sad parking lot seems exactly wrong. Maybe the owners can pay some kind of vacant property tax until construction starts.

poo poo pee doo said...

i live nearby as well. i don't advocate breaking the law, by any stretch, but... wow. the architectural remains sitting in giant piles are a treasure trove of old bricks with funky brick-making names imprinted in them, some cornices, big blocks of old granite, carved granite, it's pretty amazing. many are broken, some are intact, all inside their crappy little fence....

Anonymous said...

I saw the bricks too. Some of them do look quite interesting and it made me wonder how brickmaking tech has changed over the decades. Maybe they'll let you reduce the amount of debris to haul away?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, can't hurt to ask some guy on the demo crew if you can take some stuff.

Anonymous said...

I live nearby as well. Dreyfus has owned nearly all of these lots for five plus years, and many of them have been vacant for much of that time. Nearly all of it was zoned commercial and was being used as cheap office space not as residences.

I do think it would have been possible to preserve some of the buildings (even if just the facades) but the reality is that this L-shaped part of the block was pretty much destroyed by the creation of the Hopscotch Bridge, which took out much of the surrounding buildings and encouraged the deterioration to crappy office space and parking lots (which a chunk of this area already was.) Only now is that being remedied by the nearby high density construction.

I would guess they will build their project in the next few years eventually. The plans to construct the Steuart-owned apartment building (with Gian) semi-opposite, the planned connection to Union Station of the streetcar right there, and the eventual filling of Senate Square, make this too valuable real estate to leave as a parking lot indefinitely. Dreyfus has shown no hurry with its construction (having built Station Place in three phases over a decade) but they seem unlikely to totally give up on what has been a painstaking and long-term plan.

Anonymous said...

Very ironic considering the VP of Development of Louis Dreyfus is on the Board of the DC Preservation League.

not on parker said...

I think it's tremendously disingenuous that the Louis Dreyfus Property Group is representing their financial condition as such that they need to "raise funding" in order to develop this property.

While I have limited omniscience into the price value of their holdings, the profits/losses they make on their impressive portfolio, and the profits/losses of their parent company, there's enough information out there to conclude that this firm is hardly suffering (unlike our friends at Tishman who had to unload their DC portfolio or our friends at Broadway who had to unload Senate Square and the I Street bakery).

These moves are all about Louis Dreyfus stalling development until market conditions improve. NoMA is very, very vacant. The opening of the Loree Grand is imminent. The grocery store is a few years off and will have its own residences. The District hasn't completely figured out the choo-choo train.

As I have stated/whined before, the District needs to revamp the entire PUD process. Developers need to demonstrate they have fully allocated funding (not contingent funding) toward their planned developments before being granted a PUD. The District needs to charge hefty fees when a developer requests an extension.

The bottom line is that the community suffers while these developers get their act together...and it should not be that way.

si on May 21, 2010, 12:42:00 PM said...

maybe they couldve raised a few dollars by donating the historical materials to salvage. too bad. surface parking lot is not acceptable. when the developer on the corner of of Connecticut & K wanted to ride out the market with a fugly parking lot, DC gov said NO. but move eastward and suddenly thats ok? DC leased its own land for a surface parking lot at 5th & I NW while their selected developer is waiting. neighbors were pissed but DC said too bad. In this situation the community can demand that the same standards at CT & K be applied to the Dreyfuss property. otherwise who knows how long y'all will have to look at a sea of tarmac? Or what billboards will spring up on it?

Matthias said...

This is ridiculous. There is still vacant land and buildings on H St that need to be redeveloped, but we're allowing more vacant land to be created at the expense of historic structures? Unacceptable! I would like to see more small-lot infill development appropriate for a rowhouse neighborhood instead of wholesale destruction of entire blocks to make way for megastructures such as those monstrosities at 3rd & K.

poo poo includes a reference to feces said...

those monstrosities at 3rd and K were a) an empty lot that used to be a taxi cab napping pad, and b) an entire block that was empty, except for half a dozen vacant rowhomes that actually caught on fire once because some crackhead dropped his/her pipe on the floor.

so.. i'm not happy with the demolition on 2nd and G, but it is what it is. the capitol hill historic district should have embraced them if they were so "important". fact is, they were too close to the ghetto, so they backed off including them at the time. so now it's "tough shit".

andrew said...

Ghetto? Hardly.

Near a mixed-use commercial/industrial area? Yes.

However, property values in the area are high, and crime is pretty much average for this side of the river.

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