Friday, August 06, 2010

Takoma's Long Awaited Residences May Be Underway Soon

Long thought to be another dormant development, turned rental then stalled even after Domus Realty presold nearly half of 85 units in 2008, the Ecco Park project in Takoma, at 235 Carroll Street, is now reported to be back on track. Ellisdale Construction, responsible for mixed used developments such as Moderno and Riggs Place, was awarded the $13 million contract earlier this week to build the four-story building, containing 5-6 thousand s.f. of retail, and 70 below-grade parking spots. The building was designed and developed by Bethesda-based SGA Architects and will include a few environmentally friendly features such as a green roof and recycled materials, but is unlikely to receive a LEED certification. Even without the rating, architect Sassan Gharai confidently described Ecco Park as "the building equivalent of a hybrid car." Financiers are hopeful that it sells better than a hybrid car.

No tenants for the retail space have been selected, and the development team is still undecided on whether the building will be built and marketed as entirely rented units or for-sale units. Dan Ford at Ellisdale said a mix of rentals and for-sale condos is technically possible but not exactly the most attractive option from a marketing standpoint; however, their team has accounted for each scenario in their budgeting strategies, and SGA effectively opted for that on Capitol Hill when its Butterfield House condominium real estate project failed to sell all its units after 3 years of marketing and rented unsold units.

Patios or balconies are planned for a majority of units; and a combination of brick veneer, metal and glass paneling, and stucco siding will make up the palette of materials used in creating the exterior fenestration. The building will be a wood frame structure secured over podium slab. Ellisdale President Kevin Ash explained, "We’re really excited about this project; it really is what we do best. With the economics of construction what they are today, wood-frame buildings really hit the sweet spot between density and cost. We’re finding this building type to be the most able to be financed right now.” Dan Ford insisted that the wood frame technique has been perfected by their construction engineers to mitigate common problems such as fire safety and noise transference, enabling them to build safely and keep their budget slim.

A popular technique on the West coast for some time, podium slabs are now becoming a more common occurrence on East coast construction sites. An efficient design solution for up to 4-story residential projects with underground parking, like Ecco Park, this special type of foundation system effectively distributes the weight-load from the wood-frame above the slab to walls and pillars below. This technique is not only cost effective, but also environmentally responsible, reducing concrete usage. The cement industry is considered to be one of two principle producers of CO2, accounting for as much as 5% of worldwide emissions.

The site, adjacent to the Takoma Metro, formerly home to a truck rental facility, and a gas station before that, needed loads of contaminated soil replaced and the excavation of several rusted-out oil drums before it was properly suited for construction. That preliminary work was done over two years ago, and the dirt there has had plenty of time to sit idly by, pondering its future. But ground is expected to finally be broken this fall (somewhere between October and January). Constructions is anticipated to span approximately fifteenth months, meaning a delivery date cannot be expected until at least early 2012.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development


Anonymous said...

Looks like a fantastic project. Hopefully there's money in the project to have some uplighting in the evening hours, but I guess that's not too green.

Anonymous said...

Nice design, and an antidote to the "Rockville Pike" CVS across the street...glad to see this moving forward.

Anonymous said...

Interesting about the podium slab. I'd love to hear more about this building technique.

Anonymous said...

I thought there was still some excavating of underground tanks to be done. Last I heard only half of the contaminated vessels were removed. Perhaps the oil company came around to doing the right thing while I wasn't looking?

Anonymous said...

I thought most condo projects were steel framed? Why would a developer use wood framing on a fee simple project?

Most multifamily projects are being built and financed as condos, but put on the market as apartment rentals.

Ken on Aug 10, 2010, 9:28:00 PM said...

A few corrections to Anon at 2:57. If a building is 4 stories or less, you can bet its wood-framed, its simply much cheaper and quicker to build. Beyond 4 stories they have to use concrete, by code, but there are some 5 story buildings where they build one story concrete then 4 above in wood. Steel frames are the exception, but make for a much stiffer building. Wood frames leave floors that vibrate and allow noise to penetrate in all directions, that is why they are cheaper.

Most residential projects are now being financed as apartment buildings, with the hope of converting them to condos if lenders see improved conditions.

Anonymous said...

Great. Cause the traffic on Carroll isn't bad enough already. I live within ear shot of construction so I can't freaking wait until that racket starts...

Dan Ford - Ellisdale Construction on Aug 12, 2010, 10:24:00 AM said...

Hi Ken, I wanted to correct a few points you made in your comment. By code, you can now build up to 5 stories using woodframe construction. We completed the first building in DC under the new code at the Moderno on 12th St, NW. Also, newer building techniques using wood can mitigate sound to a level equal to 8" of concrete. We'd be happy to meet with you to describe further our success in constructing woodframe buildings throughout the metro area.

Dan Ford
Ellisdale Construction

Rob Newman said...

I am not a journalism expert, but the portion of this article describing podium slabs appears to be plagiarized from another online article in Structure Mag published in November 2009 by Michael Rusillo:

Anonymous said...

The street view in front of the building seems to have a street that is much wider than the street that is actually there. I think this is a great project. I hope that the sidewalks are extra wide and safe.

Anonymous said...

I've very excited for this project. I'm renting a person's condo at 343 Cedar, on the other side of the tracks. I may actually be looking to buy something when this is completed.

Someone mentioned the CVS across the street. I hate that CVS. The Safeway at Georgia Ave and Piney Branch is just as bad. Totally car oriented with tons of free spaces and no bike parking. I actually bring my bike into the CVS when I need to buy something.

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