Saturday, December 31, 2011

Your Next Place

By Franklin Schneider

This Georgian red-brick colonial is not just beautiful and sophisticated, it's a big bad hunk o' house, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. Just look at it; it seems to exude strength and solidity and security. You want this house to be your dad. I feel like a meteor could strike this house and would just bounce off, with maybe minor damage to the gutters or something.

Located on an extremely quiet street (I tiptoed to and from my car), the interior of the house is just as striking as the exterior. The huge living room boasts a fireplace, and the formal dining room is so nice it's almost a shame to just use it for sitting around and shoveling back Tater Tots while listening to your relatives hold forth on current events. (“Instead of Occupying Wall Street, they should try to get jobs there, I heard those bankers make a lot of money!” Actual unironic quote from my Thanksgiving. It's important to note that this person also thinks the greatest president of her lifetime was “Jim W. Bush.”) Gleaming hardwood floors throughout, recessed lighting, crown moldings, four large bedrooms, a stunning sunroom.

Last but certainly not least, my favorite thing about this place was the fantastic garden in back, with a large stone patio, fully fenced in and extremely private. You could totally sunbathe in the nude back here with no fear of being spied upon. In fact, I gave it a try, but I'd barely gotten my pants off before the agent pepper-sprayed me.

4504 Burlington Place, NW
4 Bedrooms, 3 Baths

Thursday, December 29, 2011

2011 Year in Review

Looking back on 2011, the year may be known in the real estate world as a year of binge-buying and construction of apartment buildings, or the year Walmart came to town, at least on paper. But with Washington DC's population growing and construction financing available, the city added many new restaurants, apartments (though condos still lagged) and even some office buildings. Here's a look at some of the many developments that shaped the year:

14th Street Rules
14th Street saw developers lining up in swarms as JBG broke ground on District Condos (Jan 10) and quickly leased up retail in the future building (pictured below), showing the commercial strength of 14th Street, though the building later converted to rentals, showing the relative strength of the apartment financing market. Nearby, Georgetown Strategic Capital readied to build Utopia at 14th & U, though JBG took that up too. Level2 Development got support for 144 units across the street on the 1900 block of 14th, UDR got underway on its 255-unit apartment building replacing the Nehemiah Center, Douglas Development got approval for 30 units on the 2200 block, Habte Sequar started work on his 30 unit project at 14th & R, while PN Hoffman began converting the Verizon building across the street into 40 condos. The Irwin neared final approval for 60 units on lower 14th Street, and Furioso put up a design for a 42,000 s.f. office in the 1500 block.

Virginia, Towering Above Others
Virginia went big this year: Dittmar submitted plans for 500 apartments in Virginia Square (Jan 11), though construction has not yet begun. The beltway's tallest building - at nearly 400 feet - got underway in Alexandria, another just a hare shorter got closer in Tysons Corner, both barely eclipsing the Rosslyn tower that poked above ground (pictured, left) just a few days ago. JBG contributed with its 474-unit Rosslyn Commons groundbreaking (Jan 6).

There was finally a kick start for Buzzard Point (Jan 17), thanks to Duane Deason, who is planning the first residential project in the largely forgotten area, with zoning approval secured in August. Not too far away, Camden Properties began their residential project on South Capitol (June 13) giving the area some momentum. A new bridge and streetscape on the way for South Capitol gave the area even more buzz.

Columbia Heights saw nothing like the boom that hit it in previous years, but Chris Donatelli began adding another building next to his two centerpieces at 14th & Irving.

Getting Malled
It was a busy, if controversial year for the Mall: Eisenhower drew the most attention as Frank Gehry, the chosen architect, put forward 3 plans for a tribute. One was selected, but public discontent with the starchitect's vision was strong, and one arts group put forward its own competition. The winning vision was displayed, briefly. Three areas of the fading Mall were designated for a redesign (Oct 26). Rogers Marvel Architects was chosen as the designer for President's Park South (July 7), while DC residents begged for the reopening of E Street, and The Disabled Veterans' Memorial got nearly ready for construction near the U.S. Capitol (Oct 5). The Martin Luther King Memorial progressed from dirt piles to completion, opening this summer (Aug 12), and the African American Museum of History and Culture got nearly off the ground. Not to be outdone, Latinos pursued sites nearby for another museum on ethnicity and race (July 2).

NoMa boomed, again. Its second hotel, a Hilton, opened in April, Mill Creek Residential broke ground (March 18) on 603 rental units, Skanska purchased a lot in January and planned its largest office building in the DC area (Aug 10). Camden started off 320 units of housing in September, and MRP let slip that they intended to kick off Washington Gateway at NoMa's northern edge (Aug 29) after years of waiting. StonebridgeCarras started digging for phase II of Two Constitution Square (May 12) for 203 residential units and then broke ground on Three Constitution Square (Oct 18) on spec, like its predecessors. NoMa East, however, continued to idle.

Shaw had its day, again and again, as Four Points (officially, anyway) got to work on Progression Place (Feb 5), while the CityMarket at O got underway (pictured, below) two months after the Giant closed. New designs were released for the Wonder Bread buildings (Aug 30) Jefferson Apartment Group bought Kelsey Gardens (Oct 27), promising a quick start of removing the eyesores. Finally, Two more Marriotts were planned next to the Convention Center (June 22).

Take Me to the River
Construction was everywhere in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood in southeast with the construction of Canal Park (Feb 15), and a new bridge (Nov 21). Foundry Lofts opened to the public, reconstruction of the boilermaker building got underway for the area's first retail component, work on the Harris Teeter and apartment building commenced and Florida Rock demolition finally began. Other waterfronts made progress too as plans in Old Town and southwest DC inched along.

Elsewhere around the city, the CityCenter mega-project got underway in April, still without a tenant; GW faced a public outcry over its plan to demolish historic rowhouses on Pennsylvania Avenue, the Wisconsin Ave. Giant finally got the financing to go forward with the residential and retail project, then beat off the NIMBYs, and Dakota Crossing was purchased, facilitating a big-box retail development where a forest now stands. Tenleytown got an unsightly library, finally (Jan 19) and new school, Eastbanc unveiled its designs for the West End (Apr 8), and the Bozzuto/Abdo team broke ground for the 2nd big project in Brookland.

Bethesda, and its Northern Neighbor
In Bethesda, Bainbridge got to work on its 17-story apartment building, while the Trillium site was sold to StonebridgeCarras and Walton Street Capital (Mar 9), injecting the moribund project with hoped-for new life. Way up north in the neighborhood that no one can agree what to name, White Flint (aka North Bethesda, aka Rockville) got ready for a building boom as JBG and LCOR beefed up residences (1275 by LCOR) planned for the ongoing construction sites and Federal Realty planned 1725 residences. JBG already has the tallest residential building in Montgomery County, which it plans to surpass with its next phase (pictured, at right).

Projects that wanted to be on the 2011 list but will now have to dream of the 2012 list: anything in Fort Totten, Skyland redevelopment, Arlington's first LEED Gold apartment building, reconstruction of Babe's Billiards, the Florida Avenue / Capital City Market, the Adams Morgan hotel, the Akridge and Monument Half Street projects in southeast, and Howard Town Center, to name just a few.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Today in Pictures - Boilermaker Shops

Forest City has begun work in earnest on the boilermaker shops, its first retail pavilion at the Yards in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. The building was constructed in 1919 as part of the Navy's largest shipbuilding factory, what would become the world's largest naval ordnance plant.

Forest City has announced the following tenants: Buzz Bakery and a brewery, both operated by the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, Austin Grill Express, Huey's 24/7 Diner, and BRB, all expected to open in late 2012. For more historic pictures, see the chronicler of all things southeast - JDLand.

Washington D.C. real estate development news. Photographs by Rey Lopez.

Arlandria Redevelopment Gains Momentum

The proposed redevelopment of Mt. Vernon Village Center in Arlandria cleared a crucial hurdle last week, gaining approval from the Alexandria City Council by a vote of 6-1, despite some expected objections from the community.

Arlandria Center will be a 600,000 square foot pedestrian-friendly mixed-use complex replacing the sixty-year-old storefronts-and-surface parking strip mall along Mount Vernon Avenue. Plans call for two massive C-shaped buildings, placed back to back, with retail space on the ground level to go with 478 apartments – 28 of which will be earmarked as "lower-income affordable housing” (60% of area median income, locked in for thirty years), and the rest offered at market value. The two retail anchors at Mt. Vernon Village Center, CVS and MOM's Organic Market, have agreed to stay, and their relocation is being accommodated by a phased construction.

The new complex also slightly increases the amount of retail space, to just over fifty three thousand square feet, and relocates parking underground. The project, designed by Guy Martin at CORE Architects, also aims to increase access to Four Mile Run Park, which is currently blocked off by the current structures. The new Mt. Vernon Village Center incorporates two “green fingers” - clear sight lines that provide park views from the Avenue – as well as pedestrian walkways and bike paths, and a no-vehicles pedestrian esplanade in the rear.

“The architecture is one of the things we're particularly excited about,” said Gwen Wright, Development Division Chief in the Alexandria Department of Planning. “There are lots of plane changes in the facade, breaking it up into smaller pieces, good transitions along Mt. Vernon Avenue and along Bruce Street. It also has great connections to the park – some units have entrances right onto the park. Overall, it's very contemporary – lots of glass, stone, and brick, very exciting. We'd like to see the area revitalized, with more focus on the arts. The Birchmere is already there, so there's a real opportunity to see Arlandria move in that direction.”

Like a lot of planners in the region, Wright hopes that Arlandria's rise will parallel the blossoming of certain neighborhoods in the District “A lot of this reminds me of U Street,” says Wright. “U Street and 14th Street.”
Protests centered on what some considered the meager number of units set aside for affordable housing, as well as the income requirement. Others worried that the whitewashing was already underway, as the immigrant-heavy neighborhood, known by locals as Chirilagua, was being rebranded exclusively as Arlandria.

Despite its relative inaccessibility, developers have long eyed Arlandria – with its proximity to the Pentagon, Crystal City, Del Rey, and Potomac Yard - as an area ripe for redevelopment, and with this step, that project looks to be gaining momentum. Mt. Vernon Village Center is one of three earmarked “opportunity sites” as outlined in the 2003 “Arlandria Neighborhood Plan,” and the first to make significant progress. The other two opportunity sites are the former Safeway/Datatel site at Mt. Vernon Avenue and West Glebe, and the Birchmere to the south. Which one will be next?

Alexandria Virginia real estate development news

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Your Next Place

By Franklin Schneider

This Chevy Chase colonial is totally fresh new construction - you know how when you buy a new sweatshirt, the inside is so soft and velvety that it's almost sensory overload? Extrapolate that to an entire house and you get the idea. Everything was so shiny and vibrant, I feel like living here would be like being a kid again. And let's be honest, living in a newly-constructed house is the really the only way to guarantee your new home isn't haunted. If I was an agent, I'd have that stamped on those glossy fliers for any new house I was selling - "Guaranteed Ghost Free!" I suggested this to the agent at the open house, but she just looked at me like "you're lucky I left my pepper spray in the car."

At 6200 square feet, this house is also palatially big. The family room, the dining room, the very fine kitchen - each one of these rooms was bigger than my entire apartment. Upstairs are five bedrooms, all spacious, and a fantastic master suite that features a tray ceiling, a fireplace, and his and her closets. No more intermingling your stuff! Because let's be honest, there's nothing worse than being on the train to work and realizing your shirt is exuding amber vanilla body spray after months of close confinement with your girlfriend's cardigans. I mean, I like it on her, but by mid-morning I was ready to roll around on the floor under the urinals, just to cut down the cute stench.

The lower level features a rec room, a game/media room, an office/exercise room, another bedroom/full bath, and a laundry room. Like I said, huge. I half-expected there to be a food court down there. The highlight of the house for me, though, was the enclosed porch, arguably the largest and nicest I've ever seen. It's also on the second level, which means your al fresco dining will be able to continue even in the event of flash flooding.

3211 Tennyson Street NW
6 Bedrooms, 5.5 Baths

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Giant Wins Lawsuit for Wisconsin Ave Redevelopment

Washington DC commercial real estate newsGiant has won its legal appeals against the longstanding lawsuits of a neighborhood activist group that has litigated to stop the neighborhood grocery-anchored project. Washington CityPaper reports today that an appellate court affirmed the lower court's ruling that development did not violate the District's zoning laws, as a neighborhood group had claimed in its suit. The project's developers had always seemed likely to prevail, and had been given added momentum when Stop & Shop, Giant's parent company, partnered with local developer Bozzuto Group just weeks ago to fund the mixed-use project. Construction of Cathedral Commons is likely to get underway in March or April

The historically debated, two-block redevelopment project will bring 137 apartment units and 8 townhomes, more than 500 parking spaces, and 128,000 s.f. of retail including the anchor, a new 56,000-s.f. Giant, to replace the badly aged 50-year-old one currently on site. Opening of the new Giant is "tentatively scheduled for late 2013. After years of trailing Whole Foods and Safeway, and even Harris Teeter as urban pioneers, Giant now seems to be catching up on the urban redevelopment wave, having broken ground late this year on CityMarket at O in Shaw and having started construction of a new grocery on H Street, NE. 

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Your Next Place

By Franklin Schneider

This is the first time this victorian-style home has been on the market since 1961. I don't think you could come up with a more powerful endorsement for a place: "we liked it so much we stayed for half a century." You know how we all know that one hilarious, brilliant, gorgeous person who are always in a relationship, and when they hit the market like every five years everyone around them goes temporarily insane and dumps their significant others and basically follows them around like whipped puppies? This house is the real estate equivalent to that perfect person! Go ahead and drunk-dial it and be like, "Forreal, I've always thought you were the only person to really get me, you know that right?!" Better yet, show up out front late at night holding a boombox over your head! Hey, it worked in a movie - it must be a good idea!

Seriously though, it's easy to see why they stayed for so long. (Sadly, they're only leaving now for health-related reasons.) I mean, they really don't make them like this anymore. This house defines authenticity - it still has the original wood floors and custom moldings, six (!) fireplaces, immaculately aged wallpaper, vintage light fixtures, all of it lovingly maintained. The ceilings are 10.5 feet high and the rooms are large and spacious, there's a rare mature rose garden, and a large, private patio.

My personal favorite was the sleeping porch - some of my fondest memories from childhood are sleeping out on the screened-in porch in the summer, watching fireflies. They're right up there at the very top with my memories of that time I threw a snowball at a car, the driver got out and chased me for two or three, and ended up having a (mild) heart attack just as he was got me cornered. True story! (And people wonder why I don't want to have kids - it's because they're evil!)

1519 31st Street NW
Washington D.C.
5 Bedrooms, 3.5 Baths

Washington D.C. real estate news

DC's Record Population Growth

The U.S. Census bureau reported this morning that the District of Columbia lead the nation in population growth over the past year, as many major apartment buildings came online and began occupancy.

From April 1, 2010, to July 1, 2011, Washington D.C. grew by 2.7%, seconded by the state of Texas, which grew by 2.1% during the same period. The population, which shrank for decades after peaking in the 1940's, grew 5.7% from 2000 to 2010. The District had 602,000 people as of the 2010 census, meaning an increase of more than 16,000 people during the preceding 16 months.

Most of the District's new apartment buildings have been reporting near-capacity occupancy rates, and many more large apartment buildings are scheduled to come online over the next 18 months.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Today in Pictures - National Gallery of Art


The National Gallery of Art has a new exhibit: its exterior. The 33-year-old East Building is in the midst of a major renovation that recently included the removal and reinstallation of the marble veneer - 16,200 Tennessee pink marble panels with new supports. Each five foot wide, two foot high, three-inch-thick panel weighs about 450 pounds. The I.M. Pei design, completed in 1978, is not holding up nearly as well as the John Russell Pope design of the West Building. A "systemic structural failure" of the facade's design prompted Congressional emergency aid (too big to fail?) and scaffolding to protect pedestrians. On the upside, DC is treated to an architectural undressing thanks in part to an open, vertical-access scaffolding system. Work is expected to be completed by spring 2014.

Photographs by Rey Lopez. 

 Washington D.C. real estate development news

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