Thursday, March 31, 2011

Your Next Place...

By Franklin Schneider

Just a block from Catholic University and the Red Line, 1014 Monroe St. NE is billed as “the best house in Brookland.” From the outside it looks like a quaint, cottage-style home, but inside it's shiny and modern, with all the usual perks of a new renovation. The open plan living/dining area and kitchen has a ton of light and is pretty ridiculously huge; if you pushed all the furniture to the side, you'd have more than enough room to put down a legitimate full-size Slip n' Slide. (Try not to careen into the stainless steel custom railing though; the braided steel cable looks like it could easily decapitate.) Upstairs, each of the two upper floors has a master bedroom suite; the one on the third floor has vaulted ceilings and a skylight, so you can lie in bed for a few minutes each morning and pretend you're on death row and that that little square of sky is all
you ever see of the outside world. (I used to do this when I lived in a room with skylight; it made getting up and going to work slightly less unpleasant. Slightly.) The bathrooms are very modern, with exposed brick and stone and ceramic basins and glass shower enclosures. The house also has an “in-law suite,” which is sort of this separate little wing of the house with two bedrooms and a bathroom and kitchen and its own private entrance. I think this is a brilliant idea, though if I bought the house I'd also install a series of trapdoors throughout the main house that opened onto a network of slides, that all emptied into the in-law suite. That way, when the in-laws visited, they could come chat and have dinner in the main house, but as soon as they tried to get out the jigsaw puzzles or interrogate me about your “nest egg” I could just press a concealed button and be like, “alllllllll right, back to the in-law suite.”

1014 Monroe NE

6 Bedrooms
4.5 Baths


Ft. Totten: Hanging Tough, or Just Hanging?

Art place at Ft. TottenBeing on top of a Metro station means that real estate development and rising property values are a given; or so goes the axiom. More so if that Metro line is vermilion and close to downtown. Ft. Totten is proving the exception, with neighborhood-transforming projects sidelined, and now a distressed apartment sale shows why developers have held off.
Clark Realty Capital
Despite Ft. Totten's 3 Metro lines (Green, Yellow, Red), its bike trail, its local parks, its juxtaposition at several major traffic arteries and ample developable land, developers have balked at building out what seems on paper to be a model of transit-oriented, mixed-use development.

Clark Realty Capital, the only developer to have built on the site, demonstrated the hazards of pioneering, having recently lost its 5.6 acre property in a distress sale to Greystar, which paid $55m for Fort Totten Station (Greystar also snapped up 909, Axiom, Jefferson at Capitol Yards, all near the ballpark, and Jefferson at Thomas Circle.) Clark had completed the project in late 2007 after obtaining a $47m financing loan in 2006 plus a ground lease from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, but had gotten several foreclosure notices late last year. At the time, Clark called the project "the anchor for a comprehensive revitalization plan for the Fort Totten Metro site...the first of several developments planned for the Fort Totten neighborhood," but hedged its bets with little retail space and low budget architecture.

map of Ft. Totten DCClark's vision might still come true, but not soon. The few single family homes in the area sell (after a while) for around $200,000, and commerce is all but forgotten. The Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation and Lowe Enterprises, the two biggest private landowners in the area, have both iced plans for development. Representatives of Cafritz refused to speak about their project, and a representative of Lowe would say only that the project has been "put to the back burner." An Urban Land Institute (ULI) study in 2009 (sponsored by WMATA) noted that the project is "a mere 3.5 miles from the U.S. Capitol" but that "the Fort Totten market will support calls for smaller, more affordable units, and basically allow only for wood-frame construction."

If anyone sees opportunity in Fort Totten, it is WMATA. The publicly chartered organization still owns 9.3 acres around the Metro station (on top of the 5.6 it leased to Clark), and can't afford the pessimism of a private developer. The transit agency has been pushing for the past several years for Ft. Totten to be a different kind of example, one that showcases revised concepts of transportation planning, and has been working to corral developers to integrate plans, so that the individual pieces are built in some semblance of an Art Place, ft. Totten, Cafritz Foundation, Washington DCorganized whole.

Foremost among those pieces are Cafritz's Art Place and Shops at Fort Totten, 2 million s.f. with a mixture of community-serving retail, residential (over 1200 units) and arts and cultural space to house arts promoters like The Washington National Opera. Cafritz expected to begin construction in the first half of 2010.

The Lowe team (with partners Jack Sophie Development and City Partners Development, and now JBG too) was to include 898 residential units on 9 acres of land (see rendering below right), and was to have preceded Cafritz. Together the projects would have added more than 200,000 s.f. of retail space. Washington DC commercial property listingsBut if its clear that projects need to be coordinated, its also clear that the area cannot yet support that much development, at least to its financiers.

Laura Cole, an executive with RCLCO and formerly head of ULI when it issued its Fort Totten study, says that there's a gap between what a financier would typically support and what might work for the area. Cole notes that a financial institution will require traditional parking-to-apartment ratios, a model that is simply too expensive for a neighborhood like Fort Totten, and sites the DC USA site as a model of overbuilt parking requirements.

WMATA is attempting to change that philosophy, and followed up with another study in 2010 with urban development planner Parsons Brinckerhoff. Nat Bottigheimer, Assistant General Manager for Planning at WMATA, seconds Cole's assessment of the financial inviability of traditional notions of housing development, but is also keen to change the way planners see parking in general. Bottigheimer's vision for the undeveloped site is a communal approach to parking, where evening uses (for residents) piggyback on daytime uses (office and retail). "We should experiment with a kind of residential building that doesn't reserve spaces for cars, the building might provide 50 or 75 shared spaces instead of 150 dedicated parking spaces...[y]ou don't want to be just doing standard models, you also want to push the envelope as a public agency to promote the achievement of these public goals that we're in business to support." Hence the ULI report.

"We don't want to find out that we've built adequate parking, and others have developed theirs, and together we all contribute more than the necessary amount of parking...but that requires alot of coordination with other property owners to come up with an overall development plan." Bottigheimer pleads the case for a concept he admits is an "untested product in this market," but points out that "it costs $40,000 per space to build...more than a vehicle. Most of these are just car storage spaces, there's got to be an efficiency to provide a better system than we have now."

While WMATA has no specific plans for its own property, and can't force other developers to abide, it still has an influential voice at the District's Office of Planning. "We will collaborate with the District to get the kind of development that makes sense for the area" says Bottigheimer...we need to do more research with the development community to see how this could work." Admirable as that may be, it still requires developers to invest in an area that now is 0 for 1. At least WMATA seems intent to keep trying. Says Bottigheimer, "all options are open."

Washington D.C. retail and commercial real estate news

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

George Jetson Slept Here

HOK Architects, Fairfax County, commercial real estate design, James KesslerBy Beth Herman
Flying over Fairfax County's sprawling, futuristic McConnell Public Safety Transportation and Operations Center, or PSTOC (West Ox Rd. and Fairfax County Pkwy.), one might be tempted to look for a runway - and a lunar module or two in the shade. HOK Architects, Fairfax County, commercial real estate design, James Kessler
Born largely of the cataclysmic events of 9/11 and designed to support the day-to-day emergency communications of a county that is one million residents strong, as well as facilitating operations in the event of another disaster (manmade or natural), the 144,785 s.f. McConnell PSTOC progressively houses the county's Department of Public Safety Communications (911 communications for police and fire), Office of Emergency Management, Virginia State Police Division 7 call takers and dispatchers, and Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). The four entities join strategies and spirit in a cutting-edge structure that might be described as equal parts urban fortress, Alvin Toffler and college fraternity.
"When the Pentagon (in Arlington County) was hit by terrorists, Fairfax County, where the CIA is located, responded like all the counties did,” said HOK Architects Senior Principal and Director of Justice Architecture James Kessler. “Thirty agencies looked in their packets and said, ‘OK, we go to the Pine Ridge Elementary School and that’s where our center of operations is.’” Once inside, the “center” consisted of a former cafeteria, a handful of HOK Architects, Fairfax County, commercial real estate design, James Kesslertelephones and limited number of chairs for dozens of officials to navigate the protracted crisis. "I think, like with many of the institutions around the country and the federal government, the idea of big disasters and responding to them had been overshadowed by more urgent priorities,” Kessler said, noting the shift in priorities after 9/11. “When they investigated the World Trade Center rescue efforts, they found that the (NYC) fire department couldn’t talk to the police, and ‘faulted communications’ was the term that kept coming up in reports,” he recalled. “McConnell PSTOC’s goal was for communications to be seamless.” With the Pine Ridge school inadequate at best, though not unlike other county emergency response facilities the architects eventually visited that all resembled big gymnasiums, the quest was on to design a state-of-the-art hub that brought together all manner of emergency response personnel under one roof. With dual goals of trumpeting leading technology in a multi-team driven setting, articulating the human side of emergency response – the individuals who would staff the center 24 hours a day – was also a design directive.

HOK Architects, Fairfax County, commercial real estate design, James Kessler Those objectives withstanding, two separate facets in the design criteria stood out. The space would need to support a massive emergency communications center, as well as a command center for emergency response in the event of manmade disasters such as 9/11, the beltway sniper and other acts of aggression, or natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes, snowstorms, seismic shifts and the like. Additionally, media needed to be accommodated, as did extensive training sessions for the dozens of agencies that would avail themselves of the space and technology, all without disrupting the intensive, round-the-clock choreography of the 911 call takers, department dispatch personnel, VDOT teams and others who would call McConnell PSTOC home.

In the first facet: the emergency communications center, architecture responded to need with a cross-type floorplan design that supports all four PSTOC entities – one in each wing of the cross, with a total of 96 consoles boasting five computer screens each to assist staff (the consoles and screens redolent of a NASA floor design - maybe better!). An oval-shaped raised platform where the cross intersects contains the combined supervisors’ table, facilitating critical, open and immediate communication among the four agencies in the event of another disaster. A 26 by 8-ft. cube wall with rear and front screen projection and LED screens facilitates a fluid visual data flow of freeway information from closed circuit cameras along routes 495 and 66. Various related aspects of the Obama inauguration were monitored and controlled from this room.

Do you hear what I hear HOK Architects, Fairfax County, commercial property design, James Kessler

“One of the very important aspects of McConnell PSTOC’s design was acoustics,” Kessler explained, noting that headphones or not, everybody is on the phone at the same time in the same room. Integrating what he called “calming and modern materials” into the mix, high quality acoustic elements that included ultra sound absorbent fabric panels and carpet tiles were used. With a ceiling height of 32 feet and special equipment and personnel that would consequently be required to change light bulbs, Kessler’s team was charged with uplighting along the edge instead. Consequently lighting is along the perimeter and no one walks into the center (and climbs) for maintenance issues – a potential distraction to trauma-focused emergency responders.

Below perimeter rails, accommodation for additional video and digital elements will support emerging and evolving technology that will eventually supersede the center’s state-of-the-art Cat6 cable networking capability. Where the HVAC system is concerned, air comes from floor vents and may be adjusted separately by each of the cross’ four wings. In fact, some of the consoles are designed with ductwork directly from the floor so that much like a car’s interior, airflow can be individually controlled.

With long, intense stretches of work in the cards for many emergency workers, innovative consoles operate on hydraulic principles and can be raised to standing height for variation in the work environment. “Great care was taken about ergonomics,” Kessler said. “A lot of thought went into picking these consoles, whose screens are designed for peripheral vision.”
While eliciting optimal performance from each emergency employee through technology was a program priority, Kessler said the “human element” was a driving design force. “How can we keep their spirits up and imbue the space with positive energy for them?” he posited, citing “esprit de corps” as a key McConnell PSTOC ingredient. Among many things, the answer came in the form of clerestory glass and a north siting to eliminate glare. In this regard, blue sky and white clouds (weather permitting, of course) are not relegated to a 30-minute lunch break, visible at all times of the day to people whose work so often is defined by the darkest of events. A courtyard and terraced eating area, along with a fitness center and men’s and women’s staff locker rooms, promote sunlight and healthy lifestyles. HOK Architects, Fairfax County, commercial property design, James Kessler

Rooms with a view

Though the county’s Office of Emergency Management is housed at McConnell PSTOC, the emergency management center – the other facet of McConnell PSTOC’s design – is only activated in the case of a disaster. With a dedicated space defined by appropriate tables, phones, more north-facing clerestory windows and another behemoth cube wall for fluid visual data flow from freeways, the emergency management center is surrounded by breakout rooms, conference rooms, joint operations rooms and the like. In quiet times, which are the norm, this center is utilized for training purposes. According to Kessler, as many as 30 different agencies (some from adjoining counties), including public health and public works departments, come to hone their disaster response skills, with interoperability with the building’s communications center possible. Citing fog and a potential 50-car pile-up as an example, Kessler said video from a police helicopter can be seen on this screen (as well as the other). “Everyone in both centers can see what’s going on and formulate strategies to deal with the specifics of an emergency.”

Where the building’s exterior is concerned, Kessler noted McConnell PSTOC has its own cell tower and maintained while resilience and security were certainly mandated, it needed to align with the neighborhood and not stand out like a bunker. In this respect the structure embraces a berm, and not unlike other secure facilities in and around D.C., bollards and walls are integrated into garden landscaping. Elements like a dramatic truss with a 90-foot span where it pulls away from the building, and skewed glass façade, emphasize the cantilevered entry and reflect the building’s kinetic character. “It’s a building of movement and action, so it looks like the whole lobby is kind of rotating out,” Kessler said, noting this is where tours assemble and the media comes in as well.

Because media coverage is as much a part of emergency and disaster protocol as anything else, in older facilities it is not uncommon for hordes of reporters to infiltrate a center just doing their job. In Fairfax, very close to the bollards, a pedestal wired for television and satellite trucks averts a potential security breach where running cables might otherwise force doors to remain open. Cameras already established inside a dedicated, glassed-in media area facilitate broadcast, and the area itself (on the second level) has a birds’ eye view of the emergency communications center below. When media isn’t there, the area is another training room, or used as a perch for tours that include emergency and disaster data-gathering delegations from different countries.

Redundant communications and mechanical systems and chillers anticipate equipment failures and isolation in the eventuality of a disaster, where the structure would be the axis of the community.

"McConnell PSTOC is a calm and modern high-tech element of public safety,” Kessler said of the $131.5 million project, which also includes a 44,000 s.f. attached forensics laboratory. “It’s one where not only the defensive qualities of what they’re doing are expressed, but the human qualities as well.”

photo credit: Lee B. Ewing

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Barracks Row Gets National Community Church HQ and Theater Revival

When the Lower 8th Street S.E. Vision Process was released to the public in summer of 2010, none of the participants - Barracks Row Main Street, Capitol Riverfront BID, D.C. Office of Planning, ANC 6B or the property or business owners - had seen National Community Church (NCC) on the radar. But behind the scenes the Church had been positioning itself to buy properties in the area, the most recent and surprising of which is The People's Church - a former theater - for which NCC paid $3 million dollars, cash. The People's Church at 535 8th Street S.E. will serve as NCC's seventh location and will double, once again, as a community theater. NCC pastor Mark Batterson says the NCC has been meeting with architects about possibly restoring the The People's Church to its original facade. "It plays a critical role for us because we own an amazing piece of property three blocks away but we know construction will take 3-4 years," said Batterson. "It's like our phase one is already built."

National Community Church started its buying spree in September with the Miles Glass building at 733 Virginia Avenue, the site next door, Capitol Auto Works at 701 Virginia Avenue and a site adjacent to it (around which the congregation prayed until the owner opted to sell.) Also included in church acquisitions is Square 906, which includes two buildings built in the early 1800's. NCC paid for every property in cash.

The People's Church had been looking to relocate to Prince Georges County to be closer to their parishioners for quite some time. To prepare for sale, The People's Church had renovated the old theater with the help of Barracks Row Main Street. "I think that Mark Batterson had been talking to them for about a year," said Martin Smith of Barracks Row Main Street, of the pastor that led the acquisition. "Between the People's Church finding a new location in PG county and Mark making an offer they could not refuse, things just came together."

Having lived on Capitol Hill with his wife and three children for the last fifteen years, Batterson said he has been looking for "developable property" since the theater that housed their headquarters in Union Station closed in 2009. "We had met there for thirteen years," said Batterson. "It really forced us to reexamine our strategy as a church." Lower Barracks Row fit the bill. "In fact, it was the only property we found that was the right size in the right place," he said. " It's tough to beat it's accessibility and visibility."

Smith said he is "amazed" at the swiftness with which NCC has purchased the Barracks Row property. "Back in the summer, we had thought we were talking about allowing for a short term lease to turn the Miles Glass building into a garden store until someone could buy it," he said. Though he was initially surprised at how things have unfolded regarding the NCC purchases, once he met Batterson, he understood why he has culled a growing congregation. "Batterson really is a charismatic and dynamic man."

Where has NCC gotten its money? Think of it as a franchise model. What started nearly fifteen years ago, first in a public school then in the Union Station theater, now has six locations and is looking to expand to twenty by 2020. Each building has little overhead, no mortgage, and no $50,000 pipe organ. Many locations earn income for NCC.

In addition, well-off members of the congregation help it along. "We've also had some major gifts that would qualify as 'miracles' as well," said Batterson. In addition to its property acquisitions, "We gave close to $700,000 to causes and ministries outside our four walls last year."

As far as the future of the combined properties, "[w]hen we build out the Virginia Avenue property it will be 100,000+ s.f. with a performance theater, child development center, retail, and offices," said Batterson. "It will be a base of operations for our staff as we continue to expand."

Washington, D.C. real estate news

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Where the Sidewalk Ends - Chevy Chase to Meet Bethesda

Great news for those who shop at Tiffany's and Jimmy Choo, then have to hoof it all the way up Wisconsin Avenue with their bags of goods to catch the bus: they will soon have it much easier. The Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA) has secured funding to design (but not build) a sidewalk to fill in the gap on Wisconsin Avenue from Chevy Chase to Bradley Boulevard in Bethesda, says Kellie Boulware, Spokesperson for MSHA. The new sidewalk will fill in the eastern side of the street.

MSHA will begin design in the next couple weeks, which will include working with the county, Chevy Chase Village and Chevy Chase Country Club, whose western boundary the sidewalk will traverse. "This is long overdue since it connects two shopping districts and makes it easier for people who rely on bus service and public transportation," said Boulware. Four bus stops rest on the unpaved stretch. The western side has long had a narrow sidewalk, and is broken by cross streets.

MSHA has alloted $10,000 for this phase of the project. Though design is slated for completion in the spring, funding for the construction of the sidewalk has not yet been secured. The news has reignited the debate over whether it is architects - or engineers - that design sidewalks.

Washington, D.C. real estate development news

Friday, March 25, 2011

Design for the Sky, Earth and Sea: BAE Systems

By Beth Herman

With recruitment and retention high on the agenda for the Rockville, Md. office of UK-based global defense, security and aerospace company BAE Systems Technology Solutions and Services, Inc., 520 Gaither Rd., creating an efficient, sustainable workplace for seasoned talent and newly-minted staff was only the beginning.

At more than 105,000 employees worldwide, the 574 submarine and missile infrastructure development staff occupying a dark, antiquated building north of the site had outgrown its outmoded former space in many ways. Retaining DBI Architects, Inc. to transform a newer 140,000 s.f. building in Redland Corporate Center at King Farm into a space that would unite workers through technology, and foster collaboration and an esprit de corps through its design and amenities, BAE Systems was also committed to reducing its carbon footprint.

“It was challenging recruiting younger, just out of school employees with the old office space,” said Beth Rowles, DBI senior project manager, noting BAE Systems worldwide was in the process of implementing a company-wide LEED requirement, something members of a younger workforce expect. With a team that included lead designer Elizabeth Blunck and designer Ann Robinson, and employing BIM in its design protocol, the architects sought to manifest BAE Systems’ métier through a sleek interior design of the six-floor structure, with a nod to the earth and natural light a high priority.

To that end, elements such as aluminum ceiling panels used to provide texture and depth to walls, not ceilings, articulated sleek, high-tech materials the company sees in its submarine and missile work. Wood wall planks and ceiling panels, and a color palette that included the cool grey of space along with blue accent colors at workstations, copy rooms, lounges and accent walls on each floor, were redolent of earth, air and sea products and services BAE Systems – reportedly the world’s largest military contractor by sales revenue – encompasses.
With 80 percent open workspace and universal office planning on its dance card, the client opted for just two workstation sizes and three office sizes. In this respect, the design precludes a constant reconfiguring of space as employee numbers increase or decrease. Work stations display lower panels so staff has access to natural light from perimeter windows while seated at their desks, with light channeled to the center of the space on all floors.

On three floors, a conference room abuts break rooms with a primary conference center, also used for training, on the first floor. Two Skyfold partitions in the main conference center divide it into three separate spaces when necessary, though for all-hands meetings, conference rooms on all floors are connected audio-visually via flat screen LCD TV’s.

Ceramic floor tiles with recycled content, LED lighting in some areas, abundant and concealed trash and recycling components, bike racks and lockers, and close proximity to an adjacent building’s shower facilities and locker room inched BAE Systems up the LEED ladder, along with other sustainable steps, resulting in recent LEED Silver certification.

“We exceeded the initial LEED expectation,” Rowles said of the firm’s achievement, noting their brush with Gold.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Hilton Garden - NoMa's 2nd Hotel Opens Late April

The Hilton Garden Inn will open April 22nd in NoMa, the second hotel in the burgeoning neighborhood, offering the area's only sit-down dining room, named Watershed (see menu in the link), headed by well-known D.C. chef, Todd Gray of Equinox.

This is especially good news for residents of The Flats 130 (of which 31% of 400 apartments are leased) Loree Grand at Union Place (of which 77 % of 212 apartments are leased) and Senate Square Towers (of which 95% of 432 units are leased).

As part of the first phase of Constitution Square, StonebridgeCarras was among the most bullish developers in NoMa. Their projects include the recently opened, 50,000 s.f. Harris Teeter in One Constitution Square at the corner of 1st and M Streets N.E., The grocery chain signed a 20-year lease for the site with Stonebridge in 2009. Constitution Square will also house 440 apartments, 905,000 s.f. of office space, and an additional 30,000 s.f. of retail. StonebridgeCarras broke ground on the hotel in 2008.

SK&I Architects designed the core and shell of the hotel, while Texas-based Paradigm Design helmed design of the interior (see renderings) for the 13-story, 204 room hotel which offers a fitness center, indoor pool, jacuzzi, free wi-fi, and adjustable beds. Lisa Haude, President of Paradigm, said the hotel is, "very clean, contemporary, and simple." The lobby showcases wood paneling and a floating glass staircase, with an aqua-blue, beige, taupe and ivory color scheme with wood accents. Todd Gray's Watershed offers and intimate bar area with a casual, open dining room with communal bar height and standard tables and booths as well as patio seating.

Washington, D.C. Real Estate Development News

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

CityCenter DC Site Under Construction

Preliminary work is underway on CityCenterDC, as construction crews arrived yesterday with earth movers and heavy equipment, installing fencing around the site in anticipation of a more public announcement and official groundbreaking in the coming days. The project's plan for nearly 700 units of housing, 185,000 s.f. of retail, 520,000 s.f. of office space have been gestating for years, and developers have been holding firm for nearly a year that this spring will mark the project's birth. Still, developers at Hines had declined in recent months to be any more specific about timelines, until announcing recently an April 4th commencement date.
But yesterday, construction crews began installing fences around the perimeter (even covering the sidewalks), with large earth movers and construction trailers bearing the Clark insignia beginning to cover the entire site. Get ready for a public ceremony soon.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

American University Submits Expansion Plans

American University has officially submitted its decadal vision of growth to the Washington D.C. Zoning Commission for review. The AU Campus Plan has been the subject of two years of public comment which have, predictably, shrunk its size and density, but which increases enrollment from 10,200 to 13,600, expands the campus across Nebraska Avenue and builds out AU's campus at Tenley Circle into a new law school.

The university intends a number of upgrades to its current campus, including $400m in construction and renovation projects, a further greening of the campus and construction that aims for "carbon neutrality" by 2020, and a consolidation of student housing into new buildings, drawing more students in from the neighborhoods.
The largest, and most controversial, portion of the proposal is to turn the 8-acre surface parking lot at Massachusetts and Nebraska into a 6 building mini campus with housing for 770 students (down from 1000), administrative offices (placed strategically between student housing and the gated townhouse community next door), and small scale retail fronting New Mexico Avenue ("primarily to serve university needs"), 329,000 s.f. of development in all. The plan has had some AU Park and Spring Valley residents atwitter, particularly given the Department of Homeland Security's plans for a major expansion directly across Massachusetts Avenue. The new "east campus" will front New Mexico and Nebraska Avenues, leaving surface parking along Massachusetts for a later "signature" building, something like the gangly Katzen building on the north side of Ward Circle.
Earlier versions of the plan held open the possibility of more retail, an idea that created controversy at some meetings, but which numerous AU Park residents thought would be welcomed. "I drive from Tenleytown to Bethesda or to Cleveland Park if I want to get out and walk, those of us that choose to live close in deserve better, closer options" said a local resident who asked not to be identified. Earlier plans floated the idea of additional retail along Nebraska, but that was nixed in favor of a plan for 14,400 s.f. of retail along New Mexico Ave.

AU also plans to move the law school from its Spring Valley facility in the hinterlands of northwest to its current campus on Tenley Circle, providing metro access for the average peripatetic student, a change that will seem positively urbane for the students that have experienced the gulag of the Spring Valley campus.

At the same time, the university will decamp 497 of its undergrads from Tenleytown to the main campus to make room for the aspiring litigators. The general footprint of the Tenley campus would change little, though the bland mid-century architecture would be replaced by new (and possibly bland) designs. American University has shouldered most of the design process internally, with McKissack & McKissack contributing to some design and graphic elements, though designs for the buildings have not been fleshed out.

University Architect Jerry Gager says the initial renderings supplied for the report are "suggestive of the bulk and massing" of the buildings and "clearly placeholders, not meant to evoke any sort of design style." Eventual building design on the east campus will be handled by Little Diversified Architectural Consulting, the Tenley site will be handled by SmithGroup. The timeline is still dependent upon zoning approval, but the school hopes to start work on the east campus housing in mid 2012 and open in the fall of 2014, and start work on the Tenleytown campus in mid 2013 and open in the fall of 2015.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Barracks and Castles and Gardens

On Thursday night's calendar of the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) is a plan regarding the ongoing construction of an 8th Street Bavarian beer garden at 720 L Street S.E., on the heels of last month's raze application from the National Community Church for the Miles Glass site at 8th and Virginia, where it plans to build what will amount to its headquarters.

While these may represent ordinary changes in Barracks Row, it's the beginning of a series that will include the transition of behemoth The Blue Castle - formally known as the Navy Yard Car Barn - a 99,000 s.f. space that its developers intend to eventually turn over to retail.

This significance of the change on the street is not taken lightly. Even The New York Times had taken notice last month.

The building, purchased for $25 million by Madison Marquette in 2007, now 100% leased, currently houses social service providers and charter schools. "We don't want word to get out there that we're changing something soon because we don't want to scare the tenants," said Retail Director Christina Davies of the Madison Marquette retail group. "They're great tenants."

And yet retail for the neighborhood has always been in the plans. The Blue Castle allows for a massive influx of retail to the area without having to build new construction. In its former life, the building was built in 1891 as the repair center for trolleys and street cars.

What is Madison Marquette waiting for? "The right tenant," said Davies. In the meantime, superstores and smaller businesses are actively courting the developers, they say. "We have the option for both," said Davies. "We can lease to a series of restaurants and banks, for example, or a big box client. We just haven't decided yet."

Davies cites high ceilings as a draw for superstore retailers or, say, a gym. But folks from the Barracks Row Main Street would prefer "vibrant ground level tenants," said Martin Smith, Executive Director for the organization. "We would like to see retail that engages with passers-by," he said. "That traditionally does not include big box stores. There are two levels to the building, however, which may be a terrific place for a big box tenant." Columbia Heights' DCUSA serves as an example, with smaller retail at street level, with Best Buy and Target on upper levels.

Earlier this year, Madison Marquette, ICP Partners LLC, Barracks Row Main Street and Capitol Riverfront District discussed possibilities in zoning changes for various projects. While all storefronts facing historic 8th Street SE will remain at 45 feet in accordance with the zoning overlay, Smith noted the possibility of back-end building expansions of 65 to 85 feet in height on a per project basis, amendments that would allow for bigger clients.

Also in discussion is a second restriction in the overlay of Barracks Row which requires that no more than 50% of available street frontage is allowed to have a liquor license. "This may not be a problem now, but it could be as we move forward," said Smith.

Washington, D.C. Real Estate development news

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Late-April Ground Breaking for Arlington's Buchanan Gardens Rehab

Buchanan Gardens, the affordable housing complex built in 1949 that's seen better days, will get more than a facelift once ground breaks in late April. The entire building will be gutted and renovated over the course of the next eighteen months.

With a $10M construction budget, Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH), Wiencek+Associates and Hamel Builders as the general contractor will orchestrate renovation that includes new plumbing, electric, floors, windows, insulation, roofing, mechanicals and, well, everything else. Though the building currently provides predominantly one-bedroom units, upon completion it will offer 23 three-bedroom units, 33 two-bedroom units and 55 one-bedroom units. There will also be an on-site community center and playground.

"Our mission is to preserve and update," said Nina Janopaul, CEO of APAH. "We want keep the residents here who currently live here, update the facility and keep it affordable."

The rehabilitation of Buchanan Gardens is one of several affordable housing projects by APAH, including Arlington Mill and Views at Clarendon.

Arlington, VA real estate development news

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