Wednesday, March 23, 2011

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


Anonymous said...

NO BIG BOX in that building. What a waste of something that could be a great market with smaller retailers and a regional draw. If ever there were a case for some tax subsidies, it would be to lure retail into an Eastern Market-like mix of retail into this building.

Critically Urban on Mar 23, 2011, 10:23:00 AM said...

Eastern Market is too close for this to compete. Smaller restaurants and retail with a larger retailer on top would do well for the area. I believe that initial discussions involved a grocery store, which will be sorely needed in this particular part of town.

I take HUGE exception to the possible requirement that no more than 50% of street fronting proprietors have a liquor license. If there is any place in this city where a burgeoning, classy restaurant and pub row is developing and should be allowed to be developed UNHEEDED, it is on 8th Street, SE between M St and Pennsylvania Avenue. NO LIQUOR LICENSE RESTRICTIONS!

Hill_guy said...

@ Critically Urban: The 50% restriction on liquor licenses seems to only apply to the two blocks south of I-295, but NOT to the rest of 8th Street moving further north...

Also, it looks like there's a Harris Teeter coming in just a couple blocks away on M, plus possibly a Whole Foods further down next to the ballpark. I agree, though, that a big retailer on the second floor could do very well, and still leave plenty of space for a bunch of smaller restaurants / retailers on the lower level. It'd be nice if they build something taller as an addition if they think of condos - I might even be able to afford one here!

Unknown on Mar 25, 2011, 1:57:00 PM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown on Mar 25, 2011, 1:59:00 PM said...

An urban Wegmans would be far better than a Whole Foods or another Tedious Harris

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