Thursday, June 30, 2011

Douglas Close to Construction on 14th Street

Redevelopment abounds along the 14th Street corridor within the mile-long strip that runs from Meridian Park through U Street and into Logan Circle, with several condo projects and new retail on track to arrive within the next one-to-two years. At the top of the corridor, at 2221 14th Street (14th & Florida Ave), Douglas Development will soon add another: a 6-story, 30-unit, mixed-use residential-and-retail project. Sasha Rosen, principal at R2L:ARCHITECTS – responsible for the design – relays that the permitting process is underway and involved parties foresee construction will start in three months or less. Per Rosen, the design for the complex has not changed since reported in November of last year, when Rosen stated that "the massing, form, and rhythm are in the Washington historic tradition, but the details are contemporary." 

Located within the Greater U Street Historic District, the project first sought approval from the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB), which gave Douglas the go-ahead, and the OK to demolish the crumbling Latino Auto Sales shop on site, at the end of last year. In January, the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) also approved the project's plan, and granted the developer zoning relief, with a few conditions, including one-time mass-transportation and/or car-sharing funds for future residents, as well as requiring "that a temporary mural [be painted] on the south façade of the building,which shall remain on the building until such time as construction on the adjacent property to the south would obstruct the mural." Douglas Development could not be reached for comment this morning. 

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Washington DC's Retail Prices Surge

LinkThe best, or busiest, intersection in Washington D.C. is at H and 7th Streets NW, in the heart of Chinatown - at least according to those who own property on either axis. With four corners available to capitalize on the heavy traffic, only one corner remains open to incoming retailers. But it'll cost 'em. The lofty asking price for the ground floor of the future mixed-use site at 675 H St NW is just one indication that retail around the city is in high demand as retailers vie for limited retail space and rents around the city rise quickly, sometimes dramatically.

The joint-venture in control of leasing the retail space, as well as developing the site, is McCaffery Interests Inc. and Douglas Development, which obtained the property at auction in February. According to Juan Cameron, Managing Director of McCaffery, "The site commands a strong asking price." That price has been relayed, by several sources, as asking $250-$300 per square foot.

Cameron, who declined to speak on the record about price points, acknowledged that the space will "be on the high side" and asserts that the companies are "looking to set a new benchmark," but won't divulge specifics while leasing is underway. However, Cameron added that "the site has generated a considerable amount of interest."

John Asadoorian, founder and head of Asadoorian Retail Solutions, confirmed having heard an asking price around $250 p.s.f. for the corner spot, which is adjacent to the Friendship Arch/Chinatown Gate, a one-block stumble away from a Caps game at the Verizon Center.

Asadoorian did not speak to the feasibility of the high asking price at 7th and H, however agreed with site developers that the intersection is the closest D.C. has to New York's Times Square. Fuddruckers, located on the intersection's opposite southwest corner, struck a deal early in the decade for about $80 p.s.f., a price that raised eyebrows then, before the substantial investment in Chinatown in 2006.

Asadoorian notes that although retail rates have been rising in the few years following the recession, the jump in price at this location is relatively the largest. Whereas Georgetown leases have generally increased by around $50 p.s.f. in the last 10 or 15 years, the jump in price at Chinatown would be double that, and in less than half the time.

The increase in price underscores the fact that D.C. is fast becoming a vibrant spot for unique retail, as well as a foodie destination and Food Network-inspired hot spot, with a proliferation of national restaurateurs and chefs - even a barrage of food trucks.

It remains to be seen whether retailers will pay $250 to $300 p.s.f. for prime real estate in the District, but it's visible that the pace of retail space being leased is picking up.

The five-to-six blocks along 14th Street, NW between the U Street Corridor and P Street is witness to a similar retail surge, and the retail space here is "practically all leased up," tells Asadoorian. Steve Gaudio, JBG Rosenfeld's leasing manager for the District Condos at 14th and S Streets, said the 18,000 s.f. of ground-floor retail at the 125-unit complex is already entirely leased up, and construction is only recently underway.

Although Gaudio won't talk shop on pricing for the retail space, JBG, which is about to start Utopia a few blocks north, and the Atlantic Plumbing site, and is already mentioning higher retail rents than the $40-$50 p.s.f. rates that have prevailed in the area recently.

To return to Chinatown, if the final price for retail at 675 H Street is anywhere near $300 p.s.f., then the site will secure the highest per square foot retail lease in the District; higher than Georgetown, which commands $100 to $120 p.s.f. for similar-sized retail space, and higher than Union Station, which is currently the highest in the city, up to $200 p.s.f. That, in turn, may get the attention of property owners around the city, who may get even bolder with the prices they expect.

Washington D.C. real estate and retail news

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Tree Falls in Arlington

By Beth Herman It wasn't a Midwest-style twister, but a storm still powerful enough to deliver a neighboring tree to the top of an old, one-story enclosed porch addition to a post-war brick Colonial in Arlington. Sited on a busy, residential street, the home overlooks the Donaldson Run Bike Trail in the back, marked by lush vegetation and mature trees that tower over the residence despite the arbors' location on a deep incline. "The client came to us probably eight years ago, before the storm,” said Jane Treacy of Treacy & Eagleburger Architects, noting the porch was neither well insulated nor well heated, restricting the homeowners to limited use. “We did some schematic designs for making it bigger, maybe another story taller, and using the space better, but they didn’t want to do it right away.” Then three years ago, the storm wiped out the addition completely, and the phone rang. Eviscerated down to a supportive slab, the former 12-ft. wide porch was situated over a one-car garage of the same proportions, appearing almost below-grade from the front. It was accessed via a steep driveway in the back which rendered it useless in inclement weather, according to the homeowner. A decision to widen the slab to 17 feet, for a total dimension of 17-by-22 feet, resulted in its transformation to a family room, adding value and usable space to the home (the garage became storage space beneath). But the renovation’s focus was clearly skyward: to a second story. “This was just a little post war two-story box,” Treacy explained, noting there were hundreds built throughout Arlington County in the same time period. “They do make a nice scale in the front, though, and have a comfortable neighborhood feel, so we didn’t want to lose that.” To that end, and with an eye to creating a glass tree house of sorts that would appreciate the verdant view in the back, the architect made a decision to step a second story back about six feet from the new family room beneath, so as not to overpower the front of the house. Views out of this new master bedroom suite were to be directed primarily to the back, with a wall of rust-hued aluminum-clad windows and four clerestory windows –in what the architect calls an eyebrow—creating a light-inspired space. “We considered the eyebrow almost like a dormer,” Treacy said, “though not truly because a dormer is embedded in the roof.” In this home, the plane of the wall continues up and the architect “popped the roof” to accommodate it. On the interior, a flat, stained, slatted Douglas fir ceiling with recessed lighting and sconces also pops exactly where the roof does, to an apex of 11.5 feet, providing height to the moderate 16-by-17-ft. space. “The scale here is what connects you to the trees in a dramatic way,” Treacy affirmed of the project they aptly named "Rear Window." Stainless steel cable rails provide a barrier to enable the master’s French doors to safely remain open, catching a cool breeze from the adjacent forest, and also encircle a deck off the first floor family room. “I guess you could say that their hand was forced by the storm,” Treacy said of the homeowner’s ultimate decision to build the glass tree house. “Now the addition is completely integral to the house.” photos courtesy of Celia Pearson

Your Next Place...

By Franklin Schneider

There are very few "I'm king of the world" gestures more effective than living in a penthouse. I mean, you're right up there, on top, lording it over everyone. It's too literal to even be a metaphor. The only thing more kingly is to be an actual king, wearing a big gold hat and sitting in a chair bigger and higher than everyone else's. Though of course with that you have to worry about a possible peasant uprising followed by possible exile or execution, whereas with a penthouse pretty much the worst thing that could happen is what, they might raise your condo fees?

This incredible two-level (three if you count the roof) penthouse unit in the Beauregard boasts a private rooftop terrace (with cabana!) and three separate balconies. There's a gourmet kitchen with Caledonia granite countertops, and an expansive living room with floor-to-ceiling windows and a correspondingly breathtaking view. The master bedroom is truly masterful, and the master bath has more marble in it than many museums. There's also a den where you can sit quietly and write letters to your exes, in-laws, and rivals: (“Enclosed are pictures of my new penthouse; those balcony pics aren't duplicates, I actually have three separate balconies. How many do you have?”)

Comes with garage parking, a fitness center, front desk service, and another, shared, roof deck. Also, the unit is just steps from U Street and all its shops, restaurants, cafes, and nonstop nightlife. To paraphrase Dr. Johnson on London, “if you're tired of U Street, you're tired of life.”

2100 11th St. #PH2
Washington, DC
2 Bdrms, Den, 2 Baths

Monday, June 27, 2011

Historic Rowhouse Façades Likely to Remain

A plan by the Third Street Church of God to raze three historic rowhouses at 1232-1236 New Jersey Avenue NW in the Mount Vernon Square Historic District (MVSHD) has been changed. The new plan, after recent consultation with the Historic Preservation Office (HPO), is for the church to retain the sound façades and demolish the decrepit rear, and is detailed in the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB)'s staff report, published Friday, in advance of the upcoming Board meeting this Thursday, June 30th. If the Board grants approval, the HPO will then wave forward the Third Street Church of God's new plan for partial demolition.

The three rowhouses were originally four, however the southernmost one was demolished before the designation of the MVSHD in 1999. All three are flat-front, brick rowhouses built in 1866-1867, and according to the HPRB staff report, are "representative of the speculative housing built on the outskirts of the city in the boom years immediately following the Civil War."

The HPRB staff report, prepared by staff reviewer Brendan Meyer, outlines that "large portions of the three rowhouses are in extremely dilapidated condition... specifically the rear masonry walls and one-story ells are compromised structurally by numerous trees that have taken root in the walls." The staff report, released Friday, states that "[a]fter recent consultation with the HPO, the church has agreed to revise the raze application and now wish [sic] to pursuse a concept approval that would allow them to demolish only portions of the buildings not visible from New Jersey Avenue."

Although the rowhouses have suffered from longstanding exposure to the elements at the rear, resulting in extensive mold, a flourishing termite colony, and "nearly total loss of interior finishes... [and] structural integrity [of the back portions]." The front of the buildings are in "relatively good condition" and show "only typical wear for 150-year-old masonry," explains the staff report.

Because the façades of the rowhouses are salvageable, while the rear is impassable, the HPO is recommending that the Board approves this new, compromised solution to save some of all three historic structures - which front New Jersey Avenue. This new plan would restore the historic face of the property, and retain the "possibility that the current or a future owner may be able to incorporate the historic structures into a future development," as is stated in the staff report.

In the meantime, if the plan is approved and the church follows through with demolition of the back portion of all three rowhouses, the newly created space will be used for 3 to 5 churchgoers to park.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Old Trash-Transfer Structure to be Thrown Out of Southeast

Washington DC commercial real estate newsAn old Department of Public Works (DPW) trash-transfer site at 900 New Jersey Avenue SE currently stands in the way of plans to reconnect I Street SE between 1st and 2nd Streets, and nicely square off the parcels to the north and south. But it won't stand for long; a raze application was filed on June 13th by the property owner, the D.C. Housing Authority (DCHA), and according to David Maloney, D.C.’s Historic Preservation Officer, “We will clear the raze application, it’s not a historic building; it’s a pretty typical industrial building from the 1940s, and we are not asking them to try to salvage any of it.”

Demolition of the structure will allow DCHA to sell the bit of land that currently overlaps the future I Street and protrudes into the land to the north, at 880 New Jersey Avenue, owned by William C. Smith + Co. (WSC). The belief is that DCHA will sell this small section to WSC, which will fill out the Square 737 site for WSC. However, DCHA will likely retain the majority of the property at 900 New Jersey Avenue, and develop it into additional Arthur Capper Hope VI housing.

"We hope that it's gone by the end of the year," says Michael Stevens, Executive Director of the Capital Riverfront BID, which will allow "I Street [to become] a major east-west connector."

Post demolition, land purchase, and the I Street connection, WCS will be able to begin phase one of its 1.1 million s.f. mixed-use project planned for the northern site, which it purchased from the Washington Post in 1999. Phase one will be a 13-story, 430-unit apartment complex.

Stevens adds that, "[WSC] intends to break ground in March of 2012, if everything goes according to plan with the trash transfer site."  The two-story, brick-concrete-and-steel structure was built in 1948 and is one of many designed by the municipal architect for the District, as was standard practice from the 1910s through the ‘50s.

The site is currently being used solely for the storage of Department of Public Works' vehicles.; trash-transfer operations and administrative offices have both already been relocated to Northeast, where the vehicles will also be headed. The old transfer site will likely need environmental remediation before construction is to begin, as it has dealt with waste for over a century. Previous to the current, 63-year-old structure, was a more rudimentary trash operation in place on the site at the turn of the 20th century.

The site is in a prime location, two blocks north of the Navy Yards Metro and east of Canal Park (now in development), and is part of the steady, ongoing transformation of the Southeast neighborhood into a vibrant live-work-play area.

"We'll see the trash transfer site and the [Florida Rock] concrete plant disappear, two of the last vestiges of our industrial history," says Stevens. "These sites will be put back to productive use. The Florida Rock site is already entitled as a major mixed-use project with office, hotel, residential and retail, but we don't know when they're going to pull the trigger on that."

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Trussed for Success

By Beth Herman

Among the legion of nationwide AME churches, D.C.'s John Wesley AME Zion Church, 1615 14th Street NW, is an integral part of the District's diverse, textured, historical fabric.

With Civil War-era roots and 21st century dreams, a parish house - which was the original church - and the present church structure built in 1894 had fallen short of the current sanctuary, educational, hospitality and administrative challenges of its dynamic congregation, with antiquated mechanical systems—especially an old boiler—draining the church's energy and finances. What’s more, and in part unbeknownst to the architects and developer at the outset, various architectural and aesthetic features and flourishes that had temporarily succumbed to renovation attempts in the past were uncovered in a kind of reverse archaeological dig—50 feet up into a rarefied space lost to generations of church members and staff.

What lies beneath

“Our focus has been more on the Corcoran Street and east sides of the building as far as restoration, underpinning and digging out underneath a space that was just crawlspace for new facilities and rooms for the church,” said Principal Bill Bonstra of Bonstra | Haresign Architects. Working with developer Fred Bahrami and project architect Jeremy Arnold, the team’s objectives were to restore, modernize and upgrade a total of 12,000 s.f. of space with limited financial resources.

“We were very sensitive to the budget of the church,” Arnold said. “We felt the most important thing was (to address) lengthy and overlapping programs with a number of different-sized spaces that can be used in different ways: multipurpose rooms; storage closets; changing rooms; new office space. We wanted to give them spaces that would help them use the building more efficiently on a day-to-day basis.”

Used for meetings, classrooms, banquets, administration and containing a dated and inadequate kitchen, the 4,400 s.f. parish house was a patchwork of disjointed spaces. Engaging a neglected crawlspace beneath the parish house, a hole was made in the foundation from the outside, followed by a ramp and dual bobcats (30,000 cubic feet of dirt was ultimately removed and recycled as fill, with recovered iron recycled as well), with the structure’s middle support replaced by brand new steel columns, beams and footings in a feat of subterranean choreography. The resulting 9-ft.-high new basement has become home to a full commercial kitchen with banquet space for 150, and ladies’ and men’s facilities, and also contains state-of-the-art plumbing, HVAC, fire and safety systems, and a new elevator.

The parish house above was gutted and became dedicated office space for the pastor and administrative staff, along with conference rooms that facilitate the simultaneous viewing of sanctuary services and events via advanced technology.

A glimpse of heaven

According to Arnold, during the team’s initial survey process, poking heads above a lay-in ceiling that had been installed years ago on the second floor and peering past a mélange of mechanical ductwork, a “fairly complex system of beautiful trusses” emerged. Springing at 45-degree angles from the corners, the trusses also traversed a 20-ft.-in-diameter rose window that had been eclipsed very possibly for generations by the dropped ceiling. Evidence of a fire sometime in the 20th century was also observed in black staining and charred trusses, where several of the roof trusses had been reconstructed using wood and steel.

Destined for use now as one of the primary meeting spaces for the church, accommodating up to 250 people, Bahrami is credited with pulling the mechanical ducts through the trusses resulting in “…an interplay of old and new,” according to Bonstra. “It’s incredible space. It’s 50 feet (up),” Bonstra explained. According to Bahrami, the wall around the rose window was deteriorating stucco, which was removed to expose fine brickwork and sealed. Lighting was directed so that wall and window now become a focal point of the church.

“The entire structure has about a 2-ft.-thick brick wall,” Bahrami said of the building, noting the wall makes for prime insulation by its nature. He added that 80 percent of the interior fell apart during the renovation process, which is ongoing through the end of July, so new structural elements that include steel, wood beams and flooring are being employed.

Outside, the façade off Corcoran Street had been neglected with evidence of damaged stained glass and disintegrating brick. Work expected to begin soon includes creating a more presentable entrance to the parish hall side, upgrading the ADA ramp, and landscaping for curb appeal. An ill-placed fire escape was removed from the front of the building, bringing dignity back to the stoic façade.

“There were really no corners cut. One of our focuses was to make sure the bathrooms were comparable to the Ritz Carlton or something of that magnitude,” said Bahrami, whose previous endeavor with Bonstra | Haresign was D.C.’s luxury Q-14 Residences in 2007. “You really feel pampered with marble and granite and the design of some of the spaces—beautifully assembled and selected,” he said, affirming the team’s objective not to subordinate aesthetics to a restricted budget.

With occupancy again projected for August 1, Bonstra said the success of the project is attributed to Bahrami’s assiduous search for alternatives and value propositions for the church. “He did a great job in meeting all of their financial goals.”

Friday, June 24, 2011

Raze Request for 1860s Rowhouses

Three historic row houses, at 1232-1236 New Jersey Avenue, NW, in the Mount Vernon Square Historic District, are up for demolition. The raze request submitted in February by the property owner, the Third Street Church of God, will be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) next week, on June 30th. The HPRB will decide the fate of the badly decrepit row houses, vacant now for over two decades.

At first glance, the property looks unimpressive. Upon further inspection, and considering the 140-year history, the three residential row houses can be seen in a new light, or at least given a nod. However, the property is the worse for its 14 decades.

Director of Church Operations at Third Street Church of God, Theodore (Ted) Daniels, says that demolition is "one of the options" being pursued by the Church and if this route is pursued that the created "space will be used for parking" for church attendees. The Third Street Church of God has been at its location - next door - at 1246 New Jersey Avenue, NW for over a century.

Rob Amos, chair of the ANC 6C Planning, Zoning, and Environment (PZE) Committee, and president of Mount Vernon Square Neighborhood Association (MVSNA), says that the amount of parking that would be created is unimpressive, and that the PZE moved to oppose the raze request at the PZE meeting on June 1st. The full ANC 6C Commission meeting, however, split 3-3-1 and the ANC "took no action on the request [of the PZE]."

Bobbi Kengel, concerned citizen, says she was "shocked to discover that there could still be a real possibility of demolition of historic rowhouses within a designated historic district."

But, the "real story," according to Kengel, is that "churches and universities are still being allowed to commit demolition by neglect in large numbers, and they aren't even being taxed at the vacant or blighted rates." Rebecca Miller, Executive Director of the DC Preservation league, agreed that property owners should not be able to commit demolition by neglect. According to Amos, "Pastor Sanders [of the Third Street Church of God] testified that [the property] had been vacant for at least 20 years. The Church has been using them for storage for quite a while now."

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Convention Center to See More Marriotts

Walter A Washington Convention Center - DC real estate news
If all goes according to plans, three Marriotts will eventually be built on 9th Street NW, immediately west the Washington Convention Center at the convergence of Downtown, Shaw, and Mount Vernon Square. Although one notable hotel - the Marriott Marquis - is currently underway and set to complete in 2014, two more Marriott hotels are being conceptualized just north of the Marquis, at the foot of the Shaw Historic District.

DC convention center construction - downtown DC newsThe parcel in question, north of the Marquis construction site, running along 9th Street between L and M Streets, NW, bears six boarded-up storefronts. Around the corner on L Street a large co-op and two good-sized row houses have sat shuttered. The 1,175-room Marquis aims to fill a void in convenient hotel options for conventioneers upon completion, and although the new hotel will be the second largest in the District, original plans for the Marquis, by joint-development team Capstone and Quadrangle, were even bigger, calling for a 1,400 to 1,500-room hotel spanning L Street, and spilling into the blighted area to the north. The idea for one hotel, connected by a pedestrian bridge, was scrapped years ago, before the Marquis broke ground in November of 2010. But now, current plans by the same developers for the Marriott-owned land between L and M Streets call for the revival of increased hotel space in the form of two new Marriotts: a Residence Inn and a Courtyard Marriott. 
Washington Convention Center - DC real estate update

A source from Capstone says that building two additional hotels will “meet the city’s original goal for the convention center of 1,600 total rooms.” Marriott has not given a reason for building three hotels instead of one, but varying price points is likely a factor, as all three Marriott brands are targeted to different customers. The zoning process for the two additional hotels has not begun, says Norman Jenkins, president and founder of Capstone, and subsequently, “a start date has not been solidified.” However, the future plan is to “retain all of the boarded buildings that front 9th Street and incorporate them into the hotel," giving the redevelopment a “really neat old/new look.” As for the boarded-up real estate on L Street – the co-op at 919 L Street and the two row houses – the goal is to demolish them, if granted approval. 

The recent demotion of a few “non-contributing structures” (i.e. non-historic buildings) at the northern parcel of land created a small amount of space to be utilized as parking for an influx of construction workers for the next three years at the Marquis site.  Capstone was mum on where the development team is in the entitlement process, however, no permits have been applied for with the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs (DCRA), so it seems Marriott's 2nd and 3rd hotels on the site will arrive well after the Marquis is finished. 

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

From Native Dancer to Native Son: Restoring Sagamore Farm

By Beth Herman If you listen quietly and long enough to sounds in the mist at Glyndon, Maryland's Sagamore Farm, Native Dancer's hoof beats will join up with your heartbeat. Shining star of the (now) 530-acre horse breeding farm established in 1925 by Bromo-Seltzer inventor Isaac Emerson, the fabled "Galloping Gray Ghost" stands tall among the greatest racehorses of the 20th century, winning 21 out of 22 races, as well as a place in successive Sagamore owner Alfred P. Vanderbilt II’s own heart. The stoic, "unsentimental” scion of industry was reportedly never quite the same after his beloved horse’s death in 1967. Before its sale to entrepreneur James Ward in 1986, Sagamore Farm, which had been a 21st birthday gift to Vanderbilt from his mother (Emerson’s daughter) in 1933, would produce winners such as Discovery, Bed o’Roses and Native Dancer, and employ many dozens of grooms, trainers, blacksmiths, hot-walkers, domestic personnel and the like. When Maryland’s horse racing industry succumbed to revised federal tax laws and recession, Ward’s decision to convert the property to home sites was rejected by the community, so he commissioned renowned equestrian architects Blackburn Architects, P.C. to turn a portion of the farm into a private home/equestrian center for his wife. Several old barns were leased to thoroughbred breeding and training entities. But in 2007, smitten by the same dreams that were said to have seduced Alfred P. Vanderbilt II, Maryland native son and founder/CEO of Under Armour apparel Kevin Plank bought the farm, so to speak, with a goal to help revitalize the state’s racing industry. Plank’s mandate in also retaining John Blackburn, and project manager Daniel Blair, was to transform what had become a largely decaying historical landmark into a peerless 21st century breeding and training operation—without sacrificing its provenance. Loading in “Kevin had an outline and series of points—a program of what he wanted to do—how he wanted to get there,” Blackburn said, noting the former University of Maryland football team captain clearly wanted to return Sagamore Farm to its original glory. “His goals were to restore the farm, to build on that history and to develop his own thoroughbred breeding operation that would, at some point, produce a Triple Crown winner.” Embarking on a 10-to 15-year master plan, an existing 20-stall broodmare barn and 16-stall foaling barn comprised an early phase of the renovation with methods and materials emblematic of Blackburn Architects’ “health and safety of the horses first” philosophy. Known for their prodigious use of natural light and ventilation— the latter a component in a passive energy system, as well incorporating aerodynamic principles and recycled materials into more than 150 horse farms over 25 years, Blackburn and Blair applied these tenets to produce Sagamore Farm barns that entirely supported the needs of their diverse equine residents, but without altering the exterior aesthetic of the existing buildings. Removing typically large haylofts from each structure, opening up large but enclosed stalls and adding skylights and Dutch doors along the exterior to court natural ventilation, both the broodmare and foaling barns instantly went from “dark to bright, like night and day” Blackburn said, especially important for the broodmares. “You want as much light as possible, as early in the season as possible for them,” Blackburn explained, “so the horse cycles naturally, without the use of artificial light.” Citing temperatures that parallel each other both inside and outside the barn as key to the horses’ health, Blackburn also took measures to ensure smooth transitions. And using the sun’s heat from the rooftop and skylight, and the horse’s own heat and humidity (horses give off a great deal of moisture), the architect worked to bring air in low and exhaust it out high. This creates ventilation in the barn so it’s constantly venting whether it’s winter or summer,” Blackburn said. Additionally, a fan is typically placed high on a wall, directed into only one area of a stall, enabling the horse to move in and out of the breeze as needed. “Going back to the health and safety of the horse, when driving the design of a barn, you have to duplicate nature—where they can control their environment,” Blackburn explained. “As soon as you put horses in barns they lose that control, so the barn now needs to provide them those choices.” A sustainable tack Where humans and sustainability measures are concerned, rubber paver flooring, recycled steel in stall systems, recycled wood finishes— from the original barn— in flooring, cabinets and desks, and preservation of an existing exterior concrete block frame and roof framing, as well as insulated barn offices to reduce energy waste, were part of the design. With the inception of Sagamore Farm’s most recent phase, and particularly renovation of a 24-stall yearling barn which began on February 1, smaller 12x12 stalls will accommodate the younger horses, with sustainable materials from the two previous barns applied here, along with elements that include a signature Blackburn barns passive energy system also seen in the previous two barns. Speaking to various additional projects on the property, Blackburn said Sagamore Farm’s three quarters-of-a-mile training track was completely redone with footing developed by Plank himself and Under Armour, something separate from the architects’ work. According to Blackburn, the most interesting structure on the venue is the 90-stall oval-shaped training barn with an interior quarter-mile track. “It’s a very unique barn, with maybe only one other similar to it in the entire state,” Blackburn said. Acknowledging that Plank probably won’t need 90 stalls, the team is exploring how best to redesign the behemoth building. Another existing structure that fronts the track, and has been gutted, is a former dormitory where employees were housed and fed, along with an old blacksmith shop currently used for storage. A stallion barn, home to Native Dancer, also stands tall but devoid of life and purpose, with possibilities that include transforming it into a museum to honor Sagamore Farm’s most eminent equines. “Their use is a moving target,” Blackburn said of these and a host of other idle, existing buildings, including guest and reception spaces that dot the property. “As they develop the farm and breeding stock and get into more operational aspects, their needs may change.” While Sagamore Farm has yet to produce a Derby, Preakness or Belmont Stakes winner (Native Dancer’s great-great-great grandson Monzon ran most recently at Belmont), on November 5, 2010, its Shared Account, a 46-1 shot, won the $2 million Breeders Cup Filly and Mare Turf, defeating the celebrated Midday. Plank is admittedly taking his time building breeding stock, and a racing reputation, having crossed his first professional finish line as the creator of Under Armour apparel before he turned 30. And even with a quarter-century of specialty barns in his personal paddock, Blackburn, like Plank, is just getting started. 

Photos courtesy Cesar Lujan

Retail, Coming Soon to The Avenue in Foggy Bottom

The Avenue at Foggy Bottom and George Washington University, Boston Properties new retail centered development
The Avenue
is the newly completed $250-million, retail-centered mixed-use project taking up 2.6 acres of George Washington University's property at 2200 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW.  The occupies the southeastern corner of Washington Circle, where the old GW Hospital once stood. Leased to Boston Properties as the developer, The Avenue, also known as Square 54, incorporates 80,000 s.f. of retail space, which will soon begin occupancy and create a new retail center in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood.

Incoming retail tenants will join three already in place at The Avenue: Devon & Blakely, a gourmet deli, opened in April; NIH Federal Credit Union, opened in May; and Citibank, which opened last week.

The soon-to-arrive retailers are as follows:
  • Whole Foods Market – The high-end grocer with lowly, grassroots beginning in 1980 in Austin and world’s largest retailer of natural and organic foods (redemption through $20 beer class offering every Thursday in Logan Circle) will occupy approximately 36,000 s.f. across two levels beginning September.
  • Circa at Foggy Bottom (Late June/Early July) – American-style bistro, owned by The MHG Group of Falls Church. This location will be the third in the DC-area; behind Dupont in 2007, and later Clarendon. Circa offers over 20 wines by the glass and seasonal cocktails, including a blackberry margarita with a splash of Chambord.
  • Roti (Early July) – Mediterranean-themed eatery out of Chicago. Pronounced “row-tee,” this location will join three already in the District; two more are to follow suit in the fall.
  • Sweetgreen (Late June/Early July) – Fast-casual restaurant, menu-listed and mix-your-own salad/wrap options, big choices with small environmental footprint (i.e. biodegradable packaging), tart fro-yo offered in house and out of the Sweetflow food truck.
  • CCLC (July/August) – day care provider
  • District Commons and Burger, Tap & Shake (August/September) – two-in-one concept (sit-and-eat in restaurant or grab-and-go from the counter) from the Passion Foods group. District Commons and Burger, the restaurant portion of the dual combo, will offer boozed-up milkshakes for full-grown kids, and 20 American microbrews on tap.

Commercial tenants, occupying 440,000 s.f. of office space at The Avenue, are:
  • Law firms: Bergeson & Campbell, Hunton & Williams, and Vinson & Elkins
  • Financial institution: Ares Capital
  • Manufacturing/Tech firm: Danaher Corporation
  • Shared office space: Regus

Residential units at The Avenue are ready to be occupied as well, and to date approximately 130 out of the 335 have been leased.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

President's Park South, Designs Unveiled

President's Park South - design for a portion of the National Mall
President’s Park South takes up a substantial 52 acres between the White House grounds and Constitution Avenue NW. Considering the importance of the site’s location and history, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) hosted a design competition, and invited five design firms to submit design concepts for the area which will assist the National Park Service and the Secret Service in forming a plan for the site, as these two government bodies will ultimately be in control of the park’s redevelopment. Today through June 27th, the designs will be on display at the White House Visitor Center at 1450 Pennsylvania Ave NW, open from 7:30 am to 4:00 pm, and available online. Design reps will present their ideas on Tuesday, June 28th, at 12:30pm at NCPC, 401 9th Street, NW (Suite 500N). The lunchtime event is open to the public, and feedback is welcomed. The design winner will be selected by the NCPC’s Interagency Security Task Force and will be announced on June 30th. Image from Rogers Marvel Architects Presentation The designs center on the key element of President’s Park South, the Ellipse, a defining aspect of Andrew Jackson Downing’s 1851 design for the area, “Public Grounds at Washington.” The Ellipse is surrounded by side panels, which contain other significant aspects of the site, including Sherman Park and the First Division Monument. Roadways also cut through the area, most notably E St NW, laid out in 1967 to ease traffic downtown, now impassable to unauthorized vehicles, since 9/11. Participating firms:  

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Monday, June 20, 2011

A House Goes Missing in Northeast

Washington DC housing construction news
It’s not uncommon to revisit a place from the past, in hopes of a stroll down memory lane, and find instead that favorite haunts have turned over, and familiar buildings have been torn down. It is less common, however, to visit your home and find it torn down. This is what happened to Rafat Azzam and his property at 1053 44th Street, NE, in the Deanwood neighborhood of Washington, D.C. Azzam bought the property from CitiMortage Inc. on April 29th, 2010 for $32,000 (plus additional settlement costs near $1000). It was razed in early October of 2010 by Rightway Development Inc., a Virginia- based construction, demolition and development services company, which was hired by property-management company, Safeguard Properties LLC, a Delaware LLC, which was hired by CitiMortage Inc. 

Prior to Azzam’s purchase, previous owners defaulted on their mortgage and on October 17th, 2008, and CitiMortage purchased the property on April 7th, 2009 at a public auction run by Alex Cooper Auctioneers, with a bid of $256,122.12. According to the D.C. Recorder of Deeds, Azzam's purchase on April 29, 2010 was “filed out of order,” on August 19th, 2010. The deed was refiled and processed on December 27th, 2010. Between this time – August and December – the house was razed. Rightway Development had applied for a raze permit a year earlier, in October of 2009, and the permit was issued by the D.C. Permit Operations Division on August 20th, 2010 – a day after the original "misfiled" deed. Rightway razed the property less than two months after obtaining a permit, in early October of 2010. Azzam visited his property on October 21st, 2010 when he was “shocked” to find it missing; in its place a chain link fence bearing Rightway Development signage. Azzam moved to D.C. from Egypt in order to pursue a degree in Mechanical Engineering, and had sold his property in Egypt “for approximately four percent of its value” in order to buy a house in D.C. to live in while he completed his education, as states the legal document filed with the Superior Court of the District of Columbia on February 22nd, 2011. Azzam maintains that he was waiting on permits to renovate the house before moving in. He also claims to have had $15,000 to $20,000 in personal property in the house at the time it was razed. Azzam is suing Rightway Development, Safeguard Properties, and CitiMortage for $1.3 million in damages and personal property compensation. 

Washington D.C. commercial real estate news

Friday, June 17, 2011

Penzance Tees Up Clarendon LEED Office Project

D.C. based Penzance has announced it will submit its final plans to Arlington for development of its Clarendon Metro office project, a step that potentially puts the start date less than a year away for the 300,000 s.f. office project.

Penzance plans two office buildings for the site, an 8-story and a 10-story building with shared 4-level below-grade parking deck and 28,000 s.f. of combined ground floor retail space with an expansive sidewalk area to accommodate outdoor seating. Several of the older buildings on the block will be kept intact during construction.

Noritake Associates designed the project that developers say will "reinforce Clarendon’s status as a true live-work-play urban environment." The design is expected to earn a minimum ranking of LEED Silver, but developers say they are working toward a Platinum ranking for the site, scheduled to break ground in spring of 2012. Jones Lang LaSalle will market the property. A general contractor has not yet been selected.

Penzance has developed and operates numerous properties throughout Washington D.C. and Arlington, including 455 Massachusetts Avenue in Mt. Vernon Triangle.
Arlington, Virginia real estate development news

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