Saturday, October 29, 2011

Your Next Place

By Franklin Schneider

Would you like to live in Ledroit Park? Of course you would. Any neighborhood with its name on a metal archway over the main road in has to be good. That, or you live in EuroDisney.

This gleaming new condo unit offers an open plan first floor that's made for entertaining; the space is bisected by a huge kitchen, with a bright living room in the front of the house, and a generously sized dining area in the rear. The kitchen itself boasts a gas range (with hood) and silestone counters. There are also the requisite high ceilings, recessed lighting, hardwood (maple) floors. Out back, there's also a private deck, off which you just know that one stupid friend of yours will urinate during halftime of your Super Bowl party. What's wrong with him?

Upstairs are two master bedroom suites, both very fine. Also, this stretch of Sixth Street is one-way and in that sort of weird limbo between Florida Avenue and the Howard University campus, so it's really really quiet. I live just three blocks west on Sixth, but in front of my house it's a nonstop ambulance drag race-slash-siren exhibition. So I was pretty jealous. I offered to trade places straight up, but the agent turned me down. I thought this was rather shortsighted of him. Sure, it comes with a huge colony of black mold on the living room wall, but just do what I do – put a “Wolverine” poster over it. Problem solved!

1915 6th St. NW
2 Bedrooms, 2.5 Baths

Friday, October 28, 2011

Norwood Apartments: A TOPA odyssey in Logan Circle

Map: Adams Morgan real estate

Tomorrow, newly bound-together residents of The Norwood will celebrate the six-year trek toward creating an affordable cooperative in Logan Circle. The Norwood/1417 N Street Cooperative, through the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) process, assisted by the D.C. Office of Tenant Advocate and the Latino Economic Development Corporation, and financed by the Department of Housing and Community Development's First Right Purchase Assistance program, was able to purchase their 7-story, 84-unit apartment building "The Norwood" for $9.3 million from Landmark Atlantic at the end of July. Initially, the Norwood Tenants Association, led by co-presidents David Fabian and Silvia Salazar, banded together in October of 2005 over numerous housing condition concerns: black mold infestations, a malfunctioning elevator, unsafe stairways, and an "alarming" bedbug problem. "We started out just trying to improve the conditions in the building," said Fabian, which turned into what he describes as an "incredible learning opportunity," resulting in the formation of a cooperative, direct negotiations with the landlord, and a building purchase. 

Logan Circle Real Estate

Farah Fosse, LEDC's Director of Affordable Housing Preservation, explains that her organization was called in to help preserve affordable housing, improve poor housing conditions, and assist with the sale and conversion of the building. In 2006, the owner was looking to convert the 1930's building to condos, but Norwood Tenant Association leadership knew it would ultimately force out many of the building's low to moderate-income renters; the association rejected the offer and demanded that the building be brought up to code before any conversion could be made (essentially buying time, while organizing plans to pursue the TOPA process). When the owner slapped the tenants with rent increases, they simply refused to pay without any improvements having been made to their living conditions. Lawsuits ensued, and the issue was thrust into the open. 

In May of 2007, the owner offered the tenants the opportunity to purchase The Norwood at just over $12 million. Without a third party contract, without improved housing conditions and with the building's appraisal coming in at less than the owner's price point, the tenants didn't bite. It took another four years to negotiate various lawsuits, to organize/educate the tenants, and to pursue financing. With the owner finally agreeing to shave nearly $3 million off the purchase price, on the grounds that he would not have to do a substantial overhaul of the dilapidated interior, the Co-op was able to close on its building quickly after receiving the DHCD loan early this summer. Now, the newly formed Co-op Board is going through the process to convert the building. Fosse explained, "Soon [residents] will have the choice to buy into the Co-op." Part of LEDC's role prior to conversion was to make sure that those residents would be financially able to do that, so as to prevent any displacement. The Board is also seeking private financing from banks in order to complete a full renovation of the 73-year-old art deco building sometime next year, said Fabian, with plans to incorporate a child care facility. Fosse said improving the living conditions at The Norwood is an ongoing issue; just this summer the number of inhabitants at the building skyrocketed – the unwelcome incomers part of a severe rat infestation. 

The Norwood is now managed by EJF Real Estate Services, replacing Landmark Atlantic's Fleetwood Management (since reconfigured into a new company). The Norwood is far from being alone. Elsewhere in D.C., Fosse says, "A huge number of buildings are going up for sale, and we're actually seeing pretty reasonable prices." The problem is, "Low-interest real estate loans are hard to come by. There is not much money in the trust fund." LEDC is currently working with the tenants of nearly a dozen other buildings, in predominately Latino communities, with several located along the Georgia Ave corridor. 

Washington D.C. real estate development news

HPRB: Site of DC's First Walmart Not Historic

As was expected, the Historic Preservation Review Board voted yesterday in line with the Historic Preservation Office recommendation not to designate the Car Barn on Georgia Avenue as a historic landmark. The site is the proposed location of the District's first Wal-Mart, and a historic designation would have complicated and slowed the path to development. Property owner Foulger Pratt will be able to continue demolition (abruptly halted) of the structure.

Several individuals and parties, both for and against slapping the Barn with historic landmark status, gave impassioned testimony as to whether preservation was important based on the structure's integrity, and ability to convey the meaning for which it was deemed significant.

One testimony in opposition to preservation declared, "It's a blighted area and it has been for many years... preserving [the Car Barn] would defeat the effort of the community to revitalize the area."

However, a historian in favor noted the existence of old windows, materials, original brick walls, trusses, original roof skylights, old doors, and original layout (service and storage bay). A community member added, "It's a garage that represents the entire Brightwood community."

HPRB said preservation was an issue only of "significant integrity," most of which was lost when alterations began to convert the structure to a Chevy dealership in 1995, and in the end, the Board felt there was not enough.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Kelsey Gardens Construction Could Start by Next Quarter

In yet another vote of confidence for Shaw, Kelsey Gardens has now been purchased by the Jefferson Apartment Group, setting up the pins for yet another sizable construction project across from the CityMarket at O that could be under construction as soon as next quarter. The subsidized housing project has been vacant for several years, since the low-income, architecturally disappointing projects were closed down years ago in a bid for redevelopment. According to Bruce Levin of MAC Realty Advisors, which brokered the transaction, Jefferson paid $16,650,000 to purchase the entity that controls the site, keeping all entitlements in tact, meaning Jefferson can take over the PUD approval and existing demolition permits, allowing work to begin as early as Q1 of 2012. Metropolitan Development had purchased the austere collection of buildings in 2004 for $7m, and planned the project as Addison Square, wrangling $18 million from the city in tax abatements, as well as a zoning change to allow the density in the form of a Planned Unit Development - with the qualification that 54 of the 280 units be set aside for tenants making 60% of AMI. Jefferson settled on the purchase 2 weeks ago. Kelsey Gardens is just a few blocks south of Progression Place, a large residential project now well into construction and the Wonder Bread building, plans for which are now being hashed out, as well as the Howard Theater. A small slice of the Kelsey Project was cleaved from the site this spring when Capital City Real Estate bought a strip of land along P Street to build six 2-unit townhouses, for a total of 12- 2bed/2bath units, each around 1100 square feet. The CityMarket at O is also in the early phase of its construction. Lessard Architectural Group designed the project, which will include 14,700 s.f. of retail space along 7th. Jefferson Apartment Group also recently took over the lead role in developing the apartment project 14W, which is redeveloping the former Anthony Bowen YMCA. Washington D.C. real estate development news

Virtue and Vroom! for Old Victorians


By Beth Herman

For Principal Steve Lawlor of Lawlor Architects, melding the old and new is little like architectural alchemy and a lot more than just a profession.

“If someone had said to me 20 years ago I was going to have a boutique practice focusing on modern work in historic houses, I’d have been surprised,” said Lawlor, affirming over time the work has become a great passion. “Older houses require a certain knowledge of how to work in them effectively,” he said, speaking to elements such as inadequate structural components and sub-par brick. “They have little sleights of hand; you learn how these people built houses and that informs what you can do to them going forward.”

Concentrating largely on Capitol Hill, Lawlor identified a 4,400 s.f. five-bedroom (plus au pair’s room), four-bath 1870s row house initially designed as a single family residence and later turned into apartments. Purchased by the client in deteriorated condition with the intent to restore it to single family status, the architects confronted a quantity of “cellular” rooms—certainly unconnected in theme.

“As with houses of this era, there was no coherent message or design narrative taken all the way through,” Lawlor said, citing historical thinking that gave each room four immutable walls. But by the same token, if artifacts are in good condition and can be preserved, the challenge is to contrast them with new elements creating a tension between old and new, he said. “I find that really satisfying—you can’t do that in a new house.”

Before work began, the house had become three apartments in the “darkest, dimmest, grimmest kind of place,” Lawlor recalled. Boasting a beautiful façade, maintenance had nevertheless been ignored just about everywhere.

Demolishing walls that had defined the building’s public spaces, abundant light was on the architects’ short list and ultimately achieved in an otherwise brooding space, according to Lawlor. An opening was created between the formerly closed-off entry and a 22-foot now combined living/dining space to the right. A largely concealed staircase was allowed to breathe, and a contemporary kitchen replaced a choppy full bath, bedroom, closet and small porch.

In opening up the home, the team was able to maintain all of the ceiling’s original plaster work, which included delicate rosettes, and also its fireplaces. Fluted columns, though contemporary, were installed to capture the spirit of the original house. A modern color palette was employed, and everything opened up to the brand new rear kitchen with sustainable materials such as bamboo and a light-filled exposure that was basically an entirely glazed wall. In this space, a new ceiling was covered with a wood panel that angles up.

In deference to the classic plaster ceiling design that pervades much of the home, the architects jettisoned the idea of recessed lighting for a suspended track. The result gives the space a gallery-like feel with the added benefit of illuminating walls that display the homeowner’s artwork.

“You have this old ceiling and these very pristine, technical lights playing off of that vintage look,” Lawlor said.

In the row house’s master suite, the historic fabric was preserved in crown molding that encircles the space. Old heart pine doors (with added hardware) and floors were also retained, and the architects put in contemporary bead board wainscoting to pull the room together but with an old-time feel. Because ceilings in the home range from 10 to 11 feet in height, the goal was to control the various rooms’ scale with elements like wainscoting so they don’t feel like “massive train tunnels,” Lawlor quipped.

Bricks and brightness

In another Capitol Hill row house, this one circa 1890, an addition that eclipsed the size of the original three-story home was on the agenda, something unusual for a DC historic district. Owning the home for 15 years before embarking on the renovation, the couple engaged Lawlor Architects to update and create more space, resulting in a contemporary and light-filled environment.

“In a renovation like this, what we often do is work on an addition but also work on the old interior at the same time, so that the entire house has a consistent level of attention. This way it doesn’t feel as though all the money was spent in just one area,” Lawlor said.

In a great juxtaposition of historic and modern, the addition incorporated the five-bedroom, four-bath home’s rear wall brick exterior into a brand new interior stairwell, balcony and window that looks out into the new space. A large skylight frames the top of the stairwell, illuminating the texture of the old brick and channeling light to the middle of the house.

According to Lawlor, 80 percent of the work was addressed the rear addition, which included the stairwell, as the façade was strictly regulated by historic district parameters.

Victorians and views

Also on Capitol Hill, in a project the architects aptly call “historic modern,” a similar-era two-story 2,500 s.f. row house was broken into two projects: a two-story addition where the back wall was bumped out to accommodate, and a one-story addition on top. Purchased some years back by newlywed homeowners sans children, while they appreciated the Victorian’s historic vernacular, a desire to “shake it up a bit” was precipitated by a growing family, said Lawlor.

With the husband working from home, the third floor addition became an office, embracing natural light and sweeping views that include rooftops and parts of the city.

Preserving artifacts where possible, the ground floor was renovated to include a new master suite, and a brand new kitchen linked old and new with a long bamboo dropped ceiling running its entire 32-foot length. Though walls around the staircase were peeled back, “…we left the stair hall, fireplace, railings, treads, risers, newel posts, balusters and front living room more or less intact with windows that frame the street,” Lawlor said, but the homeowners also wanted a space that was not the main family area of the house. To that end, everything past the living room was rearranged, reimagined and looks nothing like it did.

“You walk in this house, which (from the facade) looks like all the other houses around it—like a very respectful Victorian,” Lawlor said, referencing the “long tongue” of a wood ceiling with recessed and pendant lighting visible from the entry.

“It’s the element of surprise in working with these old houses, and you hope that every project has one. These houses can have brand new lives and personalities.”

Photos courtesy of Stacy Zarin-Goldberg

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Two Competitions to Redesign Portions of the National Mall: One For Creativity's Sake, One for Keeps

Over 1,500 professional and aspiring architects and designers, from around the world, have submitted designs to the two ongoing competitions offering the artistically minded an opportunity to make a mark on the National Mall. One competition is officially connected to the National Park Service, and has just selected 15 professional design teams, after three days of consideration by an eight-person jury, to move on to Stage II of the National Mall Design Competition to redesign three areas of the Mall: Union Square at the foot of the Capitol, Constitution Gardens near the Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument Grounds at Sylvan Theater. For each of the three redesign areas, six design teams were selected, with a few teams selected as finalists in two areas: the Diller Scofidio Renfro & Hood Design team is a finalist for both Union Square and the Washington Monument Grounds portion; the Rogers Marvel Architects & Peter Walker and Partners team is a finalist for both Union Square and Constitution Gardens; and the OLIN & Weiss/Manfredi team is a finalist for both the Washington Monument Grounds portion and Constitution Gardens. Second stage designs are due December 1st, and those who will be moving on to the final round will be announced on December 15th. The design competition was officially launched in early September and brought in over 1,200 participants, said spokeswoman Lauren Condoluci. The Trust for the National Mall, with part of its purpose being to help realize the NPS Mall Plan through its "Campaign to Restore the National Mall," is responsible for the corporate-sponsored design competition, as The Trust is the "official non-profit partner of the National Park Service," created in November of 2007 by Chip Akridge, founder of the eponymous commercial real estate company Akridge. Meanwhile, another National Mall design competition was launched prior to the NPS competition, in the summer of 2010: the National Ideas Competition for the redesign of the Washington Monument Grounds, sponsored in part by George Washington University. Chair of the National Ideas Competition steering committee, James Clark, principal at MTFA Architecture, said that the winning participants will benefit from exposure, as they will have risen to the top of over 500 competition participants. "We realize none of the schemes will ever get built," said Clark. "But we hope they have an impact on the potential of the grounds." 

MTFA Architect, Hunt Laudi, Washington DC, national mall, architecture, design

He also said that the competition's worth is in creative participation on a broad spectrum; participants ranged from individual designers and amateurs aged 12 and up, and professional design firms. The competition is now in its final phase: the solicitation of the public's vote to determine two winners from the six finalists, including firms from the Netherlands, South Korea, and D.C. local Hunt Laudi Studio. Julian Hunt, co-founder of husband-wife firm Hunt Laudi, said he entered a A Great Inclined Plane (shown at left) to "extend the mall and make it into a sort of viewing platform," inspired in part by the failure of the space to serve the Obama Inauguration crowd well. Hunt also felt the complexity of the design submission would be appreciated by a first-round jury that consisted of renowned, avant-garde architects. Winners of the National Ideas Competition will be presented to the public next spring. Likewise, the NPS' National Mall Design Competition will put on a public exhibition next April, and winners will be announced in early May. Unlike the creative visions produced through the National Ideas Competition, however, fundraising efforts for the NPS/The Trust for the National Mall undertaking will commence after the winners are announced. 

Washington D.C. commercial real estate news

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Brookland Artspace Lofts On Display Tonight

Brookland Artspace Lofts, affordable live-work artist apartments with ground-floor gallery space at 3305-3313 8th Street, NE, will host an open house tonight offering West African dance performances, salsa lessons and loft tours, starting at 6pm. The Lofts, developed by Artspace, are Phase 1 of a mixed-use arts campus project that includes the renovation of Dance Place, located next door at 3225 8th Street in the Brookland neighborhood. 
Artspace, Dance Place, Brookland, Hickok Cole, DC real estate
The overhaul of the dance center will comprise Phase 2 and is now in the planning stage. Heidi Kurtze, Director of Property Development for Artspace, said Dance Place is working on its Capital Campaign, assisted by Artspace, and hopes to have Phase 2 underway by the end of 2012. The $13.2-million artist loft portion of the real estate project was funded in part by the Department of Housing and Community Development, which provided $10.4 million in stimulus funding and $1 million in low-income housing tax credits; the project also received a Dept. of Housing and Urban Development Neighborhood Initiative Grant. The 4-story, 57,000-s.f. commercial building, designed by Hickok Cole and built by Bognet Construction, devotes 48,900 s.f. to residential space and 8,100 s.f. to shared, community use on the ground floor. There are 23 parking spaces below grade, and 41 live-work studios, with 39 of them for individuals (artists) making less than 60 percent of the area median income. 

Although the initial Artspace plan was to set aside half of the 39 units for individuals making less than 50 percent of the area median income, a modification to the project was made in March of 2010, because the project would not be economically feasible "with half of the units made affordable at such deep levels of affordability." In conclusion, two of the 41 units can be rented out at market rate if necessary, but both are currently set aside for use by Dance Place. Brookland Studios was formerly on the property, and was razed to make way for the new loft building, which broke ground in April of 2010 and delivered at the end of June. In making the interior artist friendly, the transportation of large art materials and/or finished pieces was taken into consideration, and so the building features wide hallways, hospital-sized elevators, and lofts with open floor plans, ranging in size from studios to two-bedroom units. A green roof was installed by the non-profit DC Greenworks, under the direction of project manager Andrew Benenati, and on one exterior wall of the building is a mosaic of tiles, installed by community volunteers. 

The lofts are 100-percent occupied, Kurtze verified, and residents represent a variety of art mediums, with the breakdown approximately, "One-third performance artists, one-third visual artists, and one-third other, including film makers, set designers, poets [etc.]." Creativity might flourish from the mingling of varying talents: "Residents are already getting together for Sunday night dinners," said Kurtze. Over 100 applications came in from artistic hopefuls looking to rent a loft, however not all met the Artspace requirements. Those who did went before a selection committee, and none who made it this far were turned away. 

Washington D.C. commercial real estate news

Monday, October 24, 2011

Your Next Place

By Franklin Schneider

As I walked up to this Chevy Chase home, set well back from the street and coyly obscured by a meticulously landscaped front yard, it almost looked like it was flirting with me. Accordingly, I sent some mixed signals its way (“Nice shrubbery. But everyone's got nice shrubbery these days.“) and then promptly went for entry. Success!

Inside, this house was deliriously sunny and roomy. Gleaming hardwood floors and arched doorways abound. There's a den off the living room with a massive wall of built-in shelving, and a fantastically large kitchen. Another really cool thing about this place was that it had three bedrooms, but each bedroom was on a different floor of the house. This would be awesome: you can't put too much space between bedrooms. There's literally no noise that isn't horrible to hear through a shared wall.

In back there's a large wooden deck that looks out on the neighborhood, perfect for breakfasts or cookouts or drinks with some friends in the evening. I once attended a party on just such a deck, when the host suddenly disappeared. We all shrugged and continued drinking, and since the host was gone, conversation naturally turned to him. After we'd all finished discussing his various merits and shortcomings, he emerged from his hiding place under the deck, where'd he'd gone to hear what we really thought of him. Needless to say, that was the end of the party. (The lesson, as always: ignorance is bliss.)

6339 31st Place NW
3 Bedrooms, 3 Baths

West End Hilton Garden Inn Seeks Modifications This Week


This Thursday, the joint venture between Perseus Realty, Starwood Capital, and OTO Development, "PerStar M Street LLC," will visit the Zoning Commission with its request to modify the PUD zoning application for its West End hotel site, a now-empty parcel at 2201 M Street once occupied by the Nigerian Embassy. The 15,600-s.f. area is currently visualized by developers as a Hilton Garden Inn, a vision that replaces an earlier, sustainable, "eco-luxury" 1 Hotel.

The change in brand, from a 1 Hotel to a Garden Inn, comes with several zoning changes: a redesign of the exterior façades; an increase in the number of rooms, from 170 to 238; a minor increase in density, from 122,235 g.s.f to 124,564 g.s.f. (7.84 to 7.99 FAR); a small reduction in height by 3' to approximately 107'; and 11 additional parking spaces (increased from 42 to 53) in a valet-operated garage.

The Hilton Garden Inn, although not "eco-luxury," aims to become LEED-Silver certified; the Garden Inn is being designed by Shalom Baranes, who replaced the architect of the 1 Hotel, Oppenheim.

The neighborhood ANC was disappointed in the change from the 1 Hotel to a new plan and new flag; ANC 2A Chair, Rebecca Coder, emailed the following: "While the West End didn't need another hotel, the fact that the 1 was a unique concept made it palatable." Coder added that the ANC is hopeful that the concerns articulated by residents, related to the design and desire for unique retail, will be considered by developers.

The current version of the PUD, which accommodates the scrapped 1 Hotel plan for the site, was approved in June of 2008, and the buildings at 22nd and M Streets, NW – the Nigerian Embassy and Asia Nora – were razed in February of 2009 in anticipation of the project's start, which never happened.

In March of 2010, the PUD application was given a two-year time extension, due to "difficulties with financing based upon changes in economic and market conditions beyond the applicant's control;" a report by the Office of Planning in support of the time extension stated that Perseus Realty contacted 40-plus lenders unwilling to provide financing, citing the general decline in the hotel market and the negative growth in revenue generated by existing hotel rooms.

The construction extension requires that a building permit application be filed by June of 2012, however, from that time, a full year is given before construction must be underway – "no later than June 27th, 2013" – which means that although Robert Cohen, president of Perseus, said in August that the development team's goal is to begin construction in June of 2012, there is no pressure from the District to begin next year, and still another hurdle awaits – construction financing.

The Office of Zoning explained that the upcoming hearing, on Thursday the 27th, to review zoning request, may or may not result in proposed action by the Zoning Commission: "It’s possible that the Commission could take proposed action at the end of the hearing and then it would be referred to NCPC for a 30-day comment period before final action could be taken. If they don’t take proposed action at the end of the hearing, then the next step would be for it to be placed on one of the scheduled meeting agendas for decision."

In August, Neil Jacobs, president of SH Group, Starwood's luxury hotel brand management company, stated the reason for the brand change was that, "With a 1 Hotel we were limited in the number of rooms we could get onto the site. We didn't want to compromise the brand, and commercially [the Garden Inn] is a better choice."

OTO Development came on as a partner after the decision was made, in the fall of 2010, to desert the 1 Hotel in favor of a more affordable Garden Inn.

The Hilton Garden Inn will contain a 5,000-s.f. restaurant offering seasonal sidewalk seating, and if all goes well with the upcoming PUD change process, and ability to secure construction financing, developers aim to deliver the hotel and restaurant by the summer of 2014.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Your Next Place

By Franklin Schneider

Oh yeah – this one's a ridiculously nice loft-style space you could turn a bread truck around in. Very Soho-ish, but without all the models and celebrities walking around making you feel like a big sloppy sack o' mediocre. Super bright with high ceilings with fantastic Brazilian cherry floors, and an expansive living room area with fireplace. The chef's kitchen features a breakfast counter, granite countertops, SubZero and Wolf appliances, and Brookhaven cabinetry. (Before this place, I didn't think cabinetry was something that could be “awesome.” I was wrong.)

There are also two equally luxurious master suites, so if, like me, your relationship is a tentative union of two monstrously selfish uncompromising narcissists entered into mainly for tax reasons, this place will neatly head off the awkward “who gets the bigger bedroom?” discussion. (Though I do relish the “no, no, you take the bigger bedroom, you need the space for all of your stupid crap you don't need but won't get rid of because you have abandonment issues” maneuver. Passive-aggressiveness is my superpower.) And both master suites are truly masterful and sweet (wordplay!); each master bath has a shower bigger than my entire bathroom, and my bathroom isn't even that small.

It also comes with garage parking, and a storage unit, for all your stupid crap you don't need but won't get rid of because you have abandonment issues.

1701 18th Street NW #201 2 Bedrooms, 2.5 Baths $1,125,000

Friday, October 21, 2011

OTO on a Roll with Hampton Inn in Golden Triangle

OTO Development restores 1729 H Street, the Editor's Building, sold by Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, HFF, Gordon & Greenberg ARchitects
Hospitality developer OTO Development, the company striving to turn the neo-classical Editor's Building at 1729 H Street, NW, into a Hampton Inn, has been given the green light by the Office of Zoning this week. Corry Oakes, president and CEO of OTO Development – currently under contract to purchase the Editor's Building – said the next step for the Hampton Inn project is to seek approval for interior demolition. With the goal to have demolition underway before the end of the year, construction will likely begin in the first quarter of 2012, said Oakes. The office-turned-hotel renovation, designed by Bob Greenberg with Gordon & Greenberg Architects, will leave the exterior of the 10-story building intact and focus on inner alterations, including revamping an all-marble main lobby, and carving out 116 Hampton hotel rooms, a brand under the Hilton family empire. 
Corry Oakes, OTO Development restores 1729 H Street, the Editor's Building, sold by Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, HFF, Gordon & Greenberg ARchitects, commercial property transactions

OTO asserts on its website that it will "take great efforts to retain the classic character of this building and to incorporate much of its history into [the] interior design." The sale of the building, owned and occupied by Kiplinger Washington Editor's Inc. for the last six decades, was brokered by Holliday Fenoglio Fowler, L.P., and was initially projected to close this month, however, Dek Potts, a managing director at HFF, says the settlement will now take place in December. Oakes confirmed that OTO does not typically close on a property until it is ready to begin construction, and passing through the Board of Zoning Adjustment's review – allowing for a variance from off-street parking requirements – was a big step toward that goal. 

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Infill Lot Added Back to List of Planned Development for H Street

Square 134 architects, northeast Washington DC
With plenty of attention lately on several big development projects planned for the H Street corridor, a small chunk of land on the south side of the 1100 block of H Street is easily skipped over, but the 5,456-s.f. lot sandwiched between Family Dollar and Me & My Supermarket is also being revitalized as new retail-and-residential space. 

H Street Washington DC, Wall Development builds condos

Last fall, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) announced it had partnered with Wall Development in a $3.5-million effort to develop a mixed-use building on H Street, however, the approval of the land disposition agreement for the project by the D.C. Council didn't occur until this past July and the project timeline slipped about 6 to 7 months, explained Stan Wall, president of Wall Development. Now, with approval, Wall is gearing up again to deliver a 5-story, 16,000-s.f. residential building with 2,000-s.f. of ground floor retail, spanning 1113-1117 H Street, NE, by the summer of 2013. Constructed as a matter-of-right, the building will offer 16 one-bedroom residential units (registered as condominium, but could end up for sale or as rentals depending on market at delivery) with four set aside as "affordable," and is currently in the design phase; Wall presented the latest design for the project, by Square 134 Architects, to ANC6A last night. A general contractor has not been selected, as construction is still eight months away, but Wall hopes to have construction drawings complete by the first of next year, to have permits squared away by April, and to commence construction in June. If all goes well, the building will be ready for occupancy by August of 2013. Design and construction will have a sustainable focus and Wall plans to apply for LEED certification upon project completion. 

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

GW's New Science and Engineering Building Breaks Ground

Tomorrow night, a ground breaking ceremony will kick off three years of construction by Clark on the new $275-million, 400,000-s.f., 8-story Science and Engineering Complex (SEC) for George Washington University's Foggy Bottom campus. GW hopes the new facility will "strengthen the university’s reputation as a premier research institution."

Following a bolstered reputation will be the return of a portion of the building's costs in the form of future grants and contracts supporting faculty research, foresees the university. The rest of the $275 million will be generated through Boston Properties' Square 54 ground lease, as well as philanthropic gifts.

Over the summer, demolition of what was the university's parking garage took place on the site at 22nd and H Streets, NW. Removal of the demolished chunks of concrete will continue for a couple weeks, allowing sheeting, shoring and excavation work to be underway soon.

The building, the design work of Ballinger Architects and Hickok Cole, will rise 8 stories, and go down 6, with 2 stories of program space and 4 stories of parking below grade. The complex will be ready for occupancy — by five Science and Engineering departments and also four Columbian College of Arts and Sciences departments — in 2015.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

New York Ave: Site of DC's First Walmart?

Map:  Washington DC's first Walmart, new York Avenue
The Walmart coming to Georgia Avenue, NW, may have been the first of the four forthcoming Walmarts with a lease, but the Walmart headed to the planned retail center "The Point @ The Arboretum" on New York Avenue, NE, now looks more likely to be the first Walmart in Washington DC to get built. Because the New York Avenue site is part of a Large Tract real estate development approved by the Office of Planning at the end of August, the entitlement process has passed DC's review – and risk of revision. This summer, Ward 5 Councilmember Harry Thomas Jr. expected the project to be underway by late fall of this year, however, the several-month-long permit approval process has not yet begun. Designed by Brown Craig Turner, and being developed by Rick Walker/WV Urban Development LLC, – the inaugural store location may depend on whether the Car Barn on Georgia Avenue is deemed historic by the HPRB next week, and if the Walmart construction timeline will be affected.

A construction timeline for The Point project has also been difficult to pin down. The businesses currently on site have been vacated, and Rick Walker stated that the development team has begun preparing plans in order to file for raze/building permits that will accommodate Walmart. Lowe's has also been interested in the site, but has not yet committed to a lease, and just yesterday, news came that Lowe's was deserting the 25th Street Station development in Baltimore, also by WV Urban Development, a $65-million project that also includes a Walmart, still on board. The back-out comes with bigger news of the closure of tens of Lowe's stores nationwide. The 14.8-acre New York Ave. site, a blunt-nosed triangle located north of Montana Avenue, and between New York Avenue and Bladensburg Road, will eventually hold 364,900 s.f. of buildings: three 1-story retail buildings, one 3-story retail building, two bank pads, the 126,200-s.f. Walmart, and either a 126,000-s.f. Lowe's or other big-box retailer. 

The site lacks good karma, however, having been the site of the ill-fated Abdo-Broadway housing complex abandoned last year. With permits still needed for The Point project, the Georgia Avenue Car Barn Walmart is further along in the process. Although a building permit (the most time consuming to secure) was issued to developer Foulger-Pratt on Monday, developers need a raze permit and a potential historic landmark status could stymie that process. Meanwhile, at least one big-box, discount retailer, Ross, is headed to Northeast, at the Hechinger Mall complex on Benning Road. Ross, taking over an existing retail location, will beat both Walmarts by a long stretch, as it opens next week. 

Washington D.C. retail and real estate development news

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Arlington Approves Penrose Park Contract


The Arlington County Board today voted to approve a construction contract to build a new public plaza at the recently opened Penrose Square on Arlington's Columbia Pike. The $1.6m contract had been expected, and will eventually lead to two other two other public squares on Columbia Pike as well.

Penrose Square park will include a tree-covered terrace, plaza with water feature, and pair of large stone sculptures, all sustainably designed to recapture and reuse water. The public plaza is expected to cost around $100,000 per year on operational costs, and complete by the fall of 2012. The county will spend $425,000 for the pair of sculptures that will be installed on the site next spring.

Designed by a twelve-member citizen Working Group and landscape architectural firm Oculus. The contract for construction was a sole-source bid.

Arlington, Virginia real estate development news


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