Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Mount Vernon Triangle's Critical Mass

Mount Vernon Triangle may soon be a bit crowded. The small neighborhood, tightly encircled by L'Enfant's avenues, has been struggling for years to develop a critical mass of development, a moment that may now be at hand.

If all the projects currently in the pipeline for the neighborhood are built, Mount Vernon Triangle will more than double its square footage of office space, add 1,570 apartments/condos and 380 hotel rooms, and increase retail offerings by 157,500 s.f. Despite its shortcomings - no Metro stop, convention center, or arena within its borders, it can claim close proximity to each, a fact that continues to fuel development.

Case in point: two new projects by The Wilkes Company and Quadrangle, with preliminary designs by Hartman-Cox, and targeting a 2012 start date for construction: 400 K (300,000 s.f. office space, 12,500 s.f. retail) and 300 K (500,000 s.f. office space, 25,000 s.f. retail - pictured at left). Both are part of the larger Mount Vernon Place development that started with a pair of condominiums. Two additional buildings by Wilkes and Quadrangle are also in the works for the area: 440 K (planned as a 234-unit apartment with ground-floor retail, but that could turn into office space) and 255 H Street, a 400-unit apartment building.

Numerous other large developers have projects on the boards - Steuart, MRP Realty, Bozzuto, The Donohoe Companies, Kettler, and Equity Residential - but few have pulled the trigger just yet, and Bill McLeod, executive director of the Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District said those who don't take action soon, "will end up missing out." McLeod, who has been with the MVTCID - created by Mayoral Order in 2004 - for the past five years, added that investors have been paying attention to the area of late.

Equity also hopes to start construction next year on the 170-unit apartment and historic restoration project "Eye Street Lofts", originally a vision of local Walnut Street Development that was iced in 2007. Equity - the largest publicly traded owner and operator of multifamily apartment complexes in the U.S. - bought the land fully entitled a few months ago. Equity will go before the Board of Zoning Adjustment on December 13th. With the area designated as a historic district in 2001, the project received HPRB approval in 2006 (as pictured below) to restore two circa 1880, 3-story townhomes, a 2-story garage/ warehouse, and a small former blacksmith shop in the alley. The building currently leased by BicycleSPACE will be razed.

Nearly a decade after Mount Vernon Triangle was first targeted for redevelopment by the Office of Planning and ten major property owners in the area in 2002, existing apartments are 96-percent leased, condos are sold out, 230,000 s.f. of office space is leased at 455 Massachusetts Avenue and, notes McLeod, only the top floor of the 392,000-s.f. office at 425 Eye Street needs a tenant.

The Meridian, at 425 L Street, a 390-unit apartment developed by Steuart Investments and Paradigm, is now under construction. The topping out of the 14th (and final) story occurred this past September, the project will begin leasing soon and should complete by next June. Phase II of the project will be a 300-unit apartment located next door at 400 New York Avenue.

Next in the queue in Mount Vernon Triangle is Kettler's $80 million, 13-story, 233-unit apartment with 7,000 s.f. of street level retail at 450 K Street (pictured right), under construction next spring and delivering in 2014.

Of great interest to those invested in the area is the timeline of the K Street Streetscape Improvement, the contract of which is currently being finalized by DDOT. The 18- month infrastructure project should be underway early next year, said McLeod, resulting in a mid-2013 completion date.

The long-anticipated $9m reconstruction of K Street between 7th Street and 3rd Street will bring new paving, sidewalks, streetlights, and plantings. Streetcars are also in K Street's future, though the District's focus is currently on funding other legs first, i.e. the H Street Corridor.

Driving much of the current wave of development regionally is the gradually opening financing spigot and Washington D.C.'s perch on the top of the national real estate market. But Mt. Vernon Triangle has something else more rare in downtown DC: empty space. The Downtown Business Improvement District (BID) notes that only about 5 million s.f. of unbuilt space remains available downtown, 2.5m of that at CityCenter and 2m of that above the Center Leg Freeway. That leaves the equivalent of only a few office buildings that could be built downtown before growth has to expand outward, and Mt. Vernon is the nearest spot.

Yet if all projects currently in the pipeline are realized, Mount Vernon Triangle will max out its 600-room hotel capacity, reach 93-percent of its residential capacity (4,250 units), 87-percent of its office space capacity (3 million s.f.), and 84-percent of its retail space capacity (335,000 s.f.). Of the 380 hotel rooms planned for the area, 350 of them are contained in what was once one of the most talked about projects for the triangle, "The Arts at 5th and I" a mixed-use development on the corner of 5th and Eye Street, still considered a "top tier" priority by Mayor Gray.

Donohoe and Holland Development won the right to develop the site in September of 2008, but couldn’t finance the project (pictured below) in the face of the recession. This fall, Deputy Mayor Victor Hoskins visited the ANC with a scaled-back, 250,000-s.f. building with two side-by-side hotels, one a 150 room boutique hotel and the other a 200 room extended stay offering 350 rooms above 10,000 s.f. of street-level retail.

In April, it was announced that art in the form of the Liberty North Community Market would be coming soon to the site. The market arrived this fall, and with no plans to begin construction within the next year-and-a-half, the market's vendors have the 2012 growing season to get comfortable.

Donohoe has yet to visit the DC Council for approval its plan, which includes a 99-year ground lease from the District, something that may happen in the next "two to three months," said Jad Donohoe, after which 12 to 14 months will be taken to flesh out the design by Shalom Baranes, complete the construction documents, get permits, and secure financing.

Yet another project is less certain. It will require a 30,000-s.f. floorplate over I-395 between K and New York Avenue to build a 10-story, 1.7 million-square-foot Washington Global Trade Center with a sleek, open-clam-shell globe design (to the right), a development that has been proclaimed a long shot.

Washington D.C. real estate development news


Anonymous said...

Any word on how the street car is progressing on H st? Are there any tentative timelines to bring it to K St?

OctaviusIII on Nov 30, 2011, 2:06:00 AM said...

Well color me excited! As a resident, I've been happy to watch the transformation of the area from parking lots to apartments for the last few years.

No word, apparently, on that empty lot between K, NY, 5th & 6th, though. Now that's a shame.

OctaviusIII on Nov 30, 2011, 2:13:00 AM said...

Another thing: MVT is a subset of the Mount Vernon Square neighborhood, which has some strong opportunities south of M that will contribute significantly to the neighborhood. Most pressing is Living Social's lease of the 7th & NY building.

si on Nov 30, 2011, 10:08:00 AM said...

the dreyfus 395 air rights project is located south of mass ave (on your map you have it displayed north of mass)

Adam L said...

Si is correct. The Dreyfus development is further south, below mass. But it would be interesting to see what does finally go onto that parcel above Mass Ave. Right now the area is inhabited by that parking lot over the freeway, an empty parcel, and the Mount Cavalry Baptist Church.

si on Nov 30, 2011, 12:16:00 PM said...

That northern chunk of 395 is flanked by property owned by Bible Way church, much of it vacant land they got from DC for a dollar.

Anonymous said...

Everything is so exciting. I have heard rumors that a 7 11 will be opening on K street - any ttruth to this?

Anonymous said...

Yes, the map was incorrect and I amended it. Thank you. The Center Leg Freeway project is bounded by Massachusetts Ave (to the north), E, 2nd and 3rd Street.

Anonymous said...

So many missed opportunities. This neighborhood is not historically sensitive -- it could be a place with really innovative architecture. But most of these designs seem really bland. Of course the exception is the goofy design of the trade center, which is just stupid.

Anonymous said...

Is there a single urban planner monitoring any of this? Mt. Vernon is turning into a miserable concrete neighborhood - no open space, no character, no parks (beyond little patches of grass that are doggie litter boxes). Very sad.

Anonymous said...

Parks bring homeless, and unsavory characters. Commercial, residential and retail makes for a better neighborhood. If you want parks go to one of the many parks DC has. Let us grow the way we want. No one HAS to live here.

David Edmondson on Apr 9, 2012, 11:31:00 AM said...

By the by - most of your images are dead. Considering this is still the best compilation of everything that's going on in MVT, it'd be nice to have those working again.

Ken on Apr 9, 2012, 12:06:00 PM said...


Thanks, blogger sucks. It lost many of our old images, there's almost no way to recreate them. We are switching away from blogger as soon as we can.


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