Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Historic MLK Library Gets a Preservation Owners Manual

MLK Library downtown DC, EHT Traceries, Skanska, MRP, Ludwig Mies van der RoheEHT Traceries, downtown DC library, renovation, SkanskaJust in time for Black History Month, the District's Office of Historic Preservation recently unveiled a detailed roadmap to protecting and preserving every aspect of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial library.
From the Mies-designed Brno and Barcelona furniture, to the silver-leaf signage, to protection of the Detroit Black Graphite exterior paint and the Donald Lloyd Miller King Mural in the Central Lobby, the report spells out what it considers the do's and don'ts for preserving the International Style building. The library was completed in 1972 at a cost of $18 million to replace the Andrew Carnegie Central Library in Mount Vernon Square. It was the only library Mies designed and he did not live to see it completed before his death in 1969. His colleague, John Bowman, supervised much of the construction.
The four-story exposed-steel framed building was designated a historic landmark by the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board in June 2007. And as part of that designation, the D.C. HPRB instructed the D.C. Public Library to come up with a set of guidelines to help preserve its aging flagship.
Not surprisingly, much of the guidelines, drafted by EHT Traceries encourage DCPL to dramatically increase daily maintenance of everything, from the bronze-tinted glass to the beige brick on the exterior. But the key recommendation is to keep the Miesian principles of transparency of the 400,000 square-foot building intact, such as not subdividing the Central Lobby where Miller's King Mural was unveiled in 1986 or the reading rooms into smaller rooms.

"The key is to recapture the openness of the space," said Steve Callcott, deputy preservation officer with the District's Historic Preservation Office, who said the document however was not a roadmap to a full restoration but a way to manage incremental changes to the building now that the District is for the time being committed to keeping the library. "There are a series of challenges but there's nothing that we don't think can be worked out," he said.
Downtown Washington DC BID constructionThe neighborhood around MLK Jr. library has dramatically transformed in the past decade, with the rehabilitation of apartments and art space across the street, to the construction of Class A office space with ground level retail by the likes of Skanska and MRP Realty.
The sprouting of new construction is in stark contrast to the state of the MLK Jr. Library which has endured decades of deferred maintenance and neglect and a reputation as a hangout for downtown D.C. homeless.
While talk continues of a new main library in D.C., and there was some hope that CityCenterDC would include one, it appears that with the new guidelines the aging but iconic MLK Jr. Memorial Library, for better or for worse, will be part of downtown D.C. for some time.

Washington D.C. real estate redevelopment news.

Your Next Place

By Franklin Schneider

Penthouse loft! Here's the thing: a penthouse loft is not just a place to live; it's a whole lifestyle. Like, if you lived here, you'd have to wear silk pajamas all day, have a pencil mustache, drive a vintage British convertible, the whole “dissolute bachelor” package. I'm pretty sure it's the law. I saw the agent turn down a guy with a briefcase of cash on hand just because he wasn't dating twins. (Not really.)

Okay, so it's not the law. But a space like this does seem “larger than life,” in a literal sense. This Chevy Chase penthouse is just a stone's throw (more like a gemstone's throw, get it?!) (sorry, sorry), from the Friendship Heights metro, and offers a level of quality you'd expect from the posh address. Right off the bat, you enter into the two story foyer, with the loft looming overhead; after going under it and through the very fine gourmet kitchen (granite countertops, Viking appliances), you enter the main space, a vaulted light-filled chamber that's part dining room, part living room. The bedrooms are spacious but still intimate, as bright as the rest of the house, and the master bath is spectacular. (I think the shower could double as a car wash, that's how big it is.)

Upstairs is the loft, of course. Looking down into the living room from up there made me legitimately dizzy, that's how high up it is. (Or, I guess, how much of a baby I am. I also may or may not have whimpered softly.) From the loft, you can go out onto a brilliant private rooftop terrace with spectacular views of Maryland and Virginia. How many states can YOU see from your rooftop? I rest my case.

4301 Military Road NW Penthouse #4
2 Bedrooms, 2 Baths

Monday, January 30, 2012

Connecticut Ave. Gets Even Better Looking Around Its Middle.


Connecticut Avenue, the heart of Washington D.C.'s business and retail district, is about to get even better looking around its middle. According to the Golden Triangle Business Improvement District, the initial 300-foot stretch of the median which runs from K Street to L Street, may soon gain another 600 feet, or three more blocks, running from L Street to Jefferson Place, beginning this spring.

The lower stretch of Connecticut Avenue is already home to some of Washington's swankiest hotels and businesses, including Marriott's Renaissance Mayflower, Brooks Brothers, Tiny Jewel Box, Burberry and Thomas Pink.

But the BID and the City are seeking the median improvements as way to position Connecticut Avenue as a grand retail destination on par with Fifth Avenue in New York and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, said Leona Agouridis, executive director of the Golden Triangle BID.

"The street-scape creates part of the environment and enhances what's already here. We just need to tell the story to potential retailers," said Agouridis, who said some retailers along her section of Connecticut Avenue are averaging more than $1,000 per square foot in sales ($600 per square foot is considered respectable) and wants to use the median and other sidewalk improvements in the pipeline as a way to attract further best-in-brand names to the avenue. "We may not be on their radar screen right now, but hopefully they'll sit up and take notice," she said.

The attention District thoroughfares are getting around their middle is fairly recent. After the streetcars ran their last revenue runs in 1962, the middle stretch of most major arteries were paved over, either creating a impromptu center-turn lane (pictured, right) or a raised strip with grass that went untended. The flat asphalt medians sometimes became a place to park cars on the weekends, but did nothing to contribute to green space or lessen storm water runoff.

That began to change after the Golden Triangle BID back in 2008 got a grant from the District Department of Transportation to help plan and build an initial median along Connecticut Avenue starting from K Street. RMA Inc. was chosen as the architect. That stretch, which began construction in November 2010, was just completed last September at a cost of $397,000. The Golden Triangle BID will pay for the operating costs of maintaining the landscaping, as well as the lighting of the 12-foot wide median. Agourdis said the design for the second phase of the median is complete and the contract for construction should go out to bid shortly. Completion is expected in 2014, according to the BID.

Following in the footsteps of Connecticut Avenue, several other median strips around the city are getting a boost. The Downtown DC BID recently partnered with The National Museum of Women in the Arts to bring colorful sculptures to the 1200 block of New York Avenue.

Dupont Main Streets last year also received $85,000 from DDOT to make over a separate 600-foot long stretch of Connecticut Avenue's median between R and S.

The South Capitol Street project, (pictured, left) will also include landscaped medians in its plan for a grand avenue makeover.

Washington D.C. real estate redevelopment news.

Today in Pictures - 2400 14th Street

UDR's multi-family building in Columbia Heights broke ground in December of 2010 and has now topped out. Perched on the slope leading up 14th Street, the building should feature commanding views over the city from the top. The building takes the place of the Nehemiah shopping center, purchased by Level2, which developed the original plans before selling the project. The building was designed by Shalom Baranes and will have 255 units, built by Donohoe Construction.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Your Next Place

By Franklin Schneider

This Kalorama gem has been exhaustively renovated and improved inside, while maintaining the fantastic exterior. (Where can Kim Kardashian sign up for this treatment?) Inside the 1905 Victorian exterior is a sophisticated and up-to-the-minute home, with every amenity you could possibly hope for - it's got a private elevator for Christ's sake! - and a huge amount of space. It's like two really nice houses were spliced together to make one really huge and even nicer house. (Fifty-six hundred square feet over four levels! There are parking garages with less square footage.)

The staggered living room (with fireplace) has wonderful spaces, high ceilings and recessed lighting. It was refreshing to see a main room that wasn't just a big box. The dining room is very large and dramatic, and the Cook's kitchen is more than generously proportioned – the island is actually like a literal island out there in the middle - and features Viking and Bosch appliances There are Brazilian Tigerwood hardwood floors throughout, which is definitely a detail you'll want to work into every single conversation. And even where the house doesn't exactly face southwards, it still gets a ton of light just by virtue of all the windows. This house has more windows than any other one I've ever seen - even the bathtub has several windows right next to it. Invest in some curtains or start going to the gym, that's my advice.

Upstairs is an incredible roof deck, with custom tempered glass, and great views of the city. It's in Kalorama too, so it's right by pretty much everything - Dupont, U Street, Adams Morgan, all within walking distance. It's right on Embassy Row too, so you can walk over and give, say, the French, a big bowl of Cool Whip and chopped Jell-O, just to welcome them to America. Wear your fanny pack too, they love that.

2126 R Street NW
6 Bedrooms, 5.5 Baths

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Circling the Wagons - 21st Century-Style

By Beth Herman

In pursuit of sweeping river vistas and the great outdoors, a young Bethesda, Md. family went west, in a manner of speaking, about 4.5 miles, securing a pristine lot on a Cabin John bluff overlooking the C&O Canal and roiling Potomac.

Tasked with building what would become a 4,589 s.f. four bedroom, four-and-a-half bath residence that provided comprehensive views of the evolving terrain, ecosystems and elements in all seasons, Mark McInturff and project architect David Mogensen of McInturff Architects confronted a not-so-uncommon Mid-Atlantic region issue. With 15-foot ceilings and an expansive southwest-facing wall of glass firmly on the family’s agenda, searing sun and heat—and their impact on heating and cooling—would require more than a conventional approach to climate control. What’s more, the homeowners wanted to spend the brunt of their day in an elevated wing, embracing their surroundings with an unobstructed view.

“When we first stood out there, the homeowner said she thought the main living spaces—living room, kitchen, dining room— should be on the second floor with the bedrooms below,” said McInturff, which he added is a strategy the firm often undertakes when considering the landscape.

Close the pod bay doors, HAL

In an effort to “circle the wagons,” according to McInturff, sheathing the home in adequate shading—kind of a preemptive strike before the sun heats the glass— European technology was employed in the form of computer-controlled exterior aluminum blinds.

“They’re almost like exterior venetian blinds but much more robust,” McInturff explained. “It’s technically fairly complicated and not inexpensive, though slowly creeping into the (U.S.) commercial market.”

Also acting as a buffer at night for high winds endemic to the coastal site, the louvers essentially allow the home to be closed down. “In a way the house is active,” McInturff said, affirming at the same time he does not endorse filled or tinted glass. “That’s like sunglasses or a Band-Aid. There’s a better way to do it, which is to prevent the sun from reaching the glass in the first place.”

With optimal energy efficiency on the homeowners’ dance card, geothermal HVAC systems, soy-based foam wall and roof insulation at R-21 and R-38 values, respectively, radiant heat throughout and passive strategies such as cross ventilation were utilized. On the entry side, which faces away from the river, a pitched roof provides for an 8-foot ceiling which ascends to 15 feet, accommodating the glass wall and band of clerestory windows. “Fifteen feet is a comfortable height which does a lot in terms of gathering natural light into the space; it becomes quite luminous,” McInturff said. An exterior overhang also precludes sun from flooding the space at this height, as the clerestories don’t have blinds.

On the lower level, two children’s bedrooms with 9-foot ceiling height, a bath and a “homework room” share a courtyard, with a master suite and private courtyard completing the composition. An outside paving motif is teased inside this level with the inclusion of a porcelain-tiled entry. A guest suite is featured above a garage, connected by the upper level living spaces, but which reads like two buildings.

On the exterior, factory-finished metal siding and metal-clad windows provide for a tighter, more energy-efficient envelope, with masonry used for the same purposes on the home’s lower level. When the sun goes down, indirect and strategic uplighting are key components in the residence’s energy conservation quest.

According to the architect, a balcony or loggia with durable ipe decking was located off the second level on the view side. Here, too, operable aluminum blinds off the railing can protect the home and outdoor materials from the ravages of intense sun, with the added aesthetic of a modified closure providing a beautiful, dappled light.

“It’s a house we really love and have put a lot of work into,” McInturff said.

Friday, January 27, 2012

801 New Jersey Ave Walmart Set To Break Ground In Spring, Spokesman for JBG Says


The planned Walmart at 801 New Jersey Ave. NW will break ground by spring, according to a spokesman on behalf of developer JBG Companies, one of six stores the world's largest retailer will bring to the District of Columbia.

"The planning and preparation is moving ahead quickly," said Charlie Maier, an outside spokesman on behalf of Chevy Chase-based JBG Companies. JBG Rosenfeld, JBG's sister company which focuses on mixed-use retail and will also partner on the project. Walmart has already signed its lease for the site, which will be known going forward as 77 H, as it will line up along H Street on its southern edge.

MV+A Architects, which designed the Whole Foods at 15th and P as well as mixed-use projects in Tyson's Corner, Alexandria and Herndon, along with The Preston Partnership, creator of the Kentlands plan in Gaithersburg will serve as designers, Maier said. JBG has already gotten its construction and zoning permits for the apartment and retail complex that will be built on the site, he said. "We've already started planning for a groundbreaking," he said.

Earlier this week, parts of the Ward 6 site along H Street, not far from Massachusetts Ave., and Union Station had been fenced-off and signage erected. The complex will include about 300 apartments on 280,000 feet along H Street and an 80,000 square-foot store. The red-brick exterior matches other commercial buildings in the area, including the Chicago-style Government Printing Office at North Capitol and H Street and 800 North Capitol, which was built in 1991 and designed by Hartman-Cox Architects

The entrance of red-state Walmart into deep-blue D.C. is not without controversy. As with other proposed Walmart openings in other states, many local businesses feared losing out to the retail giant, a view backed by unions like the United Food and Commercial Workers union, which represented Safeway and Giant workers in the District, who said their members would be threatened by Walmart's lower wages and benefits.

Walmart, in response, launched a Web site to help convince skeptical residents and activists that its presence would be a boon to improving access to groceries in poorer neighborhoods as well as provide jobs to DC residents, at least 1,200 spread out amid the six stores, and also 400 construction jobs. Walmart says that Washingtonians spent $40 million at its stores outside the District in 2010. Walmart also noted that the stores would contribute $10 million a year in tax revenue to the District. "The District is anxious to see something happen," Maier said. "It's not all 100 percent approved but its pretty close," he said.

Walmart now has expanded its plans in the District to six stores, all of which it says will be open before the end of 2012. Besides New Jersey Ave, there will be two in Ward 4 with one at Georgia Ave and Missouri Ave. (rendering at right), where some site prep work is happening as well.

Another store, known as Fort Totten Square will be built at Riggs Road NE and South Dakota Ave. NE (rendering above). Another is planned for Ward 5 at New York Avenue at Bladensburg Road, while two are planned for Ward 7, at East Capitol and 58th and one at Good Hope Road and Alabama Ave.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Bethesda Lot 31 Project Delayed (Again) Until February


Groundbreaking for Lot 31, the public-private StonebridgeCarras-PN Hoffman project on Bethesda Row, in the works since 2004, missed its January target date after being delayed yet again. But lead developer Stonebridge and Montgomery County government officials say it's not because the project is flagging on the home stretch - nor was the delay a response to complaints from local businesses about the closure of the lots and of Woodmont Avenue during construction.

"Just paperwork," said Esther Bowring, Montgomery County public information officer. "The project is still very much full steam ahead. We just need to make sure all the paperwork, all the permits, are in place before we proceed."

Doug Firstenberg, principal at StonebridgeCarras, agreed. "The hard part, the financing [with Northwestern], is already done, we formally closed on that in late November. I'm not sure I would even use the term 'delay.' With a partnership of this magnitude, there are so many I's to dot and T's to cross, we just want to get all the documentation straight." StonebridgeCarras originally set a start date of last summer, then pushed that back to January of 2012.

The SK&I-designed Lot 31 project, which will straddle Woodmont Avenue, is a keystone of the ongoing revitalization of Woodmont Triangle. In addition to 40,000 s. f. of retail space, and two residential units - The Flats, 162-unit apartment complex, and the Darcy, an 88-unit condominium building - the project will also incorporate a massive underground parking garage of nearly 1200 spaces. Of these, around 940 are earmarked for public use, with the rest associated with the two residential buildings. Presently, Lots 31 and 31A offer just under 280 parking spaces, so the finished complex will represent an almost fourfold increase.

Growth comes at a price. The existing spaces will be unavailable once construction starts, and the new garage isn't projected to open until two and a half years from groundbreaking. In addition, a stretch of Woodmont below Bethesda Avenue is going to be closed for twenty months as developers correct the distorted 'x' of the intersection, prompting some local businesses to wonder if they can weather an extended period of (perhaps sharply) reduced foot traffic.

Ultimately, those concerns were outweighed by what some see as Bethesda's urgent need for more parking. The zoning in the area requires zero parking for residential projects, a policy designed to steer people towards public parking and public transit.

Short-term, locals will have a number of alternatives once Lot 31 closes. Aside from increasing Circulator bus service, the county is shifting many long-term spaces out of the immediate area, as well as creating over a hundred new short-term spaces. They're also optimizing the parking that already exists. "We're installing a car-counter at Garage 57 [Bethesda-Elm Parking Garage] so people will be able to get the most out of that facility," says Bowring. "Right now you have to drive all the way to the top to see if there are any spaces, and that can be tight. Hopefully if we have the available spaces displayed on the outside for everyone to see, it will encourage people to use it."

In the big picture, Lot 31 is just one of several projects currently underway in downtown Bethesda. Stonebridge is also building a residential tower on the former Trillium site, Bainbridge Bethesda (formerly the Monty) is coming along on schedule, and JBG/Ross are turning 4900 Fairmont Avenue into a residential rental units. And of course, the Purple Line is on the horizon for 2014.

Bethesda, Maryland real estate development news

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Chinese Ready to Take Out 2300 Conn. Ave


The embassy of the People's Republic of China received an OK last week from the District's Historic Preservation Review Board to finally demolish its aging residential and office building for embassy staff at 2300 Connecticut Avenue.

As part of its weekly reviews of raze permits, the HPRB said Jan. 20 that the 200,000 square foot, 8-story brick building was clear for demolition.

The building, formerly the 1940's-era Windsor Park Hotel, was purchased in the early 1970's just as diplomatic relations between the U.S. and the PRC began warming after President Richard Nixon's historic visit in February 1972.

Esocoff & Associates, which has also designed 400 Mass. Ave and the Dumont, is the architect for the new embassy staff residential building, (pictured, above) which is expected to be completed in 2014.

The new Chinese embassy (pictured, left), designed by famed architect I.M. Pei, moved to its new location at Van Ness Street and International Drive in April 2009.

Clark Construction Group LLC of Bethesda is listed as the contractor for the demolition, according to the permit. The construction of the Chinese embassy using imported labor in 2008 led to some grumbling among the building trades about not using American hard-hats, though embassy construction is usually performed by the resident country's workers for security and diplomatic reasons.

Washington D.C. real estate redevelopment news.

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