Friday, March 30, 2012

Arlington's Green Tower to Break Ground in July


After nearly three years of delays, the Tellus, Arlington's greenest apartment building, is finally set to break ground.

"Demolition is starting in May, with construction starting on July 1," said Gagik Davtian, Program Manager at Erkiletian. "We figure it'll be about 20 months until first delivery."

The 254-unit, 16-story Tellus is anticipated to be Arlington's first LEED Gold certified building. Plans call for the building to be powered, at least in part, by renewable energy sources, and the building features various water-saving and energy-efficient features - for example, reclaimed storm water and air conditioning condensation will be used to irrigate the native-plant landscaping. The building will also feature smart car and bicycle options, as well as a 26,000 square-foot garden plaza. The Tellus gained approval from the county way back in 2009, with a projected start date later that year, but the recession put things on hold - until now.

The finished building will offer just over 2800 square feet of ground-floor retail space (a restaurant, according to Erkiletian), as well as 7700 square feet of office space. "The Tellus is replacing a seven-story Sixties-era office building [the Arlington Executive Building]," said Davtian. "One of the tenants from the existing building, some government people, are going to be installed in the new building too. The way the office space is attached is actually very organic - it's sort of a bubble coming out of the building, a curvy facade on the backside."

Like the rest of the development, the design of the building has gone through a long collaborative process. According to Davtian, Lessard Group did the "schematic design," and then WDG Architecture came in and developed the working drawings. "WDG also changed a few elements," Davtian said. "They slightly redesigned the interior units, making them bigger, more open, and more contemporary. A lot of them have a sort of loft-like feel now."

Though developers plan on first delivery in 20 months, the project in its entirety is expected to take a full two years to complete.

Arlington, VA real estate development news

Thursday, March 29, 2012

DC's Largest Private Solar Array Underway in Tenleytown

The largest privately owned solar array is now going up on top of a Tenleytown building owned by Paul Burman at 4435 Wisconsin Ave., NW. Burman hired Seven Seas Energy LLC to develop the project that will produce an estimated 50,000 kilowatt hours of solar energy each year.

Teris Pantazes, founder of Seven Seas Energy, said the project carries an up-front price tag of about $220,000. But tax credits and grants reduce it to less than $100,000, he said, with an annual energy cost savings of about $20,000. Work should be completed in April.

"What's unique about this job," Pantazes said, "is this is the largest system where an owner of a building has stepped up and said I like this so much I'm going to pay for this solar array myself."

Paul Burman, president of Burman Properties Inc., will have the largest private solar array in the city. There are, however, larger non-private solar arrays. For example, Pantazes said American University has one that was built under an agreement with a private investor who funded the project and sells energy to the school.

Pantazes said there are some unique challenges to building more than six stories at nearly the highest point in the city. In addition to getting permission from the zoning commission to build on top of the building's fifth floor along Wisconsin Avenue, high winds required a strong, steel structure.

The building, which stretches in an L shape from Albemarle Street to Wisconsin Avenue, houses a variety of tenants including Hot Yoga and Mattress Warehouse.

Burman said he wanted to switch to solar power in the interest of using alternative energy sources and as an investment in his property, his first attempt at using solar energy.

"I felt it would be a good thing to do at this time with all the problems the country has," Burman said. "I'm hoping this will be an example to other commercial building owners, and they'll come over and decide they're willing to try it, too."

Due to a source error, this article incorrectly identifies the solar array under construction above Wisconsin Avenue as the largest privately owned solar array in the city. Carol Chatham of William C. Smith & Company confirmed that the solar array on the company’s Sheridan Station building is privately owned and three times as large as the Tenleytown project. We apologize for the error.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Bethesda Row Project Gets Start Date

At last, Bethesda's downtown extension is on the calendar. After years of planning, including the past year of being thisclose to breaking ground, Montgomery County officials say that construction work on Lot 31 - the public-private StonebridgeCarras-PN Hoffman project extending Bethesda Row - will begin the week of April 9th.

The project was scheduled to be underway last summer, but last minute wrinkles have continually held up the kickoff. With a formal groundbreaking ceremony now on the books, the next steps should happen in quick succession, beginning with closing the corner parking lot (April 10) in which Bethesdans circle endlessly on weekend evenings, then leading to closure of Woodmont Avenue (now scheduled for June 1). The county posted a sign last month stating that the lot would close April 1, a date that is inching back as construction plans are finalized.

Stephanie Coppula, Director of Marketing and Communications at Bethesda Urban Partnership, confirms that a formal groundbreaking is planned in 2 weeks. Work on the development will cause a major rerouting of traffic through Bethesda, to the extent that the county has ordered the farmer's market on Elm Street to close, and reopen at Bethesda Elementary, a move the Action Committee for Transit calls unnecessary as it puts the popular market into "a commercial dead zone."

The project has been in design since 2004, but Doug Firstenberg, Principal at StonebridgeCarras, says the timing is indicative of a project this difficult. "It's enormously complicated" says the developer of the details that had to precede the groundbreaking, noting that the project will involve a purchase of public land with public partnership for building nearly 1200 parking spaces below grade.

Bethesda-based SK&I designed the mixed-use structure occupying both sides of Woodmont Avenue. The project will consist of 40,000 s. f. of retail, and two residential buildings - The Flats, 162-unit apartment complex, and the Darcy, an 88-unit condominium building. 940 of the parking spaces will be for public use, replacing the 280 parking spaces now on the surface (which caused its own tempest), as Bethesda adds parking and braces for two and a half years of construction and reduced parking options.

The county will close Woodmont Avenue below Bethesda Avenue for an estimated twenty months as developers realign the intersection. The sounds of construction will be
evident throughout Bethesda as the downtown - conspicuously lacking construction cranes of late - begins to look more like downtown D.C. with Bainbridge's 17-story tower underway in Woodmont Triangle and another 17-story tower coming soon across the street.

Bethesda, Maryland real estate development news

Your Next Place

By Franklin Schneider

This fine Georgetown home is as cute as a button. A 1.5 million-dollar button. Seriously though, this house is adorable. Inside, the house is exactly what you think of when you think "Georgetown" - classy wainscoting (is there any other kind?) crown moldings, gleaming hardwood floors, and two fireplaces. This house is more "Georgetown" than a cupcake in a polo shirt. (Why is that image so disturbing?) There's a cozy kitchen and three generously proportioned bedrooms upstairs.

Out back is a beautiful walled garden and patio with a fantastic cherub-themed fountain that I strongly suspect was looted from a museum. It just seems too nice to have been bought retail. If I was a better person I would've said something to someone, but instead I made a mental note to buy a Powerball ticket so I could buy my own house with a possibly-looted fountain. (What's that you say? Accomplishing things through hard work instead? What do you think this is, China?)
Also, the house is on a quiet one-way street, and located mere blocks from Georgetown University, so you'll often see peppy young people walking by who, unlike you, have their whole lives ahead of them. (Don't feel bad, they'll almost certainly screw things up just as much as you have. It's "the Circle of Life"! Hakuna matata.)

3526 P Street NW
3 Bedrooms, 3.5 Baths

Washington D.C. real estate news

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Crystal City Office Project Gets Started Thursday Morning

Lowe Enterprises will host a "groundbreaking ceremony" Thursday on a $70 million office redevelopment project at 1400 Crystal Drive in Crystal City. Fox Architects designed the new building.

The company will seek LEED Gold certification for the project to convert an existing 300,000 square-foot office building in Jefferson Plaza into "Class A" office space complete with a glass facade and roof top terrace. The lobby will be moved to Crystal Drive.

Demolition will bring the building back to its concrete frame before new construction begins, keeping a quick turnaround time and earning LEED points as a retrofit.

"When we acquired the building, we new knew it had good bones," said Harmar Thompson, Vice President of Lowe Enterprises Real Estate Group. "So we knew it had a good structure, that we could work with that structure, and not have to do ... ground-up development."

Thompson said the 30-by-30 column grid is solid and lends itself to flexible configuration of the new building, compared to the 20-by-20 grid common in the area that makes renovation more difficult.

Other elements incorporated to achieve LEED Gold certification include using high-efficiency glass the facade and upgrading HVAC to a dedicated outdoor air system that brings cold water to many units throughout the building instead of having it in a centralized basement location.

The new building is scheduled to open in early 2013, with 30,000 square feet more space than the old building, creating more corner offices and pushing it out into the view corridor. "The views out of this building are spectacular," Thompson said.

Lowe acquired the building in 2008. Thompson said the company had the opportunity to initiate the rebuilding project because the National Guard Bureau vacated, leaving it empty. Rebuilding on top of the existing frame allowed the company to create an essentially new building in a short period of time and open it to tenants earlier than other projects in the area. Lincoln Property Company will handle leasing.

The groundbreaking ceremony is set for 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

Arlington, VA real estate development news

New Residential Planned for Shaw's Blagden Alley

The United House of Prayer for All People has teamed up (again) with Suzane Reatig Architecture, this time to develop a mixed-use residential and retail building in the Blagden Alley-Naylor Court Historic District.

The DC Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) approved the concept for a 12-unit residential building with ground floor retail space at 926 N St. Northwest. A 1953 warehouse and loading dock on the property will be torn down to make way for the new building.

Megan Mitchell, project designer for Suzane Reatig Architecture, presented the early-stage design to the HPRB at the March 22 meeting. She said she thought the meeting went well, and now they can move on to the next stage.

Preliminary concept rendering of the front of the building showing
the three sections and proposed screen
(Rendering provided by Suzane Reatig Architecture)
"I think the next step for us is to develop the materials and work on the little details of how the bays meet the ground and meet the sky," Mitchell said. "(We're) really getting into the design of the building now."

And that is exactly what the HPRB wants to see. Comments during the meeting focused on the desire for more renderings, a detailed site plan and consideration of materials that will incorporate the varied historical neighborhood.

This first presentation to the HPRB was intended to get input and approval for the overall concept, Board member comments will be incorporated into a later presentation.

Preliminary alley designs include garage doors, alley access and balconies. The street front would be broken up into three sections emulating the row-home effect present in the area. Residential units would feature private outdoor space.

Mitchell said the design has been shared in various forums with the community, and it is clear that the neighbors care about the project. She said residents have different opinions about how modern the building should appear in the historic alley. Preliminary rendering showing the sidewalk view with ground-level retail spaces.

Another presentation with greater detail of the project will take place in the near future. Mitchell said she hopes to break ground on the project within a year, but no specific timeline has been set.

"We're very excited about building in this unique historic neighborhood," Mitchell said during her presentation. "We'd like to do a building that would contribute not only to its historic context but also to the community."

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Monday, March 26, 2012

Today in Pictures - Old Post Office

Last month, the GSA selected the Trump Organization to breathe life into the historic Old Post Office at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, the iconic building begun in 1892 that now stands as the tallest building (Washington Monument excepted) in the city. The building survived at least two attempts to raze it, ironically for lack of money to do the job, but the Bush administration made its redevelopment a priority, and the result was pressure on the GSA that resulted in the current plan.

In the works is a 250-room Trump hotel with restaurants and a spa, replacing what has been federal office space and seldom-visited food and retail court. Construction could commence in in 2014 with completion in 2016. "The Trump Organization plan will preserve the historic nature of the building and improve the vitality of Pennsylvania Avenue, said Robert Peck, GSA's Commissioner of the Public Buildings Service said in a statement.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Your Next Place

By Franklin Schneider

This one-of-a-kind house has a distinctly European flavor, only without the sixty percent income taxes and black-socks-and-sandals. (I imagine a European real estate blogger somewhere typing, "This house has a distinctly American flavor, only without the stars-n-stripes fanny packs and large-print bibles.")

But really, this house is one of the more unique properties I've been in, from the incredible skylights (they're everywhere in this house) to the stunning kitchen. I've never seen a kitchen space anything like it, and yet it makes so much sense that I really feel this sort of design should be ubiquitous. (I feel the same way when I see a woman with a poodle perm.) The vertically-striped dining room really won me over, and so did the divided living room. And as befitting a house of such distinction, the bedrooms are all spacious and have their own individual character. Best of all, wherever you look in this place, there's a little unexpected skylight or cupboard or long desk or built-in shelves. It's like the last surviving work of some extinct master builder who thought of absolutely everything.

Outside is a sweeping stone patio and a tiered garden, and there's also a beautiful in-law suite. Even if you don't have in-laws, it could come in handy. My parents recently moved into a new house and during my first visit I noticed they had an in-law suite. "But who's going to stay there?" I asked at dinner. "Your father," said my mom without hesitating. We all continued eating in silence.

3615 Chesapeake Street NW
6 Bedrooms, 4.5 Baths

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Your Next Place

By Franklin Schneider

This fully-renovated Federal is bright, open, and worth every penny - the complete opposite of my ex! (Canned laughter) But seriously, I loved everything about this place, from the fantastic, light-filled living room (check out those built-ins) to the long dining room, to the dynamic floor plan. My favorite part was that the huge chef's kitchen is open to the den and family room, so you can continually shout helpful suggestions to the cook from your spot in front of the tv until they throw a wokful of hot vegetables at you and demand a divorce.

The palatial master bedroom suite sports a MASSIVE walk-in closet (it made me realize for the first time that there's no such thing as a "hoarder," only someone with insufficient storage), and a separate powder room. If I had a room like this, I'd start wearing makeup, just because. I've always thought it was unfair anyway that women get to draw circles around their eyes so they look bigger and rub brightly colored wax on their lips to make them look like a delicious piece of candy, while men get, what - ties? They're just big cloth arrows pointing at our ill-fitting pants. Not fair.

The lower level is a beautiful in-law suite - far too good for your actual in-laws, which is exactly what they think of their daughter compared to you. So that works. The house is also on a nice sedate(ish) one-way street, which should not be undervalued. I've lived on both, and living on a two-way street after living on a one-way, it feels like my house is beside an airport runway now. Out back is a splendid deck-n-garden and a two car garage - you can either park two cars in there or just sort of slide in sideways with one car like they do in the movies. (No, really, try it!)

1652 33rd Street NW
4 Bedrooms, 3.5 Baths

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Ft. Totten on the Rise

One of Ft. Totten's most transformative developments is at last on the way, and with it, a new neighborhood. The Art Place at Fort Totten, the 826 unit mixed-use complex that sits between the Metro station and South Dakota Avenue, is ready to begin construction "within the next few weeks." The project, conceived by the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation, will form a new community with over 300,000 s.f. of retail, 2282 parking spaces, a children's museum, and senior's home in 4 separate buildings.

The plan has been on the boards for years - developers hoped to break ground in 2010 even after the market crash - as part of plans by the city to spur all local owners to coordinate development of the area, one of the last Metro centers that has not seen significant development. The first phase is expected to complete 30-36 months from now.

With construction fences now up, and raze permits all but finalized, developer Jane Cafritz says demolition will commence "in the next 3 to 4 weeks" on "Building A" at South Dakota and Galloway. The multi-phase project will start with the demolition of 5 of the 15 buildings on the 16 acre site in order to make way for 1 of the 4 planned mixed-use buildings. This phase will incorporate about 530 residential units and 110,000 s.f. of retail, though no grocery store at this point due to the Walmart planned across the street, which may be underway as early as this summer.
Cafritz says timing on the project was not affected by the announcement of Walmart. "We're there to be a catalyst in the neighborhood."

Phase 1 will also incorporate a small subsidized housing component and the senior living center; and about half of the 98 units of senior housing will go to current residents of Riggs Plaza. Cafritz notes that the project was designed in phases partly to accommodate existing tenants "that we have great repsect for that have been on site literally for generations." Ultimately all the buildings will be connected by an underground parking garage. All buildings have been approved by DC zoning officials but timing and design issues for Buildings B, C and D have not yet been finalized. While no office space has been planned, Cafritz notes that the first phase will incorporate flex-space that could be either retail or office. The Children's Museum is planned for the second phase of construction.

The Cafritz Foundation had earlier dangled the prospect of hosting both the Washington National Opera and the Shakespeare Theatre for storage, rehearsal space and related shops, a scenario that has now been shelved, but Jane Cafritz says her team is now talking to other similar non-profits. All residential units will be for-rent, the "Foundation owns this and intends to keep this," says Cafritz.

Master planning for the site was done by Ehrenkrantz Eckstut and Kuhn (EE&K), Shalom Baranes Architects (SBA) has designed the first of the four buildings, and MV+A Architects is designing the retail, all to meet basic LEED certification standards.

The eight-story Building C is planned as entirely residential, built in two C-shaped wings, joined at the second level, to accommodate the possibility of a new 3rd Street connecting the Arts Place property to the neighboring Food and Friends property, should the neighbors decide to sell or redevelop at a later date.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

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