Thursday, May 31, 2012

NoMa Greyhound Station Developers Plan Feature Park

Perseus Realty, LLC and First Potomac Realty Trust are nearing the anniversary of their purchase of the Greyhound Station in NoMa on 1st and L Streets, a site they will develop into a mixed use building.  While developers remain mum on details of the building, one public element of the plan has emerged - developers will give back a portion of the space to create a public park space will split L Street and act as a "gathering place."

Having purchased the development for $46.75 million, according to the Washington Business Journal, they are redeveloping it with assistance from NoMa BID. The station will be turned into a large mixed-use residential and office building, falling between 600,000 to 700,000 s.f., according to BID President Robin-Eve Jasper.  Developers will dedicate 80,000 to 100,000 s.f. on the first two floors for retail. Perhaps more significantly, the property owners will set back their project to allow a widening of L Street - tweaking the L'Enfant grid - to construct a park in the median that will act as a “public gathering place” and include a walkway with a staircase that will lead to the second floor of retail in the new development.

Funding for the project was in the may budget but has been redirected by the City Council, according to Jasper.

The park will create a sort of plaza to hold events such as a farmer’s market and nighttime movie showings, next to the development's rows of newly-created nightlife.

“We disaggregated what a park is conceptually,” Jasper said. “This park is a gathering space, but it isn’t a green space or a recreations pace. We’ve provided those spaces in other places, where they can work better, given how much land there is.” The park will be 60 ft. wide and 150 to 300 ft. long with an event space in the middle.
In order to “have that big plaza in the middle of the street,” Jasper said they asked the developers to voluntarily set back from the street about 25 ft.
But the plaza will also be part of the retail as a staircase will reach up to the second floor of stores, connecting the public space and the stores.

“They’ve got this monumental staircase up into the plaza in the center of their property from this upgraded L street, so it’d be like two contiguous, completely accessible public spaces and would allow them to have two-story retail,” Jasper said.

Jasper thinks this will act as a “community crossroads” that will help pull the NoMa residents and business owners together into a more coherent community.  "You need a public gathering space for a community...We have no public gathering space here in NoMa, and it needs to change. It’s not fair to the neighborhood, and the BID has been nomadic. That’s been successful for a while, but as the neighborhood builds out, it’s harder and harder, almost impossible to find a site now.”

Comparing the area’s development to those of other neighborhoods, Jasper said having the park is key to building an established neighborhood.

“That’s what makes neighborhoods work. If you look at older, more established neighborhoods, that’s something they all have in common,” she said. “So I think this neighborhood deserves the same. There are a lot of residents who have been in this neighborhood for a long time who have not had the benefit of parks. Sometimes people think this is for new people coming to the city, but it’s really not. It’s to help glue the different sides together.”

She originally got the idea of creating a non-traditional park from something she picked up at Harvard business school: looking at a whole through its various functions or “jobs to be done.” Since park includes things like gathering, recreation and fitness, she said it made sense to break up the various jobs if necessary. Hence the small park that acts solely (but she hopes effectively) as a gathering place. 

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Thayer Avenue Condos Reborn as Subsidized Housing


The long-moribund Silver Spring condo project at 814 Thayer Avenue, the former site of the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), has been reconceptualized by a new developer as an affordable housing complex.

The amended site plan was recommended for approval by Montgomery County planners earlier this month.  While the amount of public space has remained the same, at just over 40,000 s.f., new developer Landex Companies has dramatically upped the percentage of affordable housing units, in order to qualify for affordable housing tax credits.

"Before, the project had only allocated seven units [out of a total 52] as affordable," says Elza Hisel-McCoy, Program Manager at the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. "Which was the minimum allowed.  Now they've upped that to forty-two units."  The remaining twenty percent of units will be rented at unrestricted market rates.

Architect Wiencek + Associates has also made significant improvements to the overall design, at least in Hizel-McCoy's opinion.  "Before, it was a scissoring facade, alternating floors so the building had a prow," says Hizel-McCoy.  "But now it's a triangle.  There's a single triangular area along the sidewalk - they've come up with a design that integrates the sidewalk and public space much more seamlessly than the previous design."

Landex acquired the 0.64-acre Thayer Avenue property on contract from the previous developer, 814 Thayer LLC (which was a joint venture between Banneker Ventures and Four Points, LLC) 18 months ago, according to Peter Siegel, CEO at Landex.

"We're hoping to close in August on construction financing," confirms Siegel.  "So we'd start construction in late August, with completion taking 12-14 months."

Maryland-based Landex Companies specializes in mixed-income developments, and manages over two dozen properties in Maryland.

UPDATE:  This project is a joint venture between Landex Companies and the Warrenton Group.

Silver Spring Maryland real estate development news

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Construction begins on 440 K

Construction began today on Quadrangle Development Corporation and The Wilkes Company’s development of a 234-unit, 14-floor residential building at 440 K. It’s part of Mount Vernon Triangle’s “critical mass” and should be finished in the last quarter of 2013.

The development includes more than 9,000 s.f. of ground floor retail space in the 2 million s.f. mixed-use community, "the largest such project in Washington, D.C.," says the developer - referring to Mt. Vernon Place, an 11-building project that has been only partially completed and include the Sonata and Madrigal Lofts.
440 K will include 182 one-bedroom, 26 one-bedroom with a den and 26 two-bedroom units.

In addition, it will have a 96-space parking garage, enough bicycle storage to make those 96 people self-conscious and a 24-hour concierge service. The building was designed by Davis Carter Scott.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Monday, May 28, 2012

Today in Pictures - 455 Eye Street

Equity Residential's mixed-use redevelopment encompassing several historic properties at 443-459 Eye Street, NW is close to beginning construction.  With a predicted groundbreaking in August, and with Clark now signed up as the General Contractor, developers will soon begin tearing down the non-historic portion in favor of a residential tower with 174 unitsHickock Cole Architects has designed the new building.

Washington D.C. real estate development news.  Photos by R

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Your Next Place


By Franklin Schneider  

Yeesh. I'm not the sort of person who's easily intimidated (when I was 21 and visiting friends in New York, I spotted a famous Calvin Klein model in a record store and immediately went over and chatted her up; she looked me up and down and without saying a word, turned and walked out the door) - but this historic Capitol Hill home was intimidatingly classy. I kept waiting for guards to come out of nowhere, pick me up, and forcefully eject me through the front door. I wouldn't even have protested.

It's packed with authentic period details, from the woodwork to the fireplaces, to the pocket doors, to the quirky corner sink in one of the bathrooms, and even the hinges. You know a house is nice if,
hours later, you think to yourself, "man, that house had great hinges!" The family room is massive, and the centrally-located formal dining room is nice enough to make you stop eating standing up while looking at your laptop. The kitchen has everything you want in a kitchen - acres of counterspace, tons of storage - and the rest of the house is huge. The master bedroom suite includes a private balcony, and out back is a sizeable deck, a stone patio, and a small sheltered garden.

It's also mere steps from Capitol Hill, Congressional Offices, etc. You could actually fall asleep every night to the soft, soothing sounds of our elected officials screwing up.

415 Constitution Avenue NE
4 Bedrooms, 4 Baths

Friday, May 25, 2012

MRP’s Penn Quarter “Trophy” Office Loses Investment Partner, Gains Investment Partner

MidAtlantic Realty Partners, LLC (or MRP) announced it has a new joint-venture partner in ASB Real Estate Investments to build its previously announced Class A “trophy” office building planned at the southwest corner of Ninth and G Streets in Penn Quarter and intends to begin construction this summer. The former investment partner was Rockpoint Group LLC.

Regardless of the change in ownership, it doesn’t appear that anything else will be different - MRP is still going to the dance, just with a new date on its arm.

Construction on the former National Capital Area YWCA site is set to commence this summer, and it’s still planned as a nine-story, 112,000 s.f., LEED Gold building with a glass curtain wall. It’s also still being designed by San Francisco-based Gensler.

So life’s pretty much the same 900 G Street, and for MRP, save for the hand that feeds it.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

HPRB Votes Down 16th Street Mixed-Use Church and Office Building Design

In the course of a concept review hearing yesterday, the Historic Preservation Review Board voted 5 to 2 against granting The Third Church of Christ, Scientist and ICG 16th Street Associates, LLC an exception that would allow them to build a mixed-use church and office building more than 90 feet high at 910 16th Street (between K and I), where the church currently stands. This would have broken a restriction placed on the historic district of 16th street, which leads to the White House.  The review did not include discussion of the highly contested demolition and rebuilding of the church.

Historic Preservation Office staff members David Maloney and Steve Callcott presented a 16-page report urging the Board to deny an exception for a number of reasons, including incompatibility “with the character of the street as a whole” and a fear of creating a precedent of breaking the height rule on 16th Street.

According to the report, "The proposed structure would exceed the 90-foot height limit in several respects. The street facades would extend above the limit to 93.7 feet, calculated from the allowable measuring point on I Street. An extra ninth floor would rise to 107.7 feet, with a 30-foot setback from 16th Street and a 15-foot setback from I Street. The top of the mechanical penthouse would be at 123.7 feet.”

Originally, the project was proposed as an 11-story building with a copper façade. Following comments from the HPO, ICG and architect Robert A.M. Stern Architects partner Graham Wyatt scaled it down to a 9-story building with a stone façade for it to blend better with neighboring buildings.

Since the height restriction has been controversial for years and because this is a historic district, Maloney said it would create a slippery slope with a precedent that other developers could use to break this rule and begin to break down the historic district's uniformity.

“The physical nature of the historical district … is established by the requirement that has been in place since 1894 not to exceed 90 feet,” Maloney said.

ICG principal David Stern, Third Church member Darrow Kirkpatrick and Wyatt represented the project.

Stern said he hoped the project wouldn’t be judged on what might happen, while Kirkpatrick called the report a “substantial burden on our religious beliefs” (though it should be noted the only thing in question was the height of the office building, specifically the addition of a ninth floor, which would not include any part of the church, according to the renderings presented by Wyatt).

The hearing lasted approximately three hours, though it wasn’t until the final twenty minutes that board member Rauzia Ally asked Wyatt what seemed like the most important question: Why does it need a ninth floor?

His answer was that the church is set back into the building and takes up valuable office space, which would be reclaimed by adding a ninth floor. The board was not impressed.

The room filled almost completely for the hearing, and various arguments took place throughout the day including attacks on Wyatt’s architecture, complaints about the lack of religions iconography on the building and arguments about from where in the city can one actually see the extra floor (which is set back 30 feet in the plans).

Several members of the area’s ANC spoke, including 2B chairman Will Stevens, who complained that the staff report never mentions the ANC and said, “Not only will [the ninth floor] not detract, it will add historical flair.”

Former Washington Post columnist and University of Maryland professor emeritus Robert Lewis argued in favor of the extra floor by questioning if it would actually set a precedent.  David Alpert founder of Greater, Greater Washington said, “Historic preservation is … becoming the anti-height movement.”

Gretchen Pfaehler, Nancy Metzger and Robert Sonderman also voted to adopt the staff report’s recommendations.  Pfaehler explained her decision concisely: “That’s the law.”

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Your Next Place


If Batman was real, this is definitely where he’d live.  I said this to a nice middle-aged couple at the open house and they looked at me like, “this guy is why they shouldn’t have free food and wine at open houses.”  I actually had a really scathing comeback, but they couldn’t understand it through my huge mouthful of crudite.

This place is a palatial mansion to rival any in the District. Built atop a hill overlooking Rock Creek Park, this 7000+ square foot house sits on almost a full acre, and boasts features like an oak-paneled library, a circle driveway, a huge pool, massive conservatory with floor-to-ceiling windows, and a home gym that you get to through a semi-hidden entrance in the master closet.  (See, Batman!)  Recently renovated by Brook Rose Development, so everything is fresh and shiny and new, but still classy and sophisticated, sort of like my aunt after her last botox/chin tuck procedure.

The conservatory is the crown jewel of the house, a massive amphitheater-like room with the biggest skylight I've ever seen in a house; you could launch a cruise missile through it easy.  The master bedroom has a sitting area and enough room for several california kings, and french doors open onto a balcony.  The walk-in closet is so big that it has an island; think about that.  An island!  The master bath looks like something out of “Ocean's 11,” and the library is wonderfully dark and atmospheric.  Out back, the flagstone pool area is truly massive; if you have a pool party you’ll have to hire extras just so your, like, eight friends sitting poolside doesn’t look super depressing.  There’s also a one-bedroom pool house/cabana.  I was going to make a Kato Kaelin joke here but then I realized Kato Kaelin jokes haven’t been funny since 1995 (if they ever were).  Clearly, all the real laughs nowadays are in Batman references.

2808 Chesterfield Place NW
7 Bedrooms, 6.5 Baths

Washington D.C. real estate news

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Atlantic Plumbing Site Breeds Grittiness, Controversy

The Atlantic Plumbing site, which is being redeveloped by JBG and New York architect Morris Adjmi, currently stands as a fairly dilapidated set of abandoned buildings surrounded by residential pockets and, of course, the 9:30 Club. But the developers expect to begin demolition and have prepared concept-designs later this summer and to have finished the development completely by early 2015, according to the project manager, JBG's James Nozar.

The area is split into three parcels, not-so-confusingly denoted as A, B and C. Parcel C is north of Florida, include a “burned out shell of a church, a warehouse and a parking lot,” but this site is on hold at the moment.

Parcel A is next to the 9:30 Club, on the northwest corner of 8th and V streets. It’s abandoned save for the small bit of real estate the 9:30 Club uses as storage. The inconspicuous collection of buildings will be replaced by a 10-story building, and will be the first to start construction.

Morris Adjmi, James Nozar, JBG, Atlantic Plumbing, Shaw, 9:30 Club, Washington DCParcel B is to the south and is essentially a 13,000 s.f. square (redundant as a square foot square is). A 6-story building - shorter because it falls within the arts overlay while Parcel A does not - is slated to pop up here.

The site was originally subject to a PUD obtained by Broadway Development in a joint venture with Walton Street Capital. JBG bought the property at auction, though Walton Street Capital remains a joint venture partner.  The PUD has since expired. Nozar expects the new development to span 350,000 s.f. and include 350 units over a floor or two of 5,000 to 15,000 s.f. of retail and for Parcels A and B to be under construction by next spring or summer.

Walton Street Capitol, Washington DC Development, Morris Adjmi, JBG retail for lease “Our plan is to go in under the current zoning and move forward with that without asking for any zoning release,” Nozar said. He hopes the new retail will feed off the existing retail, especially the large crowds drawn almost nightly by the 9:30 Club’s concerts.

“We really want to engage existing retail that’s there,” Nozar said. “We want to take advantage of the activity that’s there on the street. The 9:30 Club is always going to be there. There’s always going to be people on the street.”

With the purpose of having the site retain a “grittier, more arts and cultural oriented” feel, JBG hired New Orleans native Morris Adjmi as its architect based on designs the development team had seen in Brooklyn (see photos above). With Adjmi, JBG felt it could create contemporary design while being true to the neighborhood.

“We thought the area has a grittier, edgier feel. It kind of has a Brooklyn kind of vibe, at least as far D.C. has that,” Nozar said. “We want the building to feel like its always been part of the neighborhood."  Adjmi said he wants to draw on the “context of what is there now: a mix of industrial forms and … vines and plants overtaking some of the buildings.”

“I like this idea of mixing in the industrial landscape and combining that with some really natural green elements,” Adjmi said. “I think those together will fit into the site and be really interesting architecturally.”

Adjmi has an interest not just in making the buildings seem like they’ve always belonged, but in making them seem like they’ve always been there.

 “I grew up in New Orleans, and I was always fascinated by two things: the incredible architecture but the fact that that architecture almost looks better in its arrested and decaying state,” he said. “It’s possible to build architecture that relates to both history and the context of the place but transcends the simple mimicking of forms.”

Presumably referring to a Washington City Paper article, Nozar said JBG has “gotten some flak from reporters from bringing in architects who aren’t in D.C., but we did that on purpose.” Lydia Depillis of the City Paper, in an update on that post, calls the headline “a mildly sarcastic indignation over a New York architect coming to Washington,” but many of the commenters seem earnestly peeved about the out-of-towner. 

Adjmi said he has no intentions of making the building look like a "New York Building." “I don’t want this building to look like it flew in from New York. I want it to look like it belongs there,” he said. “Nobody’s going to know where I’m from when they see the buildings.” 

Washington D.C. retail and commercial real estate news

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

ICSC Spotlight: DSW takes over D.C., L St. Borders site gains a future


DCMud’s man at the International Council of Shopping Centers Convention survived that shopping center jungle with a couple new updates, both conspicuously involving clothing …

  •  DSW, the footwear retailer, plans to open three new stores in Washington, D.C. One will be in Columbia Heights, one in Friendship Heights and one on Connecticut Avenue. So anyone who has been stocking up on heels for the coming shoe drought can breathe easy.

  •  Following the trend of transforming ex-Borders into things that have absolutely no hope of raising the national literacy rate (see: the Hamilton), a large but as-of-yet unnamed clothing retailer will be taking over the old Borders site on L Street.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Equity Residential's Mt. Vernon Triangle Project Set to Break Ground


Equity Residential's mixed-use redevelopment encompassing several historic properties at 443-459 Eye Street NW is set to begin construction this summer.

"We're looking at an August groundbreaking," said Greg WhiteVice President of Development at Chicago-based megadeveloper Equity Residential. "We're working with Clark Construction, and finalizing construction documents now.  We hope to deliver first units in a little less than two years; the summer of 2014."

Once touted by former owner Walnut Street Development as Eye Street Lofts, Equity Residential purchased the property for $5.1 million in April of last year and, with HPRB approval for the plans secured since 2006, advanced the project swiftly.

The design, by Hickock Cole Architects, preserves the two 1880s-era historic rowhouses on the lots (as mandated by law), and incorporates the also-historically-designated industrial buildings, while erecting two additional residential towers directly adjacent.  When complete, it will offer 165,000 square feet of residential space and just over 2000 square feet of ground floor retail.

"It was originally conceived as 162 units, but the plans have been increased to 174 units," White said.  "Architecturally, it's a little old, a little new; you have the historic rowhouses, and then a different type of high-rise on top, and a new one to the side. We're blending it all together to make it work."

The site was formerly the home of Gold Leaf Studios, an artists' space, and an auto body shop housed in a former blacksmith's shop. Another building on the parcels, which was leased by BicycleSPACE, is marked for demolition.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Your Next Place


Shiny new townhouses in an emerging neighbor- hood - what's not to like?  Come in, get a bargain, sell off in a few years for twice as much as you paid, use your windfall to buy a house in Bethesda, and for the next ten years of cocktail parties tell your story about "that one night in your old house you heard a gunshot, you're pretty sure it was a gunshot, though it might have been a firecracker or car backfire or maybe the tv downstairs, it's hard to say since you were sort of asleep at the time."

Seriously though, everyone knows it wasn't a gunshot.  But enough about that.  These two townhouses, collectively named Randolph Row, are total gems.  Three levels, beautiful brick facade, all the modern finishes you could possibly ask for.  Large rooms, large windows, tons of light, recessed lighting, hardwood floors.  There's an open-style kitchen with Carrara marble countertops and stainless steel appliances, and a beautiful wooden deck.  And the yard is massive; you could legitimately play a full 11-on-11 football game back there.

Brookland, of course, is home to Catholic University, and is going to see quite a bit of development in the near future.  Before you know it, it'll be a second Columbia Heights, though hopefully much much less annoying.  The metro is only a block away, and each townhouse also has a garage, so you can drive instead of taking the metro.  I hate taking the metro.  If I want to be in close physical proximity to unhappy people staring straight ahead, I'll just visit my family, thank you very much.

1222 Randolph Street NE
3 Bedrooms, 2.5 Baths

Washington D.C. real estate news


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