Friday, August 31, 2012

Petworth Safeway Closing September 8th for Multi-family


Safeway officially announced today that it will close its Petworth store on September 8th to make way for the mixed-use development that has been long planned for the site.  The new store, to be developed by Duball, is scheduled to open mid 2014, with a 62,000 s.f. facility that will be the third largest in the city, triple the size of the current store.  Five floors of residential will sit atop the supermarket at 3830 Georgia Ave.  Torti Gallas designed the new building.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

107-Year-Old Cleveland Park Home Dodges Bullet

Cathedral Heights, Washington DC - real estate developers to save historic home
A 107-year-old home in Cleveland Park has received a last minute pardon from razing, after the property was sold to a new owner and plans to develop the site for the moment shelved.
Historic home on Wisconsin Avenue spared, Washington DC development
"The raze application and the concept proposal have been withdrawn," confirms Steve Callcott, Deputy Preservation Officer at Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). "We received notification from their attorney that the property has been sold to a different owner."

The saga of the marginalized home at 3211 Wisconsin Avenue was set to come to an abrupt end, as the last owners had sought permission to raze the house to make way for a six-story apartment building.

Previous developers at Hastings Development had proposed a wholesale relocation of the house, from its Wisconsin Avenue location in Cleveland Park to a vacant lot at 3118 Quebec Place NW.  A 2008 report from Hastings Development described the sad case of a home that had "lost its setting" and was "pressed between multifamily apartment buildings."  Pictures illustrating this point depicted a forlorn two story house dwarfed on each side by looming monoliths and fronted by a hectic thoroughfare.  Encroachment was gradual; to the south, an eight-story apartment building was constructed in 1958, and to the north, a (most unsightly) seven-story building went up in the Eighties.  In contrast, 3211 was a modest, two-story frame house, set back from the street with a small front yard.  

Hastings Development, Washington DC

But the HPRB rejected this proposal, later saying that the "new location and context was inappropriate for the building," despite the fact that its initial report found the Quebec Place lot "would provide a more visually compatible context of similarly sized and scaled single family houses."  An HPRB report noted that the house was "deteriorating and vacant" and was "in need of substantial repair" as well as missing the original porches. Additionally, there was speculation that the original builder and architect of record, a Treasury Department bookkeeper named Donald Macleod (he built the house for his sister Euphemia), had simply copied the plans for the house out of a builder's manual or pattern book, theoretically reducing the house's value as a historical artifact.

Following the denial of the relocation request, developers changed gears and planned to raze the house and build a six-story apartment building much like the surrounding ones - that is, until the property changed hands at the last minute.  So what's next for the once-endangered house?

"We have no applications pending [regarding 3211 Wisconsin]," says Callcott.  "We're not exactly sure what's going to happen to it."

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Today in Pictures - Archstone's NoMa Apartments


Archstone's First + M apartments in NoMa was just the second apartment building to go online in the once quiet neighborhood, but thanks to its distinguishing design and sheer size, is helping transform the area that is now busy during the day and even sometimes at night.  Occupancy of the building began June 1, and the leasing office says that 162 of the 469 units are now occupied.
The building was designed by Davis Carter Scott and broke ground in June of 2010, and features 192 one bedrooms, 206 two bedrooms, and 71 three bedrooms – as well as a smidgen of ground floor retail.  Amenities include a communal "chef's kitchen" that opens onto an outdoor dining area, a 5000-square-foot 24-hour gym, a large interior courtyard, a “Rooftop Resort” that features a heated lap pool and sun deck, an internet cafe, a theater, two soundproof music studios, a bike workshop, even a pet spa.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Plans Presented for a New Woodridge Library


Despite its intense building spree over the past couple of years, the DC Public Library system isn’t quite finished. A final big project included in the budget for the city’s rebuilding of existing libraries is a redo of the Woodridge Library, located on Rhode Island Avenue in Northeast DC. On Monday night, architects Bing Thom and Wienceck + Associates met with local residents to introduce the new plans, which showed a three-story building with a roof deck, windows overlooking nearby Langdon Park, and a potential adjoining café.

The meeting, held at the existing library, was crowded with roughly 50 residents, according to library spokesman George Williams. Many had submitted suggestions earlier in the year for what they’d like to see in a new facility: a business center that included a fax machine, up-to-date books, more sitting areas, and better computers, lighting and restrooms.

The designs incorporated some of those hopes. While the skin of the building isn’t visible in the drawings and 3-D models, the structure is clearly airy, open and organic. From the outside, the facility’s most notable feature is its broad roof, designed to glow at night.  Internally, a series of balconies open the atmosphere, and a circular third story reading room looks out on a wide terrace largely shaded by the trellaced roof. Throughout the structure, southeastern walls are lined with windows to take advantage of the green hills of adjacent Langdon Park.

There are still lots of maybes on the table—like whether the facility will include that café, something residents throughout the city have clamored for in their libraries, but which doesn’t yet exist in any of the new structures. The architects would also like to close Hamlin Street, an east-west artery that runs just in front of the library, and create a public plaza instead. Williams said that library officials are discussing the issue with other government departments - and are also talking about how many parking spots can be accommodated on the site.

The presentation was largely well received by residents, who are by all accounts eager to see their library transform like so many others in the city. The only library within miles, the Woodridge facility is a squat, two-story brick structure built in 1958 that encompasses about 19,500 square feet. The new structure, which is fully funded at $16.5 million, would be approximately 22,500 s.f.

Library advocates and Rhode Island Avenue residents rejoiced when the architecture team was announced in April. Bing Thom, based in Canada, is responsible for the much-heralded renovated Arena Stage in Southwest, and the local Wienceck + Associates built the new Francis Gregory and Washington Highlands libraries. The Friends of Woodridge Library held a “meet and greet” to introduce Thom to the community in May, and Chief Librarian Ginnie Cooper traveled to British Columbia earlier this month to examine a library designed by Thom there.

Demolition is scheduled to begin next summer. The new library is slated to open in 2015.

Correction: The library is a two-story structure. The original post described it as having only one story.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

EastBanc's West End Project Encounters More Legal Hurdles


The redevelopment of West End's library and fire station--that long running saga--has hit another speed bump. EastBanc-W.D.C. Partners LLC, the development team, had spoken optimistically about breaking ground in 2012, but it looks like a lawsuit filed by a library watchdog group will push that back until March 2013 at the earliest.

It's been a long road. The development team--which consists of EastBanc, The Warrenton Group, Dantes Partners, and L.S. Caldwell & Associates--was granted the project in 2007, then lost it due to community outcry that there hadn't been a fair bidding process. In 2010, they won a competitive bid, beating out one other competitor, and since then have held some 70-odd meetings (by their own count) to keep the community abreast of plans. 

The project has always been a complicated one. It includes two separate parcels: one, Square 37, sits at the corner of 24th and L streets and includes the low-rise, funky West End Library, as well as a police operations facility and a parking lot; the other is Square 50 at 2225 M Street and and includes the West End fire station. EastBanc won the project by promising to rebuild the library and fire station; in return, the city gave the developers the land, then valued at $20 million, for free.

And therein lies the problem. The DC Library Renaissance Project, an organization founded by Ralph Nader to improve the city's library system, claims that EastBanc is dodging the affordable housing requirements that exist under the city's newish inclusionary zoning policy by calling the library and firehouse "amenities."

"We don't understand why [the library and firehouse] would count on the balance sheet of the PUD process for the developer," explained Robin Diener, director of the DC Library Renaissance Project. "The city is selling the land to EastBanc. They're not giving money, they're giving new facilities as payment." As a result, says Diener, the developers should still provide a certain percentage of affordable housing in each square as required under inclusionary zoning.

But the DC Zoning Commission agrees with EastBanc. This spring, the commission granted the developer's application for a map amendment for Square 37. And in June, when the DC Library Renaissance Project applied for a reconsideration of that decision, the Zoning Commission denied their effort, writing, "The enhanced level of service that will result from the construction of the new library and fire station so clearly will enhance the neighborhood that they set a benchmark in excellence for any future requests for Inclusionary Zoning waivers through the PUD process."

In response, the library advocates filed a notice last week in the DC Court of Appeals that they intend to appeal the Zoning Commission's decision, not an idle threat since the group has been at least partially successful in stopping the project since at least 2006.

"We're certain there's no merit, but we'll file a brief arguing that no, the Zoning Commission didn't make mistakes in its decision," said Joe Sternlieb, EastBanc's vice president for real estate acquisitions, in response to questions about the suit. "It can take up to a year, and can cost developers up to $1 million to defend. It's really a nuisance suit."  When will the issue be resolved? "The courts will decide," said Sternlieb. "Hopefully before March."

Despite the threat hanging over its head, EastBanc is moving forward. Sternlieb said that the Square 37 project has gathered all the necessary approvals, including from the Commission on Fine Arts, and the firehouse is almost there. The company is currently working out construction documents and getting financing in place, and Sternlieb is hopeful that they could still break ground in March 2013.

The project, which is being designed by TEN Arquitectos, WDG Architecture and Lemay Erickson Willcox Architects, hasn't changed substantially since 2010 (though TEN hasn't bothered to add the project to its website). Square 37 will become a 10-story building with a library and roughly 7,000 square feet of ground floor retail that faces 23rd Street--including a coffee shop on the corner, adjacent to the library--plus 164 market rate units above. That section does not include any affordable housing.

But the fire station portion does; in fact, all 61 rental units will be priced at 60 percent of the area median income. Some of those units are created under the inclusionary zoning policy, but EastBanc said it couldn't afford to make the entire building affordable without assistance, and so the District kicked in an extra $7 million to go the final distance.

Robin Diener and her colleagues aren't happy about that. Given that the two sites comprise some of the most valuable land in the District, they believe the initial development deal should have been structured so that the city made, rather than spent, money on it.

But neighborhood groups, including the West End Library Friends, Foggy Bottom Association, and the ANC covering the region, overwhelming support the project. 

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Douglas to Seek Second Extension for Uline Arena Redevelopment


With their two year extension on the Uline Arena entitlements running out in mere days, Douglas Development has made a decision - they're sticking with the oft-delayed, complicated project.

"No way are we walking away from this," says Paul Millstein of Douglas Development.  "We're going for an extension as a commercial mixed-use development.  We're still working very aggressively with prospective users.  Thing is, we've got Central Armature right across on the other corner, and it's ugly.  That doesn't help.  And the other corner, catty corner across, isn't developed at all, that doesn't help either.  But we love the site, we believe in it.  We committed early, before they did the grocery store site and the residential. We've put a ton of time into meetings, architecture, planning."

Since purchasing the property in 2004, there has been much speculation, but little certainty, about what Douglas has planned for the historic space.  The space had been used as a trash transfer station, and is now an indoor parking lot - a long way from its auspicious past as a venue that once featured the Beatles, Bob Dylan, and the Temptations.  (Though not all on the same night.)

Part of the problem is that while the space is on the National Register of Historic Places, meaning it can't be demolished as part of any redevelopment, it's not, well, very good at its intended purpose.  When a local arts group put on a drama performance at Uline in early 2011, reviewers noted the poor acoustics of the space, a complaint that some local historians claim has echoed (see what I did there?) through the ages, right from Uline's opening.  Still, the poor acoustics could be remedied, at least in part, by a redevelopment, preserving Uline as an arts performance space - a prospect that is still very much on the table, according to Millstein.

"We're still looking at an entertainment component on the ground floor," Millstein says.  "Something, for example, like the Fillmore in Silver Spring, or maybe an even larger venue.  Retail use could also do extremely well."

The HPRB approved Douglas' preliminary plan in 2008, a GTM Architects-designed concept that keeps the familiar Uline facade intact and preserves the cavernous interior as a multi-level atrium, into which extensive skylights would admit natural light, giving the shell the illusion of transparency.  Those plans - which remain very much in flux - would incorporate 290,000 s.f. of commercial office space, 75,000 s.f. of ground floor retail space, and up to 225 residences.  That design received one two-year extension already, in September 2010, which brings us to the present day.  That extension expires next month, though Douglas has every intention of applying for another.

So what's the next step?

"The next step is to file a request for extension, and get those entitlements extended," says Millstein.  "There will be a hearing, but I think we'll be successful in our extension.  The last couple - three years, nothing much has happened in the area, though now there's a lot of residential stuff popping up, even some office.  But the area's still got quite a ways to go.  I would hope that in the next cycle, the next 24 months, Uline will really take off, and I think it will.  I think our time has come."

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Monday, August 27, 2012

Brookland's Colonel Brooks' Tavern Demolition Within the Month

Washington DC real estate development newsDespite significant pushback from some locals, Colonel Brooks' Tavern in Brookland is scheduled for demolition in the next month, marking the end of one of the neighborhood's most recognizable landmarks.

"We anticipate the raze permit coming in the next thirty days," said David Roodberg, President at Horning Brothers.  (The application was filed on August 7th.)  "Of course, it could come sooner.  At this point we're thinking about when we're going to do the work.  We'll probably raze in October and then start in immediately on construction, which should take about two years."

The five-story project at 901 Monroe Street slated to replace the tavern will feature 220 residential units over five stories.  Jointly developed by Horning Brothers, The Menkiti Group, and owner Jim Stiegman, the Esocoff and Associates-designed project is said to be designed to blend in with the neighborhood's brick townhouse aesthetic, and will offer 12,000+ s.f. of ground floor retail space.  (And thanks to an agreement with the ANC, these commercial spaces will be leased to small- to medium-sized stores.)

Esocoff designed project in Brookland to replace Colonel Brooks Tavern, by Washington DC based Menkiti Group

The project has had a sometimes-rocky road to fruition, though, as community groups feared the new building would usurp the intimate scale of Brookland's commercial strip.  In deference to these concerns, developers revised their plans to shrink the new building's footprint by 12%, reducing its footage down to 197,000 from an original estimate of 220,000 s.f.  The development will also create 150 below-grade parking spaces and 66 bicycle parking spaces, as well as much wider sidewalks, thanks to 15-foot setbacks.

architectural plans for the Brookland real estate development in Washington DC
While the tavern will certainly be missed, tavern owner Jim Stiegman has said that business dried up after the tragic robbery/murders in 2003, essentially forcing him to sell.  Rumor has it that Stiegman proactively approached the Menkiti Group about development, and that Horning Brothers were brought in shortly after.

Brookland has seen a surge of development as developers woke up to the potential of a walkable, small scale neighborhood in such close proximity to transit and Catholic University.  The 901 Monroe project follows on the heels of Bozzuto's $200 million Monroe Street Market project that broke ground in late 2011.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Your Next Place

First impressions are vital, and this duplex co-op impresses from the moment you walk in, the foyer lit from far above by a huge skylight.  It was a lot like that time I met my girlfriend's parents and refused to take my sunglasses off the entire meal (what, I was hungover!), except, you know, the complete opposite.

From the entry level you ascend to the main level, which features a huge triangular living area.  The skylit dining area is next to a wall of french doors, which open onto a panoramic view of the city.  Next to that is the superlative kitchen.  Look at that diamond-shaped, marble-topped island!  Look at the custom cupboards, the commercial-grade appliances, the six-burner stove that comes equipped with a griddle!  The gap between the quality of your cooking and the quality of your kitchen will never be larger.  There's also a beautiful study, for your studying (just kidding, being an adult means not ever learning anything ever again), and a truly fine master bathroom that's far too nice for the disgusting things you're going to do in there.

The unit comes with a parking space (indispensable in Adams Morgan) and storage.  Also, the prospective owner will have the rights to build a private roof deck.  I don't know about you, but designing and building your own roof deck sounds like a no-brainer.  I'd just cover the entire roof with Slip-n-Slide material, put up a padded barrier around the edge's perimeter, and let loose.  Yes, I'm 33 years old.

2370 Champlain St. NW #34
3 Bedrooms, 2.5 Baths

Friday, August 24, 2012

Clarendon Project Underway

Clarendon is on its way to getting yet another apartment building. Zom Inc., which is developing USAA Real Estate's parcel at 1200 N. Irving Street in Arlington, finally began construction earlier this month on a 10-story apartment building with ground floor retail that will front both N. Irving Street and Washington Boulevard. The project was designed by Esocoff & Associates.

Formerly known as The Waverly at Clarendon Station, the development has now been christened The Beacon at Clarendon West, according to Greg West, chief development officer for the Florida-based Zom. "We’ve revised the design and rebranded the project," he said.

The company's original condo concept is off the table. Instead, the project will include 187 one- and two-bedroom units averaging 850 square feet, each with de rigeur hardwood floors, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances. About half will have balconies, and a rooftop pool is included in the package.

The building will have "a very unique and interesting radius shape," said West. In part, that curvilinear facade is designed to take advantage of the lot's outline. On the ground floor, lining both N. Irving Street and Washington Boulevard - but not the corner itself - will sit 17,000 square feet of space designed for retail. Zom has hired Asadoorian Retail Solutions to fill the spaces, but West claims the development partners have not decided on a specific mix of types. "We have a lot of flexibility as to the size and variety of what we can take," he said. "We just want to find the best tenants who will provide a good amenity value to the building."

Construction of the project, which is being done by Donohoe Construction, is beginning with a major excavation to make room for two floors of underground parking. The development, which will incorporate an historic facade that’s still on the property, should be finished in about two years.

The site, located two blocks from the Clarendon Metro station, has a fairly long history. Zom bought it from Faison in 2006 but the property lay empty for several years. In 2011, USAA bought the property and is developing it together with Zom.

The partners are also involved in a second Arlington venture, located at 1919 Clarendon Boulevard in Courthouse. The Clarendon Boulevard project, which is also currently under construction, is similar to the N. Irving Street one: although it's five stories rather than 10, the development includes 191 high-end apartments and another 17,000 s.f. of ground floor retail. Asadoorian is screening tenants for that property as well. "We'll be selecting retailers soon," said West.

Arlington Virginia real estate development news

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