Friday, November 30, 2012

Trump Emphasizes Preservation in Plans for Old Post Office

Old Post Office building
From the top, 315 feet above the street, a visitor is greeted with sweeping 360 degree view of the city.  The Capitol Building dome rises in the near distance, airplanes appear to graze the Potomac, and the city's radial streets fan out in all directions. In the far distance, the Washington Cathedral and the Pentagon anchor opposite skylines.

The Old Post Office Building and tower, the third tallest structure in DC (behind the Washington Monument and the Basilica), at 1100 Pennsylvania Avenue, with its cavernous atrium and spectacular architecture, is finally getting deserved, if delayed, attention as a destination venue.  Long underutilized as nondescript federal offices and a food court to match, details of a new design have finally emerged.

In February, the General Services Administration (GSA) selected the Trump Organization to overhaul the building.   Thursday night theTrump team presented in-depth plans for the overhaul of the Old Post Office Tower building at the annual membership meeting of the DC Preservation League.

Bird's-eye view of existing floor plan
David Horowitz of the Trump Organization told the preservation group - the very group that that helped save the building over 40 years ago - that the Trump group sees the hotel as its top project and that the project will place a heavy emphasis on preservation.

"Our goal for this property is to build the best hotel in Washington, DC, and realistically, the world," Horowitz told the crowd. "We see an important role as the caretaker of this historic building on our nation's Main Street."  He emphasized that the plans are still in development.

Architect Hany Hassan, FAIA, partner at Beyer Blinder Belle in DC, presented the vision for the building.  He sketched a tentative plan that would extend the original ground floor level in the building's central cortile - bringing back the "slab" on which the first post office workers sorted mail - and then open it up to public entrances from all sides.

Hotel drop-offs are penciled in for 11th and 12th streets, with retail and cafe space with outdoor seating on C Street and on Pennsylvania Avenue. "The building will finally be accessible to the public from all directions," Hassan said.

Idea to extend ground floor. Image: Trump Org. presentation
The south side is where the Trump Organization would locate the public entrance to a lobby leading to the tower elevators and the Clock Tower Museum, which first opened to the public in 1985.

The existing mezzanine will likely be expanded for a restaurant or cafe, Hassan said.  He asked the audience to imagine Grand Central Station in New York.  "The only difference here is that while you are at this mezzanine level you are not only appreciating the ground floor, you will also be able to look up to the north and see the clock tower, which is one of the most beautiful features of this building," Hassan said.

Hassan said that, for him, the restoration was a dream project to be approached with humility. He said the project entails a great responsibility to preserve and enhance the building "and the synergy and energy that it will bring to Federal Triangle and connecting the National Mall and the monumental core to the downtown."

Hassan said the glass annex that was added to the building in the 20th century would house banquet rooms, conference rooms, and public event spaces. The upper levels will house guest rooms that will preserve the building's original room layout. The larger, postmaster general's office on the fifth floor, for example, might become a suite, Hassan said.  Some windows might be added on the ninth floor to "give incredible views of the city."

In Hassan's eyes, “the building has these incredible bones and all you have to do is work with it and respect it.” The Trump team - with Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump heading the DC project - has set a timeline for breaking ground in 2014 with delivery of a 250-room hotel in 2016.
Tentative rendering. Image: Trump Organization presentation

The building, dating back to 1892, was almost torn down in 1926 when construction on the neo-classical Federal Triangle began and the building went out of style.  Demolition permits were again issued in the 1970s, but a small group of protestors formed the "Don't Tear it Down" movement to save the building.  That group later turned into the DC Preservation League.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Furioso Starting Logan Office Project


Giorgio Furioso plans to begin construction on his 14th Street office project on December 10th, the developer announced this morning.   The 42,000 s.f. office building will take the place of the empty lot at 1525 14th Street, NW, wrapped around the adjacent building Furioso already owns that holds Posto.

The Logan Circle-based Furioso Development has worked for years on the development, known now as 1525 Fourteen, but after weighing various options for the site concluded that the underserved office market was the most viable for the site.

Furioso told DCMud he sees the future building as an anchor of 24/7 neighborhood activity, bringing more feet to 14th Street during day to balance the throngs that populate the nighttime hotspot.

Furioso said several office tenants are already lined up, but no announcements have been made yet on the 3,600 square feet of street-level retail.  The project was nearly ready for construction this summer, with only "last minute" issues hindering construction.  The design for the six-story LEED gold building, which includes a green roof, geothermal heating, and solar panels, is by architecture firm Eric Colbert and Associates.  Two underground floors include 28-small-car parking spaces, accessible by car elevator, and a charging station for hybrids.  The building also includes a bicycle room complete with showers.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Major Renovations Scheduled for Crime-Addled NoMa Neighbor

NoMa may be rapidly becoming a gleaming playground for the city’s young professionals, but some of its lower-income neighbors are about to get an upgrade, too. Tyler House, a 284-unit subsidized apartment building located at the southwest intersection of New York Avenue and North Capitol Street, will soon be undergoing a $25 million top-to-bottom renovation.

“You know the term God’s rehab?” asked owner Israel Roizman, a Philadelphia resident who runs Roizman and Companies, a management and development firm that owns mostly low-income properties on the East Coast. “We’ll be taking everything out from the inside and putting everything in brand new.”

The comprehensive upgrade will include a new building-wide HVAC system, new plumbing, improved elevators, and new kitchens—cabinets, appliances—for residents. To boot, the community center spaces will be improved and the building will include a new computer learning center.

But possibly the most important element, at this point, might be the change in lobby structure. Currently, the building has three towers but only one entrance. To improve security, Roizman will build three separate entrances, one for each tower—and each with its own security desk. “We’re trying to organize better the traffic of the building,” said Roizman. “That creates better overseeing, management, security—you won’t have kids running around all over.”

In this case, the security issue is a crucial one: last month, that corner was the site of an astounding seven shootings that occurred within seven days. “It’s the surrounding area,” claimed Roizman, who’s owned the complex for 17 years. “It didn’t happen in our building.”

Renovation plans have been drawn up by Architectural Alliance, which has offices in Delaware and Pennsylvania, and will be carried out by The Bozzuto Group. Construction should begin in February and will take about 18 months; most of the building’s almost 1,000 residents will remain the building throughout.

As for the complex’s proximity to one of the District’s most up-and-coming neighborhoods, Roizman says he isn’t planning on selling—or upgrading the building to luxury status—anytime soon. “I’ll keep it low-income,” he said. “Why shouldn’t people with less income live in a nice area?”

Washington D.C. real estate development

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

10 Questions with Deborah Ratner Salzberg


10 Questions is a weekly feature in which we interview some of the leading District figures in real estate, architecture, development, and planning. This week's subject ... Deborah Ratner Salzberg, President of Forest City Washington, Inc.

For Deborah Ratner Salzberg, real estate runs in the family.  As President of Forest City Washington, Inc., Salzberg oversees the local branch of billion-dollar development giant Forest City Enterprises Inc., the company her family founded in 1920.  A former attorney at the U.S. Department of Justice, Ms. Salzberg also holds leadership positions with many community, arts, and philanthropic organizations, including The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington, the Washington Ballet, and Arts for the Aging.

1. What's a typical day for you?

Wake up and head to the gym. Go into the office. Check emails. Spend the day balancing Forest City Washington work with community/nonprofit activites. Check emails. I generally have a lunch meeting and after work often head to a fundraiser or nonprofit event.  Head home and check emails. Get an advance start on tomorrow’s headlines on my iPad. Go to sleep and start again.

2. What or who is your biggest influence?

My biggest influences are my relatives. I work with my relatives, and they influenced my decision to join Forest City. I was surrounded by strong independent women growing up. My mother, paternal grandmother and three aunts all worked outside of the home. My father has always been my advisor, biggest fan and supporter. To this day I've never given a speech without running by him first. Although, I didn’t run these answers by him!

3. What neighborhood do you live in?

The Edgemoor area of Bethesda.

4. What is your biggest DC pet peeve?

We can’t see stars at night due to the bright lights.  It’s time to convert to directional street light fixtures.

5. What is the #1 most played song on your iPod?

Born to Run….I play it when I’m working out.

6. Favorite DC haunt?

Sterling.  My gym.

7. What's your favorite thing to do on a Sunday afternoon?


8. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?

Here, but I wouldn’t mind a second home in NY, SF, Paris or Tel Aviv.

9. If you couldn't be a developer, what would you be?

An international flight attendant. I love to travel.

10. Name one thing most people don't know about you.

I took a semester off from college my sophomore year and moved to Hawaii where I ended up working in security for McInerny Department Store.

Today in Pictures - Wonder Bread Building

One of the few true industrial buildings in DC, the Wonder Bread building in Shaw has long captured would-be architects' and developers' interest.  After the attractive but decrepit building sat vacant for years, Douglas Development put the structure through a nomination to be included in the D.C. Inventory of Historic Sites in August of last year.

With that out of the way, work began on the refurbishing the building in June, and work crews have now gutted the interior, lowering the floor, and making way for more than 50,000 s.f. of space, with 24,000 of retail on 2 levels.  Designed by R2L:Architects, the building's revival is part of Shaw's commercial rebirth, ironically just as the building's namesake declares bankruptcy.  Despite the raw look of the shell, Douglas expects to turn the building over to the first tenant in January. 

Washington D.C. real estate development news

NoMa's Trilogy Apartments Open Thursday

NoMa's newest apartments open Thursday as developers and city officials gather for a photo op to inaugurate one of Washington DC's largest apartment buildings.  "Trilogy" - 3 buildings designed by the Preston Partnership and formerly known as NoMa West - will add 603 rental units to the border between NoMa and Eckington at 151 Q Street, NE.

The first of the three buildings - Cirq, Linq, and Esqe - is now open, with the other two opening within the next few months.  Designed by developer Mill Creek Residential Trust to appeal to nearly any taste and architectural preference, each of the three buildings sports several motifs, a "highly differentiated architectural style," say its developers, that will span the centuries, architecturally speaking, with "traditional and contemporary" in Cirq, "warehouse, contemporary and art deco" in Linq, and finishing with the "highly contemporary" Esqe when it completes in March.

The project broke ground in March of 2011, but has been in the works far longer, at least since the team of CSX (as owner) and Fairfield Residential (as developer) plotted a 2006 groundbreaking for the residences.  The torch then passed to Trammell Crow Residential, and finally to the current team, who can finally spike the ball at tomorrow's ceremony.  Mill Creek is also working on an even larger project at the Dunn Loring Metro station.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

District Releases RFEI for St. Elizabeths


Today, the District government released a Request for Expressions of Interest (RFEI) in a bid to get development going at St. Elizabeths.  The Phase I development puts 4 parcels, totaling almost 7 acres, up for development bidding.  The proposal is the first of what will be a long, multi-phased development by the DC government for the East Campus of St. Elizabeths, following on the heels of development on the West Campus by the federal government that is now well underway.

The District had previously issued general guidelines for what the site could look like, with office, residential and commercial taking the place of the hospital now on site, with the hospital moving to the back of the current site.  The RFEI notes that the land is "especially ripe for complementary residential and retail development," and that the area presents an opportunity for "underserved" retail and "the next office submarket," and that historic preservation will also be a key element of consideration.  The District intends to make final selection of the development team by next summer.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Envisioning the Visio and Murano

Q and A with Suman Sorg   
by Beth Herman

Seeking to venerate but modernize Washington D.C.'s classic row house archetype, and drawing from the surrounding urban U Street corridor neighborhood, Suman Sorg of Sorg Architects created the 19-unit Visio and Murano, 2109 10th Street NW. Studying historic preservation at Cornell University, though a modernist at heart, Sorg's work is often a confluence of the two, with compatibility a word she uses to define her efforts in the contextual realm. The Visio and Murano has won six awards, including two AIA awards for Architectural Excellence and one for Washington Residential Design. DCMud spoke with Sorg about the project.

DCMud: What was the design impetus behind the Visio and Murano?

Sorg: The idea was to build so-called stick buildings that are not steel or concrete but wood, and to redefine the concept of infill row housing. When we built the Visio, we used mezzanines -- or internal stairs -- in each apartment so you could get extra space and still build a building out of wood frame, though the exterior is brick and glass.We had really tall ceilings -- 11 to 18 feet high -- each one has a double-height living room. We used English basements to create extra square footage at street level.

DCMud: How did the neighborhood's vernacular manifest in the design?

Sorg: We wanted to make these buildings compatible with the adjacent church. There's an alley between the church and Visio and Murano, but they almost form a street line. My idea was to look at what's important in the church, which is a turret, and how to add that kind of verticality to the facade of Visio. I wanted to work with the church's material which is red brick -- traditional Washington. We used that but in a modern application. I was also thinking about the industrial character of the area. You look at the Visio's front stair through bent steel - almost sculpture, and then the windows have steel mullions. The brick is sharply cut; it's not antiqued at all. These are some industrial features in the design.

DCMud: In what ways does the design emulate more doctrinal area architecture?

Sorg: In D.C. we have what's called the traditional bay house which allows you to project into public space by four feet. I was interested in incorporating that concept, but in a modern way. I wanted a modern vocabulary -- one that's Washington's own vocabulary rather than an imported one -- as well as taking advantage of what zoning allowed so we could have maximum square footage inside.

DCMud: Can you elaborate on the concept of imported, or as some have called it borrowed, architecture?

Sorg: I believe we've been importing architecture from Europe since the very beginning, and lately importing architects themselves. Washington's own architecture can develop in its neighborhoods rather than downtown where there's more commission scrutiny. We should look at what's traditional to D.C. and then reinterpret it.

DCMud: There is a prodigious use of glass in these buildings, and they are not towers, so with that how was privacy executed in the Visio and Murano?

Sorg: There's a general trend right now -- a shift from post modern to modern. Because the shift was so quick, people went back to early modernism -- the 20s and 30s. In residential architecture, however, people don't want to live in a glass box. They do want a sense of privacy and warmth.

When there are large amounts of glass in residential architecture, proportion is important. Again people don't want to live in glass boxes, so we broke it into smaller panes. We used zero sightline windows so the ones that do open don't look different from the rest of the glass. We also set the glass back behind balconies for shade. Hardwoods were used in the interior, including wood stairs. We followed LEED Silver requirements and used some natural materials, low-E windows and Energy Star appliances, though did not pursue certification.

DCMud: You work extensively internationally, as well as in D.C. Does the Visio and Murano reflect anything you have done before?

Sorg: I did a similar housing project in Kuwait in 2005. Following the war, the U.S. was given a piece of property by the king on which to build a new embassy. We did the housing in the embassy compound. It's somewhat the same in its proportion and materials, including glass and shading.

I've also been working in historic neighborhoods for a long time. The Visio and Murano are the evolution of townhouses that we did in Georgetown and particularly in Ledroit Park, south of Howard University, where we built 14 brand new infill townhouses. While you couldn't tell them apart from other historic townhouses in the neighborhood, it taught me about proportion and management of materials in these historic buildings. It became a foundation for the Visio and Murano's modern interpretation.

DCMud: Speaking of interpretation, is there a place in the District that calls to you?

Sorg: I like buildings that are unassuming -- beautiful, quiet buildings or spaces where, when you walk or bike around the city, they do not scream for your attention. One of these is the Decatur Terrace Steps and Fountain (sometimes referred to as D.C.'s Spanish Steps) between 22nd Street and Decatur Place. The large trees that surround it make for a perpetually shaded resting spot to listen to the bubbling fountain and enjoy a respite from the busy city.

Arlington Publishes Major Plan for its Bikeshare

Arlington County has just released a six-year blueprint for growth in its share of the Capital Bikeshare system, and planners say the blueprint - with recommendations for growth and funding - could be the first bikeshare Transportation Development Plan (TDP) in the country.

Bikeshare trips to and from Arlington. Image: BikeArlington
Arlington County is part of the Capital Bikeshare system, one of four operators in a group that also includes Washington, DC, Montgomery County and the City of Alexandria.  In total, the system has 1,670 bikes and 175 stations.  As of September, Arlington County's share included 44 stations and 306 bicycles.

Over the past year, the county's BikeArlington staff solicited public feedback both online and in person, surveyed local stakeholders including agencies, businesses, and users, and based on the results laid out scenarios for growth for the system over the next six years.

"Capital Bikeshare is an integrated part of the transportation fabric in the Washington D.C. region, and it should be treated as such," Chris Eatough, program manager for the county's BikeArlington program, which oversaw the plan, wrote in a column published by Mobility Lab, Arlington's transportation innovation branch.


Existing Arlington bikeshare stations. Image: BikeArlington
According to the report, system data shows almost 50 percent of Arlington's bikeshare users were either coming from or going to Washington DC.  Most bikeshare trips were less than 1.5 miles in length.  Users who bring in the most cash for the system are "casual users" who take trips lasting over 30 minutes (those trips cost more), although those users made up less than 20 percent of riders in 2011.  Commute trips constituted a third of all trips with Arlington's bikeshare.

Funded Growth

In one growth scenario, the report outlines what Arlington can do with existing funding to grow and maintain the system.

According to the report, with existing funding, Arlington would grow most in 2013, adding 40 stations, three through "external sponsorships" and the rest with transportation grants and other funding.  New stations will "build out" the system in Shirlington and South Arlington, along Columbia Pike east of the Washington and Old Dominion trail.

Pending approval by the National Park Service (NPS) and the Department Defense, stations will also pop up at Arlington National Cemetery and the Pentagon.  More stations will go into neighborhoods to create connections between the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and Columbia Pike, as well as between Crystal City and Shirlington.

Beyond Existing Funding: Big Demand for Lots of New Stations

Funded Arlington bikeshare growth. Image: BikeArlington
Beyond the existing funding for 40 new stations, the TDP estimates a total demand for between 57 and 115 additional Arlington bikeshare stations.  The report calls locations in North Arlington at East Falls Church and Lee Highway the "logical next steps" for bikeshare expansion, and notes that more bicycles in Crystal City, Rosslyn and Court House Square will also be needed.


Currently, bikeshare gets operating revenue from fares and from station sponsorships.   However, the report estimates continuing operating deficits, and suggests opening up bikeshare station panels to advertising sales, but Arlington County would first have to change its policy against on-street advertising.  

According to the report, the system gets $200,000 in capital revenue from Arlington County vehicle decal fees.  In the past and for 2013, the system has gotten funding from a federal program called Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ), though the continuity of that program is uncertain beyond 2013.

What Comes Next

Next, according to Eatough, the plan goes to the State of Virginia to be considered for transportation funding.

In the meantime, the plan lays out 15 ambitious performance measures that Arlington will monitor to keep an eye on how well things are going with its plan for growing its bikeshare, as well as other more abstract things like sustainability, safety, health, and bicycle culture.  Those performance measures include the ratio of Alrington's bikeshare miles traveled to total vehicle miles traveled, helmet use, crash rates, even average calories burned per trip.

The county is also still accepting public suggestions for future stations with its crowdsourcing map.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Your Next Place

The brainchild of bleeding-edge designer Chryssa Wolfe, this beautiful, sprawling house is both luxurious and morally upright, thanks to the cutting-edge green technology used in its construction.  It's like a Lambourghini that runs on fair trade coffee, or a pair of cashmere Toms.

Seriously though, this house is light years ahead of anything else on the market right now.  With a geothermal heat pump system, a rigid insulation envelope, high-performance insulated windows and doors, and energy recovery ventilators, this house is as energy-efficient a house as present-day technology could produce, aside from some sort of hermetically-sealed fart-warmed life capsule.  This is what all new construction should be like, but isn't, because ... because I don't know why.  It really made me step back and marvel at how inefficient the typical turn-of-the-century DC rowhouse is, with gas-fired furnaces pumping hot steam up through metal coils scattered throughout a swiss-cheese-like brick-and-mortar shell.  It's no wonder that it costs $250 a month to keep my apartment at 62 degrees in the winter.

But this house isn't just environmentally-efficient - it's also beautiful.  With gleaming (responsibly harvested) hardwood floors and an open floor plan, the house is full of light, and spacious.  The coffered ceiling of the family room and cutting-edge color palette of the formal dining room and kitchen belie a design aesthetic as up-to-the-minute as the construction.  There's a huge screened-in porch with panoramic views, and out back is a fantastic in-ground pool, next to which is a wide flagstone-lined lounge area that features an outdoor stone fireplace, where you can recline in sunglasses and surreptitiously judge everyone else's swimsuit bodies.

And since it's a green house (not to be confused with a "greenhouse," which is where our parents grow their glaucoma medicine), the buyer will receive a $35,000 geothermal tax credit, which is almost as much as I get for my made-up family of dependents, Pablo, Marian, and the triplets.  (Hey, as far as I'm concerned, if Mitt Romney pays 14% taxes, all bets are off.)

5420 Galena Place NW
6 Bedrooms, 6 Baths


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