Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Eisenhower Memorial Ready, Waiting

Memorial Day would have been a fitting time for a dedication to one of the nation's great military and political leaders, but as with everything involving a public gathering, postponement was inevitable.  The grand opening ceremony for the decade-long project to commemorate Dwight D. Eisenhower in a 4-acre park in southwest DC, hoped for in early May, has been pushed back to September with the hope of a proper dedication.

Eisenhower Memorial Washington DC Clark Construction
The Frank Gehry-designed project has been years in the making, going back to the early part of the century.  The commission tasked with the design to commemorating the D-Day hero selected Gehry back in June of 2009, but the brutalist design was thought by many, including Eisenhower's family, to be overdone and out of sync with its surroundings, "not in harmony with the vision of the L'Enfant plan and the McMillan plan."  Organizers established an alternate design competition to "choose the design that best exemplifies the ideals of a meaningful, timeless memorial that is appropriate classical vision of Washington, D.C."  The controversy devolved into a series of setbacks, hearings and debates, before a revised completion date of Memorial Day, 2015 was put in place, and Gehry ultimately approved as the designer.

Five years after the intended opening, the monument is ready for the public, even if the public cannot reciprocate.  Clark Construction, which dominates federal construction projects in DC, began work on the project in November of 2017 and completed the project in March, in time for the planned opening.  The central feature is the 450-foot wide tapestry displaying scenes from "peacetime" Normandy with over 600 3' x 15', three dimensional panels woven by reams of stainless steel thread affixed to the soaring, stone-clad columns.  The memorial, intended to honor the U.S. President and five-star general, is the first presidential memorial to be built this century.

The memorial is haltingly large, with 80-foot high, 9 foot in diameter columns supporting the Normandy scene (Clark points out that columns on the Lincoln Memorial are 44' high and 7'5" in diameter, as a comparison). The engineering feat, not quite matching the Normandy landing but impressive still, involved Clark's Virtual Design group employing 3D models to install the minutely sensitive tapestry, and a slow curing of the concrete columns due to their thickness to avoid thermo-shock and cracking.

Eisenhower Memorial Washington DC Clark Construction
While the inner columns are hollow, the outer, tension-supporting anchor columns are solid concrete, and together the 8 columns are finished with 3800 pieces of Spanish limestone - mined and fabricated in Spain and (for stone that would be carved) shipped to Italy and finessed by Italian master stone carver Franco Cervietti.  The panels were created in Los Angeles through "electromagnetic welding."  On top of that, the 60 foot high screen "is essentially an enormous sail, absorbing a massive amount of wind loading," says Jared Oldroyd of Clark Construction, who oversaw the project and pointed out the need for innovation of newly designed systems to properly secure the site's main attraction.

If all that sounds like a run-of-the-mill home repair project, Clark points out the efforts of 53 subcontractors to support construction, and their own past experience including the National Museum of African American History, the International Spy Museum, renovations to the National Air and Space Museum, the Jefferson Memorial Seawall, the National Mall, and World War II Memorial (and others.  And of course bi-weekly coordination meetings focused solely on finalizing the tapestry connection details between the structural engineer, the architect, the client, the tapestry installer, and the tapestry designer.  That will soon be history too, and Eisenhower will at long last have an unmissable tribute just a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol

Eisenhower Memorial Washington DC Clark Construction
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Eisenhower Memorial Washington DC Clark Construction

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Thursday, May 21, 2020

2100 L Street Delivers

If you think of West End office buildings as being largely bland, dated and indistinguishable, you are largely correct, or at least you were.  One project just completing that may serve as a coda on that visual mediocrity (yes there are exceptions) is 2100 L Street, which has just completed, and recently saw the addition of an exterior "veil" that adds a striking and reflective embellishment to the glass exterior.  DC-based Akridge is putting the final touches on what it hopes will be a class A LEED platinum certified building, which it developed as part of a deal with the District of Columbia to resurrect the Thaddeus Stevens school (which will complete in August) and surrounding lot.  2100 L will sport a rooftop terrace and lounge and exterior courtyard adjacent to the Stevens school.

Gary Martinez of Martinez and Johnson (as base building architects) and OTJ (a commercial interior design firm), combined forces to design the building, and the two companies in fact merged halfway through the project.  But the exterior "dynamic texture" was courtesy of Jan Hendrix of Mexico City, who designed the stainless steel leaf structure evocative of the willow oak tree, a vision that was fabricated by Kansas City based Zahner (a website worth browsing for a visual trip).  Akridge planned the office building on spec, but signed Morrison & Foerster before construction actually started, says David Toney of Akridge, and has now leased more than half the office space.  Morrison & Foerster will move into its space in January of next year.

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Martinez, who has seen the project through from the outset more than 10 years ago, spoke to the desire he and Akridge had to make the project stand out from the surrounding buildings, while not overwhelming the Stevens school next door.  "We had to work through HPRB to get approval due to the school, but we projected the building out 4 feet over the property line on the corner, then leading up to the school the building is set back 4 feet to allow a better vision and emphasize the historic school."

Martinez said the design took its influence from the 10' by 10' grid that has dominated architecture of the last two decades, "adding a sculptural piece, almost hanging free from the building, a piece of art apart from the glass box underneath."  Martinez hopes the artistic portion will become a new paradigm within the architectural community.  As for the suddenly perplexing issue of office worker health, Martinez said the building already had some of the touchless features now obligatory, but that OTJ was working on a more holistic approach including mechanical and design changes to future buildings, considering what changes might be permanent and what might be temporary given the long lead time for such buildings.  "A lot changes over 10 years."

Project:  2100 L Street

Developer: Akridge, Argos Group

Architect: Martinez & Johnson, OTJ ArchitectsWDG (architect of record)

Use: 190,000 s.f. office building

Expected Completion:  Summer 2020

2100 L Street, NW, Washington DC, Akridge, Argos Group

West End office building, Washington DC

Washington DC retail for lease

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Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Bryant Street - Rhode Island Avenue

Directly across the street from the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station, local developer MRP Realty is in the process of building what will be a 7-building, 13-acre project, one that will ultimately comprise 1.5m s.f. of residential development and 272,000 s.f. of retail.  The project is replacing a smattering of industrial and big box retail uses, but will nonetheless create a net gain in retail space once complete. The current phase will deliver 487 residential units and 47,000 s.f. of retail, including a 9-screen Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, all designed by SK&I Architecture.  One of the central features will be a retail-activated plaza oriented to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, connected to the adjacent Metro station via a new pedestrian bridge.

The project will be the first major project on the Rhode Island Avenue corridor since the completion of Rhode Island Row in 2012, despite serious attempts over the past two decades to build more density along the artery, attempts that began in earnest in 2009 with the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development calling for $1.2 billion in investment on a 3-mile section of Rhode Island Avenue.

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Project:  Bryant Street

Developer: MRP Realty

Architect:  SK&I Architecture

Construction:  CBG

Expected Completion:  Rolling completion with first deliveries scheduled for late 2020

Prior to construction

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Thaddeus Stevens School

Development of the Thaddeus Stevens school is, after more than a decade of attempts, nearing completion.  The District government began the process with a solicitation in 2008 that saw Equity Residential selected as the developer, an award that was revoked over controversy with the developer and selection process.  A second solicitation occurred in 2011 eventually led to the selection of Akridge and the Argos Group as public-private partnership with the District government to renovate the school and build on the adjacent land.  Both projects are now nearing completion, with the Stevens School scheduled to open for the start of the next school year in August.

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The two-part development project saw the construction of 2100 L Street as an office building surrounding the Stevens school, and a full renovation of the school as an expansion for School Without Walls.  Akridge's involvement in the school building will cease once exterior construction has completed this summer.

The school, "the first modern school in the District built for African-American students,” built in 1868 for children of freed slaves, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and even hosted First Child Amy Carter in the 1970's.  The surrounding block has recently undergone a massive transition with new projects and redevelopments, a new Ruth's Chris across the street and DC's second Proper 21 opening imminent.

Thaddeus Stevens, a staunch abolitionist member of Congress from Gettysburg, is perhaps remembered more vividly from his depiction in "Lincoln" by Tommy Lee Jones.

Project:  Stevens School

Developer:  Akridge, Argos Group

Use:  School

Expected Completion: August 2020

Washington D.C. retail and real estate development news

Sunday, May 17, 2020

We're Back

We're back!  Really, it was us, not you.  Its been a long, strange road, and much has changed since DCMud last published our love letters to the city, not the least the city itself.  Back in 2012 downtown DC still had plenty of surface parking lots, a brand new convention center, the Navy Yard was getting some of its first apartments and factory conversions, and Douglas Development was starting its Ivy City Development.  And while development has continued, DCMud took a break from the high expectations we had for ourselves, consumed as we were with first-in-time reporting and from-the-source research.  And while our format was simple, the effort, coordination and resources that went into this humble blog were monumental, consuming more resources than it generated.  It distracted us from ordinary commerce, and what started as an impulsive post on a hastily chosen blog domain (DC Dirt not being available) soon became a heavy labor and then an obsession.  But the community that supported and absorbed us always counterbalanced the cost of our efforts.  We missed our interactions with you, and some of you even missed us.

Among the changes was the dissolution of my old company, DCRealEstate.com, that supported this blog, and much more recently the creation of my new company, City Grid Real Estate.  I have spent the interim years in the business of commercial real estate, representing many of the regions more recognizable retail tenants and restaurants (if you're curious), marketing for landlords and selling commercial real estate, and City Grid represents a return to the independent, creative roots that started DCMud.

The intent of the new DCMud is not to replicate the previous format. I have always been immensely proud of the site, having generated more than 10 million page views and earned a Washingtonian "Best of" in the process.  But as I move through the city marketing and analyzing commercial property, I will also be photographing, documenting the change that never stops.  There are now ample alerts about zoning decisions and groundbreakings (ceremonial, mostly), so my attempt will be capture and display the construction as it happens, changes that often take us by surprise as we pass a new building that seemed to appear spontaneously.  I hope you find this helpful, and I look forward to your contributions - photographs, information, comments - as part of this new endeavor.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

14th Street Short-Term Family Housing Project

A family housing shelter is now taking shape in Columbia Heights, replacing the former Rita Bright Family and Youth Center.  The $20m project will provide 50 family rental units - 35 for short term housing and 15 for seniors, and will recreate a recreation center that existed prior to construction, all on land currently owned by the District government.  Cunningham Quill, which has designed such notable buildings as the Yacht Club at the Wharf and Wooster & Mercer Lofts, designed the project, which is expected to wrap up in the fall of this year.

click for photo gallery

Project:  14th Street Family Housing Center

Developer: District of Columbia

Architect:  Cunningham Quill

Construction:  GCS Sigal

Use: Homeless Shelter

Expected Completion: Summer / fall 2020

Columbia Heights

Columbia Heights homeless shelter

Washington DC real estate

Washington DC real estate development


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