Friday, December 17, 2010

Early Randall School Redevelopment Renderings Emerge

If it appears developers of the Randall School redevelopment project melted a stripper's platform shoe and molded it atop a replica of the historic Southeast school, you don't need to get your eyes checked; you're seeing correctly, as such is the earliest published rendering of Telesis's plans. Yes, it's rather gaudy, but don't hyperventilate just yet. Involved architect James Brown of Bing Thom Architects explains that the model was simply a very loose experiment to see how the massing of the structures might play out; but it was mostly "a way of getting people excited about the project," he qualifies. Excited, or scared?

"We're in the very, very early stages," Brown reiterated, it all (the programming and the design) "could change drastically." What is certain is that earlier this year the Corcoran Gallery sold the property and abandoned their plans to expand their College of Art after their partnership with Monument Realty fell apart. The buyers were Miami art collectors and museum founders Mera and Don Rubell, who forked over $6.5 million for the three-acre site, sporting a partnership with local firm Telesis, and grandiose plans to build a high-end hotel, a large residential component, and the first satellite location of their Miami museum.

Now, several months later, with some of the kinks in the original property disposition worked out, the development team is ready to hone in on their development plans. The schematic design process will begin in February, by which time the programming will be more solidified. The basic concept is certain: residential portion, art museum, retail (restaurants, museum shop, boutiques), and some sort of hospitality component, all totaling roughly 500,000 s.f.. What's left to be determined is whether the residential units will be condos or rentals, and exactly what shape the hotel-aspect takes on. The necessary market research is currently under way to aid in these sorts of decisions.

As for massing and the architectural detailing of the buildings, those specifics will come into focus as the Zoning process unravels; Brown says the development team hopes to submit their PUD application in September of next year, with construction drawings firmed up and permits issued by late spring, early summer of 2012. With an expected two year construction process, that puts a delivery somewhere in mid-2014. Brown explained that the development plans as they stand are rather ambitious for the site, forcing designers to push the density of the project towards I Street, with buildings likely cantilevered over the restored Randall School structures. Brown thinks the auditorium space in the old school buildings would be ideal for a restaurant, with "beautiful vaulted ceilings, and a plinth along the sidewalk that has great potential for tables and chairs." A portion of the historic school will likely operate as the lobby to the art museum, which will open out the back into a middle courtyard. The developers will also reestablish Half Street through the site, bringing it half a block in its current direction, and turning it left to connect with First Street. This will allow proper traffic movement through the site, and have the back of the buildings serve as the main entrance.

Given the historic nature and unique character of this project, an abundance of public meetings are sure to accompany all stages of this process. The development team, headed by Marilyn Melkonian President and founder of Telesis Corporation, has already held two preliminary meetings with ANC6D. Luckily, both the Rubels, who overhauled the Capitol Skyline Hotel across the street, and project architect Bing Thom, who designed the highly-regarded and well-received Arena Stage, have an established and positive relationship with the surrounding community. And they will surely need all the good-will they can muster if the final design looks anything like this early edition.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Fenty Gives DOES Staff Early Christmas/Goodbye Present

This morning Mayor Fenty and the Department of Employment Services (DOES) celebrate their brand new headquarters at 4058 Minnesota Ave NE with an official unveiling. Likely the government staff to have worked the hardest over this past year, it's fair to say they deserve some fancy new digs.

The five-story, Devrouax & Purnell-designed mixed-use building neighbors the Minnesota-Benning Metro Station, encouraging District employees to use mass transit, and offers over 200,000 s.f. of top-notch workspace, as well as 7,000 s.f. of ground-floor retail space and a four-story parking garage. The new headquarters is one of many efforts by the District and partnering developers towards revitalizing Ward 7; it is hoped the headquarters is eventually joined by the Linda Joy and Kenneth Jay Pollin Memorial Community Development and City's Interests' 15-acre Parkside Residential.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

Your Next Place...

By Franklin Schneider

Buying property is definitely one of the major milestones in life, signifying "I am now an adult and an integrated member of society." Buying a place like this is sort of the next step, signifying "I am a god among men: bow before my twenty-five foot ceilings and private terrace (with a view of the Capitol)!!!” If I lived in a place like this, I'd carry pictures of it in my wallet.

Located in the 105 year old Bryan School, in Eastern Market, maybe my favorite DC neighborhood (busy but not as congested as Dupont or Adams Morgan, less stuffy and imposing than Georgetown or Capitol Hill proper), this place is an eye-opener for even the most jaded open houser. The first thing you notice when you walk in is that it's absolutely massive; with 25-foot ceilings that seem even higher, it feels like you could fly a kite in here. There are two bedrooms and two full baths spread out over 2400 square feet, and massive windows everywhere. It was overcast when I visited, but the place still seemed full of light. There's a spacious kitchen with granite countertops and a large bar, a dining area with a gas fireplace, a family room, and cherry floors. And topping it all off is a semi-autonomous den that opens via four sets of french doors onto a huge private terrace. From out on the roof you can see the Washington Monument and the Capitol, so close that it seems you might be able to throw a rock and hit the dome. If I wasn't such a patriotic American, I might try. (“But Officer, I have a constitutionally-protected right to political protest!”)


2 Bdrms, 2 Baths

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Groundbreaking, Or At Least Ground-Moving, at Nehemiah Shopping Center

This past fall DCMud promised, after assurance from UDR developers, that the former Nehemiah Shopping Center construction site would be activated with a groundbreaking, and that the "rubble [would] at least be pushed around soon." It appears such has happened, as several earth movers have been seen rumbling around the site for the last few days. This is potentially (stress potentially) significant news for a project that seemed destined to remain unstirred; since the unveiling of plans from the original developer in 2008 and subsequent demolition in 2009, the lonely fenced-off block has seen no action.

While UDR refused to confirm or deny the start of construction, as it is "internal policy not to comment on such" according to one anonymous developer at their Washington office, it seems apparent field marshal (a.k.a. general contractor) Donohoe Construction has ordered troops (a.k.a bulldozers) into the field of battle. It marks the beginning of a who-knows-how-long (developers won't say) process to stack 255 one and two-bedroom apartment units on top of 18,500 s.f. ground floor retail. The project calls for 198 parking space to be half hidden, half buried on the back western portion of the site. The retail spaces could house as many as five different tenants, or as few as two, and will be reserved for businesses that supply neighborhood wants and needs: such as a grocery/convenience store, restaurants, bank, café, etc. UDR's corporate headquarters are expected to release more specific information about the project once it becomes official in the company's next quarterly report, those numbers are likely to come out in early February.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

National Harbor To Get 350-Unit Apartment Building

National Harbor, the 300-acre multi-use waterfront, Pleasantville-wannabe development on the shores of the Potomac River in Prince George's County, Maryland, is set to receive its first apartment building in the nearish future. With an expected late-2011 groundbreaking and 2013 delivery, the recently-announced project will see 350 new apartments atop 25,000 s.f. of ground-floor retail courtesy of Bozzuto Group. The Peterson Companies, which originally spawned the concept of National Harbor, and has seen nearly 75% of its 400 current condominiums sold, 40% of its 46 townhomes sold, and four manor homes sold, not to mention the construction and opening of the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center as well as a plethora of neatly packaged retail. Peterson contacted Bozzuto over the summer about bringing the “fourth residential food group" (i.e. apartments) this to the development site. With the market steadying, and long-held dreams of building at National Harbor, Bozzuto gladly accepted the offer.

National Harbor, which will eventually feature 10 million s.f. of development programming if Peterson's ambitious plans are left unhampered by any future market meltdowns, already contains a whopping six hotels, two marinas, three condo buildings, and a slowly growing number of shops and restaurants. The new apartment building is proposed for the intersection of American Way and Fleet Street, catty-corner from a new CVS and Potomac Gourmet Market, both set to open their doors within 120 days, according to last week's press release. Even more action is on the way, with a 500-room, 15-acre Disney resort hotel project promised by the entertainment conglomerate in 2009, the 140,000-square-foot Children's Museum expected to break ground next year, and the return of Cirque du Soleil in 2012. The apartment building will be LEED certified and will include the standard throng of amenities, a pool, fitness center, cyber cafe, billiards room, media room, and one wild card feature, a "Zen garden" (sounds mysterious, and also a little cheesy).

For those who wonder what kind of soulless creatures would seek shelter in a cookie-cutter concrete jungle so vanilla and seemingly void of authenticity; first, lose the self-righteousness and nauseating alliteration, and second, you're apparently not alone. Residential population remains only around 500, with condo sales slow after a fast start out of the gate in 2007. However, swaths of convention-goers keeps the area feeling busy.

By no means a full-blown, sell-out hit, the development has, however, had slow but steady improvement and a strange cult following, as well as a heavy influx of visiting shoppers and diners arriving in the summertime. But National Harbor is not without its detractors. Despite the myriad of freeways within reach, and a couple water-taxi services, Smart Growth advocates have cited the limited mass transit options as a significant flaw in the development, and a Metro stop doesn't look to be arriving any time soon. Furthermore, cuts in local public busing budgets have angered Prince George's County residents, all while the County has subsidized a new bus line shuttling tourists and Harbor residents between the Green Line's Branch Avenue and the Harbor's convention center.

While it might not be the most environmentally-friendly operation, or beacon of smart-growth development innovation, it's hard to argue with the market, as the project continues to line up a healthy list of big-name suitors, pack its convention center and hotels with corporate conferences, as well as keep residential sales relatively steady.

Prince George's County, MD Real Estate Development News

Four Points Teams With Comstock On Two DC Redevlopment Projects

After a lengthy hibernation in development limbo, Four Points LLC's W Street Townhomes, which earned HPRB approval in 2007 and a go-ahead from Zoning in 2008, is finally moving forward after developers announced their newly formed joint venture with Comstock Housing, a move that no doubt provided the capital injection necessary to jump-start a couple dormant projects. The project, now being nicknamed Cedar Hill, is planned for the corner of W Street and 13th Street SE; at roughly 40 units, it will be one of the most significant multi-unit residential construction projects to hit the streets of Historic Anacostia in many years.

The PGN-designed development will include a combination of larger, single-family townhomes and duplex-style units that double as condominiums. The seven single-family homes will each offer three bedrooms, a parking spot and a front yard. "What we tried to do is capture along W Street the historic nature of Anacostia," explains project architect Jeff Goins, "and then also create something unique for the neighborhood." Developers are waiting to hear back on their applications submitted for necessary building permits, but expect that they'll be able to break ground by mid-2011.

The joint-venture between Four Points and Comstock will also initiate redevelopment of a Lamond Riggs community, a development that went before the Zoning Commission as far back as 2006. The Northeast project that was most recently dubbed The Hampshires, with the design process headed by Arthur C. Lohsen of Frank & Lohsen Architects, proposes approximately 110 units, a healthy mix of townhomes, single family homes, and condominiums. The project also include a generous amount of green space, arriving in the form of a large, centrally located “great lawn,” as well as a number of smaller parks and gardens. The development will replace what was most recently the Med-Star Health facilities, and utilize a series of vacant lots along the 6000 block of New Hampshire Avenue, Peabody Ave, and Quakenbos St.

Each development will offer 10-20% of the total units at affordable housing rates. In a press release issued by Comstock last week, Four Points Principal Stan Voudrie said "We are big believers in the continuing demand for reasonably priced, for-sale housing in Washington, DC. These joint ventures with Comstock will allow us to deliver exactly that in both the Lamond Riggs and historic Anacostia neighborhoods." Christopher Clemente, Comstock's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer added: "We believe the strength of the Washington, DC area economy, and the demand for new housing in the District of Columbia provides tremendous opportunity to complement our existing platform in the greater Washington DC area."

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

Monday, December 13, 2010

Tax Abatement For NW1 On the Way, Groundbreaking Around the Bend

Phase One of the Northwest One project, located at 2 M Street NE, is progressing steadily towards their predicted 2011 late first quarter groundbreaking. A tax abatement bill for the property passed smoothly through the first round of deliberation at last week's District Council meeting, and has been put on the consent calender for the next Whole Council meeting on the 21st. The 10 year abatement would begin in the fiscal year 2015, and relieve developers from up to $5.7 million in District property dues. Developers at William C. Smith and Co. also report that they're nearly half way through the process to lock up financing through HUD’s Section 220 loan program. It seems a waiting game on multiple fronts, with plenty of time to cover all the bases before construction begins; project manager Steve Green reports, "We're in for every building permit there is."

The 12-story building, designed by Eric Colbert & Associates, is the first new construction project under the District-conceived New Communities Initiative, a program aimed at improving both the physical and social conditions of some of the District's most troubled neighborhoods. Not only will the transformation offer affordable places to live, but will also include social services; comprehensive efforts will be made towards connecting residents with job opportunities, offer guidance towards financial stability, and programs to reduce crime and substance abuse. The new construction, to be carried out by WCS Construction, will offer upon completion 314 units, as well as an on-site fitness center, pool, and basketball court. Fifty-nine of the residential units will be reserved for those earning 30% AMI, 34 at 60% AMI, and the remaining 221 will be rented at market rate. The building will also include 4,000 s.f. of ground floor retail.

Earning a lot of firsts, the building will be the initial installment of the Northwest One Initiative, the first neighborhood makeover of the New Communities program. The expansive project will offer much-needed development-first-aide for the scarred, crime-plagued real estate extending from K Street in the south to New York Avenue in the north, and stretching from North Capitol Street in the east to New Jersey Avenue in the west. The initial building will claim $82 million of the estimated total of $700 million in development and construction costs. The project's next phase will likely be the construction of a building directly to the north of phase one, but developers aren't getting ahead of themselves just yet; the lengthy two-year construction time for the first phase projects a delivery in the early part of 2013.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Country Club Redux

By Beth Herman

When members of Lakewood Country Club in Rockville, Md., mulled over a makeover in 2007, the architectural equivalents of Botox, Juvederm or Restylayne simply weren’t going to cut it. In short, and because the two-story, then 34-year-old facility found itself addressing the needs and requirements of a young, progressive membership, cosmetics were only part of the picture.

According to designer I. Michael Winegrad of I. Michael Interior Design, with members on the younger side and despite cutting edge classes that included “cardio tennis,” the emphasis was still on golf with an eye to the club’s Rees Jones-designed course. At the same time, a demographically different club roster wanted anything but a staid country club crown-molding-and-wainscot environment. “They are much more contemporary,” Winegrad said of his clients who were seeking redesign of the venue’s three restaurants, conference rooms, boardroom, locker rooms, ballroom, foyer, pro shop and more. “They wanted to emphasize food and décor as much as golf. They wanted to create real atmosphere.”

Under the Knife
Renovated several times, including facelifts and more invasive changes in 1988, ’92 and ’95, according to Lakewood General Manager and CEO Eric Dietz, the 33,000 s.f. club house was somewhat outmoded in its design and features and had anemic function space in some areas that undermined both its goals and ledgers. While a commercial or hospitality renovation is often precipitated by circumstances that may include a leaky roof, worn carpeting, peeling wallpaper and frayed or damaged furniture, and Lakewood’s redesign was propelled primarily by the 21st century lifestyle of its members, the comfort card also factored in. “The foundation for the project was something that a member told me,” Winegrad said. “He called the club a second home,” so the renovation needed to reflect that.

To that end, Lakewood’s Rees Jones Grille –a heavily-trafficked but tired 1,600 s.f. space accessible from the golf course where, with no dress code and cleats on their feet, golfers could relax over a burger and beer–received a 1,713 s.f. addition. Winegrad said because the popular Grille was really the focus of Lakewood’s renovation, multiple concepts were explored with the end result a defining, masculine, upscale sports bar that includes a marble bar, recessed lighting, dropped ceiling of sapele wood veneer for intimacy over the bar, fabric and sapele wall panels, a sturdy porcelain tile floor that emulates the look of wood and various flat screen TV’s visible from every angle. The addition itself, which for view purposes at most country clubs would have reverted to an all-glass structure (an attempt was made to do this by Lakewood’s architect), was redirected by interior designer Winegrad who had his own philosophy about framing views vs. bringing the outside in, the latter of which is a common request.
“For me, uninterrupted glass is not a good thing and I limit it,” the designer said, adding that it does not allow definition of the space. “You need to have a sense of human scale to the room to feel secure and comfortable. It’s the same reason people are so much more comfortable watching TV in a small room than in a big one,” he explained. To achieve that balance between comfort and view, Winegrad used wood panel separations between the glass, where lighting and art could further define the space and help frame the view.
In another area of the Grille, the floor had been dropped about 10 steps down, Winegrad said, like a dated pit. The resulting space was unusable and enigmatic at best, with a small TV stuck in a corner, so he raised it to a two-step drop and created a functioning card room atmosphere, delineated with bifold glass doors so it wasn’t quite as open or susceptible to noise.
Guest Augmentation
In Lakewood’s foyer, dramatic in scale but muted slate grey upholstered wall panels (textile panels also punctuate the hallway) and wall sconces characterize a sophisticated space. According to Winegrad, the club decided to make this area more of a concierge point, as the original reception desk was not located here, and it was important to create a signature first impression.
In the ballroom, which can accommodate 265, among other moderate changes doors were relocated for flow, and crystal-droplet-and-fishing-line lighting fixtures add sparkle to formal functions. Possibly paramount to the ballroom changes, Winegrad combined a space across the hall used to store tables and chairs with another room, converting them into a single 300 s.f. bride’s changing suite. “This is a big selling point for the club,” Winegrad said, in that Lakewood’s ability to host weddings was mitigated by its inability to support their casts. In the new design, the bridal or wedding suite has an elegant, ample changing area, full bath, multiple bays for hair and make-up furnished with Swaim white leather chairs, wall sconces, silk tasseled draperies and other graceful notes. “This is income for Lakewood,” Winegrad stressed.
Prescription for Prosperity
With hundreds of residential, commercial and hospitality designs on his dance card, Winegrad admitted Lakewood, whose redesign met with considerable acclaim by its members, was one of the few country clubs he’d ever undertaken as an interior designer (Seawane Country Club in Hewlett Harbor, NY, was his first). Establishing that each club is different, with some choosing to emphasize tennis over golf, or children’s amenities, swimming and the like, he said he applied the same principles used in the balance of his work to the Lakewood project, completed in 2009, with function being the only changed element.
“My approach and aesthetic value and judgment are always the same,” he reflected. “Designers have a position they come from – their design criteria. What’s important, even more than individual materials, is what the space looks like, its feeling – the end result. I guess that’s what you would say is the signature of any designer.”

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Dreyfus Releases New Renderings of Center Leg Freeway

Earlier this week developers at Louis Dreyfus presented their plans to build 2.3 million s.f. in 6 buildings on top of I-395, a stretch known as the Center Leg Freeway, to the Zoning Commission. The developer has now released new renderings for their North Block plans, courtesy of Kevin Roche John Dinkeloo & Associates; so no more reading, just looking...enjoy.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Akridge's Half Street Half Way There?

DC real estate news
Since Washington Metro Area Transit Authority (WMATA) did its best King Solomon impression, dividing its Southeast Bus Garage properties in half for two quarreling developers, only one recipient looks to be moving slowly forward with development plans, while the other has since gone bankrupt. While developers at Akridge reported making progress with their permitting, financing, and leasing efforts for their 700,000 s.f., mixed-use Half Street project, they insisted it would be a much more interesting news story come February or March, when more details emerge. But progress is progress, and news is news, and DCMud knows its readers are always salivating for every little morsel of information, no matter how small the crumbs.

Half Street project, Akridge Development, Monument Realty, Adam Gooch, Washington DC real estate
So here's the latest scoop: Akridge is currently finalizing the construction plans, and expects to apply for permitting in the first quarter of next year. With a little bit of luck, the developers intend to break ground on the residential portion of the project by the end of next year. Although there is a distinct possibility the project ends up being constructed in phases, developers hope to build it all in one fell swoop, or at least in one drawn-out swoop, in which case a full delivery of all three buildings would happen roughly 22 to 24 months after initial construction. As developers, architects, and engineers lock in on the specifics of their construction plans, minor changes may be made, and details like number of units may be tinkered with, says Project Manager Adam Gooch, but nothing drastic.

HOK architects took responsibility for office buildings, Esocoff & Associates for residential, and retail brokerage StreetSense for the retail
HOK architects took responsibility for office buildings, Esocoff & Associates for residential, and retail brokerage StreetSense for the retailThe project's basic programming remains the same: two nine-story, Class A office buildings (totaling over 370,000 s.f.) and one 11-story residential building featuring approximately 280 units (outfitted with the standard amenities: rooftop pool and terrace, private courtyard, fitness center, etc). All three buildings will offer ground floor retail, totaling 75,000 s.f.. The retail spread will be multifaceted, each portion offering distinct sensibilities, and appealing to different demographics. Half Street will be the main attraction for passersby, featuring Class A retail and most likely to attract National's game-day traffic with "name brand tenants and white-table-cloth restaurants" says Gooch. The pedestrian alley in between the two office buildings will offer a more locals-friendly mix of cafes, delis, and boutiques. "It will be a glorified urban marketplace," explains Gooch, "In the vein of Eastern Market, a place where you can come home from work and grab a beer, grab some food, and pick up some flowers for your wife." Most hidden from foot-traffic will be the Van Street retail frontages, which will have a "grittier, more alley-like feel" due to the placement of curb cuts, loading docks, and trash pick ups. Here Half-Street residents might find a dry-cleaners, the local bike-shop, and maybe a sports bar.

Washington DC commercial retail brokers
Three firms combined forces on the design aspect of the project: HOK shouldered responsibility for the office buildings, Esocoff & Associates for the residential, and StreetSense for the retail. All three buildings will be LEED Certified, with the office buildings expected to earn LEED Platinum. While developers wait to activate the development site for construction purposes, Akridge plans to once again engage the public with their Bullpen Beer Garden during the 2011 baseball season. The 3,200 s.f. tented space will offer beer, wine, margaritas, and live entertainment to the public, and is also available for private events.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

Your Next Place...

By Franklin Schneider

Oh man, I really liked this place. I thought about hiding in a closet until after the agent left, calling a locksmith to change the locks, and then Photoshopping myself a deed to the place. The only thing that stopped me was the fact that I'm still on probation for the last time I tried that.

The unit's a massive New York-style loft in the old Rainbow Auto Body building on Church Street, a quiet-ish side street off 14th. Living here would be just like if you lived in Soho, but without all the models and artists corroding your self-esteem every time you leave the building. The developers have retained a lot of distinctive touches from the building's past life as an industrial space; exposed ductwork and steel beams give you that hint of authentic loft living, without the vermin and black mold of actually authentic loft living. There's a massive den area and a gas fireplace, along with huge
industrial-style windows and 14-foot ceilings. The
space is very bright and there's a feeling of open
space; I've been in a lot of smaller lofts with really high ceilings, and you sort of feel like a frog in a
bottle or something. I didn't feel like that here at all.

You can imagine the rest - exposed brick, hardwood floors and miles of granite counterspace. It's even got a roof deck if you need to take a breather from all this perfection. It's a block away from Whole Foods and Vida and all those restaurants and bars on P Street there, and three or four blocks from U Street. I mean, this place really could be the greatest bachelor (or bachelorette) pad of all time. That's it, this place is going on my Christmas list.

1445 Church Street NW #14
Washington, DC
1 Bdrm, 1.5 Baths

Open house this Sunday 1-4

Photography by DS Creative Group

Thursday, December 09, 2010

What Makes a Monument?

Last night several artists participated in a Smithsonian-sponsored presentation and round-table discussion concerning the problematics of modern day "Approaches to Public Art, Placemaking, and National Commemoration." Their essential message was: monuments, as they're traditionally conceived and built, are boring, and they quickly fade from the foreground of our memory and conscious, eventually losing their meaning all together. "Monuments are doomed to be invisible" one artist explained. It seemed a spot-on idea for the dead history capital of the world.

Each artist offered distinct but congruent solutions to the problem of dead war-figure monuments. Krzysztof Wodiczko, Harvard professor and artist in temporary and interactive light installations, expressed his wish for existing monuments to be "reactualized," reconnected to modern life through new artistic undertakings (multimedia, performance art, etc). "There are so many historic buildings and monuments," he explained, "for which the contradictions between the ideals for which they were built and the actuality of the way life really is happening in front of them, is left unexplored." Sounds a bit heady for a stodgy old Washington, D.C. But its a profound thought, that calls for further contemplation.

Julian LaVerdiere, artist and designer of the World Trade Center Tribute in Light, expressed his wish to see monuments not become celebrated for a singular statue or brick, but derive meaning through their ability to offer a "transformative experience" to the visitor. He cited a potato famine memorial in New York City at which the artist had simply picked up an acre of a fallow Irish farm and plopped it in the middle of a city square. Both LaVerdiere and Justine Simons, Director London's Cultural Agenda and Programming for the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, voiced their support of temporary public art instillation as a substitute for monuments. Wodiczko said, "I don't mind permanent monuments, as long as they change," eliciting a large laugh from the audience.

Host and moderator Thomas Luebke, Secretary of the U.S. Commission of Fine Art, said what everyone was thinking, or at least what I was thinking, when he observed, "Too oten memorials in D.C. just feel like real estate development." But how does a city with so many watch-dog groups, and so many politicians waiting to get involved, attempt to "wake up the landscape," as Simons suggested? She attributed much of her success in staging the temporary memorials of Trafalgar Square's 4th Plinth to her ability to "rid the process of all politicians and politics." The temporary nature of the projects "rid the process of some of the anxiety," she explained, "and allowed us to experiment and test the boundaries."

At the end of the presentations and subsequent discussion, the audience wasn't exactly left with a solution, but that's never how these kinds of things work. Instead, listeners were left with several provocative ideas to contemplate. How do we wake up the landscape with interactive, meaningful public art and memorials? How do we keep monuments alive? What is the future of place making in a fractious culture, and a divisive climate? And how do we sneak some interesting public art past the NCPC, ANC's, District Council, and the Committee of 100?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

14W Breaks Ground

Nearly two weeks ago, Perseus remained mum on the status of the much anticipated Anthony Bowen YMCA redevelopment project at the intersection of 14th and W Streets in northwest Washington, promising only that they'd be ready to reveal "something" shortly. But before Perseus could say anything, let alone something, Jefferson Apartment Groups (JAG), an Akridge affiliate, revealed they had purchased the project from a Perseus entity for $7.5 million, and would join Perseus as partnering developer (talk about awkward) on the project. The sudden announcement signaled that the project, thought by many to be strapped for cash and indefinitely stalled, was and is back on track. And now today, more than two years after a faux-groundbreaking, developers will once again put a shovel in the ground; this time they really, really, actually, totally, seriously swear to start demolition and new construction.

Apparently, equity financing from Rockpoint Group, L.L.C. and a $53 million construction loan from Wells Fargo Bank was just what the doctor ordered. Upon completion, the HOK and Dorsky Hodgson & Partners-designed project will feature 231 rental apartments, a brand new, state-of-the-art 44,000 s.f. YMCA, and over 10,000 s.f. of ground-floor retail. The new gym and first apartments will deliver in the summer of 2012, with the project opening in its entirety later in the fall.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Air Rights Center Gets an Addition

The Bethesda block known as the Air Rights Center, currently featuring a 12-story office building and the 14-story, 216-room Hilton Garden Inn Hotel, is set to become a bit denser, as another 9-story office building will soon replace the smallest building on the southeast corner of the site. Chevy Chase residents adjacent to downtown Bethesda voiced concerns over the scale of the proposed office buildings upon its initial unveiling to the community. Begrudgingly resigned to the fact that the Purple Line train will soon be roaring through their backyards, residents seemingly decided to take their frustrations out on Donohoe. In the wake of the public pressure, developers compromised, using several setbacks to lower the residential-abutting facade to the recommended 60 feet and concentrate the height towards the center of the block, reaching 97 feet at its tallest point. Rewarding the flexibility of developers and their design partner BBG-BBGM, the Montgomery County Planning Board granted the approval to the applicant's proposal.

Fronting 7300 Pearl Street, the facade seems like a simplistic amalgamation of glass, concrete, and right angles, but a side-view from Montgomery Avenue offers a more textured and interesting vantage. Developers appeased the neighboring community not only with design successions, but will also redevelop a northern portion of Elm Street Park, just south of the development across the Capitol Crescent Trail. While their generosity may be genuine, it's not exactly altruistic, a twenty percent public space requirement is demanded by the Montgomery County development approval process. But all that green wasn't quite enough, as developers will put more on the roofs of the building in their efforts to earn LEED Silver Certification (also a MoCo prerequisite).

The cost to reconstruct the proposed portion of the park totals roughly $1 million. The project's landscape architect Parker Rodriquez has already offered designs for the park, while Donohoe will pony up $550,000-$600,000 for the actual improvements, including infrastructure, paving, lighting, fencing, landscape planting, signs, etc. The Chevy Chase Parks Department must approve a final design for the park, and finance the remaining balance. The Montgomery County Planning Board stipulated that no building use or occupancy permits will be issued until the park improvements are completed. Developers believe their compliance with the required park improvements could happen as early as 2012, with the office building delivery following shortly after.

Bethesda, MD Real Estate Development News

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