Sunday, January 16, 2011

Your Next Place...

By Franklin Schneider

You know how when you buy a new pair of shoes, you almost don't want to wear them for fear of soiling their fresh-out-of-the-box perfection? That's how I felt as I stood at the threshold of this cozy Federal nestled on picturesque 35th Street in Georgetown's West Village. Everything about it, from the pristine white walls and furniture to the gleaming hardwood floors and clean lines, conveyed the impression of a place almost too nice to live in. Of course, if I had $799K lying around, I'd already be reclined on the sofa by the time you read this, gleefully spitting sunflower seeds onto the floor. But alas, not on a blogger's salary.

One enters into the bright living room, which is outfitted with a gas fireplace. Farther back is a dining area and a sleek kitchen. A spiral staircase leads up to the large bedroom, which has a closet so incredibly vast it could probably be rented to an intern as a bedroom. (Laugh if you will – I once rented a room that was almost exactly the size of a twin size mattress.) The bathroom (also commendably bright) boasts a large basin and a huge shower with clear glass doors, so you never have to worry about someone sneaking up on you with a knife while you shower. And finally the private semi-enclosed patio is perfect for having people over to subtly rub your success in their faces. And really, isn't that what home ownership is all about?

1257 35TH ST NW

1 Bedroom, 1 Bath


Friday, January 14, 2011

Deanwood Heights Subsidized Housing Project Starts Today

An affordable housing development team will kick off construction of its project in northeast Washington DC today. The team of Denning Development, UrbanMatters Development Partners, Beulah Community Improvement, and NCD Management, which the Fenty administration awarded with city funding in September of 2009, will build 63 subsidized units at 400-414 Eastern Avenue, NE (29 townhouses), and, in a later phase, the empty 6100 block of Dix Street, NE (34 townhouses), an area that can be conservatively described as blighted and in need of economic development. Square 134 Architects designed the new townhouses.

Eden Place will be available to families making up to 120% Area Median Income (AMI, which is $103,500 for family of 4). Home prices are based on income, but the 3 and 4 story townhouses will run from $199,000 to the high $200's, ranging in size from 1,484 s.f. to 1,680 s.f., with price based on income. Though the project will be entirely affordable, bucking prevailing wisdom of mixing subsidized and market housing, developer Raymond Nix of UrbanMatters says occupants will still span a range of incomes. "This is really mixed income, it provides opportunities for first-time homebuyers, but it goes up to 120% AMI, the phrase affordable housing is really a broad one."

Today marks the beginning of demolition only, but Nix thinks the first units could deliver by mid-Summer. In awarding the project, Mayor Adrian Fenty predicted that construction would begin in February of 2010, but Nix says that was never a realistic timeline, and that construction of phase 2 is "sales dependent."

UrbanMatters was also awarded the contract to redevelop the M.M. Washington School last March, and will turn the historic school into 90 subsidized apartments for seniors, a project that was criticized by some for excessive government funding ($6m to $8m) while competing developers asked for less city money, several of whom questioned why the District chose a publicly funded option over what the losing bidders viewed as more regenerative types of projects. Financing for Eden Place will come from DC's New Communities Program, with the city kicking in $3m, or $47,619 per unit, according to Nix, with no HUD funding. Eagle Bank is the construction financier. "We're really rooted in grassroots community development and community serving affordable housing" said Nix of UrbanMatters' mission.

Ajia Meux, immediate Past President of the Deanwood Citizens Association said that just about anything in the area is a net positive. "Because of the environment around those buildings I don't like going over there much. Its been boarded up for at least a year, and even though its an affordable housing project, I'm glad that ward 7 is getting some attention...We are the most underserved ward in the District, and I'm exicited to see economic development happening in the city, but especially here. Hopefully this will stabilize the neighborhood a little bit." The only cloud inside the silver lining was the price tag. "I question how affordable it really is," said Meux, noting that houses in the area often sell below $100,000, though remodeled houses start around $150,000, but Nix points out that new townhouses in the area tend to sell in the high $200,000's and low $300,000's.

Winmar will serve as the General Contractor, with Bowman Civil Engineering. A ceremony will be held today at 2pm.

Washington DC real estate development news

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Recycling Lumber and Lives

By Beth Herman

For those of us who forfeited innumerable Sigma Chi blowouts to spend a hair pulling, head banging, nail biting, teeth grinding mandatory semester of our otherwise carefree college years in the library, grappling with philosopher Jacques Derrida’s concept of deconstruction, aka deconstructionism (guilty as charged), good news abounds.

At the more contemporary Al Gore School of Global Warming, deconstruction has come to mean something other than Derrida’s multitudinous interpretations of a single text. In fact, today’s deconstruction, as it applies to taking down a house piece by piece, and recycling or repurposing hundreds and thousands of components as opposed to outright demolition, is something that benefits its “students” both morally and often financially. Its principles, though earth-friendly and entirely transformative, are simple, even leaving time at the end of the day for that sorely missed bottle of flat frat house beer.

For environmentalist and entrepreneur Paul Hughes, the decision to transition from a career as a nonprofit grant consultant to the founder and president of Fairfax, Va.’s DeConstruction Services, LLC followed a period of painstaking due diligence, in which he admits investigating about 60 different environmentally-oriented businesses. “I looked into everything from catfish farming to investing in alternative fuel vehicles,” Hughes said, explaining that he and wife Linda, a high school history teacher of international baccalaureate seniors, wanted a green business that wouldn’t require traveling all over the country and where they could “make a difference in (their) little piece of green earth.”

A member of the Renewable Energy Business Network, Mid-Atlantic Chapter, Hughes attended an Annapolis meeting in 2003. The speaker, as the fates would have it, was a representative of a Portland, Ore. deconstruction nonprofit successfully operating there since the late 1980s or early ‘90s. Subsequently exploring the mid-Atlantic market for deconstruction, Hughes launched his own DeConstruction Services, LLC in August, 2004, an operation which, nearly seven years later, is still without competition.

Harvesting Hope

“That’s because it’s going 180 degrees against the trend,” Hughes said of his multifaceted green business which focuses on recycling human beings as much as materials. “Most contractors are trying to get away from employing a lot of people…so they can offload expensive liability costs, worker’s comp and matching social security. They contract everything out to subcontractors and let them worry about where to get laborers (often just day laborers to whom fewer laws apply).”

To that end, DeConstruction Services, LLC, whose work in disassembling residences from roof to basement and everything in between is highly specialized, frequently employs workers with what Hughes calls previous “ad hoc employment situations.” Many were day laborers with little hope of consistency and its accruing benefits in their lives, but even more, some employees were graduates of drug rehab programs or had court judgments against them for child support delinquencies because of their economic situations. According to Hughes, one candidate applied wearing an ankle bracelet during his probation. “They were non-violent offenders,” Hughes was quick to point out, “and they were really looking to work.”

Dissecting deconstruction, Hughes explained that in a personal sense “it is grubby work. In the summer it’s hot; in the winter it’s cold to be taking down a roof–shoveling the snow off to be able to begin taking the shingles off.” But the satisfaction of clearly seeing the results of a two- or two-and-a-half-week effort that will keep hundreds of elements out of landfills, and knowing their work and paychecks will continue, is positive for everyone, Hughes affirmed.

Benefits of Conscience

Where the process itself is concerned, Hughes said deconstruction generally starts with a call, often where the client – either a homeowner, builder or architect – wants a quote over the phone. “We have to actually see the inside of the house first to get a sense of what the quantity and quality is of the material is on the inside – the building components,” Hughes explained of the assessment phase, adding that logistics such as how far materials must be carried down extreme driveways, vs. hoisted right out of a window into a waiting roll-off (a long dumpster that slides onto the back of a truck) also factor into costs. Photographs are taken for documentation and an itemized proposal is put together for the client, and for tax auditing purposes should they arise. If the proposal is accepted, Hughes asks that the client also enlist the services of an independent appraiser so no stone remains unturned. “It does require that the client put money upfront but is heavily driven by tax benefits which may yield a profit,” Hughes said, citing benefits that have ranged from about $2,000 to, in one extreme case, $60,000 for the homeowner. For many, keeping the contents and materials from a 2,000 or 3,000 s.f. house out of a landfill are the benefits of conscience they really seek.

Identifying elements that run the gamut from switch plates to appliances, interior and exterior doors, windows, wires, bathroom and light fixtures, wood flooring, kitchen cabinets and bathroom vanities, all of which are reclaimable, Hughes said his firm also looks for material like asphalt shingles which can be “crumbed” at an asphalt plant and used in road patch on highways and in parking lots. Wood can also be ground up for bike paths and mulch. In short, nothing is left of the house except the masonry walls and a broom-swept basement, if there is one Hughes said, adding that when the excavator comes in behind them, masonry that includes concrete, bricks, cinderblock, kitchen and bathroom tiles–considered “clean masonry”–can also be recycled.

A Home for the Hardware

According to Hughes, finding a home for deconstructed items became an evolving, major issue existing almost from DeConstruction Services’ inception. Content, initially, to contract with Virginia’s Alexandria and Chantilly-based Habitat for Humanity, which would send volunteer-coordinated and driven trucks to pick up extracted elements, Hughes said he quickly learned that depending on volunteers, though they may have the best of intentions, can be challenging at best.

“We were taking down these houses and perfecting it to a point where it’s all like clockwork,” Hughes recalled, noting that sometimes the truck didn’t come, his crew forced to stack disassembled kitchen cabinets and counters in the middle of the floor while taking down the drywall and ceiling plaster above them. “Even with tarps, it wasn’t helpful for the product,” he said of the thick dust and debris that accumulated. Switching over time to Hyattsville, Md.’s Community Forklift, which sells new, used and recycled building materials and more to the D.C. metropolitan area at fractional prices, problems arose when they couldn’t always accommodate lumber due to limited warehouse space. “We’d have taken the whole framing package down on a house–got it de-nailed and everything else–rafter length pieces, joists, 2x4’s, all of it–and had it sitting in the front yard,” Hughes said. “We had a couple of times where we had to bite the bullet and it went to the dump.”

Confident there was a better way to ensure the fruits of their labor would circumvent the landfill on their way to the public, in 2008 Hughes founded ReBuild, a 501(c)(3) organization that recycles and repurposes deconstructed material at greatly reduced prices through its Springfield, Va. warehouse, and which opened for business in March of 2009 (wife Linda often pinch hits as a cashier on busy Sundays). Not content to stop there, ReBuild’s multi-mission agenda includes community education in the form of weekly green workshops on weatherizing, beekeeping, repurposing kitchen cabinets, organic gardening–anything to do with affordable sustainability. “The other idea is to make money off of ReBuild and use that to train at-risk workers in green collar jobs,” such as geothermal system installation, storm water management, wetlands restoration and asbestos abatement, Hughes explained, saying there are currently about 10 jobs offered for training on their list, with programs in four or five already executed.

“The heart and soul of what we’re all about is more than keeping materials out of landfills and reclaiming it for all the reasons you’d think of,” Hughes said. “We’re also about saving people’s lives.”

The Smallest Condo

Sure, an expansive penthouse with a view is ideal - but, for those of us not born Rockefellers there's a need for something a little more diminutive. To the Everyman we showcase the ideal home for less-is-more 2011: the smallest condo for sale in DC, a 274 s.f. condo in Glover Park on the market for $175,000.

The 82-year old subterranean condo - the size of a Potomac McMansion closet - somehow features a separate bedroom, "little desk," and even boasts a "hidden" stacked washer and dryer within its newly renovated walls. The urban vista from the 3 small casement windows is serene, with an arboreal view (on your tiptoes), overlooking the trunks of mature shrubs and an alley. The living space is essentially a large kitchen, saving the owner money on a couch, coffee table, and wall art.

"These places sell themselves, but this one has been a bit trickier," says Sarah Brodsky, the listing agent. The property has been on the market for more than 6 months despite the newly refinished hardwood floors, built-in bedroom cabinets, and new kitchen. While hoarders may find lack of floor space discouraging, the appliances are as good as in condos 3 times the size. And so what if Starbucks' handicapped accessible bathroom is larger? A new owner can do the laundry, wash the dishes, and cook dinner, all from the same spot. Now that's true luxury.

3520 W Place, NW
Washington DC, 20007

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The (Distant) Future of Getting from Home to Work in DC

Equity Residential unveiled the latest gadget today in its "flagship" apartment building, a recharging station for electric cars, a move it hopes will have instantaneous appeal to apartment dwellers and, someday, practical application for commuters. Equity demonstrated the new charging station at 425 Mass, which opened last year as Equity's highest priced apartment building in the DC Metro area, and has already generated its own positive charge after buying out defunct Broadway Development and leasing 40 of the 557 units per month on average, making it now 68% leased. But that doesn't photograph as well as a new Tesla, and promoters had one on hand to demonstrate how an electric vehicle owner could plug in, swipe their credit card and, for $1 - $3 per night, recharge sufficiently for most DC area commutes. Equity touted the feature as one of its "environmentally conscious" design features, and will soon offer Zipcar as another green alternative. The message: live in style here, drive in style nearby, and save money, time and the environment. The $109,000, fully electric Tesla Roadster can charge in 3.5 hours at the high voltage outlet now at 425 Mass, or in half a day (1 hr per 5 miles) at a typical 110v outlet (adapter included). The plug-in station is currently available only to building residents, but several other charging stations such as at the Capitol Hill Hyatt offer public stations, and sites like offer apps to find the nearest station. The Roadster - "the smoothest acceleration on the planet" - says a corporate rep, needs no oil, gas, and almost no servicing, but don't expect to see a garage-full soon. Only 2 of the building's 560 spaces are sequestered for it's lone charging station, and even promoters know to take a distant view of the technology. "The cars just aren't there yet" says Andy Kinard of CarCharging, which installs the stations for free and gives Equity a kickback on sales of electricity at the plug. CarCharging and Equity plan a slow roll-out together, with stations to open in Boston and Seattle as "testbeds" to gauge and prime the market. Kinard sees the future of voltage-powered autos in "smart" technology in multi-family buildings and public garages, where the plug feeds usage data to the power source and shows its location to the public. But this is the company's first DC locale and it has no immediate plans for a second. Equity, the largest owner-operator of apartments in the country with 133,000 units, is well-placed to guide the technology but is not rushing headlong into the market, though it can quickly add more plug-in stations if needed. Equity also owns 2400 M and 1210 Mass, and is "increasingly focused on urban core, mixed-use" property, says Area VP Robert Grealy. Equity entered the DC market in 1995 with a portfolio purchase of the Artery Group's apartment buildings, garden-style apartments it has been shedding in favor of "higher quality" residences since 2005. Washington DC real estate development news

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Developer Submits for 500-Apartment Virginia Square Project

The Dittmar Company is preparing for another large residential project in Virginia Square. TBD reports that the Vienna based developer has plans to build about 500 apartments in two buildings next to the Amelia, a 102-unit building it completed in 2009. The site is one block from the Virginia Square Metro, and largely unoccupied, one of the last sizable empty lots along Wilson Boulevard.
The site plan submitted by Dittmar requests two buildings, a 12-story building along Fairfax and a 6-story building fronting Wilson, divided by an extended 9th Street, the street extension is a concept called for in Arlington's Virginia Square Sector Plan. Arlington planners say the initial concept shows two U-shaped buildings facing outward, with a shared interior courtyard divided by 9th Street with pavers connecting the courtyard halves, a concept that would imply a slower, pedestrian-favoring 9th Street. The buildings would share an underground parking garage connecting the two buildings beneath the street, which would likely require a developer-owned street with city right-of-way.As with past projects, Dittmar has chosen SBE Associates for design of the building. Developers would not comment on the project, at all. "We normally don't talk to anyone from the press, ever, so there's no one to speak with" informed a receptionist, but planners say the untalkative developers plan for retail on the first floor, but that the "swing space" retail might yield to apartments. Planners called the site plan submittal "the very beginning" of the process; the next step is review by the Site Plan Review Committee, which could happen over the next several months.

Arlington, Virginia real estate development news

Monday, January 10, 2011

DC's Islands to Reopen - Better, Greener, Smarter

50 acres of island in the Anacostia River will soon reopen to the public, now with more federal dollars, a new educational mission, and a greener look. Kingman and Heritage Islands, both closed last September for a makeover, will come back online within the next week as recreational parks with a mandate for environmental education, and a new federal law to fund restoration and education.

The islands have had their challenges - begotten from a polluted source, the islands were created from the residue of dredging excessive agricultural sedimentation that gummed up the Anacostia, the never ending recipient of the trash-laden effluvium. Kingman (42 acres) and Heritage (7 acres) are now in the midst of a restoration that will eventually add 3 outdoor classrooms spaces, a 9/11 memorial grove, outdoor seating, and observation deck. Preservationists will add a nursery where the public can make their own contribution with tree plantings, and habitat restoration will remove a host of invasive species - from trees to groundcovers - and replace them with "an extensive list" of native species.

Lee and Associates, a DC based landscape architectural firm, is working with the District to give the parks a more natural aesthetic, while keeping the visitor center, hiking and biking trails and building environmental workshops in "outdoor classrooms." Access points are being improved - from both sides of the river - at Benning Rd. and from RFK stadium (parking lot #6). Living Classrooms, hired by the District in 2008 to manage the parks, provides the educational element with environmental instruction throughout the school year and volunteer opportunities in the summer, highlighting the challenges of environmental stewardship in an urban setting. "We see the trash flow down the river," says Matt English, Kingman Island Programs Coordinator for Living Classrooms, of the distant tidal forces that raise the water levels up to 3 feet, "and then we see it flow back up."

But thanks to more federal largess - President Obama just signed a bill providing funding to restore the Anacostia River ecosystem - and to educational efforts, conservationists hope that will be a decreasing problem. Footbridges to both parks allow for ample public access when the parks reopen. Matt English says the next event is scheduled for the Martin Luther King holiday, so the team is working to finish the first of three phases before that date. "Fingers crossed," says English.

Washington DC real estate development news

Saturday, January 08, 2011

The Wine Man Cometh

By Beth Herman

It's his time, by design. For venerated former French pastry chef Michel Richard (writer’s note: in the 1980s, my Valley girl friends and I doubled our Jane Fonda workouts due to weekly pillages of his S. Robertson Blvd. patisserie in L.A.), reinventing himself as a celebrated Hollywood restaurateur, and then again in Washington, has had several iterations, but maybe none as personal as his latest venture: Michel.

Hanging his toque in the former Maestro (restaurant) space at the Ritz-Carlton, Tyson’s Corner, Richard encouraged his friends at Group Goetz Architects (GGA) to use a pinch - or maybe a gallon - of alchemy in creating a space that naturally reflected his signature style and food, but genuinely trumpeted the wine connoisseur within. With his D.C.-based Citronelle and more moderately-priced and GGA-designed Central, restaurants representing a more high-end and down-in-the-(Manhattan) boroughs kind of ambience, respectively, the concept for Michel is more bistro than urbane, though Richard’s sophisticated palate and passion for the grape are manifested in its velour fabrics and deep, sumptuous colors.

"He wanted the look to be contemporary but also like going to a winery, a vineyard,” said GGA Principal Al Gooden, noting the celebrity chef’s robust personality and penchant for randomly seating himself at a table to ask surprised diners how he’s doing. “He’s not interested in your coming, eating and going,” Gooden continued, explaining that the traditional measure of restaurant success is the quick turnover. “He wants you to make an event of it.”

Wood, Walls and Wine

Located off the 4th floor Ritz Carlton lobby, the 4,800 s.f. Michel came together in a warp speed-like 14 weeks, thanks to Forrester Construction Company, with a magic budget of about $800,000 (far less than most high-end restaurants of its ilk). The space boasts a 19-ft.-tall glass wine room displaying all of the restaurant’s wines, adjacent to the space’s entrance stairs, and at the bottom of the stairs, where the maĆ®tre d’ is posted, a pickled grey wood wall – actually a large sliding door – swings out and becomes a total opening, according to Gooden, with the effect both dramatic and contemporary. For the first image as diners enter the restaurant, which takes into account what Gooden called Richard’s “unproclaimed logo: the tossing of plates” (echoed in Citronelle and Central), the architects used LED lighting to illuminate a 6-foot stack of translucent plates, 3 feet in diameter, which appear to float as they are tossed into the air. In the dining area, raised leaf-pattern bolsters in a light green color, such as one might see in a vineyard, complement burgundy banquettes and mahogany tables redolent of wine country colors. Built for 124 patrons, which includes the option to incorporate 16 seats of a private dining room directly into the space, Gooden said among the room’s focal points is the 9x3½-foot chef’s table made of honey-colored alabaster with deep purple veining. Strategically backlit (it glows), the team decided to suspend the table with cable using one small leg to stabilize it.

Retaining the previous restaurant’s coffered ceilings, the architects removed crown molding and added silver leaf which they uplit so that it sparkles like champagne. A white tensile fabric, suspended from the ceiling in individual bowl-like fashion, contains LED lighting that meanders from various purples to greens to ambers, and an open kitchen design makes diners a part of the process. “Michel wants you to have a real experience here,” Gooden affirmed. “The funny thing about the space is that the color scheme, lighting and selection of materials is very regal,” he said, acknowledging his client’s homage to quality and great wine, “but the seating and placing of elements are all very casual – very relaxing.”

Energy, Efficiency and Eggs

Avoiding landfills by retaining some of Maestro’s elements for sustainability purposes was paramount in Richard’s plans. To that end much of the older kitchen equipment - such as grills, steaming pots and fryers - was refurbished, with the addition of more efficient burners. Various functions of the Ritz’s current restaurant kitchen (or room service restaurant kitchen, as Gooden referred to it), shared space with the former Maestro kitchen, and Richard elected to maintain the shared facilities, such as the dishwashing area, though some Energy Star equipment had to be purchased. “It saves energy and saved hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of construction,” Gooden said. “It was a very good move.” In best practices form, any new woods used in the restaurant space, including the entrance’s grey pickled wood wall, were reconstituted and came from within 500 miles. Adhesive for the ceiling’s silver leaf was low-VOC, carpeting has a minimum 30 percent recycled product and fabrics and finishes were all local and readily available.

Noting that the firm really had two clients, Richard and the hotel, Gooden said Ritz-Carlton, owned by Host Hotels and Resorts, was adamant about being involved in the design and all approvals. “The restaurant is, after all, only accessible through the hotel, without its own entrance,” Gooden explained, adding that the corporate design team was present throughout the entire process. “They were definitely active, which worked out really well because the great thing is they are really excited,” he said, noting the plan to position Michel, which the restaurateur has designated his flagship, as a “destination restaurant,” with customers coming to dine and then perhaps deciding to stay over (the opposite of most hotels). Additionally, like his predecessor in the space, Richard has elected to serve breakfast, as well as lunch and dinner, to perpetuate the D.C. “power breakfast” paradigm, but ideally with his own signature patisserie offerings – the hallmark of his early career.

“We teamed with a lot of really good people to make this happen,” Gooden said of the project. “You can sit down and totally focus on the experience.”

Photo credit: Len Depas and Sokol Kokoshi

Friday, January 07, 2011

District Condos Construction Monday

While the rest of the real estate world is still rubbing its eyes and trying to take stock of 2011, development work is racing ahead in some quarters. Take JBG, for instance, which let fly yesterday that it would start building Rosslyn Commons in two weeks, and today said that it and partner Grosvenor are starting work on their other high-visibility condo project - District Condos - on Monday.

A source within JBG says groundbreaking for the 125-unit, Shalom Baranes designed building, is in fact scheduled for Monday on Logan Circle's trendy 14th Street. JBG will also incorporate the former AIDs clinic at the southern end of the lot for additional retail that will wrap around the corner of S and 14th Streets. The Chevy Chase developer has teamed with Toronto-based Cecconi Simone Inc. and local retailer Vastu for interior design and finishes, respectively. Unit sizes will trend smaller than might have
been built a few years ago, with a preponderance of 1-bedroom condos, respecting the more conservative outlook (fiscal, of course) of the average buyer in the neighborhood, where turnover of small units tends to be quick even at a more pricey range than is found in adjacent neighborhoods.

JBG had earlier predicted that construction would commence at the end of 2010, and the site still has to be cleared of the buildings that are not being preserved, putting delivery well into 2012. Sales are expected to start sometime in the late spring.

Washington D.C. Real Estate Development News

NCPC Takes Action on District Development Plans

The National Capital Planning Commission met yesterday and approved a series of amendments to the Comprehensive Plan, a roadmap for the District's urban planning and economic development. The Commission also deferred action on design of the last section of Georgetown Waterfront Park and approved a series of changes to the District's zoning laws governing building heights.

NCPC, which has the authority to block land development by the District that impinges on the federal land, agreed to allow more than 100 amendments to the Comprehensive Plan, last modified in 2006. The changes were submitted by the District's Office of Planning and set Washington DC's development priorities. Approved amendments include:

-Prioritizing development of the Center Leg Freeway (pictured) and Burnham Place behind Union Station,

-A resolution to encourage more transit-oriented development within the District, as well as a generalized support of public transportation options such as increased bus, bike, and pedestrian accessibility.

-Various modifications to the environmental impact of development, including support of the Kyoto Protocol,

-Proposals under the Capital Space plan to better link District and Federal parks and develop a shared database to report issues, inform the public, and manage the parks,

-Concept approval for development of a Marriott hotel and retail center (pictured, at right) at the corner of Michigan and Irving Streets. Developers have long sought to build out the 5-acre federally owned parcel next to Catholic University, and

-Increase density along Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue, SE.

The Commission put off until its February meeting review of the National Park Service plan for the last section of the Georgetown Waterfront Park, stretching from Thompson Boat Center to the Kennedy Center. The final phase of the project includes a resurfaced asphalt bikeway, a new asphalt-tile pedestrian promenade, and replacing the Sycamores now on the site.The Commission also approved a report to the Zoning Commission regarding proposed text changes to the city’s zoning regulations on permitted uses and building heights. In 2007 the District undertook a comprehensive review of its zoning regulations, last updated in 1958. The approval does not change overall height limits in DC, which are governed by federal law, but bring the code up to date to better reflect current ideas and technology.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

JBG Announces Rosslyn Multi-Family Start Date

The JBG Companies has said it will begin construction of its 474-unit Rosslyn apartment project on January 25th. The Chevy Chase developer plans to build 25 four-story townhouses and two high rise apartment buildings with a small retail space on the Clarendon Boulevard site that until recently held a 8 two-story apartment buildings.

The town houses and two L-shaped towers (12 and 13 stories) were designed by Bethesda-based Architects Collaborative. Fifty-five of the apartment units will be subsidized. Both apartment buildings (Sedona and Slate) are expected to be LEED Silver Certified, and both residential towers will include a rooftop pool, rooftop club room, and rooftop fitness center. Tower Two will showcase "a more modern design...with neutral colors, clean lines, boutique lobby, European-styled kitchens (flat panel kitchen cabinets with modern door pulls, white Corian or quartz countertops, dark/light cabinets (with dark or light hardwood floors), alternating by floor." JBG has not yet stated whether the market-rate units will be sold as condominiums or rented.

The 4-story townhouses have been designed as a buffer to blend the development into the surrounding garden-style apartment complexes, and the super-block split by a landscaped pedestrian plaza, Clarendon Blvd. to 16th Road North. JBG has selected Clark Construction as the general contractor.

Arlington, VA Real Estate Development News

Your Next Place...

By Franklin Schneider

Some people like old, vintage items with character; tattered jeans and scuffed boots and classic cars. Others prefer the newest, glossiest, and most up-to-the-minute; the latest smartphone, a pair of pristine running shoes fresh out of the box, that still have that “new car” smell. This condo is for the latter group. Located in the newly-constructed Trevelyan House on sedate Ogden Street in Columbia Heights, this unit is like an iPad that you can live in. Even the building's white brick exterior and weirdly minimalistic shutters make it look like an Apple product.

The two-level interior is all muted tones and burnished steel handrails and recessed lighting. There are two bedrooms and two full baths; in the bathrooms, the sinks look like stacked slabs of porcelain, a mini-Stonehenge that you can spit into. The kitchen is equally sleek; I kept waiting for a robot to ask me what I wanted to drink. There's also a private patio and wireless is, of course, included in the condo fees (that may sound insignificant, but think about it for a second – no more hassles with Comcast, and what's more important than internet? My gas went out and I didn't miss a beat, I just turned on my space heater and ate out. The last

time my internet went down I felt like I'd been buried alive.) Columbia Heights still has a really cozy neighborhood vibe (translation: parking is impossible), and is close to pretty much everything, except for downtown. But then why would you want to go there? Downtown is for old people.

1436 Ogden St NW

Unit 3

Washington, DC 20010

2 Bdrms, 1.5 Baths


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Historic U Street Building to Get New Life

A historic and vacant building on U Street - first a post office, more recently a night club - will now be redeveloped with office space and retail in mind. Local developer Rock Creek Property Group purchased the early 20th century building at 1438 U Street for $2.75m on December 29th and is working through ideas on how to convert and market the site.

RCPG principal Gary Schlager says his team is looking at several options for the site, focusing on retail and non-profit uses with the potential for a residential development on top. "It's an ideal not-for-profit headquarters location, for lease or purchase. On the retail side we'd like to bring in a national or regional user, versus a nightclub, a user that contributes to the block in some way, like a bank branch or furniture store." Rock Creek Property Group purchased the site from The Harbor Bank of Maryland as a foreclosure after other groups had the building under contract but were unable to bring it to settlement.

Schlager adds that the 12,000 s.f. building has the zoning capacity for 25,000 s.f., leaving open the possibility of residential levels above. "That's something we're just exploring as a possibility. We're about to start marketing the property, and we're testing the viability of each use." The structure was most recently home to Station 9 nightclub, and Schlager says the group will start interior demolition of the fixtures and infrastructure from that use within the next 30 days. "We're going to be exposing the brick on the will be very cool and hip," a welcome contrast to the nightclub's interior design choices. RCPG is the sole owner of the building and will be using its in-house construction team for the demolition.

Washington DC real estate development news

The War On Windows

By Beth Herman
Designing a 5,900 s.f. home for his own family in Bethesda, Md., interior designer I. Michael Winegrad, of I. Michael Interior Design, decided to travel a controversial road when building for himself – strictly without an architect. The three bedroom, three full and two half bath home, still under construction, and which includes the designer’s office and library with a separate entrance in its finished basement, is an exercise in creativity and independence for Winegrad, who admittedly tires of battling architects and mending their mistakes.

“It’s a touchy subject”, Winegrad said, “but most of the time architects and interior designers don’t agree about how to design a house and really don’t like each other for different reasons. I’m continually fixing problems,” the designer said. “Quite simply, as an interior designer, our job is to manipulate, control and create the interior environment in which one works or lives. We work from the inside out,” said Winegrad, whose portfolio includes residential, hospitality, commercial and religious projects in greater D.C. and throughout the world. “An architect works from the outside in.”

The Charge of the Light Tirade
Citing a litany of issues including a ubiquitous window placement flaw perpetrated by architects, Winegrad said it is standard for an architect to fenestrate with eastern or western exposures, contingent on light and view. “If you have them facing sun or view,” he said, “and then the homeowner moves in on that first day, when the sun comes up or sets, depending on the room, they can’t sit there – they can’t use the room because the sun’s in their eyes.” In addition to that, sunlight can promote intense heat gain in the summer, taxing HVAC systems and the environment. It will also fade fabrics and bleach artwork and rugs, he indicated, adding that he generally espouses a northern and/or southern exposure.

Speaking to other fractious design issues, Winegrad said he can’t begin to count how many phone calls he gets from people who say they “… don’t know how to dress this window, don’t know where to seat the furniture, or can’t put their TV in the bedroom,” all because architects are not sensitive to where windows ought to be, where doors ought to be, how furniture lays out properly. “How many times have you seen a fireplace on a 45-degree angle in a house?” he asked. “They do it for various reasons because buildings have clipped corners and curves,” he explained, “but nobody can use those spaces.”

Blinging the Barracks
Residing in Darnestown for about 10 years before breaking ground in Bethesda, Winegrad revealed that his former house, “a Colonial on a cookie-cutter block,” was part of a development, but at an increased cost he’d been able to prevail upon the builder to allow him to customize to some extent, in part by moving windows around to open up wall space. Recalling that neighbors commented consistently on the differences between the Winegrad house and their own, where in some cases they’d been forced to situate furniture so as not to block windows, where light fixtures were consequently off-target and displaced furniture narrowed a room considerably, Winegrad said analyzing how design and construction need to work for the homeowner right out of the starting gate is vital to creating a livable space.

For the designer and his family, an issue with two adults sharing a bathroom (an admittedly universal problem with humidity from a shower precluding effective use of a hair dryer, mirror, etc.) precipitated the creation of a master bath in their new Bethesda home that boasts a common spa-like shower, but with his and hers dressing rooms, each with its own sink, hair dryer, mirror and space for clothing. In the family room, floor outlets eliminate running electrical and extension cords around furniture and under rugs, and slot windows frame a flat screen TV area. “It’s enough for daylight, but not enough to interfere with where the built-in unit goes or create glare on the screen,” Winegrad explained. A linear gas fireplace is anchored on both sides to give it balance, and traffic flow is considered with the seating group easily accessed, unlike a lot of rooms the designer said he sees where one must enter around the backs of a couch and chairs. Due to architecture-related issues, things can’t practically or aesthetically be configured another way. The designer’s own new home reflects and promotes an active family’s lifestyle by facilitating traffic flow, diffusing Mid-Atlantic sunlight and its thermal effects, eliminating conventional though unused rooms (there is no living room because Winegrad said their Darnestown living room was very rarely used) and increasing kitchen space to accommodate family activities and entertaining.

Make Lofts, Not War
“Right now, I’m doing an expensive waterfront condo where it’s a battle to get the rooms to work because there are silly little niches that are the result of a column in the wrong place,” Winegrad said. “You can’t put up draperies because they ran the ductwork in the wrong place,” he continued, adding the dining room isn’t wide enough for a dining room table. “You could step back and look at a photo of that building from the outside and you could admire it, and you might like the materials, but then you go inside and see the inherent design problems,” he said, noting condos are often poorly designed.

“I think the idea is to have an interior designer lay out the room– where windows and doors are; where the TV needs to go; where sunlight comes in; do you have to scoot around something to get to a closet–all so you don’t have to fight with anything,” he explained. “This is what’s really going to dictate the success of your space."

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