Sunday, May 13, 2012

Your Next Place


 If you want a house that you can impress your parents with, this is absolutely the one.  Everything about this place is refined, understated, sophisticated, and excruciatingly classy.  Not one off note.  If you bought this place and brought your parents here, they'd just get real quiet and then look at you in a way they've never looked at you before and then break down in tears apologizing for all the mistakes they made raising you, like when they got you knockoff "Nikeys" in fourth grade because "no one will notice anyway."  (At least that's how it goes in my daydream.  In reality, my parents would just look around, nod, and move in.)

The powder blue living room is expansive and features several large windows and a fantastic white fireplace; the dining room is elegant and more than large enough for any size family.  The kitchen has been recently renovated, and it shows; right next to the classic woodwork are the latest gleaming top-of-the-line appliances.  You can also see the park from the kitchen windows, so you can gaze out at nature's glory as your Pork n' Beans simmer.  My favorite part of the house was the "pub room," which was being used as an office, but could be used as, well, a pub.  With brick floors and an awesomely weathered wooden bar and a grille for grill(e?)ing, this would be hands down the greatest man cave of all time.  There are even some beautiful french doors that lead out to the patio, for when someone needs to vomit.

Upstairs are two equally masterful master bedroom suites, each outfitted with a full luxurious bath and excellent closets.  A lot of places have one incredible master suite and then a lesser one, but here, both people can have a suite that preserves their secret belief that they are superior to the other person.  As I get older, I'm convinced that this is the key to a lasting relationship.  That, and having secret affairs.

3510 Whitehaven Parkway NW
2 Bedrooms, 3 Bathrooms

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Today in Pictures - Silver Spring Library

View from Fenton Street. Source: Pre-proposal Slide Show

The new Silver Spring library, on the shelf for more than a decade, is nearing a decision on a general contractor, a step that should allow it to begin construction this fall, with hopes of a late 2014 opening.

New renderings feature the layouts and perspectives from project architects Lukmire Partnership.

The library is planned as a 5-story, cast- stone building at Fenton Street and Wayne Avenue. A pavilion with a glass facade facing Fenton connected to the main building at the top of the second floor creates a covered path for the future Purple Line to pass through.

The project officially broke ground in August 2010. Ground work and utility relocation underway now aim to keep the project moving forward and avoid future delays.

Silver Spring real estate development news

Your Next Place


I've been going to open houses for a while now, and I admit I'm a little jaded.  Usually my reaction to a place ranges between polite, bored indulgence (i.e. the face women make when you try to hit on them in Whole Foods) or outright curled-lip disgust (i.e. the face women make when I try to hit on them in Whole Foods).  I'm hard to impress.  But this place - this place made me outright giddy, back to my first innocent days of open-housing.  (Cue Madonna's "Like A Virgin.")

I mean, look at it.  Never will you find another place like this.  The extraordinary top floor in the Dove House Mansion, this place is to attics what Tom Cruise is to short guys.  Exposed beams and skylights combine for an incredible dramatic effect, and every room in the house is completely distinctive.  As soon as you step off the private elevator (yes, that's right), you're struck not just by the sheer size of the place (downright amphitheaterlike), but by how much there is to look at.  Every nook and corner and area has a little unexpected touch, whether it's an angle or a light fixture or, in the case of a master bathroom, a life-size statue of a horse on top of the vanity.

The kitchen features stainless steel appliances and granite countertops, and the master bath has an awesome double sink vanity.  The master bedroom is lofted, so you can look down on your kingdom, and there's also a private balcony so you can look down on, well, Dupont.  And priced at just under 770K, you can bet it won't be on the market long, so start begging the in-laws for another advance on the ol' inheritance.

1740 New Hampshire Avenue NW #NH-G
2 Bedrooms, 1.5 Baths

Washington D.C. real estate news

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Kalorama Apartment Building Impresses HPRB, On Track for 2012 Groundbreaking


A five-story, nine-unit apartment building planned for a vacant parcel at 2225 California Street, NW in the Sheridan-Kalorama historical district has passed an important hurdle and could break ground before the end of the year.
"HPRB basically approved the concept," confirms Don Malnati, a partner on the project at MMG.  "We're onto geotech testing, stuff like that.  The next step is permit plans; we'd like to have foundation/grade permitting first, so we can maybe start digging before the complete building permit comes through.  It's hard to say, all these processes take anywhere from two to six months.  At any rate, it's a by-right building, and we're within the zoning codes, so at this point it's mostly just technical."

Plans for the project, from MMG and designed by Ralph Cunningham of Cunningham Quill, met with moderate resistance from community members at an HPRB hearing earlier this year, on issues ranging from the design itself to the placement of the proposed building to the impact on a garden on the site. The proposed building "is inspired by the classical vertical proportions and tripartite fa├žade organization prevalent in the neighborhood’s buildings while being contemporary in detailing," with three horizontal bands of different-colored brickwork denoting each story. Plans call for one unit on the ground level, with two units on each of the upper levels, and two penthouse units with access to a rooftop terrace.
The building will sit off-center on the lot, directly on the party wall of the smaller rowhouse, with a 12.5 foot side yard separating the building from the larger apartment building at 2219 California.

Predictably, this caused some consternation from the owners of the rowhouse. Of particular note is a light well on the facing side of the rowhouse which will be completely blocked off by the new building; upon questioning, MMG reps said preserving the well, possibly through the use of glass wall, was "not feasible." Don Hawkins, an architect representing the owners of the rowhouse, made a forceful plea for "any relief at all" from the board, claiming his clients' house lost 40% of its value when the MMG project was announced. He also noted wryly that "they [MMG] have been responsive to every request we've made, except the one for them to go away."

In response, MMG reps noted that zoning required them to pick a side ("You can't just build in the middle") and that, as they saw it, the many windows on the facing side of the apartment building at 2219 took precedence over the more limited exposure of the rowhouse. They also pointed to their extensive cooperation with the neighborhood on the particulars of the project - meetings with the ANC, with the Sheridan-Kalorama Historical Association, an on-site meeting with locals - and even went so far to promise consideration of community suggestions on facade materials.

This was a reccuring theme from even the sharpest critics of the project - the developers, it had to be said, had engaged the community, and this engagement seemed to take the edge off of what could have been a very contentious meeting.

The vacant parcel is home now to a garden, and Jim Pepper, a retired National Park Service employee who lives nearby, made an impassioned pleas on its behalf, calling it "historic" and a necessary element of the neighborhood's aesthetic. But despite his efforts, the board ruled that the project is “not incompatible with the character of its location,” and recommended final approval.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

MoCo Planners Ponder Move to Wheaton


Talk about walking the walk; Montgomery County planners may promote the redevelopment of Wheaton they have been pushing by moving their own headquarters to downtown Wheaton.
The county council approved a redevelopment plan last month that would build a new 150,000 square foot headquarters for M-NCPPC at Grandview Avenue, Reedie Drive, and Triangle Lane, a site now used as a surface parking lot.  The project would be financed by the county's Capital Improvements Plan.

Financing sunk the planning department's previous attempt at building a new headquarters - the now-defunct SilverPlace.  First conceptualized back in 2006, SilverPlace was to include 300 residential units, lush public greenspaces (below right), and the planning headquarters on 3.24 acres.  Details were exhaustively worked out in conjunction with community members, only to falter when it came time for the county council to approve the financing plan.

"On SilverPlace, we worked very hard with the community," recalls Dan Hertz, project manager at Montgomery County Department of Parks, who worked on the project.  ""We wanted to respect concerns about an office building next to an existing neighborhood.  The plan we came up with called for two wings; a low-rise next to the existing community, and then a taller component facing Crown Plaza.  But we were going to fund it by borrowing money with certificates of participation (COPs), which had to be authorized by the county council.  But there was concern about the recession, so it didn't get the votes."

With the economy kinda sorta turning around now, has there been any talk of reviving SilverPlace?

"No," says Hertz.  "The county has been really encouraging us to go into Wheaton."  And this time, the financing plan is structured differently, in such a way that the county council might find more much more palatable.  "This new plan would be funded with general obligation bonds, which is like the county itself is taking on the debt."

Wheaton, which has lagged behind the rest of MoCo despite a surplus of developable real estate and the presence of a metro station, has seen a major wave of redevelopment as of late.  There were virtually no residential units in downtown Wheaton near the metro station before 2004; now there are nearly 700, with many more in the pipeline, from Patriot Realty's Safeway/residential project on Reedie to Washington Property Company's 221 units on the former site of the First Baptist Church of Wheaton, to B.F. Saul's Wheaton Triangle project that could potentially bring a million square feet of office/retail/hotel space to the area.

Wheaton, MD real estate development news

Monday, May 07, 2012

Woodmont Central Office Building Up for Bid, Construction to Begin Midsummer


Donohoe Development's Bethesda office building at 8280 Wisconsin Avenue, one of three components of the developer's ambitious Woodmont Central megadevelopment, went up for bid last week, with an eye towards breaking ground in midsummer.

"Right now we're pricing it among subs as a GMP [Guaranteed Maximum Price]," said an estimator at Donohoe.  "Assuming things go forward as planned, it's supposed to start construction in July."

The rectangular six-story building, designed by WDG Architecture, will feature just over 81,000 square feet of office space, including 10,500 square feet of ground floor retail.  Developers anticipate LEED Silver certification. In renderings, the Wisconsin-facing facade is a visually interesting massing of planes, mostly metal and glass with a few precast concrete panels for contrast.  On the northeast corner is a vertical element that denotes the entrance to the Battery Lane District.

The first phase of the Woodmont Central project, the Gallery of Bethesda, kicked into gear last month, when demolition began at 4800 Auburn Avenue, the planned site of the residential tower.  That 17-story building will feature 234 dwellings, just under 200 below-grade parking spaces, and 4600 s.f. of ground floor retail space.  A second 16-story residential tower is also planned at 4850 Rugby Avenue, separated from the Gallery of Bethesda by a large plaza, but is reportedly still in the design development stage.

Bethesda, Maryland real estate development news

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Your Next Place


Here we have a rock-solid classic old rowhouse that's been extensively renovated inside.  It's like a mint-condition '57 Chevy that when you start it up, you realize can also fly and shoot lasers from the headlights.

The living room, right off, is sleek and modern, with recessed lighting and a simple, open layout. The openish staircase leads up and down to the four bedrooms (the basement one has its own entrance too), all of which are roomy and very bright.

The kitchen is clearly the crown jewel of the house, and very large, with stainless steel appliances and granite countertops and even a little mounted television, so you can get super absorbed in "Judge Judy" while your three-cheese macaroni silently carbonizes in the oven.

The kitchen opens out, via twin glass doors, onto a fine wooden deck that overlooks a flagstone patio and a wide grassy yard.  Behind that is a sizable detached garage, for parking cars in, or using for band practice when your midlife crisis hits.  (Just please remember to lock the doors.  I'm still traumatized from walking in on my dad and his coworkers in the garage, years ago, as they were covering a Sublime song.)  It's also within walking distance to Eastern Market, and H Street, which is my new favorite nightlife neighborhood, if only because I know my ex is too lazy to ride her bike all the way out there.

430 10th Street NE
4 Bedrooms, 3 Baths

Friday, May 04, 2012

Heated Discussion Ends In Trillium Site Approval


In a slip-of-the-tongue Thursday afternoon during the developer’s presentation at the Montgomery County Planning Board Meeting, Harris Teeter was named as the grocery store slated for the StonebridgeCarras residential and retail development at the Trillium Site in downtown Bethesda.

Residents speculated and hoped for various stores including a Harris Teeter and Whole Foods, but it had not been confirmed before today.

In a heated discussion, the StonebridgeCarras team proposing a 9-story, 360-unit apartment building for the recently purchased Trillium Site pushed back against a few key conditions placed on their proposal by Montgomery County Planning Commission staff: calculated vehicle trips and required gateway architecture.

The site, filling the block along Battery Lane between Woodmont and Wisconsin avenues, is designated as a gateway in the master plan, requiring special treatment to the building along both Wisconsin and Woodmont. Neither side disputes that fact, but they do disagree on how to indicate the gateway.

Staff wants special treatment to the corners of the building along the streets, and they argue the special treatment is in the center of the development. Developers say they intentionally created understated, stepped corners to meet the requirement and used different techniques in the center to draw the public into the public space.

The Board weighed both arguments and ultimately decided to allow the developers to keep their deign.

Staff received a handful of community comments that focused on the lost arts incubator space in the new plan,  but that feature was not added back into the development.

With the new plans approved, Stonebridge can continue moving toward development.

Bethesda, Maryland, real estate development news

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Silver Spring Library Taking Construction Baby Steps

The new Silver Spring Library, nearly 13 years in the making, is finally nearing construction as crews now work to relocate "dry utilities."

View from Fenton Street. Source: Pre-proposal Slide Show
Don Scheuerman, section chief for project management at the county's Division of Building Design and Construction, said building permit applications were submitted, and staff is reviewing interested contractors, a list he expects to publish in about 30 days.

"We’ll do an invitation to bid with those contractors," Scheuerman said. "Once we get that in, hopefully we’re off to the races."

Scheuerman could not comment on the number of contractors who expressed interest, but the sign-in sheet from a February pre-submission meeting includes representatives from 23 different companies.

A slide show from that meeting shows another new design and layout from project architects Lukmire Partnership.

View from intersection of Fenton Street and Wayne Avenue.
Source: Pre-proposal Slide Show
The library now is planned as a 5-story, cast- stone building at Fenton Street and Wayne Avenue. A pavilion with a glass facade facing Fenton connected to the main building at the top of the second floor creates a covered path for the future Purple Line to pass through.

The library will occupy the top three stories. Pyramid Atlantic will use the first two floors and the basement.

Initial designs released in 2009 showed a taller building with County offices on the sixth floor and library meeting space on the seventh floor.

The County has been working on the new library since at least 1999 when it approved funding. When completed, the new library will replace the existing Silver Spring Library -- the County's oldest community library.

View along Wayne Avenue. Source: Pre-proposal Slide Show
The project officially broke ground in August 2010, but only site preparation was begun. Ground work and utility relocation underway now aim to keep the project moving forward and avoid future delays.

"By doing that now, that will hopefully allow construction to proceed more rapidly," said Susanne Churchill, senior architect project manager for the library.

She said she hopes to start construction this fall. Total build-out should take about two years for a late 2014 opening.

Silver Spring, Maryland, real estate development news

NoMa's Capitol Square Hotel to Break Ground This Summer


 Phase One of JBG's long-delayed Capitol Square mixed-use megadevelopment is finally set to break ground, with future phases scheduled for completion over approximately the next five years.

"The first phase of our Capitol Square project, a 200-room Hyatt Place hotel, is scheduled to start construction this summer and be complete by the end of 2013," said a source at JBG.  "The office, residential, and retail will follow in future phases."

Capitol Square will go up on the triangular wedge of land bounded by New York Avenue, First Street, and North Capitol Street, currently the site of the defunct New York Avenue Car Wash, nightclub Mirrors, a Covenant House youth shelter, and an older office building, also named Capitol Square (a name so catchy they had to use it twice).  Phase one, represented by the aforementioned hotel, will be located on the west end of the site, adjacent to where Covenant House is currently located.  The massive new office-residential-hotel-retail project will eventually bring over 2 million square feet of leasable space to NoMa, including 85,000 square feet of ground floor retail space.  Capitol Square is one of four properties in the District being developed under the umbrella of JBG Urban, a multibillion-dollar joint venture between JBG and real estate investment management firm MacFarlane Partners.

The project represents a major step in the continuing revitalization of NoMa which, despite all the hype, is still very much a work in progress.  While various real estate brochures and promotional literature like to cite the area's sizeable daytime population (NoMa BID estimates 40,000), this number glosses over the fact that after the proverbial closing time whistle, NoMa still becomes eerily quiet, though this and many other projects in the works will do much to amend that reality.

The area's bottleneck entrance from the north will presumably be alleviated by street improvements that are part of the Capitol Square project, as well as MRP's upcoming Washington Gateway project at nearby New York and Florida Avenues, which promises a "European plaza experience," featuring widened sidewalks, promenades, and sidewalk cafes.  NoMa has come a long way from when the term "neighborhood" could barely be applied to the area, but for now it remains a work in progress.

Washington, D.C. real estate development news

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Planning Board to Consider New Trillium Site Plans


New plans for a single 9-story apartment building with  a grocery store and a public plaza at 8300 Wisconsin Ave. will make its way Thursday to the Montgomery County Planning Board.

StonebridgeCarras submitted its amended plans for Bethesda's former Trillium site back in January, and now it will seek approval from the Board. StonebridgeCarras and Walton Street Capital purchased the site in early 2011 for $29.25 million from Houston-based Patrinely Group, which had planned to build three residential towers designed by Davis Carter Scott.

Northwest-facing view from Wisconsin
StonebridgeCarras now plans a U-shaped building designed by WDG Architecture with up to 360 apartments - nearly double the Trillium plan - and 55,000 s.f. of retail encompassing a 22,000 s.f. public plaza that extends to the adjacent National Institutes of Health open space.

Ellen Miller, principal at StonebridgeCarras, said the apartments will range from efficiencies to large three-bedroom units - the size and price of which are not finalized.

The plan amendment submitted to the Board shows 30 efficiency, 185 one-bedroom, 127 two-bedroom, and 18 three-bedroom units. Of those, 45 units -- or 12.5 percent -- will be moderately priced dwelling units (MPDUs). Patrinely planned 198 units in its three buildings.

Intersection of Woodmont and Battery Lane
A grocery store Miller declined to name will anchor the building with entrances at the intersection of Woodmont Avenue and Battery Lane with a second entrance from the public plaza. Parking for 599 vehicles will be located on four levels below ground.

Removed from earlier plans is a 2,000 s.f. arts incubation space, a reduction that community groups opposed, but the developers say it no longer fits the project.

"We did try to consider how such a space might work in that location and in this project," Miller said. "In the end, we believed we had a different approach to the site. We had a use that was a magnet. We believe we have provided a beautiful public amenity space that has a very rich art component."
South-facing view from Wisconsin with NIH open space in the foreground

Instead, developers are working with Kent Bloomer Studio to bring a variety of artwork to the site. Miller said she hopes to present new renderings Thursday that better illustrate the integration of art.  At least five sculptures from other artists also are included in the plans.

The linear plaza will have a series of water features and various seating options for public use, and steps will lead down into the NIH open space.  More images of the plaza can be found here.

Planning Commission staff recommend approving the amendments, with some conditions such as streetscape improvements, an executed traffic mitigation plan, and using signs and focal points to draw people into the public space.

The Planning Board is scheduled to review the plan amendments at 2:15 p.m. Thursday.

Bethesda, Maryland, real estate development news

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

AdMo Hotel Gets New Look, Pushes Forward

Plans for the hotel addition to the Adams Morgan Historic Hotel have a new look, a new design team - and no shortage of comments on both - at yet another Historic Preservation Review Board meeting.

The Board again will hear community testimony at its May meeting before making a decision about the plans to develop at the First Church of Christ Scientist building on Euclid Street. Dozens of residents attended the March and April meetings for their chance to speak, but two meetings was simply not enough time to hear them all. Another 45 minutes will be designated for the project in May when the Board might finally get its chance to ask some questions and cast a vote.

Barbara Mullenex, principal at OPX Global, presented its latest plans in March showing a more subdued, red brick masonry building with light steel windows behind the century-old church that itself is under consideration for historic landmark status. The new building is 90 feet tall on Euclid Street but steps back as the land slopes down 13 feet toward Champlain Street. A 3-floor, mostly glass, 28-foot hyphen joins the two buildings.
Click here for more renderings

Friedman Capital Advisors and national hotel developer Beztak Companies first introduced plans for a 180,000 s.f. "boutique hotel" four years ago. Marriott signed on to manage the hotel as part of the Edition line of boutique hotels created in conjunction with Ian Schrager's hyper-sophisticated brand. But Kevin Montano, head of development for Edition, said the developers terminated the Ian Schrager agreement several months ago.

The Adams Morgan Historic Hotel website still lists Marriott as the hotel management. Brian Friedman did not return calls or emails requesting information about the project.

New construction behind the (not yet designated) historic church will provide space for guest rooms, parking and other more private facilities. The church will be refurbished and repurposed for a restaurant, ballrooms and community room open to the public.

The Board provided concept review for the project in July and November of 2008 when Handel Architects presented a mostly glass building with colored panels. According to the latest Historic Preservation Office staff report:
"In its two concept reviews in June and November 2008, the Review Board offered a range of comments to improve the compatibility of the project. Those comments focused on: 1) increasing the distance and visual separation between the church and the addition; 2) ensuring the connection was light-weight in feeling and lower in height than the church’s cornice line; 3) redesigning the porte-cochere and vehicular access to the addition to ensure it did not extend over to the side yard of the church; 4) shifting the mass of the addition away from the church to the greatest extent possible (moving it further down Champlain Street and/or concentrated at the rear/west side were specifically suggested); and 5) articulating the building’s all-glass elevations so that they didn’t appear flat, monolithic and looming behind the church building. It has been based on this guidance that the HPO has worked with the applicants over the past 18 months to ensure that these points of concern have been addressed."
The building is more clearly separated from the church, the glass connector is much shorter and transparent, vehicle traffic moved to a redesigned porte-cochere that fits better with Champlain Street, massing shifted away from the church, and masonry replaced most of the glass.

The Historic Preservation Office staff report "recommends that the Board find the revised concept to be compatible with the proposed landmark and consistent with the purpose of the preservation act..." If the Board follows that recommendation, it is fairly certain members will offer tips for improvement as plans develop. The real problems could occur with zoning.

Residents who dislike the plan seem to focus on two big factors – height and community impact.

This fall, the Office of Planning sent a report to the Zoning Commission including concerns about the building’s height. The Zoning Commission agreed in November to set down the proposal for a hearing but also expressed its own height concerns.

Designs changed since November based on recommendations from the Zoning Commission such as colors and massing. But the overall height dropped only two feet to fit within current zoning limits, leaving even more uncertainty about whether a high-end hotel can be a good-enough addition to AdMo - the District's preeminent late night bar scene. 

Washington, D.C., real estate development news

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