Monday, May 14, 2018

Unity Clinic Demolition Underway

Demolition is progressing at the former Southwest Health Center site at 850 Delaware Avenue. The Unity Health Care clinic closed there back in September 2017 and was relocated to 555 L Street SE in Navy Yard/Near SE/Capitol Riverfront in early 2018. Once demolition is complete, construction will begin on the Ward 6 Short-Term Family Housing project, which will bring a 50-unit facility for homeless families to the site with a maximum occupancy of 166 people. The shelter will be a seven-story building and is designed by Studio 24 Architecture. Amenities will include space for on-site wrap around services, dining room, computer lab, laundry facilities, common rooms, and play areas. A health care facility is also planned in the building, which will occupy a portion of the first floor and basement. The entrance to the clinic will be on I Street while the shelter entrance will be on Delaware Avenue. The planned health care facility may or may not be run by Unity. 

Rendering courtesy of Studio 24 Architecture

Friday, May 4, 2018

More Apartments and Community Center Planned at Waterfront Station

(This post is a portion of an article that appears in the May 2018 Hill Rag)

Waterfront Station and before it the Waterside Mall has served as the Town Center for the Southwest Waterfront neighborhood for decades. It contains the neighborhood’s only grocery store, as well as a pharmacy, restaurants, and professional services, including a dentist office. Two office buildings fully occupied by District government agencies and three rental apartment buildings are currently in place and a future phase with more rental apartments, retail, daycare center, and a black box theater is planned on the northeast parcel. Two other parcels have yet to be developed, which flank 4th Street and are located adjacent to the Waterfront Metro station entrance. 

The original stage one Planned Unit Development (PUD) approval for these two sites at 4th and M streets was for office, but developer Forest City has requested a change to residential. Its reason for the change in use is due to unfavorable conditions in the office market. The state of the office market has changed significantly since the Waterfront Station development was originally conceived in the aughts. Previously, the development was intended to be primarily office, with less retail and minimal residential. Prior to the Great Recession, Fannie Mae was going to move its headquarters to Waterfront Station, but they pulled out in the wake of financial troubles at the quasi-government agency. Over time, the plan for Waterfront Station has evolved in favor of more residential and retail and less office. 

Rendering of planned 375 M Street building

In its current proposal, Forest City plans to develop a 285-unit rental apartment building on the east parcel (375 M Street) with 18,830 square feet of ground floor retail along M Street and the Metro plaza, 32,400 square feet of commercial space intended for professional services tenants on the second floor, and a 6,000 square-foot community center on the first and second floors. This would be the third community center located in Southwest, joining the Randall Recreation Center and King-Greenleaf Recreation Center, but it would be the only one without adjacent recreation fields. The community center was proffered by the developer to win approval from ANC 6D, which was originally lukewarm to the idea of changing uses at the two remaining parcels at Waterfront Station from office to residential. As a part of the PUD, the developer has offered the community center rent-free for a period of 30 years and will contribute up to $565,000 for interior design and fit-out, furniture, fixtures, equipment, and initial start-up costs. 

Rendering of planned 425 M Street building

On the west parcel (425 M Street), the plan is to develop a 310-unit rental apartment building with 21,203 square feet of ground floor retail along 4th and M streets. The main residential entrance will be located at the northeast corner of the building. In both buildings, 8% of the floor area will be reserved for residents earning up to 60% of Area Median Income (AMI) and of that total, five units will be 3BR apartments. Under this proposal, the east parcel will be developed first, allowing for the west parcel to remain open space until the completion of the 325 M Street building. Part of the west parcel will house a trailer that will be the interim Southwest Branch library while a new library is built in its current location at 900 Wesley Place. 

For its part, the ANC has offered conditional support for the PUD. Portions of the PUD that the ANC supports include the community center, as well as the redesign of the project which provides less density and more setbacks than the original office design, a retail strategy, and traffic plan. However, one of the concerns brought by Commissioner Roger Moffatt, whose single-member district includes the 375 M Street site, was the ability for mom and pop retailers to occupy smaller spaces at the proposed development. It has proven to be difficult to get smaller retailers into the previous phases of the development since the buildings would not allow a tenant who needed less than 1,200 square feet to occupy space. While the U.S. Postal Service is not a “mom and pop” retailer, it was used as an example of a tenant that was unable to relocate to Waterfront Station because its need for a 900 square-foot space could not be accommodated. Other outstanding issues brought by ANC Vice Chair Andy Litsky include the selection of the community center operator and clarification on the “free rent” provision to include HVAC and electricity; improvements to public space at the Metro plaza; a traffic plan for the 4th and M streets intersection; placement of the Metrobus and Circulator bus stop along M Street; and other logistical concerns. 

The Zoning Commission will continue the hearing on May 10th and a final decision on the proposed development is expected in the coming months.

Renderings courtesy of Forest City

Thursday, May 3, 2018

Former Engine 13 Demolished

The former DC FEMS Engine 13 building at 6th and E streets has been demolished to make way for a mixed-use development by E Street Development (h/t to reader Ben). A raze permit was filed back in November for the building. E Street Development is planning a 253-key citizenM hotel on the site, as well as a 194-unit mixed-income rental apartment building, and 10,750 SF of ground floor retail. The residential portion of the project will include 58 affordable units (ranging from 30% to 50% of Area Median Income) for seniors ages 62 and older and 136 market-rate units for all ages. E Street Development won the rights several years ago to develop this parcel, along with a vacant site cattycorner to it on 4th and E streets, which became a Hyatt Place hotel with a new Engine 13 firehouse on the ground floor in 2015. 

The block where the former Engine 13 building was located also was where MPD’s First District headquarters used to be, which was on the northwest corner of 4th and E streets before it was relocated to the former Bowen Elementary School building along M Street in 2009 and the city’s Consolidated Forensic Lab was built in its place. 

Rendering courtesy of E Street Development

Friday, April 27, 2018

Buzzard Point Nominated as Opportunity Zone

Last week, the District government nominated 25 Census tracts to be Opportunity Zones and one of those was Census tract 6400, covering a portion of Southwest including all of Buzzard Point. Census tract 6400 is bordered by Delaware Avenue and Fort McNair to the west, South Capitol Street to the east, M Street to the north, and the Anacostia River to the south. The nomination was the result of tax cut legislation passed last year by Congress, which created a federal program to facilitate investment and job creation in low-income urban and rural areas. In the District, a majority of the nominated Census tracts are located in Wards 7 and 8 – the only nomination in Ward 6 is the Buzzard Point area. According to a press release by DMPED: 
The tracts were selected with a focus on bringing new investment to communities most in need of jobs, commercial activity and amenities by leveraging actionable investment opportunities. As certain benefits end in 2026, census tracts with projects ready for investment were given greater consideration as the sooner funds can be deployed, the greater the value. 
Census tract 6400 falls into this category – billions of dollars’ worth of development is planned, but the area is currently lacking in jobs and opportunities for residents. According to Census data, the unemployment rate is over 15% and 2016 median household income is $23,485. This compares to the 20024 ZIP code median household income of $75,703.  While Audi Field is seen as a driver of recent activity in Buzzard Point, the Opportunity Zone designation could potentially put development in this area of Southwest into overdrive.  Whether this new designation ultimately helps current residents get jobs and climb out of poverty remains to be seen...

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cambria Hotel & Suites Reportedly to be Built in Buzzard Point

A Cambria Hotel & Suites will be built in Buzzard Point on Half Street, less than two blocks from Audi Field according to an article in the Washington Business Journal. The WBJ story states the site is on the northwest corner of the intersection of Half and Q streets, which currently contains nine rowhomes that will be razed for a nine-story, 154-room hotel by Kouza Cos, partnering with Choice Hotels International. Planned amenities include a rooftop bar, gastropub, a 2,500 SF multi-function space, and a fitness center. With a planned opening in 2020, construction will likely begin sometime later this year. 

This would be the second Cambria built in the District and the first hotel in the Buzzard Point neighborhood. A hostel/hotel concept was planned by Carr Hospitality a block away at a taxi repair shop site on the 100 block of Q Street in 2010, long before a soccer stadium was contemplated for the neighborhood, but that project has been stalled. In addition, a hotel could potentially be built on a site controlled by D.C. United, adjacent to Audi Field. 

The planned hotel is across the street from the USA Motors site at 45 Q Street that was put on the market last year by the Zupancic Group and Ian Ruel & Josh Feldman of the Feldman Group, the same group who helped broker the sale of the Cambria site. Since then, 45 Q Street was removed from the market. The Cambria site also on the same block as a planned affordable housing project to be built at the Shulman Liquors site at the corner of 1st and Q streets. Currently, Q Street ends prior to South Capitol Street, but with the new Frederick Douglass Bridge project, a new traffic oval will be created with a connection to Q Street.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Ground Broken for New Douglass Bridge

A ceremonial groundbreaking ceremony was held on Tuesday for the new Frederick Douglass Bridge at the site of the new bridge in Buzzard Point. Mayor Bowser, DDOT Director Jeff Marootian, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, Congressman Steny Hoyer, DC Council members Charles Allen and Trayon White, and Federal Highway Administration DC Division Administrator Chris Lawson were all there and spoke about the project’s benefits. Bridge construction will last about four years with completion scheduled for 2021. Below are some pictures from the groundbreaking event.

DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton
Construction crane at foot of bridge
Mayor Muriel Bowser

Congressman Steny Hoyer (MD)
Chris Lawson with FHA DC Division
DDOT Administrator
Jeff Marootian
Ward 8 Councilmember Trayon White
Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen

Ground is officially broken 

On the way to the ground breaking ceremony, I walked by the construction site of Audi Field, which is still on schedule to open by mid-July. A topping off ceremony was held last month and since then, work has begun on installing the facade of the stadium.  Infrastructure work continues on the roads around the stadium, including Potomac Avenue, which will receive new sidewalks, gutters, trees, and street furniture. Earlier this year, Half Street south of Potomac Avenue reopened to traffic where similar improvements were also made to that street. 2nd Street south of R Street remains closed to traffic as work will be done on that street to create a bike lane and other improvements.

New street lights on Half Street
Beginning of work on stadium's facade

View west of stadium from Half Street
New sidewalk on Potomac Avenue
Street furniture on Potomac Avenue

Monday, February 12, 2018

Mardi Gras Parade and Fireworks Tomorrow

If you weren’t able to make the trip down to New Orleans, there will be a Mardi Gras parade tomorrow along the Wharf Street promenade at District Wharf, starting at 6pm. The parade will begin at 7th Street Park and proceed northwest towards District Square, complete with floats, live music, and bead-tossing. The parade will be followed by a dance party and wine & beer garden at District Pier. A fireworks finale will mark the conclusion of festivities at 8pm. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Update: Below are some pictures from the Mardi Gras parade:

Douglass Bridge Groundbreaking Tomorrow

A groundbreaking ceremony will be held tomorrow for the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge project. Construction equipment has been arriving on site over the past couple of weeks. The new bridge will be constructed about 100 feet to the west of the existing span and will include six vehicular lanes, bike and pedestrian lanes, as well as two new traffic ovals on either side of the bridge on South Capitol Street.  On the west side of the span, the traffic oval will connect South Capitol Street, Potomac Avenue, and Q Street.  The design of the bridge was updated in recent months with three above-deck arches, two piers, and four pedestrian overlooks. Construction of the new bridge coincides with the 200th birthday celebration of the bridge's namesake Frederick Douglass as well as the Year of the Anacostia. During construction, the current bridge will remain open and the new span should be complete by 2021. 

The groundbreaking ceremony will start at noon tomorrow. 

Renderings courtesy of DDOT

Sunday, February 11, 2018

I Street Church to be Redeveloped

Bethel Church DC360 at 60 I Street is slated for redevelopment. Cornerstone Development has plans to develop a 186,000 SF residential building on the church property. The site is located across the street from the Randall School site, which will be redeveloped by Lowe Enterprises and Telesis/Rubell into a modern art museum and residential project. 

Waterfront Academy is located on the second floor of Bethel, so as a result of the church redevelopment and the school’s growth, it is searching for a new home and has embarked on a $13 million fundraising campaign. Waterfront Academy is a dual immersion (Spanish and English) Montessori school with emphasis on charity and stewardship in the Catholic tradition. The school wants to stay in the SWDC area, where it’s been since opening in 2014. Before opening at Bethel, Waterfront Academy planned to locate on the 1200 block of South Capitol Street. 

According to a fundraising email sent by the school, the new space will allow Waterfront Academy to serve at least 135 students each year. The school will be modeled after the traditional Spanish colony and will feature a Chapel, Library, Teacher’s Lounge, Administrative Office Suite, Infirmary, Gymnasium, Kitchen, one Nido (Infant) Classroom, two Toddler Classrooms, three Casa (Preschool) Classrooms, two Lower Elementary Classrooms, two Upper Elementary Classrooms, one Middle School Classroom, and an outdoor plaza featuring an Urban Farm, Outdoor Classrooms, and Natural Play Space. 

Bethel Church DC360 is the latest house of worship to face redevelopment in Southwest. St. Augustine’s at 6th and Maine moved into its new space in 2016, adjacent to 525 Water condos that was developed by PN Hoffman. A few blocks east on M Street, St. Matthews’ long journey to a new home is months away from completion as construction continues on its new sanctuary and adjacent Valo apartment building by Trammell Crow. Riverside Baptist Church at 7th Street and Maine Avenue partnered with PN Hoffman to redevelop their site with space for a new sanctuary along Maine Avenue and an apartment building at the corner of 7th and I streets named The Banks. Over at Westminster Church, the congregation is finalizing an agreement with a developer to build a new sanctuary on the 600 block of I Street along with mixed income housing. One house of worship in the neighborhood that didn’t get redeveloped into housing is the Living Hope Church at 1200 1st Street. The building has been converted into Kadampa Meditation Center Washington DC Temple for World Peace and received a new paint job and signage in recent months. Although the old Friendship Baptist Church at Delaware Avenue and H Street was originally planned to be redeveloped as a condominium project, the developer changed course and leased the space to Blind Whino SW Arts Club. Land adjacent to the church building was slated to become a temporary housing facility for homeless families, but those plans were scuttled and the shelter will instead be built on the Unity Clinic site at Delaware Avenue and I Street.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Buzzard Point News Items

The Washington Business Journal reports that construction of River Point (also known as the former Coast Guard Headquarters building) at the tip of Buzzard Point at 2100 2nd Street is expected to start in the second quarter. Once the project is complete in 2020, the former office building will be converted to a 485-unit apartment building with about 60,000 SF of ground floor retail, most of it facing the Anacostia River. According to the article, targeted retailers include: “waterfront restaurants, retailers, a drug store, neighborhood amenities and a food hall.” Construction will start with gutting the office building to allow more light in the planned residential units.

DC United held a topping off ceremony last Friday for the construction of Audi Field. Fans got to sign the last beam to be installed on the structure. The team’s first match is scheduled for July 14.

Across the street from the stadium, sidewalks around the new Pepco Waterfront substation at 1st and R streets have been opened. One of the public artwork pieces commissioned for the building has been installed at the southeast corner of the substation, located across from Audi Field at 1st and R streets.

A second all-affordable apartment development could be on the boards for the same block of 1st Street after a 76-unit project was approved for the Shulman Liquor site. The High Road Primary & Middle School building for sale on the 1500 block of 1st Street may be used by a developer to satisfy an affordable housing requirement at Capitol Crossing, a major mixed-use development under construction over the Center Leg Freeway (I-395) in Northwest. According to a Washington Business Journal article, the affordable housing requirement for Capitol Crossing would be met by building a 100-unit apartment building at 1530 1st Street for households earning up to 30% and 50% of Area Median Income. Legislation was introduced by D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson back in December which would allow the affordable housing requirement shift to the Buzzard Point site.

Rendering courtesy of River Point Partners LLC