Monday, September 15, 2014

Soccer Stadium Forurm Tonight!

This was mentioned on my Twitter feed, but there will be a forum hosted by SWNA this evening at Arena Stage, starting at 7pm to discuss the proposed soccer stadium in Buzzard Point for DC United.  Members of the DC Council and the ANC will be present, as well as representatives from DC United, the Gray Administration, and the CBCC, which is working on a Community Benefits Agreement for the stadium.

Rendering courtesy of DC United

Monday, September 8, 2014

Wharf Construction Update

At tonight’s ANC 6D meeting, representatives from Hoffman-Madison Waterfront provided an update on progress at The Wharf. Construction began in April on phase one, which covers the area from 7th Street to the Maine Avenue Fish Market. Following is a summary of the latest on construction: 

Demolition is about 75% complete along the 700 to 900 block of Water Street, including Zanzibar, the Kastles Stadium site, and Phillips Flagship. Work on the marina side is eight weeks ahead of schedule with piles completed for the new Capital Yacht Club and work underway for the Transit Pier and District Pier. About 8-10 piles are driven into the Washington Channel per week, with about 130 piles needed to complete pier construction. 

Meanwhile, demolition will begin later this month at St. Augustine’s Church and a large storm drain will be relocated before construction begins in late October to early November on a 108-unit condo building. Construction of the new church will begin in early 2015 and Waterfront Park will begin construction in the spring of 2015. The church and park will be completed around the same time – the first quarter of 2016. The large Copper Beech tree on the church’s property will be relocated to the site of the Maine Lobsterman statue in the future Waterfront Park to the south. The statue will be put in storage until phase one of The Wharf is complete and will be reinstalled near the Maine Avenue Fish Market. 

The former Channel Inn will soon be the temporary home for the Capital Yacht Club, The Wharf’s marketing center, space for master planner Perkins Eastman, the construction office for Clark, and the corporate offices for PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette. In addition, the cafeteria space will be converted to a café operated by the proprietors of Jenny’s Asian Fusion restaurant. Jenny’s Asian Fusion will close on September 28 from its current location on the waterfront and will relocate to a smaller café space at the Channel Inn sometime in December. 

Over by the fish market, a new parking lot will open by mid-October, which should alleviate some of the parking issues on the east side closer to the Channel Inn. Also, pedestrian and bike access will soon be diverted from the south side of Maine Avenue to the north side between 7th and 9th streets. The construction team will soon begin posting weekly updates of their traffic control plan.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Playground Construction Date Near at Randall

If you’re a kid in Southwest, play options in the neighborhood have improved recently and will soon get even better. After more than a year of delays, the Randall Recreation Center playground at South Capitol and I streets will become the latest District playground to be revamped under DPR’s Play DC initiative when construction begins later this month. In addition to the Randall playground, the King-Greenleaf Recreation Center playground will also be renovated this fall. Last month, the 3rd & I Street Park adjacent to the Southwest branch library was renovated and a playground was added. In the last two years, a playground was added at Syphax Gardens and the play equipment at Amidon-Bowen Elementary was replaced. 

The renovations at Randall will cost over $1 million to complete and will begin on September 15 with completion before the end of the year. Improvements include: new playground equipment for all ages, renovation of the existing basketball/tennis courts, removal of asphalt and brick walls and installation of a new splash park and seating areas in the plaza area fronting I Street, a skate park, walking path, adult exercise equipment, drinking fountains, picnic & game tables, security lighting, fencing, landscaping and gates. The park funding had been in limbo since 2013 when KIPP unsuccessfully lobbied to build a charter school on the site. Subsequently, the Office of Planning conducted the Southwest Neighborhood Plan, whose final recommendations should be released this fall. 

Rendering courtesy of DPR

Monday, September 1, 2014

A Few Quick Labor Day Items: Doggie Day Swim, Wells' SW Office Hours, M Street Yoga Opens ths Week, Waterfront Academy Starts Classes, Wharf's Search for $$

DPR and the Department of Health will host the sixth annual DPR Doggie Day Swim on Saturday, September 6 from 12pm to 4pm. One of the pool facilities that will participate is Randall Pool at South Capitol and I streets. Admission is free; however, all dogs must have a valid, DOH-issued DC dog license to enter the pool. Licenses will be issued on site, however dog owners must have all the required documentation (proof of rabies and distemper vaccinations; and proof of spaying/neutering) and fee payment. Only money orders or personal checks are accepted (no credit cards nor cash), made payable to "DC Treasurer." The cost of the license is $15 for dogs that are spayed/neutered and $50 for non-spayed/neutered dogs. 

Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells will not have September Southwest Office Hours since the Council is in recess until September 15. The next Southwest Office Hours will be on Thursday, October 2 from 8am to 9:30am at the Southwest Safeway (1100 4th Street). 

M Street Yoga will finally start offering classes next week on the ground floor of Carrollsburg, a Condominium’s North Building at 300 M Street. Ahead of the start of classes on Thursday, there will be an Open House on Wednesday, September 3 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm. The studio’s website recently went live, where classes can be scheduled. 

Waterfront Academy, the new dual immersion Montessori school opening this fall at 60 I Street, has hired its teaching staff for the 2014-15 school year. Karina Trejo will serve as the Spanish Montessori Primary Guide; Garry Robert will be the Bilingual Catechist; and Concepcion Roque will be the Primary Assistant Catechist. The trio joins Head of School Rebeca Shakleford. The first day of school will be on Tuesday, September 2 and the Grand Opening will take place on October 2 at 6:30pm. 

Photo courtesy of Waterfront Academy (foto cortesía de Waterfront Academy) 

An article in Capital Business profiles Amer Hammour, executive chairman of Madison Marquette, one of the developers of The Wharf. The article mentions how Hammour had to travel around the world to find financing for the project. From the article: 
One colossal Chinese firm expressed interest, and after Hammour and Hoffman made their pitch, the chairman declared that instead of investing he would buy the entire waterfront and build a five-story shopping center. “He happens to be one of the richest guys in the world, period,” Hammour said. “And he comes in and makes it clear that, you know, he’s going to own this project. And then talks about what he wants to do with the project, which is completely unrealistic. We had to explain to him that, to build a Chinese-like shopping center like that on the Potomac might not be a great idea.”
Imagine the reaction if that idea went anywhere...

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Will Fannie Mae Reconsider Southwest for its HQ?

It was reported in the Washington Business Journal and the Wall Street Journal that mortgage finance giant Fannie Mae is selling its headquarters building in Upper Northwest and wants to consolidate its operations in leased space closer to downtown DC. Fannie Mae is looking to move to their new headquarters over the next two to three years, so they have the option of leasing in existing space or new construction. Almost a decade ago, Fannie Mae was planning to be the anchor tenant at Waterfront Station, but financial troubles put the kibosh on those plans and they remained at their current headquarters. Subsequently, the District government decided to lease both buildings in phase one of Waterfront Station and the project was able to move forward. Now that Fannie Mae is on the hunt for new space, perhaps it will give Southwest another look? Let’s take a look at their options in Southwest (since the size requirement for Fannie Mae wasn’t disclosed in the articles, the following options may or may not work based on size needs):  

(1) Waterfront Station: There are still two vacant parcels along M Street on either side of 4th Street that are slated for office. The SE parcel is right on top of the Waterfront metro station and both buildings have plans for ground floor retail. Waterfront Associates won’t start construction on either of those parcels until it secures an anchor tenant. Since Fannie Mae was already planning to move to Waterfront Station at one point, this location probably has a leg up on the competition. 

(2) The Wharf: Alternatively, Fannie Mae could opt for office space at The Wharf, which started construction in March and won’t be complete until 2017. There is an office building planned in Phase One of construction (Parcel 3A) facing Maine Avenue and a second building could be built closer to the Maine Avenue Fish Market (Parcel 1) if Hoffman-Madison Waterfront found a tenant. The Graduate School USA was originally going to occupy the Parcel 3A building, but backed out of the deal a couple years ago. The Wharf was a contender for The Washington Post, but ultimately the media company decided to move only a few blocks east from its current headquarters building downtown. 

Rendering courtesy of Hoffman Madison Waterfront

(3) The Portals: Republic Properties has an empty parcel at The Portals that is next to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel on the 1200 block of Maryland Avenue. In addition to the hotel, there are three office buildings that have already been completed at the complex. A Portals address would give Fannie Mae execs sweeping views of the Tidal Basin and high visibility from the traffic that comes into the city daily on the 14th Street Bridge. 

(4) L’Enfant Plaza: The JBG Companies has plans to build a 220,000 SF, LEED-Gold office building at 500 L’Enfant Plaza that will offer direct access to the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station and connect to the retail area that was recently upgraded. The building would be south of the under-renovation L’Enfant Plaza Hotel, adjacent to the 9th Street tunnel.

Rendering courtesy of The JBG Companies

(5) 400 6th Street: Trammell Crow is currently building a 12-story, 342,000 SF office building at 400 6th Street, located across the street from Constitution Center and one of the entrances to the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station. If Fannie Mae moved here, it would be near other financial-related tenants including the Federal Housing Finance Agency and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency; however, the site is not as prominent as some of the other options in Southwest. 

Rendering courtesy of Trammell Crow

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

'Nonuments Park' Under Construction


Over the past week, site work has been underway to transform the District-owned NE parcel at Waterfront Station into Nonuments Park, designed by Lance Fung and part of the 5x5 Project. The gravel pathway has been torn up and a more “permanent-looking” design is being built. On Saturday, volunteers gathered at the site for the Mud Dance, an event to create seating out of cob for the park. Photos from the Mud Dance are available here

In addition, the winner of the Portrait Garden lottery was announced. The garden is now named the Alpha Lillstrom Portrait Garden. SW-resident Alpha Lillstrom’s LinkedIn Profile states the following: 
Strong policy and advocacy background having worked on the Hill as well as in both private and non-profit health policy sectors. Principal of Zhende Strategies, a health policy consulting practice, after having served as Senior Director of the Cancer Policy Institute at Cancer Support Community, and before that was Senior Policy Advisor and Counsel for Health care, Judiciary, Education, Immigration and Government Affairs while working for Sen. Jon Tester of Montana. 
 The garden will be created this week by artist Jennifer Wen Ma in the likeness of Lillstrom and the opening reception for Nonuments Park will be on September 6 from 11am to 1pm.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

3rd & I Street Park Reopens as a Playground

After more than four years of dealing with DC government bureaucracy and fundraising, the library park at 3rd and I streets, SW opened yesterday, which marks the completion of phase one of the Southwest Playground Project (SWPP). The SWPP is a project of the CBCC and was championed by Southwest resident Felicia Couts. In an email to supporters announcing the playground’s opening, Couts stated the following: 
“I’m so thrilled to report that the construction fencing is down and the 3rd & I Street Park is open for use! Children and neighbors of all ages have already stopped by to check out the new play equipment, sit on the new benches and enjoy the park!” 

Construction took a little more than seven weeks to complete; however, the playground was a long time coming. Back in 2010, a group of parents came up with the idea to build a centrally-located playground in the neighborhood since there was a dearth of play space for young children at the time in Southwest. With other members of the community joining the parents’ group, the SWPP was born. The group eventually settled on building the playground at the park located at 3rd and I streets, adjacent to the Southwest branch library. This location was chosen because of the synergy that could be created between the library and the playground. In addition, the park is located between public housing and middle class housing, and could serve as a bridge between the two areas where neighbors can interact. 

The SWPP first tried working with Kaboom!, a non-profit organization that builds playgrounds across the country. Due to technical issues with working with the Department of Parks and Recreation, the SWPP did not move forward with Kaboom! and instead tried to work with Make Kids Smile, Inc., a local non-profit. The playground equipment used by Make Kids Smile, Inc. was not compatible with the Gametime equipment preferred by SWPP, so the group ended up working directly with DPR and the Department of General Services to hire a contractor to install the play equipment. The selected play equipment is suited primarily for kids ages 2-5 and has a nature theme, including swings, a slide, spinning leafs, mushroom-shaped stepping stones, and climbing bars in the shape of a butterfly. 

The park prior to construction.

In 2011, the SWPP hosted a “Draw Your Playground” design competition with students at Amidon-Bowen Elementary, which is about one block away from the 3rd & I Street Park. The students were able to show through their drawings that they wanted features such as swings, slides, a bike rack, and a water fountain at the playground. First place went to Edugwu Agada, second place to Jostin Garcia and third to Vanquisha Smith. In addition, a series of charrettes were held in the community to gather further input on the design of the playground. The original intent was to have a Community Build Day, but the city decided to have a contractor build the playground instead for liability reasons. 

An initial budget of $50,000 for playground equipment ballooned to $720,000 once it was discovered that significant infrastructure improvements were needed at the 3rd and I Street Park, including grading, utilities, and drainage. Not to mention the need to hire an architect. The SWPP raised over $100,000 on its own through donations from individuals and local businesses, but the infrastructure improvements necessitated city assistance. After some lobbying, $350,000 was secured in the District’s budget to close the funding gap and allow phase one to be built. 

Phase one included pruning and removing dead or dying trees in the park, as well as grading the site; retaining walls along the center berm area; fencing along I Street, SW and portions of 3rd Street and Wesley Place; playground equipment and soft surfacing were installed in the center berm area; and utilities work. A second phase will cost $270,000 and is still unfunded. The second phase will include storm water retention; more retaining walls; and repaving and scoring of the sidewalks. Two other playgrounds in the neighborhood are supposed to be upgraded later this year as a part of the Play DC Playground Improvement Initiative, including ones at King-Greenleaf Recreation Center and Randall Community Center. A ribbon-cutting ceremony will be announced soon for the 3rd & I Street Park.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Permits Filed for Waterfront Station Apartment Building

As reported yesterday in the Washington Business Journal, Waterfront Associates filed for building permits and expects to start construction on their planned 11-story, 365-unit rental apartment project at 1001 4th Street in November. This is the NW parcel at Waterfront Station, located to the north of the newly-opened Masala Art Indian restaurant. The building has been designed by Perkins Eastman and there will be a mix of junior 1BR, 1BR, 1BR/Den, 2BR and 2BR/Den units. In addition, 12 two-level townhouse units with 2BRs will be built with private entrances facing the new private drive and Makemie Place to the west. Approximately 5,000 square feet of retail space will be located on the ground level along 4th Street. The WBJ article describes some of the minor changes that were made to the building since the PUD was approved by the Zoning Commission almost a year ago: 
Glazing was removed, windows re-spaced, balconies shifted and roof structure materials changed from “high pressure laminate panel” to more durable horizontal wood plank. Also, a rooftop tree grove consisting of six trees has been added to the pool deck and the ground floor now includes a large lounge, dining and "hearth" rooms. 
This will be the fifth of eight buildings to be built or renovated at Waterfront Station. So far, two office buildings fully leased to District agencies have been built with ground floor retail and the two former EPA headquarters buildings have been transformed into Sky House apartments. The NW parcel building is scheduled to deliver in the second half of 2016. 

Rendering courtesy of Waterfront Associates

'Nonuments Park' Will Soon Take Shape

On Saturday, August 23 from 12pm – 10pm, Washington Project for the Arts (WPA) will host Mud Dance, a free event which will allow the community to help make seating for the Lance Fung-designed Nonuments temporary park, to be built at Waterfront Station on the District-owned NE parcel on 4th Street (and possible location of a new SW branch library) as a part of the 5 x 5 public art project. Nonuments is described as “a temporary sculpture park featuring ‘monuments’ devoted not to the great but to ordinary people, to the ideals of democracy, and to the common struggles of humanity.” The benches will be constructed out of cob (a mixture of mud, straw, and recycled materials) and involves stomping on the mixture, hence the name Mud Dance. WPA asks that Mud Dance participants wear comfortable shoes and clothes that can get muddy. All ages are welcome to attend and there will be music. Food will be served at 12pm and 6pm between cob-making sessions. 

On the same day as the Mud Dance, the name of a DC resident who was chosen by lottery to have their portrait made into a garden at Nonuments Park will be unveiled. Artist Jennifer Wen Ma will create the garden and volunteers are needed to help build it on the following days and times:
  • August 23-24: 12pm – 6pm 
  • August 25-29: 9am – 1pm and 4pm – 8pm 
The rain date for both events will be on Sunday, August 24. 

Nonuments will be on display this fall and the opening reception will take place at Nonuments Park on September 6 from 11am to 1pm. Check out 5 x 5 for more information on events surrounding Nonuments, Ceremonies of Dark Men at Arena Stage, and other 5 x 5 projects throughout the city. 5 x 5 is a project of the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

AppleTree Trailers Arrive at Jefferson

Trailers have been set up on the abandoned tennis courts, located at 7th and I streets at Jefferson Academy to accommodate classrooms for AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School and utility work is underway. It was reported back in April that the charter school would have to close its two Southwest campuses at Amidon-Bowen and Riverside Baptist Church. AppleTree was looking for a temporary home until their new space is ready at The Wharf in 2017, so ANC 6D commissioner Stacy Cloyd wrote a resolution that was unanimously approved to urge the District government to allow the charter school to place a temporary trailer on the abandoned tennis courts at Jefferson Academy, located across the street from Riverside. A complication in the idea to put trailers in the tennis courts is that Jefferson Academy is scheduled to begin a modernization program in 2016, so Principal Natalie Gordon’s support for allowing the trailers there was conditioned that their presence not interfere with, or delay for any reason, the planned modernization of Jefferson. Some restoration work was recently done to the cupola of Jefferson, which is now illuminated at night and more work will be done on the campus starting in 2016.