Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Historic Designation Sought for Buzzard Point Power Plant

An application was filed by the DC Preservation League to give historic designation to the decommissioned Buzzard Point Power Plant, an art moderne structure built in 1933 at Half and V streets. The old water intake plant (now the Matthew Henson Conservation Corps building) is also included in the designation application. SWNA submitted an historic designation application for the power plant in 2013, but decided to withdraw it. Ideas for repurposing the power plant building have included an art gallery a la Tate Modern in London or an entertainment facility like Power Plant Live! in Baltimore. 

Interest in Buzzard Point has increased significantly over the past few months once it was certain a new stadium would be built there for D.C. United and the Office of Planning released their Buzzard Point Vision Framework Plan. Recent announcements include: 

In addition, Pepco is building a new substation just north of the stadium footprint at 2nd and R streets. Many of these sites were mentioned as potential development opportunities in a post I wrote back in 2013. We’ll see if any others on the 2013 list will come to fruition soon…

Monday, May 9, 2016

Community Benefits Meeting for The Bard This Thursday

Thursday will be a busy day for meetings in the neighborhood. In addition to a planning meeting for the SW Branch Library, a community benefits meeting will be held for the proposed Bard development at 501 I Street. The meeting will start at 6:30pm at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School (401 I Street). (NOTE: this meeting has been postponed until next week - I'll let you know once I have more details.) A PUD was filed earlier this year for the proposed project, which would include a costume design shop, administrative, educational, and rehearsal space for Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC), with actor and fellow housing and market-rate apartments to be developed above STC's operations by Erkiletian. 

The Bard is nearly three years in the making. Back in the fall of 2013, STC had the site under contract with Graduate School USA. The campus building had been vacant since The Graduate School USA absorbed SEU and the university lost its accreditation in 2009. At first, it was thought that The Graduate School USA would expand its L’Enfant Plaza campus to 6th and I streets, then it was announced in 2011 that the school would become the anchor tenant at The Wharf (that deal has since been cancelled). Afterwards, the SEU campus was put on the market. There were some suitors for the campus, including Apple Tree Early Learning Public Charter School, who wanted to renovate the building for a school, but that proposal never resulted in the sale of the building. Ironically, Apple Tree will now be expanding at The Wharf instead of Graduate School USA. 

Then in the spring of 2014, a raze permit was filed for the campus building, which spurred the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly (SWNA) to file a historic landmark application for the property. The building was first constructed in 1948 for the Metropolitan Police Boys Club No. 4 with a brick exterior in a smaller footprint than what it ultimately became. The building was one of the few that survived urban renewal. Then in 1961, The Hawthorne School (a private co-ed high school) purchased the building, expanded it to the north & south, and clad it in concrete in a brutalist design done by Charles Goodman, the same architect that designed River Park Cooperative Homes. Eventually, declining enrollment and financial difficulties at the school caused the sale of the property to Southeastern University, which operated at the site until 2009. SWNA eventually withdrew its historic landmark application, but in exchange STC agreed to several community benefits, as well as a $60,000 payout to SWNA. The property then was sold to STC and Erkiletian in the fall of 2014. 

During the Southwest Small Area Plan process, it was expressed by the community that zoning for the SEU campus site remain as R-3, which permits matter-of-right development of single-family residential uses (including detached, semi-detached, and row dwellings), churches and public schools. After the Small Area Plan was developed by the Office of Planning, the owners of 501 I Street lobbied the DC Council to rescind this portion of the Plan, but ultimately failed, which left them with the option to file a Planned Unit Development (PUD). The one-acre Southeastern University campus building was demolished last summer and the site cleared in anticipation for development. Several forums have been held with the community over the past three years to gather input which resulted in changes to the development plan. 

Some neighbors of 501 I Street from Townhouse Management I and III have mobilized efforts to try and stop the development, which would replace a two-story building under R-3 zoning with a much denser project (under SP-2 zoning) and has the potential to block sunlight to surrounding residential properties and Amidon-Bowen Elementary School. Yard signs can be found along 6th Street deriding the project and a blog called Out, Damned Developer! Out! has been developed in opposition to The Bard. Andrea Pawley lives across the street from 501 I Street and is the author of the blog, through which her vociferous opposition to the project is channeled. In late January, more than 50 neighbors signed a letter sent to the attorneys representing the development team asking for a delay in submitting the PUD application. This letter did nothing to dissuade the development team, since a PUD application was subsequently submitted in early February. Here is an excerpt from Pawley’s blog in reaction to the PUD submission: 
“Shakespeare Theatre is not responsive to community concerns. Shakespeare Theatre’s Planned Unit Development application is an attempt to gloss over the community’s numerous deep concerns. Shakespeare Theatre’s application also attempts to subvert the Office of Planning’s work with the community to help shape the future of Southwest D.C.” 
The neighbors hired legal counsel and a consultant to undertake a market feasibility study to determine the viability of an alternative plan for the site that meets current zoning requirements. 

According to the PUD application, the redevelopment of the property into The Bard will “complement the existing arts uses along I Street, serving as a bookend to the burgeoning I Street arts corridor.” The project includes 93 market-rate units, nine inclusionary zoning units for households earning up to 80% of Area Media Income (AMI), 29 actor and five fellow housing units (each fellow housing unit will have four bedrooms, which will accommodate up to 20 fellows), with the remaining 43,100 SF dedicated to STC artist studio space, non-profit office space, and educational uses. STC’s costume fabrication studio will be located on the first floor, which will also have art panels along I Street depicting quotations from William Shakespeare. The residential entrance to the building will be at the corner of 6th and I streets and a courtyard on 6th Street will serve as the entrance to STC’s space. Building heights range from 73 feet at the corner of 6th and I streets and steps down to about 42 feet on the northwest side of the site. A total of 70 below-grade parking spaces will be provided, accessible from 6th Street and 85 bicycle parking spaces (75 long-term and 10 short-term). The Bard will be designed to achieve LEED-Silver status. 

Renderings courtesy of Shalom Baranes Associates

Leo's to Reopen This Week

Leo’s Wings N Pizza is scheduled to reopen this week at 7 N Street near South Capitol Street. The carryout restaurant was renovated in 2013, but closed last year. In addition to pizza, wings, pasta, salads, subs, and breakfast items, Korean food will be added to the menu.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Pool Schedule Released

DPR has announced pool and spray park opening dates and operating hours for the summer season. In Southwest, Randall Pool and East Potomac Pool will open on Memorial Day weekend (May 28-30) from 12-6pm. The pools will be open only on weekends through June 12. Starting on June 18, the pools will be open most days of the week, starting at 11am and will remain open until Labor Day (Monday, September 5). Meanwhile, the new King-Greenleaf Spray Park at Canal and N streets will open for the summer on Saturday, May 28, operating daily from 10am-7pm. The spray park will close on Labor Day. 

On a separate note, the SW Duck Pond, which has been closed for construction, is expected to reopen on July 4.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

SW Library Planning Meeting Next Thursday

The first of what will likely be many meetings on the development and design of a new SW Branch Library will be held next Thursday in the basement meeting room of the library (900 Wesley Place). This meeting will be hosted by the SWNA New Library Task Force and the guest presenter will be DCPL Executive Director Richard Reyes-Gavilan. The last time Reyes-Gavilan was at a community meeting to discuss the SW Branch Library, he presented plans to include a new library in the District-owned Waterfront Station parcel on 4th Street as part of a mixed-use development. That plan was met with community opposition, so it was abandoned by the city. Back in March, DMPED announced during its “March Madness” event that a new, standalone library would be built on the same site as the existing facility, which is what many in the community preferred due to the synergy created with the adjacent 3rd and I streets playground and the opportunity to create an architecturally-significant civic building. 

The library meeting on May 12 will be held from 7-9pm.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Running of the Chihuahuas Rain Date is May 7

The 5th Annual Running of the Chihuahuas event at The Wharf was postponed from last Saturday to May 7 from 1-4pm due to inclement weather. The event will be located at 600 Water Street and include food from Sol Mexican, Red Hook, and Captain Cookie food trucks, as well as live music from Phil Kominski. The deadline to register dogs is Friday, May 6, but walk-ins will be accepted until all spots are full. Chihuahuas will only be permitted to run in the races, but other dog breeds can be entered for other contests including “Best Dressed Dog” and “Best Trick.” Admission to the event is free, but the entry fee for dogs to race is $25 per dog. All race proceeds will benefit Rural Dog Rescue, a non-profit organization which rescues dogs from high-kill rural shelters. 

So far this spring, the weather hasn’t been cooperative with events at The Wharf. Back in April, the SW Waterfront Fireworks Festival was cancelled due to high winds and chilly weather. Luckily, the current weather forecast for Saturday’s Running of the Chihuahuas looks promising.

Southwest Z-Burger to Change Names

Following a settlement agreement between two factions of the Z-Burger ownership group, several Z-Burger restaurants will be re-branded in the next couple of months, including the Waterfront Station restaurant, according to the Washington Business Journal. Z-Burger opened next to Station 4 at 1101 4th Street back in 2012. Only one vacant retail space is left at the first phase of Waterfront Station – a storefront adjacent to Station 4. Another 5,000 SF of retail space will be available at Waterfront Station when Eliot on 4th opens late this year or early 2017. In addition, PN Hoffman will bring an additional 22,500 SF of community-oriented retail to their proposed project at the vacant parcel north of CVS. Ground floor retail is planned at the other two remaining office pads at 4th and M streets. Once Waterfront Station is fully built out, more than 130,000 SF of retail will be located along 4th Street.

Monday, April 25, 2016

D.C. United Stadium Demolition Ceremony

An official demolition ceremony was held this morning at the site of the future D.C. United Stadium in Buzzard Point. Speakers at the event included Mayor Muriel Bowser, DC Council Chair Phil Mendelson, Ward 6 Council Member Charles Allen, D.C. United owner Jason Levien and others. Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Brian Kenner stated during his remarks that the stadium project will provide 1,000 construction and permanent jobs, as well as help generate $1 billion in economic activity once Buzzard Point reaches buildout. It’s anticipated that approximately 1 million visitors will come to the stadium per year once it is built – construction will get underway this fall with completion by the start of the 2018 MLS season. This summer, a Community Workforce Coordinator will be hired to help connect Ward 6 residents to construction jobs at this project. Later, a Hospitality and Pre-Apprenticeship Coordinators will also be hired.

Ward 6 CM Allen gives remarks.
Mayor Bowser gives remarks.

A large crowd gathers for demo event.

The 96'ers were in attendance.

I couldn't get to the front row fast enough for the obligatory photo-op.

The District is responsible for horizontal development of the site, including razing existing buildings, utility work, and environmental remediation while D.C. United will build the stadium. There were a few protesters outside of the demolition event, many in face masks, with signs – one sign said “Protect out health, our children, our lives from contamination.” The Buzzard Point area is heavily polluted due to its primarily industrial past. The stadium, along with construction from the new Waterfront Pepco substation directly north of the stadium site, the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, and other sites in Buzzard Point which may be developed in the near future, will require extensive remediation and may cause a lot of dust to form in the neighborhood. In fact, there was what appeared to be an air quality control machine at the event.

Protesters citing environmental issues.
Air quality control machine.

After the speeches, the Mayor donned a hard hat and started demolishing a metal-clad building at 2nd and S streets. Below is a video of Mayor Bowser doing some demo work. Levien and Allen also got their turn at the helm.


Sunday, April 24, 2016

Wharf Update

The Wharf is buzzing with construction activity, as structural steel framing for the new Wharf Hall at Parcel 2 is out of the ground and pillars for the apartment building there are now above ground. Meanwhile, the apartment building at Parcel 4A has now reached the fourth floor and VIO condos (Parcel 4B) is not far behind.

It was announced in Globest.com that Hoffman Madison Waterfront received construction financing for the dual Canopy by Hilton/Hyatt House hotel project on Parcel 5 adjacent to 7th Street Park. 

Starting next month, 7th Street at Maine Avenue will be closed to vehicular traffic so work can get started at 7th Street Park. Also in May, traffic will reopen on Water Street and M Place around the new 525 Water condo building and St. Augustine’s Church, the former of which looks almost complete.

Utility work continues at the new Waterfront Park adjacent to 525 Water condos. Construction on the park is expected to be complete late this year.

Work on extending the commercial Pier 4 continues. Look here for more information on what’s planned at the new Pier 4. A pair of construction cameras have been set up so you can keep track of what’s going on at The Wharf. 525 Water/St. Augustine's should open in 2016 while the rest of phase one should be complete by the fall of 2017. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

SWBID to Move to New Digs

SWBID will soon be moving from their temporary quarters at Arena Stage to the ground floor of Patriots Plaza on 4th Street, across the street from the CFL. The BID has begun ramping up operations since it was formed last year. One of the most visible signs has been the "Clean Team", which can be seen sprucing up the area. Also, new outdoor furniture was installed in the SW lot of Waterfront Station at 4th and M streets, where AYA Markets will return later this spring for their weekly Saturday morning farmers market. The monthly Market SW night market will also be back on the fourth Friday of each month starting on May 27 through October 28. Vendors who are interested in participating can find an application here. Another activation space within the BID will be located at Maryland Avenue and 7th Street, where food trucks gather during lunchtime to feed the thousands of Federal employees who work in the area.