Friday, April 24, 2015

International Spy Museum Renderings

Although it appears that plans are moving forward to bring the International Spy Museum to L’Enfant Plaza, the deal is not done yet. In an email to SWTLQTC, Matthew Blocher from JBG stated: “It is important to note that we are in discussions with the Spy Museum, though contrary to the reports in various media sources, we do not have a deal at this point in time. We are very excited about the possibility of the Spy Museum coming to L'Enfant as we believe that it would provide an incredible amount of energy to this area of Southwest, similar to their impact when they opened in the Penn Quarter.” 

Nevertheless, a revised concept plan for 900 L’Enfant Plaza was presented to the Commission of Fine Arts (CFA) on April 16, which included a six-story building facing 10th Street that would be used as the new home of the Spy Museum. Behind the museum is a courtyard and office building. Previously, 900 L'Enfant Plaza was planned as strictly an office building. Below are some additional renderings of the proposed museum and office building, designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, that would be located in the plaza. 

In a letter to developer JBG dated today, the CFA stated their support for the idea of the International Spy Museum to move to L’Enfant Plaza and general concept. From the letter: 
They commended the project team on the planning and design of the building and site, expressing support for the concept of projecting the museum’s west facade into public space for this particular program and location. 
However, the Commission has concerns about the positioning of the proposed buildings and some design elements. The development team will need to go back before the CFA with a revised concept submission. 

If the International Spy Museum relocates from Penn Quarter to L’Enfant Plaza, it could serve to draw people south from the National Mall on their way to The Wharf. The addition of 600,000 to 700,000 annual visitors to the area (the current number of visitors to the Spy Museum) would help transform this office-heavy area of Southwest and dovetails with the SW Ecodistrict Initiative, which calls for a better mix of uses, including museums, residential, and hotels. 

Renderings courtesy of the Commission of Fine Arts

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Southwest Rental Market Update

In Delta Associates’ recently-released First Quarter 2015 Mid-Atlantic Class A Apartment Report, it shows that rents in the Capitol Hill/Riverfront submarket (which includes Southwest) increased by 3.2% over the past 12 months, while rents in the city as a whole decreased by 1.3% as a slew of new projects entered the market. Stabilized vacancy in the area, which only includes projects that have reached stabilization (or 95% occupied), is at 3.6% - the lowest rate among submarkets in the District. 

Lex at Waterfront Station, which began leasing units in December, was about 20% leased as of March with a lease-up pace of 13 units per month. Sky House East, Lex’s sister building across 4th Street, reached stabilization in a year at a monthly lease-up pace of 18 units. The other newer project in Southwest, Camden South Capitol, reached stabilization 16 months after leasing began, or a 15-unit monthly lease-up pace. 

However, there are several projects under construction and planned for the neighborhood. There are four apartment projects under construction, including three at The Wharf and one at Waterfront Station, totaling 811 units. Two other apartment buildings are planned that may deliver over the next 36 months, including the St. Matthews site at Delaware Avenue and M Street and an addition to Capitol Park Tower at 4th and G streets for a total of 471 units. 

On the Class B apartment front, Delta’s First Quarter 2015 Washington Metropolitan Area Class B Apartment Report indicates that rents in the Southwest submarket are down 3.3% from a year ago, but over the past 5 years, rents have increased on average by 2.8% per year. Similar to the Class A market, vacancy is low – it is 3.5% in Southwest compared to the city-wide average of 4.4%.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Night Market Makes Debut Next Month

A night market called Market SW will begin operations next month at Waterfront Station. At February’s ANC 6D meeting, the developers of Waterfront Station mentioned that the asphalt lot facing M Street would be activated with temporary uses starting this spring, including a night market. Temporary uses for the two M Street lots were proposed in order to get ANC support for a two-year extension of PUD approval. The two sites will eventually become office buildings, but the office market is challenged right now and speculative construction is too risky. Meanwhile, an apartment building is currently under construction on the northwest parcel and the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development will soon release a Request for Proposals for the District-owned northeast parcel. 

Diverse Markets Management will operate Market SW. This is the same group that operates the Downtown Holiday Market, the Flea Market at Eastern Market, and has operated the market at the annual Southwest Fireworks Festival. Market SW is billed on its website as “an evening of arts, food, flea & fun live music + performances.” Market SW will be held on the Fourth Friday of each month from May to October. The first SW Market will be on Friday, May 29 from 4 – 9 pm. Below are the dates when the market will be activated this year: 
  • May 29 
  • June 26 
  • July 24 
  • August 28 
  • September 25 
  • October 23

Monday, April 6, 2015

Review of 'The Originalist'

The Originalist, written by John Strand and directed by Arena Stage’s Artistic Director Molly Smith, tells the story of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, a polarizing figure that has been on the court since President Ronald Reagan nominated him during the 1980s. The play takes place during the 2012-13 timeframe and is considered to be historical fiction. Starring Edward Gero as Justice Scalia, the show begins with Scalia giving a talk at Georgetown University, where he is interrupted by Cat (played by Kerry Warren), an aspiring liberal grad that would like to become a clerk – for Justice Scalia. As the show progresses, it’s clear that the two are unevenly matched during their sparring matches – in more ways than one. While Gero’s performance as Justice Scalia is stellar, bringing gravitas to the role, Warren falls flat. Despite the uneven performances, The Originalist is a success due to Gero’s convincing portrayal of the conservative lion of the Court. 

The Originalist has been extended for an unprecedented second time. The show will now run through May 3 at the Kogod Cradle and will return on May 19, running through May 31. Tickets can be purchased here

Photo by C. Stanley Photography, courtesy of Arena Stage

Friday, April 3, 2015

Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival is Tomorrow!

Tomorrow is the annual Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival from 1 to 9 pm. The festival is one of the signature events of the National Cherry Blossom Festival and is free. Due to the construction of The Wharf, the activities have shifted downchannel toward the Gangplank Marina Park. There will be three stages as well as events along the waterfront and in the Washington Channel. As in prior years, there will be food trucks, family activities, musical performances, crafts, and a beer garden. The festival will conclude with the fireworks spectacular at 8:30 pm. For more information, check the National Cherry Blossom Festival website.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Construction Update - Playgrounds

Two playgrounds are currently under construction in the neighborhood – both are part of the Play DC playground improvement program. One is located at King-Greenleaf Recreation Center at 201 N Street and the other is at Randall Recreation Center, located at South Capitol and I streets. King-Greenleaf’s new play equipment has a nautical theme. In addition to new play equipment, there will be a splash park. Below are some construction photos: 

Splash park
New play equipment

Playground sign
Over at Randall Recreation Center, the playground was delayed for over a year before construction began in late 2014. At one point, the site was under consideration for a charter high school, but KIPP decided to build elsewhere in the city amid neighborhood opposition. A skate park and splash park that would have fronted I Street have been removed from plans for phase one of the playground due to lack of funding. The playground equipment at Randall also has a nautical theme, but focused on pirates. Below are a couple construction photos: 

New play equipment
New sidewalks

Both playgrounds should be complete later this spring.

Construction Update - The Wharf

It's been a little more than a year since a groundbreaking ceremony was held at The Wharf along the Southwest Waterfront. Since then, the site has been a hive of activity, with demolition, utility work, pile driving, parking lot construction, new streetlights, dock rebuilding, and other waterside activities. Now, excavation at The Wharf is now well underway. Below are a few photos:

District Pier
Cranes dominate the skyline

Seawall is still under construction 

View south from Case Bridge

In dining news, the Washington Business Journal revealed last week that several celebrity chefs are planning to open restaurants in the first phase of The Wharf. From the article:
Restaurant Eve chef/owner Cathal Armstrong said earlier this month that he has a preliminary agreement to open an Asian-focused restaurant there. Now...he could be joined by "Top Chef" alums Mike Isabella and Bryan Voltaggio along with Robert Wiedmaier, Philadelphia restaurateur Stephen Starr, Fiola phenom Fabio Trabocchi, Hank’s Oyster Bar’s Jamie Leeds, Jackie Greenbaum of Jackie’s and El Chucho, and the Hilton brothers.
The first phase of The Wharf is scheduled to open in the fall of 2017.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Volunteer Clean-Up Day Tomorrow

A group of SW neighbors is organizing a community clean-up day for tomorrow to spruce up the neighborhood before festivities associated with the National Cherry Blossom Festival make their way to Southwest. There will be eight areas of concentration:
  1. Amidon-Bowen
  2. Potomac Place/Blind Whino SW Arts Club
  3. Arena Stage/Waterside Towers
  4. The View/Lex/Sky House
  5. Greenleaf
  6. Tiber Island/Harbor Square/Riverside/Carrollsburg
  7. James Creek
  8. Canal Street/South Capitol
The group will be meeting at the vacant lot in front of Safeway at 10:45am and the clean-up lasts from 11am - 12:30pm, followed by a celebration at Cantina Marina. Supplies will be provided. Trash collected from the pick-up can dropped off at the rear parking lot of the View at Waterfront apartments at 6th and K streets.

Google Map courtesy of Southwest Waterfront Next Door Group 

Riverside Baptist Redevelopment PUD Filed

A PUD was filed earlier this month for the redevelopment of Riverside Baptist Church at 7th Street and Maine Avenue. Back in October, representatives from PN Hoffman presented their plans for the project, which includes a new sanctuary for Riverside facing Maine Avenue and a 7 to 9-story, 170-unit rental apartment building along 7th and I streets with ground floor retail. Approximately 14 of the units will be set aside for households earning up to 80% of Area Median Income. Not many changes have been made to the project since October. One change that may happen is the addition of four units and an indoor amenity space to the penthouse level. These changes assume that the Zoning Commission will adopt the recommended changes to the Height Act that allow for penthouses to be habitable. A hearing will be held later this year and if all goes well, construction will begin sometime in 2016 with completion in 2018. 

View south on 7th Street
This is the second church in Southwest that PN Hoffman has partnered with to do a mixed use development. Construction is underway down the street at 6th and M streets on a new St. Augustine’s Church and 525 Water Street, a mixed income condominium building that will deliver in 2016. Neither of these projects are a part of The Wharf, although PN Hoffman is one of the developer partners for that project.

Renderings courtesy of PN Hoffman

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Kastles May Return to The Wharf

The Washington Business Journal broke the news last week that the Washington Kastles are in "a continuing dialogue" to return to The Wharf, perhaps for the 2017 season in July as phase one of the massive waterfront redevelopment nears completion. While the WBJ doesn’t give much details about where the stadium would be located (except that it would be on a partially floating pier), it was reported here in March of last year that the planned Transit Pier could be used for that purpose: 
Phillips Flagship occupies roughly where Parcel 2 will be built. An entertainment venue called Wharf Hall with capacity for up to 6,500 patrons, along with a co-generation plant and two mixed income apartment buildings (several with micro units), will replace Phillips Flagship. A Transit Pier will be built nearby to serve water taxis and can accommodate several roles, such as an ice skating rink in the winter and (with the addition of barges along its sides for seating) a stadium for the Washington Kastles, if they choose to return. 

The Kastles played for three seasons at 9th and Water streets before moving to the Smith Center in Foggy Bottom last year to make way for construction of The Wharf. At one point last year, the team was looking to stay in Southwest and play at Waterfront Station on one of the vacant parcels facing M Street; however, the deal fell through. During their tenure at Kastles Stadium at The Wharf, the team won three straight Mylan World Team Tennis Championships and broke the record for the most consecutive wins by a U.S. professional sports team with 34 straight wins. The proposed transit pier location is less than a block away from the former stadium footprint.

Rendering courtesy of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront