Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year!

It’s been a slow couple of weeks in the Little Quadrant That Could. I’m compiling a list of top stories of the year in Southwest, which I plan to post in a couple of days. In the meantime, here’s a link to a post from DCMud talking about new libraries planned in the city, including the Washington Highlands branch library in Bellevue. On Monday, I drove by the recently opened interim library, located in a strip center on the 4000 block of South Capitol Street. According to the post, library officials are hoping to get raze permits for the old library by the end of January or early February with construction to begin shortly thereafter. The David Adjaye-designed library is scheduled to open in 2011 and will aim for LEED-Silver certification.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Playing Catch-Up on News and Whatnot

- In an issue of Real Estate Bisnow last week, there was a story about the progress at Arena Stage. Nothing really new here, but it's a good opportunity to mention that at last month's SWNA meeting, it was announced that there will be a black-tie grand opening gala on October 25, 2010 for the expanded theater complex. The day before, which will be a Sunday, there will be a community day homecoming event that is open to the public and will result in the closure of 6th Street in front of the theater. Next year will be the 60th anniversary of Arena Stage, which makes the planned celebrations surrounding the reopening of the theater that much more special.

- I wasn't able to make it to last week's ANC 6D meeting, but Commissioner Sobelsohn passes word that the ANC voted 6-1 to drop their protest of Safeway's petition to obtain a Class B liquor license for their new store at Waterfront Station. If approved by the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ARBA), Safeway will be allowed to sell wine and beer at their new store

- Last Wednesday, the Washington Business Journal had an article about how Patriots Plaza lost out on a potential lease with a federal tenant. Instead of moving to Patriots Plaza or other buildings around town, the IRS will move to a building in NoMa just north of Union Station.

- Last week, the Zoning Commission approved a request to extend the PUD for the old Friendship Baptist Church site at 700 Delaware Avenue after the ANC approved it in November. Developer Steve Tanner plans to convert the historic church into office space and construct a small residential building adjacent to it. The site’s redevelopment hinges on what will eventually happen at the neighboring Randall School site, where the Corcoran is looking for a developer partner to re-purpose the school building as a college and construct apartments behind the building.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Scenes from Southwest: The Blizzard of '09


Clockwise (from upper left): (1) Icicles formed near the base of the HUD building with the flying saucer-like shelters glowing in the background. (2) I doubt DDOT has this stretch of 4th Street near the top of their list of streets to plow, since this section running through Waterfront Station won't officially open until March 2010. (3) On Saturday night, the snow was still falling and conditions were treacherous on 6th Street. (4) Benches along G Street show that we received well over a foot of snow during the Blizzard of '09.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Renovations Underway at L'Enfant Plaza's Retail Promenade

In early November, the JBG Companies, owner of the retail promenade at L’Enfant Plaza, began a $40 million renovation and expansion effort designed by SmithGroup, a national architecture firm. Billed as the only major retail shopping center in Southwest Washington, the retail promenade’s modernization is well overdue. Recently, I took a stroll along the retail promenade and with the gold-looking metal frame around the storefronts, Broadway-style marquee lighting, and 80’s music pumping through the sound system, I felt like I went through a time warp. Above is a photo of a typical storefront at the promenade, which looks very dated.

The retail promenade is located below grade at the center of L’Enfant Plaza, a 1960s-era mixed-use complex that was designed in the Brutalist architectural style, with some of the buildings designed by renowned architect I.M. Pei. It connects to three existing office buildings and the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel. A glass pyramid was built more recently in the center plaza and provides the only source of natural light to the shopping center below. Current tenants include Dress Barn, CVS, Radio Shack, PNC Bank, and Au Bon Pain, along with fast food restaurants, a florist, and other convenience retailers. Some retailers on the eastern side of the promenade were relocated to the west side so improvements could begin first on the side closest to the Metro entrance. Above is a view of the north office building from the glass pyramid inside the retail promenade.

Once phase one is completed in the first quarter of 2011, a food court will be located near the Metro entrance with windows facing the neighboring HUD building, along with outdoor seating for restaurant patrons. At full built-out, the retail center will be 205,000 square feet and will complement the modernist architecture of L’Enfant Plaza with a clean, slick design. A large sculptural glass entryway will replace the pyramid to bring some natural light and visual interest into the underground shopping center. Other restaurants will be located under the glass entryway and storefronts will be scattered throughout the retail promenade. Above is a rendering of the glass entryway, courtesy of JBG. The renovation of the retail promenade is part of the overall revamping of L’Enfant Plaza, which will include the renovation of the north and south tower office buildings, as well as the 370-key L’Enfant Plaza Hotel. The west tower office building, home to the United States Postal Service, is not owned by JBG, and is not part of the renovation schedule. Two new office buildings will be constructed in the center plaza area, an extended-stay hotel will be located in the northeast parcel, and apartments will be built on the southeast parcel. Below are a couple more renderings.

(Left) Here is a rendering of the sculptural glass entryway.





(Right) This is a rendering of the food court, which is a part of phase one of construction.

Apart from the L’Enfant Plaza complex, but along 10th Street, the Washington Interdependence Council plans to build a memorial to Benjamin Banneker, an astronomer and mathematician who helped Pierre L’Enfant plan the city of Washington. Included with the memorial will be the Banneker Institute of Math & Science and a Founding Fathers Walk. In addition, the Monumental Core Framework Plan, released earlier this year by the National Capital Planning Commission and the US Commission of Fine Arts, calls for the redevelopment of the 10th Street corridor as a gateway between the National Mall and the Southwest Waterfront. Construction timetables have not been set for the renovations and new buildings along 10th Street, but once everything is complete, L’Enfant Plaza and its environs will be unrecognizable.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Hirshhorn Museum Looks to Expand

The Washington Post reports that the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculptural Garden has plans to create a temporary structure twice a year (in May and October) starting in 2011. The museum is located at the corner of 7th Street and Independence Avenue to the west of the Air & Space Museum on the National Mall.From the article:

On the drawing board is a 145-foot-tall temporary inflatable structure that's intended to sit in the concrete-bound courtyard and balloon through the top of the building...Made of a strong vinyl material, it will protrude like a mushroom, providing a strong contrast to the doughnut-shaped main building...The estimated budget for the inflatable addition is about $5 million...and the museum plans to raise an additional $5 million for storage and programs. The plan has been presented to the Hirshhorn's board and the Smithsonian Board of Regents, and the staff is planning informational meetings with the National Capital Planning Commission and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts.

The inflatable addition, as seen in the above rendering from the Post article, was designed by Diller Scofidio and Renfro.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Randall Neighbor Day 2009 is Coming Up

The Corcoran Gallery of Art is once again offering free admission (normal admission is $10) to residents of ANC 6D on Saturday, December 26th at the third annual Randall Neighbor Day 2009. ID is required in order to prove residency. The Corcoran is located at 500 17th Street, NW. In addition to the permanent collection, there are special exhibits, including Sargent and the Sea and American Bronzes from the Corcoran Gallery of Art. Randall Neighbor Day was one of the community benefits that the ANC negotiated with the Corcoran as a part of their PUD submission in 2007 for the redevelopment of the old Randall School site on I Street as their new Corcoran College of Art + Design campus and apartment building complex. However, this project has been delayed for a couple years while the Corcoran tries to find a new development partner.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Market Inn Demolished

I took a different route to work today which brought me down E Street and to my surprise, I noticed that the Market Inn had been demolished. Readers have also been commenting today that the long-time establishment was indeed gone. On New Year's Eve 2008, John Mandis' Market Inn Restaurant closed its doors for the last time after being in business since 1959. The site will most likely remain an empty lot for a while until the economy improves and redevelopment becomes financially feasible. Above is a photo of the demolished site that I took this morning.


Here's a photo of the Market Inn I took back in October.

Movement at Old First District HQ

This evening I noticed that fencing has been put up around the perimeter of the old First District headquarters on 4th Street, which means demolition can't be far behind. About a month ago, there was a ceremonial demolition ceremony at the site, right after Whiting-Turner was renamed the contractor for the CFL project. By 2012, the new CFL should be complete, which will house MPD's Crime Lab, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and the DC Public Health Lab. Above is a photo of the old headquarters building taken last Saturday, before the fencing went up.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

What Should Waterfront-SEU Metro be Renamed?

With construction set to start on the new Waterfront-SEU Metro station plaza before the end of the year, perhaps it’s a good time to bring up the subject (as readers have done in the past) of the name of the Metro station itself. Southeastern University shuttered its doors back in September, so its future is in doubt. Perhaps WMATA should consider dropping SEU from the station name and add the name of a major historic institution in the area like Fort McNair? Waterfront-Fort McNair would give a good description of the neighborhood the Metro station covers. Fort Lesley J. McNair has been at Buzzard Point since 1794 and is the third oldest military installation in the nation (according to Wikipedia), so I doubt it will be going anywhere soon, unless a future BRAC Act closes the fort. Another alternative could be to rename the station Waterfront-Buzzard Point. Using Buzzard Point in the Metro station name would give attention to a neglected neighborhood that will be undergoing dramatic changes over the next couple of decades. Instead of replacing SEU with another local destination, WMATA could simplify the name by renaming the station Waterfront or Southwest Waterfront. In most cases, the way a station name change happens is the local government (in this case the DC Government) makes a request to WMATA to change the name of a station and will also pay for any expenses related to the name change. We'll see if the DC Government will opt to have the name changed, but at any event, what would you rename the Metro station? Vote in December’s poll on the upper left corner of the sidebar and feel free to leave a comment after this post.

Monday, November 30, 2009

I missed the 2nd Annual Cantina Cup...

In November's Hill Rag, there's an article about the 2nd Annual Cantina Cup, which took place on October 3rd (how I missed this event I don't know!). From the article:
The October sailboat race run by the National Maritime Heritage Foundation brought in more than 100 racers, more than double the turnout from last year. Spectators gathered at event partner Cantina Marina (600 Water St. SW) for a view of the action, as well as on other boats and waterside locations...[Blair] Overman [of NMHF] said the event was a success, but next year event organizers want an expanded “big boats” course on the Potomac River and more viewing points for spectators. Ideally, they will bring spectators out on boats to watch the race from the center of the [Washington] channel.
According to the National Maritime Heritage Foundation (NMHF) website, the NMHF was founded in the year 2000 to fill the need for a maritime heritage program to serve as a focus for education and community development. They manage community sailing and maritime education programs in the national capital region and is headquartered at the Gangplank Marina on the Southwest Waterfront. Last year, the Cantina Cup regatta was held in late September. Did anyone attend this year's regatta? If so, how was it?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Signs of What's to Come Along the New 4th Street

Curbs, sidewalks, asphalt, trees, display panels...all of these are signs of what's to come along 4th Street at Waterfront Station. The office buildings are about 90% complete, according to Gordon Fraley of Vornado/Charles E. Smith, who gave the community an update on their project at Monday's SWNA meeting. The tenants (DC Government agencies) will start moving into their new space in March and April of 2010. Since most of the building construction is complete, some of the final touches are being put in place. This afternoon, I took some photos of the progress being made at the project. Above is a photo of the view along 4th Street looking north from M Street. Asphalt is now down on the street and curbs & gutters are visible. On the West Tower (left building), trees have been planted on the south-facing side of the building. Within the next month, the pathway to the Waterfront-SEU Metro entrance will be temporarily shifted from its current location next to Safeway over to 4th Street, so work can begin on the Metro plaza, which was designed by Oculus. 4th Street is now scheduled to reopen in the last two weeks of March. Below are a couple close-up photos of the project.

(Left) Here is a view of the improvements being done on 4th Street, including new curbs, sidewalks, and crosswalks. The newly planted trees are also visible on the side of the West Tower. The View at Waterfront and Arena Stage looms in the background.

(Right) On the East Tower, display panels of grapes and lemons are an indication that a grocery store will soon open on the ground floor. Tenant build-out for the urban-lifestyle Safeway began in September and the store is scheduled to open around April 2010. The tenant build-out at CVS will take less time - it will begin in January and the new store will open in March. There are four retail spots still available at Waterfront Station that haven't been taken by tenants who have signed letters of intent.

St. Matthew's Tree Lot Will Return, SW Waterfront to Get Livened Up

At least one of the empty lots in the neighborhood will get some use this holiday season. Starting this Thursday, as was done last year, St. Matthew's Lutheran Church will sell Christmas trees on their lot at 222 M Street. Below is the schedule and prices:
Thursday - Friday: 5pm - 8pm
Saturday - Sunday: 1pm - 5pm
Other times be appointment (202) 484-3189 or email (stmatthewsdc@hughes.net)
6-7 ft Scotch Pine: $25
5-6 ft Frazier Fir: $45
6-7 ft Frazier Fir: $55
7-8 ft Frazier Fir: $65
On a related note, at Monday's SWNA meeting, Shawn Seaman from PN Hoffman, one of the developers of the Southwest Waterfront, confirmed the recent WBJ story (which I blogged about a couple weeks ago) that parts of the SW Waterfront will be used for temporary purposes. While Seaman didn't exactly say that the SW Waterfront will become a temporary beach before redevelopment gets underway, he did say that the terminus of 7th & 9th Streets will host events, like a farmers market or dance performances. The SW Waterfront redevelopment is still scheduled to break ground in 2012, but Water Street may close as early as 2011.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Parade of Lighted Boats Set for December 5th

On December 5th, the Washington Waterfront Association will hold the 5th annual tree lighting ceremony at the Southwest Waterfront, followed by the Parade of Lighted Boats along the Washington Channel. Starting at 4pm, the tree lighting ceremony will be held at the park between the Channel Inn and Gangplank Marina and Santa Claus will make an appearance for photographs. At 5pm, the Parade of Lighted Boats will begin with at least 50 boats planning to participate. Last year, there was some snow that fell during the parade, so hopefully the weather will be better this time around!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

PAT Recommends Buzzard Point Should Be Primarily a Residential Neighborhood

On Saturday I attended a meeting where the American Planning Association’s Planning Assistance Team (PAT) presented their results of a four-day study of Buzzard Point. Once the slide show presentation from the meeting is released, I’ll provide a link. In the meantime, here are my notes from the meeting:

Buzzard Point is a separate neighborhood from the Capitol Riverfront or Southwest Waterfront, with distinct opportunities and constraints. The PAT recommends that Buzzard Point become a primarily residential mixed-use neighborhood of varying density with improved access to the waterfront. The existing public housing in the northern part of the area should be preserved and upgraded. There are nine major points about the current condition of Buzzard Point that need to be considered when planning for the future, including:

  • Much of the area is low & medium density affordable housing.
  • There is limited accessibility to and from Buzzard Point.
  • Fort McNair acts as a wall.
  • River access is blocked.
  • The area is flanked by a major sports entertainment district and a large retail center under construction at Waterfront Station.
  • There is a huge amount of development occurring to the east of Buzzard Point.
  • There are poor multimodal connections to the area.
  • Industrial uses in the area aren’t conducive to residential development.
  • The Pepco power plant is an impediment.

However, there are some transformative events that will occur over the next 15 years that will have an impact on development in Buzzard Point. The DC Streetcar project will bring streetcars to Buzzard Point; the Coast Guard will relocate to St. Elizabeth’s in Southeast; South Capitol Street and bridge will be rebuilt; and there will be new waterfront connections. Since these events will take a long time to happen, change in the area will be incremental. Following is an analysis of how the planners think different sections of Buzzard Point should be developed:

2nd Street
The Anacostia Riverwalk should be extended from Buzzard Point to M Street via 2nd Street. The historic SW Community House on 2nd Street should be restored as a museum or café.

Potomac Avenue
Potomac Avenue should be extended westward to 2nd Street. Since the road extension will reach the entrance to Fort McNair on 2nd Street, mixed-use development could happen along that stretch which would support the military base, including a retail node. In keeping with L’Enfant’s street grid plan for the city, triangle parks should be created where the diagonal Potomac Avenue crosses east-west and north-south streets.

P Street
Since the distance between the Southwest Waterfront and Nationals Park is only a half mile along P Street, a pedestrian link should be maintained along this street. The PAT recommends that the proposed streetcar alignment along M Street be changed so that the transit line turns south from M Street to 1st Street, SE, then turn down Potomac Avenue until its new terminus at 2nd Street, SW, then turn north on 2nd until P Street, west on P until 4th Street, then north on 4th until it reaches the Waterfront-SEU Metro station at 4th & M Street. The new alignment would better connect Buzzard Point with the rest of the Capitol Riverfront and Southwest Waterfront.

The Waterfront
Once the Coast Guard vacates its headquarters building for St. Elizabeth’s, the building, along with Jemal’s building, which is visible along the waterfront as you cross the South Capitol Street bridge, should be purchased by the District government and transformed to a mix of open space and limited redevelopment. This is one of the more ambitious aspects of the PAT’s plans because it involves the District spending a large sum of money acquiring these sites, but the current buildings block access to the waterfront and redevelopment would open up a lot of space. Also, the city could recover part or all of the cost of acquisition through the sales of development rights to other parcels in the District. As an aside, a representative from Monday Properties, the Coast Guard’s current landlord, stated that the likelihood of the headquarters building being demolished in the next 15-20 years was slim to none, so this aspect of the plan may take longer to fulfill. Some ideas for the waterfront range from providing large parks along the river to creating marinas framed by housing (an example being the Pier Homes along the Inner Harbor in Baltimore).

100 V Street
If Akridge’s 100 V Street project is developed as planned, the PAT thinks it would be a major missed opportunity for the area. An alternative would be to build medium-density housing developed in partnership with the federal government for military families and/or new federal government hires. The northern part of the site could support 2-3-story buildings, while taller 5-6-story buildings could be developed closer to the waterfront.

South Capitol Street Oval and Steuart Site
Great care should be given to the planned traffic oval at the intersection of South Capitol Street and Potomac Avenue. The oval will be 7-acres, but if DDOT doesn’t properly design it to accommodate pedestrians, the result could be a large hole in the urban fabric of the community. The area at the terminus of South Capitol Street where the street meets the river (also known as the Steuart site) should have a major iconic cultural attraction…a la Sydney Opera House. The site should be engaging from the water side (perhaps with a grand staircase like the Lincoln Memorial) as well as on its land side facing the traffic oval.

Pepco
The District should work with Pepco to gradually shrink the footprint used for electrical generation consistent with sound energy practices. As properties become available, they should be developed for uses compatible with housing. Once the power plant building is decommissioned, it should be redeveloped as a low-impact attraction like a museum, gallery, etc. An example given by the PAT was the Tate Modern in London.

Once the presentation is available online, the PAT will allow public comments on their plans, so they can produce a final report in February or March of next year. Above is a map I made of Buzzard Point showing where the planners recommend changes in the area.

Update: The presentation is now available on APA's website. Send your comments to CAP@planning.org by January 15, 2010.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

All You Need is Gov...Patriots Plaza Nabs USDA

The Washington Business Journal reports today that the US Department of Agriculture will occupy most of the phase III building of Patriots Plaza. The GSA signed a lease on behalf of the agency for 330,000 SF, which accounts for about 87% of the building. From the WBJ article:
The General Services Administration negotiated and signed the deal on behalf of USDA, which is consolidating five other locations throughout the District and Northern Virginia. Patriots Plaza III was completed in September — USDA will begin moving into the building in December 2010.
The phase I building is fully leased to the feds while Patriots Plaza II is still without tenants, so with the USDA announcement, the 980,000+ SF three-building LEED-Silver certified complex is now 62% leased. Since the tenant is the federal government, it’s highly doubtful that ground floor retail will move into Patriots Plaza, as the developers mentioned as a possibility when they were vying for the Engine 13 RFP in February. However, this announcement may help get a restaurant to move into the ground floor of Capitol View, which is down the block from Patriots Plaza on D Street. Above is a photo of the phase III building taken last month.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Buzzard Point Town Hall Meeting Set

A Planning Assistance Team (PAT) from the American Planning Association will be present at a Town Hall meeting planned by Council member Tommy Wells this Wednesday. The planners will be in town this week to conduct an analysis of Buzzard Point in order to create a comprehensive plan for the area. Wednesday's meeting will be from 6pm-8:30pm at the community room of MPD's First District headquarters building at 101 M Street. Following the meeting, on Thursday, the PAT will do a walking tour of Buzzard Point (leaving from Greenleaf Recreation Center at 201 N Street) and on Saturday, they will present their initial findings from 2pm - 3pm at First District headquarters.

Friday, November 13, 2009

South(west) Beach?

In today’s Washington Business Journal (subscribers only) there’s an article about how vacant spaces in DC are being utilized creatively for temporary uses. Due to the recession, vacant sites have been popping up all over the city since developers are having difficulty getting financing. Some examples of temporary uses mentioned in the article include the Bullpen near Nationals Park in Near SE and the summer stadium for the Washington Kastles tennis team at the Old Convention Center site downtown. At the end of the article, D.C. Office of Planning director Harriet Tregoning mentions a use for the Southwest Waterfront (which isn’t exactly vacant). From the article:
Tregoning also has ideas for PN Hoffman’s 30-plus acre Southwest waterfront: “Considering what it is, it really gets very little use. What if we put a beach there? With umbrellas. I mean, I wouldn’t be encouraging people to swim in the Anacostia, you know, but a place to hang out, catch a little sun, relax. It could be fabulous.”
Some European cities have turned their riverfronts into temporary beaches during the summer, including Paris and Prague, but would this work in DC? Besides the SW Waterfront, there are several vacant lots in the neighborhood that could host temporary uses (not a beach, though). Along South Capitol Street, a major gateway to the core of the city, there are vacant lots galore, including Camden’s 1345 South Capitol Street site (a vacant field), Vornado’s site surrounding the 7 Eleven at South Capitol & M Street (a parking lot), and the Ruben Companies’ 1001 - 1101 South Capitol Street (more parking lots). Aside from the lots on South Capitol Street, there’s the Randall School site, the old Friendship Baptist Church, the old First District HQ, Southeastern University, the Market Inn…the list goes on and on. However, there are examples of other sites that have been used for temporary purposes. For instance, the St. Matthews site on M Street became a Christmas tree lot last year and Pastor Huber has plans to create a community garden next spring until the new church and housing can be built. Also, Artomatic used the old Waterside Mall before it was torn down. Hopefully the economy starts to pick up soon so some of these vacant sites can get built, but in the meantime, some creative uses can be found for the plethora of empty spaces we have in Southwest. What temporary uses would you suggest for some of these vacant sites?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Waterfront Station Restaurant News!

Restaurateur Med Lahlou, who owns three other restaurants in the city, including Tunnicliff’s Tavern on Capitol Hill, Stoney’s Bar & Grill on P Street, and Ulah Bistro on U Street, tells Southwest…TLQTC that he will open a fourth at Waterfront Station. Lahlou says the restaurant, which hasn’t been named yet, should open in about nine months and will serve American continental cuisine. There will be a large space for outdoor seating, in addition to indoor seating. That’s all the details Lahlou could share with us right now, but this is the first indication of the type of restaurants that will soon open at phase one of Waterfront Station. The developers have been tight-lipped about other retailers besides the anchor stores, which are CVS and an urban style Safeway.


On a related note, don't forget to vote on the sidebar for the types of restaurants you would like to see open in Southwest!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Scenes From Southwest: Parks


Clockwise (from upper left): (1) Earth Day Park at 9th Street & Independence Avenue. (2) Ball field in front of Jefferson Middle School along the 700 block of G Street. (3) Duck feeding in Town Center Park at 6th & I Street. (4) Dean Wilhelm Memorial Park at 6th & D Street, named after the former manager at the Holiday Inn Capitol hotel.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

ANC Votes to Approve Extension of Old Friendship Baptist Church Redevelopment

I wasn't able to attend last night's ANC 6D meeting, but the developer of the Old Friendship Baptist Church site on Delaware Avenue & H Street tells Southwest...TLQTC that the ANC unanimously approved a request to allow a two-year extension of the Planned Unit Development (PUD) for the project that the developer has pending with the Zoning Commission. The Zoning Commission will make a decision on the extension request at their December 14th meeting. Steve Tanner, the developer of the project, plans to convert the 100+ year-old church into office space and construct a residential building with condos. Delays with the Corcoran's neighboring Randall School project (see post from last November), as well as the state of the economy, helped the developer obtain approval from the ANC. However, Tanner says that the Corcoran is working on a contract with a new developer for their Randall School site. Several stalled development projects around the city have applied for 2-year extensions in recent months, the nearest one to SW is the RiverFront on the Anacostia site in Near SE. As a condition of the ANC's approval, the developer will need to pay to clean up the Randall Park baseball fields each month once he applies for a building permit. Above is a rendering of the site - the white church is the existing building and the Shalom Baranes-designed 7-story residential addition is at the rear of the church (rendering courtesy of Steve Tanner).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Couple Quick Items

- According to the Capitol Riverfront BID, the American Planning Association is bringing a Planning Assistance Team (PAT) to Buzzard Point in two weeks to conduct a four-day analysis of the area. The process will result in a series of recommendations and visions for the area for further study and implementation. The PAT will conduct interviews with stakeholders and property owners to gain a better and full understanding of the various sites and property owners involved, and develop a comprehensive vision for Buzzard Point. Last week, we did a post on how the proposed streetcar network may impact development in Buzzard Point. Devising a plan for the area is a good idea because there is great potential for making Buzzard Point a waterfront destination, where the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers meet.

- Earlier this week, Washington Real Estate Bisnow had an article about Waterfront Tower, the condo conversion project next door to Waterfront Station on the corner of 3rd & M Street. This is the first condo conversion the Bernstein Companies has done in 30 years. Eventually, the developer wants to build two more buildings on the parking lots of the existing towers, similar to what Fairfield Residential had planned at The View at Waterfront before it went into foreclosure in August.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Firehouse Deal Approved by DC Council

While Mayor Fenty awarded a contract to Whiting-Turner today for the CFL, the DC Council was busy with work of their own in Southwest. Today, according to DCMud, the Council finally approved the ground lease between the city and E Street Development, which will allow the construction of a new Engine 13 firehouse next door to the new CFL, along with two office buildings with ground floor retail. The city chose E Street Development from a pool of three development teams back in April, but in July, the Council delayed action on the land transfer until after the August recess. Then, last month, Council member Kwame Brown removed the land deal from consideration because E Street Development did not have signed agreements to hire city-certified small businesses or hire District residents. It appears that those concerns have been addressed. Now that the ground lease has been approved, planning can continue for the project, with construction slated to begin on the first office building (with the new firehouse on the ground level) next August. Above is a rendering of the new firehouse on the corner of 4th & E Street, designed by Beyer, Blinder, Belle, from E Street Development's February 25th presentation.

Ceremonial Demolition of Old First District HQ

Last week, DC Metrocentric reported that the case a rival contractor had against Whiting-Turner, the contractor the city chose in May to build the new Consolidated Forensic Lab (CFL), was dismissed by the city appellate board. The city wasted no additional time once the case was dropped, because today, the mayor announced once again that Whiting-Turner has been selected to build the CFL with a $133 million contract, six months after the original announcement. At the press announcement, the mayor ceremoniously took down a portion of the rear wall of the old first district headquarters, which is located at 415 4th Street. However, interior abatement must occur first before the old hq building can be demolished to make way for the CFL. The CFL will be home to MPD's Crime Lab, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and the DC Public Health Lab. A total of 300 - 350 employees will be housed at the facility. The Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum, PC-designed building will aim for LEED-Gold certification and will cost $220 million to build. It will be 287,000 SF and 6-stories tall, will accommodate 160 underground parking spaces and 60 street-level spaces. Construction should now be complete by 2012, due to the delay, instead of the original fall 2011 deadline. Above is a rendering of the CFL from the CFL website.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Streetcar Investment May Spur Development in Buzzard Point

Last week, DDOT began holding meetings in each of the eight wards to explain their plans for the return of streetcars to DC. The proposed 37-mile streetcar network will include eight lines and will be built in three phases during the next 7-10 years. One of the lines is already under construction in Anacostia (the blue line on the map, from DDOT's website), and will terminate on 1st Street in Buzzard Point. Once all three phases are built, there will be two lines that run through Southwest and terminate in Buzzard Point. The second streetcar line (the orange line on the map) will run along M Street and go north on 7th Street towards downtown. Currently, Buzzard Point is a no-man's land of sorts, with industrial operations, a few office buildings, including the current headquarters of the U.S. Coast Guard (although they are moving to the East Campus of St. Elizabeth's), a couple marinas, and Fort McNair. Buzzard Point is a part of the Capitol Riverfront BID, which also covers most of Near Southeast. While there has been substantial development on the Southeast side of the BID, nothing has happened yet in Buzzard Point. Akridge has plans to develop a secure office campus at 100 V Street (the same site was rumored a few months ago as a possible site for D.C. United), but no tenants have been found yet. A few years ago during the height of the housing market bubble, Walnut Street Development had plans to build a condominium project in the area, but those plans were scuttled. With an investment as substantial as a streetcar network coming to Buzzard Point, the Southwest part of the Capitol Riverfront BID may soon start to see some development activity, or it may just be a convenient place to build a maintenance facility. DDOT officials tout the amount of private investment that Portland's streetcar system brought to neighborhoods along its route, so they are banking on a similar effect here in the District. We shall see...

Monday, October 26, 2009

MLK Memorial About Ready to Start Construction

According to an article in The Washington Post, the planned MLK Memorial near the Tidal Basin has received all necessary approvals from the National Capital Planning Commission in a special meeting held on Monday night. With these approvals in hand, the National Park Service should issue building permits by early November so construction can begin on this long-awaited memorial. The Post article describes the memorial as follows:
The memorial is planned for a four-acre crescent-shaped site amid the cherry blossoms on the northwest shore of the Tidal Basin. The centerpiece is to be a 2 1/2 -story granite sculpture of the slain civil rights leader. Called the Stone of Hope, it depicts King standing with his arms folded as if emerging from the stone. At 28 feet, it will be eight feet taller than the statue of Abraham Lincoln in the memorial to the 16th president and will rest on pilings driven as far as 50 feet down to bedrock.
Construction should be complete in late summer of 2011. Above is a rendering of the planned memorial, from the MLK Memorial website.

Update: The WBJ reports that Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar signed a construction permit on Thursday at a ceremony on the National Mall, which means the memorial can now be built!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Weekend Events

Marine Corps Marathon: The Marine Corps Marathon will be held on Sunday morning and as a result, several streets will be closed between 4am to 1:30pm according to DDOT, including the following:

  • Francis Scott Key Bridge
  • Canal Road, NW from M Street to Reservoir Road
  • Reservoir Road, NW from MacArthur Blvd. to Canal Road
  • MacArthur Blvd., NW from Foxhall Road to Reservoir Road
  • Foxhall Road, NW from Canal Road to MacArthur Blvd.
  • M Street, NW from Canal Road to Wisconsin Avenue
  • Wisconsin Ave, NW from M Street to K Street
  • K Street, NW from Wisconsin Avenue to Rock Creek and Potomac Pkwy.
  • Rock Creek and Potomac Pkwy., NW from K Street to Independence Ave.
  • Memorial Bridge
  • West Potomac Park
  • East Potomac Park (Access to Golf Course and Tennis Courts will be Available)
  • Maine Avenue, SW from East Basin Drive to Independence Avenue
  • Independence Avenue, SW from Maine Avenue to Ohio Drive
  • Ohio Drive, SW between Independence Avenue and Lincoln Circle
  • Lincoln Circle from Ohio Drive, SW to Henry Bacon Drive, NW
  • 23rd Street, NW from Lincoln Circle to Constitution Avenue
  • Constitution Avenue, NW from Henry Bacon Drive to 15th Street
  • 15th Street from Constitution Avenue, NW to Independence Avenue, SW
  • 17th Street from Constitution Avenue, NW to Independence Avenue, SW
  • Madison Drive, NW from 15th Street to 3rd Street
  • 3rd Street, NW from Pennsylvania Ave, NW to Maryland Ave., SW
  • Pennsylvania Avenue, NW from 3rd Street to E. Capitol Circle
  • 1st Street from Pennsylvania Ave., NW to Maryland Ave., SW
  • Maryland Avenue, SW from S. Capitol Circle to 3rd Street
  • Jefferson Drive, SW from 3rd Street to 15th Street
  • 14th Street, SW from Jefferson Drive to northbound HOV lanes
  • HOV lanes from 14th Street, SW to HOV ramp at S. Eads Street
Citywide Candlelight Vigil: Also on Sunday, Mothers of Unsolved Murders (MUM) is planning a candlelight vigil at the site of planned Consolidated Forensic Lab at 415 4th Street from 7-9pm. Construction of the lab was supposed to start this past spring, but it has been delayed due to an improper awarding of a contract to Whiting Turner by the mayor. Above is a photo of the sign at the site of the new forensics lab. The old First District headquarters building is next door to this sign and is still standing several months after it was supposed to be demolished.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Scenes from Southwest: Starbucks


Clockwise (from upper left): (1) Ground level of the U.S. Small Business Administration building at the corner of 3rd & D Street. (2) Inside the Capital Gallery building on the 600 block of Maryland Avenue. (3) Ground level of the Phase III building at the Portals on Maryland Avenue. (4) Ground level of the Holiday Inn at the corner of 6th & C Street. A fifth Starbucks will open next year inside Safeway at Waterfront Station.

Museum Momentum

A representative from the National Women's History Museum tells Southwest...TLQTC that on October 14th, the House of Representatives passed bill HR 1700, which will allow the GSA to sell a parcel at 12th Street & Independence Avenue to the musuem's organizers. The vacant parcel can accommodate up to 300,000 square feet of space. Now, the bill goes to the Senate. The bill was passed thanks to the efforts of the Right Here. Right Now. campaign that organizers have implemented to get the public engaged in the quest to get legislation approved. Once Congress allows the sale to occur, the museum will need to raise $250 - $300 million in order to build the complex. Above is a map of the location of the proposed museum, from the National Women's History Museum website.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Couple Quick Items

- I wrote about this in the Real Estate Notes article in October's Southwester, but I haven't mentioned it here yet that the Mary E. Switzer Building at 330 C Street is undergoing a second round of renovations. Grunley Construction is doing the renovation work, which includes the modernization of 311,000 square feet of space and the construction of an 18,000 square foot addition, which will add office space to the 6th & 7th floors. Tenants include the U.S. Department of Education, Department of Health & Human Services, and the GSA. HTNB designed the renovated space. Grunley also worked on phase one of renovations, which were completed in 2008. Work began on phase two over the summer and parking spaces have been blocked on 4th Street & D Street. Construction is supposed to be complete by July 2011 and the project will aim for LEED-Silver certification. The D Street spaces have been blocked since August and are scheduled to be available again by mid-December. Above is a photo of the back of the Switzer Building, at the corner of 4th & D Street.

- The sidewalk along 4th Street near the Phase III building at Patriots Plaza reopened a couple weeks ago. Back in August, the closed sidewalk on E Street was reopened to pedestrians. Now, the plaza in front of all three buildings is mostly done. No tenants have been signed yet for the Phase II & III buildings. Above is a photo of the Phase III building, which is just about complete.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Exterior of Arena Stage Two Weeks From Completion

With a year left until the opening of the new Arena Stage, the Washington Business Journal reports today (subscribers only) that Clark Construction Group, the project's general contractor, is about two weeks away from completing the exterior of the building. Once exterior work is completed, construction activity will be focused on the interior. The new theater complex will be 200,000 square feet, which will make it the largest regional theater in the city. Above is a photo of the Maine Avenue side of Arena Stage, taken last month, and below is a YouTube video tour of the theater filmed earlier this month, from Arena Stage's website.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

9th Street Bridge Reopens

As of this morning, traffic can now pass over the 9th Street Bridge from the 9th Street Tunnel about a year after the span was closed by DDOT for a major overhaul. Back in November of 2008, DDOT stated the following would be done to the bridge:

The project will make the bridge safer and more aesthetically pleasing. The concrete bridge deck on the 9th Street Bridge will be replaced, including a new walkway and staircase to Frontage Road at L’Enfant Plaza. The work will also include the replacement of the bridge bearings…new roadway lighting, milling and resurfacing of the approach pavement and re-painting the exterior girders on the bridges. DDOT will also repair the roof slab of a DC Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) pumping station that is beneath 9th Street.

I’m sure Southwesters will be happy that one of the major entryways to the neighborhood has reopened, and our cars will be happy that the road surface is no longer so bumpy! Above is a photo of the recently reopened bridge. The sidewalk on the bridge is still closed to pedestrians.

Update: The ramp off the 9th Street Tunnel towards northbound I-395 is closed.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Madison Courts Restauranteurs

Jennifer Price, a broker with Madison Retail Group, tells Southwest...TLQTC that they are looking to bring a sushi restaurant to the ground floor of the Capitol View office building and a Cactus Cantina or matchbox-like establishment to The Portals. I think any of these restaurants would be a welcome addition to the food scene here, since an overwhelming majority of readers voted in our September survey that what they liked least about Southwest was the lack of retail/restaurants. What types of restaurants would you like to see in Southwest? Feel free to opine in the comments section and/or participate in the survey on the sidebar.

Michael Vick Preaches About Dog Fighting

Thanks to reader Marc for the tip about Philadelphia quarterback Michael Vick's appearance at Covenant Baptist Church in Bellevue back on September 29th. According to The Washington Post, Vick was in town as a part of an arrangement he made with the Humane Society to make public appearances twice a month to speak out against dog fighting. His compliance with the request to make these appearances was one of the reasons why Vick's suspension from the NFL was ended last month. Vick previously spoke in Chicago, Philadelphia, and Atlanta.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Waterfront Station Residential on Tap

An article in this month's Hill Rag (now available online) states that the city will be "patient" with the land they own at Waterfront Station, the northeast parcel as seen circled on the map at the top of this post. The city retained a portion of the Waterfront Station site as a result of their land sale negotiations with the developers a few years ago, in order to increase the number of residential units planned at the project. Sean Madigan, communications director for the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, states the following about the timeline for residential development on their parcel in the Hill Rag article:

But with the housing market being what it is, we are probably going to be a little patient on this one and not put it out on the street for bids until conditions improve.

In the meantime, their parcel, along with the other undeveloped parcels, will be grassed over until these sites get built, as David Smith from Waterfront Associates mentioned at last month's Safeway town hall meeting. Three other residential towers will be built by the developers in later phases, including the adaptive reuse of the two old EPA buildings.

Shooting in the Neighborhood

DCist reported today that there was a shooting today around 1:15pm at the 1300 block of 1st Street. Two victims were shot and transported to area hospitals where they are in critical condition. The shooter was still at large as of this afternoon, but a weapon was recovered. Today's shooting occurred less than two blocks south of the new First District headquarters.

Update: One of the victims, an 18-year old male named Chicquelo Abeny, a resident of SW, died from his wounds, according to The Washington Post.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Engine 13 Land Deal Delayed Again by Council

According to an article in the Washington Business Journal, the D.C. Council has approved three land deals East of the River, but a fourth deal that would allow the construction of a new Engine 13 firehouse and two office buildings with ground-level retail was removed from consideration by Council member Kwame Brown, chair of the Economic Development Committee. The reason stated for holding the bill for approval was E Street Development did not have signed agreements to hire city-certified small businesses or hire District residents. Presumably, once these agreements are reached, the land deal will be brought to the full Council for approval. Back in April, the DC Government chose E Street Development to build the new firehouse and office buildings, located on the corners of 4th & E Street and 6th & E Street. Since then, the developers have been working with the city to come up with a land lease agreement. Back in July, the Council delayed voting on the agreement until after the August recess and now it has delayed voting again. Above is a rendering of the green roof planned at the new Engine 13, designed by Beyer, Blinder, Belle, from E Street Development's February 25th presentation.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A Peek Inside First District Headquarters

Last night, MPD's First District held an open house to celebrate the opening of their new headquarters building, which is located at 101 M Street in the old Anthony Bowen School. Also, the First District was named best police station this year and October is National Crime Prevention Month, so there was a lot to celebrate. As a part of the festivities, there was a police horse outside of the station, presentations by Commander Kamperin and Council members Wells & Mendelson, catering by Hogate's Cafe, as well as tours of the facility. Below are some photos from the tour I took of the First District HQ. The above photo is a sign on the wall near the entrance to the police station.

(Left) This is the Roll Call room on the second floor, where officers gather to receive their orders. It still looks like a classroom.




(Right) The holding cells are located on the ground level. There are separate holding cell area for men and women.





(Left) Here is a photo of the toilet and sink in the "bullpen," a larger holding cell where groups of prisoners are kept. There were no prisoners held at the First District station during the open house.

Monday, October 5, 2009

October Issue of The Southwester is Available

The October issue of The Southwester is now available online and the paper should be distributed throughout the neighborhood this week. One of the new features of the monthly paper is a column called Real Estate Notes, which is written by me and is my debut in print journalism. Most of the real estate tidbits in the column come from this blog, while news about Near SE is adapted from fellow neighborhood blogger JDLand (with JD's permission, of course). Other new features of the paper include a column by Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells called Tommy's Beat, as well as a column written by lawyer Essita Duncan called Reality Checks, which covers law-related topics.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Signage at Constitution Center

There was a reception on September 30th to celebrate the substantial completion of Constitution Center. According to an article from Real Estate Bisnow earlier this week, Constitution Center is now about 97% complete. Signage has appeared this week at the 7th Street and D Street entrances to the office complex. Also, the light painting Transformation and Legacy sculpture were unveiled at the reception. The light painting is visible at the L'Enfant Plaza metro entrance on D Street, but the sculpture is in the private central courtyard. Below are photos of the two pieces of artwork.

(Left) Legacy sculpture by Richard Deutsch.







(Right) Part of the Transformation light painting by Stephen Knapp.

Open House at 1D HQ

There will be an open house at the new MPD District 1 Headquarters this Tuesday from 5pm - 8pm. There will be refreshments, music, interactive crime prevention presentations, raffles, door prizes, and guided tours of 1D’s station house. The new headquarters, located at the former Bowen School at 101 M Street, opened in April. The old headquarters building at 4th & E Street will be demolished and replaced by the Consolidated Forensics Laboratory.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Lincoln Memorial Improvements Approved

I've been meaning to do a post about this since I heard about this earlier this month from the Washington Business Journal, so here it goes. In their September meeting, the National Capital Planning Commission approved the plans made by the National Park Service to improve areas adjacent to the Lincoln Memorial, including the reflecting pool and West Potomac Park. Renderings of the improvements can be found in the WBJ article. An excerpt from the article:
Designed by Sasaki Associates, the project will add more pedestrian and bike-friendly paths around the reflecting pool and on the elm walk, improve the Reflecting Pool’s water quality and structure and relocate benches and trash cans.
In their October 1st meeting, the NCPC will discuss improvements to the DC World War I Memorial. Back in April, the DC World War I Memorial received funding for its restoration, thanks to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As a part of the restoration, the memorial will once again become a band shell and the landscape will be restored to its original configuration. The completion date has been pushed back to September 2012.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

SWNA Forum Tomorrow

SWNA will be hosting a community forum on Monday night with Council members Tommy Wells, Kwame Brown, and Michael Brown at St. Augustine's Church @ 7pm. The first 15 minutes of the forum will be an informal "meet & greet" session, followed by a five minute speech from each Council member on their vision for the SW-Near SE neighborhood. Afterwards, there will be a question & answer period. Those of you who want the Waterfront-SEU Metro name changed, for instance, or want to know what's going on with the Consolidated Forensics Lab, should attend the forum and ask your elected officials.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Emelina Back in DC

She’s BAAAACK. This morning, I noticed the yacht Emelina was docked at the Capital Yacht Club along the Southwest Waterfront. She was last in DC in June, but since then, readers from DC to Maine have been tracking her progress along the Eastern seaboard. As of Sunday, she was in Philadelphia, making her way back south from spending the summer in New England. When I saw the yacht today, there were five MPD vehicles lined up along the shoreline at East Potomac Park near where she was docked and I found that to be strange. Later, I checked out DCist and they reported that a body has been found on a boat at the Capital Yacht Club. More details to come.

Update: The AP is reporting a man's body was found under a dock this morning around 9am near the Capital Yacht Club and police are investigating.

Update #2: I heard on WTOP radio that the body was that of a 50-year old woman whose father owns a yacht at the Captial Yacht Club. So far, no foul play is suspected.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Greenery Arrives Outside of Constitution Center

Yesterday, I noticed some trees and shrubs were starting to get planted in a large planter box at the corner of 7th & D Street in front of Constitution Center. While the interior courtyard landscaping has been in place for months now (see August photos here), this is the first indication of what kind of green space will be visible to passersby on D Street. (Above is a photo of the D Street frontage of Constitution Center looking west from the L'Enfant Plaza Metro entrance.) Planter boxes will be located on all four sides of the building. It also appears from my quick drive-by that the façade of the 7th Street entrance to the office complex is nearly complete. In addition, a new work of art commissioned for the project, a light painting called Transformation by artist Stephen Knapp, is now partially visible as you leave the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station entrance on D Street. The official unveiling of the light painting and the Legacy sculpture in the interior courtyard will be on September 30th.


Here is a photo of the trees recently planted at the corner of 7th & D Street.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

CVS Opens at The Portals

CVS is now open at The Portals, the large mixed-use development project along Maryland Avenue. The store actually opened a week ago, but I noticed the Grand Opening signs yesterday when I drove by the site. Back in the Spring, we reported that CVS was slated to open at the Portals, after Madison Retail Group signed the tenant to a 10,000 square foot space. I'm sure the workers in the office buildings and the neighboring Mandarin Oriental Hotel are happy to see the opening of CVS, the largest retailer to open to date at The Portals. CVS is located in the 3rd phase building, as seen in the above photo. Other retailers at The Portals include Starbucks, Potbelly's, and a pay-by-the-pound food provider, as well as the restaurants at the Mandarin. Here are the hours of operation for CVS:
Monday - Friday: 7am - 9pm
Saturday - Sunday: 9am - 9pm

Friday, September 18, 2009

Road & Metro Station Closures

- DDOT announced streetcar tracks are being installed on parts of South Capitol Street on the east side of the Anacostia River. As a result, traffic at the intersection of South Capitol Street and Firth Sterling Avenue, SE will be reduced to one lane on each side, which began on September 16th and will last until September 30th. The Anacostia segment of the streetcar network is supposed to be operational in late 2012.

- DDOT is scheduled to close a lane on the Southeast-Southwest Freeway (I-395) this Sunday to conduct a field survey in the roadway. The far right lane on the eastbound side of I-395, west of the Francis Case Memorial Bridge, will be closed from 8 am to approximately 2pm. Additional work will be conducted next weekend on the opposite side of I-395. On Sunday, September 27, the right westbound lane will be closed from 8am to 2pm.

- Fox 5 News reports that some Metro stations will be closed during Columbus Day weekend, including L'Enfant Plaza and Waterfront-SEU. Metro is replacing four rail switches at L'Enfant Plaza. The stations will be closed October 9th starting at 9:30pm and re-open Tuesday October 13.

Groundbreaking at CNG Facility in DC Village

According to this press release from WMATA, the transit agency broke ground on Wednesday for a new Metro Bus garage at DC Village. Back in May, WMATA's board agreed to purchase 16 acres for $6.45 million to build a compressed natural gas facility that will store anywhere between 114 and 250 Metrobuses. The new bus garage will be located at Shepherd Parkway and Blue Plains Drive and replaces the Southeastern garage near Nationals Park. Funds for the new garage came from the sale of the Southeastern garage and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. The new garage is slated to open in 2012 and is aiming for LEED-Silver certification.

Monday, September 14, 2009

SEU Loses Accreditation

The Washington Post reports that Southeastern University lost its accreditation with the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools after August 31st. It's still not clear whether the University will merge with the GS Graduate School, which is located at L'Enfant Plaza, but there won't be a fall session, according to SEU's website. A couple weeks ago, we were asking what should be done with the SEU campus building if it no longer housed the University. I think it's worth asking again, since there's a possibility it could become another vacant building or site in the neighborhood, joining the former MPD District 1 headquarters, 1101 South Capitol Street (now demolished), the St. Matthews Church site, and others. What should replace Southeastern University at 501 I Street?

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Scenes from Southwest: The Waterfront


Clockwise (from upper left): (1) Houseboats along the Southwest Waterfront esplanade. (2) The Titanic Memorial near Fort McNair. (3) The historic Thomas Law House and Harbour Square Co-ops. (4) Children playing near the waterfront.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Road Closures This Weekend

According to DDOT, the ramp for Westbound 395 toward Maine Avenue will be closed to traffic from 7am to 1pm on Sunday for the Nation's Triathlon 2009. Alternate routes will be the 14th St Bridge, 9th & 12th Street Tunnels. Also, the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge will be closed to traffic on Sunday from 4am to 9am for the monthly test of the swing span.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Packed House at Safeway Town Hall Meeting

There was a spirited debate tonight at the Safeway Town Hall meeting, which lasted three hours with almost every seat filled at Westminster Presbyterian Church. Robert Sockwell, chair of the Southwest Safeway Task Force, moderated the discussion, which included representatives from MPD, Waterfront Associates (the developer of Waterfront Station), and Safeway. Also in attendance at the meeting was Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells and At-Large Council member Phil Mendelson. The meeting was prompted by Safeway's request for a Class B liquor license, which would allow them to sell beer and wine in the new store. ANC 6D protested the request at their July meeting as a way to negotiate with Safeway over outstanding community concerns regarding the poor condition of the current Safeway and expectations moving forward (in both the current store and the new store opening next year). First up was Lt. Nicholas Gallucci from MPD's 1st District, who went over security concerns at Safeway. He stated that the Southwest area has experienced the second most dramatic reduction in crime in the city over the past couple of years and the area near Safeway is no exception. MPD has been patrolling the Safeway parking lot as of late, as a courtesy, even though they are not responsible for securing private property. Next was David Smith from Waterfront Associates, who mentioned a few new tidbits about phase I of Waterfront Station:
  • The West Tower office building will be named 1101 4th Street and the East Tower will be named 1100 4th Street
  • 1100 4th Street will open in March 2010
  • There will be 8 or 9 retailers in phase I for a total of 85,000 square feet (55,000 SF will be the new Safeway)
  • Included in those 8 or 9 retailers will be 3-4 restaurants
  • Specific retailers will be announced within the next six weeks or so as tenant agreements are reached
  • Other retailers will start moving in around March or April 2010
  • The paving of 4th Street should start next month
  • 4th Street will open by March 2010, but could possibly reopen before that date
  • Vornado will be the property manager and will have an office on-site
  • The site of future phases of development will be grassed over until they are ready to be built
  • The developer can't get financing right now to redevelop the old EPA towers into residential, so over the next six months, they will dress up the buildings so they don't look like the eyesores they appear to be now
Afterwards, representatives from Safeway described what was being planned for the new Safeway and how community concerns have/will be addressed. Avis Black from Safeway went over the plans for the new lifestyle concept store:
  • The new Safeway will be 55,000 SF, nearly double the size of the current store
  • It will be modeled after the Mount Vernon Triangle store - photos of which can be found here
  • The store will have a bakery with a hearth oven, gelato, prepared sandwiches, a sushi bar, seating areas with a fireplace, a pharmacy, an assortment of gourmet cheeses, and a floral department, among other things
  • The store will be shaped like the letter J as opposed to a rectangle
  • If the Class B license is approved, the store will sell beer and wine
  • The store will include a Starbucks and a Bergmann's drycleaning desk
  • There will be five regular registers and eight self-checkout registers
  • Public restrooms will be available
  • The main entrance to the store will be off 4th Street
  • There will be below-grade parking off 4th Street with an elevator and escalator serving the garage that will go directly to Safeway
  • The first level in the garage will be dedicated for retail parking
  • Parking will be free for 2 hours for Safeway patrons
Tom Harris and Peter Neth from Safeway addressed issues at the current store, including security, proper stocking of items, their rain check policy, cleanliness, and staffing, namely the lack of customer service. After their presentations, the audience had a chance to ask questions of the panelists. A lot of the questions were prefaced by an anecdotal story about a bad experience at Safeway (we all have them don't we?), followed by a demand for action. The Safeway representatives will meet with the task force once a month to go over their progress in addressing these long standing issues. (Above is a rendering of the exterior of 1100 4th Street, with the new Safeway on the ground floor, courtesy of Vornado)

Spotlight on Design: Bing Thom

On September 15th, Bing Thom, the architect of the new Arena Stage, and Molly Smith, the Artistic Director for Arena Stage, will be discussing the unique challenges in building performing arts venues as a part of the National Building Museum's Spotlight on Design lecture series. The lecture will be held at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library downtown from 6:30pm to 8pm. You can buy tickets for the lecture here. (Above is a rendering of the new Arena Stage, scheduled to open Fall 2010, from the Arena Stage website.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Waterfront Metro Station Plaza Renderings

Construction moves along at Waterfront Station, including the Waterfront-SEU Metro plaza, which was designed by Oculus, a DC-based landscape architecture firm. To the right is a rendering of an aerial view of what the plaza will look like, from Oculus' website. It will be nice to see all of those trees lining the newly reopened 4th Street, as well as the plaza itself! From the rendering, it appears that the plaza will have pavers of varying size. The building to the right of the five poles isn't a part of phase one of Waterfront Station. The current Safeway is located at that site and will be demolished after the new store opens in the East Tower building in 2010. Below is a street-level rendering of the plaza, looking north from M Street.



The white rectangle on the right side of the image is the Metro elevator. What do you think of the Metro plaza design?