Thursday, January 1, 2009

Top Southwest Stories of 2008

Although it's no longer 2008, I wanted to put together a list of top stories from the prior year. Southwest...TLQTC came into existence on June 4, 2008, and since then, several events have happened in the neighborhood - some good, some bad, and some ugly. Following is a recap of what I think are the top local stories of the year, in no particular order:

Southwest Waterfront Redevelopment Advances

The drama surrounding the land transfer of the Southwest Waterfront dominated the news in the last couple months of the year, with the D.C. Council finally approving the deal on December 16th, at their last legislative session of 2008. Back in July, the Council permitted the use of $198 million in bonds for infrastructure improvements along the waterfront. For instance, as a part of the redevelopment, Water Street will be closed, and utilities will have to be moved. The Hoffman-Struever development team plans a $1.5 billion mixed-use project along 51 acres of the Southwest Waterfront. Here's a description of what's planned from the press release announcing the land transfer approval:
  • Housing – approximately 770 residential units with 30% being affordable housing.
  • Cultural – a Maritime Center showcasing the region’s maritime history through a variety of educational, entertainment, and cultural exhibits
  • Hotel – Three new hotels
  • Office – Significant Class A commercial office space
  • Neighborhood amenities – neighborhood-serving retail such as a gourmet grocery, casual and upscale dining, cafes, jazz venues, shops and opportunities for local, small retailers
  • Parks – Acres of quality public parks, open space, and waterfront promenades throughout the project
  • Water-focused development – significant improvements to the existing marina and pier facilities, water taxis and public piers
  • Sustainable Design – the first LEED-Silver certified mixed-use project in the city and a LEED-ND Pilot Project
  • Significant Certified Business Enterprises (CBE) – participation in all aspects of the project, including ownership and development
The development will go through the design phase starting in 2009 and construction of phase one is slated to begin in 2011-12.

(The above photo is a sunset shot of the Southwest Waterfront taken from Cantina Marina in July of 2007)

Waterfront Station Comes Out of the Ground

Demolition of the old Waterside Mall started in November of 2007, but by mid-2008, the site had been cleared and foundation work was underway on the two new office buildings that are a part of phase one of Waterfront Station. In October, more demolition was done to make way for the reopening of 4th Street and construction had reached ground level. By December, the east and west office buildings reached the third and fourth floors. The Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs and the Office of Tax & Revenue have pre-leased all 500,000 SF of the office space planned in phase one. Also included in the first phase will be a 55,000 SF urban lifestyle Safeway, which will replace the current store. In November, I visited the recently opened urban lifestyle Safeway at CityVista in NW to get an idea of what we have in "store" for us once our new Safeway opens in May 2010. The office buildings and 4th Street will open by March 2010.

(The above photo is of the 4th Street right-of-way at Waterfront Station taken in December 2008)

The New Arena Stage Begins to Take Shape

Groundbreaking of the new Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater occurred in January 2008. Since then, the new cradle theater has risen to its maximum height on the north side of the construction site. Canadian architect Bing Thom designed the new Arena Stage with a transparent exterior with three theaters connected together by a common lobby and a cantilevered roof. While Arena Stage is under construction, performances have moved to Crystal City and the Lincoln Theater. Arena Stage should be reopened in time for the 2010-11 season.

(The above photo is the 6th Street frontage of Arena Stage under construction in November 2008)

CSI: Southwest

Designs were approved for the new Consolidated Forensic Laboratory (CFL) in 2008. Currently, the District doesn't have its own forensics lab and has to use the FBI's lab in Quantico, VA. As a result, evidence takes longer to get analyzed and crimes don't get solved fast enough. 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 HOK-designed CFL will be a LEED Gold-certified building at the site of the MPD 1st District headquarters building at 4th Street & School Street. The 1st District headquarters will be moved to the former Bowen Elementary School site on M Street once renovations are complete during the 1st quarter of 2009. Once the MPD headquarters is moved, the building will be demolished and the new CFL will be complete by 2011.

(The above rendering is of the new CFL, from the CFL website)

Fall Crime Spree Brings Guardian Angels

The new CFL can't come soon enough to help get crimes solved in the city, including Southwest, where during the fall, there were a rash of assaults by juveniles, including the brutal attack of Waterside Towers resident Mark Blank, who subsequently died from his injuries. As a result, in November the Guardian Angels descended on Southwest to do weekly neighborhood walks in order to highlight safety concerns and help empower residents.

Delays at Randall School

The credit crunch and bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers over the summer caused local developer Monument Realty to back out of a deal with the Corcoran Gallery of Art to redevelop the Randall School on I Street into a campus for the Corcoran and an apartment building. Before the Corcoran purchased the Randall School, it served as the Millennium Arts Center and a homeless shelter. Currently, the building's windows are boarded up and a security guard patrols the school complex. Now, the Corcoran is looking for a new development partner and hopes to find one in 2009.

(The above rendering is of the Randall School site, courtesy of Monument Realty)

As you can see, a lot has been going on in Southwest...The Little Quadrant That Could over the past year. 2009 should be no different, despite the weakened economy.

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