Thursday, April 30, 2009

CVS Coming to The Portals

Retail broker Madison Retail Group recently signed a deal with CVS to occupy 10,000 square feet of space at phase three of The Portals complex, which was developed by Republic Properties. CVS will join current retailers Starbucks, Potbelly's, and a pay-by-the-pound food provider once the pharmacy opens this summer. Jennifer Price from Madison tells Southwest...TLQTC that there remains over 20,000 SF of retail space available in the first three phases of The Portals. Included in that total is 10,000 SF of space that was once slated for the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company. That theater subsequently decided to locate to Penn Quarter. Price is targeting a sit-down restaurant, a smaller-scale food provider, and eventually a performing arts venue like an Improv for the vacant retail space. Once phase IV and V are built, those office buildings will have an additional 14,000 square feet of ground floor retail. There is a dearth of sit-down restaurants in Southwest, so hopefully Madison can bring one soon to The Portals. Above is a photo of The Portals complex taken from across the Tidal Basin in October 2008 - on the left is the phase III building and the Mandarin Oriental hotel is on the right. Maryland Avenue bisects the site.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Job Opening at the Mandarin Oriental

The WBJ reported earlier this week that the general manager of the Mandarin Oriental is relocating to the hotel's Bangkok, Thailand location at the end of this month. While a search for a new manager is underway, the resident manager and the Executive Vice President of the hotel chain's northern region will run the daily operations of the SW location. The luxury hotel is a part of the massive Portals office complex, located on Maryland Avenue. Above is a photo of the hotel taken back in October 2008.

Stimulus Spending in Southwest

On Monday, it was announced by the Fenty Administration that the first DC road project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act has begun on the Southeast-Southwest Freeway. Last weekend, eastbound lanes from the Case Bridge to 3rd Street, SE were repaved. By the end of May, the westbound lanes and ramps will also be repaved. Too bad the decking of portions of the freeway isn't shovel-ready! Above is a sign posted near the Maine Avenue exit of I-395 and freshly paved road. In the background is construction activity related to the rebuilding of the 9th Street bridge, which won't be complete until November.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Framework Plan Takes Shape

Within the past month, both the National Capital Planning Commission and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts have approved the final version of the Monumental Core Framework Plan: Connecting New Destinations with the National Mall. The goal of the framework plan is to revitalize federal areas adjacent to the National Mall in order to better connect the Mall with the city and waterfront. These areas include the SW Rectangle, East Potomac Park, NW Rectangle, and Federal Triangle. Back in August, Southwest...TLQTC did a post describing the SW Rectangle portion of the draft plan. Not much has changed in the final version, but it appears that the infill opportunities near the Capitol and along the Center Leg Freeway (I-395) were dropped from the plan. Those areas are covered in a separate plan called House Office Buildings Facilities Plan and Preliminary South Capitol Area Plan. The framework plan calls for several improvements in the SW Rectangle, the most significant being the transformation of 10th Street into a gateway between the National Mall and the Southwest Waterfront. Currently, 10th Street is too wide, uninviting, and at its northern edge, the Department of Energy’s Forrestal Building complex straddles the street, blocking the view of the Smithsonian Castle. At the southern edge of 10th Street, Banneker Overlook is an underutilized asset that offers spectacular views of the Washington Channel and East Potomac Park, but access to the waterfront is limited. Starting from the north, the framework plan calls for narrowing 10th Street and redeveloping the 20-acre Forrestal Building complex as federal office space, with ground floor retail, cultural space, and gardens. The plan calls for temporarily moving DOE from the Forrestal complex to another highly visible site within the monumental core. In order to get the ball rolling quickly…the wrecking ball, that is…my idea would be to move most of DOE to Constitution Center at 7th & D Street while the Forrestal complex is redeveloped. Constitution Center has over 1.3 million vacant SF of newly renovated space in a secure environment, right on top of the L’Enfant Plaza Metro, and it’s aiming for LEED-Gold certification. Sounds like a good temporary fix to me!

Here is a rendering of what the 10th Street corridor and the redeveloped Forrestal complex could look like, from the Monumental Core Framework Plan. In the background is the Smithsonian Castle.

Above is a rendering of street-level retail that could be developed along 10th Street at the Forrestal complex, from the Monumental Core Framework Plan.

There would also be infill development at privately-owned L’Enfant Plaza and at the U.S. Postal Service headquarters, both of which flank 10th Street. Southwest…TLQTC did a post back in February showing some preliminary renderings of what new construction developer JBG has planned at L’Enfant Plaza. Along the east side of 10th Street, their plans call for two new office buildings. Originally, the National Children’s Museum was to go on the site, but now that museum will be built at National Harbor in Prince George’s County. In addition, JBG has plans for an extended-stay hotel on D Street and an apartment building in the air-rights above 9th Street. The redevelopment of the U.S. Postal Service HQ would likely come later in the process. Perhaps at the intersection of 10th Street and Maryland Avenue, there could be a monument honoring Benjamin Banneker. (The rendering at the top of this post is a south view of the redeveloped 10th Street, looking towards Banneker Overlook, from the Monumental Core Framework Plan.)

At the southern end of 10th Street, Banneker Overlook could support a cultural institution or major memorial. A water feature of some sort would remain and a grand staircase would lead down to the Southwest Waterfront, where PN Hoffman and Struever Brothers have big plans of their own.

Above is a rendering of the vista of the Southwest Waterfront from Banneker Overlook, from the Monumental Core Framework Plan.

Other aspects of the framework plan call for restoring Maryland Avenue as a grand boulevard in the same vein as its sister street – Pennsylvania Avenue, as well as reconnecting streets by decking over freeways and rail tracks that cut through the neighborhood. However, the 10th Street transformation is seen as a top priority. In today's Washington Business Journal, it was reported that the Federal City Council, a group of influential city leaders, has thrown their weight behind the 10th Street plan and have called it a priority for connecting the National Mall with the SW Waterfront. The next step, according to the Council, would be to do a feasibility study of the 10th Street corridor.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

DC War Memorial Restoration Effort Receives Funding

According to an article in today's Washington Post, the DC War Memorial on the National Mall, just off Independence Avenue, will receive $7.3 million for its restoration. This memorial was dedicated in 1931 to honor District residents that fought in World War I. However, the memorial and neighboring reflecting pool have fallen into disrepair. By September 2010, the memorial will be restored as a band shell and the reflecting pool will be beautified. In addition, the seawall around the Jefferson Memorial will get repaired and the reflecting pool in front of the Lincoln Memorial will be fixed. The funding comes from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which was passed by Congress earlier this year. These repairs are just the beginning of improvements that will come to the National Mall. According to the Trust for the National Mall, there are over $350 million in deferred maintenance and the Trust is in the process of raising money to make these repairs.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Measles Outbreak Possible in SW

DCist reported yesterday that several locations in the metro area were potential exposure sites for measles (Rubeola) in early April, including two sites in Southwest - the Potbelly's on 3rd Street on April 4th and Safeway on April 8th & 10th. According to WebMD:
Measles is a very contagious infection that causes a rash all over your body. It is also called rubeola or red measles. It is very rare in the United States because most children get the vaccine as part of their regular childhood shots. The first symptoms of measles are like a bad cold-a high fever, a runny nose, sneezing, a sore throat, and a hacking cough. The lymph nodes in your neck may swell. You also may feel very tired and have diarrhea and red, sore eyes. As these symptoms start to go away, you will get red spots inside your mouth, followed by a rash all over your body.
If you think you may have been exposed, call 311 if you are a D.C. resident, or the D.C. Department of Health at (202) 737-4404.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Waterfront Station Gets Facade Treatment

The West Tower of Waterfront Station has started to receive part of its facade. So far, glass has been wrapped around two sides of the building, but the terracotta portion of the facade that will run along the reopened 4th Street has yet to be installed. However, some of the insulation that goes beneath the terracotta is already up. Local architect Shalom Baranes has designed the 1st phase of Waterfront Station. To see what the terracotta may look like, take a look at JDLand's site for photos of 55 M Street, SE, which was also designed by Baranes. The West Tower is planned to be complete by the first quarter of 2010. (The above photo of the West Tower was taken on April 5th)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Washington Highlands Library Rendering Released

With the news that architect David Adjaye's firm was chosen to design the National Museum of African American History and Culture on the National Mall, we thought we would focus on Adjaye's other work in DC - namely the new Washington Highlands branch public library he is designing on Atlantic Street in Bellevue (Southwest...TLQTC reported on this story back in October). On March 31st, there was a community meeting where a slide show presentation showed some of Adjaye's initial designs for the new space. The new library will be three stories tall, contain approximately 20,000 square feet of space, and will aim for LEED-Silver certification. Enhancements at the new library include an outdoor amphitheatre, outdoor space for children's games like hopscotch and jump rope, a garden, meeting rooms, study rooms, additional computers, and separate space for children, teens, and adults. According to the Washington Highlands Neighborhood Library Project website, the design process should be complete by Summer 2009, with construction taking 18-20 months. By Spring 2011, the new library should be open. An interim library will be open for the community around the corner from the current site while the new one is built. (Above is a rendering of the new library shown from South Capitol Terrace, from the March 31st presentation)

Monday, April 13, 2009

MPD District 1 Moves into New Digs

On Saturday evening, I noticed there were a lot of police cars lined up in front of the new MPD District 1 HQ at the former Bowen Elementary School on M Street. There were balloons out front, so it looked like they were celebrating something, perhaps the completion of their move? Then, on Sunday, I drove by the old HQ building on 4th Street and noticed the front doors were chained shut, orange cones blocked the entrance, signs were posted on the doors, and no police cars could be found, which confirmed my suspicion that the MPD move had occurred. I hope to get inside the new HQ building in the next couple of weeks, so I can check out the new community space that can be used for ANC 6D meetings, SWNA meetings, and other events. Above is a photo of the M Street facade of the new HQ building, which was taken on Sunday, April 5th. See below for some more exterior photos.

Here is a photo of the entrance to the new HQ taken on April 5th, with a fresh coat of paint on the doors and windows, along with new landscaping.

Here is a photo of the side of the building also taken on April 5th, with the old mural still intact and new fencing along Delaware Avenue.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

They Paved Over Paradise!

Just as developer Vornado told Southwest...TLQTC back in February, Bernstein's Reliable Liquors, along with the other businesses at 1101 South Capitol Street (except for the 7-Eleven and the Taco Bell/KFC site) have been demolished and replaced by a surface parking lot in time for Opening Day at Nationals Park, which is tomorrow. The parking lot is temporary - once the economy improves, the lot will be developed into a mixed-use project. Below is a progression of photos showing the transformation of Bernstein's from a three-story building to a parking lot.

This photo was taken in December 2008. The liquor store was already closed and the ground floor of the building was boarded up.

This photo was taken in February 2009. By this time, the building was gutted and fencing was placed around the building.

This photo was taken last Sunday. The buildings have been demolished and the lot has been paved over. Since this photo was taken, parking spaces have been marked. The buildings in the background are new residential buildings recently completed and an office building under construction in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood in Near SE.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Call Box Unveiling Today

Here's a reminder that today is the unveiling ceremony of two of the SW Call Boxes at 2:30 pm. The ceremony will take place at the lobby of the Disabled American Veterans building at the corner of 7th Street & Maine Avenue. There are a total of 14 call boxes that will be decorated with cherry blossom art. Below is one of the call boxes, located at the corner of 6th & G Street.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

ANC Meeting Set

The next ANC 6D meeting will be held on Monday, April 13th at 7pm at St. Augustine's Church, however, the agenda is not available yet online. Several Southwest-related items will be discussed at the meeting, including the 2010 Census, Engine 13, the SW Zoning Study, a public space permit for Arena Stage, and a presentation dealing with trees in SW. Above is a photo of the Maine Avenue elevation of Arena Stage taken in early April 2009. The framing for the roof structure is now visible.

Monday, April 6, 2009

E Street Development Chosen for Engine 13

DCMud reports that the District government has chosen E Street Development (Proposal #1) to develop a new DCFD Engine 13 firehouse at the corner of 4th & E Street. Additionally, the team will build an office building on top of the new firehouse and a second office building at the site of the current Engine 13 firehouse. Read my post from February for details on the proposal, but highlights include a partnership with community organizations including Kid Power Inc. and D.C. Central Kitchen, LEED-Silver certification, green roof technology, and neighborhood retail along E Street. This is the same development team that ANC6D recommended last month to DMPED. In the post from DCMud, it states that construction of the new firehouse will happen in 2010 and the current firehouse will stay open until the new one is complete. The above rendering is the new office building planned at the current site of Engine 13, designed by Beyer,Blinder,Belle.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Week in Review

Here's a recap of the week's events...

- Cherry Blossom Festival Begins. On a rainy Saturday, the National Cherry Blossom Festival began with several activities around the city, and earlier this week, the blossoms began their peak blooming period. The festival will continue through Sunday, April 12th, with local events, including the dedication of the SW Call Boxes and the Fireworks Show, both of which will occur on April 11th. (The above photo is one of the cherry blossom-themed call boxes along M Street, before the artwork has been installed)

- SEU President Resigns. While I was on vacation, a letter was in my inbox from the Chairman of the Board of Trustees at Southeastern University, stating that SEU President Dr. Charlene Drew Jarvis was resigning from her post as of March 31, 2009. In her place, Dr. Elaine Ryan was appointed interim President, previously serving as Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer. SEU is facing accreditation problems and is looking to merge with the GS Graduate School. See my post from last month for more background on the merger talks. On my flight to California, I ended up sitting next to one of the former deans at Southeastern and we started chatting about SEU's current situation and development trends in Southwest. It's a small world indeed!

- Frank Gehry chosen to design Eisenhower Memorial...No Joke! The Washington Business Journal reported on Wednesday that the Eisenhower Memorial Commission has chosen famed LA-based architect Frank Gehry to design a memorial dedicated to President Eisenhower, located across from the Air & Space Museum and the Department of Education headquarters at 4th Street & Independence Avenue. This is Gehry's second chance to design a structure in DC - the first time he was tapped to design an addition to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, but the gallery had financing issues, so it was never built. See my post from January about this topic.