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 fa├žade 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?

Tenant Delays Move to Capitol View

According to an article in this week's Washington Business Journal (subscribers only), Roll Call Group signed a letter of intent in February to move to Capitol View, the new office building at the corner of 3rd & E Street, near the Federal Center SW Metro. However, since Roll Call Group announced its purchase of Congressional Quarterly Inc., the company has decided to reevaluate its space needs as it decides how many employees it will have once the takeover is complete. Signed tenants at Capitol View include the Association of American Railroads and lobbyists for Disney, but about 85% of the building remains vacant, as reported back in March.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Demolition at 1101 South Capitol

A reader pointed out to me that the old KFC/Taco Bell at 1101 South Capitol Street is in the process of being demolished. Once I get back into town from a mini-Labor Day weekend vacation, I'll get some updated photos of the site. The Ruben Companies owns this site and another one on the other side of South Capitol. Plans seem to be further along on the SE parcel, but the last we heard about 1101 South Capitol was in February, when the developer was seeking a variance and an exemption from the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA). However, the application was withdrawn in July. On the Ruben Companies website, a project page for 1101 South Capitol has reappeared, but not much information is available, besides a rendering of the planned office building (displayed above.)

Update: Below are a couple of photos showing demolition work at the site. It was pretty cloudy on Monday, but you can still see that the remnants of the KFC/Taco Bell building will disappear soon.

(Left) Here is a photo of the partially demolished building along South Capitol Street. At the far left of the photo is the 7-Eleven, which is owned by Vornado, along with the parking lot behind 1101 South Capitol.
(Right) This photo shows the construction equipment being used to demolish the former restaurant. In addition to 1101 South Capitol and 1100 South Capitol Street, SE, the Ruben Companies also owns a parcel on the 1000 block of South Capitol, which backs into the post office located along Half Street.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What Bloggers Are Saying About Southwest

- DCist picks up a story from the Examiner which describes the Bellevue community's displeasure with the design for the new Washington Highlands library. London architect David Adjaye was chosen last October to design the new library, which will be located on Atlantic Street. Check out this post from April for a description of the planned amenities at the new library. (The above rendering of the library is from the DCPL website.)

- The ArchiCritic at DCMetrocentric makes a return visit to SW - this time to Capitol Park, the residential neighborhood of townhomes and multifamily towers located north of I Street and south of the SE-SW Freeway between 4th Street and Delaware Avenue. For the most part, the critique of Capitol Park was a positive one, noting how the design of the neighborhood makes it one of the most pedestrian friendly areas of DC, despite its lack of commercial space. The critique describes the area as a "modernist interpretation of a medieval neighborhood plan on a Baroque city." There has been some infill development in the Capitol Park neighborhood since it was built over 40 years ago during urban renewal. Potomac Place Condominium was built in 2004 where parking lots for Potomac Place Tower and an adjacent park was once located.

- DCMud reports that The View at Waterfront Apartments have been sold at foreclosure to Titex Marina View, LLC. The two-building complex recently underwent extensive renovations and Fairfield Residential, the previous owner, had plans to build two new towers on the parking lots of the apartment community, but the new buildings have been scrapped (for now).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Coast Guard HQ to Move to SE

GlobeSt.com reports that the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters, currently located at 2100 2nd Street in Buzzard Point, will be moving to the West Campus of St. Elizabeth's in Southeast sooner rather than later, thanks to $162 million in stimulus money. The Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security, which wants to consolidate its operations at St. Elizabeth's. A $435 million contract was recently awarded to Clark Construction and HOK to build phase one of the new headquarters, which should get underway later this year and be complete by 2013. However, late in 2008, the GSA signed a 10-year lease renewal at the Coast Guard's current headquarters building, which is owned by Monday Properties. What will happen to the current building once the Coast Guard leaves? 2100 2nd Street was originally built in 1973 and renovated as recently as 2004. It abuts the James Creek Marina and is near Akridge's 100 V Street site. Perhaps by 2013, there may be some activity at 100 V Street, which could influence Monday Properties' plans for 2100 2nd Street.

Museum Suspect to be Arraigned Today

According to an article in today's The Washington Post, James W. von Brunn, the suspected shooter at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum shooting on June 10th, will be arraigned today at U.S. District Court. Museum guard Stephen T. Johns was killed in the shooting, and von Brunn was shot in the face by another security guard who returned fire.

Update: The Washington Post reports that the judge decided to defer the arraignment until von Brunn undergoes a mental competency exam. A hearing is scheduled for October 14th.