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.