Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Demolition and Build-Out

Earlier this week, demolition began at the Hogate's building, located along the Southwest Waterfront at 800 Water Street. At this month's ANC 6D meeting, David Roberts from the District government said permits would be pulled the week of December 14th to demolish the building and it would be gone by mid-January. Judging by the photo at the top of this post, they are on schedule. Demolition will pave the way for an event space at the site next Spring, including the possibility that the Washington Kastles World Team Tennis organization will have a temporary "stadium" and play there in July. The event space will be temporary, of course, since the section of the waterfront from 7th Street to 9th Street is slated for construction by the end of 2012. The first event scheduled for the new event space will be festivities surrounding the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which will take place from March 26 - April 10, 2011. In prior years, the Prelude to the Fireworks festival and fireworks show have taken place on the Southwest Waterfront.

Meanwhile, work continues at Waterfront Station to build out spaces for Station 4 and Z-Burger, which will open at the 1101 4th Street building in the first quarter of 2011. Station 4 will occupy the southeastern corner of the building and will be approximately 4,000 square feet. Six large glass doors have been installed to allow access to the outdoor seating planned for the restaurant. In total, there will be space for about 200 diners. Z-Burger will be located on the southwest corner of the building. Lots of glass has been put up at both restaurants, so it looks like there will be ample natural light in those spaces. After these two restaurants open, there will still be four retail spots available at the first phase of Waterfront Station - one of which will be for a bank.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Fire at Tiber Island

There was a fire this morning around 10AM on the second floor of the north tower of Tiber Island (430 M Street). DC EMS reported this morning via Twitter that one person was transported to the hospital for a check-up and a dog was taken to an animal hospital, presumably for smoke inhalation. Reader SS was on the scene this morning and took a photo of the aftermath from across the street at Waterfront Station. No additional details are available at this time about the extent of damage at Tiber Island. If any residents of Tiber Island have more details, please let me know. Thanks!

What Bloggers Are Saying About the Southwest Waterfront

- There was some passionate debate today on the legislation pending in the DC Council affecting the amount of affordable units along the Southwest Waterfront on Greater Greater Washington, based on the Washington Examiner article written over the weekend.

- Matthew Iglesias makes the case for allowing more market-rate housing on the waterfront, arguing that more market-rate housing will bring more tax payers (revenue) to the city, which will allow the city to decrease sales tax rates.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Editor of The Southwester Resigns

On Friday, Glenn Favreau, editor of The Southwester, announced his resignation. Below is an email he sent making the announcement:

My dear friends,

It is with great sadness that I communicate to you all my official resignation as editor of The Southwester.

I would like you all to understand that this decision did not come easily to me, and is greatly due to two situations:

1. The lack of support by community leaders on the SWNA board and the ANC when recent statements were made against me personally. These leaders decided that they would absolve themselves out of fear I suppose. Subsequently, their option was not for me, but for some odd status quo of allowing such public attacks to take place. The person making the statements was Gene Solon. He made them in public at the ANC meeting where he was allowed to do so, and he subsequently made even more remarks by email to the SWNA board with no repercussions from them. My disappointment is not due to some misguided person making remarks about me, but the total lack of support from community leaders.

2. When I took over the editorship of the paper in April, 2009, I did so with the understanding that I was not going to manage the business end of the paper. To this day, the paper takes in and spends somewhere near $3,500 per month with no business manager (no one to handle ads), no business plan, and no budget, despite my constant requests to remedy the situation. It is part of an organization (SWNA) which has refused to be audited, again despite my repeated requests. This situation is no longer tolerable for me.

I did not work on the paper in order to receive words of appreciation. Although these words help, real support comes in the form of real actions by responsible leaders.

I thank you all for your collaboration for the good of the community. I have always been proud of the group of volunteers who worked on the paper for the good of others and not for personal gain.

Glenn Favreau

A Few Quick Items

- The Washington Examiner reports that the DC Council is taking up legislation on Tuesday that will reduce the amount of affordable housing required at the redeveloped Southwest Waterfront. Under current law, 30% of all residential units built at the District-owned Southwest Waterfront parcels will be set aside as affordable housing - half of the affordable units will be for those earning up to 30% of AMI and the other half for those earning up to 60% of AMI. So out of the 560 units planned by the Hoffman-Madison Marquette Waterfront team, 168 of those units will be affordable. Under the new Council legislation under consideration, the 30% affordable requirement will only apply to the first 500 units. That means only 150 affordable units will be available on the waterfront if the legislation passes - a reduction of just 16 units. I have a suspicion the development team wants to build less office space and more residential units than the 560 units originally planned, which would allow all those extra units to be strictly market-rate.

- Back in August, the Securities and Exchange Commission signed a lease for 900,000 SF of space at Constitution Center, but according to the Washington Business Journal, the SEC only needs 300,000 SF and will most likely give the excess space back to the landlord to re-lease. This probably means Constitution Center is now back in the running to land the new headquarters for NASA, which according to the WBJ is looking to move from their current location at 300 E Street by July 2012.

- The Wall Street Journal recently did an article about the design of Arena Stage by Bing Thom, but in the article, described much of the housing in Southwest as "dilapidated and dispiriting" and the waterfront with "piers chockablock with nondescript boathouses."

- The Architect's Newspaper shows an initial massing from another Thom project - the redevelopment of Randall School. The design of the project is still in its initial stages, so the massing just shows the density of the site, not what the buildings will actually look like once completed. The Randall School project will include a museum, boutique hotel, restaurant, some retail, and residential. (rendering courtesy of Bing Thom Architects)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

L'Enfant Promenade Food Court Nears Completion

Last week, the 9th & D Street entrance to the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station reopened after closing for a couple weeks to allow construction crews to make upgrades to sections of La Promenade - the retail area of L'Enfant Plaza that has been under renovation since last November. After the first phase opens in the first quarter of 2011, a new food court will be in operation (March?) with confirmed tenants including Au Bon Pain (which was at the old Promenade), Potbelly Sandwich Works, Roti Mediterranean Grill, Mamma Ilardo's, Frozen Yogurt Indulgence, and Gourmet Too (also in the old promenade). Hours of operation have not been set for all the restaurants yet, but some of them most likely will remain open in the evenings and weekends. Contrary to popular belief, the promenade is not located underground. The retail area under renovation now has windows facing the courtyard next to HUD headquarters to bring in more natural light as well as a modern design. Once phase one is complete, phase two will begin, which includes the remainder of the promenade and the installation of a large glass atrium to replace the pyramid currently used as a skylight. The second phase won't open until fall/winter 2012. To me, the new promenade looks a bit like an airport terminal. The old design, though definitely looked dated. See below.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

AppleTree Exploring Bid to Buy Southeastern U. Building

A couple agenda items at last night's ANC 6D meeting dealt with Southeastern University, which closed its doors in August 2009. The first item was a resolution by Commissioner Sobelsohn to remove -SEU from the name of the Waterfront-SEU Metro station. The SEU campus and name was purchased by the GS Graduate School earlier this year. GS Graduate School has been mum on their plans for the building at 6th & I Street, but it appears that the school building may now be on the market. As a result, the ANC voted 3-0-1 to remove SEU from the Metro station name.

The second SEU-related item was that Jack McCarthy from AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School mentioned that the school is exploring the option of expanding its presence in Southwest by bidding on the SEU building. Currently, AppleTree does activities at Amidon-Bowen Elementary and Riverside Baptist Church locally, but does not have sufficient space to do all its programming. AppleTree also has a campus in Columbia Heights and Hill East. Cost estimates for renovating the SEU building for use by AppleTree is approximately $150/SF with about a third of the cost needed to upgrade building systems. Under the proposal offered by McCarthy, no floors would be added to the building, but some of the parking lot would be covered with playground equipment. AppleTree hopes to formally place their bid by mid-December and depending on the selection process, if the school is selected by GS Graduate School, McCarthy hopes to have some classrooms available by August 2011 when the new school year begins. After some discussion by the Commissioners and positive audience comments about the SEU building remaining a school under this proposal, the ANC voted 5-0-1 to support AppleTree's bid.

Developers Reveal Interim Uses for Southwest Waterfront

At tonight’s ANC 6D meeting, representatives from the Hoffman-Madison Marquette Waterfront team and the District government gave the Commissioners an update on their plans to activate the Southwest Waterfront as they go through the approvals process. What occurred at 7th Street Landing this fall will be taken to a different level at what I’m calling “9th Street Park”. While Near Southeast has Nationals Park, Southwest will have (at least for two years) a tennis stadium. Elinor Bacon from ER Bacon Development mentioned they are in negotiations with the Washington Kastles World Team Tennis organization to move their stadium to the Hogate’s site at 9th & Water Street after demolition of the restaurant is complete this winter. The Washington Kastles currently play their matches at a temporary stadium in the large parking lot downtown where the old convention center used to be located. Since that site is supposed to start construction next spring and become CityCenterDC, the Kastles need a new home. Under the pending agreement with Hoffman-Madison Marquette Waterfront, the Kastles will move to the Hogate’s site for two seasons until construction begins on the Southwest Waterfront redevelopment. Some potential community benefits the Kastles may provide include fixing the tennis courts at Jefferson Middle School and offer tennis lessons to students.

David Roberts from the DC government was also present at the meeting and said the District is willing to pay for infrastructure to build the temporary stadium, including bleachers and the court. Roberts mentioned that permits for the demolition of Hogate’s should be pulled this week and the building should be gone and the site cleared by mid-January. Interior demolition is already underway. In addition, an RFP will be released later this week for the stadium construction so it can be ready by March 2011.

Matthew Steenhoek from PN Hoffman and a representative from Struever Brothers described the layout of the Hogate’s site post-demolition. The stadium is just one of the uses planned for the site, since the Kastles’ season only lasts about one month during the summer. Besides bleachers and a court, a tent will be set up closer to Zanzibar for use by the Kastles during their season in July, but can be removed to allow space for programming, as well as a stage near 9th Street for concerts. Some of the interim uses mentioned for the site outside of tennis matches include a seafood festival, events with the Capitol Yacht Club, a sock monkey day for kids, and A-Cappella concerts, but the first event planned for the space will revolve around the National Cherry Blossom Festival in March. Hoffman-Madison Marquette Waterfront will seek the ability to serve wine and beer at both 7th Street Landing and “9th Street Park”, since the Kastles already sell beer & wine at their downtown stadium and the development team heard from the community that 7th Street Landing would be a more enjoyable experience if beer and wine were available. The ANC did not vote on any proposals tonight – the presentation was just informational, although their approval will be needed at least to allow beer & wine sales.

I'll write about other items from the ANC meeting later this week.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Freshman Class of ANC 6D

In last month's general election, three new ANC 6D commissioners were elected - two of them will represent areas of Southwest. Below is an interview I did with Bob Craycraft, who will represent single member district 6D 01 and Cara Lea Shockley, who will represent single member district 6D 02. These individuals will replace Jane Jorgensen and David Sobelsohn, respectively - both of whom did not run for re-election. Portions of this interview also appears in this month's South by West article in the Hill Rag, along with questions posed to David Garber, who will represent single member district 6D 07 in Near Southeast.

SWTLQTC: How long have you lived in Southwest?

Bob: It will be 12 years in March, the entire time I've lived in the Washington area.

Cara: Three years in February.

SWTLQTC: Why did you decide to run for office?

Bob: I felt at the time that the District, and Southwest in particular, was entering an exciting period of continual improvement and growth that I wanted to be a part of, and try to influence in a positive way.

Cara: Commissioner Sobelsohn asked me to consider it. I’d been on the ABC Committee as his representative, so he knew I was willing to contribute. But more than that, I love this neighborhood. We lived in Arlington when I was a little girl, and we used to come to the Flagship restaurant for brunch on Sundays. I remember telling my mother when I was about 10 that I wanted to live here. I’ve been lucky enough to do it.

SWTLQTC: What neighborhood issues would you like to tackle during your first term?

Bob: Residents of SMD 6D01, the so-called Near Southwest, are in a Bermuda Triangle of development defined by Fourth Street, L'Enfant Promenade/10th Street, and the Southwest waterfront. Our only boundary not under development, in fact, is an 8-lane freeway. Trying to represent the needs of residents in this rapidly-changing environment are critical, whether it's traffic, parking, or a host of other issues. The rumors and media reports about moving Southwest into Ward 8 need to be addressed head-on, and residents' viewpoints considered. There are chronic problems facing Jefferson and Amidon-Bowen Schools that I'm not certain can be turned around -but I will do my best to be an active part of the process that is at least trying. We have a rare grouping of mid-century religious architecture that I also feel is endangered, and Town Center West Park, the duck pond as many people know it, is literally crumbling in front of our eyes. In the longer term, I'm also concerned with the threat of overhead streetcar wires appearing on Seventh Street one of these days, and have yet to be convinced on the economics of a streetcar system.

Cara: My SMD has many elderly people and many people with disabilities. I’d really like to see our sidewalks made safer. So much of the street lighting concentrates just on the areas where the cars are driving. We need better lighting, and I’d prefer something tightly focused on the sidewalks so that it doesn’t become an issue for the homeowners, more even sidewalks so that people on canes or in wheelchairs feel safe, and I’d love to see some beat or bicycle cops patrol in the evenings.

SWTLQTC: What role do you think ANC Commissioners play in the development of neighborhoods?

Bob: We should try to be the reasoned voice of the majority of residents, and not just a mouthpiece for our most strident neighbors. I also want to strike a balance between homeowners and renters, who can often have very different views on a subject.

Cara: We’re supposed to fight for the residents – all the residents – we currently have. I don’t want to see my neighbors priced out because the area is suddenly chic. A neighborhood without businesses won’t thrive either. It’s a balancing act. We also need to be able to get things done, like the traffic study the current commissioners have spent years pushing for. They’ve finally, just this past meeting, gotten DDOT to promise one. Traffic patterns at all times of day and all the various layers – pedestrian, bicycle, car, public transportation, major streets, neighborhood streets, major events – need to be understood. Businesses can’t succeed without easy access, but we also can’t have accidents like the ones at 4th Street, SW and M Street, SW become part of the fabric of the neighborhood.

SWTLQTC: What are your thoughts about the redevelopment plans for the Southwest Waterfront, which mostly falls in your single-member district?

Bob: Overall, I think we have a home run with some of the most talented developers in the country involved. I'm not certain it's the right place to put public housing - the lack of a walkable supermarket, drug store, or Metro station seemed to make it uniquely ill-suited for a lower-income resident.

SWTLQTC: What are your thoughts about the redevelopment plans for Randall School, which falls in your single-member district?

Cara: If Bing Thom really is going to be the main architect, I think it’s terrific. His work for Arena Stage was striking, and I like the idea of continuity of design throughout the neighborhood. There’s a clinic in my SMD, right next to Randall School. I want it to stay, if not there, then nearby. That clinic has been a godsend for so many of my constituents – including me. Beyond that, I really need to see all the plans and ideas from the new owners. I think the public art aspect is wonderful, and I respect Commissioner Sobelsohn for getting it.

SWTLQTC: Your single-member district also includes L’Enfant Plaza, which is north of the Southwest Freeway. How do you think the north and south areas of Southwest can be more connected short of removing the freeway?

Bob: I appreciate that question, as many people are surprised to learn that for those of us along Seventh Street, L'Enfant Promenade is just as convenient as Fourth Street. Or could be. Yet we are virtually blockaded from the Metro and the Promenade with pedestrian-hostile architecture that has included the closing of the southern walkway around the HUD building and the enclosure of what is now called Constitution Square in just the past two years. We have the incredible Mandarin Oriental hotel right beside us but "you can't get there from here" due to the tangle of streets and walkways. The only thing I can see in the short term to make it better would be some sort of wind-breaking enclosure along the freeway overpass, it can be a miserable walk in bad weather. It would be fantastic if a redeveloped L'Enfant Promenade could include a greenhouse-style entrance way out onto Seventh Street to entice and welcome shoppers into that complex, but I don't see the Feds ever allowing such an amenity.

SWTLQTC: Much of your single-member district is on the north side of the Southwest Freeway, which is primarily an office district. How do you think the north and south areas of Southwest can be more connected short of removing the freeway?

Cara: There’s a foot tunnel commuters use to get to Federal Center SW and its environs which is junky and scary; it and the pathway leading to it need to be cleaned up and made more appealing – widened would be nice, policed would be even better. The sandwich shops and other businesses should be encouraged to stay open later, many of them close mid-afternoon, for the residents to pick up something on their way home from the office or just to have a place to go in the evening occasionally. We need some of the smaller amenities. I already use the dry cleaner near NASA because they do great work and are open on Saturdays. So many of the little shops aren’t open on the weekend at all – even the Starbucks at the Federal Center SW metro stop isn’t open on Sundays.

SWTLQTC: What is your stance on the proposal by Ward 6 Council member Wells to implement a “Complete Streets” concept for M Street SE/SW (i.e. remove a lane of traffic, add cycle tracks, widen sidewalks, etc.)?

Bob: I think the proposal is little more than quaint as long as we have pedestrians being killed at Fourth and M Streets and the MPD unwilling to ticket speeders and red light-runners blatantly running through our streets and intersections. The intersection of G and Seventh Street is another bad one, with G Street changing from one-way eastbound to two-way "just because" and so many Maryland commuters using it as an I-395 bypass. I just don't have the confidence in DDOT or MPD's moving violations enforcement to feel the Complete Streets concept will work for us.

SWTLQTC: What kinds of businesses would you like to attract to SMD 6D 02?

Cara: Local ones. I love the idea of both the Randall School development and the renovation of the Southwest Waterfront. But if all we end up with is a bunch of national chain stores or hotels, I think we lose something crucial. I was on the bus in Ward 8 a week or two ago and saw a restaurant that had “Black owned and Family run” on its sign. I want businesses like that in my neighborhood, ones with ties to DC. If there’s going to be an ice cream parlor (I bring this up because the PN Hoffman representative kept using “getting an ice cream cone” as his example of someone coming to the Southwest Waterfront), I want to see Gifford’s rather than Baskin Robbins. We don’t need another Starbucks – there are five within half a mile of me - but bringing in Sidamo Coffee and Tea, for instance, would be something unique and local.

SWTLQTC: Which DC political figure (past or present) do you most admire and why?

Bob: David Catania. Anyone who can be white, gay, and a closet Republican in a city that is majority African-American, straight, and Democratic and win at-large elections has earned my respect.

Cara: Sharon Pratt Kelly. She saw problems with the city and ran for Mayor to combat them. I also think Tommy Wells does a good job of listening to the people he serves.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Patriots Plaza Almost Fully Leased

According to Real Estate Bisnow, Phases II & III of Patriots Plaza will most likely be fully leased by the end of the year (they are currently 95% leased to government tenants). Recent tenants include the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Inspector General and Office of the National Coordinator for Information Technology. There was an event at Arena Stage in late November hosted by Bisnow where real estate developers came together to talk about Southwest. In another article in Bisnow, a lawyer from Arent Fox that specializes in real estate development made some comments about the future of Southwest stemming from one of the panel discussions she moderated:
There really seem to be two “Southwests” (the GSA-dominated area at the edge of the Mall and the residential neighborhoods closer to the water). JBG's L’Enfant Plaza, PN Hoffman and Madison Marquette's Southwest Waterfront, and Forest City, Vornado/Charles E. Smith, and Bresler & Reiner's Waterfront Station will bring the quadrant together. “In five to 10 years, District residents will start to see Southwest as a live/work/play environment unlike any other in the city.
I would argue that Southwest is already unlike any other place in DC.

Southwest Construction Projects Win Awards

Mid-Atlantic Construction magazine honored 29 construction projects throughout the Mid-Atlantic region in its "Best of 2010" awards program - three of those projects are located in Southwest. The winner of Project of the Year - Overall and Cultural is Arena Stage, designed by Bing Thom Architects. In describing the project, the magazine talks about some of the challenges that had to be overcome, including cost overruns:

The obstacles began in the design phase. Funds for the project came primarily through donations, and the original budget exceeded Arena Stage’s estimates. After contracting with Clark in December 2006, the team had to value engineer the original $120-million budget to $100 million without sacrificing aesthetics.

Revisions included eliminating project phasing, which saved $3 million; modifying the roof and eliminating planned rooftop apartments, at a combined savings of $8.5 million; reducing onsite parking; and changing the mechanical and electrical systems to save $2.5 million.

The winner of Project of the Year - Office Buildings is Waterfront Station, designed by Shalom Baranes Associates. Noteworthy attributes about the buildings include the terracotta fa├žade and LEED-Certification:

Both buildings’ north and east elevations feature a terracotta rain screen cladding system that is the largest such system installed to date in the Washington, D.C., area.

From the second floor up, Waterfront Station features over 11,000 11-in. terracotta panels in three separate colors and a ribbed panel profile of a fourth color. In addition, more than 1,500 11-in. glazed terracotta panels are installed below the second floor.

Tight logistics onsite required that workers set the curtain-wall system’s 1,650, 12.5-ft by 5-ft glass units from inside the building.

Waterfront Station was designed and constructed to achieve two LEED Gold certifications, one for each building.

It was mentioned a couple weeks ago at a development forum by Forest City Washington that the next phase of Waterfront Station, which includes the reskinning of the former EPA towers and adaptive reuse as residential units, will get underway within the next two years.

Finally, the winner of Project of the Year - Renovation/Restoration is Constitution Center, designed by SmithGroup. Constitution Center is the 1.4 million SF reincarnation of the former Department of Transportation headquarters and is seeking LEED-Gold certification. Earlier this year, 900,000 SF of the building was leased to the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

What Bloggers Are Saying About Southwest

- UrbanTurf DC does a neighborhood profile called Southwest Waterfront: A Neighborhood Where A Change Is Gonna Come, which includes a few quotes from me. The article gives a brief history of the neighborhood and talks about the upcoming redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront.

- There is an interesting blog post on Secondat about photographer Louise Rosskam who took some photos of old Southwest during an autumn day in the early 1940s while working for the Farm Security Administration. The photographs highlighted the rich and poor areas of Southwest at the time.

Wanted: Iconic Signage for Maine Avenue Fish Market

The Washington Examiner reports that the Hoffman-Madison Marquette Waterfront team is looking to create an iconic sign to beckon people to the Maine Avenue Fish Market on the Southwest Waterfront. This proposed sign would be akin to the Domino Sugars sign that's a part of the Baltimore skyline. From the article:
"We want the fish market to stay how it is -- the same messiness, the same crazy parking scheme," said Stan Eckstut, a consultant and principal of Ehrenkrantz Eckstut & Kuhn Architects. "[But it's missing] an icon really to announce to people about this place, that we are welcoming people to D.C."..."We want the place to feel authentic and alive and real, and it's a jolt from the federal Mall experience," he said. "I hate to say this in a federal context, but we're trying to create a place that doesn't work."
The design of Market Square on the Southwest Waterfront is intended to be a bit chaotic, similar to Pike Place Market in Seattle, where pedestrians mix with limited vehicle traffic. In addition, a new farmer's market will be built north of the fish market to replace the head house market that once existed in the area back in the 1930s. A seasonal market, brewery, cafes, picnic tables, and restaurants will be located in this informal space and a couple of barges will be added to the area.

Update: DCMud also has an article about the plans for Market Square and other areas of the Southwest Waterfront. The DCMud piece also describes the intended feel of the Market Square to be similar to Pike Place Market, but also throws in other West Coast city markets, like the Ferry Terminal in San Francisco and Granville Island Public Market in Vancouver. I happened to visit all three of these markets while I was away on a 3-week vacation out West in August. I had some excellent food truck pork porchetta at the Ferry Terminal, watched workers toss fish at Pike Place Market, and took a water taxi to Granville Island Public Market. Each market had a different vibe, but all of them worked well. Pike Place was the most "chaotic" while the other two markets seemed to be more orderly in nature.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Parade of Lighted Boats

On Saturday, the holiday season gets underway in the neighborhood at 7th Street Landing with the tree lighting ceremony and Parade of Lighted Boats along the Washington Channel. The festivities get underway at 4pm and last until 7pm. Music will be provided by Strykers Pose, refreshments by District Doghouse (owned by the proprietors of Cantina Marina) and there will be complementary photos with Santa, so bring the kids!

Update: Included are a couple of photos from the event. The photo at the top of the post is the Christmas tree that was lit up in the middle of 7th Street Landing. One of the lighted boats in the parade passes by in the background. There was a large fire pit installed to help keep people warm as they enjoyed the festivities. Free smores were provided as well. In case you didn't get a chance to see the parade, throughout the holiday season, some boat owners will keep their lights on in the evenings.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Southwest Will Get New Children's Playground

It looks like the effort to bring a centrally-located children's playground to SW has paid off and one is now planned for the park space adjacent to the Southwest Branch Library at 3rd & I Streets. If you recall back in April, I caught some flack from commenters after expressing my opinion (which I rarely do on this blog) about one of the proposed locations for a playground - the District-owned northeast parcel of Waterfront Station. I'm glad the selected location for the park is not on this parcel, which will cause less angst (and unnecessary expense) when the District eventually decides to allow developers to build housing and ground-floor retail on the site, and a new location for the playground would need to be found. Below is an excerpt from an email sent today by ANC 6D Chair Ron McBee describing the new park effort:

The Community Benefits Coordinating Council (CBCC) is working with parents and friends to establish a small person play park in the DPR/DCPL property adjacent to the SW Library Branch. This has been a long time coming and I am very glad to see us seeking a partnership with KaBOOM to make this vision a reality in our community. I, for one, see the need for more playgrounds in our area and hopefully this will be the first to come. Many people have been working separately, in small groups, and finally together to make this happen, including Tommy Wells' Office and the Friends of the SW Library, who have volunteered to help maintain the park. I will be pushing to make this a reality for our young members of the community. I hope you will join "the team" of 100 volunteer members needed to build the park.

If you have questions, please feel free to email me or call our ANC 6D office at 202-554-1795 to reach me but better yet call Rev. Ruth Hamilton at 202-641-8221 or email her at rwh@westminsterdc.org. Ruth is the Chair of the CBCC and is working directly with KaBOOM and the community to implement the grant application.

According to the project website, there are currently 14 volunteer members (myself included) and $5,000 has been donated so far, which is 10% of the $50,000 needed to build the park. The goal is to build the park by this time next year - November 29, 2011.

Update: If you want to make a donation specifically to this project, contact Rev. Ruth Hamilton (her contact info is above). Don't try to make a donation through KaBOOM's website - I found out they currently don't have the ability to carve out online donations to specific projects.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Phase One of L'Enfant Promenade Almost Complete

About a year ago, renovations began at L'Enfant Promenade, the retail area at L'Enfant Plaza. The first phase of renovations include a new food court near the Metro entrance. As a result of the renovation project, the 9th & D Street Metro entrance temporarily closed yesterday and will remain closed through December 8th. The closure will allow the installation of new windows facing the HUD building that will add more natural light to the promenade. Phase one will open January 2011 and then phase two will begin, which includes the remainder of the promenade and the installation of a large glass atrium to replace the pyramid currently used as a skylight. Nationally-recognized retail will open in the second phase - no restaurants have been announced yet for the first phase. The second phase won't open until fall/winter 2012.

Earlier this week, JBG released an updated rendering of a 650,000 SF office building planned for the plaza itself, which is much bolder than the earlier design for the building. The atrium will be located between the two sides of the office building. It is designed by SmithGroup and will aim for LEED-Platinum certification. The developer will look for a federal tenant for the space, since Southwest is considered to be the "Connecticut and K" for the GSA.

Update: There was an article in the Washington City Paper about whether I.M. Pei would get a say in how L'Enfant Plaza gets redeveloped, or if new buildings are proposed for the complex, since he designed most of the buildings. An example used in the article was a proposed campus tower at NYU among a complex of towers designed by Pei that was nixed by planners after Pei expressed his displeasure with the design.

Renderings courtesy of JBG

St. Matthew's Gets New Architect

At this past Monday's SWNA meeting, Reverend Huber from St. Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church, along with architect Shalom Baranes from Shalom Baranes Associates Architects presented their latest plans for their mixed use project at Delaware Avenue and M Street, which are still in the concept phase, so no renderings are available. Also present were representatives from Trammell Crow, the developer of the project. Some changes have occurred with the new plans, including the siting of the new sanctuary and community center relative to the planned apartment building. In the new plan, the development is in the shape of an "L" - the apartment building will be situated along M Street & extend south along the western border with 240 M Street and the church will be located at the corner of Delaware Avenue & M, in order to preserve what is left of the view shed along Delaware Avenue north to the Capitol dome. Baranes explained that over the years, Delaware Avenue south of M Street was reduced in width and the center line of the street shifted to the east, which altered the view towards the Capitol. In addition, the new design will maintain the courtyard-design aesthetic of Southwest, with buildings interspersed with open space.

There will be a shared open space along Delaware Avenue with a seating area and a shallow pool that will be connected to the fellowship hall of the church. A landscaped buffer will be installed along Delaware Avenue to shield the outdoor space and provide some security. Existing trees will be maintained on three sides - Delaware Avenue, the western border with 240 M Street, and on the south. New landscaping will be planted on M Street.

Such a large open space can be made because the apartment building will be 10-11 stories tall and use 4.3-4.4 of FAR, allowing more open space. The apartment building will be 2-3 stories taller than other buildings on M Street, but Baranes explained that it's good to have structures of varied heights and the building will be brought closer to the street to give the corridor a more urban feel. Other developments along M Street, including future phases of Waterfront Station will have buildings closer to the street as well. The apartment building will be designed as a simple box, similar to other residential buildings in Southwest, with a variety of building materials, playing off of what currently exists in the neighborhood. The main entrance for the apartment building will be located on M Street. Ten percent of the housing is mandated to be affordable housing by inclusionary zoning, but St. Matthew's would like for it to be designated workforce housing (for teachers, police officers, firefighters, etc.) since the neighborhood already has plenty of public housing.

St. Matthew's has partnered with Arena Stage to design the sanctuary as a performance space. When the old church was in existence, the fellowship hall was used almost daily and Reverend Huber referred it to the "town center" for Southwest -the redesigned fellowship hall will aim to serve that purpose once again. A grand entryway for the church will be designed on M Street. In addition, a community center will be located between the church and the apartment building with a separate entrance on M Street. A 501(c) non-profit organization called Transforming Southwest Community Development Corporation will manage the community center. Within the community center will be a coffee shop called Sacred Grounds Cafe: "Coffee with a Purpose." Some features and planned activities for the community center include: free Wi-Fi access, Internet terminals, seniors morning, book club, live performances, community forums, a gallery to support local artists, movie night, preschool program, thrift shop, and a multimedia classroom. Other ideas floated by Pastor Huber is to offer "Dinner at Your Door" for residents of the apartment building, a community outreach center with a social worker, and a Southwest youth & children's choir.

The PUD will be submitted in either January or February 2011. By that time, more details about the design will be fleshed out. Construction is scheduled to begin by the first or second quarter of 2012. The Lutheran Church helped finance the PUD process and most likely will be involved with financing the project. Until construction begins, temporary uses will be encouraged for the vacant site. Previously, the lot has been transformed into a Christmas tree lot during the holidays and last summer, 20 plots were created for gardeners. The Christmas tree lot will return on December 2nd - details about prices to come soon. Other temporary uses are being contemplated for the site, such as a community yard sale, partnering with Arena Stage and the Corcoran for an outdoor arts festival, and a wine festival. St. Matthew's is looking for other ideas for temporary uses for the space. If you have any ideas, feel free to contact Reverend Huber - his email address is: pchuber@hughes.net.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Oklahoma!" Breaks Box Office Records, Gets Rave Reviews

According to a press release from Arena Stage, the first production since the debut of the Mead Center for American Theater - Rodgers & Hammerstein's "Oklahoma!", directed by Artistic Director Molly Smith, has broken several box office records. As a result, the show has been extended until December 30th, adding six performances to the schedule. Records broken by "Oklahoma!" so far include:

  • Highest single ticket sales for a single production by opening night.
  • Highest single ticket sales for a single production in a 24-hour period.
  • Highest grossing, non-extension production in Arena Stage history.
  • Highest single ticket sales for a single production in one week.
Since its debut, "Oklahoma!" has received rave reviews from several publications, including The Washington Post, Bloomberg News, DC Theatre Scene, Washington Life Magazine, The Baltimore Sun, Washingtonian, and DCist. There is also talks of it possibly making it to Broadway. I saw the musical a couple weeks ago and was impressed (my mom enjoyed it as well). This was the first time I saw "Oklahoma!", but I did take note of a few things that stood out for me. The cast was multiracial - the main characters including Aunt Eller, Laurey and Curly were played by two African Americans and a Latino, respectively. The dance numbers were done very well, especially Kansas City and the Dream Ballet. I thought the peddler and Annie were the funniest characters IMHO, although the actor who portrayed Annie still needs to develop her voice a bit (she's only in high school, so I'll give her a pass). Coincidentally, an old version of "Oklahoma!" was showing on cable last weekend (TMC I think) and I watched some of it - I enjoyed the Arena Stage version more.

There was a petting zoo outside of Arena Stage along 6th Street when I went to the Saturday show. The petting zoo will be set up for the next two Saturdays before the matinee performance between 12:45pm and 1:45pm. To buy tickets for "Oklahoma!", visit Arena's website or call 202-488-3300. Have any of you seen it yet? What did you think?

Photos courtesy of Arena Stage

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Couple Quick Items

- Ground was broken yesterday on a new levee along 17th Street, NW according to The Washington Post, which will protect downtown and parts of Southwest from flooding. As mentioned previously, a new floodplain map was recently done that shows parts of Southwest and downtown now fall under the flood plain, which prompted the city to get the levee built. Properties that fall in the new flood plain are required to get flood insurance, but this insurance will be temporary, since the levee will cause the flood plain map to change once the construction project is complete in 2011.

- According to the Washington Examiner, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood visited Amidon-Bowen Elementary School on I Street today to read the book "The Little Engine That Could" as a part of Everyone Wins! DC’s “Power Lunch” series. From the article:
LaHood, a former junior high school teacher, is a founding member of Everyone Wins! DC, the largest children’s literacy organization in the metro area. This year, nearly 4,000 students in 31 Title 1 public elementary schools will “lunch” with professionals through the group, which partners with 115 congressional offices, committee, and subcommittees, as well as 110 companies including 20 federal agencies.

Homicide at Greenleaf Gardens

According to a news release from MPD, 28-year old Gregory Joyner was killed at the 200 block of K Street last night around 9:15pm due to multiple gun shot wounds. From the news release:
Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the police at (202) 727-9099 or 1-888-919-CRIME (1-888-919-2746). The Metropolitan Police Department currently offers a reward of up to $25,000 to anyone that provides information which leads to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons wanted for any homicide committed in the District of Columbia. Additionally, anonymous information may be submitted to D.C. CRIME SOLVERS at 1-866-411-TIPS and to the department’s TEXT TIP LINE by text messaging 50411. If the information provided by the caller to the Crime Solvers Unit leads to an arrest and indictment, that caller will be eligible for a reward of up to $1,000.
The scene of the shooting was located about two blocks away from MPD's First District headquarters, which relocated from 4th & E Streets last year.

In other crime news, an arrest was made last Friday in the fatal hit-and-run accident that occurred on South Capitol Street in Bellevue on November 8th. The suspect, from Fort Washington, Maryland, is charged with Negligent Homicide in the death of 71-year old Duffie Claridy.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Safeway Reducing Hours

The Waterfront Station Safeway has made some changes to its operating hours. Starting on Sunday, the store will close an hour early - now, the store will be open from 6am - 10pm, seven days a week. Other changes that recently were made include the restriction of youth from being in the store without an adult until 4pm daily. In addition, the side door near Starbucks has been locked - probably due to shoplifting. Will your shopping patterns be affected by the change in hours of operation (I found out about the change in hours when I was in the store at 10:45pm, so I will be affected)?

Update: I asked Craig Muckle, Safeway's Manager of Public Affairs and Government Relations about the change in hours and this was his response:
We’re simply going to a winter schedule to give us some extra time to re-stock the store during the overnight period. The hours will be extended again during the spring.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

4th & M

There was a lengthy discussion at Monday's ANC 6D meeting about the intersection of 4th & M Streets, which has been the scene of three car accidents involving pedestrians in the past year. Some of the ANC commissioners met with DDOT officials to discuss pedestrian safety and as a result, some changes are on the way. Here is an excerpt from an email DDOT Director Gabe Klein sent to a local list-serv today on the issue:
We are still pursuing the “complete street” plan on M Street and would like to move beyond concept and to design. There has been back and forth on whether to have shared bus/bike lanes and other questions. I am asking Jamie Henson for a complete run down. After the accidents, I talked to US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood personally about the concept, and he wholeheartedly supports it. In addition, we made safety improvements in the area including eliminating right turns on red at key intersections.
The "complete street" plan Klein is referring to is a plan spearheaded by Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells and the Capitol Riverfront BID, which was presented to the community in March. In the interim, two resolutions passed unanimously by the ANC related to the intersection - one would direct DDOT to remove five parking spaces on the south side of M Street between the entrance to Tiber Island (430 M Street) and the intersection of 4th & M. The reason for removing the parking spaces was motorists can't see the "Right Turn Only" sign when approaching 4th Street and will give them time to get in the right lane before making a right onto 4th Street off of M Street. The second resolution would direct MPD to have officers patrol the intersection for two hours a day every day for a week to observe traffic violations. In addition, it was revealed by Naomi Mitchell from Wells' office that the council member will help the ANC get their desired traffic study of the M Street corridor, which the ANC has been requesting for years since a lot of development has been occurring (or are in the planning books) for the corridor without a comprehensive plan for dealing with traffic on M Street (from the 14th Street Bridge to the 11th Street Bridge).

Lost Dog

The following message is from Andrew Lightman, editor of the Hill Rag:
I just found a small female Yorkie wandering at the corner of G & 9th Sts. SW. She is in good health. I have kept her safe. Could her parents please call me at 202.550.5591 or email me (andrew@hillrag.com)?
- Andrew
photo courtesy of Andrew Lightman

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Zanzibar Closed?

According to the Washington City Paper, Zanzibar on the Waterfront, located at 700 Water Street has shut down. If this is true, then the entire stretch of the Southwest Waterfront from 7th Street to 9th Street will be shuttered, which will be the first phase to be redeveloped in the new Southwest Waterfront. In the summer, Hogates closed (the City Paper article incorrectly states that Hogates has been demolished - there was a ceremonial demolition ceremony in August, but the building is still standing) and a raze permit was issued in September (h/t reader JD). It is supposed to be demolished by the end of the year, but will Zanzibar also be demolished soon? Shutting down Zanzibar two years before construction is supposed to begin on the new Southwest Waterfront probably means the building will soon meet the wrecking ball. Perhaps by next spring, the temporary park at 7th Street Landing will expand all the way to 9th Street (it has been mentioned that part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival may be celebrated at the soon-to-be-demolished Hogates site next year). Once I hear more about this, I'll let you know.

General Election Unofficial Results

Southwest Waterfront Unofficial Election Results (Precincts 127, 128, 142)

Voter participation in the Southwest Waterfront neighborhood was higher than the District average, with margins of victory mostly similar to those District-wide or within Ward 6 (save for Ward 6 State Board of Education member candidate Monica Warren-Jones, who was up against Southwester Melissa Rohan).
  • Registered Voter Participation Rate: 30.1% (27.8% District-wide)
  • Delegate to U.S. House of Representatives: Eleanor Holmes Norton* with 88.3% of the vote (89.0% District-wide)
  • Mayor: Vincent Gray with 76.8% of the vote (73.9% District-wide)
  • DC Council Chair: Kwame Brown with 88.3% of the vote (87.8% District-wide)
  • DC Council At-Large members: Phil Mendelson* & David Catania* with 56.8% and 30.6% of the vote, respectively (56.3% and 30.9% District-wide, respectively)
  • DC Council Ward 6: Tommy Wells* with 88.1% of the vote (85.4% Ward-wide)
  • US Representative: Mike Panetta* with 81.6% of the vote (82.4% District-wide)
  • State Board of Education Ward 6: Monica Warren-Jones with 58.2% of the vote (66.7% Ward-wide)
  • Proposed Charter Amendment IV to elect DC’s Attorney General: Passed with 74.1% of the vote (75.6% District-wide)
  • ANC 6D 01: Bob Craycraft with 94.5% of the vote
  • ANC 6D 02: Cara Lea Shockley with 40.2% of the vote
  • ANC 6D 03: Ron McBee* with 54.5% of the vote
  • ANC 6D 04: Andy Litsky* with 95.7% of the vote
  • ANC 6D 05: Roger Moffatt* with 66.4% of the vote
  • ANC 6D 06: Rhonda Hamilton* with 70.7% of the vote

Bellevue Unofficial Election Results (Precincts 124, 126)

Voter participation in Bellevue was lower than the District as a whole, but the margins of victory for most of the candidates (save At-Large incumbent David Catania), was wider than the District totals. Some of the voters in precinct 124 live in SE, but their polling station is located in Bellevue.

  • Registered Voter Participation Rate: 21.3% (27.8% District-wide)
  • Delegate to U.S. House of Representatives: Eleanor Holmes Norton* with 96.0% of the vote (89.0% District-wide)
  • Mayor: Vincent Gray with 95.6% of the vote (73.9% District-wide)
  • DC Council Chair: Kwame Brown with 96.4% of the vote (87.8% District-wide)
  • DC Council At-Large members: Phil Mendelson* & David Catania* with 70.4% and 19.5% of the vote, respectively (56.3% and 30.9% District-wide, respectively)
  • US Representative: Mike Panetta* with 89.7% of the vote (82.4% District-wide)
  • Proposed Charter Amendment IV to elect DC’s Attorney General: Passed with 88.6% of the vote (75.6% District-wide)
  • ANC 8D 04: Thea Dyson with 92.9% of the vote
  • ANC 8D 05: Write-in with 100.0% of the vote
  • ANC 8D 06: Write-in with 100.0% of the vote
  • ANC 8D 07: Dionne Brown with 44.4% of the vote

* Incumbent

Visit the DC Board of Elections and Ethics website for more information on the general election results. Congratulations to all the winners!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Few Quick Items

-The Washington City Paper profiles the trials and tribulations behind the decades-long effort to bring a memorial for Benjamin Banneker to Banneker Overlook near L'Enfant Plaza. The latest setback was the rejection by ANC 6D last month to add "Banneker Park" to the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station name.

- Speaking of L'Enfant Plaza, the owner of one of the office buildings is suing majority owner JBG, according to the Washington Business Journal (subscribers only) over plans to build an office building in the middle of the plaza.

- According to the Washington Examiner, authorities are investigating the fatal fire earlier this week at Greenleaf Seniors building on Delaware Avenue that claimed the life of 63-year old Anita Lakari.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Southwest May Become Battleground in Ward Redistricting

There was an interesting article in the Washington City Paper about how ward boundaries may change once the 2010 Census numbers come in next spring. In the article, one of the areas of the city that was discussed was Southwest. Currently, most of Southwest west of the Anacostia is in Ward 6 (Hains Point is in Ward 2) and Bellevue is in Ward 8. If Council member Marion Barry has his way, the part of Southwest on the west side of the Anacostia would become a part of Ward 8. If this were to happen, it would be the second time that the Southwest Waterfront neighborhood would change wards. Before the ward redistricting from the 2000 Census, the Southwest Waterfront was located in Ward 2. The reason stated in the article that Council member Barry wants the rest of Southwest in his ward is to bring more "economic diversity" to Ward 8. From the article:
Barry says his home ward, which is almost entirely African American and has extremely high poverty and unemployment rates, has long been the city’s “dumping ground.” Making it more diverse will likely involve expanding across the Anacostia into the whiter, richer Southwest, Barry said.

“We can’t go south,” Barry joked.

There’s some speculation in the Wilson Building that Barry wouldn’t mind expanding his political influence over the Southwest Waterfront development, a $2 billion development that’s well underway to transform the area into a glitzy urbanist dream that people actually visit. That would let Barry take credit for the project, even though the groundwork was already laid. And it would also let him hit up developers for campaign contributions as the Council member who represents the ward. (Adding some white voters to Ward 8, though, could give Barry new political problems to deal with.)
Since the population of Ward 6 after the 2010 Census is counted will most likely not be enough on its own to account for 1/8th the population of the District (as mandated by law), other areas will need to be added to the ward. It was mentioned in the article that Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells would like to add the Anacostia neighborhood to Ward 6 - taking away some turf from Barry.

The District will receive Census results in the spring, so it should be an interesting time ahead in the DC Council chambers!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Townhouses to be Added to St. Augustine's?

It was also mentioned at last Monday's ANC 6D meeting that PN Hoffman is in negotiations with St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church at 6th & Maine Avenue to build 92 townhouses on their property and the church would move into a new sanctuary on-site. This pending agreement is not officially a part of the Southwest Waterfront redevelopment, though. PN Hoffman and other developers in the city have been partnering with churches lately to build on excess land that churches own. Near the MLK Library downtown, PN Hoffman partnered with First Congregational United Church of Christ and Skanska to construct an office building, which is currently under construction. Another example can be found in Southwest, with St. Matthew's Evangelical Lutheran Church partnering with Trammell Crow to build the church a new sanctuary and construct a multifamily building at 3rd and M Street. That project has been stalled by the economy and remains a vacant lot, save for a garden and seasonal Christmas tree lot.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Arena Comes Home

On Saturday, thousands of people helped Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater celebrate its return to Southwest after a two-plus year renovation and expansion of its campus. The celebration lasted all day from 11:30am to 6pm and a block of 6th Street was closed for the event. Below are some picures taken of the festivities throughout the day.

Long lines formed before 10am, when Arena offered a limited amount of tickets to some of the indoor performances.

Ward 6 DC Council member Tommy Wells, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, and former Ward 6 Council member Sharon Ambrose chat before the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
Mayor Fenty arrives at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells and Jaylee Mead, whose husband made a $35 million gift to Arena Stage.

Artistic Director Molly Smith makes some remarks while the crowd listens, including the chair of Arena's board of directors, Mayor Fenty, and Ward 2 Council member Jack Evans.
Managing Director Edgar Dobie assists Jaylee Mead as she officially cut the ribbon at Arena Stage.
Mayor Fenty stands with architect Bing Thom.

Crowds pour into Arena Stage once the ribbon-cutting ceremony ended.
Blue Sky Puppet Theater kept children busy on the terrace.

There was a steady line at the cafe, called Next Stage with Jose Andres.
One of the entrees on the current menu - wild turkey meatballs with Oklahoma succotash, cornbread and whipped pototoes.
Costumes used in other performances were on display.
A large cake in the shape of the Arena Stage building was on display - made by Charm City Cakes.

An outdoor stage was set up for more performances, most of which was used by high school choirs.

Town Center West Park was spruced up for the large crowds expected at Arena Stage.

The celebration ended around 6pm, just in time to catch the sunset over the Southwest Waterfront.

Did any of you make it to Arena Stage's Homecoming festivities? What did you think?