Thursday, July 29, 2010

Green-Up Day Tomorrow

HT to reader JD: The Nationals will be in Southwest on Friday for the second annual Green-Up Day at the Matthew Henson Center, near the historic James C. Dent House and Town Center East Park. From the Nationals' press release:
NatsTown Green-Up: The Washington Nationals Dream Foundation will team up with Earth Conservation Corps to give area residents and local businesses the opportunity to help beautify the neighborhood surrounding Nationals Park. More than 100 volunteers will take to the streets from 8am to noon to clean up areas at three separate locations - the Matthew Henson Center (2000 Half Street, SW); the intersection between 1st and Q Streets, SW; and the park at 3rd and I Streets, SW. Nationals Pitchers *Tyler Clippard and *Craig Stammen will also join volunteers for a portion of the morning’s clean-up.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Switzer Building to Add Public Plaza

The street scape along a couple blocks of C Street will soon be enhanced with public plazas and an increase of green space, if the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) approves the landscaping plans by the GSA for the Mary E. Switzer Building at its September meeting. Interior renovations are ongoing at the Switzer Building, which are scheduled to be complete by July 2011. Currently, the C Street frontage of the Switzer Building contains a 114-space surface parking lot and narrow sidewalks. The Cohen Building, which is similar in design to the Switzer Building and is located on the north side of C Street, also has a large surface parking lot along C Street.

There are three design alternatives under consideration for the Switzer Building, but all three alternatives will bring the following improvements: C Street, from 3rd Street to 4th Street, will be reduced to one lane in each direction, which will allow the sidewalks on both sides of the street to be widened; bulb-outs at the corners of 4th & C Street and 3rd & C Street; the installation of curb cuts and wheelchair ramps to comply with ADA regulations; a landscaped plaza on the north side of the building; street trees; a concession/coffee stand; public art to hide vent shafts; permanent perimeter security measures; install a back-up generator below-grade; provide Level IV security for the building; and use sustainable practices. Here are descriptions of the three design alternatives from the Environmental Assessment:

Alternative A
Under Alternative A, the entire existing surface parking lot on the north side of the building would be converted to landscaped plaza. The proposed design would combine both open lawn and fully planted landscaped panels. A coffee/concession stand accessible to the public would be installed at the east end of the plaza.

Alternative B
Alternative B proposes to convert the existing surface parking lot to a landscaped plaza. The landscaped plaza design would include open lawn panels opposite the two entrances with fully planted landscaped panels flanking
the lawns on the east and west ends. Surface parking for approximately 11 vehicles would be located at the center of the plaza and would be bordered on 4 sides by planting beds. The lot would be designed such that it could serve as an additional outdoor venue when not used for parking. A coffee/concession stand and small seating area would be installed at the east end of the plaza adjacent to the 3rd Street sidewalk.

Alternative C
Alternative C proposes to convert the existing surface parking lot to a landscaped plaza. The landscaped plaza design would include open lawn panels opposite the two entrances with fully planted landscaped panels flanking the lawns on the east and west ends. Surface parking for approximately 28 vehicles would be located at the center of the plaza and would be bordered on the north, east, and west sides by planting beds. The lot would be designed such that it could serve as an additional outdoor venue when not used for parking. A coffee/concession stand and small seating area would be installed at the east end of the plaza adjacent to the 3rd Street sidewalk.

These proposed improvements come on the heels of plans for Federal Building #8 next door, which is currently under renovation and will also incorporate elements of the Switzer Building landscaping plan. Other improvements in the SW Federal Center area include Eisenhower Square at 4th Street & Independence Avenue and the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial at 2nd Street and Washington Avenue.

The GSA prefers Alternative B and will make its case to the NCPC at the September 2nd meeting. Public comment is open on the proposal until August 9th.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

CVS Opens

The new 12,513 SF CVS at Waterfront Station opened for the first time today. This follows the opening of Safeway in April, so both anchors of Waterfront Station are now up and running. From now on, CVS will be open seven days a week from 7am to 10pm. I stopped by around 8am to see what the store looked like and snapped some photos. There weren't many people around while I was there, but then again, it was pretty early in the morning on a Sunday. They were giving out free samples of cookies and $2 off coupons (with a $10 purchase). Below are some exterior and interior photos of the new store.

(Left) There is a mural of the Capitol Building along the glass display area outside of the store.

(Right) Here is a look down one of the aisles. Throughout the store, there are kiosks where customers can scan their ExtraCare Card to see if there are any coupons available.

(Left) There is an expanded grocery section in this CVS. In addition to bread and frozen foods, customers can pick up a salad or a sandwich. Apparently, this store is one of the many stores that added this feature in 2010.

(Right) This is the front checkout area. There are no self-checkout lanes like there are at some other CVS stores in the city, but there are six registers in front, as well as ones at the pharmacy.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Shuttle-Bug Ceases Operation

HT to reader Dave: In today's issue of The Washington Post, there's an article about the Shuttle-Bug, which ceased operations at the end of June. Back in December of 2008, the Shuttle-Bug bus was conceived by the Southwest Action Team (SWAT) as a temporary service that allowed residents to safely get around the reconstruction of 4th Street at Waterfront Station, since access to the Metro and Safeway was blocked for residents north of I Street in November 2007. Now that 4th Street has reopened, the service is no longer needed. However, the Shuttle-Bug has become popular with seniors and low-income residents who want the Shuttle-Bug to be reinstated. From the article:
Beth Paulson, founder of the Southwest Action Team, a community organization that helped initiate the shuttle service, said her group has collected about 500 letters in support of resuming the Shuttle-Bug, including one from an assistant D.C. police chief.
The article states that city leaders doubt the service will resume, since there is no funding for the bus and the original intent of the Shuttle-Bug has been met. SWAT is now in the process of raising funds to resume service for a year until more funding can be obtained.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

José Andrés Catering with Ridgewells to Operate Café at Arena Stage

Arena Stage announced in a press release today that they have selected José Andrés Catering with Ridgewells to operate the theater's café once it opens this fall. Menus and operating hours will be announced at another time. From the press release:
“I have been a longtime fan of José’s restaurants, and am just plain thrilled that José Andrés Catering with Ridgewells will be creating food in our beautiful new cafe space,” shares [Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly] Smith. “Along with other exclusive catering partners, Arena Stage will now not only be a home for American theater in Southwest, D.C. but of the culinary arts as well. The synchronicity between great art and great food is undeniable.”

“Many years ago when Molly told me of her dreams for the new Arena Stage, I knew I wanted to be a part of it,” adds Andrés. “And now, my team and our partners at Ridgewells are here at Washington’s most amazing new destination.”
Andres owns/operates several restaurants in the metro area through his ThinkFoodGroup company, including Jaleo, Café Atlantico, and Zaytinya. According to the Washington Business Journal, José Andrés Catering with Ridgewells was formed last year.

In addition, Design Cuisine, Fresh Start Catering, José Andrés Catering with Ridgewells and Salamander Hospitality were named the four exclusive caterers for the theater. Haute cuisine indeed!

Blog Enhancements

If you've noticed over the past month or so, I've started to make some upgrades to the blog. I joined Twitter, so I'll be using that to get quick messages out that don't warrant a blog post. My tweets about Southwest will be displayed on the home page of the blog, but you can also follow me on Twitter. In addition, a couple of pages have been added to the blog. There is a Where is Southwest page and an Upcoming Events page. Pretty soon, I'll be adding more pages highlighting major projects in Southwest, including the SW Waterfront and Waterfront Station.

In a couple of weeks, I'm leaving DC for a 3-week vacation, so during that time, I may do some retweets from time to time, but things will be fairly quiet around here in August.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Randall School Redevelopment Agreement Chock Full of Community Benefits

At tonight's ANC 6D meeting, Marilyn Melkonian from Telesis Corporation spoke about the mixed use project planned for the former Randall School building on I Street. The new plans for Randall School are more ambitious than the former one, when the Corcoran was planning on moving its College of Art + Design to Randall and Monument Realty was adding a multifamily building behind the historic school. While the size of the development will remain the same under the Telesis/Rubell team, the components are more varied. As reported previously, the Telesis/Rubell team plans to have a 25,000 SF contemporary art museum, boutique hotel, and residential units. In addition, there will be retail (a classy restaurant is planned in the former auditorium space in the Randall School). Melkonian described some components of the design, including an elevated public plaza facing the Capitol building. The museum will be in the core of the development. Three historic buildings will be saved, while the newer wings will be demolished and replaced with new construction. Half Street will be partially reopened through the project and traffic will be directed towards the center of the development.

The community benefits package worked out between the development team and the ANC is robust, including the following components:
  • 200 jobs will be created (including the construction period and permanent union jobs at the hotel)
  • A pre-apprentice program
  • 20% affordable housing component
  • An annual art exhibit for ANC 6D
  • An annual Neighborhood Day street fair
  • Free admission to the art museum for any ANC 6D resident EVERY DAY
  • Sculpture garden on the Delaware Avenue circle
  • Space within the development for ANC 6D programming
  • The continuation of free admission one day a year at the Corcoran
  • Easement on H Street to allow access to the Randall Recreation Center next door
  • Annual exhibit at the museum for ANC 6D artists
Bing Thom Architects will design the project (the same architect as Arena Stage), along with landscape architects Oehme van Sweden and DC-based architectural history and historic preservation firm EHT Traceries, Inc. Melkonian shared some preliminary renderings of the massing of the project with the ANC commissioners, but said that there will be a formal presentation in the fall by Bing Thom, herself, and Mera Rubell of the preliminary designs for the development.

The ANC unanimously approved a resolution supporting the development team's desire to change the covenants placed on the property by the DC Government, since the intended use of Randall School will no longer be a college campus. A bill has been introduced in the DC Council to change the covenant in place so the purchase and sale agreement between the Corcoran and the Telesis/Rubell team can move forward.

Friday, July 9, 2010

What Bloggers Are Saying About Southwest

- Greater Greater Washington has a post on the Best Streets in DC, which follows up on their thoughts on the worst streets in DC a couple weeks ago. This time, the following SW streets are ranked: M Street (#18), 7th Street (#15), and 14th Street (#5). All of these streets run in other quadrants of the city, so the author's critique took into account the entire length of the street.

- DCMud has a post about the effort to build a Latino Museum near or on the National Mall. Three out of the four proposed locations are located in Southwest. These locations include the Yates Building at 1400 Independence Avenue, the Whitten Building at 14th & Independence Avenue, and the Arts & Industries Building (pictured).

- UrbanTurf features a listing of a studio at Tiber Island Cooperative Homes for $129,000.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Town Center West Park Restoration in Progress

More than a year after the duck pond fountains at Town Center West Park first stopped working, the District Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) has finally replaced the pumps and the fountains are functioning once again. When the pumps broke in the spring of 2009, the lack of circulation in the pond caused a potential risk for mosquitoes to breed in the area and spread disease. Last summer, a resident who lives in the vicinity of the park contracted West Nile Virus, likely caused by the stagnant water at Town Center West Park.

Part of the problem with the maintenance of the park, located at 6th and I Street, SW, is when the park was transferred from the National Park Service to DPR, there were issues with the drainage system and water lines that were not brought to the attention of DPR. As a result, the deferred maintenance caused the pumps in the duck pond to malfunction. Another concern was the condition of the park, which was strewn with trash and leaves, missing streetlights, uncut grass, and crumbling brick retaining walls. These problems had nothing to do with the property transfer, but were due to negligence. Eventually, the park was cleaned and the duck pond drained by DPR until new pumps could be installed.

Other fixes to the park, including the repair of the brick retaining walls, is supposed to be done by the developers of the neighboring View at Waterfront apartments, who were to make those improvements as a concession in their Planned Unit Development (PUD) submission in 2008. However, the improvements to the park do not need to be made until the new south tower residential building planned at the View at Waterfront is built. Since the PUD submission in 2008, the View at Waterfront property was foreclosed on and now has new owners. The state of the economy has put plans for new construction of apartments at the View at Waterfront, as well as the repairs to Town Center West Park, in limbo.

In the meantime, some local residents recently formed an organization called Neighbors of Town Center West Park to care for the park and serve as an advocacy group. Every second Saturday of the month, this group of volunteers picks up trash and does other maintenance at the park. The next clean-up day will be this Saturday from 10am-12pm. At the June ANC 6D meeting, the commissioners voted unanimously to designate Neighbors of Town Center West Park the official community representative for the park. With this designation, the group can participate in DPR's Park Partners program.

The current condition of Town Center West Park, despite the fact that the fountains are now operational, stands in stark contrast to the portion of Town Center Park that is along the recently reopened 4th Street, SW. New park benches line the paths leading from Town Center West Park to 4th Street, SW and Waterfront Station, along with new landscaping, sidewalks, streetlights, bike racks, and brick retaining walls.

If you want to get involved with the Neighbors of Town Center West Park, contact Bob Craycraft at They also have a Facebook page:
“Town Center Park West, SW Washington DC.”

(This post also appears in this month's Hill Rag)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Pizza Autentica Coming to Capitol View

A second Pizza Autentica will be making its way to The Little Quadrant That Could according to the Washington Business Journal (subscribers only). One of the newest additions to the growing Pizza Autentica empire will open at the Capitol View office building on 425 3rd Street. At the L'Enfant Plaza Pizza Autentica location, lines are usually out the door during lunch hour, which demonstrates the dearth of restaurants in the area for workers (and residents), especially since the renovation of the Promenade at L'Enfant Plaza began late last year. It would have been nice if restaurateur Hakan Ilhan opened one of his other concepts instead of another Pizza Autentica (like Einstein Brothers Bagels, Gelatoria Dolce Vita, or Cafe Cantina), but beggars can't be choosers, I guess. There's no word yet whether the new Pizza Autentica will serve beer (like the Ballston location), whether it will stay open late, have indoor/outdoor seating, or when it will open. I'll let you know once I find out these details. There's still retail space available at Capitol View, which opened in 2008 and has slowly, but surely signed leases with office tenants. On the project website of The Rappaport Companies, it states that the retail spots at Capitol View are ideal for food or financial services. In addition to office lease signings at Capitol View, Patriots Plaza has been attracting tenants as well, so it was inevitable that a restaurant would open at 425 3rd Street. Hopefully a second restaurant will make an announcement soon.