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?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Arena Stage Preps for Homecoming

On the eve of Arena Stage's Homecoming celebration, the theater has received lots of press. Below are links to some of the news stories done recently on the reopening of Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater.

Water Street Closure Plan

At Monday’s ANC 6D meeting, Shawn Seaman from the Hoffman-Madison Marquette Waterfront team presented its plan for closing Water Street in anticipation for the redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront. By the Spring of 2011, the DC Council will presumably vote in favor of closing Water Street, but this closure is just “on paper” because a public easement will be enacted which will allow the street to be used just like it is currently. This easement will be valid from spring 2011 until the SW Waterfront land is transferred from the District to the Hoffman-Madison Marquette Waterfront team, scheduled to be around the end of 2012. During this period, the entire street will remain open. Once title transfers from the District to the developers, Phase 1 of construction will begin and the portion of Water Street between 7th Street and 9th Street will be permanently closed. However, 7th Street and 9th Streets will remain open throughout construction. See below for details on Phase 1.

Phase 1 will last for approximately two years and once it’s complete, the new Wharf Street (if you don’t know what Wharf Street is, take a look at my Southwest Waterfront Redevelopment page) will be open between 7th & 9th Streets, as well as service roads that connect to Maine Avenue. The City Pier will also be complete. Phase 2 will bring the permanent closure of Water Street from 9th Street to the Fish Market. Construction on this phase is estimated to be from 2014-2016. See below for details on Phase 2.

Once Phase 2 is complete in 2016, Wharf Street will be extended to the Fish Market and more access roads will be opened to Maine Avenue, as well as a new traffic light at Maine Avenue and a new “grand staircase” connecting to the 10th Street Overlook (Banneker Park). Phase 3 will involve the permanent closure of Water Street from 7th Street to 6th Street. Access beyond 6th Street will be maintained for fire and police vehicles so they can reach the harbor patrol dock. This last phase is estimated to run from 2016-2018. See below for details on Phase 3.

By 2018 or so, the finished development will offer new road connections to the waterfront and emergency egress for police & fire. Besides the new traffic light at the base of the 10th Street Overlook, other new traffic lights will be located at a new traffic circle in front of Arena Stage and the northwest corner of the theater. See below for the final traffic plan.

Also added to the project website are answers to questions that community members wrote down at the community forum on September 29th. (Renderings courtesy of Hoffman-Madison Marquette Waterfront)

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Marina Place to Emerge in Buzzard Point

At Monday's ANC 6D meeting, there was supposed to be a presentation on Marina Place, a new condo project planned near the Anacostia River in Buzzard Point. However, the presentation has been postponed because there was a last minute change to the parking amount planned. As a result, the developer (Buzzards Point LLC) postponed the Zoning Commission meeting scheduled for November 4th - the new date will probably be sometime in January. There will be a total of 99 units (nine of them will be affordable units) and 2,047 SF of ground floor retail at Marina Place, located at 95 V Street. The developer anticipates a coffee shop may occupy the retail space.

Eric Colbert and Associates designed Marina Place to maximize river views. Angular glass walls will allow residents uninterrupted views of the Anacostia - the site has 345 feet of frontage along the Buzzard Point Marina. With only a handful of residential projects in the city near the water, Marina Place will offer one of the first opportunities for city dwellers to live next to a marina - that is until the Southwest Waterfront is redeveloped and housing is built in The Yards in SE. Currently, the site is located in an isolated stretch of Buzzard Point, near the Coast Guard headquarters (at least until they move to St. Elizabeths in SE) and the Buzzard Point Plant. However, there are plans to transform Buzzard Point from a primarily industrial neighborhood into a residential enclave along the waterfront. Last November, the American Planning Association, upon the request of Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells, put together a pro-bono Planning Assistance Team (PAT) to study the Buzzard Point neighborhood and make recommendations on how to improve the area. The final draft of the plan was supposed to be released in March, but it hasn't been completed yet. Construction won't begin at Marina Place until at least 2013, but this project may be one of the early adopters of the PAT's plan in this pioneering area of Southwest. (Rendering is courtesy of Buzzards Point LLC)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Street Closure for Homecoming Celebration

Starting at midnight on October 23rd, a block of 6th Street from Maine Avenue to K Street will be closed for 24 hours in order for Arena Stage to hold its Homecoming celebration. However, there will be a 20-foot emergency lane created for traffic to move northbound - allowing residents of The View at Waterfront apartments to leave their homes by car if they show their parking pass to officers stationed along 6th Street. Only residents of the south tower will need to access 6th Street, since the north tower's parking lot has an entrance on K Street. Circulator and Metrobus will be rerouted during the street closure - details on the alternate routes will be posted once I get them.

About 7,000 tickets for Homecoming were gone after less than an hour of being available on 10/8 when they were released. For those who weren't able to get tickets, several hundred more tickets will be available at the box office starting at 10am on Saturday. Tickets are only required for tours inside the facility and for talks/performances in the theaters - no tickets are needed for outdoor activities.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

New Condo Project in the Works?

On the agenda for Monday's ANC 6D meeting is a new residential project called Marina Place. According to, Marina Place is a planned condo building located in Buzzard Point at 95 V Street. Currently, the site is a vacant lot and is bounded by V Street, 1st Street, Half Street, and the Buzzard Point Marina. There will be a hearing with the Zoning Commission on Thursday, November 4th. The website describes the project as:

A new condominium building with a modern design featuring angular glass walls. The site offers 345 feet of uninterrupted views of the Anacostia River and is located about 5 blocks southwest of Nationals Park. Developed by Buzzard Point LLC the project will contain 4,800 square feet of retail space. (Above is a view of the Buzzard Point Marina.)

During the condo boom in 2005, Walnut Street Development planned to purchase the same site from Duane R. Deason and build a 90-unit condo project, but those plans fell through and the condos were never built. Next door to Marina Place is the headquarters of the U.S. Coast Guard, who has a new headquarters building under construction at St. Elizabeths in Southeast. Across the street is the Buzzard Point Plant, which the American Planning Association's Planning Assistance Team (PAT) recommends becoming a future museum or gallery when it is decommissioned. Also in the vicinity is 100 V Street, a massive office complex planned by Akridge.

Other items on Monday's agenda include the temporary street closing of 6th Street for Saturday's Homecoming celebration at Arena Stage, the permanent closure of Water Street to make way for the redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront, and a request to add Banneker Memorial to the L'Enfant Plaza Metro name.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Arena Stage Café Menu

As mentioned previously, Arena Stage has selected José Andrés Catering with Ridgewells to operate the Café at Arena Stage, now called Next Stage by José Andrés. The first menu has been determined - it will be customized to what is currently being performed on stage. The current menu was inspired by Oklahoma! and every tongue confess, since these are the two productions that will debut at Arena. Some of the menu items include entrees such as: Bison Short Ribs and Wild Turkey Meatballs, with sides such as Potato Puree, Oklahoma Succotash and Yellow Hammer Cornbread. Other menu items include soups, salads, paninis, deserts, and specialty cocktails. In addition to the regular menu, there are Pre-Theater Packages, Jose's Box Lunch, Concessions, and Grab and Go options. The café will be open starting 2 1/2 hours before performances begin, but will be closed after shows. It will also be open to the public - access is available from Maine Avenue. Concessions will be open 30 minutes prior to the start of performances and will remain open during intermission and for an hour after shows. Next Stage by José Andrés will debut on October 23rd during the Homecoming Grand Opening Celebration.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Arena Stage Tour

On Thursday, I took a media tour of Arena Stage, which is getting ready to reopen after a two-year renovation and expansion of its campus. Arena Stage has increased in size from 88,000 square feet to 200,000 square feet and has added a third theater, along with a common lobby, concessions, Cafe, outdoor terrace, costume and paint shop, upholstery shop, rehearsal space, and administrative offices. Edgar Dobie, Managing Director of Arena Stage stated in his opening remarks that "theaters are like houses of worship" which is the sort of feeling one gets when walking through this light-filled complex. Below are some photos I took of the common areas during the tour.

(Left) Here is the exterior of the Kogod Cradle, a new 200-seat theater. The concrete cylindrical theater holds up the entire campus. Back of house operations are located adjacent to each theater in order to ease the movement of props, sets, etc.

(Right) A winding pathway leads to the interior of the Kogod Cradle theater. Molly Smith, Arena's Artistic Director, said that "The Kogod Cradle was the gleam in my eye" when she imagined how Arena would be expanded. The smaller theater is designed to foster experimental theater.

(Left) This is one of the concessions areas, located on the ground level of the Kreeger theater, or the "workhorse" as Smith calls it. The Kreeger serves as a theater, restrooms, concessions, and the Cafe is located on its roof.

(Right) The stairway leads from the main entrance to the concessions area. A glass elevator is also available for use by disabled patrons. In the old theater complex, there were no elevators, so Arena staff had to carry disabled patrons through areas that weren't wheelchair accessible. Also visible in this photo is the wood ceiling, which stretches throughout the complex. Sound proof tiles were originally going to cover the ceiling, but the decision was made about seven months ago to use wood instead.

(Left) The box office is located on the ground level of Arena Stage. Above the box office is a wall that shows the names of contributors to the theater.

(Right) Here is a view of the Fichlander theater, which is the oldest theater in the complex. The interior of the Fichlander has been restored - we weren't allowed to take photos inside the theater because it's in the process of being prepped for Oklahoma! The original fire escapes in the exterior of the theater have been maintained. Architect Bing Thom said that manequins may be positioned on the fire escapes.

(Left) The Cafe is located on the roof of the Kreeger, to be operated by José Andrés Catering with Ridgewells. Seating is cafeteria-style with 200-250 seats. River rocks are used on sections of the roof that could not support the weight of several hundred people. These areas will be fenced off to avoid a liability issue with people possibly tripping on the rocks.

(Right) This is where patrons get their food from The Cafe, which is around the corner from the seating area.

(Left) This is a view of the Washington Monument from the outdoor terrace that's connected to The Cafe. The public will have access to the terrace from a ramp that goes down to Maine Avenue.

(Right) Here is a view of Maine Avenue, Water Street, and the Southwest Waterfront from the terrace. If the plans released last week by the Hoffman-Madison Marquette Waterfront team come to fruition, there will be a traffic oval on Maine Avenue and beyond will be M Street Landing.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Southwest Featured on HGTV's "House Hunters"

Below is a video from an episode of HGTV's "House Hunters" featuring a Southwester that was looking to buy her first home in DC (the freeze-frame shot in the video isn't in SW btw). Two of the three properties were in Southwest (Tiber Island Riverside Condominium and Waterfront Tower). The show was taped last winter after one of our blizzards, but aired last week. Lots of neighborhood landmarks are featured, including the Southwest Waterfront promenade, the wall surrounding Fort McNair, MPD's 1st District HQ, and Wheat Row. See which property she picked!

Subway Opens Tomorrow

Slowly, but surely, retail has started opening along 4th Street at Waterfront Station. First came Safeway (with a Starbucks) in April, then CVS in July. Last week, Waterfront Cleaners opened its doors and tomorrow, Subway will be having its grand opening. Hours of operation for the sandwich shop will be Monday - Friday 6am to 9pm, Saturday 8am - 9pm, and Sunday 9am - 9pm. Next up will be Z-Burger and Station 4. I noticed that work started on both storefronts last week - both of these restaurants are supposed to open in 2011. There are rumors that TD Bank will be replacing Bank of America, but I haven't received confirmation yet from the developer. Excluding space for the bank, there are at least three retail spaces available.

Update: Below are a couple photos taken on Wednesday during lunch.

Wallpaper gives the impression that the walls behind the counter are brick, but they're not.

The line was out the door during lunch.