Monday, February 28, 2011

Eisenhower Memorial Concepts Go Before NCPC

Earlier this month, the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) met to discuss the latest plans for the Eisenhower Memorial, which is slated for a four-acre rectangular site across the street from the National Air & Space Museum along Independence Avenue between 4th Street and 6th Street. The memorial is being designed by famed architect Frank Gehry, which will be his first design that may actually get built in DC (several years ago, he designed an addition to the Corcoran which never got built due to lack of funding). There are three concepts for the memorial with the third option being the preferred design of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission. This alternative, called the Maryland Park concept, calls for Maryland Avenue to be realigned with the axis of the Capitol building but be closed to vehicular traffic; stone block sculptures with quotes from President Eisenhower surrounding a central grove of sycamore trees; and large woven stainless steel tapestries with scenery from Eisenhower's home town of Abilene, Kansas. The largest tapestry, at 550 feet, would essentially block the view of the U.S. Department of Education headquarters for visitors to the memorial, a building not universally loved for its 1960's architecture. Behind the large tapestry between it and the Department of Education building will be a 50-foot wide promenade, called the LBJ Promenade, which will have benches and landscaping and will serve as an access point to the memorial.

When the NCPC met, there was some concern about the design. In reviewing the memorial plans, the NCPC was using seven design principles created in 2006 to guide the site approval process. Those design principles, from the NCPC's Commission Action, are as follows:
1. Preserve reciprocal views to and from the U.S. Capitol along Maryland Avenue, SW.
2. Enhance the nature of the site as one in a sequence of public spaces embellishing the Maryland Avenue vista.
3. Create a unified memorial site that integrates the disparate parcels into a meaningful and functional public gathering place that also unifies the surrounding precinct.
4. Reflect L’Enfant Plan principles by shaping the memorial site as a separate and distinct public space that complements the Department of Education Headquarters and other surrounding buildings.
5. Respect and complement the architecture of the surrounding precinct.
6. Respect the building lines of the surrounding rights-of-way and the alignment of trees along Maryland Avenue.
7. Incorporate significant green space into the design of the memorial.
According to the NCPC, only design principles #2 and #7 are incorporated in the plans for the Maryland Park option, which means Gehry has a lot of work to do before the NCPC will give site approval.

Images courtesy of the National Capital Planning Commission.

NASA Stays Put

I tweeted about this a couple weeks ago, but here's a link to a story done in the Washington Business Journal about NASA headquarters renewing its lease at Two Independence Square, located at 4th & E Street. From the article:
The General Services Administration said Thursday it has signed a 597,253-square-foot lease for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration at Piedmont Office Realty Trust Inc.’s 300 E St. SW, opting for the space agency to stay in place at its current headquarters. The space agency had been on a closely watched prowl for about 600,000 square feet of District space for just shy of a year. It will stay in the same space under a new 15-year lease at an annual rent of $44.54 per square foot, the GSA said. As part of the succeeding lease, Piedmont will renovate the interior of the building over the next year.
At the neighboring One Independence Square, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) leases space, but that agency is moving down the street to Constitution Center.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Southwest Waterfront PUD Submitted

According to the Washington Business Journal, the developers of the new Southwest Waterfront have submitted the stage one Planned Unit Development (PUD) application. It appears that the number of residential units has increased in the PUD submission from when the PN Hoffman-Madison Marquette Waterfront team met with the community in September to present their plans. From the article:
The application, filed Feb. 10 with the Zoning Commission, proposes roughly 3.2 million square feet of gross floor area, including 1,200 mixed-income residential units, 400,000 square feet of office space, 200,000 square feet of retail, 625 hotel rooms, 100,000 square feet devoted to cultural activities, 25,000 square feet for maritime activities and 12 acres of parks and open space. Those numbers, from the notice of the filing issued Friday by the commission, suggests the project's scope has changed in recent months to go heavier on residential and lighter on office. As recently as September, the development plan featured 560 dwelling units and 840,000 square feet of office.
Back in December, the DC Council passed a bill to change the way affordable units will be divided at the Southwest Waterfront development. Under the new law, 30% of the first 500 units of housing will be set aside as affordable housing (half for those making 60% of Area Median Income, or AMI, which is about $109,000 for a family of four, and the other half for those making 30% of AMI). For the remaining 700 units, at least 20% will be set aside as workforce housing (for households making 80% to 100% of AMI). Construction is supposed to get underway on phase one, from 7th Street to 9th Street, by the end of 2012.

Update: The WBJ got outscooped by our local monthly paper...The Southwester!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Couple Quick Items: Solar Decalthlon, Arena Stage Releases 2011-12 Line-Up

- According to DCist, the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Decathlon 2011 will be held at West Potomac Park. From the post:
The letter states that "the event will be held on the peninsula just south of the new Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial which is between the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial and the Potomac River." The event will take place in September or October, though exact dates have not yet been determined. Decathletes were reportedly informed this afternoon about the location decision.
The event used to be held between the Capitol and the Washington Monument, but the National Park Service had concerns about the impact the event had on the grass, so an alternative location was found. At one point, National Harbor in Maryland was considered, but ultimately a location near its original home was chosen.

- Arena Stage released its schedule for the 2011-2012 season. Check out the list of 11 shows here. In addition, Rodgers & Hammerstein's Oklahoma! will return this summer for a second run from July 8 - October 2. According to the press release, the following records were broken by the musical last year:
    • Highest single-ticket sales for a production by opening night. By opening night, Arena Stage had 54% more in advanced single-ticket revenue than the previous record holder, the 2010 production of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies.
    • Highest single-ticket sales for a single production in a 24-hour period, surpassing Molly Smith’s 2002 production of South Pacific by a 50% increase in revenue.
    • Highest-grossing, non-extension production in Arena Stage history. Previously held by the 2010 production of Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies, the record for the highest single-ticket sales for a non-extension run was exceeded by more than $100,000 by opening night.
    • Highest single-ticket sales for a single production in one week. Oklahoma! broke this record twice; first during the week of November 1-7, 2010, when Arena Stage surpassed the previous record set by Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies by selling more than 4,000 tickets, and then again the following week, when Arena Stage sold nearly 6,000 tickets.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival Plans Take Shape

Big plans are underway for the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival, which will take place on Saturday, April 2, one of the official events of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. This is the seventh year that the Washington Waterfront Association has hosted the festival, but this year it will be co-produced with PN Hoffman/Madison Marquette, the developers of the new Southwest Waterfront. The festival will be a day-long affair, starting at 1pm and ending around 8:30pm, followed by the fireworks show at 8:30. In honor of the cherry blossoms, pink lights will be lit along the waterfront, with a special unveiling before the fireworks show begins. Also, the festival will cover a larger area of the waterfront. Three stages will be set up; one at the Gangplank Marina pocket park at 600 Water Street, 7th Street Landing, and the new park coming to the corner of 9th and Water Street.

Activities for every member of the family will be available at the festival. At the Gangplank Marina pocket park, there will be performances by the Navy Band, a color guard, the U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, and the U.S. Army Band Downrange, based at Fort Myer. This area will also be reserved for community organizations who want to help get the word out about their efforts. Jazz and blues will be performed throughout the day at 7th Street Landing. Meanwhile, at the new 9th Street park, there will be vocal and musical performances, including beach-themed music and Nen Daiko, a Japanese-style drumming band from Fairfax, VA. There will be strolling performers along the waterfront promenade, such as face painters, balloon artists, costumed characters, and minstrels. At the parking lot of the Gangplank Marina, there will be a demonstration set up to teach children how to build a toy sailboat, complete with a man-made pond. MPD’s Harbor Patrol will have a booth set up where children can make t-shirts from artwork and a fireboat will parade along the Washington Channel. While the event is family-friendly, there will also be things for adults to enjoy. Planners are in the process of getting permits to allow a beer and wine garden adjacent to 9th Street park. There will be food sampling from local restaurants, as well as food trucks will be invited to line up from the 600 block to 900 block of Water Street.

The Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival is the kick-off event for a year full of programming along the waterfront, culminating with the Parade of Lighted Boats on the first Saturday of December. According to Angela Sweeney of Madison Marquette, weekly events at 7th Street Landing will be back again this year, from June 2 – September 25. In addition, several festivals are planned throughout the season (more on that will be announced soon). One item mentioned at the December ANC 6D meeting was the possibility that the Washington Kastles World Team Tennis organization would set up shop on the waterfront for their month-long season in July, since their current home in a parking lot downtown will become a construction zone this spring with the development of CityCenterDC. That deal has not been finalized yet, though. The interim programming of the Southwest Waterfront is being done in anticipation for construction, which is scheduled to get underway by the end of 2012 with phase one of development.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Couple Quick Items: Federal Government News

- The Washington Business Journal reports that Congress is trying to get the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to move its headquarters from a choice location in the Federal Triangle to another office in order to let the National Gallery of Art expand. One of the locations the FTC could relocate to, according to the article, is Federal Building 8, the office building at 200 C Street that is currently under renovation.

- In other federal government agency news, the WBJ reports that in President Obama's 2012 budget, it calls for delaying the move of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to St. Elizabeths in SE. FEMA's headquarters are currently located at the 600 block of C Street. Under the proposed budget, the delivery of FEMA's new headquarters would be delayed for a year. The headquarters facility was originally supposed to deliver between 2014 and 2016, along with offices for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is headquartered at 500 12th Street, among others.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Maryland Avenue Study Planned

As a part of the Southwest Ecodistrict initiative underway by the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC), The DC Office of Planning will undertake a study of the Maryland Avenue corridor, as reported in the Examiner. The section of the corridor to be studied stretches from 12th Street to 6th Street. Maryland Avenue is currently disjointed, with a landscaped segment west of 12th Street at the Portals development (pictured above), but abruptly ends east of 12th Street with the CSX train tracks and picks up again east of the L'Enfant VRE station at 7th Street. On the other end of the corridor is the site of the future Eisenhower Memorial. The goal of the study is to reconnect Maryland Avenue and create a mixed use corridor. Here's a link to a video provided by NCPC on the current state of Maryland Avenue.

Update: Here's a link to a live chat done on Wednesday by the Housing Complex blog about plans for the Southwest Ecodistrict. Here's a reminder that the NCPC will be hosting a public meeting about the Ecodistrict on Thursday from 6-8pm at the Whitten Building, located at 1400 Independence Avenue.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Community Summit Announcement

Here is a link to register for the event, but space is limited. Lunch and refreshments will be served. Childcare is available upon request for children ages 11 and under.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Safeway Security Procedures to Change

Starting on Monday, Safeway’s security plan for its Waterfront Station store will change. According to Craig Muckle, Safeway’s Manager of Public Affairs and Government Relations, there will no longer be uniformed security officers at the entrance to the store. Instead, there will be plain-clothed greeters at the store entrances that will welcome customers when they walk in and check receipts before they depart. Muckle described the greeters as part of a “Quality Assurance Program” at the store, similar to what is done at Costco and Walmart. These greeters will not have security duties; plain-clothed security officers will still be in the store as they are now.

Also, store hours will change back to 6am-11pm in the spring. Muckle didn’t know the exact date, but I’ll pass along that information once I receive it.

Update: picks up the Safeway story and reports that the Waterfront Station security change could be implemented throughout the city by the end of the year. From the article:
Safeway spokesperson Craig Muckle confirms that customers who decline to show a receipt will not be stopped. “If someone were to refuse, there’s no commotion made or anything like that,” he says. “They’re able to go.” Muckle maintains that the employees manning the door are not security guards; in fact, he says that the new receipt-checking policy is not a security measure at all.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Marriott Residence Inn Under Renovation

Back in mid-January, renovations began at the Marriott Residence Inn at 333 E Street, which first opened in 2005. The extended-stay hotel will remain open during renovations. Some of the planned upgrades to the 233 suites include:
  • Luxury bedding upgrade
  • Granite kitchen counter tops and ceramic flat cook tops
  • New lamps
  • New drapes, sheers and carpeting
  • New sleeper sofas and lounge chairs
  • New wall covering and accent wall
Common areas will also be upgraded:
  • Hallways will get new carpet, wall covering and lighting
  • Fitness center will have state-of-the-art cardio equipment featuring personal LCD TVs, new free weights, and new weight machines
  • Lounge area will get revamped and the outdoor patio will get new furniture and a grill area
Renovations are scheduled to be completed by mid-March.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

SW Ecodistrict Public Meeting Flyer

Restaurant Build-Out Inches Closer to Completion

More progress has been made to the storefronts at Waterfront Station reserved for Station 4 and Z-Burger. More windows have been exposed along 4th Street and along the side facing the patio area, which according to the Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) public hearing notice posted on the front door of Station 4, will accommodate up to 70 seats. Station 4 is applying for a Class C restaurant license with a summer garden, which means wine, beer, and spirits can be served. Proposed hours of operation of the restaurant are as follows:
Sunday - Thursday: 11am - 2am
Friday - Saturday: 11am - 3am
The hearing notice proposes that alcohol can be purchased during these hours and outdoor seating to be allowed daily from 11am - 12am. Alcohol in the outside patio could be permitted at all times the patio area is open. Live entertainment at the restaurant would be permitted Sunday - Thursday nights from 9pm to 1:30am and on Friday & Saturday nights from 9pm to 2:30am. The ABRA hearing is scheduled for March 14th. There's no update on exactly when Station 4 and Z-Burger will open, but once I hear something, I'll let you all know.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Couple Quick Items: Constitution Center Leasing, Eisenhower Square Update

The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced yesterday that it will be consolidating its three office locations in NW in order to move to Constitution Center, which is quickly becoming the Federal Government’s version of Wall Street since the SEC, the OCC, and now FHFA will occupy space at the secure campus. By the way, FHFA regulates Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the 12 Federal Home Loan Banks. According to the press release, FHFA employees are scheduled to start moving in November. There’s no word yet on how much space they will be occupying at Constitution Center or how many employees will be moving. However, I would imagine that the office building is now pretty close to fully leased with this signing.

Update: Here's some additional information about the FHFA lease via the WBJ. The FHFA will lease 335,000 square feet at Constitution Center and over 550 people will be moving to the office complex. Although there is some secrecy behind the lease signings, the WBJ calculates that up to 115,000 SF is left to lease in the 1.4 million SF complex.

DCMud gives an update on plans for Eisenhower Square, the memorial planned for President Eisenhower across from the U.S. Department of Education headquarters. The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) will be reviewing three refined alternatives for the memorial, designed by Frank Gehry at their monthly meeting on Thursday. The alternative favored by the Eisenhower Memorial Commission is the one with limestone columns on either side of a large metal woven tapestry blocking the Department of Education building from view and has a grove of sycamore trees in the center. According to The Washington Post, Gehry stated that the large tapestry may show an image of Abilene, Kansas, Eisenhower's boyhood home.

Above is a rendering of an earlier version of the preferred vision for Eisenhower Square, courtesy of the Eisenhower Memorial Commission.