Tuesday, August 30, 2011

SW Library to Close Temporarily for Mini Makeover

The following release was sent by the DC Library regarding the upcoming renovation of the SW Branch Library:
The Southwest Neighborhood Library, located at 900 Wesley Place, will be closing from September 12 – October 2 to receive a mini-makeover.
During the closure, the Teen Space will be improved, new carpet will be installed and the library will be painted. In addition, there will be some new furniture.
Library users can renew books checked out from the Southwest Neighborhood Library at any other DC Public Library location or online at http://www.dclibrary.org/. Books can be returned to any DC Public Library location. The closest location for Library services is the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library, located at 901 G Street, NW. Holds will also be available for pickup at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library.
In Mayor Gray's 2012 budget, the Southwest Neighborhood Library is set to receive $8.8 million in renovations in phases over the next six years to become a LEED-Silver rated facility. Meanwhile, next door at Town Center East Park, the SW Playground Project is making great progress towards raising $150,000 to build a playground in the grassy areas of the park. The latest large donation has come from the upcoming FANtastic March 10K on September 18, which has raised over $22,000 so far, plus a corporate match of $10,000 from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.  

Preliminary concept rendering of one of the three play equipment areas, courtesy of Playworld Systems.

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Few Quick Items: Camden South Capitol Project Website, ANC Supports Wharf PUD, MLK Drive Unveiled

- In the latest FRONT Page News e-newsletter from the Capitol Riverfront BID, the Camden South Capitol apartment project is featured - the first rental apartment building to start construction in SW in decades. The 276-unit apartment building is under construction at the northeast corner of South Capitol and O Street. Although the building is technically outside the borders of the BID, the Capitol Riverfront is keeping tabs on the project. A website has been set up for the project and includes information on in-unit features such as:Energy Star stainless steel appliances, electric oven ranges with ceramic glass cook tops, solar shades, 42" upper cabinets, double vanities in select units, garden soaking tubs, and stand-up showers in select units. Community features will include a rooftop pool with BBQ grills and outdoor fire pit, cyber cafe, and a resident gaming lounge with kitchen. Camden South Capitol is being developed by Camden Property Trust and designed by WDG Architecture. The building is scheduled to deliver in the summer of 2013.

Rendering of the rear of Camden South Capitol courtesy of WDG Architecture

- At Monday's special ANC 6D meeting on The Wharf PUD, the commissioners voted unanimously to support the Stage 1 PUD application after several amendments were approved.  Back in July, the ANC gave conditional support to the PUD but had 27 concerns that needed to be addressed by the Hoffman Madison Waterfront team before the commissioners could give their full support. Since that meeting, HMW has been in discussions with the ANC and most of the concerns have been addressed. Here is a link to the responses to the ANC's concerns by HMW.

Thanks to Jason Kopp for covering the meeting via Twitter!

- Mayor Gray and other dignitaries were on hand Thursday morning to help unveil MLK Drive at Maine Avenue and 14th Street, a symbolic renaming of sections of road in the District linking Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue east of the Anacostia to the new MLK Memorial along the Tidal Basin. The dedication ceremony for the memorial was scheduled for Sunday, but has been postponed until September or October due to Hurricane Irene.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Open Discussion

I'm going on vacation for the next week, so in lieu of a normal blog post, I thought I'd open the floor to discussion on any topic(s) you'd like while I'm away.  Not to direct the discussion, but an interesting topic that will have citywide implications is the implementation of the new online gaming law. The DC Lottery will be having meetings over the next few weeks in each ward to go over their plans for implementation. In response to these meetings - which will occur in September and October (they were initially scheduled for August when most people are out of town and community organizations do not meet, but was changed), ANC 6D commissioner Andy Litsky has proposed the following resolution for ANCs and other community organizations throughout the city to adopt, according to The Georgetown Dish:
Resolution Regarding Internet Gambling in the District of Columbia

Whereas the online/Internet gambling/iGaming including computerized slots legislation was inserted into the December 2010 budget without public discussion or public hearings, contrary to the principles of open and transparent government; and
Whereas the potential negative economic impacts associated with bringing online gambling supported and operated by the District of Columbia Government everyday until 4AM may include increased police protection, alcohol beverage control, zoning and fire safety enforcement, specialized protection against hacking of the DC Government website and its gambling site, and increased addiction treatment vastly outweigh the projected annual financial benefits to the District that might be realized by its implementation.

Now, therefore let it be resolved that (ANC Commissions, civic associations, churches, citizens) supports the immediate repeal of the “Lottery Modernization Amendment Act of 2010” and a moratorium on the implementation of DC Government online/Internet gambling/iGaming including computerized slots so that this issue in stand alone legislation can be thoroughly vetted in an open and fully transparent manner with proper public consideration, comments, hearings and recorded vote by the Council of the District of Columbia and approval and signature of the Mayor.
The ANC noted in their conditional approval of The Wharf PUD that online gaming should be prohibited in areas outside of private residences.  Speaking of the Wharf, ANC 6D will hold a special meeting on Monday, August 22 at 7pm to vote on The Wharf Stage One PUD. The ANC gave conditional approval to the PUD application back in July, but this vote will be done in response to the several concerns they brought to the developers when they went before the Zoning Commission last month.  The August 22 public meeting will be held at 1100 4th Street, 2nd floor.

Feel free to discuss this topic or any other SW-related issue in the comments. Adios!

Friday, August 12, 2011

A Few Quick Items: MLK Memorial Dedication, Nationals Neighborhood Game, Mixed Reviews for Station 4, L'Enfant Plaza Office Building for Sale

- On Wednesday, Mayor Gray announced a list of events leading up to the dedication ceremony of the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial along the Tidal Basin. Most of the events will take place at the MLK Library downtown, but on Tuesday, August 23rd, DC residents will get to tour the memorial from 8am to 8pm - days before the official dedication. Timed tickets will be distributed to tour the memorial. Stay tuned for details on how to receive those tickets. The official dedication ceremony will take place on August 28th at 11am. Prior to the dedication, there will be a musical tribute to Dr. King from 10-11am and a concert from 2-4pm. All three events are free and open to the public. In addition, the Washington, DC Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation has a slew of other events planned leading up to the dedication.

- August 25 is the make-up date for the Nationals Neighborhood Game at Nationals Park, which was rescheduled due to a rain-out from April 16th. Locals will be singing the national anthem, throwing the first pitch, and saying "play ball!". There are some free tickets available, so contact your ANC 6D commissioner or SWNA representative for details.

- The Washington Post's food critic Tom Sietsema recently wrote a review of Station 4 and it wasn't a good one. Here is a snippet:
Precious little of that magic surfaced in a recent dinner at Station 4, which started with breadsticks flavored with dried black olives and continued with a riff on a peanut butter and jelly sandwich using almonds, tomato jelly, foie gras and brioche. (Imagine really sweet French toast with some meat in each bite.) [Orlando] Amaro's "San Francisco style" cioppino is something no Bay Area resident would recognize as the classic robust seafood stew. "At least the kitchen didn't overcook the seafood," said the optimist at the table.

A waiter talks up the octopus, and we follow his lead. The herb-marinated, char-grilled seafood with potato confit cooked in duck fat and a trail of smoked paprika mayonnaise is the best thing we eat all night.

Station 4's pizza may be the worst. The pie is so without charm, we leave all but two slices behind.

Come to think of it, the previously frozen french fries, supposedly cooked in duck fat but revealing no such sign, are mediocre, too. Pappardelle with short ribs, thick and heavy, ignore the reality show outside, where the thermometer is pushing triple digits. A side dish of Brussels sprouts (hey, chef, it's summer!) is overcooked.
Meanwhile, it seems Metromix went to a completely different restaurant.  Here is some of what they had to say about Station 4:
When handpicking the chef for his new modern American restaurant Station 4, owner Med Lahlou decided go for a more nuevo route than new. And the results have been spectacular. Famed Venezuelan chef Orlando Amaro—whose Blue Moon has been named one of Miami’s top restaurants—has added his own flair in his signature dishes.
The restaurant’s location is a few blocks from the Southwest Waterfront (and across the street from the Metro station of the same name), and as you’d imagine seafood plays a key role in the menu. Amaro’s charred octopus is an excellent choice from sea, with potato confit, smoked paprika aioli and tomato-feta tartar. The combination makes for a succulent and crispy texture to the octopus.
Other excellent seafood options at the restaurant are the San Francisco-style cioppino—made with fresh crab, shrimp, mussels, clams and calamari in a saffron-tomato broth and served with a toasted baguette—as well as the sautéed calamari served with lemon-oil tapenade and squid ink vinaigrette.
There's only one way to find out which of these reviews is more correct...go check it out for yourself!

-  It was reported last week in the Washington Business Journal that 950 L'Enfant Plaza was put on the market by Heyman Properties. The office building is the south building at the plaza and is one of the buildings not owned by JBG (the other is the USPS headquarters), which is in the midst of renovating the retail center and plans to build a hotel, office, and maybe apartments.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

SW Ecodistrict Meeting Recap (Belated)

After several public meetings over the past couple of years to solicit feedback on plans for the Southwest Ecodistrict, the NCPC held another meeting on July 26th to go over the three development scenarios proposed for the area. While the Office of Planning’s meeting on July 14th dealt with the Maryland Avenue corridor, the NCPC meeting took a more holistic approach to the Ecodistrict, but focused more on the 10th Street corridor. The Mission Statement of the SW Ecodistrict is as follows: Establish an Ecodistrict that transforms the 10th Street and Maryland Avenue corridors into a vibrant well connected place to commemorate, visit, work, and live in a matter that creates a national showcase of sustainability through innovation, technology, and design. NCPC recommends at least 1,000 residential units and/or hotel rooms need to be created in the area in order to sustain the neighborhood. Currently, no one lives in the study area. Mixed use development (including residential) will be encouraged in the central portion of the study area from around C Street south to the freeway, while federal and cultural uses will predominate the northern area bordering the National Mall and civic uses at Banneker Overlook. Below are descriptions of the three development scenarios currently under consideration.

The rehabilitation scenario proposes the least amount of changes out of the three development scenarios.
Rehabilitation: Under this scenario, several federal properties would be rehabilitated, including the Department of Energy Headquarters complex along 10th Street, the historic HUD building at 7th & E Street, USPS headquarters along 10th Street, GSA’s building at 7th & D Street, Department of Education headquarters at 4th Street & Independence Avenue, and Wilbur/Orville Wright FAA buildings along Independence Avenue. Infill opportunities exist along Maryland Avenue, 12th Street near Independence Avenue, and at Banneker Overlook. An additional 2.1 – 2.4 million SF of space (divided evenly by federal office, cultural, and residential/hotel) would be added under this scenario, along with 70,000 SF of retail, 3,500 – 4,000 employees, and 840 – 960 residents.

The redevelopment scenario would remove the Department of Energy Forrestal Complex.
Redevelopment: The redevelopment scenario takes things further and proposes instead of rehabilitating the DOE complex, that it should be redeveloped, allowing the view shed to be reestablished along Virginia Avenue towards the Washington Monument. In addition, a portion of I-395 would be decked from 9th Street to just west of 10th Street to create more space for infill development. Between 3.3 and 3.9 million SF of space (divided evenly by federal office, cultural, and residential/hotel) would be created in this scenario, along with 100,000 SF of retail, 5,500 – 6,500 employees, and 1,320 – 1,560 residents.

Repurposing is the most comprehensive of scenarios.
Repurpose: In addition to the rehabilitation and redevelopment of the Ecodistrict, this scenario would look to repurpose three buildings for different uses– the USPS headquarters, the GSA building, and the Wilbur Wright FAA building. The repurposing scenario would add between 3.9 and 4.9 million SF of space.

These are four possible scenarios for a redesigned 10th Street.
Currently, the 10th Street corridor from the Smithsonian Castle to Banneker Overlook is a wide, mostly empty road that’s devoid of a significant tree canopy. There are four scenarios under consideration for the reconstruction of the street – a median axis (or “Ramblas”) with street lanes on the sides and a large median; a roadway axis where the street would run in the middle with wide sidewalks on either side; a pedestrian axis with a large sidewalk on the west side and the street running off-center to the east; and a hybrid median/plaza axis with the median axis format north of Maryland Avenue and south of L’Enfant Plaza, but a plaza format at L’Enfant Plaza. All four scenarios provide ample tree canopy and offer space for a plaza area near L’Enfant Plaza and infill areas along the street. Deep tree wells will allow larger trees to grow along 10th Street and filtration systems will be installed to carry water to storage tanks below the street that will reduce run-off.

Above shows the "maximum" buildout alternative for Banneker Overlook, which includes civic uses near 9th Street.
At Banneker Overlook, two build-out scenarios have been proposed. One is the “minimum” buildout, which adds civic/cultural buildings adjacent to the freeway, a parking zone beneath, and landscape features that connect to Maine Avenue and The Wharf. The “maximum” buildout also includes a civic/cultural building on the hillside near the intersection of 9th Street and Maine Avenue. Throughout the Ecodistrict, sustainable features and principles are proposed to comply with the President’s Executive Order mandating the greening of federal buildings, including water filtration systems (as mentioned above), photovoltaic panels on rooftops and along the freeway, green roofs, a cogeneration plant, building placement to reduce sun exposure, and better use of the district heating system currently in the area.

More information about the SW Ecodistrict can be found here. NCPC will be accepting comments on the plan until this Friday on their project website.

Images courtesy of NCPC

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Boat Home Tour this Saturday

There will be 23 boats on display at the Gangplank Marina during the tour.  In addition, discounted admission for a DC Harbour Cruise is available and with the purchase of a tour ticket, visit Cantina Marina before or after the tour to receive 10% off. Proceeds from the tour will benefit the Earth Conservation Corps and the Alice Ferguson Foundation.

Update: Below is a YouTube video done by Hoffman-Madison Waterfront showing a boat home owner give a tour of her home at the Gangplank Marina.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Recap of Maryland Avenue Plan Public Meeting

The Office of Planning held a public meeting on July 14th to go over their draft recommendations for the Maryland Avenue corridor from 12th Street to 4th Street. The western boundary of the study area abuts the Portals, where Maryland Avenue is a rebuilt, landscaped road on a deck atop railroad tracks. On the east side between 4th and 6th Street, there are plans underway to build a memorial to President Eisenhower called Eisenhower Square.

The Maryland Avenue corridor is envisioned as a park-like setting.

The results of a survey conducted by OP found that respondents thought the Maryland Avenue corridor needs parks and open spaces the most, as well as improved building facades. Basically, OP recommends (with the help of their consultants at AECOM) that Maryland Avenue should be decked from 12th Street to Reservation 113 (AKA Hancock Park, or the green space formed at what would be the intersection of Maryland Avenue, Virginia Avenue, 7th Street and 9th Street) as well as 9th Street from Independence Avenue to D Street. The roadway along Maryland Avenue would run in the middle of the 160' right-of-way with one lane in either direction and wide park-like open space on both sides to accommodate pedestrians. Limited on-street parking would be accommodated. Stormwater can be collected and filtered from deep tree wells along the avenue and sent to infiltration zones beneath the street. 

Two passenger tracks each for passenger and freight rail are planned below a decked Maryland Avenue.
In addition to stormwater connection, there would be space beneath Maryland Avenue for a four-track railroad system with two tracks for passenger rail and two tracks for freight rail, which would improve rail access in the corridor. As a part of the sustainability aspect of the plan, a piezoelectric generation pilot study along the railroad tracks could show that electricity can be generated as trains pass by, which then can be used to power street lights and other amenities along Maryland Avenue. Improvements are envisioned for Reservation 113 to connect pedestrians with an expanded L'Enfant Station, that would serve VRE, MARC, AMTRAK, Metrorail, Metro Bus, and streetcars.

At least four GSA parcels are ripe for infill development.
There are four potential infill sites along the avenue that are owned by the GSA. They are located at the northeast corner of 12th & D Street, the northwest corner of Maryland Avenue & 10th Street, the northeast corner of Maryland Avenue & 10th Street, and the northeast corner of Maryland Avenue & 7th Street. There are also opportunities to redevelop the GSA building along D Street that faces Reservation 113 and The Reporters Building at 7th & D Street (where Pizza Autentica is located). OP and AECOM recommend that any new development in the corridor should be oriented toward Maryland Avenue to help frame and define public spaces and the historic right-of-way (whether or not the decked roadway has been constructed at the time the buildings are completed).

Proposed zoning changes would encourage a mix of uses, including residential, cultural, hotel, retail, and office, in order to make the corridor (and the SW Ecodistrict as a whole) an extension of downtown. For instance, retail nodes are suggested at the intersection of Maryland Avenue & 10th Street and at L'Enfant Station. Residential and hotel uses are also possible along Maryland Avenue - the SW Ecodistrict plan calls for at least 1,000 residential/hotel rooms to make the area a viable neighborhood, which the Maryland Avenue corridor can help accommodate. Also, a cultural/commemorative destination is envisioned for the southwest corner of Maryland Avenue & 10th Street.

Improvements along Maryland Avenue would begin with the block from 6th Street to 7th Street, since this section already exists and is at-grade.  The elevated sections would be done later as financing becomes available (perhaps a public-private partnership or CSX?).

More details on the Maryland Avenue Plan can be found here. The comment period on the draft recommendations will be open until Friday, so contact Joyce Tsepas at the Office of Planning by email or by phone (202-535-1556).

Renderings courtesy of the Office of Planning

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Few Quick Items: Story on L'Enfant Plaza Makeover, Station 4 "Grand Opening" Tomorrow, New & Expanded Capital Bikeshare Stations, Corona Movie Nights on Wednesdays in August

- In this week's Capital Business, there's a story about the renovation underway at L'Enfant Plaza's retail corridor. As you already know, the food court area was completed this spring and since then, Potbelly, Roti Mediterranean Grill, and more recently Au Bon Pain have opened. Below is a description of what is to come at L'Enfant Plaza, according to the article:
“It’s very heavy architecture,” said Britt Snider, JBG development officer. “We’re trying to lighten it up so it doesn’t feel so intimidating.”
Architecture firm SmithGroup is revamping the space with modern birch accents, recess lighting and a red, white and gray color palette, carried throughout the decor and flooring.
The retail redevelopment is part of a larger renovation and expansion effort taking place at the complex, composed of a 372-room hotel and two office buildings in Southwest Washington. Plans call for a 234-room Homewood Suites, 500,000 square feet of more office space and, among other things, a make-over for the existing hotel rooms.
Snider said the company took the paltry after-hours options into consideration in planning the second phase of the retail redevelopment. Casual dining restaurants are envisioned for the west wing of the retail promenade, where demolition is underway with completion slated for early 2013.
“The true test of this transformation will be whether we see people after work or on the weekends,” Snider said.
As much as JBG wants to create a vibrant late-night atmosphere, he said the company is keen on catering to the needs of the daytime population — more than 28,000 workers are within a half-mile of the complex. A smattering of business-wear boutiques will be sprinkled along the corridor off the food court, while a daycare and gym are being considered.
Besides the restaurants mentioned above, leases have been signed for a post office, CVS, McDonald's, Hallmark, Gourmet Too, Moe's, Mama Ilardo's, F.Y.I., Gateway Newstands, and Starbucks. In addition, a 2-story glass atrium will be built over the courtyard that will introduce more natural light to the retail corridor and serve as its grand entrance.   

Rendering courtesy of SmithGroup

- Station 4 will have its "Grand Opening" tomorrow after having its "Soft Opening" back on June 26. The restaurant has been open daily since then but the grand opening is more of a celebration than anything else. The grand opening will be from 5-8pm and reservations are recommended.

- DDOT announced last week that Capital Bikeshare will be expanding this fall with 32 new stations and 18 existing stations will be expanded.  Southwest will receive two new stations - located at 4th & E Street and across the street from the Air & Space Museum at Independence & Maryland Avenue (at 6th Street). In addition, the Waterfront Station and 7th Street Landing stations will be expanded. Earlier this year, the 12th Street and Independence Avenue station was expanded.

- Phillips Flagship and Cantina Marina will host Corona Movie Nights on Wednesdays this month, sponsored by On Tap Magazine. The movies will be aired on the patio areas of the restaurants at 8pm. Phillips will show "Office Space" on August 3rd and "Dinner for Schmucks" on August 10th, while Cantina Marina will show "The Hangover" on August 17th and "Wedding Crashers" on August 24th. The movie nights are free, but RSVP to receive a free Corona and at the end of the month, a raffle will be held and the winner receives the TV used to show the movies.