Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Few Quick Items: Development Map, Arena Stage Scales Back Institute, BoA Checking Out SE, Civilian BRAC Could Involve Deptartment of Energy, Constitution Center in Search of a Tenant

- I've created a new page on the blog with a development map showing projects that are either under construction or planned in Southwest. It's not complete, so other projects will be added in the coming days. Soon, I'll add a map showing projects that have recently been completed.

- Arena Stage is scaling back its American Voices New Play Institute according to The Washington Post.  From the article:
Underlining the challenges it faces in realizing its aspirations to be a national center for research, Arena Stage announced Wednesday that major components of its 2½-year-old American Voices New Play Institute are relocating to Emerson College in Boston.
The transfer will mean a loss of some key personnel who have been deeply involved in the molding of Arena’s widely talked-about play development programs. Most notably, David Dower — Arena’s associate artistic director and one of the chief architects of Arena’s transition to its refurbished complex in Southwest Washington — will be leaving in April for a new job at Emerson. Departing, too, is the institute’s director, Polly Carl, who joined Arena only last July from Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre and will be working with Dower in Boston.
More from the article:
What will leave with Dower and Carl are the institute’s online projects, run for the industry as a whole: the New Play Map, the live-streamed New Play TV and Howlround, a journal of provocative essays on American theater edited by Carl that has become a lively and popular digital forum.
In addition, Dower and Carl will run out of Emerson the industry “convenings” that had been based at Arena, on topics such as diversity, black playwrights and developing new work, though the company will continue to be an occasional site for the symposium.
The actual institute will remain at Arena, as well as Theater 101, which allows spectators to view a production as it evolves during the rehearsal process.

- JDLand reports that Bank of America is in negotiations with Monument Realty to move from their trailer at Waterfront Station to 55 M Street, SE. The current lease at Waterfront Station ends in December 2012, but the bank may leave sooner than that.

- The Washington Business Journal (subscribers only) reported a couple weeks ago that the disposition of federal property called for in a House bill dubbed "Civilian BRAC" would save the Federal government $565M over the next five years according to the Congressional Budget Office.  The bill includes the sale of the Department of Energy headquarters (the Forrestal Building straddles 10th Street near L'Enfant Plaza) as well as the move of the Federal Trade Commission to Constitution Center. The redevelopment of the DOE campus would go a long way towards jump-starting the Southwest Ecodistrict Initiative.

- Also in the WBJ (subscribers only), there's an article about Constitution Center and the search for a tenant to replace the SEC, who backed out of their lease a few months after taking 900K SF in the summer of 2010.  Since then, the SEC has worked with the GSA to find replacement tenants. The Federal Housing Financing Agency will start moving there in January and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency should move into their space by the end of next year. About 358K SF of space is still left to lease. Besides the pending legislation in Congress to move the Federal Trade Commission to Constitution Center (see above), the SEC and GSA are close to a deal with an undisclosed federal agency.

Waterside Metro Lofts

The transformation of the former EPA towers at Waterfront Station to residential is scheduled to get underway over the next month or so and will take about 22 months to complete. The West Tower (1051 4th Street) will have 252 units and the East Tower (1050 4th Street) will have 265 units for a total of 517 apartments. About 104 units, or 20%, will be set aside for households earning up to 50% of Area Median Income (AMI), which is approximately $51,750.  Back in March, Urban-Atlantic purchased the two empty buildings from Waterfront Associates for $20M. Now, JBG is involved in the venture (the WBJ reported a couple weeks ago that JBG recently closed on a $753M fund to acquire real estate in the Washington area). Wiencek & Associates has designed the towers, which altered the old design slightly from Shalom Baranes Associates (older rendering is above). According to a letter sent by the DCRA in October 2010, the developer plans to put roof terraces, a green roof, and a rooftop pool in both buildings.

Rendering courtesy of Waterfront Associates

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Maryland Avenue Small Area Plan Draft Released

The DC Office of Planning released its draft report on the Maryland Avenue SW Plan earlier this month after working on it for several months. This report is a component of the Southwest Ecodistrict Initiative that the National Capital Planning Commission is studying for the area. In the Maryland Avenue SW draft report, there are recommendations on how the avenue can be reconstructed, diversify land uses, and serve as a connector through the Southwest Rectangle (the area between the National Mall and Interstate 395). Currently, the Maryland Avenue corridor is disjointed – a small section of the avenue was rebuilt above railroad tracks west of 12th Street as a part of The Portals complex with a landscaped median and on its eastern end, it will bisect a future memorial for President Eisenhower. However, Maryland Avenue doesn’t exist between 12th Street and 7th Street. Along this stretch, railroad tracks for freight and VRE are in the avenue’s right-of-way. East of Reservation 113 (the green space at 7th & C Streets), Maryland Avenue reemerges before intersecting with Independence Avenue across from the National Air & Space Museum.  

Four components that the draft report addresses include land use, transit, connections, and public realm:

Land use
The draft report encourages a diversification of land uses for the corridor, which is currently dominated by office space. To that end, there are four Federally-owned parcels along Maryland Avenue that the GSA is considering for conveyance out of the Federal inventory. These parcels could then be redeveloped as mixed use sites, potentially with residential included in the mix. Zoning in the area can be changed to encourage residential development with Housing Credits, similar to the bonus density incentives used to increase housing downtown over the past 15 years. Other parcels along the Maryland Avenue corridor could also be redeveloped, including the GSA Regional Office Building at 7th & D Street, the Reporters Building (where Pizza Autentica is located), and two sites at The Portals (perhaps one could be luxury condos affiliated with the Mandarin Oriental Hotel next door with sweeping views of the Tidal Basin?). The draft report indicates at least 1,000 residential/hotel units need to be created in the area to justify the creation of more retail amenities.

Connections between the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station and the L’Enfant commuter rail station should be improved.  According to the draft report, about 20,000 riders use the Metro station each weekday and over 15,000 VRE riders use the commuter rail station. Future ridership estimates anticipate an increase over the next few years and the commuter rail station may need to expand to accommodate a possible extension of MARC train service to L’Enfant as well as the electrification of the rail line. After looking at three options to expand the commuter rail station, the report recommends the best option would be to build an extended platform in the vicinity of the current platform to accommodate four tracks and bi-level trains.  The Reporters Building would eventually become an intermodal hub where VRE, MARC, Metro, Metrobus, and streetcar service would intersect.

Three alternatives were considered for decking over Maryland Avenue: one creates a boulevard with a landscaped median along its length and a newly constructed 9th Street would connect Independence Avenue, Maryland Avenue, and D Street; a second would create a center roadway section from 12th to 10th Street with a ramp connection to D Street, while the area between 10th Street and Reservation 113 would become a linear park; option three would create a center roadway from 12th Street to Reservation 113 and create a square around it by shifting the railroad corridor to the south. The report prefers a center roadway section to a median because of its consistency along the centerline of Maryland Avenue, but also allows flexibility along the edges depending on what structure abuts the right-of-way. The approximate cost to re-establish Maryland Avenue would be $429M, including streetscape, railroad enclosure, commuter rail station improvements, connections to the street grid, and four-track railroad enhancements.

Public Realm
Reservation 113 has the potential – if designed properly, to be a center piece for the neighborhood. Views to the Capitol should be maintained and Maryland Avenue’s significance as a L’Enfant diagonal street should be considered in its design; however, pedestrian-scale elements need to be considered as well. The tree canopy of the area needs to be enhanced and sidewalks designed for heavy pedestrian use. New buildings along the corridor should be oriented towards Maryland Avenue and Reservation 113 with the building facades meeting the edge of the right-of-way to create a defined street wall effect. Retail nodes should be created at 7th and 10th Streets with ceiling heights along the ground floor at these locations at a minimum of 14’. Sustainable infrastructure elements should be maintained throughout the corridor, including storm water filtration and collection, and piezoelectric generation along the rail corridor.

Development along the Maryland Avenue corridor can begin in the eastern end between 6th & 7th Streets, where the avenue already exists and improvements would take less time (and money) to implement. The Switzer Building modernization and greening, along with Federal Building 8, is breathing new life to the area. GSA Parcel 4 is located between 6th & 7th Streets and if conveyed, the parcel could be redeveloped into a use other than office to help change the perception of the area as an “office-only” destination. In addition, some improvements can be made to Reservation 113 to make the area more inviting. As the Southwest Waterfront redevelopment gets going and the future of the Department of Energy campus is determined, that will help spur activity on the western side of the Maryland Avenue corridor.

The full report can be accessed from OP’s website and the 30-day comment period is now open until February 3. 

Renderings courtesy of DC Office of Planning

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

SW Duck Pond News

It's been a big December so far for the Neighbors of the Southwest Duck Pond. First, the group won Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells' Livable, Walkable Community Organization Award, also known as a "Brickie" for their effort to help rehabilitate the Southwest Duck Pond, located at 6th and I Streets. Then, the group learned that they will receive a contribution from the Graduate School USA of up to $1,000. The Graduate School USA owns the former SEU campus across the street from the park and has offered their landscaping team to help with park clean-ups in the past. The Neighbors group is in the process of filing for 501c3 status to become a non-profit organization so it can raise funds to refurbish the park.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A Few Quick Items from Monday's ANC 6D Meeting

- The boundaries of Police Service Areas (PSAs) in MPD's First District will change next year. The PSA that falls in Southwest will change from PSA 104 to PSA 105. The PSA meets every third Thursday of the month, usually in the community room of one of the residential buildings in the neighborhood.

- As mentioned previously, the SW post office at Half & L Street will close once its lease expires at the end of 2012. The USPS is looking for a new location for the post office in the neighborhood. If one can't be found in Southwest, a temporary one may be set up in Near SE until an appropriate space can be found in Southwest.

- The Urban Forestry Administration will clean up Town Center East Park (adjacent to the SW Library at I Street and Wesley Place), do some general pruning of trees, and remove dead tree stumps (pending an environmental assessment since the site of the park was once a funeral home).  Jack Chapman, an arborist from the Urban Forestry Administration, said he would inspect the park soon and see which trees may need to be removed. He mentioned that the street trees bordering the park might be removed since they are impeding the growth of the trees in the park and would be replaced with understory street trees.

- The ANC unanimously approved the designation of a group called "Friends of Lansburg Park", which would allow the organization to join the Parks Partners program under DPR and use SWNA's 501c3 status to do fundraising to make improvements to the park. The underused park, located along Delaware Avenue behind First District headquarters and across the street from Greenleaf Gardens, has been thought of as a place for a community garden, dog park, skate park, and playground, among other ideas. The "Friends" would organize a charrette with the community to help plan its future. However, individuals have not identified yet who would run the "Friends" group.

- Joseph Dorsey from DDOT gave an update on the reconstruction of Maine Avenue from the 14th Street ramp to 12th Street. The project was originally supposed to last about three to four months, but close to six months later, construction has not been completed yet due to weather delays. Substantial completion of the project is near, though. About 97% of concrete has been poured, granite curbs are installed, lighting is in place, and the road has been paved. The road has been narrowed from two lanes to one and the sidewalk has been expanded to allow improved access between the Tidal Basin and the Southwest Waterfront. Parking will be restricted in this area. A bike lane will eventually be installed on the road and should serve as a traffic calming measure. New trees will be installed next spring since it is so late in the season. The project cost about $2 million and despite the delays, is still on budget.

- The organizers behind the inaugural SW ArtsFest this past September have filed for 501c3 non-profit status and are looking for a Treasurer. They plan to do another SW ArtsFest next fall and will coordinate with the other Ward 6 festivals that occur around September and October so their event doesn't overlap with other festivals.  

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

More Retailers Open at L'Enfant Plaza

This evening was L'Enfant Plaza Community Night for residents of ANC 6D hosted by JBG where an update was given to the community about what is planned for the massive mixed use complex. Each attendee was given $15 to use at any of the restaurants or retail shops, which have continued to open over the past few months at the refurbished retail center designed by SmithGroup. Now Open: Roti Mediterranean Grill, Potbelly Sandwich Works, Moe's Southwest Grill, Au Bon Pain, Starbucks, Frozen Yogurt Indulgence, Gourmet Too, Gateway Newstands, Mina, Nash's Mens Wear, 4-U, Hallmark, and a post office.  In addition, Jay's Jewelers appears to be just about ready to open. Three LED panels have been installed on pillars to give some visual interest and change periodically - as seen above, the panels were projecting snowflakes at the time the photo was taken. 

Britt Snyder, VP of Development at JBG, gave some details about what is planned for the complex over the near and medium-term. Tenant build-out continues for some of the restaurants and retailers yet to open in the first phase, but construction of phase two has begun, which will bring double the amount of space that is already complete by 2013. To complement the LED panels in the food court, a video wall displaying art will soon be installed near the Metro entrance and TV screens will be placed in the second phase food court along with soft seating areas. They are hoping to bring a fitness center and child care facility to the second phase, but talks with grocers to open a small store were not successful. Some sit-down restaurants are envisioned for the second food court and they hope to "push the envelope" with having some of the stores stay open later and on weekends. A large atrium will replace the pyramid skylight and provide a grand entry to the retail center from the plaza.

Construction of a Homewood Suites extended stay hotel at 9th and D Street has been pushed back to the summer or fall of 2012. Entrances to the new hotel will be created along D Street and from the plaza. The hotel will be built to be LEED-Certified (either Silver or Gold).

In the medium term, a 200,000 SF office building is planned for the southeast corner of the complex along Frontage Road. Residential was considered for this parcel, but it was not feasible to build since rents in the area are currently not high enough to justify the expense. The lack of a grocery store in the area was also an impediment (although Safeway isn't THAT far away - it's closer than for residents of Near SE). Pedestrian connections from the south to L'Enfant Plaza are being looked at to be improved. Eventually, the developer would like to construct an office building in the plaza.

Below are some additional photos of the new retail center:

Frozen Yogurt Indulgence has a distinctly modern design, with several TV screens displayed throughout.

Seating is available for patrons to use.

Nash's Mens Wear is one of the newer retailers to open.

Monday, December 12, 2011

SW Post Office to Close

At tonight's ANC 6D meeting, the commissioners confirmed that the Southwest Post Office, located on Half and L Street, will close at the end of 2012 when its lease expires. The main reason for the post office closure is because of the lease expiration, not cutbacks by the Postal Service, so the search for a replacement space is under way. There is no indication of what will replace the current post office building, but the Ruben Companies owns the post office site (along with several other parcels on both sides of South Capitol Street) and has plans for office and possibly residential development on their other sites. USPS is looking to sign a 10-year lease in the area that can accommodate retail sales, post office boxes, and distribution, similar to the current facility. If distribution cannot be done on site, then it will be done at the main Brentwood facility, but packages would be picked up at the new local post office. Commissioner McBee mentioned that a 4,000 SF space is available at the 1101 4th Street building at Waterfront Station. A centrally located post office on 4th Street is preferable to the Commissioners, but if that space doesn't work out, they will be in talks with other area developers in Near SE to locate a temporary post office there until a site in Southwest becomes available. A temporary Near SE post office would still serve the 20024 ZIP code even though Near SE is located in a different ZIP code.

On a related note, according to the Washington Business Journal, the Ford post office that was originally slated to close will now remain open, thanks to the efforts by Congresswoman Norton.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Velodrome for Buzzard Point?

DCist reported today that DC Velodrome, a 501c3 organization, is in negotiations to lease space to build a temporary velodrome near Nationals Park. The proposed site, thanks to the investigative skills of JDLand appears to be the southern-most block of Akridge's 100 V Street in Buzzard Point. Here is a description of the proposed velodrome from DC Velodrome's website:
Preliminary (3-to-5 year) plans call for the assembly of a portable cycling track which will be leased from Major League Cycling, Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Basic facilities, including a perimeter fence for security, small grandstands, public address/sound system, lights, portable toilets, and a snack bar/storage building of a temporary nature will be installed on site. There will be parking for approximately 50 cars.
According to the DCist article, the non-profit plans to raise $300,000 to operate the velodrome for the first year, with costs to decline in subsequent years. News of the velodrome negotiations come on the same day that Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells introduced a resolution in the DC Council that would encourage the city to keep DC United in the District. While the resolution doesn't spell out how the city should proceed with building a soccer stadium, the leading site for the team as reported in the media is 100 V Street. Mayor Gray attended a SWNA meeting last week where he stated that he met with DC United officials the prior week and stated his support for keeping the team in the District. However, he also stated that the city doesn't have the money to build the team a new stadium. Rendering of 100 V Street courtesy of Akridge.

A Few Quick Items: SW Waterfront Legislation Passes, Volunteers Needed to Fill Vacancies, DC United Resolution, Lockridge Library in Bellevue

- The U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2297 today, a bill introduced by Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton that clarifies the legal status of the Southwest Waterfront, which will help the developers of The Wharf redevelop the waterfront. A provision in the bill allows the Maine Lobsterman memorial to be moved, but it must remain along the Southwest Waterfront near Maine Avenue with a clear, unimpeded pedestrian pathway between the memorial and the waterfront. The bill now goes to the Senate for approval where, according to a press release from Norton, it does not face any obstacles for passage. Rendering courtesy of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront.

- The Southwest Duck Pond is seeking 501c3 non-profit status, but in order to do so, officers must be elected. Secretary and Treasurer positions are still vacant and need to be filled so the application can be completed. The organization wants the non-profit status so it can do fundraising to restore the park at 6th and I Streets. If you're interested, contact the group by email: 

In addition, the editors of The Southwester recently resigned suddenly, so a volunteer is needed to run the newspaper. If you're interested, contact The Southwester by email:

- Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells introduced a resolution today in the DC Council called the "Sense of the Council Support for D.C. United Soccer Remaining in the District of Columbia Resolution of 2011". The resolution doesn't say how the city should go about keeping the team, however. Rendering courtesy of Akridge.

- According to The Washington Post, the DC Council approved legislation today to rename the new Bellevue library under construction on the corner of Atlantic Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue after the late Ward 8 activist and school board member William O. Lockridge. The library will be named the "William O'Neal Lockridge Library at Bellevue" as a compromise since the community wanted the name Bellevue to be in the name of the library because the old Washington Highlands library was mislabeled. Rendering courtesy of DC Public Library.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

A Few Quick Items: Sunday Jazz Brunch at Station 4, Neighborhood Watch Created, L'Enfant Plaza Community Night, Marina Charrette Recap

- Station 4 is now offering a Jazz Brunch on Sundays. Defractions Jazz Band will perform each Sunday from 12pm-3pm. Brunch is served at the restaurant on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am - 3pm.

- A Neighborhood Watch program is being organized for ANC 6D 01 (bounded by 4th Street to the east, 9th Street to the west, Maine Avenue/M Street to the south and the Southwest freeway to the north) by resident Candice Graham in response to the recent spike in crime in the neighborhood. To learn more about the Neighborhood Watch, there will be a happy hour this Friday at Station 4 at 7pm. 

- On Tuesday, December 13 from 6pm - 8pm, JBG will host L'Enfant Plaza Community Night, where any resident of ANC 6D can get a chance to sample some of the new restaurants that have opened recently at the L'Enfant Plaza food court. There will be free food (JBG will provide $15 gift cards good at any of their restaurants or retailers, including Potbelly, Au Bon Pain, Roti Mediterranean Grill, Starbucks, Moe's Southwest Grill, Frozen Yogurt Indulgence, Hallmark, and Gateway Newstands). Parking will also be free (JBG will provide parking validation).

- The Gangplank Slipholders' Association gives a recap of a charrette that occurred on November 15 to help design the new marina at The Wharf that was convened by Hoffman Madison Waterfront. Over 50 slipholders attended the 2.5-hour meeting at the Harbor Patrol.