Monday, April 30, 2012

Other Capitol Park Apartment Buildings to be Sold

After it was revealed that Capitol Park Towers (pictured above) was under contract by Urban Investment Partners and the tenants formed a tenants association to exercise their Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) rights, it appears that the owner of the other two Capitol Park apartment buildings want to sell their remaining interest in those buildings as well. The Department of Housing and Community Development received a notice of transfer on April 18 for Capitol Park Twin Towers (a 320-unit building located at 101/103 G Street) and Capitol Park Plaza (a 328-unit building at 201 I Street). The owner intends to transfer 5% of their interest in the properties. The 95%/5% transaction was a loophole owners used to avoid TOPA taking effect before the law was amended in 2005. What was done previously was an owner would deed 95% of their interest in a building but maintain 5% interest, so the transaction was not technically a sale.  In the case of Capitol Park, 95% interest in the two buildings were transferred from Capitol Park Associates to Capitol Park Apartments (both Limited Partnerships) in 2002. Capitol Park Twin Towers formed a tenants association and sued to block the transaction in 2003 saying it was actually a sale and their TOPA rights needed to be enforced, but after several appeals, the suit was eventually won by the owners in 2006 due to the 95%/5% loophole.  What will happen now to Capitol Park Plaza and Capitol Park Twin Towers remains to be seen.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Amidon-Bowen Modernization

Big changes are underway for Amidon-Bowen Elementary School, the only elementary school in Southwest.  Starting on June 15, the school will begin a modernization program to be done in three phases. Five million dollars has been allocated for Phase One of construction, but funding has not been secured yet for the subsequent phases. Phase One will include a new ADA-compliant entrance, a new administrative office suite, a new walk-through from the front to the play area in back, a new air conditioning system, and re-sized classrooms with technology upgrades and movable walls. Phase Two will improve support components, such as the gymnasium and all-purpose room while Phase Three will improve interior systems. QuinnEvans Architects designed the planned upgrades, which include distinct color schemes for each section of the school to help differentiate spaces for administrative, pre-k, kindergarten, and other grade levels. Landscaping will also be refreshed with native plants and a mini-waterfall system that will capture rainwater and lead the water to a small stream bed. The renovation program complements a $200,000 grant received last summer from Target to redo the school’s library on the second floor with light construction, technology updates, new furniture, carpet and shelves, and 2,000 books. 

Vignette of the main lobby area.
Construction will be on-going all summer both day and night to get the school ready for the first day of class for students on August 27. The parking lot facing 4th Street SW will be used as a staging area for construction, so those parking spaces will be unavailable for visitors to Westminster Presbyterian Church’s weekly Jazz and Blues Nights located across the street from Amidon-Bowen.

In addition to school modernization efforts, recent personnel changes have taken place at the school. Amidon-Bowen was reconstituted this past year in order to help improve the school’s performance. Test scores for reading and math at Amidon-Bowen have been among the lowest in the city. According to DC Public Schools, only 15% of students at Amidon-Bowen met or exceeded the Washington, DC Comprehensive Assessment System (DC CAS) standards in math and 19% met, or exceeded standards in reading. As a part of the reconstitution, all faculty members had to reapply for their jobs and a new principal, Izabela Miller was hired. 

Meanwhile, the operation budget for Amidon-Bowen was cut for the 2012-13 school year. DCPS Chancellor Kaya Henderson stated in an email responding to a letter of concern written by the Near SE/SW Community BenefitsCoordinating Council (CBCC) that the budget cuts were directly tied to the projected decline in student enrollment at Amidon-Bowen. DCPS projects enrollment next year at Amidon-Bowen to be 252 students, the second consecutive year of decline in student enrollment, which places the school in the category of “small schools”, or schools with less than 300 students. As a result, budget cuts throughout DCPS targeted smaller schools to reduce costs since the per student cost at small schools are higher due to economies of scale. Next year, the Art, Music, and Physical Education teachers will become part-time positions instead of full-time. In addition, the Librarian/Media Specialist will become a part-time position as well as the Business Manager. Two teachers and one custodian will be let go, but a part-time School Psychologist will be hired. 

Renderings courtesy of Quinn Evans Architects

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Running of the Chihuahuas Benefit

If you're looking for something to do on cinco de mayo, check out the "Running of the Chihuahuas" at 7th Street Landing from 11am to 2pm. Click here to enter your Chihuahua or Chihuahua mix for the race.  There will be other contests for all breeds as well. Proceeds will go towards the PAWS of Southwest, the organization that is trying to raise funds to build a dog park at Lansburgh Park.

Southwester Barkley is ready and raring to go!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

A Few Quick Items: Capitol Park Tower TOPA, Wharf to Zoning Commission, Senate Passes Wharf Legislation, Redesign of National Mall

- It was reported in the Housing Complex blog that Capitol Park Tower apartments is under contract to Urban Investment Partners. According to the post, the tenants are trying to pull resources together to purchase the building, with 50% +1 of tenants needed to enforce their Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) rights.  Capitol Park Tower is located at 4th & G Street and contains 488 rent-controlled units.  It is part of the Capitol Park development, which was the first residential development built in Southwest after urban renewal.

- A setdown for the Stage 2 PUD application of Phase I of The Wharf development was granted unanimously by the Zoning Commission last week. The Hoffman-Madison Waterfront team will go before ANC 6D within the next couple of months to get support for their Stage 2 PUD application before they meet with the Zoning Commission this summer.

Rendering courtesy of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront

- On a related note, the Senate passed legislation to allow the redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront to proceed as planned according to The Hill, which will allow the Hoffman-Madison Waterfront team to build piers into the Washington Channel, as well as allow the sale of fruits, vegetables, and other items at the Maine Avenue Fish Market. The Maine Lobsterman statue, which is maintained by the National Park Service, must remain somewhere along the waterfront. The House of Representatives already passed similar legislation, but an amendment was added in the Senate version regarding navigation of the Washington Channel, so the House will need to vote again before the bill can be signed by the President. 

- Design alternatives have been released for three areas of the National Mall and were on display at the Smithsonian Castle, according to The Washington Post.  The three areas include Constitution Gardens, the Washington Monument grounds, and Union Square near the Capitol.  Four finalists have been chosen for each area and a winner for each will be announced next month. Check out the Post's photo gallery for renderings. 

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Photos from the Titanic 100 Commemoration

Below are some photos from the Titanic 100 Commemoration Ceremony that took place on Saturday evening along the southern stretch of the Southwest Waterfront at the Titanic Memorial. It was nice to see the waterfront activated with so many people and is a precursor to how it could be once The Wharf development is complete. Period music that was performed on the ship was played during the ceremony and images of the ship were projected on the side of Riverside Condominium. Over 1,000 luminaries were placed along the waterfront - one for every passenger and crew member that was killed when the ship sank. Some people dressed in period clothing as well. If you have any photos you want to submit from the commemoration, feel free to send them to

Images from the Titanic were projected on the side of Riverside Condos 

Spectators watch as images are displayed on Riverside Condos.

An image from the interior of the Titanic.

A close-up of one of the luminaries set up along the waterfront.

An image of the iceberg that caused the Titanic to sink.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Reminder: Friends of SW Library Used Book Sale

Review of Long Day's Journey Into Night

Arena Stage is spearheading the two-month long Eugene O'Neill Festival, celebrating the works of famous American playwright Eugene O'Neill and began running Long Day's Journey Into Night on March 30.  The Pulitzer Prize-winning play is directed by Robin Phillips in his Arena Stage debut. Long Day's Journey Into Night, a candid autobiographical recollection of O'Neill's family, takes place in a New England cottage during the first part of the 20th century. The Tyrones are a dysfunctional Irish-American family with means (although the condition of their summer cottage makes it appear they are poor), and deal with some serious issues and character flaws, including illness, addiction, jealousy, and greed. There are only five characters in the play - Helen Carey plays matriarch Mary Tyrone, Peter Michael Goetz portrays James Tyrone, Sr., Andy Bean plays older brother James Jr., Nathan Darrow is younger brother Edmund and Helen Hedman plays the family maid Cathleen.

Long Day's Journey Into Night reveals how a family deals with adversity while still trying to maintain some semblance of sanity. With just five characters, there is sufficient time to fully develop each of them as the play progresses. My favorite character is Mary Tyrone, whose struggle with substance abuse is compounded by the problems faced by other members of the family, such as her youngest son Edmund's illness. Carey's portrayal of the matriarch is amazing, as Mary starts off as a perfectly normal person, but gradually spirals into a hot mess as the addiction takes over and her grip on reality slips away.  A scene near the end of the play where Mary recalls her days learning to play the piano at a convent was particularly memorable.

Tickets for Long Day's Journey Into Night are $40-$85 and the show runs from March 30 - May 6. While 'Southwest Night' has already passed for this show, where tickets would cost residents and workers only $25, there are other savings programs available. Also be on the lookout on discount websites such as Goldstar for deals.

Photos taken by Scott Suchman and are courtesy of Arena Stage

Monday, April 9, 2012

A Couple Quick Items: Old Burger News Edition

- Five Guys opened last month at L'Enfant Plaza, despite the look of the above photo, which was taken after the restaurant was closed for the day.  Hours of operation are Monday - Friday from 11am to 6pm and Saturday from 11am - 4pm.  Mamma Ilardo's has yet to open at the food court, but most of the other restaurants in the first phase have already opened.

- Z-Burger's owner Peter Tabibian was interviewed by the Washington Business Journal (subscribers only) a while back.  From the article:
The company just invested $800,000 in its fourth location, which is at Waterfront Station in Southwest D.C., and has leases signed for Columbia Heights and Clarendon. It is in talks for seven more. Tabibian is also weighing a franchise model...Tabibian has been picky about his sites and believes it is paying off. Sales at the Tenleytown location have grown 10 to 15 percent each year, and the Waterfront Station store has been collecting $1,500 an hour during lunchtime in its first few weeks. Tabibian picked locations where he can get a good business deal: The waterfront site offers affordable rent, and the landlord kicked in $350,000 to help with building out the store, he said.

Photos from the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival

Below are some photos from Saturday's Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival. Except for some wind, the weather this year was perfect. Unfortunately, I was unable to get any photos from the events in the evening leading to the fireworks show.  If you have any photos from throughout the day, feel free to send them to

The "beach" area next to Kastles Stadium featured a beer garden and two food trucks.
The lifeguard chair at the beach.
Lines began forming early at the beach-area food trucks DC Slices and TaKorean.
The beach area was full all afternoon.  All 20 kegs of beer were sold out by 6pm.
There were free dragon boat rides offered all afternoon. At the end of the commercial pier is a large metal flame in the shape of a cherry blossom that was illuminated in the evening.  The John Glenn fire boat is in the background.
Kids were able to build small boats and sail them in a makeshift pond near the Gangplank Marina Stage.

MPD Officer Williams makes a t-shirt near the Gangplank Marina stage.
Balloon artists and windsock koi were given to children at the festival.
The Lavenia Nesmith Quintet performs at the 7th Street Landing Stage.
Crowds gather by the Lincoln vehicles on display by Kastles Stadium.
Update: Below are photos from the festival submitted by readers.

Kastles Stadium Stage, courtesy of Wizzyliz.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival

The annual Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival is only three days away and preparations are underway along the waterfront for the day-long event. Above is a map of the venues involved with the festival, which stretches along Water Street for three blocks from 6th Street to 9th Street. I wrote about the events planned at the festival last week, but below is some additional information:

Several food trucks will be on hand at Kastles Stadium, including Fojol Brothers, Red Hook Lobster Pound, TaKorean, DC Slices, Cap Mac, Sidewalk Sweetsations, Goode's Mobile Kitchen, and Tasty Kabob. Lincoln is a sponsor of the food truck area at the stadium and will be giving out a four-pack of $5 coupons for use exclusively at the food trucks for anyone who test drives a Lincoln. The food truck area will be open from 1pm - 8:30pm. 

The latest weather forecast for Saturday is sunny and 66 degrees, a huge improvement over the craptastic start to last year's festival, when a hail storm and windy conditions suppressed crowds.  about 20,000 people are expected this year.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

NCPC Ecodistrict Meeting

WaPo Piece on Ballpark Neighborhood Development

This past weekend, there was a front page article in The Washington Post (online version here) about the impact Nationals Park has played in the development of (primarily) Near SE since the ballpark opened in 2008.  There's some mention of Southwest, although that focus was not on development, but on neighbor reaction to the ballpark (since the nearest residential units in SE are a few blocks away from Nationals Park).  From the article:
Despite the new construction east of the ballpark, the area across [South] Capitol Street in Southwest remains home to low-income housing projects where many residents were worried that baseball would price or push them out of the area.

One block west of the stadium, in front of the Friendly Food Market corner store on Half Street SW, three dealers at an open-air drug market sell marijuana and crack. With four teenagers stationed along the block as lookouts, dealers exchange plastic bags for cash in swift, well-practiced handshakes.

Despite the illegal sales in broad daylight, residents along this Half Street say baseball has been surprisingly good for them. “It made it look presentable around here,” said London Smith, 42, who found work at a stadium concession stand. “I just hope it doesn’t make it more expensive.”
Lovely. It's a bit more difficult to bulldoze all of the low-income housing projects in Southwest than it was to replace Capper Carrollsburg in Near SE, which was already pretty much gone by the time the stadium opened.  For one, funding for HUD's Hope VI program that was used to replace Capper is dried up. The District's version of Hope VI (New Communities Initiative) has been slow to get underway at places such as Barry Farm in SE and Northwest One. Also, there is still some bad blood from the last time wholesale neighborhood demolition took place in Southwest during urban renewal.

Rendering of Camden South Capitol at South Capitol & O Street.
While the focus of the article was in Near SE since that is where the stadium is located, there are a few things happening on the west side of South Capitol Street too. For instance, there was no mention in the article about Camden South Capitol, the new apartment building under construction across the street from Nationals Park (although it appears in the photo gallery). In addition, there was no mention of the velodrome coming to Buzzard Point this spring and the new stadium in the works for DC United, which would form a stadium district between Nationals Park and the proposed soccer stadium. Oh well.

Rendering courtesy of WDG Architects

Monday, April 2, 2012

100th Anniversary of Titanic Tragedy

On the evening of Saturday, April 14, SWDC Heritage will host a commemoration at the Titanic Memorial of the 100th anniversary of the doomed ship's sinking during its maiden voyage. The Titanic memorial is located on the Southwest Waterfront where P Street dead-ends at Waterfront Park next to Fort McNair. Historic images of the Titanic and her crew will be displayed along the waterfront as well as music from the period.  The commemoration will begin at 7pm.  This commemoration is in addition to the annual ceremony performed by the Men's Titanic Society, who gather at the memorial at midnight to honor those who gave their lives for others when the ship sank.

The memorial is on National Park Service land and will not be moved when The Wharf development gets underway.  However, the Hoffman-Madison Waterfront team is working with NPS to improve the setting of the area by the memorial to be more compatible for their plans for the Waterfront Park and wharf walkway.