Sunday, September 30, 2012

Federal Triangle South?

Well that was fast.  Only a couple of months after finalizing the Southwest Ecodistrict Draft Plan, the General Services Administration issued a "Notice of Intent" to issue a Request for Information over the next 90 days for five properties the agency controls in the area, including its Regional Office Building at 7th & D Street.  The other properties include the Department of Energy's Forrestal Complex, the Cotton Annex, and two buildings occupied by the FAA.  The properties roughly create a triangle shape, bounded by Independence Avenue to the north, 12th Street to the west, and Maryland Avenue, parts of 9th Street, D Street, and 7th Street to the south.  In fact, the parcels are referred to as Federal Triangle South in the Notice of Intent. The RFI seeks to do the following:
  • Gather market input on meeting Federal facility space needs
  • Identify potential redevelopment and transaction structures
  • Achieve best value to the Government, promote fair and transparent competition and discover the most beneficial technical and financial solution

This move by the GSA can potentially lead to the transformation of a large area adjacent to the National Mall into a lively, mixed-use environment.  However, with a name like Federal Triangle South, that doesn't exactly give off a "mixed use" vibe, given the way the original Federal Triangle looks right now.  Personally, I prefer the "Independence Quarter" moniker used in the SW Ecodistrict Draft Plan for the area.

Friday, September 28, 2012

CFL Ribbon-Cutting on Monday

After several years in the making, the Consolidated Forensic Laboratory will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Monday at noon. The LEED-Gold building, located at 4th & E Street contains green elements such as a solar shade louver system, a green roof, and chilled beams. The CFL will be home to MPD's Crime Lab, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and the DC Public Health Lab. A total of 300 - 350 employees will be housed at the facility. The Washington Post reported last week that the new crime lab division will be run by civilians instead of MPD officers.

The site was formally MPD's First District headquarters before it moved to Bowen Elementary School on M Street and the building was demolished in early 2010.

Another Office Building Planned Near L'Enfant Plaza

The Washington Business Journal reports that the Donohoe Building (400 6th Street) has been purchased by Trammell Crow and the AFL-CIO Building Investment for $41.9 million.  Back in March, a loan the previous owners had on the building was in danger of going into default. The 5-story building will be razed by the new owners after the District's Child and Family Services Agency vacates the building at the end of their lease in October. In its place will be a 12-story "state of the art" office building. There's no indication whether there will be ground-floor retail in this building. Construction is supposed to begin next June with completion scheduled for mid-2015.  It wasn't clear from the article whether the project will be built without a lead tenant, but that usually isn't the case with office buildings these days, so that construction start date may slip if a tenant isn't found soon.  There are a couple other office buildings planned in the vicinity - one located a block south of this site at the current site of Engine 13 and the other at 4th & E Street.  Both of these sites are planned by E Street Development, which won the rights to these sites by DMPED a few years ago. Construction was supposed to begin on the 4th Street building last year, but has been delayed. In addition, Constitution Center is across the street from this site and is still trying to fill the rest of the space that was let go by the SEC when they decided not to move into the building.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Zoning Commission Defers Vote on Waterfront Station PUD Extension

On Monday, the Zoning Commission deferred action on the request by the city and Waterfront Associates to extend the PUD on two parcels at Waterfront Station - the District-owned northeast parcel and 425 M Street (southwest parcel) owned by the development team.  The main reason for the deferment until the October 29 Zoning Commission meeting was due to the resolution by ANC 6D earlier this month opposing the extension. The District has yet to respond to concerns from the ANC about a plan for what they want to do with their parcel and creating a paved walkway in the interim to replace the muddy path made by people traversing the site.  One of the zoning commissioners wanted to deny the extension outright because they felt the Deputy Mayor's Office for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) has been dragging its feet on soliciting a RFP for a parcel that will provide affordable housing in a city that desperately needs it. The city's contention that they want to get the maximum value for the land and the need for affordable housing is counter intuitive, according to the Commissioner. Part of the reason for the delay in doing anything with the site is because the parcel was once owned by the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation (AWC), a quasi government agency that was dissolved by the Fenty administration and the parcels controlled by AWC (including the northeast parcel) were transferred to DMPED.  Since the ANC voted earlier this month, Waterfront Associates has addressed some of their concerns with the development team's parcel, including the construction of a fence to cover an exposed staircase on the M Street parcel (see above) and has updated the contact information on signage posted on the vacant retail space on 4th Street.

The ANC will have a chance to reconsider their disapproval of the extension at their October 15 meeting once they get some answers from DMPED.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

More Momentum for Buzzard Point Soccer Stadium

An article in yesterday's Washington Examiner describes how the new ownership team of DC United is moving forward with negotiations to build a new stadium in Buzzard Point.  From the article:
"What I've sensed -- and I understand it better now than when we first took over -- is that the political leaders are behind us now," [owner Jason] Levien said. "They understand that there's a serious, strong constituency for D.C. United soccer in Washington, and they want to see it stay here."
The primary location for a new stadium continues to be Buzzard Point and the city is in the process of assembling land.  More from the article:
[Levien] said he has encountered only support from leaders in Mayor Vincent Gray's office and in the D.C. Council. All of them have focused on Buzzard Point -- not another site in Washington or relocation to another city -- as the best possible solution for a new stadium.
"Every week, we feel like we're making progress on figuring out the structure of the opportunity," Levien said.
A study done by the Greater Washington Sports Alliance envisions a 24,000-seat stadium that would cost at least $157 million to build. The stadium would be part of an entertainment district that would include a music venue, office space, retail, and housing in the vicinity of Akridge's 100 V Street site.

Rendering courtesy of Akridge.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Green Bike Lanes

DDOT has started experimenting with painting green bike lanes at intersections, which helps to better identify where bike lanes are located.  An example can be found on I Street where it intersects with South Capitol Street.  I Street on either side of South Capitol has the new paint marking.  Other cities have started using green bike lanes. Portland has taken it a step further and has introduced Bike Boxes at intersections, where bikes have a special space at intersections closer to the crosswalk where cars are not allowed to enter when stopped at a light.  The bike boxes are painted green and bike lanes leading to and away from the box are also painted green.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

'Pride of Baltimore II' Coming to Gangplank Marina

The Pride of Baltimore II clipper ship will be visiting the Gangplank Marina this weekend.  It will be docked from Saturday, September 22 until Tuesday, September 25. Free deck tours will be available on the 22nd and 23rd from 10am to 2pm. Afternoon daysails are available on both days at 3pm that lasts for 2 1/2 hours. Tickets for day sails are $45 for adults and $30 for children 12 and under. On September 24 and 25, the Pride of Baltimore II will be offering school tours.

Monday, September 17, 2012

ANC Opposes Extension of Waterfront Station PUD

At last Monday's ANC 6D meeting, representatives from Waterfront Associates came before the commissioners to request their support for a 2-year extension of their PUD for two parcels at Waterfront Station - the District-owned NE parcel next to CVS and the West M Street parcel in front of Station 4 and Z-Burger. On the NE parcel, which will one day be a multifamily building with ground floor retail, the District is not ready to issue a RFP because they say that land values are still depressed in the area and they would not get a sufficient amount of income from the sale/lease of the land to a residential developer at this time. On the West M Street parcel, which is planned as an office building with ground floor retail, the development team does not want to construct an office building without a tenant because the commercial real estate market has not rebounded yet and GSA (a major source of tenants in Southwest) has halted new requests for office space.  They continue to pursue any solicitations for office space that come on the market, but they aren't optimistic that they can land an anchor tenant before the current PUD expires early next year. 

Waterfront Associates decided not to ask for an extension on the East M Street office parcel in front of Safeway since the PUD on that site doesn't expire until April 2015. On the NW parcel next to Westminster Church, they will soon submit plans for a 300+ unit rental apartment building with 4,000-5,000 square feet of ground floor retail on 4th Street. They will come back to the ANC within the next couple of months to get approval for that building, but they weren't able to give much details on the project since they are still finalizing the design.

After hearing the presentation, the commissioners voted unanimously to oppose supporting the extension. Some of the reasons for their disapproval include the lack of care that the development team and the District have made with regard to the interim use of the vacant parcels in question. On the NE parcel, there is a muddy pathway made by people who traverse the lot. On the M Street parcel, the trailer that once housed Bank of America was removed last month, but there is a random staircase left over from when Waterside Mall was in existence and the rest of the lot has not been grassed over yet like the others. Another reason for the disapproval was due to the lack of retail (especially a bank) at Waterfront Station. There are four vacant storefronts in the existing office buildings and the phone number posted on the windows of the spaces for potential tenants to inquire about availability was incorrect (that has since been corrected).  The development team no longer owns the retail space (it was sold to USAA along with the two office buildings last year) but they are willing to act as intermediaries between the ANC and the new owners. They mentioned that USAA has some proposals for tenants that they are currently reviewing so there may be some movement on the retail front soon.

In other ANC news, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is working with USPS to negotiate with The Ruben Companies, who owns the SW post office site at L Street to keep the post office open beyond the point when the current lease expires at the end of 2012.  Also, the Gangplank Slipholders Association and the Hoffman-Madison Waterfront team have come to an agreement that will allow the slipholders to stay in the Washington Channel during the transition phase while The Wharf is under construction. In addition, the agreement will preserve the current management practice in place that will allow boats to maintain their value if they are sold to liveaboards.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

'Red Hot Patriot' Begins New Season at Arena

The third season at the new Arena Stage has begun with Red Hot Patriot: The Kick-Ass Wit of Molly Ivins, starring Kathleen Turner, written by Margaret Engel and Allison Engel and directed by David Esbjornson. Red Hot Patriot is a 75-minute performance filled with anecdotes from the life of Molly Ivins, a feisty liberal newspaper columnist from Texas played brilliantly by Turner. If you haven't seen the show yet, make your way down to 6th & M Street.

While Southwest Night has already passed for Red Hot Patriot, here are the dates for the other Southwest Nights during the 2012/13 season where tickets are discounted for residents and workers ($35 for musicals and $25 for non-musicals):

  • One Night with Janis Joplin October 31 at 7:30pm
  • My Fair Lady November 19 at 7:30pm
  • Pullman Porter Blues December 26 at 12:00pm
  • Good People February 3 at 7:30pm
  • Metamorphoses February 17 at 7:30pm
  • Mary T. & Lizzy K. March 20 at 7:30pm
  • The Mountaintop March 31 at 2:00pm
  • Other Desert Cities May 26 at 7:30pm

Red Hot Patriot will run through October 28 in the Kogod Cradle and tickets are available here.

Photo courtesy of Arena Stage: Mark Garvin

Wiener Dog Race at 7th Street Landing

Friday, September 14, 2012

Residential Infill Planned at Town Center

A new 3-building infill residential development just to the east of Sky House I at Town Center was revealed in this week's Washington Business Journal (subscribers only). The Bernstein Companies is moving forward with plans to build on their parking lots that currently serve Waterfront Tower condos and 1001 @ Waterfront apartments. According to the Zoning application that was submitted last month, there will be two new 11-story buildings flanking M Street and K Street and a 4-story building between the two existing towers on 3rd Street. In addition, 1001 @ Waterfront will be renovated.  Maurice Walters Architect, PC has designed the new buildings. The article states that 1001 @ Waterfront will remain as apartments after the renovation. Once completed, the proposed development at Town Center will yield 401 new multifamily units with a mix of studio, 1BR, and 2BR units, 128 renovated apartment units, 289 below-grade parking spaces, and 2,940 SF of retail on M Street and K Street. In addition, 20% of the housing will be set aside as affordable (5% to households making 50% or less than AMI, 5% to households earning 60% or less than AMI, 5% to households making 70% or less than AMI, and 5% to households earning 80% or less than AMI). Below is a breakdown of what will be built/renovated (note that the buildings shaded in green are what will be built/renovated):

Here is part of the description of the new buildings from the PUD application:
The new North and South Towers will include a two-story high base that will be enclosed but will feature large expanses of glazing that relate to the open ground floor of the Pei Towers. The main massing of the new towers will rise to a height of 90 feet (9 stories), which is approximately the same height as the Pei Towers. The remaining two stories of  the building will taper with setbacks and terraces to a height of 110 feet (11 stories).
The new North and South Towers will replace existing surface parking lots, creating a more pedestrian friendly experience on both M and K Streets. The new four-story Center Building will replace an existing brick wall along 3rd Street, adding new stoops and entry doors to 3rd Street. These doors and entries from 3rd Street, along with large expanses of fenestration above on the building, will help to activate 3rd Street.
New Middle Building on 3rd Street
All of the parking and loading will be accessed from an alley to the west of the site off of K Street and a circular drive on M Street that's being created in conjunction with Waterfront Station, with only one curb cut on K Street.  The other curb cuts that currently exist on the site (including M Street) will be removed. Town Center will aim for LEED-Silver and will have environmental enhancements such as green roofs, underground cisterns for collecting storm water runoff, and energy efficient lighting.  Some of the public benefits included in the PUD application include:
  • a capital contribution to the SW Library
  • restoration of the north Pei building
  • tree planting on both sides of 3rd Street
  • creation of angled parking on 3rd Street
New North Tower motor court
The WBJ article states that there is no construction timetable yet for the Town Center project and each building will be done separately, not concurrently.  If the consolidated PUD application is approved, it will be valid for two years, but the developers can apply for an extension if building permits have not been secured within the two-year window. 

Renderings courtesy of Maurice Walters Architect, PC

A Few Quick Items About Southwest: Safety, Design, and Development

- Last week in The Washington Post, there was an article about how MPD has involved themselves in the design of new developments in the city from a safety standpoint.  There was a focus on The Wharf and its security needs.  From the article:
Last month, [Police Chief] Lanier; Daniel P. Hickson, commander of the department’s First District; and developers met at the future site of the Wharf to pore over a scale model and discuss surveillance cameras and sight lines. Hickson called the model “very impressive” even as he contemplated finding a contingent of officers to patrol an area that, at present, requires relatively little attention.
There will not be a police substation on-site at The Wharf as offered by Hoffman Madison Waterfront because Commander Hickson would prefer that officers patrol the area and not sit in an office. Some differences between MPD and HMW design-wise include curbs and lighting. HMW doesn't want curbs along the Wharf promenade, but MPD has concerns that a runaway car could hit pedestrians on the sidewalk. Ultimately, it was decided that the curbs won't be used, which will make the area easier to patrol by bicycle. While HMW is looking to eliminate dark nooks around the development, MPD wants the proposed lighting to be brighter throughout. HMW wants restauranteurs to have the opportunity to have romantic street lighting.  

Rendering courtesy of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront 

-  Last month, the Washington City Paper wrote a feature story on Bing Thom and his influence on design for new development in Southwest. Thom designed the new Arena Stage and will design the Randall School project on I Street.  Several topics were covered in the article, including urban renewal, preservation of existing buildings, reopening the street grid, community benefits agreements, The Wharf, and the SW Ecodistrict. It is definitely worth a read.

- August must have been the month to discuss development in Southwest. In Atlantic Cities, there was an article about how DC can lead the way to a 21st century waterfront and of course, The Wharf development was featured, among other waterfronts around the world that are being re-imagined. From the article:
Looming water-level questions notwithstanding, the question for the 21st-century waterfront is economic: How do planners restore the once-industrial character of the waterfront? Washington’s Southwest waterfront poses one answer: take the zone out of the question altogether, and make it another neighborhood like you’d find anywhere.
"You can’t just do this kind of dense mixed-use urban waterfront everywhere," [EE&K's senior principal Stan] Eckstut says. "It has to be at the center of the city, at the downtown—at the core."
Rendering courtesy of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

SW ArtsFest 2012

On Saturday, September 29, the second annual SW ArtsFest will join the ranks of other Ward 6 festivals that take place in September, including those on H Street, NE and Barracks Row. This year, there will be 10 events occurring in SW and just over South Capitol Street at Nationals Park and Yards Park. Take a look at the above map for the locations of each event. Over at the SW waterfront, there will be a sock puppet art studio at 7th Street Landing from 11am - 5pm.  St. Augustine's Episcopal Church will host their annual End-of-Summer Fair with music, crafts, face painting, moon bounce, fried fish sandwiches, a bake sale, and a raffle from 9am - 4pm. Across the street at Arena Stage, there will be hand dancing performances and hourly theater tours from noon to 6pm. Westminster Presbyterian Church will have its 11th annual DC Jazz Preservation Festival with music, crafts, and food for sale from noon - 8pm. Across 4th Street from Westminster will be a farmers market and film series at Christ United Methodist Church. The farmers market lasts from 9am - 2pm and the film series from 2pm - 7pm. At the Waterfront Metro plaza in front of Safeway, there will be a Central Art Market with arts, crafts, food, and live entertainment from 10am - 6pm. Also in the vicinity of the Metro station will be two neighborhood walking tours by Washington Walks (Renewing Urban Renewal at 11am and Southwest Waterfront: From Watermen to Wreckers to "The Wharf" at 2pm). Each tour will last 90 minutes. Further down M Street at Second Union Baptist Church there will be a flea market from 10am - 3pm. From 1pm - 2pm, there will be a parade of Decorated Bicycles that will make its way from FIGMENT at Yards Park in Near SE west along M Street to 4th Street. Finally at Nationals Park, Don Giovanni will be performing in Opera in the Outfield - pre-opera entertainment will start at 5pm and the opera will be from 7pm - 10:30pm.  Admission to all events is free!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Southwest BARJ Drop-In Center Ribbon Cutting Tomorrow

On Thursday, the Southwest Balanced & Restorative Justice (BARJ) juvenile drop-in center will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 11am.  The BARJ center is located on South Capitol Street between M Street and N Street, about a block from Nationals Park and the new Camden South Capitol apartment complex under construction. A press release announcing the ribbon-cutting describes the center as:
A multi-faceted facility, encompassing a probation office, learning lab, vocation training center (focusing on food preparation, web design and silk-screening), and offering a host of strength-based services and activities.
The youth that will go to this center will be local residents who are awaiting trail and need a higher level of supervision, as well as those on probation who have not complied with the terms of their probation. The center will be open Monday - Saturday.  Back when the community learned that the BARJ was coming, there was a mixed reaction. While some residents thought it was a positive thing to give youth an alternative to roaming the streets, others living nearby were concerned about the relative secrecy in how the location of the facility was chosen and whether the facility will be secure. BARJ takes the place of Gryphon Technologies, a contractor.