Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Grand Opening Date for Sky House

Sky House apartments has reset its Grand Opening of the east tower at 1150 4th Street for Thursday, January 2. It was originally supposed to open on December 2, but the opening was delayed. There are a total of 266 units in the building with approximately 20% of them set aside as affordable housing for households earning up to 50% of Area Median Income. Check out the photos taken from the hard hat tour in November.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Top 10 Read Posts of 2013

Here are the Top 10 Read Posts of 2013:

1. Buzzard Point Development Potential
2. The New Southwest
3. Camden South Capitol Coming Soon
4. Greenleaf Gardens Recipient of Hope VI Grant
5. Sneak Peek Inside Camden South Capitol
6. Parcel 5 Hotels at The Wharf Up for Review
7. Second Stage PUD Submitted for NW Parcel at Waterfront Station
8. Wharf Receives Zoning Approval
9. Town Center East Seeking Historic Designation
10. Houseboat Shuffle

King-Greenleaf Playground to be Upgraded; New Randall Programming to Begin

Last month, Mayor Gray announced that eight additional playgrounds have been added to the original list of 32 playgrounds that will be upgraded under DPR’s Play DC Playground Improvement Initiative. King-Greenleaf is one of the eight new playgrounds added to the upgrade list for improvements in 2014. Randall is one of the original playgrounds on the upgrade list, but that project has been delayed due to the uncertainty earlier this year revolving around KIPP DC’s unsolicited proposal to redevelop the Randall Recreation Center, pool, and ball fields to a new charter high school campus. At least 20 of the original 32 playground upgrades have been completed so far. Once I get an update from DPR about timing for King-Greenleaf and Randall, I’ll pass that along.

Concept plan for Randall Rec. center playground. Courtesy of DPR.

Separate from the Play DC initiative, planning for the Southwest Playground Project at 3rd and I streets is moving along. A builder RFP was issued by the Department of General Services (DGS) in October, although additional funding is still needed in order to complete the project since labor costs are higher than originally estimated. Build Day is tentatively scheduled for spring 2014, but the exact timing will not be known until a builder is selected by DGS.

Randall Recreation Center.

Meanwhile, Randall Recreation Center is gearing up for new programming that will begin the week of January 6th. Sasha Bruce Youthwork, Inc. has put together a programming guide for classes at the rec. center during the winter months.  Classes for people of all ages are available, including art, fitness and exercise, as well as youth-oriented activities. The Tot Lot program for toddlers ages 18 months to three years old is already underway. Programming has been very limited at Randall for several years and the effort to bring more activity to the rec. center has been a collaborative effort between the CBCC, SWNA, DPR, Sasha Bruce Youthwork, Inc., and others.

All classes are free, but registration is required. Register in person on Mondays between 4 and 7pm, or send an email to Clynthia Graham to request an electronic registration form. More information is available by calling 202-554-6973.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Review of "Maurice Hines is Tappin' Thru Life"

Maurice Hines is Tappin' Thru Life, directed by Jeff Calhoun, tells the story of Maurice and Gregory Hines, who began performing together when they were children. Joining Maurice Hines on stage is the DIVA Jazz Orchestra, as well as two sets of tap-dancing brothers - John and Leo Manzari and Max and Sam Heimowitz. Hines does not hold back in telling the story of his rise to stardom, for instance, he describes through song, dance, and prose how black entertainers were treated in Las Vegas during the 1950s. The Hines brothers and other black entertainers were not allowed to perform in hotels along the Strip, but were relegated to other hotels in the city. Hines tells a story of a famous black entertainer who went in a swimming pool and when she was finished with her swim, hotel management drained and cleaned the pool. While the music in the show was popular with my parents' generation (Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Lena Horne, Judy Garland, etc.), my feet did tap from time to time with some of the songs. Hines engages the audience and it shows that he truly enjoys every moment of the performance. At 70+ years old, Hines still has some moves!

Maurice Hines is Tappin' Thru Life at Arena Stage is being performed at the Kreeger Theater and ends on December 29. Tickets are still available and range from $50 to $99.

Photo by Teresa Wood, courtesy of Arena Stage

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Open Forum

 Happy Holidays from Southwest...The Little Quadrant That Could!

Monday, December 23, 2013

NCPC Recommendations for 10th Street Corridor Improvements

The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) held a public meeting on December 4th to discuss its preliminary long-term and interim recommendations for the 10th Street corridor as a part of the SW Ecodistrict. There are several initiatives simultaneously underway in the general vicinity of the project area. Within the larger SW Ecodistrict area is Federal Triangle South, where GSA will soon issue a Request for Proposals (RFP) to redevelop five parcels it owns from 12th Street to the west, to 6th Street to the east, to Independence Avenue to the north, to Maryland Avenue and a portion of D Street to the south. The northern portion of 10th Street is included within Federal Triangle South. The Office of Planning recently conducted a Small Area Plan for Maryland Avenue, which will intersect with 10th Street when the historic L’Enfant roadway is reconstructed. DDOT is currently undertaking a year-long transportation study of Maryland Avenue. A new SW Business Improvement District, which includes the SW Ecodistrict boundaries, is in the process of being formed and if approved, will begin services next spring. Just to the north of the SW Ecodistrict, the Smithsonian is working on a master plan to improve the southern section of the National Mall in the vicinity of the Smithsonian Castle. Slides from the December 4 NCPC presentation are available here.

Current view up 10th Street from Banneker Park.

10th Street is envisioned as an urban garden promenade that extends the civic character of the National Mall to Banneker Park. The Forrestal complex would be demolished which would allow new streets to be introduced to the area, including Virginia Avenue and Maryland Avenue. This will reduce the blockiness of the building design that’s currently in place. The width of the right-of-way along 10th Street is recommended to be the same as it is today (150 feet), but the sidewalks are narrowed from 29 feet to 24 feet; a five-foot bike lane is added on either side of the street; the roadway on each side is reduced from 26.5 feet to 20 feet; and the median is expanded from 39 feet to 52 feet. 

On the northern section of the street where it is at-grade, a large tree canopy is recommended with trees growing as high as 50 feet in a linear garden. A “Magnet” Plaza to draw people to 10th Street from the Smithsonian Castle is recommended with a water feature near its northern terminus with Independence Avenue. 

Where the street meets L’Enfant Plaza, an Urban Plaza is recommended. The design of the urban plaza can take shape in a variety of forms, including a framed water feature in the median, an architectural feature in the median, a design that encompasses the right-of-way, and stretching out the plaza from the edge of a building to the east to the building on the west. 

Further south, garden rooms are envisioned with shorter trees cascading down to Banneker Park. Pedestrian access through the tree canopy in the northern section and in the southern section would be limited, but the greatest amount of pedestrian crossings would be at the Urban Plaza near L’Enfant Plaza. Programming space could be accommodated at the “Magnet” Plaza, at the intersection with reconstructed Maryland Avenue, and at the Urban Plaza. 

Vision for a new Banneker Park connection to The Wharf.

Short-term improvements include changes to the street where it meets Independence Avenue, programming, wayfinding signage, and connections. 
  • Entry – Where the street intersects with Independence Avenue, it is recommended to improve the area with defined crosswalks and Tactical Urbanism, defined by Atlantic Cities’ Nate Berg as “quick, often temporary, cheap projects that aim to make a small part of the city more lively or enjoyable.” Examples of Tactical Urbanism include guerrilla gardening, pavement-to-parks, and open streets.
  • Programming – On certain stretches of 10th Street, festival programming can occur, from Independence Avenue to Maryland Avenue, as well as from L’Enfant Plaza to Banneker Park. 
  • Wayfinding – Improvements are recommended for the entire length of 10th Street. 
  • Connections – Bike lanes, enhanced crosswalks, and lane modifications are recommended. In addition, a stair connection to the Maine Avenue Fish Market is proposed and a path connection to 9th Street. At Banneker Park, a terraced stairway is proposed on the west side with enhanced landscaping that leads down to Maine Avenue where a new signalized intersection is planned along with green walls to help soften the appearance of the existing structure. 

Public comments will be accepted until December 31.

Renderings courtesy of NCPC

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hyatt Place Groundbreaking

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend the groundbreaking ceremony last Friday at 400 E Street, the future home of Engine 13 and a Hyatt Place hotel. It was especially disappointing because this project was the subject of my very first blog post more than five years ago. At the time, DMPED put out a solicitation to bid on two parcels - one located at 4th and E streets and the other at 6th and E streets, the location of the current Engine 13 firehouse. Eventually, DMPED chose E Street Development Group, which proposed an office building with a firehouse on the ground level and space for the DC Central Kitchen and Kid Power Inc. on the 4th and E parcel. In the years since the team was chosen, the design has changed from the original fire engine red building to the current rendering above, as well as the intended use from office to hotel due to changing market conditions.  

Tent set up for groundbreaking ceremony last Friday.

Hyatt Place was announced back in October as the operator of the 214-key hotel and is planned as an "upscale select-service hotel." Although the ceremonial groundbreaking occurred on Friday, there is no digging occurring yet on the site. There is a construction trailer now on site, though. The hotel and firehouse are scheduled to open in 2015.

Rendering courtesy of WDG

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Progress at Future Masala Art Space

I've been holding off on posting about this because I wanted to get more information to share, but some of you may have noticed that work has been underway since last month on the Masala Art restaurant space at 1101 4th Street.  The two vacant spaces next to Subway will be transformed into a 4,000+ SF Indian restaurant over the next several months. Word has it that the restaurant will open in June 2014, although I have not been able to get confirmation from the owner yet.  It was first learned back in May that the restaurant would be coming to Waterfront Station, joining Station 4, Subway, and Z-Burger as the fourth restaurant to open on 4th Street. There are still two other vacant retail spaces on 4th Street, one each at the 1101 and 1100 buildings. Once I get more details about Masala Art I'll be sure to share them.

Monday, December 9, 2013

A Few Quick Items: Upcoming Meetings and Events

The second Southwest Neighborhood Plan meeting will be held on Wednesday, December 11 from 6:30 to 9pm at Westminster Church, located at 400 I Street. The previous meeting was back in September at Arena Stage and was well attended. The Southwest Neighborhood Plan study area extends from South Capitol Street to Maine Avenue and from P Street to Interstate 395. The plan will focus on four key elements – people, parks, connections, and building. A project website and a second website called “Engage Southwest” have been created where community members can interact.

Image courtesy of Graphic Recorder Jim Nuttle

DDOT will be hosting an Anacostia Waterfront Initiative (AWI) transportation master plan update initiative meeting for the South Capitol Street corridor will be held on Thursday, December 12 from 6:30 to 8:30pm at the Capitol Skyline Hotel, located at 10 I Street. The AWI is a 30-year, $10 billion series of transportation, environmental, economic, community and recreation projects that are transforming the shores of the Anacostia River into a world-class waterfront. The AWI Program area stretches from the Tidal Basin to the city’s northeast border with Maryland.

Rendering courtesy of DDOT

The Southwest Neighborhood Assembly will have its annual holiday party on Monday, December 16 from 6 to 9:30pm at the Pier 7 Restaurant at the Channel Inn. All those attending will be able to order from the menu (menu items range from $14.95 and up). All entrees come with side salad and fresh baked loaves of bread. One check will be issued per table due to the unique seating arrangement in the dining room.

Image courtesy of SWNA

A second Randall Neighbor Day will be held on Saturday, December 21. The first one was held on November 30. All residents of Southwest and Near SE (Zip codes 20024 and 20003) get free admission to the Corcoran - normal admission is $10. This community benefit was negotiated with the ANC back when the Corcoran was planning to move its College of Art + Design to the Randall School site. Those plans fell through and now the Telesis/Rubell team is seeking PUD approval for a new modern art museum, a restaurant, commercial space, and 550 residential units; however, Randall Neighbor Day remains. Current exhibitions at the Corcoran include Alex Prager: Face in the Crowd and Mia Feuer: An Unkindness. The Corcoran is located at 500 17th Street, NW and will be open from 10am to 5pm.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

St. Matthew's Christmas Tree Lot is Back

The St. Matthew's Lutheran Church lot at Delaware Avenue and M Street is open again this season as a Christmas tree lot. Scotch Pines, Frazier Firs, and door wreaths will be available for sale on Thursdays & Fridays from 5pm to 8:30pm and Saturdays & Sundays from 1pm to 5pm. For more information, or to reserve a tree, call 202-484-3189 or send an email to stmatthewsdc@hughes.net. This may be the last season that the tree lot will be on this site. After receiving PUD approval last year, the project will be going through the architectural and permitting process in the first half of 2014. Once that is complete and financing is in place, construction may begin by the third quarter of 2014 on a 200-unit apartment building and a new sanctuary for St. Matthew's.

Future St. Matthew's mixed-use project.

Rendering courtesy of Shalom Baranes Associates

Friday, November 29, 2013

Randall Neighbor Day 2013 is Tomorrow

If you stayed in town for the Thanksgiving holiday or are back in town early, take advantage of the annual Randall Neighbor Day, which takes place tomorrow at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. All residents of Southwest and Near SE (Zip codes 20024 and 20003) get free admission to the Corcoran - normal admission is $10. This community benefit was negotiated with the ANC back when the Corcoran was planning to move its College of Art + Design to the Randall School site. Those plans fell through and now the Telesis/Rubell team is seeking PUD approval for a new modern art museum, a restaurant, commercial space, and 550 residential units; however, Randall Neighbor Day remains. Current exhibitions at the Corcoran include Alex Prager: Face in the Crowd and Mia Feuer: An Unkindness. The Corcoran is located at 500 17th Street, NW and is open tomorrow from 10am to 5pm.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sky House Opening Date Delayed

The opening of Sky House for leasing and move-ins was originally scheduled for Monday, December 2, but the date has been pushed back. During the hard hat tour of the east tower on the 13th of this month, there was still some work left to do in the common areas, but it appeared that the building would be ready for occupancy (at least for the lower floors) by December 2. I haven't been able to find out why the date has been pushed back or what the new opening date is, but I suspect it has something to do with the buildings being for sale. Empty buildings are more valuable to a prospective buyer than ones with tenants in them, since as soon as a tenant moves into the buildings, TOPA rules go into effect if the buildings are sold, which would allow tenants the first right of refusal to purchase in the event of a sale. The new website will still launch on the 2nd, with detailed unit type and amenity information.

Monday, November 25, 2013

No HUD Planning Grant for Greenleaf

It was reported today in Housing Complex that DCHA did not receive a HUD Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant for Greenleaf, which was built in 1959 and includes a cluster of townhomes, mid-rise, and walk-up units from I to M streets, between 3rd Street and Delaware Avenue. In addition, Greenleaf Seniors is a high-rise at the SE corner of Delaware Avenue and M Street, as well as a mid-rise building located at 203 N Street. There are a total of 497 units in all three sections. The housing authority applied for the grant back in May and would have used the $500,000 grant money to help plan for the eventual redevelopment of Greenleaf.

The townhomes at Greenleaf Extension were recently painted.

Despite not receiving the grant, DCHA still intends to move forward with plans for redevelopment since the buildings are near the end of their useful lifespan. As a part of the application, DCHA had to demonstrate to HUD how it would redevelop Greenleaf with or without a grant. A private partner will be brought in to help redevelop the complex. Redevelopment was expected to get underway in about five years, but it appears from the Housing Complex article that the setback may delay the project.

View of Greenleaf buildings from the roof of Sky House.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Randall School Project Moving Forward

At Monday’s ANC 6D meeting, the commissioners unanimously gave qualified support to the latest plans for the Randall School site redevelopment at Half and I streets. A few outstanding items still need to be spelled out, including a community benefits package and a construction management plan. Also this week, the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) gave unanimous approval to the planned unit development. A contemporary art museum will be located in the original 1906 center building - the first floor of the museum will be used as a community cultural space that’s open to the public, with a library, café, an art gallery featuring local artists, auditorium, and meeting space. Other arts-related uses will be located in the west wing – perhaps a culinary school. A restaurant with outdoor seating will be in the east wing (both wings were built in 1927). Behind the center building, a new three-story addition will house additional exhibition space for the art museum.  Two 12-story towers with 550 residential units will wrap behind the historic buildings and courtyard. 

Some changes were made to the plans from the original PUD submission that were recommended by the HPRB. For instance, curved windows were added to the residential addition, as well as more balconies and transparent bridges between the wings of the residential buildings. In addition, a glass façade has been added that will connect the historic central building to the 3-story museum addition so the back of the historic building will be visible. In the front of the building, the balustrade will be restored and the retaining wall will be replaced with a historically appropriate curb. The sidewalk will slope downwards toward the entrance to the central building while the sidewalk will slope upwards to the other two I Street buildings.

The Telesis/Rubell team will meet with the Zoning Commission on December 2nd.  At the ANC meeting, Marilyn Melkonian from Telesis stated that once the development team gets approval from the Zoning Commission, that construction may begin in 2014. The first phase includes the historic buildings, museum addition, and one of the residential buildings.

Rendering courtesy of Bayer, Blinder, Belle

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Pepco Purchases Bakery, Plans New Substation

Here is an update on the Buzzard Point development potential post from last month. Pepco closed on the sale of the Lyon Bakery, across the street from the proposed DC United stadium site at 2nd and R streets, on October 31. Now, Pepco owns the entire block bounded by 1st Street, R Street, Q Street, and 2nd Street, which includes the James C. Dent House and Ana Towing. The utility company has plans to build a new substation on the site, which will be able to handle the increased demand for power in the Southwest Waterfront, Navy Yard, and a portion of Capitol Hill. The vacant, but historic James C. Dent House on Q Street will not be part of the substation and will remain intact, but its intended use is still being determined by Pepco.  The new Waterfront Substation has been designed to look like an office building and the bricks used will resemble the architecture of buildings at Fort McNair. 

Unsightly equipment in Buzzard Point.

Neighbors of the proposed substation site, many of whom are public housing residents, are concerned about the potential health risks associated with living near a substation. At Monday's ANC 6D meeting, commissioner Hamilton brought up those concerns to representatives from Pepco and inquired why the substation has to be built at that site and not on other property owned by Pepco in the neighborhood. A substation's role is to step down high voltage power that comes from a power plant down to levels that can be distributed to homes. Pepco representatives stated that there are several studies by the World Health Organization about the electromagnetic field (EMF) generated by a substation and its health effects are negligible. They will provide the ANC with a list and photos of substations throughout the city that are located adjacent to residential buildings, including the Ritz Residences Georgetown. 

In addressing the proposed location of the substation, Chris Taylor from Pepco stated that the northern portion of the land owned by Pepco near the Buzzard Point Plant will be used for construction of the proposed DC United stadium. Other portions of the property are still in use and cannot be moved to build a new substation. While the generation portion of the Buzzard Point Plant has been decommissioned, the top two levels are still in use as a substation. Those two upper floors will be decommissioned once the new Waterfront Substation is complete in 2016. The plant's future is uncertain, although SWNA recently submitted an application for historic designation of the art deco building.

Buzzard Point Plant.
The Waterfront Substation will be built in two phases, with the first phase covering the northern portion of the site. Installation of underground duct banks to carry transmission lines will begin in 2014, while construction of the substation will begin by May 2015 with completion by the end of 2016. Although an exact start date on the second phase has not been determined, it's anticipated that construction would begin on the addition 5-10 years after the first phase is built. As Pepco goes through the approval process, there will be a community meeting to give updates. In addition, information will be available on their website.

With a new substation, DC United stadium, Frederick Douglass Bridge, and traffic oval, Buzzard Point will be one big construction zone for the foreseeable future.

Rendering courtesy of Pepco

Monday, November 18, 2013

A Couple Quick Items: Parade of Lighted Boats, Buzzard Point Photo Tour

The annual Parade of Lighted Boats will take place on Saturday, December 7, from 6pm to 8pm at 7th Street Landing, co-produced by the Washington Waterfront Association and the Old Dominion Boat Club. Activities include live music by Nadine Rae and the All Stars; lighting of the Southwest Christmas Tree; photos with Santa; bonfire with s'mores and marshmallow roasting; hot chocolate and warm apple cinnamon cider; gingerbread cookie decoration; and the parade of boats. In order to register a boat in the holiday parade, visit this website. Boat registration ends on November 29. 

Capital Business has a photo tour of Buzzard Point around the area where a new DC United stadium is proposed.

Rendering courtesy of Gensler

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Hard Hat Tour of Sky House

Ahead of its grand opening on December 2nd, the folks over at Sky House gave a media tour today of the east tower building. Some of the finishing touches are still being made to the building, so the photos still show construction activity. Sky House is the adaptive reuse of the former EPA towers at Waterfront Station, with the east tower having the address of 1150 4th Street.  Construction of the east tower began in February 2012 with the west tower beginning a few months later. This will be the second apartment building to open in Southwest this year - Camden South Capitol opened in April. Vicki Davis and Alan Lederman from Urban Atlantic led the tour of Sky House. JBG is also a partner in the development and will manage the property. 

Former EPA building in early 2012.

Sky House East Tower.

There are a total of 530 units in both buildings, with the east tower having 266 units and the remaining 264 units in the west tower. Twenty percent of the units will be affordable for households earning up to 50% of Area Median Income (AMI), which is $43,000 for a family of two. Both buildings will be at least LEED-Silver, with energy-saving LED lighting and recycled materials among some of the green features.

Concierge desk.

Overlooking what will be lower level of fitness center w/ weights.

Some of the unit features include electronic key entry, hardwood floors in the living areas, granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, movable islands, glass enclosed showers, ceiling fans in the bedrooms, walk-in closets, and floor-to-ceiling glass windows. That floor-to-ceiling glass in the living area comes in handy for several units that contain bedrooms without windows. Instead, most of these interior bedrooms have glass near the ceiling to allow natural light into the rooms. LED lights have also been installed by those glass panels to provide additional mood lighting in the evenings. Most of the units have 9’6” ceiling heights, but units on the third and 12th floors have 12’ ceilings.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

BID Turf War

It was reported in the Washington Business Journal last week that Vornado, which owns four parcels at the northwest corner of M and South Capitol streets would prefer to be a part of the Capitol Riverfront BID instead of the budding SW BID. This news was revealed at a DC Council hearing on the legislation that would create the SW BID. The current western boundary of the Capitol Riverfront BID is the east side of South Capitol Street, but according to the article:
For the purposes of marketing, corridor planning, trash removal, security and installation of banners, it makes sense for one BID to oversee both sides of South Capitol Street, Vornado’s vice president of development, Gordon Fraley, told the council in a letter submitted for the record. It’s why Vornado is asking its M Street parcels to be annexed by the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District.
A Vornado parcel before it was demolished & replaced with a parking lot.

 More from the article:
“With major development poised to continue at Waterfront Station and begin at The Wharf, the Southwest BID needs to focus on these locations and not be distracted by development at its periphery along South Capitol Street,” Fraley said.
Although the same thing could be said about the Capitol Riverfront BID, which has major development at The Yards, the DC United stadium in Buzzard Point, Capper Carrollsburg's Hope VI project, and other parcels.  When the Capitol Riverfront BID was originally formed, was it not anticipated that there would be development eventually on the Southwest side of South Capitol Street?  Would the Randall Recreation Center, Captiol Skyline Hotel, and the Ruben Companies parcels also be annexed by the Capitol Riverfront BID? What about the area of South Capitol Street south of M Street? Is Half Street a better boundary for the BIDs than South Capitol Street?

The Mandarin Oriental Hotel is part of The Portals complex.

In addition, the owners of The Portals project at 12th Street and Maryland Avenue do not want to be part of the SW BID, since the owners already maintain the streets and plaza within the development, along with landscaping, street cleaning, and other services that a BID normally performs. We'll see how this all gets resolved...

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Couple Upcoming Events

The DC Job Fair will be held tomorrow at Arena Stage (1101 6th Street).  This is the second time that Ward 6 Council Member Tommy Wells has hosted a job fair with Arena Stage.  According to Wells' website, companies onsite will include Bank of America, City Year, Comcast, Community Services Foundation, DC Department of Human Resources (DCHR), DC Water, Dress for Success, Forest City, Giant, Safeway, Specialty Hospital of Washington, Strive DC, UnitedHealthcare, United Planning Organization (UPO), Unity Health Care, U.S. Army, U.S. Office of Personnel Management and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The DC Job Fair will be held from 10am to 2pm.

Over at the Southwest Duck Pond at 6th and I streets, the PAWS of Southwest have partnered with the Neighbors of Southwest Duck Pond to host an event to celebrate Veteran's Day on Saturday. There will be a Patriotic Pet Parade, judged by local veterans, along with music and light refreshments. Pet owners should arrive at noon and the parade will begin at 1pm. Patriotic costumes are encouraged for dogs and their owners.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Houseboat Shuffle

In another sign that the transformation of the Southwest Waterfront to The Wharf will soon begin, houseboats at the Gangplank Marina have started to be relocated to temporary quarters. For instance, some houseboat owners at F Dock near 7th Street are being shifted south to C Dock. The houseboats are being moved so construction can begin on phase one of The Wharf. During this phase, the Capital Yacht Club will be moved from its current location next to Jenny’s Asian Fusion at 1000 Water Street and rebuilt between 7th and 9th streets. Back in August, Kastles Stadium at The Wharf was dismantled. No financing agreement has been publicly announced yet for the project and therefore no official construction start date has been set.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

North-South Corridor Meeting

DDOT will be hosting a public meeting on Monday evening to discuss the North-South Corridor Planning Study, a 9-mile corridor connecting Buzzard Point with Takoma. The study area extends east-west from about 16th Street, NW on the west to approximately one-quarter mile east of Georgia Avenue, NW.  A streetcar line is planned to connect these areas and the study to determine alignment will last one year. After the one-year study period, there will be an environmental review and then potentially the start of construction. There will be four meetings, but the one located in Southwest will be on Monday, November 4 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm at St. Augustine's Episcopal Church (600 M Street). Two more sets of public meetings will be held during the study period.

Review of "Love in Afghanistan"


The world premiere of Charles Randolph-Wright’s Love in Afghanistan, directed by Lucie Tiberghien, has made its debut at Arena Stage. Love in Afghanistan takes place on a military base in Kabul where an American rapper who comes to the country to perform for the troops falls in love with an Afghan interpreter. Melis Aker plays Roya the interpreter; Khris Davis portrays the rapper named Duke; Joseph Kamal is Roya’s father Sayeed and Dawn Ursula plays Duke’s British-Jamaican mother Desiree. 

The love story seemed forced and the lack of chemistry between the two main characters was evident. If anything, the tryst between Sayeed and Desiree seemed more authentic. The best part of the show was toward the end of the first act and the beginning of the second act, but the rest of the performance was forgettable. Desiree’s character provided some comic relief and for the most part this task was accomplished, but again, the lines seemed forced and not natural. This love story in a faraway land was not properly executed in my opinion.  

Love in Afghanistan runs until November 17 in the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle and tickets are between $40 - $90.

Photo by Teresa Wood, courtesy of Arena Stage 

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Hyatt Place Coming to 400 E Street


E Street Development Group sent a press release today announcing that Hyatt Place will be the operator of the 214-key hotel planned at 400 E Street. The hotel will be called Hyatt Place DC Capitol/National Mall and its entrance will be on E Street, along with space for ground floor retail. A new firehouse for Engine 13 will be on the 4th Street side of the building. This will be the second Hyatt Place hotel to open in the District – one is under construction in NoMa on New York Avenue, NE. 

Here is a description of what will be at the Hyatt Place hotel, from the press release:
Launched in 2006, Hyatt Place brings to the upscale select-service hotel category the authentic hospitality for which Hyatt is known. Inspired by multitasking travelers’ 24/7 lifestyle, Hyatt Place combines stylish design and practical amenities with forward-thinking technology and purposeful service. Spacious guestrooms feature multiple areas to work and relax, and include the Cozy Corner, an eight-foot sectional sofa sleeper; plush Hyatt Grand Bed; and ergonomic work center. 

Every guestroom is also equipped with a state-of-the-art media center that allows electronic devices to plug directly into the 42-inch, high-definition television, giving guests instant access to the technological amenities they’re accustomed to accessing at home or in the office. 

Hyatt Place hotels also feature complimentary Wi-Fi access, a StayFit@Hyatt fitness center, a coffee and wine bar serving specialty coffees and premium wine and beer, and a Grab ’n Go case stocked with freshly made sandwiches and salads. The Guest Kitchen offers made-to-order breakfast, lunch and dinner entrées around the clock, in addition to the a.m. Kitchen SkilletTM, a complimentary continental breakfast served daily for guests. Specially trained Hosts are on hand to offer assistance with everything from directions to check-in to a freshly made meal. 
E Street won the rights to develop 400 E Street and a second parcel at 6th and E streets from the District government back in 2009. At the time, the 400 E Street parcel was planned as an office building with a firehouse on the ground level and space for D.C. Central Kitchen and Kid Power Inc., a local non-profit. Since then, the office building changed to a hotel and the exterior changed from a fire truck-red building designed by Beyer, Blinder, Belle to the current design by WDG. The building is still planned to achieve LEED-Silver certification. Construction is expected to begin by the end of 2013 with the hotel opening in 2015.  

Rendering courtesy of WDG

Monday, October 28, 2013

Buzzard Point Development Potential

(This post will appear in the South by West article in November's Hill Rag.)

With news that a new stadium may be built for DC United in Buzzard Point (or “The Point” as Capitol Riverfront BID President Michael Stevens is now calling it), reporters and bloggers alike have been in a frenzy over whether the stadium deal is a good one for the city and if the area near the proposed site will benefit. Currently, Buzzard Point contains mainly industrial uses, but there are a few sites that are either planned for development or are candidates for redevelopment. A new soccer stadium nearby may accelerate plans for the following properties: 

(1) 100 V Street
Akridge owns a two-acre portion of the stadium footprint as well as the remaining seven acres of 100 V Street located to the south of the stadium site. 100 V Street was originally planned as an office complex targeted for a secure federal tenant; however, the site was not able to attract a tenant. With the potential development of the stadium on the northern section of the property, the southern portion is now being reevaluated as a mixed use project.

(2) Transpoint Building

The U.S. Coast Guard has moved out of the Transpoint Building at 2100 2nd Street located just to the south of 100 V Street, to a new headquarters complex at St. Elizabeths in Congress Heights. GSA has found a temporary replacement for the Coast Guard with the Navy taking space at the Transpoint Building. Meanwhile, owner Monday Properties has no plans to redevelop the building, which sits near the confluence of the Anacostia River & the Washington Channel and currently blocks public access to the water. With GSA cutting back on leasing new space and a new soccer stadium planned up the street, would redevelopment of this building make sense?

(3) Marina Place
Rendering courtesy of Eric Colbert Associates

A 99-unit condo project called Marina Place with about 2,000 square feet of ground floor retail is planned for a parcel to the east of the Transpoint Building and adjacent to the Buzzard Point Marina at First and V streets. The Eric Colbert-designed building was approved by the Zoning Commission in 2011 and since then, the owner has been looking for a developer partner for the project.

(4) Pepco Power Plant

The art-deco Buzzard Point Plant building, located to the southeast from the stadium footprint, was decommissioned last year by Pepco, although the substation to the north is still in use.  Recently, the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly has applied for historic status for the building, which could be a candidate for an adaptive reuse akin to Tate Modern art gallery in the Southwark section of London.

(5) 1900 Half Street
Douglas Development owns an office building at 1900 Half Street along the Anacostia River that blocks public access to the river and is occupied by the U.S. Coast Guard.

(6) Ziegfields/Secrets

One of the gay nightclubs displaced from Near Southeast when Nationals Park was built moved to Buzzard Point and is located just to the east of the soccer stadium footprint. According to an article from The Blade, the proprietors of Ziegfields/Secrets lease the building from Denver businessman Marty Chernoff. The article speculates that the club may have to move yet again once the stadium is built, even though it is located outside of the stadium footprint. It is too early to know what would be built in its place if the nightclub is moved again.

(7) Florida Rock
Florida Rock moved its operations across South Capitol Street in 2012 to make way for the eventual development of their riverfront parcel just to the south of Nationals Park. Their new operation along Half Street is now across the street from the new stadium site.

(8) C Hostel and Hotel
Rendering courtesy of JP2 Architects.
Carr Hospitality submitted plans for a 109-room hostel and hotel with 489 beds in 2010 at 129 Q Street, one block north of the stadium site.  According to the zoning application, half of the hostel/hotel will be comprised of rooms with single and double beds and in-room bathrooms. The other half of the hostel/hotel will be comprised of dormitory styled rooms and shared female and male showers on each floor. Shared guest amenities will include: a hip lifestyle lounge, game areas for children and adults, a bean bag movie theatre, self-service kitchen, guest laundry, lounge lockers, a cyber lounge, complimentary breakfast and a shuttle bus service to the Waterfront Metro station. The Zoning Commission approved the project, but afterwards, a principal from Carr who spearheaded the project passed away and the site has been tied up in probate ever since. A 2-year extension was recently granted for the project due to probate and the difficulty in obtaining financing for a hospitality project during the Great Recession. It is estimated that probate will be settled sometime in 2013, so theoretically, the project will be able to move forward. Currently, the site is home to a taxi cab service and repair garage.

(9) James C. Dent House
Pepco owns the James C. Dent House at 156 Q Street, which was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2010. It was built in 1906 by William James Palmer for James C. Dent, a former slave who moved to Buzzard Point as a laborer and eventually helped found the Mount Moriah Baptist Church and became its pastor. The home was more recently used as the headquarters of the now defunct Southwest Community House, a non-profit organization that vacated the property in 2004. It has remained vacant ever since.

(10) Lyon Bakery
Lyon Bakery is a wholesale baker located just to the north of the stadium footprint at 135 R Street. This site has redevelopment potential once the stadium is built, or at least will have a new customer across the street.

(11) Fort McNair

While there is no development potential here, Fort Lesley J. McNair would be the stadium’s neighbor to the west across 2nd Street and pre-dates any other development at Buzzard Point since the Army post has been at this site for over 200 years. The fort is the headquarters of the Army’s Military District of Washington and includes the National Defense University.