Thursday, May 30, 2013

Screen on the Green

Screen on the Green will be back this summer on the National Mall from 7th to 12th streets. There will be four movies shown on Monday evenings starting on July 22. Below is this year's lineup:
  • Monday, July 22:  "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial"
  • Monday, July 29: "Norma Rae"
  • Monday, August 5: "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"
  • Monday, August 12: "Tootsie"
Movies begin around dusk.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friends of SW Library Spring Book Sale

The Friends of the Southwest DC Public Library is holding its Spring Book Sale at the Southwest DC Public Library, 900 Wesley Place (at 3rd & K streets) on three dates: Wednesday, June 5th (Members Pre-Sale), Saturday, June 8th&nbsp, Saturday, June 15th. All proceeds for the sale go directly to supporting programming and equipment needs of the SW library branch. 

Hundreds of Books and Great Prices – Most Books Under $2! 

Friends Member Sale:  
Wednesday, June 5 from 6-8pm  
Become a member at the door for $10 and have first pick of the sale! 

General Book Sale FREE and OPEN TO ALL: 
Saturday, June 8 from 10am-2pm 
Saturday, June 15 from 11am - 2pm 

For more info, email

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Adult Swim Pool Parties at Capitol Skyline Hotel


It's almost the beginning of Memorial Day weekend which means pools around the city will be opening. One of the most popular pool scenes is right here in Southwest at the Capitol Skyline Hotel, located at 10 I Street. There is a weekly South Beach-style pool party on Sundays called Adult Swim by Liquid Lifestyle. The Grand Opener will be this Sunday from 11am - 6pm with music by DJ Moh Ducis and bongos by Handsmiths. The pool parties feature an all-day barbecue with hamburgers and hotdogs, along with six bars and entertainment. There is free admission each Sunday from 11am - 1pm with RSVP by texting your full name to 202-RESERVE. After 1pm or without a RSVP, the cover charge is $20.  Table reservations can be made by calling 202-737-3738 or 703-597-3941.

Takeaways from SW Ecodistrict Meeting

There was a SW Ecodistrict public meeting Tuesday night hosted by NCPC that discussed some options that are being contemplated for 10th Street, Banneker Park, and stormwater management throughout the ecodistrict. The Southwest Ecodistrict Initiative is comprehensive plan to create a sustainable mixed-use community in a 110-acre area south of the National Mall, which currently includes a significant amount of federal office space.  The slides from the meeting are available here

10th Street 
In the interim, there are plans to activate portions of 10th Street with programming. The street has a 150’ right-of-way and at some places, the distance from building to building is 230’. It was suggested that some street festivals that currently take place on Pennsylvania Avenue, NW could be accommodated on 10th Street from Independence to Maryland avenues. Perhaps the Southwest BID in the works could help bring some of that programming to 10th Street. Other ways to improve the street in the interim include furnishings, street painting, lighting, and wayfinding signage. 

In the long-term, it’s recommended that the right-of-way remain at 150’, but the median along 10th Street should be widened from 39’ to 52’ and the sidewalk and vehicle lanes be narrowed to accommodate a five-foot bike lane on both sides of the street. Different alternatives are available to allow trees of varying height to grow on 10th Street, which is built mostly on a bridge structure. In addition, there are three programmatic alternatives for the street – one emphasizes on hardscape (which would allow more flexibility for programming in the median); the second emphasizes on softscape (continuing the feel of the National Mall); and the third emphasizes on water (10th Street used to have water elements). Questions remain about whether the character of 10th Street should be more like a park, a street, linear, episodic, or formal in nature. 

A phased approach to improving the streetscape on 10th Street is preferred, since there is currently no financing dedicated to make improvements. Perhaps some of the funding can be obtained as a result of private development adjacent to the street, such as JBG’s plans for L’Enfant Plaza, or the GSA’s planned redevelopment of the area closest to Independence Avenue called Federal Triangle South

Banneker Park 
While there is currently no financing available for streetscape improvements along 10th Street, the developers of The Wharf will finance the construction of a temporary staircase connecting Maine Avenue with Banneker Park to facilitate access from the National Mall and L’Enfant Plaza Metro. Due to the grade change, the stairs can be straight, include switchbacks, or a combination of both. Design of the stair could be monumental, contemporary, natural, or have “District” features found in other areas of the city.
Banneker Park.

Stormwater Management 
Even though the amount of development in the SW Ecodistrict will increase to 15 million SF of space compared to about 10 million SF now, the amount of water usage is anticipated to decline. The design of the SW Ecodistrict will allow more stormwater to be captured on site and recycled instead of being sent untreated to the Washington Channel and the Anacostia River. Large cisterns can be built beneath 10th Street and other areas to help store water. Green roofs, flow through swales, and trees can help reduce runoff. In the summer, condensation from air conditioner coils can be collected to create potable water. Capturing and treating stormwater and grey water can be used for non-potable uses such as washing & irrigation while rain and well water can help satisfy potable water demand. 

Comments are being accepted on the SW Ecodistrict website until June 21. 

Rendering courtesy of NCPC

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

SW BID in the Works

(This post is an abbreviated version of the South by West article that will appear in June's Hill Rag.)

There are currently nine Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in the District of Columbia and by this fall, a 10th could be created right here in Southwest. BIDs are funded by a property assessment levied on property owners in order to provide services such as cleaning, hospitality, marketing, beautification, planning, safety, event organizing, and programming. In the case of Southwest, commercial property owners and large apartment building operators will be taxed, while condo and co-op buildings, as well as single-family/townhouse owners will not. Organizations such as the Waterfront Gateway Neighborhood Association, a group of six homeowner associations located south of the Southwest freeway, may have the option to opt-in for certain services, such as landscaping and security. 

While the Capitol Riverfront BID includes a small portion of Southwest in Buzzard Point, the proposed Southwest BID will cover a large swath of the quadrant. The proposed boundaries of the Southwest BID are Independence Avenue to the north, 15th Street and the Washington Channel to the west, M Street to the south, and South Capitol Street to the east. This geography includes a diverse area, including the federal enclave around L’Enfant Plaza; the existing residential communities north of M Street; Waterfront Station; Arena Stage; as well as The Wharf development. 

Steve Moore, who was once the Deputy Director of the Downtown BID, is now with Hoffman-Madison Waterfront and is helping to get the Southwest BID off the ground. Hoffman-Madison Waterfront is the master developer of The Wharf project along the Southwest Waterfront and during the Planned Unit Development process for that project, the possible creation of a BID was one of the line items the developers agreed to undertake.

Services could begin as soon as next spring, but before that happens, a lot still needs to happen over the next few months. Solicitations went out to commercial property owners in April to gauge interest in forming a BID. A bylaws structure still needs to be firmed up as well as incorporation as a non-profit, raise funds, and get legislation introduced into the DC Council establishing the BID. Some of the goals of the Southwest BID are to help give the area an identity and program public spaces, along with the more conventional BID services such as street cleaning. While the GSA is not allowed to be taxed for BID services, they will be involved in the BID in some capacity. While the creation of a BID will not be the cure-all for everything that ails Southwest, it can help with some basic issues such as cleanliness and safety, which could go a long way towards making the area a more enjoyable place to live and help to market the neighborhood for additional investment, retail, and office tenants.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Masala Art to Open at Waterfront Station

I just learned from ANC 6D Commissioner McBee that Masala Art will be opening at Waterfront Station and will take up the two vacant storefronts at 1101 4th Street, north of Subway. Masala Art is an Indian restaurant by Atul Bhola, the former manager of Heritage India, with a location in Tenleytown that opened in 2009.  According to a review by The Washington Post's Tom Sietsema, the Tenleytown restaurant seats 45. The Tenleytown location is open daily for lunch & dinner and it also offers free delivery.  Here's a look at the menu. Masala Art will join Station 4, Z-Burger, and Subway as the fourth restaurant to open at Waterfront Station, in addition to Safeway, CVS, and Waterfront Cleaners. There are still two vacant retail spaces available - one each at 1101 and 1100 4th Street.  I’ll share more details on Masala Art as I learn them.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Review of "Other Desert Cities"

Directed by Kyle Donnelly and written by Jon Robin Baltz, Other Desert Cities tells the story of the Wyeths, an affluent conservative family from California who from the outside appear to be perfect, but their hidden secrets cause tension when daughter Brooke Wyeth returns home to Palm Springs for the holidays after a six-year absence. Her pending memoir threatens to reopen wounds from the most painful portion of the family’s history.  The cast includes Helen Carey as matriarch Polly Wyeth (Carey last appeared in Arena's Long Day’s Journey into Night), Larry Bryggman as patriarch Lyman Wyeth, Emily Donahoe as daughter Brooke Wyeth, Scott Drummond as son Trip Wyeth, and Martha Hackett as Polly’s sister Silda Gauman. Carey’s performance as the strong-willed and stubborn Polly was excellent. The profane nature of Trip and the one-liners of recovering alcoholic Silda brought comic relief; however, I thought the character of Brooke was a bit annoying. The plot twist towards the end of the show was unexpected.

Other Desert Cities is the last show of the season at Arena Stage, which runs until May 26 in the Fichlander Stage. Tickets are $40 - $85. Southwest Night will be on May 26 at 7:30pm. Over the summer, One Night with Janis Joplin will return for a seven-week run from June 21 – August 11.  Next season will bring the return of Kathleen Turner as well as Bill Pullman. Below is the lineup for the upcoming 2013-14 season:

The Velocity of Autumn
Written by Eric Coble/Directed by Artistic
September 6 – October 20, 2013 in the Kreeger Theater

Love in Afghanistan
World premiere by Resident Playwright Charles Randolph-Wright
October 11 – November 17, 2013 in the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle

Tappin’ Thru Life
Created by and starring Maurice Hines/Directed by Jeff Calhoun
November 15 – December 29. 2013 in the Kreeger Theater

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner
Based on the screenplay by William Rose
Written by Todd Kreidler/Directed by Kenny Leon
November 29, 2013 – January 5, 2014 in the Fichlander Stage

The Tallest Tree in the Forest
Tectonic Theater Project’s world premiere presentation
Written by Daniel Beaty/Directed by Moisés Kaufman
January 10 – February 16, 2014 in the Kreeger Theater

Mother Courage and her Children
Written by Bertolt Brecht/Directed by Artistic Director Molly Smith
Starring Academy Award & Tony Award nominee Kathleen Turner
January 31 – March 9, 2014 in the Fichlander Stage

Camp David
World premiere vy Pulitzer Prize winner Lawrence Wright/Directed by Artistic Director Molly Smith
March 21 – May 4, 2014 in the Kreeger Theater

Smokey Joe’s Café – The Sounds of Leiber and Stoller
Written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller/Directed by Randy Johnson
April 25 – June 8, 2014 in the Fichlander Stage

Healing Wars
World premiere created and directed by MacArthur “Genius” Fellow Liz Lerman
Featuring Bill Pullman
June 6 – 29, 2014 in the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle

Photo taken by Scott Suchman, courtesy of Arena Stage

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Town Center Controversy

In addition to the NW parcel PUD, there was lengthy and fiery discussion at Monday’s ANC 6D meeting about a PUD application for Town Center, a three-building residential plan for the area just to the east of Waterfront Station by The Bernstein Companies.  More details on the original PUD application can be found here, but in summary, the developers plan to build two 11-story residential buildings with a small amount of ground floor retail on the parking lots in front of Waterfront Tower and 1101 @ Waterfront and a four-story building along 3rd Street between the two existing I.M. Pei buildings for a total of 401 new units. In addition, the 128-unit 1101 @ Waterfront will be renovated. Some changes have been made to the design of the buildings in response to concerns from the commissioners, such as an increase in the setback of the buildings on the 10th and 11th floors (which are rise above the I.M. Pei buildings) and more glass at the base of the building. The above rendering is from the original submission to the Zoning Commission.

An unusually full house at the ANC meeting.

The room was packed with residents of Waterfront Tower condos, who according to a couple of stories last week in Housing Complex, were threatened by the developer’s lawyer with a lawsuit if they spoke out against the proposal at the ANC meeting since their purchase agreements included a statement that they would not impede further development on the site. Waterfront Tower and SWNA recently submitted an application for historic status for Waterfront Tower and the grounds, which could halt development if approved. ANC Chairman Andy Litsky chided the Bernstein representatives present at the meeting about the tactic before opening the floor to residents who wanted to express their concerns about the PUD. Concerns ranged from the design & height of the buildings to lack of visibility to accessibility challenges for disabled residents. After more than an hour of discussion, the commissioners passed a resolution seeking to postpone the May 30th Zoning Commission meeting (the developers agreed to the delay after hearing the concerns from residents at the meeting) and a second resolution to not support the PUD in its current form until a long list of concerns are addressed. Bernstein will meet with Waterfront Tower residents and the ANC over the next few weeks to help address their concerns (one of the ANC’s stipulations was that the residents were able to discuss the PUD without the threat of a lawsuit over their heads). This PUD will most likely be on the agenda again in the June ANC meeting.

Rendering courtesy of Maurice Walters Architect, PC

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Waterfront Station Update

Representatives from Waterfront 1001 4th Street, LLC, which proposes a residential building for the NW parcel of Waterfront Station, came before ANC 6D at the May monthly meeting to garner support for their Stage 2 PUD, which includes a 365-unit high-rise rental apartment building with 2-level townhouse units at the base. Also included are three spaces of ground-floor retail totaling 4,400 SF. More details on the PUD can be found here. The commissioners unanimously supported the PUD, under two conditions: the commissioners want to encourage more retail at the project and the developers need to create a construction management plan to limit disturbance to the SW Duck Pond during and after construction. The developers are scheduled to go before the Zoning Commission on June 6th.

Sky House East Tower.

Meanwhile, Sky House has recently been placed on the market by Urban Atlantic and The JBG Companies. The still-under construction pair of rental apartment buildings totals 530 units with 20% of the units reserved for residents earning up to 50% of Area Median Income. According to the sales brochure, the East tower is expected to be completed this December and the West tower in March 2014. The buildings are expected to sell before tenants move in to avoid TOPA rules. Due to the size of each of the buildings, it is doubtful that either of the buildings will switch to condominiums since the pre-sale requirements for buildings financed by Fannie Mae or FHA are still quite stringent. In addition, Bresler Reiner is selling their interest in the two planned M Street office buildings and NW parcel. Vornado and Forest City will continue to be partners in the development. 

Vacant corner retail space at 1101 4th Street.

On the retail front, the four vacant retail spaces in 1100 and 1101 4th Street are still on the market three years after the office buildings were completed, but it was revealed in Monday’s ANC meeting that the current owner USAA is in negotiations with a potential tenant to take two of the retail spaces north of Subway at 1101 4th Street. New banners were recently placed on the light poles along 4th Street to help give the area a sense of place as the “Main Street” of Southwest. Per the Stage 1 PUD approval, it is required that all of the retail at Waterfront Station must be neighborhood-oriented retail. What neighborhood-oriented retail should open at Waterfront Station? Vote on the left sidebar for your choice and/or leave a comment.

Rendering courtesy of Perkins Eastman

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

A Few Quick Items: Basketball Star Coming to Amidon-Bowen, History of SW, Opposing Views on DC United Land Swap, SW Ecodistrict Meeting


- It was reported in PoPville that basketball legend and children's author Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will be reading to students at Amidon-Bowen Elementary on Friday, May 10 at a "Where the Wild Things Are" celebration.  Each student will receive a free copy of the book. Also in attendance will be Tracy Hutson from "Extreme Makeover: Home Edition" and DC Schools Chancellor Kaya Henderson.

- An article in Atlantic Cities describes the history of Southwest and how the construction of the Southwest freeway cut off the waterfront from the rest of the city. The authors also have a proposal on how to reconnect the quadrant with the rest of the city - which includes removing the freeway, adding a Metro and ferry terminal at East Potomac Park, and creating a "New Mall" on the site of Fort McNair, the second oldest military installation in the US.  Like most of that will ever happen...

- The folks over at Greater Greater Washington make an argument for the city doing a land swap with Akridge in order to allow DC United to build a new soccer stadium in Buzzard Point.  Meanwhile over at Slate, Matthew Yglesias argues that the city should encourage affordable housing instead at Buzzard Point.

- The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) will hold a meeting on May 21 to discuss how to improve the 10th Street corridor from Independence Avenue to Banneker Overlook as a part of the SW Ecodistrict Initiative. The meeting will take place at 401 9th Street, NW, Suite 500 North from 6:30 - 8:30pm.

Image courtesy of the NCPC

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Sky House Construction Update


Work continues on Sky House East, the first residential phase of Waterfront Station, developed by Urban-Atlantic and The JBG Companies. The new façade of metal and glass is a far cry from the concrete behemoth that once was the headquarters of the EPA. Sky House was designed by Wiencek + Associates. Construction began in February 2012 and a commencement ceremony was held the following month. On the other side of 4th Street, work began a few months later at Sky House West. Upon completion, both buildings will have a total of 517 units – 20% of which will be affordable to families earning up to 50% of Area Median Income.  Leasing is scheduled to begin over the next couple of months on the East tower. Below are a few older and current construction photos.

Sky House East Tower - March 2012.

Closer view of the new facade - May 2013.
Main entrance to Sky House East - May 2013.

View from M Street - February 2012.

View from M Street - May 2013.

Monday, May 6, 2013

DCHA Applies for HUD Grant for Greenleaf


Representatives from DCHA announced at a resident meeting in late April that they have applied for a $500,000 HUD Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant for Greenleaf, a trio of public housing communities in Southwest. Greenleaf was built in 1959 and includes a cluster of townhomes, midrise, 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 (203 N Street). There are a total of 497 units in all three sections. According to the HUD website, the Choice Neighborhoods program supports locally driven strategies to address struggling neighborhoods with distressed public or HUD-assisted housing through a comprehensive approach to neighborhood transformation. Three main goals of the program are as follows:
1. Housing: Replace distressed public and assisted housing with high-quality mixed-income housing that is well-managed and responsive to the needs of the surrounding neighborhood;
2. People: Improve educational outcomes and intergenerational mobility for youth with services and supports delivered directly to youth and their families; and
3. Neighborhood: Create the conditions necessary for public and private reinvestment in distressed neighborhoods to offer the kinds of amenities and assets, including safety, good schools, and commercial activity, that are important to families’ choices about their community.

Greenleaf Seniors.

A Transformation Plan must be developed for the communities that receive a Planning Grant, which helps guide the revitalization of the public housing units and transformation of the surrounding neighborhood and positive outcomes for families. DCHA's grant application comes right at the same time that the Office of Planning is about to undertake a Small Area Plan for the broader area, which includes Greenleaf Gardens, Seniors and Mid-rise.  Eventually, DCHA can apply for an Implementation Grant from HUD (that is if Greenleaf is selected for a Planning Grant and a Transformation Plan is developed). Also, a public-private partnership could be sought to eventually redevelop Greenleaf. In the meantime, cosmetic work on the exterior of Greenleaf Gardens has begun and assessments of distressed property have already started.

Recently painted homes at Greenleaf Gardens.

The Near SE/SW CBCC will be hosting an informational meeting on May 23 where Tarek Bolden from the Office of Planning will go over the SW Small Area Plan process.  There will also be discussion on the HUD grant process for Greenleaf.  The meeting will be held at Westminster Church (400 I Street) from 6-7:30pm. Free childcare will be provided for children ages 5-12.

By the way this post is not an April Fools' Day joke.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

A Couple Quick Items: DC United Stadium News

- Last week in Capital Business, DC City Administrator Allen Lew stated that he is hopeful that a framework for a new DC United stadium in Buzzard Point can be done "inside of a year." From the article:
“The administration is continuing to work with the D.C. United organization to develop a new soccer stadium,” [DC City Administrator Allen Lew] he said. “I don’t think there’s been this much energy put into it by anyone in the past, in any recent administrations.”
- Earlier this week, it was reported in the Washington Business Journal that there may be a land swap under consideration between the city and Akridge, the owner of 100 V Street, a nine-acre parcel in Buzzard Point where a stadium for DC United is in the works.  From the article:
One potential scenario goes like this: Akridge gives up its 9 acres on Buzzard Point in return for one or two high-profile D.C.-owned buildings, perhaps [Police Headquarters] and/or even the Reeves Center at 2000 14th St. NW, and agrees to build a consolidated public safety campus on city-owned land somewhere in the District.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Small Area Plan to Move Forward, KIPP Plan Stalls

The Mayor announced last week that the Small Area Plan process will move forward for Southwest, which in effect stalls KIPP DC's plans for the Randall Recreation Center site at South Capitol and I streets. Several neighborhood and civic organizations called on the Mayor to keep the SAP process moving forward after KIPP DC began maneuvering to build a new school and recreation center at the site, which has been contentious to say the least. KIPP DC's ambitious timeline called for a new school to open in time for the 2014-15 school year; however, the Small Area Plan will take about a year to complete. The plan boundaries are South Capitol Street to the east, 9th and Water streets to the west, the Southwest Freeway to the north and P Street to the south, which includes several District-owned parcels. The area highlighted in red on the map above shows the primary focus area, where most of the new development opportunity sites and primary urban design issues are located. The areas highlighted in blue are the secondary study area where neighborhood conservation, neighborhood connectivity, and sustainability are the primary focus.

Kick-off occurs this month and the plan will be developed over the next nine months with a series of public meetings. Final draft recommendations will be made by March 2014 along with a draft plan for public comment. By April 2014, the Mayor will transmit the plan to the DC Council for approval. Once completed, the Small Area Plan will guide land use and provide a neighborhood development framework to enhance pedestrian access, improve street connectivity and transportation options, integrate community amenities, and better serve residents.

Map courtesy of the Office of Planning