Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Maryland Avenue Transporation Study Underway


DDOT is undertaking a year-long transportation study of Maryland Avenue, which began in April. On Monday, the agency held an open house meeting to introduce the project to the public. According to Shannon Hake, Transportation Planner for DDOT and project manager for the Maryland Avenue Transportation Study, Maryland Avenue can serve as the "spine between the Capitol and the waterfront." The study area includes the Maryland Avenue corridor from 7th Street to 12th Street. Currently, Maryland Avenue does not exist along this stretch, but is a set of railroad tracks shared by CSX, Amtrak, and VRE. The right-of-way is owned by several entities, including the District of Columbia, the National Park Service, the federal government, CSX, and private owners, which further complicates any potential reconstruction of the roadway.

View of the Maryland Avenue corridor from the Potomac.

The transportation study will look at the recommendations made by the Office of Planning's Small Area Plan for Maryland Avenue last year and a preliminary engineering study will be conducted to see whether a new roadway can be constructed above the railroad corridor. Traffic impacts in the area and multi-modal accessibility will be analyzed. In addition to the Small Area Plan recommendations, DDOT will develop cost estimates for two other alternatives.

After the completion of the study, the project development phase will begin, which will take two years to do the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) process. Under the best case scenario, it will take 8-10 years before Maryland Avenue could be rebuilt, since there is no dedicated funding currently for rebuilding the street. The next public meeting will be this fall, where existing data will be reviewed and development alternatives revealed. A final public meeting will be in early winter 2014 with conceptual designs and analysis of the Maryland Avenue corridor.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

A Couple Quick Items: Southwest Neighborhood Night at Nats Park, Wharf Micro Units

The Washington Nationals will have their annual Southwest Neighborhood Night when they play the Milwaukee Brewers on July 2 (which happens to be my birthday) at Nationals Park. Local community members will be honored during the game. Discounted tickets are available in certain sections for area residents. Use the coupon code SOUTHWEST when purchasing tickets.

Another article about the micro units that are planned for some of the rental apartment units at parcel 2 in The Wharf, this time in Urban Turf. Parcel 2 is the large apartment building with the Wharf Center venue on the bottom levels at 9th Street and Maine Avenue. According to the article, about 17% of the units will be small studio units between 330 and 380 square feet. From the article:
At The Wharf, built-ins will fill up one entire wall, from the doorway to the window. Shelves for books, an armoire for clothing, a sleek kitchen and a Murphy bed that turns into a couch and shelf at night allow residents to make better use of the available floor space..Rather than swinging doors, the Wharf units will have a sliding barn door. The bathroom will have natural light coming through a translucent glass wall near the shower.
 Rendering courtesy of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Revised PUD for Randall School Submitted

At long last, a revised PUD application for the Randall School site at 65 I Street was filed on May 31 with the Zoning Commission. The Telesis/Rubell team has had the shuttered school under contract from the Corcoran since 2010 and since then has been working on plans for the site. With the help of Bing Thom Architects, the team has come forth with a plan to preserve the three existing historic buildings along I Street for use as a contemporary art museum and other arts uses, as well as a restaurant. Other newer additions will be removed. 

The original Randall Junior High School building, built in 1906.

The museum will be located in the original 1906 center building; other arts-related uses will be located in the west wing; and a restaurant with outdoor seating will be in the east wing (both wings were built in 1927). Behind the center building, a new four-story addition will house additional exhibition space for the art museum.  The new addition will have exterior walls that will allow images and video to be displayed that will be visible from a large courtyard open to the public. Two 12-story towers with 550 residential units will wrap behind the historic buildings and courtyard. 

Video can be projected on the side of the museum facing the courtyard

 Following is a description of the design of the residential buildings from the PUD application:
The new twelve-story residential building will be set behind the historic Randall School. It is comprised of nine distinct blocks that are stacked around the west, north and east sides of the site and behind the historic school structures to the south. These forms enclose a publicly accessible courtyard and run parallel to H Street, the former Half Street and former First Street, thereby physically defining these streets in the neighborhood. Gaps between these building blocks emphasize their proportions and recall the slab building forms common in the Southwest neighborhood. The lower six levels of the new south west and south east building elements are cut at an angle leading into the center of the site in deference to the historic buildings. It is at these points that the entrances to the residential "towers" will be located just behind the historic buildings to the east and west. Six levels above these entries at the south side of the courtyard are two building wings that span from the perimeter of the building to columns on either side of the new museum structure. Ground floor units facing 1st Street, H Street and the courtyard will have individual entrances and private outdoor spaces along the street or at the interior courtyard. The site and public space in front of the historic buildings on I Street will be modified to make the historic buildings accessible and to provide opportunities for street side cafĂ© seating. The massing concept, which evolved through a series of meetings with District agencies and the staff of the Historic Preservation Office, places a majority of the project’s density away from the historic building toward the rear of the site. The sensitive massing of the new construction allows the historic Randall School to continue to appear as a separate building along I Street, and maintain the character of the existing streetscape.

Individual entrances for units on the ground level from the street.

The building materials used for the residential buildings are primarily metal panels and glass arranged in an irregular format to contrast with the structured facades of the historic buildings. The main entrances will be located on the southwest and southeast corners of the buildings. Some sustainability elements include rain-water harvesting, urban forestry best-practices, and green roofs. Each residential building will have a rooftop pool and separate amenity space on the ground level. Parking for 200 vehicles will be below grade and six surface spaces along the right-away of 1st Street. Access to the parking garage and loading will be off of H Street.

H Street facade of the residential buildings.
An extensive public benefits package is proposed for the project, which includes:
  • A new contemporary museum of art.
  • An annual art exhibit at the museum featuring art from ANC 6D residents, including at least one public school student.
  • Each year designate a neighborhood visual arts project in ANC 6D and provide resources needed to make the project a reality.
  • Organize, sponsor, and provide resources for an annual outdoor Arts Festival in ANC 6D that’s free and open to the public.
  • Offer free admission to the museum to all residents of ANC 6D (with proper ID).
  • Establish a program of recruiting museum volunteers from ANC 6D.
  • Pay five annual memberships in the Corcoran Gallery of Art for DC public school teachers.
  • Provide at least five annual full scholarships to ANC 6D residents to participate in the Camp Creativity program sponsored by the Corcoran Gallery of Art or the Corcoran College of Art & Design.
  • Twenty percent of the gross floor area dedicated to residential will be set aside for households earning up to 80% of Area Median Income (AMI).
  • Historic preservation of the three buildings along I Street.
  • First Source Employment Agreement using District residents for at least 51% of the jobs created by the project.
  • Use of Certified Business Enterprise (CBEs) when possible.

Southeast corner view of the project along I Street.

The project is phased so the museum, other arts uses, retail, and the east residential building will be done first. The west residential building can be built in a later phase. The Telesis/Rubell team will have to come before ANC 6D for their support before meeting with the Zoning Commission later this year.

Renderings courtesy of Bing Thom Architects

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Amidon-Bowen to Receive New Windows, Playground Dedication Tomorrow

Funding has been secured in the District's FY 2014 budget to install new windows at Amidon-Bowen Elementary School, which was renovated last summer. The new windows will cost $1.7 million and should be installed this winter. 

Soccer field when it was under construction.

Tomorrow, the new playground at the school will be dedicated at 9am with a ceremonial kick of the soccer ball at the new turf field at 401 I Street.  To RSVP for the event, send an email to: On Saturday, there will be an open house at Amidon-Bowen from 10am to noon. In addition to the open house, the PTA will have a fundraiser. With a $100 donation, all the hot dogs and hamburgers you can eat will be available. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Town Center East Seeking Historic Designation

ANC 6D gave its unanimous support last night to designate Town Center East as a historic landmark. The Waterfront Tower Homeowners' Association, along with the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly, have applied for historic status with the DC Register for the pair of buildings on 3rd Street, designed in the modernist style by I.M. Pei in the 1960s. The move to grant landmark status to the buildings, grounds, and parking lots comes at the same time that The Bernstein Companies is trying to get approval for their consolidated PUD application which would replace the surface parking lots with two new high-rise residential buildings with some ground floor retail and a third smaller building in the open space between the existing Pei buildings. At last month's ANC meeting, the commissioners voted not to support the Town Center PUD as-is and asked the developers to rework their plans & meet with the Waterfront Tower residents to hear their concerns. 

Current plan for new and existing buildings at Town Center East.

Historic designation would complicate things, but as Cecille Chen, the head of SWNA's historic preservation task force said at Monday's meeting, the designation of a property as historic wouldn't stop future development, it helps to bring development that is appropriate since the Historic Preservation Board would have a say in any plans to build on the site. If Town Center East is designated historic, it would join other modernist residential complexes that have recently been designated historic, including Tiber Island and Harbour Square. Potomac Place Tower was designated historic almost a decade ago..  

Friday, June 7, 2013

More Details on Choice Grant for Greenleaf

At a meeting last month hosted by the Near SE/SW Community Benefits Coordinating Council, a representative from the DC Housing Authority explained to residents of Greenleaf the $500,000 HUD Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant the agency is applying for and the process between now and any future redevelopment of the community. 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 located at 203 N Street. There are a total of 497 units in all three sections.  If DCHA is awarded the planning grant for Greenleaf, it would be the third Choice grant for the city, since grants have already been awarded to Kenilworth Parkside in NE and Barry Farm/Wade Apartments in SE. A physical condition report was done on Greenleaf as a part of the application that was submitted late last month to HUD and it was determined that the community was distressed, which is one of the conditions that needs to be met in order to qualify for a Choice grant. In addition, Amidon-Bowen Elementary School is considered to be an under-performing school.

Residents will be given at least 90 days notice before any moving would be necessary for redevelopment to occur. DCHA intends to go forward with redeveloping Greenleaf whether or not it receives the grant since the buildings are near the end of their useful lifespan. DCHA will need to demonstrate to HUD how they will redevelop Greenleaf with or without the grant. They will seek a private partner to help implement the redevelopment and the goal is no displacement of current residents. All units will be replaced one-for-one, interspersed with market-rate units. In previous Hope VI projects, the rules for former residents to return to the redeveloped community were stringent and resulted in many people being unable to return. In Greenleaf's case, the rules have been eased, so the only requirement that a former resident needs to meet is the ability to comply with the terms of the lease.

As a part of the planning process, DCHA will need to come up with a Transformation plan for Greenleaf, which will take about 24 months to complete. The boundaries used for the Transformation plan will be the same as the Small Area Plan that's underway by the Office of Planning, but the process will be different.  After that is completed, it will take another year to prepare the application for a HUD Choice Neighborhoods Implementation Grant, which could be worth up to $30 million to help implement the transformation plan. In other words, it will take at least five years before any redevelopment would begin. In the meantime, the units will be maintained - recently, some cosmetic improvements have been made at the Greenleaf Extension buildings (garden apartments), including a new paint job.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Happy 5th Anniversary!

Today marks the fifth anniversary of Southwest...The Little Quadrant That Could. Five years ago today, I wrote my first post, which talked about the disposition of two parcels owned by the District government - one at the corner of 4th & E streets and the other at the site of Engine 13 at 6th and E streets. The District wants the chosen development team to build a new firehouse at the 4th & E streets parcel with commercial development above it. 

Five years and 783 posts later, a lot of development has occurred in the neighborhood, including a new Safeway, CVS, restaurants, and commercial development along a reopened 4th Street at Waterfront Station; the expansion of Arena Stage; new and refurbished office buildings near and at L'Enfant Plaza; a new Consolidated Forensic Laboratory; a new first district police station; a refurbished Amidon-Bowen Elementary School; a temporary stadium for the Washington Kastles; Camden South Capitol apartments across the street from Nationals Park; Sky House apartments at Waterfront Station; and condo conversions at Potomac Place Tower and Waterfront Tower

New Safeway at Waterfront Station.

Other development is imminent. The Wharf, the largest development project coming to Southwest, is expected to start construction later this year once an equity partner is lined up and building permits are obtained. A new playground at the park next to the Southwest Library will be built this summer along with a dog park and community garden at Lansburgh Park. A Southwest BID may be formed as soon as this fall. Construction may begin next year on a new apartment building and a rebuilt St. Matthew's Church on M Street. Planned Unit Developments are active for residential buildings at Town Center and Waterfront Station. In addition, a deal is expected potentially within the next year for a new stadium for DC United at Buzzard Point.

SmithGroup JJR rendering of Parcel 5 at The Wharf.

Several plans and studies have been conducted for the area over the years. Those include the Southwest Ecodistrict Initiative; the M Street Transportation Plan; the Planning Assistant Team plan for Buzzard Point; the Maryland Avenue Small Area Plan; and the SW Small Area Plan is getting underway.

Office of Planning map of boundaries of the SW Small Area Plan.

Meanwhile, those two parcels that were the subject of my very first post remain unbuilt. E Street Development won the bid to develop the two parcels back in 2009, but construction has yet to begin. It was reported earlier this year that plans for phase one changed from an office building to a hotel and construction would start this spring. That start date has since been pushed back again by a few months. An announcement of which hotel brand is coming to the project should be forthcoming soon.

WDG design of the planned hotel with Engine 13 firehouse.

Needless to say it's been a busy five years in the Little Quadrant That Could...stay tuned!

June Events at 7th Street Landing

7th Street Landing at 7th and Water streets comes back to life this month with free programming each Thursday through Saturday. On Thursday evenings from 6pm to 8pm, a variety of jazz and blues bands will perform. Friday evenings from 6pm to 8pm will bring bands from different genres. Fitness comes to the landing on Saturday mornings at 9am and 10:30am. Below is the schedule for June:

Thursdays - Waterfront Jazz and Blues from 6pm - 8pm
  • June 6: Thad Wilson Quartet
  • June 13: Memphis Gold Blues
  • June 20: Marshall Keys Jazz Ensemble
  • June 27: Tom Newman Blues Band

Fridays - Sounds of Summer from 6pm - 8pm
  • June 7: Will Gravatt Band (Country)
  • June 14: Levi Stephens Band (Soul)
  • June 21: Blue Tips Rhythm Band (Motown)
  • June 28: Jonny Grave & The Tombstones (Blues)

Saturdays - Workout Beside the Water from 9am - 11:30am
  • June 8: YaLa Fitness (9am) and Flow Yoga (10:30am)
  • June 15: YaLa Fitness (9am) and Flow Yoga (10:30am)
  • June 22: YaLa Fitness (9am) and Flow Yoga (10:30am)
  • June 29: YaLa Fitness (9am) and Flow Yoga (10:30am)

Food and beverages are available for purchase from Cantina Marina's Snack Shack and King Ribs Bar-B-Q with Grillmaster Bufus. Other activities include table tennis, bean baggo and free WiFi access.