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