Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Couple Quick Items: Demolition and Construction North of the Freeway

Demolition is now complete at the former Donohoe Building at 400 6th Street, where Trammell Crow plans to build a new, 12-story 342,000 SF office building. The building was purchased in 2012 by Trammell Crow and the AFL-CIO Building Investment for $41.9 million and it was formerly occupied by the District’s Child and Family Services Agency. Demolition began in the fall. Space on the ground floor will be convertible to retail if the market can support it. The new office building is scheduled for completion next year. 
Demolition is complete.

Rendering courtesy of Gensler 

Meanwhile, heavy construction equipment arrived this week at 400 E Street, which by next year will be a 214-key Hyatt Place hotel and a new Engine 13 firehouse. The groundbreaking ceremony occurred back in mid-December. E Street Development won the rights to the site back in 2009 along with a second parcel at 6th and E streets. With the new Hyatt Place and the Intercontinental Hotel, Aloft, and Element hotels planned for Phase I of The Wharf, there will be a net gain of three hotels in Southwest by 2017 (Channel Inn will be demolished since it’s within the footprint of The Wharf). 

Construction is underway.

Rendering courtesy of WDG

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Arena Stage Receives 10 Helen Hayes Nominations

Nominations for the 30th Annual Helen Hayes Awards were announced on Monday and Arena Stage productions received 10 nominations. Leading the pack with five nominations is The Mountaintop, followed by Good People and Maurice Hines is Tappin' Thru Life, each receiving two nominations. Mary T. & Lizzy K. received one nomination. Below is a list of categories for which these productions received nominations:

Outstanding Director, Resident Play
- Robert O'Hara, The Mountaintop

Outstanding Choreography, Resident Musical
- Maurice Hines, Maurice Hines is Tappin' Thru Life

Outstanding Music Direction, Resident Production
- Dr. Sherrie Maricle, Maurice Hines is Tappin' Thru Life

Outstanding Set Design, Resident Production
 - Clint Ramos, The Mountaintop

Outstanding Costume Design, Resident Production
- Merrily Murray-Walsh, Mary T. & Lizzy K.

Outstanding Sound Design, Resident Production
- Lindsay Jones, The Mountaintop 

Outstanding Lead Actress, Resident Play
- Johanna Day, Good People
- Joaquina Kalukango, The Mountaintop

Outstanding Resident Play
- Good People
- The Mountaintop

This year's Helen Hayes Awards will take place on April 21 at the National Building Museum.

Photo taken by Scott Suchman, courtesy of Arena Stage

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Few Quick Items: L'Enfant Plaza Hotel, DC United Poll, SW Duck Pond Fundraiser

It was reported last week in the Washington Business Journal that the new owner of the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel is anticipating to begin a $30 million renovation in the spring. An affiliate of Sanford Hotels Group closed on the sale of the hotel in December from The JBG Companies. According to the article, the owners plan to bring the hotel up to four diamond status. From the article:
The renovation will include revamps of all the meeting spaces, the rooftop pool area, the lobby and associated food and beverage offerings. The room number is expected to stay relatively the same at 372, with the possibility that it will go down slightly if the upgrade of fitness facilities or the addition of a concierge lounge requires some of that space, Gibbs said. 

A Washington Post poll states that 59 percent of respondents are against using city funds to help build a stadium for DC United in Buzzard Point. Under the terms of the agreement, the city would spend up to $150 million to acquire land, do remediation, and make infrastructure  improvements to the stadium site at 2nd and R streets. The team would then spend $150 to build the stadium. The same poll revealed that 71 percent of respondents stated that the $650 million spent on a publicly-financed stadium for the Nationals was a good investment for the city.  A Housing Complex article's spin on the poll suggests that the poll question wasn't worded properly and that the stadium proposal is more popular than the poll results.

Update: City Administrator Allen Lew responds to the Post survey.

Rendering courtesy of Gensler 

The Neighbors of the Southwest Duck Pond will be having a Chinese New Year fundraiser on Thursday, January 30 at Jenny's Asian Fusion restaurant starting at 7pm. Tickets for the fundraiser are available online.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Apartment Sale Activity Picking Up


The last quarter of 2013 included a couple of apartment building sales transactions in Southwest – Channel Square and Capitol Park Tower. Channel Square was purchased in October by a joint venture of Somerset Development Company and the National Housing Trust-Enterprise Preservation Corporation. The tenants association chose the new owners in a competitive bid process through TOPA. Channel Square is located at 325 P Street and has 223 units in a mix of high-rise and townhouse buildings. The property will undergo a major renovation with a focus on green features. One third of the units will be targeted for voucher holders, one third for residents at or below 80% of AMI, and one third under a rent stabilization program similar to rent control. 

Capitol Park Tower

In November, Urban Investment Partners, PRP LLC, and Perseus Realty purchased the 289-unit Capitol Park Tower, located at 301 G Street. According to the press release, the new owners plan to invest in significant improvements over the next several years, but the property will remain rent-controlled. Capitol Park Tower was under contract in 2012 to UIP by the previous owner, but then the tenants association exercised their first right of refusal, which began a process to find an alternative buyer for the property. After a vetting process, eventually the current ownership group was able to purchase the building. 

In response to the pending sale of the building and potential for infill development, an application was filed in 2012 by SWNA to place Capitol Park Tower on the DC Preservation League’s endangered list. Capitol Tower was designed by Chloethiel Woodard Smith and built in 1962, part of the Capitol Park residential complex – a series of five high-rise buildings and two groups of townhouses arranged around open spaces and pathways. The property is also pending designation as a historic landmark by the Historic Preservation Review Board. However, it was reported in today’s Washington Business Journal that a foundation permit was issued for a six-story addition, which presumably will be built to the north of the existing building overlooking the Southwest Freeway where the parking structure and landscaped area are currently located. DCRA's website states that as of yesterday, the permit was still pending approval.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

2013 Southwest Waterfront Real Estate Market Snapshot

Below is a summary of pricing and average days on the market for condos and rowhomes in the 20024 zip code in 2013, courtesy of Slate Properties.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

M Street Yoga Opening Soon

Yogis, rejoice! A new yoga studio is on its way to the ground floor of Carrollsburg, A Condominium at 300 M Street. M Street Yoga will have two yoga studios that will be able to accommodate up to 35 mats. Southwest resident Pamela Fierst and her fiancée purchased a ground floor unit at Carrollsburg in 2013 that was originally used as storage, but was converted to a residential unit. Fierst was surprised that there were no yoga studios in Southwest aside from those in fitness centers, Randall, and 7th Street Landing in the summer, so she is excited to open the first studio in the neighborhood. Fierst has been practicing yoga for over 10 years and has been teaching for about two years. 

300 M Street.

There is an organic dry cleaners already in Carrollsburg, but a zoning change is needed to convert the condo unit to a yoga studio. Fierst hopes to obtain the necessary zoning change from residential to retail in order to move forward with opening the studio. The condominium board and the ANC have supported the zoning change and a hearing is scheduled with the Board of Zoning Adjustment on February 4. Renovations are scheduled to begin in either late January or early February and the studio should be open sometime in March. Fierst has been holding donation classes in the space three times a week until the zoning change is approved. So far, between $300 and $350 has been raised for Wounded Warriors. Since her fiancée is an army veteran and she works at the National War College in Fort McNair, the charity is near and dear to her heart. Donation classes are held on Tuesdays at 6pm, Thursdays at 7pm, and Saturdays at 10:30am. 

View of courtyard.

The larger yoga studio space faces a courtyard and has floor-to-ceiling windows, making it a serene location to practice yoga. M Street Yoga will operate seven days a week and at first will be offering evening and weekend classes. Eventually, morning classes will be offered. Prices have not been determined yet and a website is under development. For more information, contact M Street Yoga.

Second Southwest Neighborhood Plan Meeting Summary


While more than 250 people attended the Southwest Neighborhood Plan kickoff public meeting in September, turnout for the second meeting on December 11 was much lower. During the meeting, the audience was presented with the results of the Existing Conditions Analysis and detailed demographic data from the market study that is underway for the study area. There were ten themes that emerged from the September meeting from comments made by those who attended:
  1. Southwest Culture: Foster an environment that encourages and embraces cultural and economic diversity 
  2. Neighborhood Character: Preserve the varied scale and green character of the neighborhood
  3. Pedestrian/Safety: Designed buildings, connections and sidewalks to improve safety, security and pedestrian circulation 
  4. Retail: Support, enhance and expand neighborhood retail amenities 
  5. Parks: Enhance, connect and better utilize parks, both active and passive, as open space 
  6. Community Amenities: Invest in community and arts uses that serve resident needs 
  7. Housing: Preserve and develop a range of housing for a mix of income, age and family size and encourage quality design and architecture 
  8. Transportation: Strengthen multi-modal transportation; improve street connections, parking and safety 
  9. Historic Preservation: Remember the history and legacy of the Southwest community while looking ahead 
  10. New Development: Develop a strategy for height, density and open space that enhances, acknowledges and complements the character of the neighborhood 
Existing Conditions Analysis 
Even though Southwest is not currently in a historic district, several buildings have been registered with the Historic Preservation Review Board, including Potomac Place, Arena Stage, Waterfront Tower, and others, while Randall Recreation Center and Capitol Park Tower are pending designation. Southwest is unique in the city for its block structure, which is much longer than the typical block length in the city, a result of urban renewal. 

Several of the streets in Southwest have dead-ends due to the reconfiguration of the neighborhood during urban renewal. Only a few streets connect through the neighborhood to other areas, such as Maine Avenue/M Street (which carries between 17,800 and 26,400 cars per day), I Street (a section of I Street, SE in Near SE is currently under construction), South Capitol Street, and 4th Street. Vehicular access may not be ideal, but the entire planning area is within a 10-minute walk from a Metro station and 20 bus lines serve the area. Capital Bikeshare access is spotty, though - only one station is located in the planning area. 

Most of the publicly owned land is on the east side of Southwest and that is where there is the highest potential for change. These sites include Greenleaf, MPD first district headquarters at M Street and Delaware Avenue, the DMV just to the east, the FEMS Maintenance facility, as well as the inspection station and the privately owned lots along South Capitol Street. The Southwest Neighborhood Plan will not make recommendations for changes to existing, established residential areas, but will make suggestions to improve amenities such as parks and open space.

Greenleaf Extension was built in 1959.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Bike and Roll Coming to L'Enfant Plaza


Bike and Roll is moving from the Old Post Office Pavilion in NW to make way for its redevelopment as a hotel. The tourist bike operation will reopen on March 8 in the retail promenade at L'Enfant Plaza.  From the press release:
Centrally located, L'Enfant Plaza provides Bike and Roll with the perfect starting point for customers to begin their tours. Half a mile from the Washington Monument, less than a mile from the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and Capitol Building, and accessible by four metro lines, Bike and Roll DC's new location is the ideal gateway to Washington, DC. The new proximity to the Tidal Basin and Hains Point also offers tour-goers unparalleled, direct access to the storied cherry blossom trees.
The other Bike and Roll location in DC is located at Union Station.

Another Vacancy on ANC

ANC 6D Commissioner Ed Kaminski resigned from his post representing SMD 6D02 effective January 1, which leaves a vacancy on the ANC. This particular SMD is the only one that covers both sides of South Capitol Street. In Southwest, the SMD includes Capitol Park IV, Capitol Park Plaza, and Capitol Park Twin Towers. Residents of these communities as well as those in Near SE have a chance to run for the seat. In order to do so, candidates will need to visit the Board of Elections and file the necessary paperwork, then obtain 25 signatures over the next three weeks (which began last Monday). After a one week protest period where the signatures are verified, those who meet the requirements will be able to run for the seat. There will be a special election at the March 10 ANC meeting where residents of SMD 6D02 will be able to vote for a new ANC commissioner. If only one person qualifies for the position, they will win the seat without the need for an election. The newly elected commissioner will serve the remainder of Kaminski's term, which ends this year.

This is the third vacancy on the ANC since October. SMD 6D03 Commissioner Ron McBee passed away and SMD 6D01 Commissioner Donna Hopkins resigned shortly thereafter. Replacing them on the ANC are Rachel Reilly Carroll and Sam Marrero, respectively.

The next general election will be in November when all ANC 6D seats will be up for grabs.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

A Few Quick Items: DC United Deal, Waterfront Station Road Opens, L'Enfant Plaza Atrium

It was reported in Capital Business last month that members of the DC Council have been briefed on some of the details about the pending deal to build a new soccer stadium for DC United in Buzzard Point. From the article:
Two members were told that United would owe no sales tax on any commercial activity on the stadium footprint — including tickets, concessions and even businesses like restaurants that might locate adjacent to the stadium — throughout the team’s 30-year lease.
Property taxes would also be abated on a rolling schedule, according to two council members. For the first five years of the 30-year lease, the team would pay no property tax. For each subsequent five-year period, the team would pay an additional 25 percent of the tax normally due, with 100 percent owed for the last 10 years of the lease.
The city wants the team to build a stadium in time for the 2016 season at 2nd and R streets, adjacent to the gates of Fort McNair. The DC Council was supposed to receive legislation about the deal back in November according to the term sheet signed by the city and the team in July, but that date has slipped.

Rendering courtesy of Gensler

The private drive lane that runs in front of Safeway at Waterfront Station officially opened yesterday. The roadway serves Sky House East, which opened for leasing earlier this month. It is a one-way road that starts on M Street, runs north to the Sky House East garage entrance, then curves west past Safeway and meets 4th Street. On the other side of 4th Street, the roadway continues westbound to Sky House West and then loops south back to M Street. The western stretch of the road will remain closed until the other apartment tower is complete later this year. Caution signs will be put up near the Metro entrance to alert pedestrians about the opening of the roadway. The road will run west-east from 4th Street to M Street.

Progress is being made on the new glass atrium under construction in the plaza of L'Enfant Plaza. Phase two of the renovations to L'Enfant Plaza's retail promenade, including the atrium, is scheduled to open later this year.  The atrium will serve as the entrance to the retail area from the street and replaces the glass pyramid that used to be in the plaza. It will also allow more light to enter the retail promenade, which is partially below-grade.

Rendering of atrium.

Rendering courtesy of SmithGroup JJR

Monday, January 6, 2014

2013 in Review

Since 2013 has come to a close, let’s take a brief look back at the major events that shaped the year in Southwest and what is in store for 2014. 

The Wharf 

Arguably the largest development project in Southwest took a major step forward in 2013 when the Zoning Commission approved the Stage 2 Planned Unit Development (PUD) application for phase one of the Wharf. While ground breaking was supposed to occur by the end of 2013, the timeline has slipped to 2014 since a financing agreement has not been made public yet. Meanwhile, the houseboats at the Gangplank Marina were moved this fall to make way for construction and businesses along the waterfront were given notice to vacate within five months. 

Rendering courtesy of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront

Apartment Wave Hits Southwest 

Leasing began in April at Camden South Capitol, the first new rental apartment building to open in Southwest in decades. So far, more than half of the units at the 276-unit building have been leased; however, the ground floor retail space at South Capitol and O streets is still vacant. Camden hopes to attract a restaurant to the space, located across the street from Nationals Park. 

In addition, leasing was supposed to begin on December 2 at the East tower of Sky House, the adaptive reuse of the former EPA towers at Waterfront Station, but it was delayed by a month to January 2. There are a total of 266 units at the East tower, located at 1150 4th Street, with 20% set aside as affordable housing for residents earning up to 50% of Area Median Income. A second 264-unit tower will open in spring 2014 at 1151 4th Street. 

Waterfront Station 

Aside from Sky House, other activity is underway at Waterfront Station. The last retailer to open along 4th Street was Z-Burger back in 2012. Since then, it was learned in May that the two vacant storefronts on the northern end of 1101 4th Street have been leased by restaurateur Atul Bhola to open Masala Art, an Indian restaurant. This would be the second Masala Art restaurant – the other restaurant is located in Tenleytown. Building permits are stuck on the windows and visible work on the tenant build-out began in November. It is rumored that the restaurant will open in June 2014. This leaves two vacant retail spaces at Waterfront Station – one each at 1100 and 1101 4th Street. 

Meanwhile, planning is underway for a residential building by Forest City and Vornado on the vacant northwest parcel next to the future Masala Art. A PUD was filed in late 2012 and the project went through the zoning approval process in 2013, with PUD approval received in September. The 360-unit building will have all market-rate units and approximately 5,300 square feet of ground floor retail space. There will be 12 two-level townhouse units with private entrances on Makemie Place and along a private drive to be built to the north of the project. Construction may begin sometime in 2014. 

Rendering courtesy of Waterfront 1001 4th Street, LLC

Town Center East 

In June, HPRB designated both multifamily buildings at Town Center East and the grounds as historic. The buildings, located on 3rd Street between K Street and M Street, were designed by I.M. Pei and built in 1960-61. The owners at Waterfront Tower, along with the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly, applied for historic designation in response to a PUD submitted by The Bernstein Companies to build two large multifamily buildings on the parking lots of the existing Pei buildings and a smaller building on the courtyard separating the two existing buildings. After the HPRB designation, the Bernstein Companies altered their plans and among several things, removed a small building that was to be built along 3rd Street. After reviewing the changes, the ANC reversed their prior disapproval with the PUD and offered conditional support in September.

Rendering courtesy of Maurice Walters Architect, PC

A contentious proposal to build a charter high school for KIPP DC kept the future of the Randall Recreation Center site at South Capitol and I streets in limbo. Back in the fall of 2012, the District government announced that Randall would be one of 32 playgrounds across the city that it would improve during the 2013 fiscal year. In addition, the plaza area facing I Street would be upgraded with a skate park and fountains. The project was put on hold while the KIPP proposal was being vetted, but ultimately, the city decided against the KIPP proposal. It’s unknown at this point when the playground and plaza area will be improved, but presumably it will happen sometime in 2014. Meanwhile, some limited programming was implemented over the summer at the recreation center, which has been underfunded and underutilized for years. More robust programming is now underway, which started this week

Next door to the pool and recreation center, Telesis/Rubell have been advancing their plans for the Randall Junior High School site. According to the revised PUD, a non-profit contemporary art museum from the collection of the Rubell family will be located in the original 1906 center building - the first floor of the museum will be used as a community cultural space that is open to the public, with an art gallery featuring local artists, 100-seat auditorium, library, bookstore, café, and meeting space. The upper two levels will house the museum exhibits. Other arts-related uses will be located in the west wing – perhaps a culinary incubator. A destination 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. The courtyard will be open to the public and six commercial spaces may be created on the ground level facing the courtyard containing artist studios. Twenty percent of the residential units will be set aside as affordable to households earning up to 80% of AMI. The ANC gave qualified support for the PUD and the Historic Preservation Review Board approved the project in November, while the Zoning Commission generally showed support for the project at the hearing in December. The PUD is likely to receive approval during the first half of 2014 with construction on the first phase (including the historic buildings and at least one of the residential buildings) either in late 2014 or 2015. 

Rendering courtesy of  Bing Thom Architects