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

DC United Stadium

It has been rumored for years that DC United would build a new soccer stadium in Buzzard Point and on July 25, 2013, Mayor Gray announced at a press conference that a deal had been reached between the team and the city for a LEED-certified 20,000 to 25,000 seat stadium at 2nd and R streets. The cost of the $300 million stadium will be split between the city and the team. According to the term sheet signed by Gray and United owner Jason Levien after the press conference, DC United will spend $150 million to build the stadium while the District will spend $40 million (up to a maximum of $50 million) on infrastructure improvements/environmental remediation and approximately $100 million for land assembly; however, the city intends not to actually use cash to purchase land for the stadium, but instead will do a series of land swaps. Several steps still need to be completed before the stadium is built. The aggressive timetable set in the term sheet dictates that the District needs to have site control of the stadium footprint and DC Council approval by January 1, 2014; however, that date has already slipped. The DC Council is being briefed on the terms of the deal and is expected to vote on the proposal in the coming months. If approved, construction is scheduled to begin by the second half of 2015 with completion set for the beginning of 2017, but both parties are aiming for completion in time for the 2016 MLS season. 

Rendering courtesy of HKS


April Fool’s Day jokes aside, DCHA applied in the spring for a HUD Choice Neighborhoods Planning Grant to aid in the eventual redevelopment of Greenleaf, a trio of public housing communities. 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. While DCHA did not receive the grant, it still intends to begin redeveloping the complex over the next five years, most likely in a public-private partnership. 


Legislation was introduced in September to the DC Council to create a new Business Improvement District (BID) in Southwest. The creation of the BID was one of the things that Hoffman-Madison Waterfront agreed to do as part of their PUD application for the Wharf. The rough boundaries of the SWBID are Independence Avenue to the north, 15th Street and Water Street to the west, Maine Avenue and M Street to the south, and South Capitol Street to the east. Over the next year, there will be several initiatives undertaken by the BID, including an ambassador program; a "clean team", an inventory of public space; homeless outreach; creating a transportation network; a merchandising plan to attract and maintain businesses; creating special events; developing an identity for the BID; and keep stakeholders updated on progress made by the BID. If the DC Council and the Department of Small and Local Business Development approves the BID creation, services could begin as soon as the spring of 2014. 

Lansburgh Park 

New amenities were built at Lansburgh Park along Delaware Avenue during 2013. The tennis courts that used to be at the park were converted to basketball courts to replace the one lost when Amidon-Bowen Elementary School received a new turf soccer field and playground. In addition, a new community garden was dedicated by the SW Community Gardens group in late July, thanks to a $50,000 grant the group received in a nationwide competition from Fiskars called the 2013 Project Orange Thumb Garden Makeover. Meanwhile, the PAWS of SW received approval from DPR for a 10,000 square-foot dog park to be built near the community garden. There will be two areas – a 2,000 square-foot space for small dogs and an 8,000 square-foot space for large dogs. Work on the dog park should be underway sometime in 2014 once enough funds have been raised. 

400 E Street 

More than five years after DMPED first put out a solicitation to bid on a parcel at 4th and E streets and a second nearby parcel, a ceremonial groundbreaking occurred at 400 E Street in December. In January 2013, it was learned that the project would change from an office building to a 214-key select service hotel; however, a new Engine 13 firehouse would still be built on the ground floor. In October, it was revealed that Hyatt Place would be the hotel operator. E Street Development Group estimates that the hotel and firehouse will open in 2015. 

Rendering courtesy of WDG

Planning for the Future 

There is probably no other area of the city that has as many planning initiatives going on concurrently as there are in Southwest. The year was filled with community meetings to gather input or share findings for a variety of plans, including the SW Ecodistrict Initiative, the Southwest Neighborhood Plan, Federal Triangle South, the Maryland Avenue Transportation Study, North-South Corridor Planning Study, the Long Bridge Study, and others. 

Image courtesy of Graphic Recorder Jim Nuttle


Wizzyliz said...

Thank you for keeping us updated with neighborhood news and best wishes for 2014! It's going to be a GREAT YEAR! said...

Thanks for a great summary. I didn't see any mention of the PUD approval for an 11-story apartment building on the St. Matthews property at Delaware and M?

SWill said...

Thanks! The PUD was approved in 2012, but construction may begin in the third quarter of 2014 if financing is secured.

Unknown said...

Great article, thanks! Do you know when construction on the Wharf project will actually break ground and if any retailers have expressed interest in the two vacant waterfront station properties?

SWill said...

If I knew those details I would have most certainly included them in the post. :-)