Monday, October 31, 2016

District Wharf Photo Update

The countdown is on for the grand opening of the first phase of development at District Wharf (formerly known as The Wharf). A new clock was installed along Maine Avenue, counting down the days until October 12, 2017. While 525 Water and St. Augustine’s church are both complete, the bulk of construction for phase one won’t be complete until next fall. The massive parking garage which will span most of the development will open in the middle of 2017. Many of the buildings have already “topped-off”, but progress seems to be furthest along on the apartments at 750 Maine Avenue and VIO condos. Meanwhile, 1000 Maine Avenue is finally starting to come out of the ground. A law firm may be one of the office tenants in either 1000 Maine or 800 Maine, which would be a significant milestone for the project and the Southwest Waterfront neighborhood since the majority of office tenants that have traditionally called Southwest home are government agencies or contractors. Following are a few progress photos taken from East Potomac Park.

Parcel 2 apartments & Wharf Hall
Parcel 1, District Pier & Parcel 2

District Pier & Intercontinental Hotel
Intercontinental Hotel, VIO &
Capitol Yacht Club (center) 

Docks under construction near Pier 4
Hyatt House & Canopy by Hilton 

View looking north
View looking south

Thursday, October 27, 2016

More Stadium Drama

ANC 6D met earlier this month to vote on whether to support the D.C. United stadium PUD project at 2nd and R streets in Buzzard Point. The venue is planned as a 19,100-seat soccer stadium that can also be used for other events, including concerts and other sporting events. During the ANC meeting, Victor Melara, Director of Community Relations for D.C. United described some additional community benefits the team has agreed to, including $50,000 for an air purifier system at the construction site; a health fair for Buzzard Point residents; and monthly community meetings to be held at King-Greenleaf Recreation Center. John Knight from architectural firm Populous reviewed the design of the stadium and a representative from Gorove/Slade did a transportation review. 

The ANC voted unanimously to withhold support for the project until a variety of items have been addressed by the team. One of the major outstanding issues yet to be resolved is transportation. There are few roads in and out of the Buzzard Point peninsula, so game-day at the stadium could cause traffic gridlock. Although there are no parking spaces on-site at the stadium, the team identified more than 7,000 off-street parking spaces that could be used during games – about 3,700 spaces have already been secured. Projected demand ranges from 2,700 to 3,900 spaces. Many of these spaces are also used by the Nationals, but the two teams have agreed to coordinate their schedules so none of their games occur concurrently. Also, the nearest Metro stations are more than a half mile away, so pedestrians will need to cross South Capitol Street in order to access the stadium from the Navy Yard Metro. Construction on the new Frederick Douglass Bridge and traffic oval will not be complete before the stadium opens, so this may pose a hazard for pedestrians. While Waterfront Metro is a secondary access point for the stadium, using this option would drive pedestrian traffic through residential neighborhoods.

Environmental issues also remain a major concern for the ANC. The stadium site is contaminated and a voluntary environmental clean-up is necessary to prepare it for development. However, the ANC wants to make sure best practices are in place for the clean-up, preventative remediation measures provided to the community (such as air purifiers, dust mats, and vacuums) and the health of nearby residents is monitored. One audience member who lives near the stadium site complained of a burning sensation in his throat, likely due to work being done in the area.

Meanwhile, a campaign effort by a group of developers to force D.C. United to improve the stadium design ahead of November’s Zoning Commission hearing has resulted in additional changes to the project. Fliers have been circulated around the community documenting some of the issues the developers have with the stadium design, which include the lack of retail along the perimeter (except for a team store on R Street), no on-site parking, minimal vehicular access on 1st Street, and noise (the preliminary design included covered seating around the stadium, but the current one has it only on the east and west sides). Since the ANC meeting, the team has come to an “agreeable solution” with the neighboring developers, but needs more time to revise architectural drawings. The Zoning Commission was scheduled to meet on November 2 to discuss the stadium PUD, but the hearing has been postponed to November 28 in order for the team to further revise its application. This will give the ANC the opportunity to review the revised application and perhaps change their stance on the stadium project.

Renderings courtesy of D.C. United

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Lease Signed for Artechouse at The Portals

The SW arts scene is about to expand further. A 15,000 SF space initially designed for a performing arts venue at 1250 Maryland Avenue at The Portals has finally found a tenant. A lease was recently signed by Art Soiree, which according to the organization’s website is “a Washington, DC based organization that is committed to curating, conceiving and realizing contemporary art exhibitions, festivals and art projects.” The organization has been around for seven years and during that time, they have hosted hundreds of pop-up events at different venues, but the Portals will allow them to have a permanent space to host exhibits and special events. 

According to ABRA, the name of the venue will be Artechouse and will serve as a multi-purpose facility, an arts and cultural gallery space with multifaceted program uses, including but not limited to theater, exhibits, live music, performances, film screenings, installations, public and private events. The maximum occupancy will be 375 people and they plan to host about 200 events a year. At a hearing back in September, the applicants expressed their desire to open in time for the Presidential Inauguration in January 2017. An ABRA hearing is scheduled for December 12 and ANC 6D will consider their CX license application tomorrow.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Dispute Over Stadium Design

A campaign effort is now underway by a group of developers to force D.C. United to improve their stadium design ahead of next month’s Zoning Commission hearing. Now that D.C. United has control of the stadium footprint, zoning approval is the next step needed before construction can begin. The Washington Post reports that Akridge, Western Development, Capital City Real Estate, and Steuart Investment Company have lobbied city officials and the team to make improvements to the design, claiming there was a “bait and switch” from the preliminary design to their current plans. I received a flier about the stadium design in my mailbox earlier this week, which at first I thought was made by a neighbor, but it turns out it was from the PR team hired by the developers, which own property near the stadium site. Akridge owns seven acres south of the stadium (two additional acres were taken by eminent domain to create the stadium site). They also own the former Coast Guard headquarters building with Western and other developers where they plan to redevelop into a mixed use development called Riverpoint. Capital City Real Estate owns land next to the Riverpoint project and plan to start construction next year on a condominium project called Peninsula 88. Meanwhile, Steuart Investment Company owns several lots to the east of the stadium site, although no development plans have been announced yet for those sites. 

Preliminary design for the stadium,
Some of their issues include the lack of retail along the perimeter of the stadium (except for a team store), no on-site parking, minimal vehicular access on 1st Street, and noise. As noted in the article, Akridge and Western have made an offer on the adjacent parcel to the east of the stadium, where they intend to build a residential building with ground floor retail. In addition, they have hired an architect to reconfigure the stadium design to allow for additional retail and have offered to purchase that space carved out of the ground floor. D.C. United made some changes to their original PUD in response to concerns from the Zoning Commission, including reintroducing 1st Street on the east side of the stadium site and activating the large plaza along Potomac Avenue. However, the team doesn’t seem too keen on the additional changes proposed by the neighboring developers. From the article: 
[D.C. United owner Jason] Levien questioned the motivations of his opponents, saying Akridge and Miller were threatening to hold the stadium hostage in order to pressure the team into selling its retail space to them. “I would encourage you to ask Akridge why they are so interested now in this project when they’ve had that land for years and haven’t built anything,” Levien said. 
The dispute threatens to delay the stadium project, which was scheduled to start construction in early 2017 and open sometime during the 2018 season. The Zoning Commission will meet on November 2, but before that, ANC 6D meets on Monday at 7pm where they will vote on whether to support the stadium project. It should be an interesting couple of weeks of stadium drama… 

Renderings courtesy of D.C. United

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Signs of Life for Randall School Project?

There was a feature in Washingtonian about the Mera and Donald Rubell, who own the Capitol Skyline Hotel and have teamed up with Telesis to redevelop the former Randall School at First and Half streets into a modern art museum, restaurant, and 500+ multifamily rental apartments in two high-rise buildings. The revised project was approved back in 2014, but nothing has happened at the site. Earlier this year, it was announced at a community meeting that the development team added Lowe Enterprises to the project. In the Washingtonian article, it states “after years of delays, the couple is poised to break ground.” Unfortunately, the project architect Bing Thom (who also designed the remodeled Arena Stage) won’t be able to see the project to fruition since he passed away this week. 

Rendering courtesy of Bing Thom Architects

Monday, October 3, 2016

Buzzard Point Update

Over the weekend, the District transferred control of the D.C. United stadium site in Buzzard Point to the team, according to The Washington Post. The District was responsible for assembling the land, razing the existing buildings, and utilities upgrades. A revised PUD application was released over the summer and the team will be facing the Zoning Commission in November. If the stadium plan receives approval, construction can begin in early 2017. As a result, the scheduled opening of the new stadium has now slipped a few months to at least June 2018. The team will likely have to plan an extended road trip in the first part of the 2018 MLS season before they can play their first match in their new home since they intend to leave RFK at the end of the 2017 season. 

Meanwhile, construction continues at the new Pepco Waterfront substation, with the steel frame of the south side of the building now up. Road closures around the construction sites of the stadium and the substation are now in effect, limiting access to the area. The substation is scheduled to be completed in 2017. 

Akridge has revived their marketing for 100 V Street, the seven-acre site they own just south of the stadium site (the site was originally nine acres – two acres were taken by eminent domain for the stadium project). 100 V Street is now planned as a 2.4-million SF mixed-use development (it previously was planned as an ideal location for a federal tenant pre-soccer stadium). The site is just north of the former Coast Guard headquarters building, which will be redeveloped by a team of developers including Akridge to a mixed-use project called Riverpoint with rental apartments, condos, and retail. 

The new owner of the site to the east of the Riverpoint project has renamed the proposed condominium Peninsula 88. A press release was sent last month stating the new name and that plans were submitted to the Zoning Commission (the plans are not yet available online). Even though the architect remains the same as what it was under the previous owner, the design has been changed. Part of the site is currently being used as a flower farm, which was featured in The Southwester. Construction on the condo project is expected to start in 2017.

Renderings courtesy of D.C. United and Akridge