Saturday, April 19, 2014

A Few Quick Saturday Morning Items: GSA Open House, Circulator Pop-Up Meetings, Running of the Chihuahuas, New Amidon-Bowen Windows

The GSA will host an open house on April 30 at the SW Library to solicit input on their RFQ involving the transfer of the Cotton Annex and GSA regional headquarters in exchange for construction services at GSA HQ and up to three historic properties at St. Elizabeths. As a part of the RFQ process, GSA needs to perform an Environmental Assessment, which involves community engagement, hence the planned open house. In addition, the GSA will be accepting comments on the "scope" of the Environmental Assessment through May 14. Comments can be sent by email to to via snail mail to:
Suzanne Hill, Regional Environmental Planning Officer
U.S. General Services Administration, NCR
301 7th Street, SW, Room 4004
Washington, DC 20407
 Image courtesy of GSA

DDOT will be hosting a series of "pop-up" meetings next week to solicit feedback on the Circulator system. One will be held at the Waterfront Metro station on Thursday, April 24 from 3:30-6:30pm. A survey to gather feedback will open April 22 on the DC Circulator website. Each participant will be entered to win a $50 SmarTrip card with a winner randomly selected after the survey closes on May 9.  As a part of the Mayor's FY 2015 budget proposal, the Union Station - Navy Yard Metro Circulator line will be extended to Southwest.

The third annual Running of the Chihuahuas will take place on May 3 at Gangplank Park at The Wharf (between 6th and 7th streets) from 12-3pm.  The entry fee is $20 and there will be cash prizes totaling $500. Entry fees will benefit animal charities. In previous years, PAWS of Southwest was the beneficiary, but the dog park is now fully funded and should open within the next couple of months at Lansburgh Park. Be on the look out for a leash-cutting ceremony soon. 

Renovations continue at Amidon-Bowen Elementary. The latest improvements include new windows, which have been installed over the past couple of weeks. Other improvements that have been made over the past couple of years include a substantial interior renovation that happened two summers ago, as well as a new playground and soccer field.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Reivew of "Camp David"

Currently making its world premiere at Arena Stage is Camp David, directed by Artistic Director Molly Smith and written by Lawrence Wright. Camp David tells the story of the peace talks that took place during the 13-day meeting in 1978 that President Jimmy Carter (portrayed by Richard Thomas) hosted between Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin (Ron Rifkin) and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat (Khaled Nabawy) at the presidential retreat, nestled in the Cacoctin Mountain Park in Maryland. Hallie Foote (who portrays Rosalynn Carter) rounds out the cast, along with U.S. Marines that make a cameo. 

Humor helps lighten the mood of a production that deals with a very serious topic – peace talks between Israel and Egypt, with Rosalynn Carter’s character providing the most comic relief. The turning point in the tense negotiations between Begin and Sadat is when Carter takes the pair to Gettysburg and each recite portions of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. History buffs will especially enjoy Camp David, since TV and movie producer Gerald Rafshoon, who was White House communications director during the summit, was the producer.  I thoroughly enjoyed Camp David, and recommend you see it soon. Camp David runs through May 4 in the Kreeger Theater. Tickets are available here

Photo by Teresa Wood, courtesy of Arena Stage

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Couple Quick Thursday Afternoon Items: Kastles Stadium to Waterfront Station?, Media Attention on The Wharf

There is the possibility that the Washington Kastles will return to Southwest for a fourth season, but the stadium would be located at Waterfront Station instead of The Wharf. The empty lot owned by Vornado and Forest City Washington on the northwest corner of 4th and M streets is being eyed by the team for their stadium, with seven home matches scheduled from July 9-22. The last use on that site was for trailers used by CVS and Bank of America while phase one of Waterfront Station was being built (CVS moved to their new home on 4th Street in 2010 while Bank of America decided to move to Near SE/Capitol Riverfront/Navy Yard). Eventually, the empty lot will become an office building with ground floor retail. Prior to their three-year stint on the Southwest Waterfront, the Kastles played at the old convention center site downtown which eventually became CityCenter DC. The Kastles stadium plan will be discussed at next Monday’s May's ANC 6D meeting. (h/t ANC Commissioner Marrero) 

The redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront was featured today on The Kojo Nnamdi Show on WAMU. A feature on The Wharf was also done on WMAU’s Metro Connection late last month. Kojo’s guests were PN Hoffman’s Monty Hoffman and Washington Post architecture critic Roger Lewis. Speaking of critics, the Commission of Fine Arts mentioned in a review of The Wharf that the public spaces planned at the project threaten to become “carnivalesque,” according to an article in the Washington Business Journal. From the article: 
“They cautioned that the design continues to present unnecessary emphasis on specific moments or events within this linear urban space — using too many materials, too many elements, and too many unrelated forms — which may result in a carnivalesque character, and they suggested editing the vocabulary of design elements to create a calmer, more dignified effect,” [CFA Secretary Thomas] Luebke wrote [to DC Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins].

Monday, April 7, 2014

GSA's Latest RFQ Involves Federal Triangle South Parcels

The General Services Administration (GSA) issued a Request for Qualifications today to interested entities that can provide construction and related services in an “Exchange Consideration” for GSA’s headquarters building at 1800 F Street, NW and for up to three buildings at St. Elizabeths West for use by the Department of Homeland Security in exchange for the Cotton Annex and GSA’s National Capital Region Regional Office Building in Federal Triangle South. This area south of the National Mall has a concentration of GSA-owned office buildings that the agency is looking to either modernize or redevelop. 

The Cotton Annex is a nearly two-acre parcel located at 12th and C streets, across the street from GSA’s Central Heating and Refrigeration Plant and cattycorner from The Portals complex. According to testimony given by the GSA in 2012, the Cotton Annex was built in 1937 and was used by the Department of Agriculture until 2007, when the agency vacated the space. The parking lot behind the building has most recently been used by the Federal Protective Service to inspect packages and trucks that visit the Ronald Reagan Building International Trade Center downtown. The building was considered to house the National Health Museum and the National Women’s History Museum was interested in the vacant triangular parcel north of C Street. The six-story building is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places. 

The second property is the GSA Regional Office Building (ROB), a three-acre facility located at 7th and D streets, across the street from HUD headquarters and L’Enfant Plaza. It is a 942,000 square-foot, seven-story office building with one level below-grade that is currently occupied by GSA. These employees would move to the F Street, NW headquarters once those renovations are complete. The rear of the  ROB fronts on the L’Enfant commuter rail station and Reservation 113, both of which are recommended for improvements in NCPC’s Southwest Ecodistrict Initiative. The office building is not eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, so any redevelopment at the site would be easier to complete. Perhaps part of the land could be used as a “Union Station South” that could be an intermodal transit station with Metro, bus, VRE, MARC, and streetcar service? 

Don’t expect activity on these sites to happen anytime soon; however, renovations to the GSA Headquarters and the St. Elizabeths administration buildings must be completed before the parcels are conveyed to the winning developer in Quitclaim Deeds. Responses are due for Stage One of the solicitation by May 22. After that, those that qualify will be invited to a second stage of the solicitation to submit specific proposals. Then, a winner will be selected sometime in 2015. What uses do you envision for these two sites?

Image courtesy of GSA

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Couple Thursday Morning Quick Items: DC United Stadium Speculation, Randall Rec Center Funds

Soccer Insider from The Washington Post speculated about the soccer stadium deal’s chances for success depending on who wins the DC Democratic Mayoral primary. With Ward 4 Council member Muriel Bowser’s victory Tuesday night over Mayor Gray, the author theorized that the deal may still have a chance to move forward. From the article:
Where does Bowser stand? Initially, she came out against the proposal, saying she would not support a plan that would turn over the city-owned Reeves Center at 14th and U streets NW to a developer in exchange for a large parcel on the stadium footprint. Her stance was fueled in large part by politics: opposing a major Gray initiative ahead of the campaign.

But in recent months, her tone has softened and those involved in the stadium talks believe, in the event she wins, they could work with her. One figure said Bowser is “open-minded and reasonable. She wants the right deal.”

Terms of the proposal would probably have to change and the process would slow, but the plan could remain on track, especially if Bowser retained City Administrator Allen Lew, Gray’s stadium point man. 
Rendering courtesy of Gensler

The CBCC tweeted on Tuesday (not an April Fools’ Day joke) that over $1 million that had been held up for months by the city to rebuild the playground and plaza area at the Randall Recreation Center on South Capitol and I streets has finally been released. The park funding had been in limbo since 2013 when KIPP unsuccessfully lobbied to build a charter school on the site. The planned improvements include:
  • New playground equipment for all ages 
  • Renovation of the existing basketball / tennis courts 
  • Renovation of the plaza area to include a splash park and sitting areas 
  • A skate park 
  • Walking path around the fields 
  • Adult exercise equipment 
  • New fencing, landscaping, and gates 
  • Security lighting 
  • Removal of asphalt and brick walls 
  • New drinking fountains, picnic tables, game tables, trash cans, recycling cans, bike racks, and signage 
In addition to the renovations, the front door and windows at the rec center may be replaced with new ones. There is no estimate yet for when the playground and plaza will be completed.

Rendering courtesy of DPR

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Exclusive: Trader Joe's Coming to The Wharf (APRIL FOOLS POST)

It was announced this morning that Trader Joe’s has signed a letter of intent to open a 10,000 SF grocery store at The Wharf. The grocer will be located along Maine Avenue in Parcel 4A, which is the ground level of a planned mixed income apartment building. This will be the third Trader Joe’s to open in the District following the ones in the West End and the recently-opened store at 14th and U streets, NW. Currently, Safeway is the only grocery store located south of the freeway and west of the river, but by later this year, it will be joined by Harris Teeter (located in Near SE/Navy Yard/Capitol Riverfront), a Whole Foods in 2016 (also on the other side of South Capitol Street) and Trader Joe’s at The Wharf in 2017. Trader Joe’s wouldn’t have considered the area for a new store only a couple years ago, but with news of a Whole Foods and Harris Teeter coming nearby and the slew of residential construction activity, the grocer reconsidered and now wants to be on the waterfront, according to a prepared statement by a Trader Joe’s representative. 

While most of the retail space along the new Wharf Street at The Wharf will be reserved for restaurants, Maine Avenue was designed to contain neighborhood-oriented retail and Trader Joe’s fits the bill. In order to accommodate the grocer, DDOT is considering placing one of the planned streetcar stops that will run along Maine Avenue at the intersection of 7th Street and Maine Avenue, so the stop will be as close to the grocery store as possible. 

Note: Don’t forget that today is Primary Election Day in DC…and that this sentence is the only one in this post that isn’t a joke. 

Rendering courtesy of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Few Thursday Morning Quick Items: Channel Inn Closing, Job Fair, Tiber Island

The Channel Inn, along with Pier 7 restaurant will be closing for good on March 31 to become the temporary headquarters of the construction team of The Wharf and the temporary home of the Capital Yacht Club.  Ahead of the closing date, Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells will host a Legacy Celebration this Saturday from 7-9pm.  After the Channel Inn and Pier 7 closes, everything will be sold at auction on April 21. 

The DC Job Fair will be held tomorrow at Arena Stage, in partnership with Ward 6 Council member Tommy Wells' office. This will be the third job fair held at Arena since the first was held in conjunction with its production of Good People in early 2013. Recruiting companies onsite March 28 will include Athena Consulting, Big Bus Tours, Clark Construction, CLP Resources, Forest City Washington, Keany Produce, Safeway, Specialty Hospital of Washington, Trusted Solutions, United States Secret Service, U.S. Army and U.S. Postal Service. Non-profit employment organization Jobs Have Priority (JHP) will also be onsite to assist attendees with the employment search and application process.A full list of recruiting companies can be found here.

A power struggle is underway at Tiber Island, as chronicled in The Washington Post. It stems from the renovations that have occurred in the property and disagreements with how the community should be run, which is located adjacent to The Wharf.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Wharf Breaks Ground

Representatives from the Hoffman-Madison Waterfront team, political leaders, and neighborhood residents gathered in a large tent at the site of the former Kastles Stadium this morning for a groundbreaking ceremony to start construction on The Wharf project along the Southwest Waterfront. This day has been a long time coming…more than eight years have gone by since Hoffman-Madison Waterfront first began the process, which included countless community meetings, seven DC Council votes, three acts of Congress, and one Great Recession, but groundbreaking is here at last. By next year, eight cranes will become a fixture along the waterfront to join the 57 other tower cranes across the city.

A choir from Amidon-Bowen Elementary School started off the program with two songs, followed by an invocation from Reverend Martha Clark of St. Augustine’s Church. Then, Monty Hoffman from PN Hoffman took to the stage and introduced the partners in the project, while describing the long process that culminated with this morning’s ceremony. In describing his interactions with Ward 6 Council Member Tommy Wells for instance, Hoffman noted that Wells had four main themes that he wanted addressed with the project: 
  1. Sustainability – The Wharf will be LEED-Gold certified and will have a cistern system that will be able to handle up to two inches of rainwater, along with a co-generation plant that will provide electricity to the parking garages. 
  2. Inclusiveness – Over 200 units will be set aside as affordable housing for a variety of income levels, starting as low as 30% of AMI. 
  3. The Lower 30 Feet – The designers took great care in the pedestrian experience by designing the lower levels on a human scale. 
  4. Keep Bufus! – King Ribs was the first vendor to appear on the waterfront and will remain once the project is complete – Bufus’ barbecue was available for all to enjoy after the groundbreaking ceremony, along with food from other waterfront establishments, including Cantina Marina, Jenny’s Asian Fusion, and Captain White’s Seafood. 

Next up was David Brainerd from Madison Marquette who provided some specifics about The Wharf:
  • 1,350 residential units 
  • 700 hotel keys 
  • 900,000 square feet of office space 
  • Ground floor retail 
  • Wharf Hall that will bring “top music acts from around the world” 
  • A series of mews and alleys leading to Jazz Alley, which will include a movie house 
  • Market Square adjacent to the Maine Avenue Fish Market that will be “the hub of food activity for the whole Mid-Atlantic” 
  • 10+ acres of public space 
  • 500 boat slips 
  • Four piers, including a recreation pier, transit pier, District Pier, and the existing Pier 4 
  • A mile-long cobblestone-like waterfront promenade  

Following Brainerd were speeches from politicians, including DC Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Congressman Darrell Issa, Mayor Gray, Wells, Ward 2 Council Member Jack Evans (who used to represent SW back in the 90s), Ward 4 Council Member Muriel Bowser, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins, and ANC 6D Vice Chair Andy Litsky, whose single-member district includes the liveaboard community at the Gangplank Marina. Litsky had a few memorable lines (one of them referenced the name of this blog), but the one that probably elicited the most applause was his description of creating a first class waterfront where “we won’t need a casino to keep it afloat.” (For those who don’t know, a MGM Grand casino hotel is coming to National Harbor downriver in Prince George’s County.)

After the speeches, the VIPs went outside in the rain and ceremoniously turned some dirt that was set up for the event. The waterfront setting allowed for the John Glenn water boat from the fire department to spray water along the Washington Channel following the photo-op. The program ended with a catered lunch and live music from a jazz band. Despite the rain, it was a well-attended event, which several of the speakers noted, including Gray and Bowser. After all, this is a $2 billion development in the Little Quadrant That Could (Can).

 Rendering courtesy of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront

Friday, March 14, 2014

Here Comes the Fence...


As more tangible signs (both literal and figurative) begin to appear along the Southwest Waterfront confirming that construction is imminent on phase one of the billion dollar Wharf development, whose groundbreaking is scheduled for March 19 at 11am, let’s take a brief look back one last time at the portion of the Southwest Waterfront that soon will be history. 

A large Coming in 2017 sign will likely be installed here at 9th St & Maine Ave.

Phillips Flagship occupies roughly where Parcel 2 will be built. An entertainment venue called Wharf Hall with capacity for up to 6,500 patrons, along with a co-generation plant and two mixed income apartment buildings (several with micro units), will replace Phillips Flagship. A Transit Pier will be built nearby to serve water taxis and can accommodate several roles, such as an ice skating rink in the winter and (with the addition of barges along its sides for seating) a stadium for the Washington Kastles, if they choose to return. The building which houses the Capital Yacht Club and Jenny’s Asian Fusion will make way for a temporary parking lot (or an office building if an anchor tenant can be found – at one point The Wharf was a contender for the new Washington Post headquarters, although it is unclear if that is still the case). 



Transit Pier in foreground and Parcel 2 located to the left.

The plaza where 9th Street dead-ends at Water Street will be transformed into District Pier, a 650-foot pier that will start at Maine Avenue and extend out into the Washington Channel. District Pier will be where tall ships dock and the Dockmaster building will be located at the channel end of the pier. On the land side, District Pier will serve as the area where visitors will emerge from the parking garage and begin to interact with The Wharf with retail shops and cafes. 

Future site of District Pier.
View from Washington Channel.

District Pier and Intercontinental Hotel from the Washington Channel.

H2O Nightclub/Hogates was torn down nearly four years ago and was replaced temporarily by Kastles Stadium. The stadium was in place for three years and during that time, the Washington Kastles won three Mylan WTT championships and lost only once at home during that stretch. Kastles Stadium has been dismantled and will be replaced by Parcel 3, an office building and an Intercontinental Hotel. The office building will face Maine Avenue and the hotel will be on Wharf Street, a woonerf (a Dutch term for a street where pedestrians and cyclists have priority over vehicles) that will run along the length of the waterfront, with areas for outdoor café seating, a promenade, and limited vehicular traffic. A new Capital Yacht Club will be built adjacent to the hotel on the Wharf Street side. Next door is Parcel 4 which will be a mixed income apartment building facing Maine Avenue and a luxury condo building facing Wharf Street. 

Hogates was demolished in 2010.
Kastles Stadium opened in 2011.

Parcel 3 office building along Maine Avenue.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

SW Branch Library Site Up in the Air

The future of the Southwest branch library site is one of the issues that have come up during the Southwest Neighborhood Plan process, which has been underway since last summer. Over $8 million in funding was in the 2012 budget to make substantial renovations to the existing building through 2018, which was built in the 1960s.  A mini-makeover was done to the space in 2011.

The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and the Office of Planning are pushing for a plan to include a new Southwest library as a component of a mixed use building on a 4th Street parcel the city owns at Waterfront Station. The city has been building several new or substantially renovated libraries recently – mostly as standalone buildings; however, a library in a mixed-use building is planned in the West End and there are plans to potentially put a non-library addition in the flagship MLK library downtown. Theoretically, the current library site would be sold to a developer and a high-rise residential building placed on the site. Moving the library to 4th Street would give it a more prominent location in the neighborhood, but if located on the first floor, it could replace precious retail space planned along 4th. 

Locations of existing and proposed library sites.

Meanwhile, community leaders are calling for a standalone library at its current site, located at Wesley Place and K Street. For instance, in an open letter to the mayor in January, the CBCC called for a standalone library. During the Mayoral and Ward 6 Council forums, most of the candidates stated their preference for a standalone library when asked by the moderator. Some of the new, standalone libraries built in recent years include those in Bellevue, Anacostia, and Deanwood, while others that are architecturally significant have been substantially renovated, such as those in Petworth, Georgetown, and Northeast. A playground is planned (and mostly funded) at the park next door to the current library and would create synergy between the two spaces. 

Do you prefer a standalone SW branch library in its current location or one in a mixed use building on 4th Street? Vote in the poll on the left sidebar of the blog and/or leave a comment.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Wharf Groundbreaking Set for March 19

Following yesterday's front page coverage in the WBJ about The Wharf, this week's Capital Business reveals additional details about the project, including the date that most Southwesters have been waiting to hear - groundbreaking is set for March 19. Here are some new details from the article about what is coming to The Wharf:
  • In addition to Wharf Hall, a movie house may be coming, although Hoffman-Madison Waterfront states that at this point it is still a concept.
  • Other retailers include a jazz club, along with a piano bar, country-western bar, and an Irish pub. Local restaurant groups are coming to the development, although no specific ones have been announced yet.
  • The Francis Case Memorial Bridge will be adorned with LED lighting (pending approval). I suggested something like that in a post back in 2008.
  • Private financing is coming from French Canadian firm PSP Investments.
The Capital Business article is accompanied by a photo tour of the area and Q & A with PN Hoffman's Monty Hoffman.

Update: The groundbreaking will start at 11am on March 19 and is open to the public. The event will last approximately an hour, followed by a luncheon.

"Mother Courage and Her Children" Ends on Sunday!

This weekend is your last chance to see Kathleen Turner as Mother Courage in Bertolt Brecht's Mother Courage and Her Children at Arena Stage, directed by Artistic Director Molly Smith. Turner gives a powerful performance as the "tough as nails" matriarch who struggles to keep her children and business alive during the 30 Years War.  Nicholas Rodriguez (from The Light at the Piazza, Oklahoma! and My Fair Lady) plays the eldest son Eilif, Nehal Josef (from Señor Discretion Himself, Oklahoma! and The Music Man) plays Swiss Cheese, and Erin Weaver (in her Arena Stage debut) portrays Kattrin.

At two hours and 30 minutes, the performance seems a bit long, but still worth the time to go see if you can. There are two performances today and two tomorrow in the Fichlander Stage. Tickets are available here.

Photo by Teresa Wood, courtesy of Arena Stage