Monday, November 30, 2009

I missed the 2nd Annual Cantina Cup...

In November's Hill Rag, there's an article about the 2nd Annual Cantina Cup, which took place on October 3rd (how I missed this event I don't know!). From the article:
The October sailboat race run by the National Maritime Heritage Foundation brought in more than 100 racers, more than double the turnout from last year. Spectators gathered at event partner Cantina Marina (600 Water St. SW) for a view of the action, as well as on other boats and waterside locations...[Blair] Overman [of NMHF] said the event was a success, but next year event organizers want an expanded “big boats” course on the Potomac River and more viewing points for spectators. Ideally, they will bring spectators out on boats to watch the race from the center of the [Washington] channel.
According to the National Maritime Heritage Foundation (NMHF) website, the NMHF was founded in the year 2000 to fill the need for a maritime heritage program to serve as a focus for education and community development. They manage community sailing and maritime education programs in the national capital region and is headquartered at the Gangplank Marina on the Southwest Waterfront. Last year, the Cantina Cup regatta was held in late September. Did anyone attend this year's regatta? If so, how was it?

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Signs of What's to Come Along the New 4th Street

Curbs, sidewalks, asphalt, trees, display panels...all of these are signs of what's to come along 4th Street at Waterfront Station. The office buildings are about 90% complete, according to Gordon Fraley of Vornado/Charles E. Smith, who gave the community an update on their project at Monday's SWNA meeting. The tenants (DC Government agencies) will start moving into their new space in March and April of 2010. Since most of the building construction is complete, some of the final touches are being put in place. This afternoon, I took some photos of the progress being made at the project. Above is a photo of the view along 4th Street looking north from M Street. Asphalt is now down on the street and curbs & gutters are visible. On the West Tower (left building), trees have been planted on the south-facing side of the building. Within the next month, the pathway to the Waterfront-SEU Metro entrance will be temporarily shifted from its current location next to Safeway over to 4th Street, so work can begin on the Metro plaza, which was designed by Oculus. 4th Street is now scheduled to reopen in the last two weeks of March. Below are a couple close-up photos of the project.

(Left) Here is a view of the improvements being done on 4th Street, including new curbs, sidewalks, and crosswalks. The newly planted trees are also visible on the side of the West Tower. The View at Waterfront and Arena Stage looms in the background.

(Right) On the East Tower, display panels of grapes and lemons are an indication that a grocery store will soon open on the ground floor. Tenant build-out for the urban-lifestyle Safeway began in September and the store is scheduled to open around April 2010. The tenant build-out at CVS will take less time - it will begin in January and the new store will open in March. There are four retail spots still available at Waterfront Station that haven't been taken by tenants who have signed letters of intent.

St. Matthew's Tree Lot Will Return, SW Waterfront to Get Livened Up

At least one of the empty lots in the neighborhood will get some use this holiday season. Starting this Thursday, as was done last year, St. Matthew's Lutheran Church will sell Christmas trees on their lot at 222 M Street. Below is the schedule and prices:
Thursday - Friday: 5pm - 8pm
Saturday - Sunday: 1pm - 5pm
Other times be appointment (202) 484-3189 or email (stmatthewsdc@hughes.net)
6-7 ft Scotch Pine: $25
5-6 ft Frazier Fir: $45
6-7 ft Frazier Fir: $55
7-8 ft Frazier Fir: $65
On a related note, at Monday's SWNA meeting, Shawn Seaman from PN Hoffman, one of the developers of the Southwest Waterfront, confirmed the recent WBJ story (which I blogged about a couple weeks ago) that parts of the SW Waterfront will be used for temporary purposes. While Seaman didn't exactly say that the SW Waterfront will become a temporary beach before redevelopment gets underway, he did say that the terminus of 7th & 9th Streets will host events, like a farmers market or dance performances. The SW Waterfront redevelopment is still scheduled to break ground in 2012, but Water Street may close as early as 2011.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Parade of Lighted Boats Set for December 5th

On December 5th, the Washington Waterfront Association will hold the 5th annual tree lighting ceremony at the Southwest Waterfront, followed by the Parade of Lighted Boats along the Washington Channel. Starting at 4pm, the tree lighting ceremony will be held at the park between the Channel Inn and Gangplank Marina and Santa Claus will make an appearance for photographs. At 5pm, the Parade of Lighted Boats will begin with at least 50 boats planning to participate. Last year, there was some snow that fell during the parade, so hopefully the weather will be better this time around!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

PAT Recommends Buzzard Point Should Be Primarily a Residential Neighborhood

On Saturday I attended a meeting where the American Planning Association’s Planning Assistance Team (PAT) presented their results of a four-day study of Buzzard Point. Once the slide show presentation from the meeting is released, I’ll provide a link. In the meantime, here are my notes from the meeting:

Buzzard Point is a separate neighborhood from the Capitol Riverfront or Southwest Waterfront, with distinct opportunities and constraints. The PAT recommends that Buzzard Point become a primarily residential mixed-use neighborhood of varying density with improved access to the waterfront. The existing public housing in the northern part of the area should be preserved and upgraded. There are nine major points about the current condition of Buzzard Point that need to be considered when planning for the future, including:

  • Much of the area is low & medium density affordable housing.
  • There is limited accessibility to and from Buzzard Point.
  • Fort McNair acts as a wall.
  • River access is blocked.
  • The area is flanked by a major sports entertainment district and a large retail center under construction at Waterfront Station.
  • There is a huge amount of development occurring to the east of Buzzard Point.
  • There are poor multimodal connections to the area.
  • Industrial uses in the area aren’t conducive to residential development.
  • The Pepco power plant is an impediment.

However, there are some transformative events that will occur over the next 15 years that will have an impact on development in Buzzard Point. The DC Streetcar project will bring streetcars to Buzzard Point; the Coast Guard will relocate to St. Elizabeth’s in Southeast; South Capitol Street and bridge will be rebuilt; and there will be new waterfront connections. Since these events will take a long time to happen, change in the area will be incremental. Following is an analysis of how the planners think different sections of Buzzard Point should be developed:

2nd Street
The Anacostia Riverwalk should be extended from Buzzard Point to M Street via 2nd Street. The historic SW Community House on 2nd Street should be restored as a museum or café.

Potomac Avenue
Potomac Avenue should be extended westward to 2nd Street. Since the road extension will reach the entrance to Fort McNair on 2nd Street, mixed-use development could happen along that stretch which would support the military base, including a retail node. In keeping with L’Enfant’s street grid plan for the city, triangle parks should be created where the diagonal Potomac Avenue crosses east-west and north-south streets.

P Street
Since the distance between the Southwest Waterfront and Nationals Park is only a half mile along P Street, a pedestrian link should be maintained along this street. The PAT recommends that the proposed streetcar alignment along M Street be changed so that the transit line turns south from M Street to 1st Street, SE, then turn down Potomac Avenue until its new terminus at 2nd Street, SW, then turn north on 2nd until P Street, west on P until 4th Street, then north on 4th until it reaches the Waterfront-SEU Metro station at 4th & M Street. The new alignment would better connect Buzzard Point with the rest of the Capitol Riverfront and Southwest Waterfront.

The Waterfront
Once the Coast Guard vacates its headquarters building for St. Elizabeth’s, the building, along with Jemal’s building, which is visible along the waterfront as you cross the South Capitol Street bridge, should be purchased by the District government and transformed to a mix of open space and limited redevelopment. This is one of the more ambitious aspects of the PAT’s plans because it involves the District spending a large sum of money acquiring these sites, but the current buildings block access to the waterfront and redevelopment would open up a lot of space. Also, the city could recover part or all of the cost of acquisition through the sales of development rights to other parcels in the District. As an aside, a representative from Monday Properties, the Coast Guard’s current landlord, stated that the likelihood of the headquarters building being demolished in the next 15-20 years was slim to none, so this aspect of the plan may take longer to fulfill. Some ideas for the waterfront range from providing large parks along the river to creating marinas framed by housing (an example being the Pier Homes along the Inner Harbor in Baltimore).

100 V Street
If Akridge’s 100 V Street project is developed as planned, the PAT thinks it would be a major missed opportunity for the area. An alternative would be to build medium-density housing developed in partnership with the federal government for military families and/or new federal government hires. The northern part of the site could support 2-3-story buildings, while taller 5-6-story buildings could be developed closer to the waterfront.

South Capitol Street Oval and Steuart Site
Great care should be given to the planned traffic oval at the intersection of South Capitol Street and Potomac Avenue. The oval will be 7-acres, but if DDOT doesn’t properly design it to accommodate pedestrians, the result could be a large hole in the urban fabric of the community. The area at the terminus of South Capitol Street where the street meets the river (also known as the Steuart site) should have a major iconic cultural attraction…a la Sydney Opera House. The site should be engaging from the water side (perhaps with a grand staircase like the Lincoln Memorial) as well as on its land side facing the traffic oval.

Pepco
The District should work with Pepco to gradually shrink the footprint used for electrical generation consistent with sound energy practices. As properties become available, they should be developed for uses compatible with housing. Once the power plant building is decommissioned, it should be redeveloped as a low-impact attraction like a museum, gallery, etc. An example given by the PAT was the Tate Modern in London.

Once the presentation is available online, the PAT will allow public comments on their plans, so they can produce a final report in February or March of next year. Above is a map I made of Buzzard Point showing where the planners recommend changes in the area.

Update: The presentation is now available on APA's website. Send your comments to CAP@planning.org by January 15, 2010.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

All You Need is Gov...Patriots Plaza Nabs USDA

The Washington Business Journal reports today that the US Department of Agriculture will occupy most of the phase III building of Patriots Plaza. The GSA signed a lease on behalf of the agency for 330,000 SF, which accounts for about 87% of the building. From the WBJ article:
The General Services Administration negotiated and signed the deal on behalf of USDA, which is consolidating five other locations throughout the District and Northern Virginia. Patriots Plaza III was completed in September — USDA will begin moving into the building in December 2010.
The phase I building is fully leased to the feds while Patriots Plaza II is still without tenants, so with the USDA announcement, the 980,000+ SF three-building LEED-Silver certified complex is now 62% leased. Since the tenant is the federal government, it’s highly doubtful that ground floor retail will move into Patriots Plaza, as the developers mentioned as a possibility when they were vying for the Engine 13 RFP in February. However, this announcement may help get a restaurant to move into the ground floor of Capitol View, which is down the block from Patriots Plaza on D Street. Above is a photo of the phase III building taken last month.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Buzzard Point Town Hall Meeting Set

A Planning Assistance Team (PAT) from the American Planning Association will be present at a Town Hall meeting planned by Council member Tommy Wells this Wednesday. The planners will be in town this week to conduct an analysis of Buzzard Point in order to create a comprehensive plan for the area. Wednesday's meeting will be from 6pm-8:30pm at the community room of MPD's First District headquarters building at 101 M Street. Following the meeting, on Thursday, the PAT will do a walking tour of Buzzard Point (leaving from Greenleaf Recreation Center at 201 N Street) and on Saturday, they will present their initial findings from 2pm - 3pm at First District headquarters.

Friday, November 13, 2009

South(west) Beach?

In today’s Washington Business Journal (subscribers only) there’s an article about how vacant spaces in DC are being utilized creatively for temporary uses. Due to the recession, vacant sites have been popping up all over the city since developers are having difficulty getting financing. Some examples of temporary uses mentioned in the article include the Bullpen near Nationals Park in Near SE and the summer stadium for the Washington Kastles tennis team at the Old Convention Center site downtown. At the end of the article, D.C. Office of Planning director Harriet Tregoning mentions a use for the Southwest Waterfront (which isn’t exactly vacant). From the article:
Tregoning also has ideas for PN Hoffman’s 30-plus acre Southwest waterfront: “Considering what it is, it really gets very little use. What if we put a beach there? With umbrellas. I mean, I wouldn’t be encouraging people to swim in the Anacostia, you know, but a place to hang out, catch a little sun, relax. It could be fabulous.”
Some European cities have turned their riverfronts into temporary beaches during the summer, including Paris and Prague, but would this work in DC? Besides the SW Waterfront, there are several vacant lots in the neighborhood that could host temporary uses (not a beach, though). Along South Capitol Street, a major gateway to the core of the city, there are vacant lots galore, including Camden’s 1345 South Capitol Street site (a vacant field), Vornado’s site surrounding the 7 Eleven at South Capitol & M Street (a parking lot), and the Ruben Companies’ 1001 - 1101 South Capitol Street (more parking lots). Aside from the lots on South Capitol Street, there’s the Randall School site, the old Friendship Baptist Church, the old First District HQ, Southeastern University, the Market Inn…the list goes on and on. However, there are examples of other sites that have been used for temporary purposes. For instance, the St. Matthews site on M Street became a Christmas tree lot last year and Pastor Huber has plans to create a community garden next spring until the new church and housing can be built. Also, Artomatic used the old Waterside Mall before it was torn down. Hopefully the economy starts to pick up soon so some of these vacant sites can get built, but in the meantime, some creative uses can be found for the plethora of empty spaces we have in Southwest. What temporary uses would you suggest for some of these vacant sites?

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Waterfront Station Restaurant News!

Restaurateur Med Lahlou, who owns three other restaurants in the city, including Tunnicliff’s Tavern on Capitol Hill, Stoney’s Bar & Grill on P Street, and Ulah Bistro on U Street, tells Southwest…TLQTC that he will open a fourth at Waterfront Station. Lahlou says the restaurant, which hasn’t been named yet, should open in about nine months and will serve American continental cuisine. There will be a large space for outdoor seating, in addition to indoor seating. That’s all the details Lahlou could share with us right now, but this is the first indication of the type of restaurants that will soon open at phase one of Waterfront Station. The developers have been tight-lipped about other retailers besides the anchor stores, which are CVS and an urban style Safeway.


On a related note, don't forget to vote on the sidebar for the types of restaurants you would like to see open in Southwest!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Scenes From Southwest: Parks


Clockwise (from upper left): (1) Earth Day Park at 9th Street & Independence Avenue. (2) Ball field in front of Jefferson Middle School along the 700 block of G Street. (3) Duck feeding in Town Center Park at 6th & I Street. (4) Dean Wilhelm Memorial Park at 6th & D Street, named after the former manager at the Holiday Inn Capitol hotel.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

ANC Votes to Approve Extension of Old Friendship Baptist Church Redevelopment

I wasn't able to attend last night's ANC 6D meeting, but the developer of the Old Friendship Baptist Church site on Delaware Avenue & H Street tells Southwest...TLQTC that the ANC unanimously approved a request to allow a two-year extension of the Planned Unit Development (PUD) for the project that the developer has pending with the Zoning Commission. The Zoning Commission will make a decision on the extension request at their December 14th meeting. Steve Tanner, the developer of the project, plans to convert the 100+ year-old church into office space and construct a residential building with condos. Delays with the Corcoran's neighboring Randall School project (see post from last November), as well as the state of the economy, helped the developer obtain approval from the ANC. However, Tanner says that the Corcoran is working on a contract with a new developer for their Randall School site. Several stalled development projects around the city have applied for 2-year extensions in recent months, the nearest one to SW is the RiverFront on the Anacostia site in Near SE. As a condition of the ANC's approval, the developer will need to pay to clean up the Randall Park baseball fields each month once he applies for a building permit. Above is a rendering of the site - the white church is the existing building and the Shalom Baranes-designed 7-story residential addition is at the rear of the church (rendering courtesy of Steve Tanner).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

A Couple Quick Items

- According to the Capitol Riverfront BID, the American Planning Association is bringing a Planning Assistance Team (PAT) to Buzzard Point in two weeks to conduct a four-day analysis of the area. The process will result in a series of recommendations and visions for the area for further study and implementation. The PAT will conduct interviews with stakeholders and property owners to gain a better and full understanding of the various sites and property owners involved, and develop a comprehensive vision for Buzzard Point. Last week, we did a post on how the proposed streetcar network may impact development in Buzzard Point. Devising a plan for the area is a good idea because there is great potential for making Buzzard Point a waterfront destination, where the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers meet.

- Earlier this week, Washington Real Estate Bisnow had an article about Waterfront Tower, the condo conversion project next door to Waterfront Station on the corner of 3rd & M Street. This is the first condo conversion the Bernstein Companies has done in 30 years. Eventually, the developer wants to build two more buildings on the parking lots of the existing towers, similar to what Fairfield Residential had planned at The View at Waterfront before it went into foreclosure in August.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Firehouse Deal Approved by DC Council

While Mayor Fenty awarded a contract to Whiting-Turner today for the CFL, the DC Council was busy with work of their own in Southwest. Today, according to DCMud, the Council finally approved the ground lease between the city and E Street Development, which will allow the construction of a new Engine 13 firehouse next door to the new CFL, along with two office buildings with ground floor retail. The city chose E Street Development from a pool of three development teams back in April, but in July, the Council delayed action on the land transfer until after the August recess. Then, last month, Council member Kwame Brown removed the land deal from consideration because E Street Development did not have signed agreements to hire city-certified small businesses or hire District residents. It appears that those concerns have been addressed. Now that the ground lease has been approved, planning can continue for the project, with construction slated to begin on the first office building (with the new firehouse on the ground level) next August. Above is a rendering of the new firehouse on the corner of 4th & E Street, designed by Beyer, Blinder, Belle, from E Street Development's February 25th presentation.

Ceremonial Demolition of Old First District HQ

Last week, DC Metrocentric reported that the case a rival contractor had against Whiting-Turner, the contractor the city chose in May to build the new Consolidated Forensic Lab (CFL), was dismissed by the city appellate board. The city wasted no additional time once the case was dropped, because today, the mayor announced once again that Whiting-Turner has been selected to build the CFL with a $133 million contract, six months after the original announcement. At the press announcement, the mayor ceremoniously took down a portion of the rear wall of the old first district headquarters, which is located at 415 4th Street. However, interior abatement must occur first before the old hq building can be demolished to make way for the CFL. The CFL will be home to MPD's Crime Lab, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and the DC Public Health Lab. A total of 300 - 350 employees will be housed at the facility. The Hellmuth, Obata + Kassabaum, PC-designed building will aim for LEED-Gold certification and will cost $220 million to build. It will be 287,000 SF and 6-stories tall, will accommodate 160 underground parking spaces and 60 street-level spaces. Construction should now be complete by 2012, due to the delay, instead of the original fall 2011 deadline. Above is a rendering of the CFL from the CFL website.