Saturday, January 30, 2010

10th Street Corridor to Become an EcoDistrict?

DCMud brings word that the National Capital Planning Commission will be holding a public meeting on February 2nd to get input on the commission's 10th Street Corridor Task Force Initiative. Back in April 2009, the NCPC and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts approved the Monumental Core Framework Plan, which calls for revitalizing federal areas adjacent to the National Mall, including the SW Rectangle and the 10th Street corridor. Above is a rendering of what the streetscape could one day look like along 10th Street, from the Framework Plan. One of the alternatives now under consideration for the corridor is the creation of an ecodistrict, defined by Rob Bennett of the Portland Sustainability Institute as:
A community of shared interest that sets environmental performance goals and carries out a plan to meet them. It’s an integrated neighborhood strategy to optimize resource efficiency, promote ecological resilience, and strengthen community engagement.
Portland, Oregon has four demonstration projects underway utilizing these principles and the 10th Street corridor would be the first in DC to attempt to create a sustainable, mixed-use neighborhood in a federal enclave. The 10th Street corridor study area is bounded by Independence Avenue to the north, Maine Avenue to the south, 7th Street to the east and 12th Street to the west. The L'Enfant Plaza Metro station is the only one in the system where four lines intersect, plus there is a VRE stop in the area and the Smithsonian stop is at the western edge of the study area, so it has great transportation access. There is potential for a major overhaul of this underutilized area, which includes L'Enfant Plaza, the Department of Energy's headquarters, Reservation 113, and Banneker Overlook.

The meeting will take place on February 2nd starting at 5:30 pm at NCPC's headquarters, located at 401 9th Street, NW, Suite 500. RSVP by February 1st by email (10thstreet@ncpc.gov) if you would like to attend.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

New Safeway Tentatively Will Open April 16th; Old Store Will Close Days Before New One Opens

It was revealed at last night's SWNA meeting (unfortunately I was unable to attend, but ANC 6D Commissioner David Sobelsohn has kept me updated) that there will be an approximate 10-day gap between the closing of the old Safeway and the opening of the new Safeway at Waterfront Station, which means Southwesters will have to find a different place to do grocery shopping during that time period. (Perhaps Shuttle-Bug service can be altered to allow seniors and others with mobility issues to access another Safeway in the interim?) The reason for the gap in service is the two Safeway stores have a shared wall that needs to be demolished. A tentative date of April 16th is the scheduled opening date of the new Safeway - right after Tax Day. Also, the current Safeway manager John Ignacio will be replaced with a new manager once the new store opens in April. Once I get more details on these developments, I'll share.

Update: Here is a statement from Craig Muckle, Safeway's manager in charge of its Eastern Division's Public Affairs and Government Relations:
The existing store will close about 10 days early because there is a shared wall between both locations that needs to be taken down prior to the new store opening. During that down time, we will be removing our equipment from the old store (I will note that this equipment will not be used in the new store). Once the wall is taken down, we have asked for a new fenced-in construction staging area to be created that will ultimately limit the impact on shoppers once the new store is opened. Although this will be create a bit of a hardship, we believe that this will be a good solution for enhancing access and safety while the construction continues on the rest of the site.

We have been fortunate that we have not had to close during the vast majority of construction. The optimum solution is to not close a store in order to construct a new replacement location, but that is not always feasible or practical. We have at least two current situations in and around the metro area where we have had to close an existing store to construct a replacement. We understand a closure of any kind is a hardship and are sensitive to those concerns, but we would not close the store early if we thought it was avoidable.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Construction Manager Selected for Eisenhower Square

According to an article in the Washington Business Journal, the Eisenhower Memorial Commission has chosen Gilbane Building Company to oversee the design and construction management of Eisenhower Square, the memorial dedicated to President Dwight D. Eisenhower. Back in March, Frank Gehry was chosen to design the memorial, which will be a four-acre site located across from the National Air & Space Museum and the Department of Education headquarters at 4th Street & Independence Avenue. Construction of Eisenhower Square will require the closure of Maryland Avenue, which bisects the site, but the view shed towards the Capitol Building will need to be maintained. It will cost anywhere from $90 million to $110 million to build the memorial and it should be complete by 2014.

(The rendering of the memorial site is from the Eisenhower Memorial Commission website)

Friday, January 22, 2010

Constitution Center Update

Brian Murphy, Senior Property Manager at Constitution Center, tells Southwest...TLQTC that concrete barriers and construction fences started coming down around the building last night. By the end of the weekend, Murphy expects most of the barriers to be removed. However, some fences will remain for the time being to protect pedestrians from isolated construction. An example is the corner of 7th & D Street, where part of the sidewalk is in the process of being replaced, since it didn't pass inspection. The highly-secure 1.4 million SF building still doesn't have a tenant (what are you waiting for, FBI or Department of Energy?)

Update #1: As of midday Saturday, most of the sidewalk along D Street and 6th Street has been reopened.

Update #2: All sidewalks around Constitution Center are open.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

What Others Are Saying About Southwest

- In January's issue of Urban Igloo's Rent Check newsletter, they profile 1001 at Waterfront apartments, which is located next to Waterfront Station and is the sister building to Waterfront Tower, the condo conversion developed by The Bernstein Companies.

- This is a bit old (over 6 months), but I thought I'd add a link to this post from the WeLoveDC blog, who profiled the Southwest Waterfront neighborhood back in June as a part of their Where We Live series.

4th Street!

Thanks to a tip from reader David, I was able to snap some photos of asphalt being laid today on the soon-to-be-reopened 4th Street running through Waterfront Station, near the intersection with I Street. The street is inching closer to completion, as street lights have now been installed most of the way from M Street to I Street and grading for the sidewalks is underway. The above photo shows a roller truck flattening freshly laid asphalt on the roadbed. It's just nice to see a sign that says Road Closed, because for decades, there was nothing resembling a road at that spot - the old Waterside Mall was placed in the middle of what will soon be 4th Street back in the 1960s. 4th Street will be open by March, when the District moves into their office space, if not sooner. Below is another photo from earlier today, which shows part of the retaining wall that was rebuilt along part of 4th Street, as well as the Washington Globe streetlights and a construction worker smoothing out cement for the sidewalk under construction.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

January Hill Rag Posted Online

The January issue of the Hill Rag newspaper has been posted online. Starting with this month's issue, I have started writing the South by West article for the paper, which covers topics in Southwest and the Capitol Riverfront neighborhoods. You will recognize most of the content in the articles focused on Southwest since they are adapted from this blog. In addition to the Hill Rag, I write a monthly Real Estate Notes column for The Southwester, which I started doing in October 2009.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Exterior Demolition of Old First District Underway

I noticed on Monday that a part of the old MPD First District headquarters building has been demolished by Whiting-Turner to make way for the new Consolidated Forensic Lab (CFL). Interior abatement began last month. At Monday's ANC 6D meeting, it was revealed by Bill Vosburgh, project director of the CFL, that five mature oak trees along E Street cannot be saved during the construction process because their root systems will be severely disturbed as 10'-22' trenches are dug for utilities removal and replacement. As a result, the trees will be cut down and replaced by eight oak trees. In total, there will be 19 new oak trees around the perimeter of the CFL - eight trees on E Street, four trees on 4th Street, and seven trees on School Street. The trees will be 2-3 inches in diameter, which is much smaller than the trees currently on E Street, but they will grow as time passes and were chosen at the suggestion of the city's Arborist as street trees. The tree boxes for the new trees will be connected to the cistern system for the CFL, so storm water can help water them, which will contribute to the LEED-Gold certified rating the project is pursuing.

On another note, a construction camera was set up this past Friday on top of NASA headquarters to track progress at the CFL.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Corcoran In Negotiations With New Developer Partner

It was mentioned at tonight's ANC 6D monthly business meeting by the general counsel for the Corcoran that they are in negotiations with a new developer partner for the Randall School site. The Corcoran was requesting a 2-year extension of their Planned Unit Development (PUD) agreement with the ANC before going to the Zoning Commission, which was approved unanimously 7-0. While the general counsel was not able to disclose the name of the developer due to the sensitivity of negotiations, he indicated that he anticipates an agreement will be made before the end of the month. When Monument Realty backed out of their deal with the Corcoran in the Fall of 2008 after the collapse of Lehman Brothers, the Corcoran retained the firm West, Lane, & Schlager to identify potential developer partners for their project. The commercial real estate firm contacted 50 potential developers with experience in mixed use projects of this kind in the District, from which 35 parties expressed interest. Then, seven of those 35 developers sent proposals and the Corcoran chose the one they thought was the best, to negotiate a purchase & sale agreement (PSA). Once the new developer partner and the Corcoran come to terms on the PSA, there will be a due diligence period of 4 - 9 months in which the developer has time to determine the financial feasibility of the project and fine-tune their understanding of the local market. During the due diligence period, the developer has the ability to back out of the agreement without financial penalty. Once the new developer is announced, the Corcoran and their new partner will come before the ANC to discuss their plans for the project, which could possibly include a change to the original PUD application. The existing plan with Monument called for the Corcoran College of Art + Design to occupy space at the historic portion of Randall School, which would be fully renovated. Additional wings of the school that were built after the original school was constructed would be demolished and replaced with an apartment building.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Holocaust Museum Shooting Suspect Dies

The Washington Post reports that James von Brunn, the 89-year old suspect from the June 10, 2009 shooting at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, died today at a hospital in North Carolina. Von Brunn was awaiting trial for the murder of museum guard Stephen Johns and was at the hopsital because he suffered a gunshot to the face during the June 10th shooting.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Top Southwest Stories of 2009

Despite an economic downturn, several events occurred in The Little Quadrant That Could in 2009...some were major projects that have been ongoing for years, while other events had their start in 2009. Below is a list of what I think were the top stories in Southwest during the past year (in no particular order). Feel free to comment on which of these events you think is the top local story of the year, and/or vote in January's poll at the top left corner of the blog.

Arena Stage Looms Large
Construction on the new Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater was in full swing in 2009 and was getting attention from bloggers around the city. In June, DCMetrocentric gave a critique of the new theater complex and by November, the structure was fully enclosed. Interior work is now taking place and construction is on schedule for a community day event open to the public on October 24, 2010. The following day, there will be a black-tie opening night gala. Above is a construction photo of the new Arena Stage taken in late December.

CFL Drama
Progress was made in 2009 towards creating the city's very own Consolidated Forensic Lab (CFL), but not without delays. On the progress front, MPD's First District moved in April from their old building on 4th Street to their new headquarters on M Street at the former Bowen Elementary School. This move would allow the old headquarters building to be demolished and replaced by the CFL. The city then named Whiting-Turner the contractor for the construction project. However, after the announcement, the mayor had to withdraw the contract after an appeals court ruled that the Mayor skirted city laws when awarding the contract. After more than a five month delay, the city's appellate board dismissed the case a rival contractor had against Whiting-Turner and the city was free to re-award the contract to the same contractor in November and start interior demolition in December. The CFL is now scheduled to open in 2012. Above is a rendering of the CFL, from the CFL website.

Demolition Derby
Several parcels in Southwest were leveled during the past year, but not replaced with new buildings, in order to wait for the recovery of the economy. For example, Vornado demolished the Bernstein Liquors building and other small structures at South Capitol and M Street and paved over the site to serve as a parking lot. Eventually, the developer has plans for a mixed-use project. Along South Capitol Street, the Ruben Companies demolished a gas station and the old Taco Bell/KFC site in September to make way for their planned 1101 South Capitol Street office building, which hasn't gotten underway yet. In December, the old Market Inn restaurant was demolished and will most likely be replaced by an office building. Also in December, interior demolition started at the old First District headquarters building on 4th Street. Above is a photo of the lot owned by the Ruben Companies on South Capitol Street, which was taken this fall after the Exxon gas station on the site was demolished.

First District Moves to New Digs
In April, MPD's First District headquarters moved from 4th & E Street to the former Bowen Elementary School at 1st & M Street. In October, there was an open house to welcome the community. The new site is located in the heart of the Southwest Waterfront neighborhood, whereas the former headquarters was north of the freeway in the Federal Center SW area. Despite moving closer to a crime hot spot, a fatal shooting occurred less than two blocks from the new building in mid-October. Above is a photo of the new First District headquarters building, taken right before it was opened.

Engine 13 Not That Unlucky
In February, three developer teams made presentations to the community to garner support for their proposals for the Engine 13 sites at 4th & E Street and 6th & E Street. DMPED ended up choosing the proposal made by E Street Development in April, following the recommendation of ANC 6D. E Street Development is a combination of Potomac Investment Properties, CityPartners, and Adams Investment Group. Their architect is Beyer, Blinder, Belle. Highlights of the proposal include a partnership with community organizations including Kid Power Inc. and D.C. Central Kitchen, LEED-Silver certification, green roof technology, and neighborhood retail along E Street. Approval of the land lease was delayed by the DC Council over the summer, but final approval was given in November. Construction of the firehouse is supposed to start in August of 2010. Above is a rendering of the proposed fire house/office building complex planned at the corner of 4th & E Street, from the February presentation.

Highlands Library
Bellevue will soon get a new library. The new Washington Highlands library was designed by London architect David Adjaye and will be located at 115 Atlantic Street. Once the community saw the plans for the library, there was some criticism of the design. The new library will be three stories tall, contain approximately 20,000 square feet of space, and will aim for LEED-Silver certification. By the spring of 2011, the new library should be open. Above is a rendering of the Washington Highlands Library, from the DCPL website.

L'Enfant Promenade Renovations Begin
Back in November, the JBG Companies began a $40 renovation of the retail promenade at L'Enfant Plaza. The first phase of renovations will be complete in 2011 and will bring a revamped food court to the corridor nearest the Metro entrance. Subsequent phases of the renovation will include a new sculptural glass entryway and expanded retail options. In addition, the developer has plans to expand L'Enfant Plaza by building two new office buildings, an extended-stay hotel, and an apartment building. Above is a rendering of the renovated food court area, courtesy of JBG.

Southeastern University Shuts Its Doors
A major institution in Southwest closed its doors at the end of August, when Southeastern University lost its accreditation with the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools due to financial instability, dwindling enrollment, and a lack of academic rigor. At one point, SEU was in talks with UDC to become a part of that university. Then, it was trying to merge with the GS Graduate School, which is affiliated with the USDA. The University, which had been in existence since the 1800s, had its final graduation ceremony in June. Above is a photo of Southeastern University taken this past summer, located at the corner of 6th & I Streets.

Waterfront Station
Major milestones at Waterfront Station during 2009 included: the topping off of the two office buildings in March; the installation of the glass and terracotta fa├žade; designs for the Metro plaza; the unveiling of the features of the new Safeway; the addition of a sit-down restaurant to the retail mix; and the paving of 4th Street. The first phase of Waterfront Station will open in the first half of 2010, with two office buildings, a new Safeway, CVS, convenience retailers, restaurants, a Metro plaza and a reopened 4th Street. Above is a photo of the 1100 4th Street building taken in the last week of December.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A Few Quick Items

- Construction began at the end of December on the MLK Memorial on a four-acre site along the Tidal Basin. A construction permit was issued by the National Park Service in October for the memorial, which should be complete by the summer of 2011. Above is a photo of a plaque on the spot where the memorial will be located, near the FDR Memorial.

- In today's Breaking Ground blog from the Washington Business Journal, there was a post about office building deliveries in the city. During the fourth quarter, the only office building that delivered in DC was Constitution Center. Even though the blog says the building is delivered, there is still construction fencing around the structure as finishing touches are being made. It is still vacant.

- According to an article in Globest.com, the GSA renewed a lease at the end of 2009 on behalf of the Administration for Children and Families of the Department of Health & Human Services. The lease is a five-year renewal of 187,000 square feet of space at the Aerospace Building on 901 D Street.

Pending Announcement Regarding Randall School?

At next Monday’s ANC 6D monthly meeting, the agenda (not yet posted online) includes an announcement about the future of the Randall Junior High School site. This project has been in limbo since Monument Realty backed out of a deal with the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 2008 to redevelop the school as an offshoot of the Corcoran College of Art & Design and build apartments behind the historic school. Perhaps the Corcoran has found a new developer partner? We’ll find out next week. The meeting will take place on Monday the 11th at 7pm at St. Augustine's Episcopal Church.