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The Washington uber developer says some surprising tenants are coming to his Hecht Warehouse project in Ivy City. By Marisa M. Kashino
Rendering courtesy of Douglas Development.

Updated Friday, August 29: Ari Gejdenson confirms his restaurant group, Mindful Restaurants, will open three places at Hecht Warehouse. In an e-mail, he says: "We're in the process of wrapping up the lease and I'm thrilled that Mindful Restaurants can be a part of the exciting revitalization of Ivy City and the Hecht warehouse. It's the most beautiful warehouse I've ever seen and, having grown up in NE, it means a lot to me that this historic building and it's surrounding neighborhood will once again be a thriving part of our city."

Unless you're low on gas, have a fast food craving, or want to spend the night in a cheap motel, there's not much to stop for along heavily industrial New York Avenue, Northeast. On Thursday, the city announced plans to attempt to rectify that. The five-year Ward 5 Works plan aims to adapt industrial land to encourage the growth of business, residential, and cultural areas.

It's good news for Douglas Jemal, president of Douglas Development, who made an early—and sizable—bet on Ivy City, the small neighborhood just off New York Avenue, with Hecht Warehouse District. Housed in the building formerly used as the distribution center for Hecht's department store, the project is slated to bring 350 apartments, plus retail and restaurants. By January's groundbreaking, Jemal had lined up two retail tenants for the space: Mom's Organic Market and Planet Fitness.

As it stands now, though, it's tough to imagine, say, a Banana Republic or a trendy restaurant setting up shop there. But Jemal insists that's exactly what's on the way. During a conversation with Washingtonian earlier this week, the developer shared this list of tenants that he expects to open in the Hecht project: Banana Republic, Gap, Nike, Petco, Busboys and Poets, and three restaurants from the restauranteur behind Ghibellina (on 14th Street, Northwest) and Acqua Al 2 (near Eastern Market). We've reached out to Busboys owner, Andy Shallal, and Ari Gejdenson, owner of Ghibellina and Acqua Al 2, for comment, and will update if we hear back.

Construction of the retail space is scheduled to begin early next year—we'll stay tuned. 

Find Marisa Kashino on Twitter @marisakashino.

Posted at 02:58 PM/ET, 08/28/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
PN Hoffman is increasing its already-huge footprint on the Southwest Waterfront. By Benjamin Freed
Rendering courtesy Interface Media.

PN Hoffman’s cranes have been hacking away at DC’s Southwest Waterfront for the development firm’s massive Wharf complex since March. While work continues on the $2 billion mixed-use behemoth, the company has announced its next project for the neighborhood—and it’s right next door to the Wharf.

PN Hoffman plans to build a 105,000-square-foot, 108-condominium unit at 600 M Street, Southwest, slated to open in early 2016. The new condo building, which will be re-addressed as 600 Water Street, will take the place of St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, a 53-year-old congregation that once counted Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall among its members. As part of the project, PN Hoffman is also building a new, two-story church for St. Augustine’s on an adjacent lot facing Water Street.

The Wharf—a multi-phase project scheduled to open its doors with more than 1,000 residential units and hundreds of thousands of square feet of retail, commercial, and entertainment space—has already transformed the area by clearing out many of the decades-old establishments from the waterfront. And PN Hoffman is the dominant player in Southwest DC, much like JBG is in the U Street corridor, where it has numerous projects.

People who buy at 600 Water—sales start next spring, PN Hoffman says—won’t have to depend on their neighbors at the Wharf for all their amenities, though. A press release for the forthcoming building promises a clubby atmosphere with a residents’ lounge, a courtyard with plenty of water features, and access to a new park.

Posted at 04:51 PM/ET, 07/09/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Progress on the ambitious plan to build a DC United stadium could be the second-best news DC's soccer fans get today. By Benjamin Freed
Rendering by Populous via DC United.

Thursday is a big day for Washington’s soccer fans, and not just because of today’s pivotal World Cup match. The DC Council is finally holding its first hearing on the stadium Mayor Vince Gray wants the city to help  DC United build on Buzzard Point in Southwest.

It’s been about a year since Gray, City Administrator Allen Lew, and DC United’s owners signed an agreement under which the District government would assemble the nine-acre stadium plot through a series of land swaps and provide adequate roads and utilities for a team-financed arena. Today’s hearing, a joint meeting of three Council committees that oversee government operations and the city’s finances, is the first of what Chairman Phil Mendelson predicts will be many. Here are a few things worth knowing:

The DC United stadium is a Vince Gray legacy project: Gray’s lame-duck period might be a lot less lame if he can get his stadium plan through the Council before his term expires at the end of the year. Someone else will be mayor when and if the stadium opens, possibly in time for the 2018 Major League Soccer season, but getting the legislature’s approval of the stadium deal would give Gray a brick-and-mortar feather to stick in his one-term cap.

The city’s end is more expensive than Gray’s people let on: Under the term sheet it signed with United last year, the DC government will spend up to $150 million in land swaps and cash to assemble and prepare the stadium plot. The most costly chunk concerns two acres on Buzzard Point owned by the development firm Akridge. In return for its piece, plus cash, Akridge gets the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center, a city-government complex at 14th and U streets, Northwest, to transform into a high-value mixed-use development. But the value of the Reeves Center is widely disputed. Gray’s team is giving Akridge a purchase price of $56 million; DC Chief Financial Officer Jeffrey DeWitt says the Reeves Center is worth $76 million. When the stadium plan was first announced, the building was assessed at $128 million.

Along with $40 million in property tax breaks the city plans to give United over a 30-year lease and an estimated $20 million to move crucial city services out of the Reeves Center, the true cost to city taxpayers could approach $230 million.

The land swaps got ugly: The District has moved Akridge and Pepco out of Buzzard Point with the promise of city-owned land, but the deal for the rest of the stadium plot—owned by the investor Mark Ein and Super Salvage, a 62-year-old junkyard—was contentious. City officials threatened to use eminent domain against Ein and Super Salvage before settling on paying $50 per square foot for their properties, which Ein said last month is below-market.

Council members are skeptical of the deal: Mayoral candidates Muriel Bowser and David Catania are both generally supportive of building a stadium, but they have both questioned the logic the Reeves Center swap. Bowser, who runs the Economic Development committee, will hold a separate stadium hearing after the completion of a $200,000 economic impact study the Council ordered up last month. Catania told the Washington Post this month he believes the Reeves Center should be “uncoupled” from the stadium. Catania and Bowser aren’t alone in their hesitation about the land swap.

Other Council members are backing away for the stadium deal for other reasons. Tommy Wells, who was an early supporter of the stadium plan because it would benefit his Ward 6, turned against it after the Council’s budget made deep cuts to funding for the streetcar system, which is designed to eventually serve the area around the stadium.

DC United is packing the house: Unite for DC, a stadium support group the team organized, is packing the John A. Wilson Building with black-and-red faithful. More than 70 people signed up to testify before the Council, most of them soccer fans giddy at the prospect of a new stadium, including United head coach Ben Olsen. The team says it will also be feeding its fans throughout the day with treats from District Doughnuts and Ben’s Chili Bowl, which could add a new aroma to the fusty Wilson Building.

The team needs a new stadium: Most MLS teams play in newer, soccer-specific stadiums or relatively modern NFL stadiums. United plays its home games in 53-year-old RFK Stadium, a decrepit American football coliseum with few concessions for fans and limited amenities for players. While the current ownership group says it is committed to finding a home in the District, the franchise has flirted in the past with Prince George’s County and Baltimore. DC United also says it has lost money every year it has played at RFK.

No breaking for the World Cup: While many workplaces expect to see a massive drop in productivity for about 90 minutes (plus stoppage time) at noon today, the DC Council isn’t one of them. Despite the high likelihood that the stadium hearing will overlap with the US-Germany match, Mendelson says today’s hearing will not take a break. But soccer fanatics stuck at the Wilson Building aren’t out-of-luck. Gray’s office is turning his press briefing area into a screening room for the game.

Posted at 10:34 AM/ET, 06/26/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Developer SB-Urban will turn the historic home into luxury micro-unit rentals. By Michelle Thomas
Photograph by Sean Shanahan, courtesy of TTR Sotheby's.

The sale of Dupont Circle’s Patterson Mansion may not have been the quickest deal in Washington real estate—the historic home has been sitting on the market since the spring of 2013—but on Monday the property finally closed at $20 million. That is $6 million under list price, but still makes it Washington’s priciest residential sale since 2011, according to TTR Sotheby’s, who brokered the transaction.

Bethesda-based developer SB-Urban bought the 37,000-square-foot residence. In February, the developer submitted plans to convert the mansion into 90 350-square-foot luxury micro-units, combining the original marble and brick four-story building with a new, seven-story addition.

The property boasts a storied history—originally built in 1901 for Chicago Tribune editor Robert Patterson and his family, in 1927 the mansion was briefly the temporary home to President Calvin Coolidge while the White House underwent renovations. The Washington Club has owned the property since 1951, and it's been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since 1972.

Posted at 11:15 AM/ET, 06/24/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The elite school is spending $40 million to consolidate all its students in Tenleytown. By Benjamin Freed
Photograph via Facebook.

Georgetown Day School says it has reached agreements to buy two Tenleytown lots currently occupied by Safeway and a car dealership to clear the way for a massive campus expansion. In deals expected to close Thursday, the elite private school will buy the Martens Volvo-Volkswagen dealership and the Safeway store across the street.

The purchase will allow Georgetown Day to finally merge its upper school in Tenleytown with its lower and middle schools, which are on MacArthur Boulevard about four miles from the Tenleytown location.

“We’ve been waiting about 45 years to reunite the campuses,” says Alison Grasheim, a spokeswoman for Georgetown Day.

Actually bringing the schools together will take several years longer, though. Safeway, at 4203 Davenport Street, Northwest, and Martens, at 4800 Wisconsin Avenue, will remain in their locations for at least 10 months under leaseback deals with Georgetown Day.

It could be another five to seven years before all Georgetown Day students attend an expanded Tenleytown campus. The school has not made any decisions on tearing down its new acquisitions or planning its new lower and middle schools. Grasheim says designs for the built-up campus will take Tenleytown residents’ concerns into account. A press release from the school reads that the eventual campus will “be consistent with the beauty and character” of the neighborhood, with an emphasis on green spaces and pedestrian and bicycle access.

Georgetown Day buying the Safeway lot also drastically shifts long-term plans for Tenleytown. The supermarket chain had been considering replacing the 38,000-square foot store with a larger one with a 150-unit apartment complex above.

The school is spending about $40 million to buy the two properties, Grasheim says. That’s a great deal for Safeway and Martens, which have a combined assessment of about $10.2 million, according to DC property tax records.

Posted at 03:10 PM/ET, 06/05/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
The 180-foot attraction is now open for business. By Tanya Pai
Rendering courtesy of National Harbor.

In January, plans were announced for a giant Ferris wheel near the National Harbor development in Oxon Hill, Maryland. The 180-foot Capital Wheel opened this past Friday and offers views of the White House, the Capitol Building, and other Washington landmarks for $15 a ride, plus a light show and catering by Wolfgang Puck. 

EarthCam has created a time-lapse video of the construction of the wheel, which condenses three months of building into less than two minutes. Check it out below, and find more information about the Capital Wheel online.

Posted at 02:09 PM/ET, 05/28/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Mayor Vince Gray's office has finished its land swaps to assemble the plot for the future soccer stadium in Southwest DC. By Benjamin Freed
Rendering courtesy DC United.

Nearly five months after its deadline, Mayor Vince Gray’s administration has finally finished assembling a deal to build a new soccer stadium for DC United on Buzzard Point in Southwest DC and submitted it for the DC Council’s review.

Under terms first announced last June, the city will assemble the nine-acre stadium plot through a series of land swaps for parcels owned by the development firm Akridge, Pepco, investor Mark Ein, and Super Salvage, a local junk yard. City officials completed their negotiations with Akridge and Pepco several months ago, comprising 88 percent of the stadium land; deliberations with Ein and Super Salvage held up the process. (Gray's office aimed to deliver a plan to the Council by the end of last year.) The District government threatened to use eminent domain on Ein and Super Salvage, on which Ein holds an option, several times during the process, hinting at a potential repeat of Mayor Anthony Williams’s administration seizing 16 different properties to make way for Nationals Park just blocks from where the future DC United Stadium will sit.

Prices for the parcel’s occupied by Ein and Super Salvage, which city tax records value at $15 million collectively, are still being finalized. Ein sat on the land with the long-term plan of moving most of his businesses to Southwest. But Ein says he and Super Salvage are selling under duress, according to an e-mail statement from him and Super Salvage president Steve Middlethon.

“We never planned to sell our land at Buzzard Point,” they write. “Super Salvage wanted to maintain its employee-owned business of 62 years and Mark bought the land to bring one of his company’s headquarters into the District of Columbia and be part of the revitalization of the area. Since early last year, we offered many solutions and asked the administration to bring the parties that will benefit from this deal to the table and be part of the solution, so the burden didn’t fall solely on the city.  This finally occurred only in the last two weeks and enabled it to happen.”

The city will pay $41 per square foot of Ein’s and Super Salvage’s properties, while sources with knowledge of the stadium deal say a balance will be covered by Akridge and DC United. A similarly sized plot across Second Street, Southwest, sold last October for $62 per square foot, but Ein and Super Salvage say they are taking a “significant discount.”

In return for its two acres, Akridge is getting the Frank D. Reeves Municipal Center at 14th and U streets, Northwest, and will redevelop it into commercial and residential space on one of the most valuable corners of land in the District. The municipal agencies and commercial tenants in the Reeves Center will eventually be moved to a new facility the city plans to open in Anacostia in 2017. Pepco is getting land from the city at First and K streets, northwest.

The total cost for United’s 20,000 to 25,000 seat stadium is estimated at $300 million, half of which will be spent by the city on assembling the land and upgrading the surrounding infrastructure. Construction of the stadium itself will be paid for by the soccer club, which has played its home games at 52-year-old RFK Stadium since debuting in 1996.

 “We are excited about the completion of this portion of the process and look forward to engaging the DC Council,” says Craig Stouffer, a spokesman for the soccer team.

“The new soccer stadium is the final catalyst for what is certain to become one of the most vibrant and sustainable sports and retail districts in America,” Gray says in a press release.

Once the stadium is built, possibly in time for the 2017 Major League Soccer season, DC United will have a 30-year initial lease, with options for two five-year extensions. The team will pay $1 annual rent over the first 40 years; after that, the site will revert to the District. United also won’t have to pay any property tax until the sixth year of the lease, when it will pay 25 percent of the full rate, with gradual increases over the remainder of the term.

What the city is getting in return has changed since last June, when Gray and United co-owner Jason Levien signed their initial term sheet, which envisioned a profit-sharing agreement. Under the revised terms, United will pay DC $2 per ticket sold beginning in the 11th year of the lease, with payments increasing at the rate of inflation after the 20th year.

The Council could take up the stadium plan beginning next week. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson was unavailable for comment when the stadium deal was announced.

Posted at 04:49 PM/ET, 05/23/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Check out the newest plans for the redesign of DC’s flagship public library. By Benjamin Freed
DC's Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, with two new floors added to the original, three-story structure. Rendering by Mecanoo and Martinez + Johnson.

The architects tasked with redesigning the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library released their latest designs for the planned renovation of the city’s flagship public library last Friday, and they clearly envision a streamlined and more engaging campus.

The renderings, from a team comprised of the architecture firms Mecanoo, from the Netherlands,  and DC-based Martinez + Johnson  are still preliminary, but they move ahead on a plan to stack two additional floors onto Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s original 1972 three-story structure while maintaining its protected exterior appearance. 

Some of the ideas floated in these new renderings include an open floorplan at the ground level, with exposed staircases, a sidewalk bookshop and café (possibly called Cafe Mies), rooftop gardens, and and outdoor plaza on the side that faces H Street, Northwest. The library, has local and national landmark status, meaning the architects have to maintain its exterior design while giving the building the extensive overhaul it sorely needs.

DC government officials have said they plan to commit $103 million over the next five years toward rebuilding the library, though the project could cost as much as $250 million. Mayor Vince Gray floated a public-private partnership when the architecture team was announced in February.

The architects and DC Public Library officials are presenting the designs to the public at 6 PM today at the MLK Library.

Here are some more of the renderings, including more outdoor space:

A more spacious ground floor:

A sidewalk café and bookshop:

A cross-section of the proposed renovation:


Posted at 11:36 AM/ET, 05/19/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Edens wants to build hundreds of residential units just down the street from the popular food hall. By Benjamin Freed
Rendering by Shalom Baranes Architects via Edens.

Edens, the development firm that built Union Market, isn’t quite finished with Northeast DC’s warehouse district. The company this week submitted plans to the DC Zoning Commission outlining a mixed-use project next to the popular food hall, continuing the transformation of the neighborhood off Florida Avenue from an industrial area to an upscale residential and commercial community.

The project, located at 1270 Fourth Street, is slated to include between 420 and 520 residential units in an 11-story building, along with 39,000 feet of ground-floor retail. The building would sit just west of Union Market, replacing several food wholesalers that populate the area, although renderings suggest the brick facades of the warehouses that sit there now will be adapted into the new building’s design.

A statement of support filed by Edens refers to the project as an exercise in “place-making.” The firm writes that it is “creating both a vibrant living and shopping experience on an underutilized parcel.” Edens also plans to include a “unique public space” in the development, along with as many as 500 parking spaces, though such a large parking lot would serve overflow from Union Market.

Edens says the project will take about two years to build once the Zoning Commission signs off, though there’s already plenty of “place-making” going on in that wedge of Northeast DC these days. Besides this venture Edens is also a partner in a 216-unit building called Gateway Market Center, which is slated to open next year two blocks from Union Market. There are also two hotels and other mixed-use developments under construction in a half-mile radius.

Posted at 11:00 AM/ET, 05/08/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Opponents of building a mixed-use development at the historic McMillan Sand Filtration Site say they're going to put up a "very emotional" fight. By Benjamin Freed
The McMillan Sand Filtration Site has been fenced off since World War II. Photograph by Flickr user carfreedc.

A divisive real-estate battle will crank up to a new level Thursday night when the DC Zoning Commission begins hearings on the future of the McMillan Sand Filtration site, a decommissioned water treatment plant and former park, adjacent to the McMillan Reservoir, that is targeted for massive redevelopment.

Tonight’s hearing is the first of three on the 25-acre historic landmark, coming seven years after the District government awarded a consortium of development firms the rights to remake the parcel. But McMillan’s history as a civic park has riled nearby residents who hope to derail further gentrification in Northwest and Northeast DC.

“There are a lot of people in the community who are outraged by the prospect of putting up high-rises,” says Kirby Vining, the treasurer of Friends of McMillan Park, one of the groups leading the opposition.

McMillan, recognizable by its 20 moss-covered silos sitting atop a cavernous network of cells used to filter drinking water through sand, was also the District’s first desegregated park when it opened in 1905. It’s been fenced off since World War II. The filtration plant was decommissioned in 1986. Biannual tours were allowed between 1987, when the District government purchased the site, and 2012.

The city plans to allow a mixed-use development with apartment buildings, office space, restaurants, and stores to revive the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed area. The current redevelopment plan calls for 2.1 million square feet of new property, including 150 townhouses, 520 apartments, 30,000 square feet of retail, a 50,000-square foot grocery store, a 17,000-square foot community center, and a 1 million-square foot health care facility. It would also leave 12 acres of park land, with all 20 historic silos left intact, though nearly all of the underground campus would be demolished.

The proposed redevelopment would incorporate McMillan's iconic silos into modern, mixed-use buildings. Rendering courtesy Vision McMillan Partners.

Friends of McMillan is seeking to have “party status” in the zoning hearing, which would put the group on equal footing with the redevelopment group, Vision McMillan Partners. That would permit the anti-development advocates to cross-examine city officials and developers and subject the process to greater legal scrutiny. Vining says he has five or six witnesses lined up for tonight’s hearing.

The District awarded Vision McMillan Partners—made up of firms Jair Lynch, EYA, and Trammell Crow—the rights to remake the site back in 2007, but Vining points out the process was uncompetitive.

“What comes with it is offensive,” Vining says. “I’d like to see it opened up as a park.”

Civic groups in the Bloomingdale and Stronghold neighborhoods that border McMillan want Vision McMillan Partners to scale back the building designs and add more green space and parking spots.

Even altering the redevelopment plan is a long shot, even though DC’s Historic Preservation Review Board asked the developers to downsize their plans when they approved the overall plan. The Zoning Commission could asked for more modifications, but will most likely let the development go forward.

But before that happens, development buffs, historic preservation enthusiasts, real-estate reporters, and zoning commissioners may want to invest in earplugs. Vining’s members plan to show up to tonight’s hearing in force, and “those people may get very emotional,” he says.

Posted at 02:12 PM/ET, 05/01/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()