An architecture team comprised of the Dutch firm Mecanoo and District-based Martinez + Johnson has been selected to redesign DC's flagship Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, city officials announced Tuesday.
The overhaul of the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed building at Ninth and G streets, Northwest, will bring long-overdue infrastructure upgrades, and may also include the addition of mixed-use retail as well as additional floors.
“Today, the District takes another step towards giving our residents the great central library they deserve,” Mayor Vince Gray announced at the library.
Gray has said the city will commit $103 million over the next five fiscal years toward the library renovation, costs for which have been estimated to run to at least $250 million. He told reporters that the District will seek a public-private partnership to make up the balance.
The MLK Library opened in 1972 and received local and national historic landmark status in 2007. The winning design posits two additional floors built at a diagonal from the original building along with rooftop gardens.
“There’s an overlaying sense of creating a very special place people want to be,” Gary Martinez, a principal of one of the winning firms, tells Washingtonian. “It’s not about the books anymore. It’s about the people.”
Martinez’s team beat out two other finalists, which were culled from 26 bids submitted last fall. Some library stakeholders are upset the District awarded the contract with minimal public input. Renderings from the finalist teams were only published on February 7, and a single public presentation was held on Saturday.
“I think it was a backwards process.,” says Robin Diener, the president of the MLK Library Friends. Diener was a member of a 14-person advisory committee that helped pick the architects, but says that group had a “very minimal role in selection.”
Gray and Martinez say there will be more public input now that an architecture team has been selected. Martinez says his firm will “wipe the slate clean” and develop a final design in 18 to 20 months and meetings with community stakeholders.
Despite those assurances, an MLK Library that combines residential and commercial development still has many detractors, among them Diener, who is also the director of the DC Library Renaissance Project, a Ralph Nader-backed group that has fought the introduction of commercial space in other library building projects. Any addition to the MLK Library, she says, should be dedicated to public use. Asks Diener: “Would you put luxury housing on top of the Martin Luther King Jr. Library—a slain civil rights worker?"
DC United has retained the sports architecture firm Populous to design the stadium it plans to build in Southwest DC, city and team officials tell Washingtonian. The soccer club plans to unveil the latest renderings of the project at a team event Saturday at Pinstripes bowling alley in Georgetown, said the team official, who did not want to be named.
The team previously used renderings drawn up by HKS Architects, but has settled on Kansas City, Missouri-based Populous, which has a solid history of work with Major League Soccer teams. Populous has built soccer stadiums in Houston, Denver, and Kansas City, along with many stadiums for professional teams in Europe. DC United and Populous declined to share renderings ahead of tomorrow's event.
Populous has a track record in Washington, having designed Nationals Park, which sits just a few blocks away from Buzzard Point, where DC United plans to build a stadium once it can secure the nine-acre plot. So far, City Administrator Allen Lew says he has made agreements with the development firm Akridge and Pepco for about 80 percent of the land, but still needs to reach settlements with the investor Mark Ein and a salvage yard that own the other tracts on the stadium site.
The District government plans to spend up to $150 million to obtain and rehabilitate the stadium land, with construction costs of roughly the same amount to be borne by the team. A recent Washington Post poll found that six in 10 residents oppose the use of public funds to prepare Buzzard Point for DC United, but city residents can be uneven about public financing of sports venues. Although spending $650 million in public money for Nationals Park was unpopular at the time, the Post’s poll also found that 71 percent of residents today say the investment was a net positive.
The long-awaited redevelopment of DC’s Southwest Waterfront into a massive, modern mixed-use complex will finally begin in March, the developers behind the project told residents last night, nearly seven years after the project was first announced.
The development firm PN Hoffman plans to build the Wharf, a $2 billion sprawl overlooking the Potomac River that will bring hundreds of apartments, condominiums, and hotel rooms to the neighborhood, along with several hundred thousand square feet of retail, commercial, and cultural space. Hoffman got the master contract from city officials back in 2007, but is only now moving forward after a sluggish permitting process.
The Wharf, which in renderings looks something like the steel-and-glass NoMa neighborhood, but on the water, is being designed by the architectural firm Perkins Eastman. Construction on the first phase of the project is scheduled to stretch into 2017, and several business along Water Street, Southwest, will have to close or relocate, including the Channel Inn hotel and Phillips Seafood. (But fear not, summertime happy hour participants, Cantina Marinia is being allowed to remain open through construction.)
When finished, the Wharf is designed to include 650 apartments, 225 condos, a 280-room hotel, 140,000 square feet of retail, 220,000 square feet of office space, and 135,000 square feet of cultural space. Depictions of the future development also show wide pedestrian avenues and ample room for bikes.
The architecture teams competing for the job of remodeling and possibly expanding DC’s flagship Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library released renderings of designs today of their proposed overhauls of the Ludwig Mies van der Rohe-designed building.
The teams—composed of Patkau Architects, Ayers Saint Gross, and Krueck + Sexton; Dutch firm Mecanoo and DC-based Martinez + Johnson Architecture; and STUDIOS Architecture and the Freelon Group—were announced in December as the finalists.
The designs are likely to revive criticism from those who want to see the 1972 building left unchanged. The structure has local and national historic landmark status, and also falls under the purview of the National Capital Planning Commission, a federal board that oversee’s the capital’s skyline.
But library officials have long complained the MLK Library is in poor condition, with bad wiring and failing heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems. Its innards are caked with asbestos, and the windows that haven’t been replaced yet are inefficient. The District government plans to lay out $103 million over the next five years to restore and expand the building, though total costs for the project could exceed $250 million.
City officials asked the architecture teams to come up with two designs each—one that leaves the MLK Library at its current, three-story dimensions, and one that includes additional floors with space for commercial tenants and ground-floor retail.
The renderings will be display tomorrow in MLK Library and several branch libraries, and on DC Public Library’s website. The public will get its first crack at the proposed redesigns on Saturday, February 15 during a formal presentation at the central library.
By STUDIOS Architecture and the Freelon Group:
Downtown DC’s historic Franklin School will become a modern art museum, the city government announced today, beating out proposals to convert the landmark into a hotel, office building, or technology campus.
The 1869 Romanesque Revival schoolhouse will be converted into the Institute for Contemporary Expression, an exhibit and studio space funded by the developer Eastbanc and the asset management firm Campbell & Company. Plans for the museum, the brainchild of collector Dani Levinas, include galleries for contemporary art, sculptures and installations, and performance art, along with classrooms, a café, and bookstore.
“With the completion of this selection process we are now a step closer to revitalizing Franklin School and giving it a new life,” Victor Hoskins, the deputy mayor for planning and economic development, says in a press release.
The winning bid beat out plans to turn the Franklin School into a boutique hotel, a hybrid of workspace and living quarters for start-up tech firms, or a new headquarters for the real-estate analytics company CoStar. The building, sitting at the corner of 13th and K streets, Northwest, has fallen badly from its once-ornate conditions and has been closed since 2008. (Save a one-day siege in November 2011 by members of Occupy DC that led to several arrests.) The city estimates it will cost at least $30 million to stabilize the structure before any renovations can be made.
The bidding process for the Franklin School began last April. Eastbanc’s vision for the site includes an eventual partnership with the National Park Service to program events in a revamped Franklin Square Park across the street.
Standing in a frosty construction site just off New York Avenue, Northeast, developer Doug Jemal and DC elected officials (including a few mayoral candidates who weren’t on the program) held a ceremonial “groundbreaking”—in reality, a smattering of dignitaries digging into a box of dirt—for the redevelopment of the Hecht Company Warehouse, a Streamline Moderne landmark that occupies two blocks of a long-blighted part of DC.
“This is a gateway,” Mayor Vince Gray said, before turning the podium over to one of his rivals for in the mayoral election, Council member Muriel Bowser. Two other mayoral contenders, Council members Jack Evans and Vincent Orange, were not scheduled to speak, but got their turns anyway. Nobody mentioned the election, but Jemal, as one of the city’s leading developers, has ties to all four candidates who were present, having given $2,000 to Evans’s, Bowser’s, and Orange’s campaigns, as well as donating to Gray’s 2010 run.
The Hecht warehouse has been empty since 2006, when Macy’s bought the last remnants of the old department store chain and shut it down. Jemal's company, Douglas Development, bought the property for $20 million in 2011 with the idea of bringing one of the mixed-use developments that are an icon of present-day DC to Ivy City, one of Washington’s poorest neighborhoods.
Douglas’s $200 million project is converting the 463,000-square-foot complex of apartments and retail—potentially a tough sell in largely industrial area cut off from most public transportation. The ground floor will be anchored by a Mom’s Organic Market, bringing fresher food to one of the city’s biggest food deserts. Jemal also announced a second anchor tenant with Planet Fitness, a Baltimore-based chain of low-cost gyms, inking a deal for 20,000 square feet.
Hecht's plans to include ground-floor retail when it built the warehouse eight decades ago were never realized, Jemal said in his remarks. But with an eye toward historic preservation, Jemal said the redevelopment project offers the chance to finally put in those amenities.
“We’re not that effing smart," he said. "Let’s put back what they intended to do in 1937."
The 350 apartments Douglas plans to put inside the Hecht’s building will be far more expensive than the neighborhood’s going rate. Rents on equivalent units in nearby NoMa are higher, but the Hecht’s location is less inviting for car-free denizens, with the nearest Metro station more than a mile away. Even footpaths in the neighborhood are less than hospitable. (Douglas is building a 900-space parking garage next door.)
Here are a few renderings of the redeveloped Hecht's building:
The Kennedy Center has submitted more renderings of its planned expansion to the National Capital Planning Commission, including the first glimpses of the interior of one of the three pavilions the performing arts complex plans to add. The Kennedy Center plans to add new rehearsal space and classrooms on land, and an 8,000-square-foot pavilion that floats on the Potomac River.
Architecht Steven Holl’s design for the $100 million expansion also includes an overhaul of the Kennedy Center’s South Terrace with a new landscape including a reflecting pool, surrounded by gingko trees, lavender, and wild grasses. The two new land-based pavilions will be connected to the main building via underground walkways, while the floating stage will be accessible with a pedestrian bridge over Rock Creek Parkway.
All three new buildings, which the Kennedy Center plans to finish by 2017, will be constructed from the same Carrara marble from which the main venue is made.
The Kennedy Center is raising $125 million for construction and programming, with $50 million coming from its chairman, Carlye Group co-founder David Rubenstein when the expansion was announced last January, and another $40 million from other donors through December.
Since opening late last year, about 50 of the 458 rental units at the landmark and mammoth new CityCenterDC complex in downtown Washington have already been filled—about 12 percent occupancy, which the owners consider a strong beginning. At a Champagne launch party on Wednesday evening, we got a peek at what sales agents say is the most popular design, a two-bedroom that goes for $4,700 a month, before utilities and parking. Attendees could also look at the gym, the yoga room, the outdoor pool, a wi-fi lounge, and a party room with a pool table and big-screen TV—but not the much-buzzed-about rooftop dog park. That’s still under construction.
The complex, developed by Houston-based real estate giant Hines, sits on the ten acres that used to be Washington’s first convention center, which was torn down in 2004. In addition to the two towers of rental apartments, there are adjoining condo towers with 216 units. Howard Riker, a Hines vice president who was at the party, said “very soon” the company will announce the names of some of the 60 stores planned for the mixed-use complex that will also house restaurants, offices, and, eventually, a hotel. While he said the list would be “exciting,” he would not leak any of the names. We’ve heard that Kate Spade is a possibility, but to the rumor that Japanese retailer Uniqlo would be among the names, Riker said, “No.”
Guests at the party, when not schmoozing, hitting the buffet by chef Fabio Trabocchi, or sipping Perrier-Jouët from the so-called Bubbly Bar, took guided tours of parts of the building. Our guide was Tony Lucadamo of the sales staff, who, like Riker, compared the early and strong interest in the development to the debut of New York’s Rockefeller Center in the 1930s. It is expected to similarly transform downtown Washington.
Everything we saw was bright and white, though Lucadamo said the hallways of other floors have different color schemes. The corner unit we toured featured floor-to-ceiling windows and a small balcony with views of the street. He told us that while the rental and condo units are similar, the condos are more luxurious. According to Riker, about 50 condos have been sold so far. Prices start in the mid-$100s and go up to more than $3 million for the most elaborate.
The CityCenter project, estimated to cost in the $1 billion range, got its biggest investment boost—a reported $650 million—from the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, which will also be among the office tenants. Qatar reportedly had one condition, which the developers met: While the development could contain restaurants serving alcohol they did not want any bars, in accordance with Islamic law.
The designers are DC-based Shalom Baranes Associates, Envision Design, Lee and Associates, and London-based Foster + Partners. Planning started in 2005 during the administration of Mayor Anthony Williams, with continued support from the city under former Mayor Adrian Fenty and incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray.
Landmark Theatres will open a six-screen multiplex at the forthcoming Atlantic Plumbing development off U Street, Northwest, continuing the District’s apparent movie theater boom. The theater’s announcement comes not long after the unveiling of plans for new, upscale cinemas in Navy Yard and NoMa, which are rapidly filling up with gleaming new mixed-use developments.
JBG is transforming the Atlantic Plumbing site, about a block from the 9:30 Club at the corner of 8th and V streets, into a mixed-use development featuring retail and high-end apartments set to open in early 2015. The firm also announced last month that it is building an adjacent block into another project, called “The Shay.”
Landmark, which specializes in independent and foreign features, and sells fancy concessions and alcoholic beverages, already has two theaters in downtown DC and Bethesda. It is also planning to open a 10-screen theater at JBG’s Capitol Point development in NoMa, which is scheduled for completion in late 2016.
Upscale movie theaters theaters are apparently becoming the default amenities for Washington's raft of new mixed-use projects. Along with Landmark’s two planned cinemas, DC is also lined up to get an eight-screen Angelika Film Center in a development near Union Market in 2015, and a 16-screen Showplace Icon multiplex at a Navy Yard development in 2016.
Barely a few weeks after it began redeveloping the old Atlantic Plumbing warehouse on V St., Northwest, the development firm JBG is set to begin construction on another mixed-use development in the immediate vicinity. The new project, called "the Shay"—because every new development needs a clever name—will put apartment buildings on both sides of Eighth St., Northwest along Florida Ave., bringing even more new real estate to the area around DC's famed 9:30 Club.
When complete, the project will include 245 residential units and 28,000 square feet of retail space encased in a design that JBG says "evokes an industrial past." But even with all the promises of exposed concrete, brushed steel detailing, and other millennial-baiting design motifs, the buildings will plenty modern with roof decks, media walls, and a pool. JBG is also eyeing the retail space for restaurants and cafés.
New apartment buildings have been creeping up Florida Ave. for several years, but JBG has all but taken over the 9:30 Club's immediate neighborhood. Besides "The Shay" and the Atlantic Plubming projects, it also owns a large empty lot that hosts the District Flea marketplace on Saturdays. The company plans to eventually develop that parcel, too, but it folds into a long-term strategy of building a haven for relatively young apartment-dwellers with plenty of disposable income.
"Indie retail that includes one-of-a-kind merchants, coffee houses, galleries, sandwich shops, bakers and art studios is the right street vernacular here," JBG vice president Robin Mosle says in a press release. "We believe there’s a huge appetite for individuals seeking a homegrown, urban alternative to other D.C. neighborhoods."