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New Two-Story Restaurant Coming to Blagden Alley

New Two-Story Restaurant Coming to Blagden Alley

The Historic Preservation Review Board approved the initial concept for a two-story commercial building along Blagden Alley, a space developers are designing with a future restaurant in mind, according to city permits.

The property, in the rear of 920 N Street NW, will stand 30 feet tall and combine lots with 922 Rear N Street, making way for a new roof deck on top of that building.

HPRB staff praised the design by Douglas Development Corporation, particularly the “straight forward and distinctly proportioned brick facades” that blend into the larger historic buildings of Blagden Alley.

Traditionally, the large lots along Blagden Alley were divided into smaller lots, with frontage on the alleys instead of the streets — as with this property today. The District’s working class usually lived on the lots, in small, simple, two-story buildings that were two bays wide. Later, warehouses and commercial stables filled in the larger lots beside them, staff wrote in their report.

The new restaurant space honors that tradition with a similar brick facade, with vehicle-sized openings on the ground floor and paired fixed windows.

A construction start date has not been set.

Featured image: A rendering of the future restaurant on Blagden Alley , via Douglas Development plans submitted to the District of Columbia. 

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Featured Properties by Lindsay Reishman Real Estate

More Than 1,300 Self-Storage Units Coming To New York Avenue

More Than 1,300 Self-Storage Units Coming To New York Avenue

Construction of a nearly 113,000 square foot self-storage facility started last week at 1850 New York Ave NE.

The project, which will include 1,381 units,  is the second joint venture by Federal Capital Partners and Self Storage Zone. The team opened its first storage facility in Brookland last year.

Their latest project, which replaces a vacant lot, will feature “easy street access, state-of-the-art security and abundant parking and loading options,” between Gallaudet University and the U.S. Arboretum.

The vacant lot is being transformed into a new self-storage facility.

The vacant lot is being transformed into a new self-storage facility.

Self Storage Zone bought the property for $6.875 million in June, Washington Business Journal reports.

The company is building or managing 37 properties across Maryland, Virginia, New York, New Jersey and Florida, and is looking to add other locations in Washington, D.C., it says. Along with these two projects, Federal Capital Partners has financed more than $4 billion in assets in the past 16 years. 

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Nando’s Moves Forward With H Street Location

Nando’s Moves Forward With H Street Location

It’s been a big year for Nando’s Peri Peri.

With locations in Woodley Park and Laurel, Maryland underway, the South African chicken restaurant also got the green light this week from the D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment to take over two vacant buildings at 411 and 413 H St. NE, paving the way for doors to open later this year.

The company had to seek special relief to renovate the property, in large part because the property falls in both the Neighborhood Commercial and H Street overlay districts; the latter requires fast food restaurants to seek special permission to open.

Though Nando’s is typically cast into the “fast-casual” category, it’s considered fast food because customers pay for their meal before they are served.

Representatives for the chain argued that the fast-casual, laid-back nature of Nando’s was “fulfilling demand for family-friendly, casual eating establishments” in an area already filled with bars, salons and more formal restaurants.

“While H Street, NE has been a focus of redevelopment in the last several years, there are few quality, family friendly affordable dining options available to area residents,” they wrote in their application.

Nando’s will take over two, two-story vacant buildings that sit  between 4th and 5th Streets NE, on a block bookended by Ethiopic and The Big Board. The building has been vacant for several years. Renovations by the landlord are underway; Nando’s will take over the interior space when they’re completed.

There will be seating for 138 customers over two levels, a total space of 4,550 square feet.

Featured image:  A view of the future Nando’s site on H Street, from Google maps.

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Commissioners Want City to Start Over on Boys and Girls Club Proposal

Commissioners Want City to Start Over on Boys and Girls Club Proposal

Plans to revive the Hill’s Eastern Branch Building have been in the works for months. But Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B’s recent assessment: Start from scratch.

Despite months of meetings and revised plans, commissioners wrote in a letter earlier this month that the initial request for proposal for the former Boys and Girls Club building at 261 17th St. SE was flawed, as were the plans presented by developer Dantes / Menkiti. 

The site, two blocks from the Stadium-Armory Metro, was sold to the District by the Boys and Girls Club in 2010 for $20 million, according to the Washington Business Journal.

Initially, DGS sought a development partner willing to accept a 25-year lease for the property and the 30,000 square foot building currently on the site.

Two development teams presented their proposals to the community in January. The two options are a 100% market-rate senior housing proposal from Century Associates / Horizon Hill Ventures and a 100% affordable senior housing proposal from Dantes / Menkiti.

The Century Associates proposal would fit within the existing footprint of the building, bringing a total of 25 market-rate units plus two care-giver units in a range of sizes. The proposal also included a potential partnership with Capitol Hill Village–an aging in place organization–and an indoor, fee-based play area for children.

The Dantes / Menkiti proposal would bring 49, 1-bedroom units of affordable senior housing (46 affordable at 60% AMI, 3 affordable at 30% AMI) to the property, which would require a two-story addition. The development would also include 5,000 square feet of community space.

Commissioners had asked for several changes to both the RFP and the proposals — mostly, allowing for a longer lease term so as to attract more developers who are able to make long-term investments and pay off construction loans — but failed to see any changes, they said.

Neighbors preferred the Century Associates plan, but the ban on public subsidy for the project put the unit rental price of the project — $2,500 to $3,000 per month — out of reach in a city that needs more, not less, affordable housing for seniors, commissioners wrote.

The commission also had several outstanding questions for DGS, which it said was withholding information from the community. Among them: What happens after the 25-year lease has expired? How is financing structured? How are community amenities paid for?

Commissioners said the fact that only two developers responded to the request to develop the site should have indicated the RFP needed work. Century Associates, for instance, said it could not finance their project with a 25-year lease.

“Instead of providing additional flexibility in the BAFO, DGS essentially doubled-down on their original RFP terms, including the ridiculously short lease requirement. I’m extremely frustrated that this process has led to a choice of one,” Commissioner Brian Flahaven wrote on his blog last month. 

DGS had hoped to make a decision on the project at the end of march. Flahaven told District Source that while DGS had received the commission’s letter, it had not indicated what action it will take, or when.

Shaun Courtney reported for this story. 

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11-story Mixed Use Chinatown Development Moves Forward

11-story Mixed Use Chinatown Development Moves Forward

When Monument Realty first presented its plans to rebuild an entire cluster of Chinatown near 7th & H St. NW, reception from D.C.’s Historic Preservation Review Board was less than warm.

The project, which would include renovating nine buildings and demolishing a five-story warehouse at 610-24 Eye and 609-619 H Street, NW, was deemed “too aggressive” and too massive, out of place in the historic district; one local developer said he “hated” the project.

But now, months and several revisions later, the HPRB says it will support the project as it moves forward, pending approval from the Mayor’s Agent and a final design review from the board.

The building — called “Gallery Tower” — will add 79,586 square feet of space to the downtown corridor, 19,000 of it for retail.

One of the issues the HPRB continued to have with the proposal, from Monument and architectural firm Hickok Cole, was a pedestrian bridge that spanned an alley on the property, connecting the project’s east and west towers. The HPRB thought the bridge was too large, and should be two to three floors at most, or, removed entirely for the project. Members also worried the towers appeared identical, creating an illusion of a massive building that spanned the entire block.

In the latest design, presented March 18, the bridge was reduced to a single story glass connection and some architectural elements were pulled back, which makes it appear “lighter and more comfortable” in the neighborhood. Architects also varied the design of the heights of the massing in the two towers, scaled down the openings and balconies and included more colorful accents to make them more distinct.

The project now heads to the Mayor’s Agent, where developers will seek a permit to raze the five-story warehouse. Pending approval, the design will return to HPRB for final design review.

Some requests from HPRB members:

  • The retail windows on the side of 620 Eye Street should continue to be studied, perhaps with a series of smaller windows rather than a single large storefront
  • Evaluate relocating lobby to 612 and 614 Eye rather than 616 to eliminate awkward entrance sequence
  • Reduce the scale of the two-story mass on top of the west tower.

If successful, construction on the project should start later this year.

The development is one of several changes coming to one of the city’s most iconic blocks. Also on tap: 140 luxury residential units, also developed by Monument, and a micro unit hotel, Bisnow reports.

 

 

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Update: Fairgrounds Will Be Open For 2015 Season

Update: Fairgrounds Will Be Open For 2015 Season

The JBG purchase of Akridge’s  property near the National Ballpark  in February was good news for the rapidly developing neighborhood.

But it wasn’t news welcome by many Nationals fans, who flock to the site — currently home of the Fairgrounds shipping container venue — to play games, sip on beer and sample the area’s food trucks before and after Nationals games.

Baseball lovers won’t have to worry just yet: “We’ll definitely be there for the entire season,” Fairgrounds owner Bo Blair told The Washington Post.

As the Washington Business Journal reported in February, Akridge sold two-thirds of the Half Street lot to JBG for $45 million. That parcel will have two residential buildings with “dramatic retail,” WBJ reports. Akridge, which will retain the third of the lot facing M Street, plans to put up an office building.

 

 

 

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Surge Pricing for Parking? Pilot Starting to Test the Waters in Downtown DC

Surge Pricing for Parking? Pilot Starting to Test the Waters in Downtown DC

Almost anyone who’s attempted to park in Washington, D.C. tries to avoid the experience again, if they can help it.  At worst, the District is the most-congested city in the nation. At best, it’s still on the short list. 

This winter, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) announced a plan it says will free up traffic and make parking easier to find: Demand-based parking, a plan that will set rates based on how many spaces are available (or not) at any given time.

DDOT is piloting the program, called ParkDC, in Chinatown-Penn Quarter, from 11th to 3rd and E to H streets Northwest.  This week, DDOT crews began installing space markers and meters in the zone, which includes 1,300 spaces.

A map of the ParkDC pilot area. Credit: District Department of Transportation.

A map of the ParkDC pilot area. Credit: District Department of Transportation.

Drivers will still be able to pay for parking by phone, with the city’s ParkMobile program, but the program will also feature new meters and machines that will display rates as they fluctuate. During odd afternoon hours, for instance, rates might drop, and shoot up again before a game at the Verizon Center.

Even more exciting, for those who have to frequent downtown: The pilot will be extended to delivery and tour bus operators, who take up important curb real estate, often during peak hours.

Video: Chinatown/Penn Quarter Parking Issues from Kittelson & Associates, Inc. on Vimeo.

The city is also installing sensors and closed circuit cameras so it can deliver real-time information on which spots are available to an online hub as well as an app.  Lack of available spots, and a high sticker price for a prime spot on 7th Street Northwest, could motivate a driver to seek parking in a less congested area, or, hop on the Metro or Capital Bike Share.

The strategy is already one used by HOV lanes, including those on 495 in Virginia.  Surge pricing for parking has been used for years by San Francisco and Los Angeles. In SFPark, drivers saw their time searching for a spot drop by 15 percent — about a minute; in LA Express Park, available spaces increased anywhere from 10 to 30 percent during the pilot period.

The District’s program will be tested and user-ready by May 2015, officials said. Price changes will hit by the summer, and adjustments will be made quarterly, with the first formal assessment coming in the fall. The pilot will end in Fall 2016, at which point it could be moved to other neighborhoods.

First in line may be Dupont. Neighborhood commissioners raised their hands at a meeting with DDOT last year as more than willing — and ready — for any experiment that would make parking less of a headache.

Featured image: Mr. T in DC, via Flickr.

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D.C. Streetcar Can Open, Review Board Says — But When Still Unclear

D.C. Streetcar Can Open, Review Board Says — But When Still Unclear

With months of testing, missed target dates, and some calls for the project to be canceled altogether,  it was unclear whether D.C.’s tenuous plans for a streetcar would ever come to fruition.

But supporters of the 2.2 mile-project along H Street and Benning Road Northeast found a much-needed boost in confidence in a Friday finding from the American Public Transportation Association that said there were no “fatal flaws” that would prevent the service from moving forward, though there were several serious issues that needed to be addressed before it got off the ground.

The report comes just a few weeks after District Department of Transportation Head Leif Dormsjo told the city’s council he considered scrapping the project entirely.

Friday’s letter said such a drastic action wasn’t necessary, though it listed some 18 major issues  — broken rails, streetcar doors that scrape on platforms and non-functioning onboard radios among them — that will take thousands more dollars and resources to repair.

A final report with APTA’s findings is expected in April, WAMU reports.

While getting the streetcar on road  was one of the last promises made by the outgoing Vincent Gray (D) mayoral administration, Gray’s mismanagement of the project was cited by APTA as one of the elements that has kept the project dragging on.

Dormsjo is now tasked with creating a task list and project schedule to fix the issues outlined by APTA, something that was never done, or done poorly, by the previous administration, he told The Washington Post.

One question that remains: When will the line finally open? It’s not clear, but Dormsjo told WAMU it will be months before the city can begin to consider a grand opening date.

“The District has asked a great deal of our small businesses on H Street and Benning Road, the surrounding neighborhood, and the residents,” Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen said in a statement.  “I expect DDOT to address APTA’s checklist items with all due speed and develop a plan to move the H Street / Benning Road Streetcar line forward, connecting it to downtown and to neighborhoods to the east.”

Find the full APTA letter here.

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Frager’s Deal With Roadside Falls Apart

Frager’s Deal With Roadside Falls Apart

From The Hill Rag

By Andrew Lightman

Discussions between Roadside Development, LLC, and Frager’s Hardware to redevelop the site of the store’s original location have collapsed, as first reported online by the Washington Business Journal. The parties remain in contact, but there are no plans to move forward.

“Roadside Development, LLC a Washington, DC-based real estate company, regrets that after months of due diligence and negotiations, they were unable to finalize an agreement for the purchase of the Frager’s Hardware Store site. Roadside proposed to purchase the site and have Frager’s return under a long-term lease, which would enable Frager’s to bring back the store’s hardware, paint, garden center, and equipment rental operations to its original location as part of a mixed-use project. The two parties were unable to come to an agreement on issues related to the existing conditions of the site prior to the expiration of the contract,” stated Lionel Lynch, Director of New Development and Strategic Planning at Roadside Development, LLC.

The deal was first announced in September, just more than a year after Frager’s decades-old location burned to the ground.

As the Washington Business Journal reported:

John Weintraub, Frager’s longtime owner, said in September that Frager’s own studies revealed the property was so severely damaged “we could not afford to rebuild the site alone.” They chose Roadside as a partner, which proposed not only rebuilding the store, but also adding upward of 40 residential units and possibly office to the site.

“We are sad that our conversations with Roadside did not bear fruit. We are still looking for a development partner. In the mean time, our hardware store at 1323 E St. SE, our paint store at 1129 Pennsylvania Ave. SE, and our new Garden Center at 1230 Pennsylvania Ave. SE are thriving. Customers have figured out where our new stores are and returning in droves. The best thing is that all sections of Frager’s are now in a convenient three-block walk,” said Kristin Sampson, spokesperson for Frager’s Hardware.

The Hill Rag is the monthly community newspaper of record for Ward 6. It is published daily online at www.hillrag.com and monthly in print.

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70-Unit Condominium at Mass Ave and N Street Moves Forward

70-Unit Condominium at Mass Ave and N Street Moves Forward

A long-vacant block of historic Dupont Circle row houses is being transformed into a 70-unit condo development that will preserve all of the site’s original structures.

The project, from Madison Homes, The Resmark Cos and IDG, comes 25 years after a different developer first purchased the property at 1745 N Street NW, intending to put a mixed residential and commercial building in its place.

That company, Morton Bender, submitted plans for a 75-foot structure that would have required developers to destroy some parts of the original buildings. Bender’s plan, along with four other high-rise proposals around Dupont, prompted the creation of the Dupont Circle overlay district that put a height limit on buildings north of M Street, according to city documents.

Unlike a plan that followed — a 2006 design from N Street Follies Ltd to redevelop the site as a luxury hotel — the latest vision from Madison, known as 1745N, earned approval from the Historic Preservation Review Board  in late 2013. This week, the plan received parking relief from the Board of Zoning Adjustment that allows it to continue moving forward.

“This is a neighborhood that likes to be occupied so I’m glad [you’ve found a way to make this work],” BZA commissioner Robert Miller said.

When it was last in use, the  site, nestled between Massachusetts Avenue and N Street NW,  was home to two office buildings and a 20-unit apartment building, with five parking spaces, according to site documents.

The Madison plan will build out 31 residential units across the existing buildings and 39 units in an addition behind them. The former will have a more historic feel; the latter will be more modern, loft-style spaces.

Typically, an addition to historic structures for multifamily buildings in the neighborhood must provide 15 parking spaces for residents; there is no residential parking permits available on the block. The BZA approved Tuesday a plan to allow developers to drop that number to 13, in exchange for language in the condominium’s bylaws that guarantees residents who purchase units in the first five years receive a complimentary Capital Bikeshare membership.

The District Department of Transportation and the local Advisory Neighborhood Commission both support the plan.

Construction on the site should be completed by the end of 2015.

Rendering of the condos at 1745 N Street NW from 1745N.

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