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FBI Relocation Narrows to Three Sites, DC Out of the Running

FBI Building. Photo by John Holcomb as posted on Flickr.

FBI Building. Photo by John Holcomb as posted on Flickr.

Though the new home of the Federal Bureau of Investigations is still up in the air, we now know where it will not be: in D.C. Two sites in Maryland and one in Virginia made the short list released by the General Services Administration (GSA) Tuesday.

The FBI will leave its J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Ave. in Washington, D.C. for the selected site. The GSA plans to swap the new facility location for the Hoover building.

According to the GSA those sites are:

Greenbelt - A portion of the site known as the Greenbelt Metro Station located near the intersection of Interstates 95/495 and Exit 24 (Greenbelt Station) in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Landover - The site known as the former Landover Mall located near the intersection of Interstates 95/495 and MD 202 in Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Springfield - The site known as the GSA Franconia Warehouse Complex located near the intersection of Interstate 95 and Franconia Road in Fairfax County, Virginia.

Site requirements were for at least 50 acres that could accommodate 2.1 million rentable square feet of office and other space, including parking. The site had to sit within 2 miles of a Metrorail station and either inside or within 2.5 miles of the Capital Beltway.

The new building will consolidate FBI offices–the current headquarters building cannot hold all of its divisions, resulting in as many as 20 leases for space in downtown D.C. and beyond.

Now that the selection has been narrowed the GSA will go through National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) reviews of the site–a public process. They will identify potential impacts and limits on development on each site. During the NEPA review, GSA will release a request for proposals from interested development companies. The companies will be vetted and a short list would then be able to respond to a solicitation of development proposals.

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Transportation Issues, Height Loom Over McMillan Zoning Commission Decision Until September

Transportation Issues, Height Loom Over McMillan Zoning Commission Decision Until September

The final decision on the McMillan  reservoir redevelopment plan will not come from the D.C. Zoning Commission (ZC) until September or possibly later as commissioners expressed ongoing, serious reservations about elements of the plan, particularly the traffic and transportation impacts the new development would have on the surrounding community. Monday, the ZC advised developers to refine their transportation program and to reduce the height of a proposed medical building, among other fixes, by the next hearing set for Sept. 29.

The District government awarded Vision McMillan Partners’ (VMP)–a team comprised of JAIR LYNCH Development Partners, EYA and Trammell Crow Company–the right to redevelop the site in 2007. The design plan calls for 2.1 million square feet of new mixed-use development  on the 25-acre site in Northwest D.C.

Community groups have objected to the development, citing concerns over traffic impacts and the amount of public park space.

Zoning Commission Chair Anthony Hood during previous hearings asked the applicants to meet and work with the community, he noted Monday, though he admitted they had no legal requirement to meet with neighbors. Community groups have since rejected the community benefits packages proposed by the developer.

“Zoning does not fix everything. Zoning cannot do it all” said Hood Monday.

Still among the items the ZC can “fix” commissioners urged the developers to do more to assuage worries from the community and the commission.

Density

Commissioner Peter May noted concerns from the community about the overall density of the proposed development. He suggested reducing the height of of the medical building from its current 130 feet to 115 feet.

“It’s still going to be quite substantially and it’s not going to address, I think, the…members of the neighborhood who are really concerned about the density of this project,” said May.

Many neighbors, according to May, would like to see practically no development or just a few townhouses at most. Overall, he said, he thinks the density makes sense.

“I don’t think there’s a reason for us to decide that very low level of density is the appropriate approach here,” added May.

Transportation

Commissioners noted the project area is already underserved by public transit and questioned the limited offerings by the developers including a shuttle from the metro that will run until the designated $1.25 million in funding is depleted–rather than for a set period of time or until alternate forms of transit become available. DDOT predicts there will be a demand for 1,100 additional bus seats during peak transit hours; seats that do not currently exist.

Commissioner Michael Turnbull said the developers offer nothing “substantial” to explain their plan for managing the influx of people to and from the site, including working with Metro and the District’s Department of Transportation on new transit options.

Turnbull said he would like to see a transportation performance plan that could give the Zoning Commission a set of benchmarks against which to check the development team as they come back for review of future phases of the project.

“I’d like to see something more definitive” said Turnbull.

Hood also questioned whether some of the proposed mitigations would work; he said there was too much “uncertainty” within the proposal in its current form.

“I think this just is too important of a project, too much mass, too much of an area to give a pass,” said Hood.

Next Steps

Commissioner Hood pushed to hold a limited scope hearing to get answers on transportation, but other commissioners felt their questions could be answered by additional submissions from the project team. Those items are due by Aug. 25 and the commission will consider them at a Sept. 29 hearing. It is possible that unresolved issues in September could result in a limited scope hearing, so a decision is not necessarily going to come in September.

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Museum Square Tenants Exercising TOPA Rights for 401 K St. NW

401 K St. NW as seen June 2014.

401 K St. NW as seen June 2014.

The current residents of Museum Square, 401 K St. NW, are going to make a run at buying their building or partnering with another developer to do so, in an attempt to preserve their existing 302 units of affordable housing in Mt. Vernon Triangle. The tenant organization notified the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development and the building owners, the Bush Companies, they intend to exercise their rights under DC’s Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA).

The 89,710-square-foot  building sits on just over 2 acres at 401 K St. NW, directly next to mixed-use development  City Vista.

TOPA requires landlords to give tenants the chance to purchase the property in which they live prior to any sale or demolition of that building. In June the building owners notified tenants they could purchase the property for $250 million–about $830,000 per unit, not including the retail space.

Tenants, however, believe that price tag is ”unrealistic” since the building was valued at $36 million in 2013. But because the owner plans to demolish the building, rather than sell, the company can dictate what it considers a “bona fide” offer. The tenants believe the current offer is meant to keep them from being able to save their homes from demolition, according to a website about the situation SaveMuseumSqaure.org.

In filing a statement of interest, the tenant organization now enters into a 120-day negotiation period with the landlord. According to information provide by the DC Office of the Tenant Advocate should those negotiations come to a settlement, the tenant group then has “120 days after the date of contracting to secure financing and financial assistance.”

Zenobia Lai, the executive director of the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center, said her organization is co-representing the tenant association with the Legal Aid Society of Washington, D.C. and the Housing Counseling Service, which has created and is managing SaveMuseumSqaure.org. Lai said the tenants organization will use these next 120 days to “figure out how to make the deal work.” See how the rest of the process works here.

The tenants could seek to partner with a developer who would purchase the property with the tenants or they may choose to assign their rights to a developer–both with the goal of retaining their affordable housing.

The effort is not far fetched.

In 2013, the Portner Place Tenant Association partnered with developers to exercise their rights under TOPA to purchase the 48-unit HUD Section 8 housing Portner Place Apartments next to the Reeves Municipal Center on U Street. Somerset Development Company with New Community Partners, Jonathan Rose Companies (“JRCo”), and the Rose Green Cities Fund are building a new mixed-income development on the site, actually increasing the number of affordable units from the existing 48 to a total of 96 unit and building them alongside 270 new market rate residential units.

Museum Square’s tenants have a higher threshold to reach for financing; the Portner Place sale is listed in online property records as $16.15 million, about $336,000 per unit, much less than the $830,000 per unit at Museum Square.

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Former Old Ebbitt, Georgia Brown’s Chef Plans Two H Street Restaurants

imageTroy Williams, a chef whose previous experience includes Old Ebbitt and Georgia Brown’s, is opening two locations along H Street, NE–one a breakfast and lunch join, the other a full-service restaurant and bar, the Washington Business Journal reports.

The Spot Deli, the breakfast and lunch venture, could open as soon as this fall at 701 H St. NE, the former home of Grace’s Deli.

Williams, his wife Yvette and business partner Adolfo Briceno own the future home of The Spot on H, the full-service restaurant, at 1255 H St. NE and are in the midst of renovating it. The business journal reports that site could potentially open in early 2015.

The new restaurant will grow above the existing structure with two new floors, a third level and a “roof deck patio” according to online permit information. The 1255 H St. NE location will be located just across the street from the new condo with ground floor retail proposed by Rise Development.

The Williams are both leaders in the D.C. branch of the Careers through Culinary Arts Program (CCAP) and hope to open their businesses up to trainees who want a future career in the culinary arts.

Read the full report from the Washington Business Journal here.

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New Developments are Reconfiguring Downtown to Preserve the Past

New Developments are Reconfiguring Downtown to Preserve the Past

If you want to catch a feat of engineering, stop by the 400 block of New York Avenue in the next few days where you can see an historic home being gingerly rolled on hydraulic dollies from 465 New York Ave. NW to the corner of 5th Street and New York Avenue, NW. Relocating the 1902 townhouse to make way for a new 13-story, 163-key Homewood Suites hotel is just one of many examples of new development both changing and preserving the District’s historic architectural fabric.

Before the moving could begin, contractors spent the better part of about four months bracing the historic home from the inside and out.

Now specialist firm Expert Home Movers will slowly shift the townhouse about 30 feet or so Friday via 20 hydraulic motorized dollies with a total of 160 wheels. The motors will power the slow crawl along wood beams.

Once settled in its new home, the historic structure will be fully restored as part of the project.

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The 1902, L.F. Stutz-designed structure is not the only example of history adapting to new construction in the Mt. Vernon area.

Around the corner at 415 M St. NW, an historic mural painted on plaster inside a Mt. Vernon Triangle home, is the subject of a fundraising campaign by the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington (JHSGW). The mural is the last remnant of the time when the home was used as a synagogue some 90 years ago.

Developer BlackRock Holdings, Inc. proposes to renovate the existing 160-year-old home and add an addition to create a new six-unit condo. But the developers didn’t want to destroy the history the mural represented, so they are coordinating with the JHSGW so the group can raise the necessary funds to remove the mural prior to construction.

As of Friday afternoon the mural fund was just $2,246 shy of the goal of $20,000.
Zachary Paul Levine, curator for the JHSGW, told District Source his organization expects to hire a contractor and start removing the mural in August.

The mural is just one project the JHSGW has in the area. Next year, they too will be moving an historic structure to a new location.

The 1876 Adas Israel synagogue located at 701 4th Street, NW is on land leased from the District, but will be moved to accommodate the new, mega-construction project that is Capitol Crossing. The building will be moved from its current location to the corner of 3rd and F streets, NW and reoriented from its current north-facing configuration to an eastern Jerusalem-facing orientation. There will also be a new museum built on the new site.

Levine moved to Washington, D.C. just six months ago to help the organization prepare for its new museum and this big move. He said in that short time he seems to see buildings being moved everywhere.

“There’s this palpable feeling that his city is being reconfigured in front of our eyes… at the same time as trying to preserve our past,” said Levine.

“It’s an interesting way to see how urban history is unfolding,” he added.

If you’d like to see a bit of urban history unfolding for yourself, walk by the moving site at 465 New York Ave. over the weekend before the new hotel pops up in the space history left behind.

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Mural at 415 M St. NW. Image from Flickr by Patricia Fisher, Fisher Photography, 2014

Mural at 415 M St. NW. Image from Flickr by Patricia Fisher, Fisher Photography, 2014

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Reeves Center Swap Could ‘Sink’ DC United Soccer Deal

DC United Stadium rendering.

DC United Stadium rendering.

The proposed trade of the Reeves Center, what many at a meeting Wednesday night called the heart of the U Street corridor, for a swath of land at Buzzard Point in Southwest to make way for a new DC United Stadium could be the piece that kills the deal, according to Councilmember Jim Graham.

“I know the Reeves Center was put into this deal to facilitate soccer, I’m really wondering if it’s really going to sink soccer ” said Graham whose comments came during an hours-long public round table at the U Street government building.

Committee on Economic Development Chair Muriel Bowser organized two round tables to get additional public feedback on the series of land deals that would allow the District to secure enough land at Buzzard Point for a new major league soccer stadium with accompanying retail and commercial buildings.

The District of Columbia Soccer Stadium Development Act of 2014 puts the District government in charge of acquiring the necessary land for the stadium and later for infrastructure such as new roads and sidewalks surrounding the soccer stadium and relocating utilities.

The Reeves Center at the corner of 14th and U streets, NW is the subject of a land exchange between the District and developer Akridge.  Akridge owns two acres of property in Southwest that comprises about 29% of the soccer site, according to Akridge President Matt Klein. Under the proposed landswap agreement that SW property is valued at $21.1 million. The Reeves Center was valued at just under $55.6 million, so Akridge would pay the District about $34.5 million to make  up the difference.

A new Reeves Center is proposed to be built on District property in Anacostia.

However, several public witnesses Wednesday objected to the valuation of the Reeves Center. The Mayor’s office has said the value–the result of independent appraisals by three different appraisers–is fair.

The council recently awarded a contract for “a detailed cost benefit analysis of the real estate transactions proposed in the District of Columbia Soccer Stadium Development Act of 2014.” The final report is due in September.

“If we put this building up for auction, I wonder what those bid would be,” said Graham. “I am quite sure that they would come from all over the world.”

Harry Wingo, the CEO of the DC Chamber of Commerce, however, said he thought the deal was carefully negotiated and would have benefits felt throughout the city. 

Graham softened a bit at one point noting he is “encouraged” by the conversations he has had with Akridge. He said the developer is trying to make sure whatever they might develop at the location is something the community supports. Community members in attendance and community organizations previously have repeatedly said they do not want more high-end residential, but rather daytime, commercial activity, which the Reeves Center currently offers.

Developers in attendance and advocates for the deal,  however, believe the current arrangement is one that can work for everyone and that going for the highest bidder is not necessarily the best deal for the city.

“When you are sitting across the table, making deals … sometimes you take the best deal. Money is very inconsequential when it comes to big, mega project,” said Ramesh Butani, President of HRGM Corporation. Butani’s company constructed the current Reeves Center.

He sees the relocation of the workers and resources currently housed on U Street to Anacostia and the catalyst that neighborhood has been waiting for.

For that very reason, however, Mike Silverstein, ANC Commissioner for ANC 2B, asked the council to consider the impact of taking away U Street’s “economic engine” that keeps small businesses going thanks to the 800 some odd employees a the Reeves Center.

“Whatever you do, don’t completely uncouple the economic engine from the U Street corridor,” Silverstein pleaded.

The hearing Wednesday last several hours and included both proponents and opponents of the current deal. Bowser has organized a second hearing for Thursday in southwest.

The Council will have ultimate decision on whether or not the deal in its current form is approved.

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Spy Museum Scales Back Additions, Tries to Reduce Impact on Carnegie Building

Carnegie Library View from the southwest.

Carnegie Library View from the southwest. Image from May 2014 design.*

The architects behind the design for the new Spy Museum location in Mount Vernon square continue to adjust their design to be more respectful of and to provide better views of the historic 1902 Carnegie Library which will house the museum. Despite those efforts, the design drew criticism from architects and historic preservation groups alike during a presentation and discussion Wednesday.

The National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC) is evaluating the site’s redevelopment impact on historic properties and the Historic Preservation Review Board will re-consider the design at its July 31 hearing. In May HPRB told the design team to emphasize the site’s focus on the building and to maintain open, green space.

The proposal currently calls for approximately 15,000 square feet of new buildings above grade in the form of two glass pavilions on the east and west of the building, connected to the historic structure with opaque hyphens that will store mechanical equipment. The two pavilions will house a museum store with cafe and a visitor center.

The new construction will total 65,00 square feet of new space, of which 47,000 square feet will be below grade.

Dan Kelley of MGA Partners Architects said the design has evolved in response to comments from the community and HPRB.

The most noticeable change to the proposed additions is a reduced scale for the hyphens, according to Kelley. Instead of a two-story hyphen structure, the plan now calls for a one-floor, 18-foot-high, glass structure that creates a 35-foot separation and connection between the Beaux Arts building and the new cafe and visitor center pavilions. The 30-foot high pavilions are now farther to the east and west of the main building and have been shaped to allow for better views of the historic structure than the previous boxy design.

Though the new structures are proposed to be glass, the hyphens will house some service equipment, necessitating that they will not be entirely translucent. Additionally there are plans to have signage and displays in the pavilions, which Thomas Luebke ,the secretary of the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, critiqued as a “pair of immense billboards facing the convention center.”

Other changes involve the green space of Mount Vernon Square itself. By reducing the depth of the hyphens by about four feet, they were able to add more landscaping at the north side of the property. Now the north side will be able to have larger trees, closer in size to those on the south side, which the project team believe will help anchor the building within the park, rather than making it feel like it flowed into the urban streetscape (an earlier criticism).

D.C Preservation League (DCPL) Executive Director Rebecca Miller criticized the programming of the plan, questioning why the visitor center needs to be housed outside the existing structure.

“We don’t believe there should be any addition to this building,” said Miller.

Greg O’Dell, the president and chief executive officer of Events DC, which operates the Carnegie building on behalf of the District government, said they want the visitor center to be accessible at grade level and its location to be apparent to tourists and residents from the street.

An HPRB staff member in attendance said the designs were a “notable improvement” but said the project team should provide information on what limits there might be on below-grade development, suggesting the new additions still pose a problem for the design.

Luebke noted that the design team’s attempts to respond to comments had resulted in a “hodgepodge” design that detracted from the way the entire property and building are understood from the street level.

The project will go before HPRB for additional comments July 31.

O’Dell responded to a question about the timing saying while they do not want to make assumptions about getting approvals, their ideal would be to start construction in 2015 and for the building to be complete by 2017.

*The most recent design images were not immediately available. District Source will provide an update when they are made public.

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245-Room Chinatown Micro-Hotel Approved without Parking

Hotel coming to 627-631 H St., NW.

Hotel coming to 627-631 H St., NW.

A new 11-story, 245 micro-room hotel with ground floor retail proposed for 627-631 H St. NW in Chinatown was granted a variance by the Board of Zoning adjustment (BZA) to provide no vehicle parking on site even though 64 spaces would normally be required. The developers aim to market the hotel to millennials whom they believe will arrive at the hotel via public transit by way of intercity bus, rail, or air.

The hotel group is D.C.-based Modus Hotels–owners of the George Washington University Inn and the Washington Circle Hotel among others–and their architect for the project was Davis Carter Scott Ltd.

The project team asked for relief from the parking requirements because of the very small size and width of the lot and the resulting difficult turning radius and ramping that would be needed to build a below-grade garage. The new hotel will be wedged between two commercial buildings, currently home to Vapiano to the east and Panera Bread to the west.

A nearby Colonial Parking garage has agreed to provide up to 20 spaces to address parking demand and the project team notes in BZA documents that there are a total of 9 nearby parking garages that could serve hotel guests, including at City Center and Gallery Place. Not to mention the 9 walkable bike share stations, 12 nearby bus lines and the direct proximity to the Chinatown/Gallery Place Metro Station.

The District Department of Transportation (DDOT) agreed to the parking variance request because the developers agreed to several transportation demand management conditions:

  • To provide free Capital Bikeshare bulk membership daily passes for guests upon request  in perpetuity with a maximum value of $5,000 per year;
  • To provide a Capital Bikeshare or car-sharing memberships for each new employee for the first 3 years of their employment;
  • To provide a minimum of two short-term bicycle  racks (4 space) parking spaces at locations to be determined by DDOT.

The building will also  include 4,600 square feet of retail, most likely a restaurant serving hotel guests.

During the hearing Tuesday, BZA Chair Lloyd Jordan asked whether any parking would be reserved in nearby lots for staff. A member of the project team said they believe the proximity to transit is a “bigger incentive” for workers than parking.  They expect approximately 30 hotel staff members will be working during any given shift; they anticipate most will not drive.

The BZA approved the following:

  • a variance from the parking requirements of Section 2101.1;
  • a variance from the loading requirements of Section 2201.1;
  • a variance from the court  requirements of Section 776;
  • a special exception from the roof structure requirements of  Sections 770.6 and 411;
  • and a special exception from the rear yard requirements of Section 774.
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SB Urban’s Blagden Alley Design Deemed Incompatible with Historic Alley

SB Urban’s Blagden Alley Design Deemed Incompatible with Historic Alley

SB Urban’s plan for a 125-unit apartment with ground floor retail at 917 M St., NW and 1212 9th St., NW will go into a hearing with the Historic Preservation Review Board later this month without support for several major design features, including a pedestrian bridge connecting the two buildings and a proposed 60-foot piazza at the ground level. A report from historic preservation office staff says the design’s effort to connect two buildings not only misses the mark, but also “takes over” historic Blagden Alley.

Developer SB Urban proposes building two four-story buildings on two vacant sites in Blagden Alley. The design by Hicock Cole Architects includes a a pedestrian walkway connection between the buildings. Additionally the project would create a new 60-foot “mini-piazza” in the alley by setting back the new buildings additionally from the original alley dimensions, which were historically 15 and 30 feet in width.

These changes “combine to effectively, and incompatibly, change the scale of this part of the historic district,” according to the staff report.

“Rather than two buildings inserted comfortably amongst [sic] the historic buildings of the district, their literal and figurative connection aggregates to take over this corner of Blagden Alley,” staff wrote.

Proposed pedestrian bridge as part of SB Urban's Blagden Alley development.

Proposed pedestrian bridge as part of SB Urban’s Blagden Alley development.

Staff take the most issue with the pedestrian bride saying such a structure is “most difficult to reconcile” with the historic district because elevated walkways are “nearly absent” from the architectural language of Washington, D.C. and especially from Blagden Alley.  The alley was populated by small businesses run by artisans, rather than large industrial businesses, which meant the structures, were generally “small-scale utilitarian architecture.”

The staff also objected to the over-use of glazing wall systems.

Beyond the way the design impacts the alley, the staff report generally supports the height, massing and materials, saying they fit within the context of the neighborhood.

The final recommendation was for the board to find the concept for the alley design not compatible and to require a new concept from the developers and their architect.

Related:  125-unit Apartment Proposed for Blagden Alley

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Adams Mill 36-Unit Condo to Deliver June 2015

The Adamo at 1827 Adams Mill Rd. NW. Image courtesy of Perseus Realty.

The Adamo at 1827 Adams Mill Rd. NW. Image courtesy of Perseus Realty.

A new 36-unit, four-story condo named the Adamo at 1827 Adams Mill Rd. NW, is under construction as of June and could deliver by June 2015, developer Perseus Realty tells District Source.

The building takes its name “Adamo” not for its proximity to Adams Morgan, but instead in honor of Mark Adamo, a senior vice president at Perseus who passed away in November 2013.

The new mixed-use building is being built on the former site of an Exxon gas station and convenience store at the intersection of Adams Mill Road and Lanier Place NW  in Adams Morgan. The development includes 27 parking spaces and 8,600 square feet of ground floor retail.

The developers say they have several prospects for the ground floor retail, but have not signed any leases yet.

Under inclusionary zoning requirements the building will include two units affordable at 50 percent of area median income (AMI) and one a 80 percent AMI, according to their permit application.

Sales on the residential development will begin in Spring 2015.

 

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