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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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Grimke Redevelopment Proposal Deadline Extended

Grimke Redevelopment Proposal Deadline Extended

Developers interested in getting their hands on several city-owned parcels along the U Street corridor have another month to prepare their response packages–the  Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) extended the proposal deadline to redevelop the historic Grimke School at 1923 Vermont Ave. NW from July 29 to Aug. 28.

This is the third time the District has planned to turn the property over to a private developer through a request for proposals (RFP) process.

At a  redevelopment pre-response information session and site tour on June 17 representatives for nearly 20 developers and more than a dozen architecture firms showed up to see what the property might have in store.

The historic Grimke School building offers approximately 52,000 gross square feet on Vermont Avenue and the adjacent U Street lot is about 5,900 square feet; both are located in the U Street historic district.  The city will execute a ground lease for the Grimke School building; the remaining portions of the school parcel and the 912 U Street lot will be a fee simple transfer.

The Grimke School and its neighboring townhouses on Vermont Ave. NW. Photo by Tony Azios for District Source.

The Grimke School and its neighboring townhouses on Vermont Ave. NW. Photo by Tony Azios for District Source.

The winning developer must  provide a “warm, lit shell” of approximately 10,000 square feet within the historic structure to the   African-American Civil War Memorial and Museum (AACWM). Proposals need to include this space and a plan for accommodating the museum.

Community organizations has expressed a preference for daytime activity, such as commercial and cultural uses, rather than residential or nightlife-oriented uses.

What might come to the site is anyone’s guess. DMPED for their part did not place strict limitations on the types of development proposal that would be accepted.

The Grimke parcel is currently designated for “mixed moderate density residential and moderate density commercial development, which anticipates a mix of uses that could include row houses, low rise multi-family development, or moderate density office and retail,” according to the RFP.

The U Street lot is designated for “medium density commercial and medium density residential development, which anticipates residential, office, retail, hotel, or other commercial or mixed-use development,” according to the RFP.

The public will have the opportunity to review proposals prior to a decision by DMPED, which the RFP states would come in “Winter 2014.” However, with the election this fall it is possible the final selection could be delayed until a new administration takes office.

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Ditto Taps into Fundrise for H Street Apartment Financing

 

1362 Florida Ave. NE architectural drawings. Image from BZA documents.

1326 Florida Ave. NE architectural drawings. Image from BZA documents.

Ditto Residential, a boutique real estate development firm, has decided to expand their circle of investors for a new H Street, NE apartment they are building to include smaller, short-term investors through crowd-financing site, Fundrise. This is Ditto’s first time using Fundrise for a development project.

The project at 1326 Florida Ave., NE  will be a four-story, 45-unit apartment with 18 bicycle spaces and 16 parking spaces. The project sits just north of the bustling H Street corridor and at the southern end of the Trinidad neighborhood.

Brian Burke, the CFO for Ditto Residential, said his company is excited about  creating more “places for people to live on H Street.”

“[H Street has] been a really exciting entertainment and nightlife district, but there hasn’t been many good options for living right there, so we’re excited about the opportunity to develop something,” added Burke.

Ditto will close on the property in September. Before then they are pursuing a hybrid financing approach that will rely on traditional pillars–bank loans and common equity investors–and a new source–small and first-time real estate investors from Fundrise.

The bank loan should finance about 80% of the project and normally the remaining 20% in common equity comes from the developers, friends and family, according to Burke.  Common equity is a long-term investment that  in theory results in a higher return over time.

Fundrise opens the option for short-term investments in smaller amounts over a fixed period of time with a set rate of return. The average rate of return for a Fundrise investment is 12-14%, according to the company website.

Burke said they realized their new H Street, NE corridor project was a good opportunity for them to try out the Fundrise platform. From the developer’s perspective, this crowd-financing option expands their investor base by including people who may not be interested in a long-term, common equity investment.

The Fundrise investors will be paid some of the interest during the term of the loan–most likely two years–and the remaining interest and their equity will be disbursed at the end of the investment period.

Fundrise investors will be paid back first, before the developer or the common equity investors, explained Burke.

Ben Miller, CEO of Fundrise, told District Source his company has switched to investments that return to their investors first in part because of the simplicity of the arrangement.

“You get all your money and all of your profit before the developer gets anything,” said Miller.

It answers the constant question: how much money am I going to make?

Miller said another DC development project–1819 Riggs Pl. NW* in Dupont Circle–recently used this format. In that case, Lock 7 Development personally guaranteed both the equity and interest to the Fundrise investors.

Ditto is still working with Fundrise to develop the terms of their offering.

In case you are wondering, it’s not easy for a developer to get their project this sort of financing. Fundrise gets about 200 pitches a week for a funding partnership, according to Miller. But they only choose the best; they do the vetting for their platform users.

Fundrise goes through a normal underwriting process looking at where a project will be located, which lender they are working with, etc.

“The most important thing is the person who is doing the project,” said Miller, because anything can happen and that relationship and person make all the difference.

Burke said he and company owner Martin Ditto met with the Millers (Ben and his brother Dan are the force behind Fundrise) several times  to discuss possibly working together over the course of the last several years. For Ditto and Burke this project made sense and Fundrise agreed.

“We’re very excited about where H Street is going and that we’re one of the people contributing to the  continuing opening up of H Street in terms of having more apartment and condo opportunities,” said Burke.

The investment page should appear here several weeks before the September closing. You can get more information about the project here. Construction will begin this fall and the building should deliver by late 2015.

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*Editor’s Note:  Lindsay Reishman, the principal broker for Lindsay Reishman Real Estate, sold the Riggs Place units for Lock 7. Reishman is the sponsor of District Source. Here’s how that works.

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Atlantic Plumbing Readies for Movie Theater Tenant Layout

Atlantic Plumbing, future home of the Landmark Theater.

Atlantic Plumbing, future home of a Landmark Theater.

The 6-screen Landmark Theater coming to the Atlantic Plumbing development at 8th and V Streets, NW is getting closer to reality: developer JBG recently applied for a tenant layout permit for the 348-seat movie theater.

The theater, 2112 8th St. NW., will be about 10, 000 square feet including concessions and a restaurant/bar with 14 outdoor and 29 indoor seats.

The Atlantic Plumbing development is two mixed-use buildings made up of a 310-unit residential building, a 63-unit condo and 19,100 square feet of retail.  The theater anchors the ten-story story, 310-unit building, expected to open in late 2015.

The Atlantic Plumbing location will be Landmark’s fourth in the D.C. area.

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