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Mayoral Uncertainty Means D.C. Unlikely Candidate for $1 Million in Innovation Grants

Public art in Mt. Vernon. District source file photo.

Public art in Mt. Vernon. District source file photo.

The District government could get as much as $1 million a year to fund innovation teams to tackle complex problems with creativity and data-based solutions  for three years from Bloomberg Philanthropies. It’s up to the mayor–and therein lies the complication–to apply.

Bloomberg Philanthropies recently announced its latest round of Innovation Delivery Team grants–the organization will invest $45 million in 10 cities over the next three years to support innovation teams in those cities. The cities will receive grants ranging from $250,000 to $1,000,000 and are expected to match at a 1:3 ratio. By the third year, cities must allocate funding in the budget to continue the innovation programs beyond the life of the grants. 

The program’s newest round of grants follows three years of testing in five cities–Atlanta, Chicago, Louisville, Memphis, and New Orleans. Results in those cities ranged from a 20% reduction in New Orlean’s murder rate over two years to Atlanta’s to a 33% reduction in licensing time for new restaurants in Chicago.

“Mayors everywhere are focused on innovation – and, increasingly, on the tools and approaches they need to make it the norm rather than the exception in city halls,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg Philanthropies, in a prepared statement. 

The idea behind the Bloomberg grants is that addressing complex urban issues like crime, homelessness and economic development requires a level of creativity, flexibility and data-based problem-solving that is often difficult for entrenched government processes and structures. The grants allow cities to create teams that operate above or outside of departmental silos and provide the funds to do so without exceptional fiscal risk for city government leaders.

So how do we sign up for these funds? The grants give preference to cities where the mayor will be in office for at least three years starting Jan. 2015, though grant applications are due before the election. So Mayor Gray won’t have much luck if he applies, but it is unclear whether or not a candidate could file an application.

“While there is a preference for cities in which the mayor has at least three years remaining in office, that is not an eligibility requirement,” explained Meghan Womack, a spokeswoman for Bloomberg Philanthropies, in an email to District Source.

Would the current list of candidates go for such  innovation grants?

During a recent trip to Atlanta, Democratic Candidate Muriel Bowser took interest in  Mayor Kasim Reed’s  Office of Innovation Delivery and Performance–the very program Bloomberg Philanthropies funded.


“CM Bowser is committed to exploring grant opportunities and public-private partnerships as innovative ways to counter the constraints that local budget and unpredictable federal funding have on the District,” said Joaquin McPeek, communications director, for Bowser’s mayoral campaign.

McPeek said  Bowser sees particular opportunity to address technology and infrastructure needs with additional funding sources whether grants like the Bloomberg program or another public-private partnership.

Independent Candidate David Catania is known for demanding data and relying on numbers for accountability during his time on the Council. The data-driven, results-oriented nature of  the grants would fit with that narrative.

Given the uncertainty of leadership for the District’s future, it is likely the city will be a contender for an innovation delivery grant. But could the city apply in the future?


Womack did not respond to repeated inquiries about whether or not the organization would do another round of grants to a new group of cities next year or if the grants would only be available every three years. The current timetable of every three years  does not bode well for the District given our election cycles.

Anyone else have $1 million to spare for some innovative thinking?

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Four Teams Bidding for Grimke School Redevelopment

Four Teams Bidding for Grimke School Redevelopment

The deadline for teams interested in redeveloping the historic Grimke School, 1923 Vermont Ave. NW, in the U Street historic district has come and gone and signs point to four teams in the running for the Vermont Avenue school building and an adjacent U Street lot.

The  African-American Civil War Memorial and Museum (AACWM), a key stakeholder in the request for proposals (RFP), signed and signed acknowledgement of mutual agreement forms with four development teams: Community Three Development, MCN Build, Inc., Art Space Projects, Inc., and Roadside Development.

The RFP included the “Form of Acknowledgement of Mutual Agreement with the African American Civil War Museum” as a proposal submission requirement so the only teams that will be viable competitors for the RFP are the four listed above.

The winning developer must  provide a “warm, lit shell” of approximately 10,000 square feet within the historic structure to the AACWM.

The Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) which issued the RFP and is handling the developer selection process would not provide the exact number of RFP responses when District Source inquired.

“We are reviewing them for responsiveness and will announce who the respondents are after that process is complete,” DMPED Spokeswoman Chanda Washington said in an email.

However, the AACWM Founding Director Frank Smith told a neighborhood group organized around the school’s redevelopment that his organization signed with the four listed developers.

Of the four developers, we have information on two of their proposals.

Community Three is working with Torti Gallas Architects. The architecture firm was actively involved in community discussions and submitted proposals when the property went out for RFP previously. The firm’s principals said they would move their office to U Street, bringing 100 architects, designers and administrative staff to the site. They also said they planned to lease to remaining space not taken by the museum to non-profits or a business incubator.

Roadside Development is partnered with Sorg Architects on a plan to bring dance space for City Dance & Step Afrika to the school building, possibly condos or townhouse residential use to the current gym building on 9 1/2 Street, and retail on ground floor with residences on upper floors to the U Street property, according to an update provided by the Grimke Redevelopment Working Group.

MCN Build worked with Devrouax & Purnell Architects on the existing AACWM building.

District Source reached out to both MCN and Artspace to confirm their submissions. We will provide an update should more information become available.

The proposals from the other developers are not known at this time. The next step would be presentations by the developers to the community via the Advisory Neighborhood Commission at some point this fall. The winning team would likely be chosen before the new year as the Gray administration’s time ticks down.

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Washington Football Team’s Stadium Search Prompts RFK Speculation

Washington Football Team’s Stadium Search Prompts RFK Speculation

Following Dan Snyder’s remark that he is searching for a new location for Washington’s football team during an interview on Comcast Sports Network, speculation among D.C. politicians immediately focused on bringing the team back to the city and for many that means a return to the RFK Memorial Stadium campus.

Though the team currently has a lease at its home at FedEx field in Prince George’s County, Md. until 2027, local jurisdictions are already buzzing over the prospect of luring the team to a new stadium site and possibly sooner than 2027.

Ward 2 Councilman Jack Evans, a proponent of stadium deals of various stripes to include the Verizon Center, Nationals Park and now the new D.C. United proposed stadium, told  ESPN 980 he’d like to see the team return to the city, specifically to RFK and possibly within five years time, by 2019.

Evans said city leaders should overlook the controversy surrounding the team’s name and even the team’s owner and focus on the football.

Focus on the long-term, generational aspect of having the Washington football team located in the District of Columbia at the RFK site. Whatever it’s called, whoever owns it is not relevant, because that will change over time,” Evans said in an interview on  ESPN 980, according to The Washington Post

The RFK stadium site is managed through a contract with the District by Events D.C. The organization just recently awarded a contract to study the possible future development to to Brailsford & DunlaveyThe Washington Business Journal reported. Brailsford & Dunlavey have experience with performing athletic facilities analyses and athletic and recreation master plans.

Not everyone is thrilled by the idea of the stadium at RFK, including nearby communities. The site is currently marked by empty parking lots from the stadium’s hey days and neighborhood groups would prefer to see those surface lots transformed into playing fields and developed instead of repaved for tailgating in the fall.

For now most of the discussion is just that, discussion, but the topic of Washington’s football team and the RFK site will likely make its way into mayoral debates later this fall.

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Madison to Bring 30-Unit Condo to 15th St. NW, Meridian Hill

2327-2331 15th St NW is Madison Investments new Meridian Hill area project. Image courtesy of Madison Investments.

2327-2331 15th St NW is Madison Investments new Meridian Hill area project. Image courtesy of PGN Architects..

Madison Investments recently acquired 2327-2331 15th St. NW from the Development Corporation of Columbia Heights (DCCH) and plans to convert the former affordable housing building into 30 luxury condos less than a block from Meridian Hill Park. Construction could begin as soon as September and the units are expected to deliver in summer 2015.

DCCH confirmed the sale of the 15th Street property they have owned since 1994 and said their organization would not be involved in whatever plans Madison has for the site. The tenants vacated the property prior to the sale.

The sale price was $2.8 million according to online property records; the 2013 tax assessment was $822,220. The new project will bring one and two-bedroom units to the property located about a mile from both the U Street and Columbia Heights Metro Stations. The building will feature a roof deck and a rear courtyard. Two penthouse units will have private roof decks.

“We are excited for the opportunity to continue creating innovative, luxury living spaces in this area of the District,” said Sia Madani, president of Madison Investments in a statement.

Madison is working with PGN Architects and ADG for its interior design, according to a press release from Madison. TTR Sotheby’s will handle sales.

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McMillan Team Tackles Thorny Transportation Challenges in Latest Zoning Response

McMillan Team Tackles Thorny Transportation Challenges in Latest Zoning Response

Among the biggest challenges to Vision McMillan Partners’ plans for the McMillan Sand Filtration Site are the new transportation infrastructure and the area’s already below-capacity transit options. During Zoning Commission (ZC) review in July, Commissioners called on the developers to increase their commitment to providing transit service enhancement and to provide a more detailed accounting of the timeline for their proposals.

In July Commissioner Michael Turnbull said the developers did not provide any “substantial” plan for managing the new trips and demand the site will generate.

” I’m just concerned that the lack of public transportation in this area is going to increase, if we don’t get…anymore buses, it’s going to be worse, and the people are going to come back and look at us and say, ‘Why did you approve this?’” said Turnbull.

New documents submitted to the ZC this week include a transportation performance plan coordinated with the District Department of Transportation that has a “firm” timeline for both new infrastructure and mitigation measures, according to the developers.

Several commissioners criticized the developers’ plans to pay for a shuttle for $1.25 million over a five year period as being too limited to meet the potential needs of the site, especially if additional transit options like a new Circulator route or additional Metro bus options are not available.

Now VMP has budgeted $1.75 million for a private shuttle while also committing “to expend the actual amount needed, without limitation, to mitigate the additional trips caused by the project that are not provided through public transit.”

The new plan increases the peak hour transit capacity to a total of 2,500
passengers/hour (the existing weekday evening capacity is 1,400 passengers/hour) through private shuttles and/or more services from DDOT or Metro buses, depending on those agencies plans. Additionally, VMP will fund “any transit demand gaps through shuttles” if there are not public transit service increases before the certificate of occupancy for Phase I.

The first portion of Phase I that would require a certificate of occupancy would be the rowhouse development by EYA, which is currently expected to deliver starting in 2017.

Other highlights include:

  • Commitment to provide funding for a total of 60 Bikeshare docks, including 40 in the first phase (20 on-site, 20 at a nearby Metrorail station)
  • Minimum of 10 car-sharing spaces in both on- and off-street sites
  • 11 electric car charging stations
  • Real-time transit electronic messaging boards in office and residential lobbies
  • northbound climbing bicycle lane adjacent to the PUD on First Street

See the full list of transportation commitments here: EXH B – McMillan – Transportation Performance Plan FINAL.

Transit study area with existing and proposed transit routes.

Transit study area with existing and proposed transit routes.



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McMillan Changes Include Smaller Medical Building, New Flex Space on Evarts

McMillan Changes Include Smaller Medical Building, New Flex Space on Evarts

Vision McMillan Partners made architectural adjustments to their proposed designs for the redevelopment of the McMillan Sand Filtration site resulting in a smaller healthcare building and a better pedestrian experience for the mixed-use multifamily building along Evarts Street. Both changes were in direct response to concerns raised during the Zoning Commission review of the project.

Vision McMillan Partners’ (VMP)–a team comprised of JAIR LYNCH Development Partners, EYA and Trammell Crow Company–proposes a new, 2.1 million square-foot mixed-use development on the 25-acre site in Northwest D.C.

During the July hearing, Commissioner Peter May suggested the applicants reduce the height of the western wing of the medical building from 130 to 115 feet. To maintain the “design intent” while reducing to 115 feet the architects also reduced the size of the eastern wing slightly–in all  the healthcare facility shrunk by about 25,000 square feet of gross floor area, according to records submitted to the Zoning Commission.

Another noticeable architectural change came in response to concerns about the loading operations that will service the senior residential housing and the grocery store in the mixed-use multifamily building. After working with DDOT, the applicant decided to combine trash and service spaces for residential and grocery uses and to eliminate one of two proposed curb cuts on Evarts Street.

Those two adjustments opened up additional ground level space at the eastern edge of the building that will provide a new “flexible space” and with it an additional 55 feet of street level frontage with windows.

The windows at the rightmost edge of the building are part of the new flexible space created by combining trash and loading areas.

The windows at the rightmost edge of the building are part of the new flexible space created by combining trash and loading areas.

Commissioners questioned why the applicants opted for the previous loading scheme instead of a “front-in/front-out” loading as seen at other grocery stores throughout the city. In their letter to the ZC the applicants explain the constraints that keep them from pursuing that approach to loading and from having the loading on a street other than Evarts Street.

The applicants said various “urban design objectives” including some required by the Historic Preservation Review Board–like new north-south roadways, a limited width on Evarts and  the reconstructed Olmstead Walk–all resulted in loading on Evarts Street. Additionally, the community’s desire for a full-service grocer dictates other design constraints on the building layout, like a segregated parking area all on one level and a minimum floor plate of 50,000 square feet.

The in and out loading the ZC inquired about would result in a 25 percent reduction in the grocery floor plate, additional curb cuts and a reduction in parking on the first level. Making those sorts of changes would, according to the applicants, “render the site unmarketable to a large-format grocer.”

We’ll have more tomorrow on Vision McMillan’s response to transportation planning as requested by the Zoning Commission.

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Kinetic Pavers to Light Dupont Pocket Park

Kinetic Pavers to Light Dupont Pocket Park

One day in the future you could grab a Krispy Kreme donut in Dupont Circle and enjoy it while you sit in a new pocket park overlooking Connecticut Avenue complete with benches, bike racks, landscaping and even kinetic pavers that power lights and light the benches thanks to foot traffic. The Washington Business Journal first reported about the new Connecticut Avenue Pocket Park with Kinetic Pavers.

The new park  would cost an estimated $200,000 in already allocated funds available through the Mayor’s Sustainable DC Innovation Challenge program.

The Golden Triangle Business Improvement District will maintain the site and will create a website to show the real time energy generation of the kinetic pavers, according to the project description as submitted to the National Capital Planning Commission (NCPC).

The new park will take the place of a concrete semi-circle; it will measure 60 feet by 28 feet, or about 850 square feet.

Pedestrians passing through Dupont Circle will generate the kinetic power that the specialized Pavegen pavers will send through an underground electrical conduit to light the new park.

Construction could begin in late October, according to the project submission letter to NCPC.

See more Project Drawings and Project Materials.

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New Visitor Parking Pass Program Open to All, Except Most of Ward 2

New Visitor Parking Pass Program Open to All, Except Most of Ward 2

Households throughout the District could register online or by phone to receive a new visitor parking pass (VPP) to allows guests to park on residential blocks for more than the normal two-hour limit, under the newly proposed VPP from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT).

Eligible households in Wards 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F would receive a visitor parking pass valid for a calendar year beginning Jan. 1. Other ANCs in Ward 2 are not eligible under the current proposed plan. In many cases, residents of those ANCs asked not to be included because of concerns about too many non-residents parking on already crowded streets in places like Georgetown and Dupont Circle.

The new passes could only be used within the ANC boundaries explicitly posted on the pass– for instance this would prevent someone who lives on H Street from lending the pass to a non-resident to parking on residential blocks near the ballpark.

These regulations will enable us to streamline the program, expand the eligible recipients and improve the management of the program. We encourage the public to weigh in on the rules,” said DDOT Acting Director Matthew Brown.“

DDOT opened its rules for a 30-day comment period and anticipates opening up registration in late October 2014.

You can view and comment on the rules here:

Comments may be emailed to DDOT’s Public Space Policy Office or mailed to  Samuel D. Zimbabwe, Associate Director, District Department of Transportation, 55 M Street, S.E., 5th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20003.


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Restaurant,Training Academy Proposed for Site of May Club Stabbing

H Street, NE.

H Street, NE.

Though Twelve Lounge, an H Street bar and club, is still waiting for a resolution through the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board  (ABC) to its ongoing suspended license, a new business is already making plans to take over the space: a restaurant and culinary training academy. Capitol Hill Corner reports the new venture Naomi’s Ladder, LLC hopes to transfer Twelve Lounge’s liquor license to their operation. 

Twelve Lounge, 1123-1125 H St. NE, currently has its license suspended by the ABC Board following a May stabbing at the business which followed an earlier March stabbing.

The new business is currently operating under the name Naomi’s Ladder, LLC. A representative Jayne’ Lamondue Price, the general manager, explained the new business proposed by owner Wanda James at the Advisory Neighborhood Commission Tuesday. D.C. records show a new business, Naomis Ladder, LCC, registered in the District Monday at 1123 H St. NE and lists Jayne Price as the registered agent. No other documents have been filed about the new LLC.

Capitol Hill Corner reports:

“Tuesday night, Price described a plan to ANC6a’s ABC Committee which envisioned a full service restaurant and a post-secondary educational institution offering certified occupational training in bartending, hospitality services and restaurant management.  A full service catering company offering on and off premises catering to local businesses, schools and community centers will be part of the operation.  Price said the company would apply for a license for the educational and training component of the operation before next January. “

However, Twelve Lounge is still waiting for a final order on its license from the ABC Board, expected some time this fall, so the license transfer will not be possible until that time.

Jacob’s Ladder and its culinary training operation are unrelated to the venture proposed for 1255 H St. NE where Troy and Yvette Williams hope to open up their new business to trainees in the Careers through Culinary Arts Program.

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RFK Future Development Study to Go to Brailsford and Dunlavey

DC United RFKEvents D.C. will award a contract to study the possible future development of the Robert F. Kennedy (RFK) Memorial Stadium (including its parking lots) and the non‐military portions of the D.C. Armory to Brailsford & Dunlavey, The Washington Business Journal reports.

Events D.C. first issued a request for expressions of interest (RFEI) in November of last year and responses were due in January. Seven teams responded.

The RFEI sought respondents to study the possible redevelopment of/uses for the RFK campus and to possibly execute those development plans.

Events D.C. has not officially announced the selection of Brailsford & Dunlavey, but the business journal confirmed the selection with spokeswoman Teri Washington.

The selected company has worked with local universities like George Washington University, Howard University, Georgetown University, Catholic University of America with projects including athletic facilities analyses, strategic development plans, developer selection assistance and campus, athletic and recreation master plans.

“All of the seven respondents understood how important it was for us to ensure that we have community input” said Eric Moses, managing director of Events DC’s Sports and Entertainment Division, at a community meeting in April.


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