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What If Your Commute Looked Like This? “Rain” Art Coming to NoMa Underpass

What If Your Commute Looked Like This? “Rain” Art Coming to NoMa Underpass

If you live or work in NoManoma, you know the neighborhood’s bridges and tunnels leave much to be desired.

But help is on the way: The NoMa Parks Foundation announced this week it selected Thurlow Small Architecture and NIO Architectn to design the first of four planned underpass art installations in the area.

The vision for the first site, the M Street underpass between First and Second streets, N.E.: hundreds of polycarbonate tubes filled with LED lights, dangling from the top of the underpass like cascading drops of rain. The intensity of the light will vary based on the movement of cars and pedestrians as well as the time of day, creating the illusion of billowing waves.

A view of the proposed "Rain" installation on M Street NE. Courtesy Thurlow Small.

A view of the proposed “Rain” installation on M Street NE. Courtesy Thurlow Small.

The underpasses connect tens of thousands of residents and workers to places like Union Market, Gallaudet University and the H Street corridor every day. But they’d also become an eyesore. The project — called “Rain” —  was one of nearly 50 applicants in a design competition launched by the foundation last spring, which solicited ideas to improve the condition of NoMa’s four central underpasses.

Along with the M Street site, the underpasses include:

  • L Street, NE between First and Second Street, NE
  • K Street, NE between First and Second Street, NE
  • Florida Avenue, NE between Second and Third Street, NE

Netherlands-based NIO Architects have completed more than 10 underpasses in the past 14 years; the Rhode-Island based Thurlow specializes in urban parks, downtown planning and public infrastructure.

Construction on the project, part of the NoMa Public Realm Design Plan,  will likely begin in Fall 2015.

A rendering of the underpass.  Courtesy Thurlow Small.

A rendering of the underpass. Courtesy Thurlow Small.

But the concept and design of “Rain” is still up for review. A community meeting is planned from 6:30 to 8 p.m. April 27 at the Lobby Project, 1200 First Street, NE.

Contracts  for the other underpasses will be awarded throughout 2015, the foundation says. You can see the nine remaining finalists in this gallery.

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Weekend Links: More Live Music, Things Aren’t Looking Great For The Streetcar

Weekend Links: More Live Music, Things Aren’t Looking Great For The Streetcar

It’s been a busy week in DC real estate and development. Here’s a quick glance at news you might have missed.

  • Streetcar updates: There’s still no opening date set for H Street’s planned 2.2 mile streetcar line. But when it does open, riders should expect the initial free rides to be short-lived — and officials are already saying the cars will run less frequently: Every 12 to 15 minutes, instead of 10 as planned, reports The Washington Post. 
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2030AP Condos Now Open in Shaw, With Farm-To-Table Retail Tenant Slated For Fall

2030AP Condos Now Open in Shaw, With Farm-To-Table Retail Tenant Slated For Fall

We’re starting to see what Shaw’s Atlantic Plumbing development could bring to the block just south of the 9:30 club.

The first of the project’s two mixed-use buildings, called 2030AP, officially opened last week. And on Thursday, it announced its first tenant: Declaration, a presidential-themed farm-to-table restaurant from team behind Teddy and The Bully Bar and Lincoln Restaurant DC.

This first six-story building,  at 2030 8th St. NW, has 62 condos for sale with several perks, the most visible of which is a lush rooftop terrace. On the ground floor, developers are hoping to lease out 5,000 square feet of retail. About a third of that space is dedicated to Declaration, 2030AP announced Thursday on its Facebook page.

Early plans for Declaration restaurant. Courtesy of 2030AP.

Early plans for Declaration restaurant. Courtesy of 2030AP.

What diners can expect:

A hearth-baked pizza centric menu, daily Chef specials, and an array of regionally-sourced meats, poultry, fish, and vegetables. House-made desserts and handcrafted cocktails will complete the progressive menu

A company spokesperson told District Source the eatery, which will front both 8th and V streets, should open by this fall.

More details at The Washington Post.

The second building, called Atlantic Plumbing,  will have 310 units when it’s completed. The complex is also expected to open this fall, the company spokesperson said.

A rendering of both buildings in the Atlantic Plumbing project. Courtesy of Atlantic Plumbing DC.

There has already been some indication as to who will fill the retail space below that building. In July, the Washington Project for the Arts signed a lease for the space. The development also includes a sprawling movie theater at 2112 8th St. NW., a 10, 000 square foot place said to feature concessions and a restaurant/bar with 14 outdoor and 29 indoor seats.

2030AP’s spokesperson said more tenants will be announced in the coming weeks.

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View 14 Will Be D.C.’s First Mixed Use Building To Include Doggie Daycare

View 14 Will Be D.C.’s First Mixed Use Building To Include Doggie Daycare

We’ve seen restaurants, grocery stores, luxury clothing and fitness facilities flock to the retail spaces in D.C.’s mixed use developments.

But this week, the Zoning Commission paved the way for a new kind of tenant on 14th Street: A dog daycare and boarding facility, the first attached to a mixed-use residential building in the District.

Doozydog! Club, whose parent company owns five locations across Southern California, Washington and Texas, plans  to open a shop in a 4,300 square foot facility on the ground floor of View 14, a 10-story apartment/retail development at the corner of 14th Street and Florida Avenue N.W. The store, at 2303 14th Street N.W., would include pet grooming and day care, along with overnight animal boarding.

Most types of retail businesses are already permitted under the property’s 2006 planned unit development (PUD) agreement with property owners View 14 Investments; two of the development’s four ground-floor retail spaces are already occupied,  by Beta Martial Arts Academy and the National Capital Area YWCA.

Doozydog! Club will fill one of the building’s two vacant spots, with an entrance on 14th Street NW. As the name suggests, the company markets itself as more of a “club” than a daycare: It’s a cage-free facility that lets dogs roam five “play parks.” The chain, founded by former executives of the Sports Club/La brand, also includes free WiFi, music, entertainment and an on-site retail store for its customers, according to early plans filed with the city.

Putting in a pet boarding facility would usually require a special exception from the Board of Zoning Adjustment; View 14, landlord UDR  and Doozydog! Club instead sought to modify their initial agreement to include pet boarding as an acceptable use.

At a Monday hearing, developers argued the project met the PUD’s mission of improving local services for not only residents of the building, but also along the 14th Street commercial corridor. A hundred View 14 residents signed a petition in support of the project, including three that live directly above the retail space.

But not everyone has agreed.

A floor plan of the ground level retail at View 14.

A floor plan of the new doggy day care at View 14.

UDR first filed to build the facility in late 2013,  but the Board of Zoning Adjustment denied its application because it said the daycare didn’t demonstrate it could adequately control noise in the building. Some residents said they were also concerned about the cleanliness of the facilities, as well as odors .

At this week’s hearing, developers agreed to address several concerns filed by the Meridian Hill Neighborhood Association, including walking the dogs only along 14th Street, rather than side streets; wearing uniforms or identification to let neighbors know they’re with the daycare center; and requiring customers to sign an agreement to obey traffic and parking rules during dropoff and pickup (namely: no double parking).

The agreement approved this week also includes a clause that if parking or blocked lanes do become issues, employees of the daycare will provide concierge service for customers between 7:30 and 8:30 a.m. on weekdays.

To deal with noise issues, developers also commissioned a study to measure the impact of barking dogs on surrounding units. The analysis from Polysonics blasted the sound equivalent of 50 dogs barking simultaneously — an unlikely but worst scenario, the owners said — into the retail space during daytime hours. Based on the results, they developed a soundproofing plan that includes two separate ceilings : A spring isolated ceiling noise barrier right below the residential units, separated from the existing ceiling with an air gap. The space will also be outfitted with  2 inch wall panels that will cover at least half of the wall surface available in each room, absorbing more of the sound.

One of the owners of City Dogs, another D.C. dog daycare on 18th Street, objected at the hearing to the process itself,  saying it sends the message that if you don’t like an answer from one entity — in this case, the BZA — you can just go to another.

 “Everyone should play by the same rules,” he said.

 Zoning Commissioner Anthony Hood said the reason the application could appear before the board was because of a change in language in city regulations — but beyond that, the Zoning Commission has the authority to take on any BZA case, he said.

Hood and other commissioners agreed Monday the development would benefit the neighborhood, and that the developers  had done appropriate outreach, including notifying affected tenants and doing community outreach.

Some other protective measures in place: No chronic barkers are accepted into the “club,” and access to the play parks is restricted to employees, which minimizes disruption.

No opening date has been set for the facility.

This article has been updated to include the new name of the coming store.


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Study: Capital Bikeshare Riders Are Older, Earn More, Commute Shorter Distances

Study: Capital Bikeshare Riders Are Older, Earn More, Commute Shorter Distances

In 2011, the vast majority of Capital Bike Share riders were younger than 45; two-thirds made five figures a year.

Today, that picture is changing, according to an analysis of new Capital Bike Share data from Mobility Lab. Some 20 percent of the service’s ridership is older than 45. Half are from households that earn more than $100,000 a year. * And the overwhelming majority are male (59 percent) and white (84 percent).

“It also is generally clear that younger members are motivated by the ease of getting around and saving money while older members tend to be more interested in exercise, health and helping the environment,” Mobility Lab wrote in its review of the study.

Bike share demographics. Courtesy Mobility Lab.

Bike share demographics. Courtesy Mobility Lab.

It’s fair to point out that the number of members who actually responded to the survey — 16 percent — was just a slice of its more than 27,000 members. And the survey was only sent to those how had na annual or 30-day subscription.

Still, the data isn’t all that surprising when you consider where the stations are located. While the number of stations has grown across the region in the past three years, most of the new outposts have been in wealthier Virginia or Maryland suburbs.  And, while the number of stations is based on demand, there are still fewer bikes available to riders traveling to or from traditionally lower income, minority neighborhoods.

A map of Capital Bikeshare stations.

A map of Capital Bikeshare stations. From

Of course, the service is, as a whole, saving more people from hitting the road in their cars.

The average driving reduction was 158 miles per year. Fifty-five percent drove a car lessoften and 58 percent were less likely to hop on the Metro.

While most users say they’re using the service for non-work purposes — entertainment, socializing, among other trips — but 74 percent use it to get to or from work each month.

It appears those commutes are significantly shorter than they are by nearly any other mode: On average, bikeshare members pedaled 6.2 miles to work one-way. The regional average: 16 miles, according to the survey. Only 17 percent of all commuters travel fewer than five miles to or from work.

Riders still had some requests. Among them: A “single-card system that would allow them to check out bikes and ride public transit.” It’s not clear how far into the future that solution might come.

Do you use Capital Bike Share? How? Where? How Could The Service Be Better?

Featured Image: Tony Webster via Flickr.

*Correction: Mobility Lab incorrectly reported the income of Capital Bikeshare riders.  More than half of riders are from households whose incomes exceed $100,000. We regret the error.

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The Arris At Navy Yard Tops Out; Public Marina Coming Soon

The Arris At Navy Yard Tops Out; Public Marina Coming Soon

First came restaurants. Now, residential units are booming around Navy Yard.

The greater Navy Yard area has 29 residential developments planned or already underway, according to the Capitol Riverfront BID.

The latest: The Arris, an 11-story, 327-unit apartment building that will offer more than 19,000 square feet of additional retail space on the ground floors. Developers capped off the concrete on the building’s roof deck last week. Rentals should be move-in ready by 2016, the project says.

The Arris is one of three projects underway at The Yards, a development project by Forest City Washington, the Mid-Atlantic hub of Forest City Enterprises. When complete, The Yards will add 5.5 million square feet of space across 24 buildings, including 2,800 residential units, up to 400,000 square feet of retail and dining and 1.8 million square feet of office space.

Later this year, crews should begin site work at 4th and Tingey Streets SE — the former home of The Trapeze School of New York (TSNY) — to transform the lot into a 10 floor building with 130 for-sale condos. Forest City has announced it will also build a two-building complex with 190 apartment units, which will include  another 16,700 square feet of street level retail space, on the adjacent site.

Grosvenor Americas broke ground earlier this month on its new 450,000 square foot mixed-use development on the Capitol Riverfront, a community that will include apartments, a hotel and retail just north of Nationals Park.

Also on tap this summer: Construction of a 50-slip public marina at Yards Park. That site should be completed by late 2015.

Featured Image: A rendering of Arris. Courtesy of Forest City Washington.

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825 Apartments, Condos Could Come To Controversial Museum Square

825 Apartments, Condos Could Come To Controversial Museum Square

When residents of Museum Square were told last summer that their Section 8-subsidized housing was being sold for $250 million — and they could purchase the property at asking price — they weren’t sure whether they’d be able to stay.

Ten months later, not much has changed, save back-and-forth lawsuits and some new plans that offer a glimpse of what the new property could look like — should a deal go through.

Urban Turf reports that the if the Williamsburg, Virginia-based Bush Companies succeeds in razing the site, it would put two buildings in its place: a 14-story apartment building, with 450 rental units, and a 13-story, 375-unit condo building. Also included, Urban Turf says: More than 15,000 square feet of retail and a four-story parking garage. Construction would start next year.

Urban Turf:  825 Residential Units Planned for Contentious Mount Vernon Square Site

The existing building has 302 apartment units and 6,500 square feet of retail fronting on both K and 4th Streets, NW. But the new vision would make the complex even larger than neighboring City Vista, a mixed-used development that offers 680 rental and condo units, along with retail on the ground floor.

Whether the latest plans will come to fruition depends on how Bush, the city and tenants resolve the lawsuits and legislation mounting on top of the community of largely low-income, elderly residents , many of whom make up a large part of Chinatown’s Chinese population.

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. When offered the $250 price, though, tenants countered that the price tag was “unrealistic,” since the building was valued at $36 million in 2013.

It set off a chain of events that has been well-reported by the Washington City Paper’s Aaron Wiener:

 Then-D.C. Councilmember David Catania quickly drafted emergency legislation to prevent landlords from charging these exorbitant prices to residents in order to avoid demolition. Then-Mayor Vince Gray offered up companion temporary legislation; both measures passed the Council.

Residents sued Bush Companies last fall for violating TOPA. Bush Companies, in turn, sued the city in March for unreasonably blocking its development, Wiener reported. Neither side seems to have found a resolution, though city council members continue to step in to try to legislate in favor of tenant rights. 

One looming deadline: The expiration of the building’s Section 8 contract. Come September, it will force residents out of the building, resolution or not.

District Source will report more information on this story as it becomes available

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Weekend Links: Rents Up, Update On “Equity Eats,” Best D.C. Street Art

Weekend Links: Rents Up, Update On “Equity Eats,” Best D.C. Street Art

It’s been a busy week in DC real estate and development. Here’s a quick glance at news you might have missed.

Rents Up and Vacancy Down in DC Area’s Increasingly Competitive Class B Market: Though prices are rising, the rental rate in D.C.’s “Class B” market — a step down from the most expensive “Class A” — are up. And with it, the number of vacant units are down, Urban Turf reports.

Land Development Near Metro Leading To Big Ridership Increases: Metro ridership has dropped 10 percent over the last half decade. But the agency has one thing in its favor: Development. Some “84,000 additional daily trips will be produced by the more than 100 million square feet of development either under construction now or planned for completion by 2020 within a half-mile of its rail stations,” Martin DiCaro writes.

Kimpton Hotels Add Two More DC Hotels To Its PortfolioWashington Business Journal reports that the boutique hotel chain is adding two more properties to its DC roster: The Carlyle, in Dupont Circle, and Georgetown’s Savoy Suites.  The move makes DC the chain’s biggest location: San Francisco, the previous leader, has nine Kimpton hotels, WBJ reports. (Read more about the plans for the properties — including the expanded Carlyle, opening April 29).

Tommy Wells on urban agriculture, playgrounds, and a tree summit: Elevation DC sat down with the new head of the District Department of the Environment. Among the questions he answered: What’s the future of food and farming — and what can we expect to see from city parks?

With the Launch of “Pop-Up Megaplex” Prequel, EquityEats Rethinks Its Business: An update on the former Living Social space at 918 F Street from the Washington City Paper.

The Best Street Art in DC: One of D.C.’s greatest charm for locals: Its unique, and sometimes hidden, street art. DCist tracked down some of the best in this roundup. Among the favorites: The Marvin Gaye mural (7th and S Streets NW), the Rhode Island Avenue Metro murals (behind the Rhode Island Avenue Shopping Center and the “Gagged Washington” ( 1502 U Street NW).

Featured Image: The ribbon cutting of the new Marvin Gaye mural. Credit: Ted Eytan, via Flickr.

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BZA Sends La Lomita Plans Back To The Drawing Board

BZA Sends La Lomita Plans Back To The Drawing Board

Samuel Fuentes has owned La Lomita, a neighborhood Mexican restaurant, and three adjoining townhouses in Southeast Capitol Hill since 1987.

So as redevelopment started to sweep his neighborhood, he decided to throw his hat in the ring, too. The vision: His lots at 1330-1336 Pennsylvania Ave. SE could become a mixed use development, one that would keep his eatery in place but add three stories of residential space above it.

The problem:  The lot is triangular, making for an awkward site that faces the street on multiple sides and narrows toward the west.

To Fuentes and PGN Architects, that meant seeking some relief, particularly for parking and the project’s floor area ratio (FAR), which exceeds the city’s limit for how large a development measures against the size of the land upon which it’s built.

But the Board of Zoning Adjustment said last week it doesn’t think the team has been creative enough in coming up with a plan that would stay within current zoning laws, asking for additional options and sending the project to a continuation hearing later this month.

The four-story project, as presented, would include 10 one- and two-bedroom condos above a ground floor restaurant, steps away from the Potomac Ave. Metro Station. (Across the street: A large, mixed-use building that includes a Harris Teeter).

BZA commissioners didn’t take issue with waiving the required five parking spaces for the site, in lieu of the project providing 10 bicycle spaces.

They did take issue with a request for a FAR of 3.5 — a development three and a half times the size of the lot. The limit for the property is currently 3.0.

It also asked for relief on a planned 89 percent residential lot occupancy, where the limit is 75 percent.

“This is excessive. We haven’t seen any other plans,” Commissioner Michael Turnbull said. “We’ve see this one plan and this is what makes or breaks this project, supposedly, and I’m troubled by that.”

The project is backed by  letters of support from Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B and the Capitol Hill Restoration Society (CHRS). But Turnbull said it seemed like design was being dictated by the restaurant, instead of trying to first fit within the zoning laws.

Commissioners wondered why the project needed to be four stories, or, whether it could offer fewer units, among other options.

Making the building smaller would likely mean an inefficient, partial fourth floor that would lead to “building a stairs and an elevator as opposed to livable space,” PGN’s Jeff Goins said.

A smaller floor plan would also likely mean fewer than 10 units, and therefore, an inability to provide an affordable unit, Goins said.

Steve Cochran, of the city’s office of planning, said it was a “good-looking design.” But “[the project] is seeking FAR relief based on faith … that’s not the test,” he said.

Attorney Meridith Moldenhauer asked for two weeks to submit financial hardship documents as well as possible additional plans to the board. Another hearing was set for April 28.

Featured image: Early rendering of the La Lomita site. Courtesy BZA documents/PGN Architects.

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BBB/Grimshaw Selected For Union Station Overhaul

BBB/Grimshaw Selected For Union Station Overhaul

The team behind New York’s Grand Central Terminal will spend the next part of the decade transforming Washington’s Union Station into a larger, more accessible transportation hub with mixed use space.

New York-based architects Beyer Blinder Belle and Grimshaw, a firm that specializes in rail design, were selected by Amtrak, real estate firm Akridge and the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC), a nonprofit helping to steer the $10 billion expansion and redevelopment of the second-busiest Amtrak station in the country.

Along with tripling passenger capacity and making way for high speed rail, other parts of the vision for the historic station include Burnham Place, a 3 million square foot development that would build parks, plazas and missed use space over the rail yard.

USRC said in a statement that the team was chosen for its “combined experience expanding and restoring historic buildings in sensitive urban sites, and previous designs of high-tech architecture and transportation projects.” Along with Grand Central, those include London’s Waterloo station, Melbourne’s Southern Cross station and Bijlmer Station in Amsterdam.  

The team is hoping to set “an ambitious, yet achievable course for the development of Washington Union Station,”  Hany Hassan of BBB said in a statement, calling the plan “one of the most transformative projects in the city.”

Funding will come from private and public sources, but will need significant federal investment, The Washington Post reported. It will also come under significant federal scrutiny, since the site is on the National Register of Historic Places.

BBB/Grimshaw will now start developing a master plan, a process that will include public engagement and an environmental assessment. Another study, looking at ways to best preserve the historic station, is expected to be completed this summer, The Washington Post reported.

Featured Image: Pedro Szekely, via Flickr. 

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