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Capitol Hill ANC Agrees to Public Benefits, Phasing for 1333 M St. SE

Capitol Hill ANC Agrees to Public Benefits, Phasing for 1333 M St. SE

A  transformational development proposed for the Anacostia River waterfront in southeast D.C. has the support of Capitol Hill Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B (ANC 6B), which passed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with developer, Cohen Siegel Investors  Wednesday night.

Cohen Siegel propose to bring three buildings with a total of 673 residential units and approximately 10,370 square feet of retail use to a 3-acres, triangular-shaped parcel bounded by M Street, Virginia Avenue, and Water Street in southeast D.C. The parcel is currently undeveloped.

The first phase of the four-phase project involves a 10-story mixed-use residential and retail building that will bring 218 rental units, 57 underground parking spaces and 44 surface parking spaces. The entire project will bring about 221 parking spaces–a ratio closer to one parking space for every three units though one parking space for every four units is what code requires.

Cohen Siegel 1333 M St. SE site layout with public amenities like public lawn and dog park. Image from Zoning Commission records.

Cohen Siegel 1333 M St. SE site layout with public amenities like public lawn and dog park. Image from Zoning Commission records.

The MOU sets forth an agreed upon timeline for construction and the delivery of public amenities as well as a detailed description of the public benefits and the proposed transportation plan.  Eric Siegel of Cohen Siegel Investors said in all the public benefits from the project amount to nearly $4 million. 

Public amenities include affordable housing (technically required by law, but the developer and ANC agreed to a different mix of unit sizes and affordability levels than required),  a public plaza on the Anacosita waterfront, new road connections and road extensions to make the area more accessible for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, a new dog park at 14th Street, a public green lawn area and more.

During the public discussion on the proposal Wednesday evening, several residents of L St, SE, the closest residential street to the project, separated from the new development by the Southeast Freeway and CSX railroad tracks. 

Among the concerns were that the height of the proposed building–110 feet– would impact the sunlight for L Street residents.

The development team’s attorney, Leila Batties of Holland and Knight, said they had done several shade studies and determined the would be minimal impact on L Street from the development, whether it was developed at the proposed 110 feet or at the matter of right 90 feet.

Several commenters also questioned the amount of parking being provided, worrying future residents would park on L Street and other nearby residential streets instead of renting a space in the garage.

The developers reiterated that they are providing more than required and that they are providing a shuttle bus from the development to the Navy Yard metro for building residents. There is also a hope that as part of the  Southeast Boulevard , currently being studied by the Office of Planning, could create new pedestrian connections over the tracks and freeway to provide walking and biking connections to the Potomac Avenue Metro station north of the property. 

ANC 6B commissioners noted that future residents may not be able to apply for residential parking permits (RPP) to park on nearby streets. The development site is not currently within an RPP area and commissioners suggested the District Department of Transportation may not choose to change that–just as several new condos in the Navy Yard area do not have RPP parking on the street, but rather metered parking.

Commissioner Brian Flahaven said the market would take care of people with cars–either they will rent a space in the building or choose to rent a unit in a different apartment.

Commissioners also commented on the changes to the deign and color scheme in response to Zoning Commission Zoning Commission (ZC)comments.

Commissioner Brian Pate said the changes “diluted the boldness” of the design to the detriment of the project. Flahaven echoed those comments saying the changes were a “missed opportunity” to do something different in an area that does not have the constraints of an historic district or even much nearby architecture to set the tone for the design.

“You’re preaching to the choir,” said Siegel, who added that they needed to balance the community’s input with that of the .

The Commission voted five to zero with one absent to approve the MOU and recommend approval of the PUD when the case goes before the ZC in December.

The public benefit and amenities agreed upon in the MOU are as follows:

a.         Public Space Improvements. Developer, or its successors/assigns, shall construct the following improvements in connection with the PUD:

  •  During Phase I of the project, on the south side of M Street, Developer shall install permeable paver parking spaces and low impact development basins with plantings and street trees for stormwater management.
  •  During Phase I of the project, Developer shall install a wildflower meadow along the Water Street right-of-way.  The wildflower meadow provides an opportunity to increase plant biodiversity, create wildlife habitat, slow stormwater runoff and stabilize slopes.  The meadow also preserves some of the open space quality of the existing site while reactivating it with the new proposed design and clears out the overgrown and visually impairing vegetation currently along Water Street.
  • During Phase I of the project, Developer shall construct a public dog park where 14th Street terminates at the project.
  • During Phase I of the project, Developer shall improve M Street and construct an extension of Virginia Avenue south of M Street as well as construct an internal north-south private street.  The roadway improvements will generate new on-street public parking.
  • During Phase II of the project, Developer shall construct an uninterrupted 8-foot wide, paved Anacostia Riverwalk Trail segment along the north side of M Street that connectsto the traffic circle near 13th Street, SE and the existing trail at 14th Street SE.
  • During Phase II of the project, for that portion of M Street along the frontage of the Subject Property, the Developer shall pave the entire width of the street.
  • During Phase II of the project, Developer shall construct a public plaza at the termination of Virginia Avenue, and a monumental staircase leading to lower plaza area that extends to Water Street across from the District Yacht Club.  The public plaza is designed as an active gathering space and a connection to the waterfront.
  • During Phase II of the project, Developer shall construct a sidewalk along the north side of Water Street, extending from M Street to the lower plaza.
  • During the phased development, the project will include large green space for public use.  Specifically, during Phase 1 of the project, there will be a lawn area at the termination of the pedestrian promenade along Virginia Avenue.  Also, during Phase II of the project, there will be a large triangular green space on the west side of the project where Building 2 is proposed.

b.         Lighting.  In response to community concerns and ANC 6B’s request for better lighting on M and Water Streets, during Phase I of the project, and in subsequent phases, Developer will install lighting around the perimeter of the property.

c.         Affordable Housing.  In response to ANC 6B’s request for larger affordable units suitable for families, Developer will set aside four two-bedroom units for households whose income does not exceed 60% AMI. The remaining affordable units — a mix of studio and one-bedroom units — will be for households with incomes not exceeding 80% AMI in accordance with the Inclusionary Zoning requirements. This affordable housing component will exist for the life of the project.

The subsidy required to provide two bedroom affordable dwelling units at 80% AMI as required under the Zoning Regulations amounts to $326,000.  The subsidy required to support the two bedroom units at 60% AMI as proffered by Developer amounts to $131,000 per unit.  Therefore, reserving all of the two-bedroom units in Phase I of the PUD at 60% AMI results in additional subsidy of $524,000 for the project.  This additional affordable housing subsidy is a benefit of the PUD, as described under Section 2403.9 of the Zoning Regulations.

d.         Improvements to and Connection to the Waterfront.  A portion of the lower plaza and the continuation of the promenade paving pattern, at the base of the monumental stair, are within public space in order to provide a connection from M street to the waterfront. Developer will bear maintenance responsibility for the portion of these improvements that are outside of the property line.

e.         LEED Qualification.  Developer commits that the resulting PUD will achieve the equivalent of LEED Silver.


SE Freeway and the Cohen Siegel Site. Image from DC Office of Zoning records.

SE Freeway and the Cohen Siegel Site. Image from DC Office of Zoning records.

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Featured Properties by Lindsay Reishman Real Estate

New Mixed-Use Capitol Riverfront Project Now Under Construction

New Mixed-Use Capitol Riverfront Project Now Under Construction

The Riverfront, a new 305-unit, mixed-use building, will bring residential, a new boardwalk section and retail to the Capitol Riverfront directly south of Nationals Stadium. MRP Residential and Florida Rock Properties, Inc. announced Tuesday that they secured $82 million in construction financing for the first phase of four-phase development along the Anacostia waterfront.

Construction began in the fourth quarter of 2014. Initial delivery is expected in summer 2016 with Phase 1 project completion anticipated in the fourth quarter of 2016.

The 281,050-square-foot high-rise multifamily project will bring 19,000 square feet of new ground -floor retail space and 40,000 square feet of open space, including a boardwalk with bike and pedestrian trails and a public plaza. The building will also boast a rooftop lounge, a media hub and an art gallery.

“This site is one of a few sites in the city that is highly accessible to the public with mixed-use open space located directly on the waterfront.  We are thrilled to begin construction on the first phase with MRP Realty,” said David deVilliers, president of Florida Rock Properties, in a press release.

The entire 4-phase development area is bounded by Potomac Avenue, 1st Street, South Capitol Street and the Anacostia River.

The entire 4-phase development area is bounded by Potomac Avenue, 1st Street, South Capitol Street and the Anacostia River.

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Updated Dacha Designs Compatible in Shaw, Says Historic Staff

Dacha beer garden proposal as of Nov. 15, 2014.  Image Courtesy of Dacha Beer Garden and Foundry Architects.

Dacha beer garden proposal as of Nov. 15, 2014. Image Courtesy of Dacha Beer Garden and Foundry Architects.

When Dacha beer garden goes before the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) in December, the Shaw business will have the support of Historic Preservation Office (HPO) staff for their proposed expansion into a neighboring property and creation of a new covered bar area to accompany the outdoor beer garden on the existing site.

Dacha went before HPRB a year ago with different plans that would have created a permanent structure on the current lot at 1600 7th St. NW. The new plans come about now that the owners have secured a long-term lease for the building next door at 1602 7th St. NW, currently home to China Express take out.

The new proposal includes creating a restaurant at 1602 7th St. NW. The historic structure will have its facade restored and then a new three-story rear addition will be added at the rear of the structure, adjacent to the current Dacha lot. The new addition will feature an elevated wood deck for outside table service that would be become a cover over the bar area below for the beer garden.

Dacha owners  Dmitri Chekaldin and Ilya Alter are working with Foundry Architects on their latest plans. When the team went before Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6E in November, they received mixed reviews.  Several residents who live near the project raised concerns during the meeting about the design’s modern feel. The commission did not ultimately oppose the project’s design, a motion that chair Alex Padro had proposed.

Chekaldin told District Source he was pleased with the staff report, which he said demonstrated,  “We learned from our last experience.”

He said their architect has worked closely with HPO and that their design has shifted in response to staff comments.

“We changed the direction of design a couple of times pretty drastically,” said Chekaldin.

HPO staff recommended the HPRB find the design fitting for the Shaw historic district:

“The HPO recommends that the Review Board find the addition and alterations generally
compatible with the character of the historic district and that the applicants continue to develop the plan in consultation with staff.”

Among the concerns Chekaldin said he has heard from nearby residents is that the new restaurant and bar will create more noise than the current beer garden. He said he plans to address concerns about sound as they seek changes to their liquor license.

He said they hired a sound engineer to make sure the design does not exacerbate the situatiion and said it is his hope that they may be able to reduce the noise from its current level.

“Our intentions are good,” he said.


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NYC’s Urban Compass Enters DC Real Estate Market with Lindsay Reishman Real Estate Acquisition

Urban Compass is expanding to Washington, D.C. Image courtesy of Urban Compass.

Urban Compass is expanding to Washington, D.C. Image courtesy of Urban Compass.

Urban Compass, a technology-focused real estate platform out of New York City,  enters the D.C. real estate scene in its acquisition of Lindsay Reishman Real Estate*, a boutique  residential real estate brokerage based in Dupont Circle.

Urban Compass harnessed its team of web engineers, entrepreneurs, consultants and Realtors to become the sixth largest sales brokerage in New York City in its first six months after its founding in 2012. Its unique search algorithm and web platform work to both allow independent consumer searches and to pair ready clients with the firm’s agents that best fit their needs.

The company recently raised $40 million in Series B financing, bringing their total capital raised to $73 million; the funds will support their expansion to new markets, beginning with Washington, D.C.

Founder and CEO Robert Reffkin told District Source in an interview that the growing D.C. real estate market and its proximity to New York made it an appealing initial foray for expansion.

The Technology Advantage

Urban Compass’ co-Founder and Executive Chairman Ori Allon joined the venture having previously worked at both Google and Twitter when each company acquired search engines he developed.

Reffkin said he and Allon partnered to use technology to change the real estate industry.

Urban Compass offers a proprietary mobile app for its agents that allows them to update listings, conduct searches, get leads and communicate directly with clients from their phones or mobile devices.

“It’s probably the single greatest bit of technology I have an as agent,” said Ryan Stromfors, a sales and rental agent at Urban Compass who focuses on Manhattan’s West Side. “I can do everything that would have required paper and a computer right from my phone on the go. It makes everything so much easier,” he added.

Stromfors said he joined Urban Compass this summer after starting at a smaller New York brokerage last year. He decided to look for a brokerage that would offer the support he needed both in terms of the technology to make his job easier and the experienced agents to turn to for advice.

Finding Partners

Reffkin said his team spent a lot of time looking at the D.C. market for the right partner to make the move and to bring his company’s full array of marketing and technology resources to the nation’s capital.

“The biggest factor is the person that you’re partnering with” said Reffkin. And in D.C. he said it became clear that Lindsay Reishman, who founded his brokerage in 2009, was that person.

Reishman told District Source in an interview that when Urban Compass first approached him, he was uncertain. After all he’d been building his business for several years and knew he had a successful model.

“Once I got a chance to meet everyone [at Urban Compass] and I saw what they were building I just realized that I could be a part of something bigger,” said Reishman.

For him the new resources would allow his vision for a better brokerage to grow in a way that was both organic and exponential, something he had been struggling to achieve at the pace and scale he wanted without the kind of financial resources Urban Compass brings to the table.

Local Culture

Reishman said ownership of his business was less important to him than achieving the vision he had when he first decided to build his own brokerage.

“The mission and the vision of what this could be is what made up the company. It was just circumstantial that I owned it,” said Reishman.

He is not leaving the operation. Reishman will be President of Urban Compass Washington, D.C.  His fingerprints will still be everywhere.

Reffkin said New York wants to bring its resources and expertise in technology and marketing to shake up the D.C. real estate market. But, he says, New York does not want to change the culture of the brokerage–a product of its 27 agents, 14 staff and Reishman.

“The culture will be local” said Reffkin.

For his part Reishman said he is proud to be a part of bringing Urban Compass to D.C.

“It’s an affirmation of everything that we’ve been doing” he said.

*Lindsay Reishman Real Estate is the founding sponsor for District Source. Urban Compass will now sponsor District Source as part of the acquisition.

Lindsay Reishman (left) and Ori Allon (right).

Lindsay Reishman (left) and Ori Allon (right).

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Rappaport Expects H Street Connection Redevelopment in 2016

Rendering of H Street Connection. Image courtesy of the Rappaport Companies.

Rendering of H Street Connection. Image courtesy of the Rappaport Companies.

H Street Connection, the strip mall located between 8th and 10th on H Street, NE, should begin construction in early 2016, according to the Rappaport Companies’ Senior Director of Marketing Karen Cobb.

The project as planned would bring 368 residential units, 51,200 square feet of retail and parking for 530 vehicles to what is currently home to a 7-Eleven, Rite Aid  and a Game Stop, among other tenants. The design includes a range of heights, but at its highest would be eight stories.




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Federal, Local Leaders Break Ground on $33 Million Housing for Homeless Veterans

John and Jill Ker Conway Residence rendering. Image courtesy of Community Solutions.

John and Jill Ker Conway Residence rendering. Image courtesy of Community Solutions.

Mayor Vincent Gray was joined by U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Julián Castro to break ground a new $33 million, 124-unit mixed income apartment catering to veterans on North Capitol Street, NE near NoMa Monday morning. The development, known as John and Jill Ker Conway Residence, is being built as a collaboration between non-profit between Community Solutions and McCormack Baron Salazar, Inc.

“On the eve of Veterans Day, I am delighted to participate in the groundbreaking ceremony for this vital project as it serves our brave men and women who put their lives on the line for the sake of our freedom,” said Mayor Vincent C. Gray. “We must continue to work diligently to ensure our veterans have the services they need to be productive citizens in a society that continues to benefit from their sacrifices.

The new project, which offers 60 units of permanent supportive housing for veterans exiting homelessness and 64 affordable and low-income units, is made possible in part through a $17 million in subsidy from the DC Housing Authority. The 47 affordable units will be available to households making no more than 60% of the Area Median Income (AMI)($45,120 for an individual in 2013). The 17 low-income units are set aside for tenants making no more than 30% AMI.

“The building’s distinctive architectural features are no accident. High quality, sustainable design is one of our top priorities when developing affordable and permanent supportive housing,” said Nadine Maleh, Director of Inspiring Places for Community Solutions. “Too often, homeless and low income populations are overlooked when it comes to good design.”

The project,  a series of stacked blocks, was designed by Sorg Architects. The residents will have some of the city’s more coveted views–those of the Capitol and the National Mall.

“I believe that design for human habitation can be a great equalizer, with the power to surprise, delight and to support human dignity regardless of the social/economic status of the users. In the design of the John and Jill Ker Conway Residence, the concept we developed of stacked, staggered blocks takes advantage of views to the south and west towards the Capitol and the National Mall,” said Suman Sorg of Sorg Architects.

The District Council declared the property at 1005 North Capitol St. NE surplus in July, clearing the way for the new development.

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The Wharf in SW Begins Commercial Leasing

The Wharf in SW Begins Commercial Leasing

The Wharf–you know, that new 25-­‐acre mixed-­‐use community under construction at the Southwest  waterfront–opened its very first square footage for lease on Nov. 6 with two new office buildings in Phase One. The project broke ground in March and the first phase is expected to deliver in the third quarter of 2017.

Hoffman-Madison Waterfront, the master developer for the Wharf, is working with Cushman & Wakefield on its commercial leases. The entire project will eventually bring 3.2 million square feet of residential, office, hotel, retail, cultural, and public uses to the Southwest waterfront neighborhood.

The commercial properties, 800 Maine Avenue at 220,000 square feet, and 1000 Maine Avenue at 265,000 square feet, are being built to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification for Building Design and Construction (LEED BD+C).

“The Wharf in Southwest will offer unparalleled waterfront office space to rival any of the four quadrants of the District amidst dynamic lifestyle amenities for working, living, boating, dining, shopping and entertaining,” said Monty Hoffman, managing member of Hoffman-Madison, in a statement.

The lucky tenants of 800 Maine will have access to  the “exclusive” Wharf Club, which will feature “a 7,000-square foot fitness center, spacious rooms available for congregating or meeting along with an infinity-edged pool and one acre park overlooking Washington Channel atop Wharf Hall, D.C.’s newest 6,000 person music venue and convention hall,” according to a press release.

Image is an aerial view of The Wharf. Image courtesy of Hoffman-Madison Waterfront.

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Dacha Beer Garden Expansion Raises Concerns Ahead of Historic Review

Dacha as seen in October 2013.

Dacha as seen in October 2013.

Updated 12:00 p.m. Nov. 8

The owners of Dacha Beer Garden, 1600 7th St. NW,  have negotiated a long-term lease to rent the building next door to the outdoor beer garden in Shaw and have plans to expand into the neighboring space to become both a restaurant and outdoor beer garden. The concept is facing community push back as the design team prepares to go before the Historic Preservation Review Board later this month.

Owners  Dmitri Chekaldin and Ilya Alter are working with Foundry Architects to develop a rear addition to the neighboring property, 1602 7th St. NW, currently home to China Express take out. The new proposal calls for a two-floor restaurant with a deck extending over the existing Dacha lot that will remake the current beer garden concept.

One year ago the owners had another concept go before HPRB for the construction of a new two-story permanent structure at the existing Dacha lot. That process took several revisions and extensive discussion with both the community and HPRB to identify a design that would meet historic standards without creating community concerns.

Those plans are now scrapped and the new building program has alarmed several neighbors. The current program calls for a modern looking addition at the rear of the historic building, which will be restored.

The Elizabeth Taylor image on the exterior of the historic structure will remain and in the interior or the new structure will be an Anna U Davis mural.

The new structure as proposed would be separated from the historic structure by a slot of glass to make a “very clear distinction” between old and new, architect Will Couch told Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6E (ANC 6E) Thursday night.

This rendering will be updated to change the brick color from white to a more neutral earth tone and to address additional comments from HPO staff. Image Courtesy of Dacha Beer Garden and Foundry Architects.

This rendering will be updated to change the brick color from white to a more neutral earth tone and to address additional comments from HPO staff. Image Courtesy of Dacha Beer Garden and Foundry Architects.

The new building would have three windows on the second floor measuring 10 feet wide  by 15 feet high. The architects are changing the materials proposed for the new building to be a textured brick in a neutral, earth tone following feedback from neighbors and Historic Preservation Office (HPO) staff that the white material was too out of context in the neighborhood.

ANC 6E’s planning and zoning committee voted to oppose the project 2 to 1 during its November meeting.

“The level of modernity associated with this addition  is inappropriate for an addition to the historic district,” ANC 6E’s Chair Alex Padro told the project team Thursday.

Padro said the building was a mismatch and that he would prefer something that better relates to the existing architecture of the area.

However, Couch said through his conversation with HPO he was confident that HPRB actually prefers there to be a clear designation between old and new, just as his design proposes.

The architect and owners also responded to one neighbor’s concerns about a roof deck. They are not planning a roof deck above the new addition. The side deck between the first and second floors of the new structure, which will make up the roof of the garden bar, will have waited seating only.

Another neighbor, David McNitt who lives on 8th Street, NW at Q Street (Dacha is at 7th Street, NW at Q Street) said he has been supportive of Dacha and a regular customer since it opened.

But he said the current plans came as a surprise for many neighbors, many of whom felt the new concept was a “significant departure” from what had previously come out of the HPRB process.

McNitt expressed optimism that there could be a project that would let Dacha expand and meeting design standards for the historic district; he asked the owners to continue discussions with the community rather than forging ahead with their current proposal.

Chekaldin told District Source that he feels many of the design questions raised were actually distractions raised because several neighbors are worried about potential noise, a topic typically addressed during the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration review of liquor licenses. He said he hired a sound engineer to help with the new building layout and that he will readily have discussions about noise when Dacha goes through the process of amending its liquor license.

Padro made a motion to oppose the proposal, but that motion failed. The ANC did not take any additional action. The project is slated for the Nov. 20 HPRB hearing.

Editor’s Note: This post was updated to include a comment from the owner of Dacha and to include a rendering, which replaced a photo of a rendering taken at the meeting.

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Dupont Underground: City Negotiating 5-year Lease for Proof of Concept

Dupont Underground: City Negotiating 5-year Lease for Proof of Concept

The District government is proposing an initial 5-year lease for the Arts Coalition for the Dupont Underground (ACDU) to test out and prove the financial sustainability of the proposed uses for the Dupont Underground, about 75,000 square feet of abandoned streetcar tunnels and platforms beneath Dupont Circle. The key component of the agreement is that any uses must be temporary.

ACDU has been in negotiations with the District government to re-open a portion of the old Dupont Circle Streetcar Station space beneath Dupont Circle for public access since the Fenty administration awarded the request for proposals (RFP) for the space in 2010.

Delays in negotiations with the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DPMED) first under the Fenty administration and more recently under the Gray administration now have the project team and the city pushing to finalize an agreement before Mayor-elect Muriel Bowser takes over in January–and a new DMPED team that could once again delay an agreement.

The lease agreement would enable ACDU to sub-lease the space to a variety of tenants to test out several pre-approved uses including:

  • Art and design exhibitions
  • Public art performances
  • community events
  • Educational events
  • Pop-up retail and dining
  • Creative economy incubators
  • Demonstrations of emerging technologies
  • Film shoots and commercial photography
  • Rental space for private events.

Before ACDU can enter into an agreement with a sub-tenant, DMPED will have a say in those lease agreements.

DMPED and ACDU had previously negotiated a lease that would have entailed a longer-term, but DMPED decided the agency would prefer to see a proven concept before entering into a long-term lease.

The hesitation stems in part from a previous failed endeavor, Dupont Down Under, that brought retail below grade for a period of just months in 1995.

“We need a variety of programming in order to be able to determine what’s appropriate for the site,” said Rodney George, a project manager for DMPED,  during a Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission committee meeting Wednesday.

George said the lease they are working on provides flexibility so neither the District nor the lessee are stuck with a failed use.

“This is an opportunity to go through different types of programming in different scenarios from different vendors from different industries,” explained George.

The goal is that by examining interest, attendance and income from various uses, the two parties will be able to put together a long-term plan for the site.

“At the end of the day it’s really going to come down to financial sustainability,” said George.

DMPED will be the agency to evaluate the success of the concepts and any future long-term lease would require District Council review and approval. The 5-year lease only requires DMPED approval and could be executed before a new administration takes office in January.

Image Note: Rendering of the type of design installation the Dupont Underground could accommodate. Courtesy Arts Coalition for the Dupont Underground.

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New Grocery Stores Offer Glimpse into Differences in DC Neighborhood Development

The new Harris Teeter in Navy Yard. Image by David Garber.

The new Harris Teeter in Navy Yard. Image by David Garber.

In the same week two grocery stores open in neighborhoods that tell different stories about the District’s development:  one in  Navy Yard, an area that has become synonymous with the surge in D.C. development especially after the 2008 crash, and the other in Cathedral Heights, an established area looking to benefit from some of the rampant growth spreading across the city.

Tuesday the long-awaited Harris Teeter opened at 401 M St. SE in Navy Yard in the new Yards development. In the same building there a brand new Vida gym, a salon and spa, and a modern apartment building,  Twelve12.

The arrival of  a new 50,000-square-foot Harris Teeter in the neighborhood that has recently seen a surge in new retail and restaurant openings really takes the area “to a new level” by allowing area residents to have a “full-service lifestyle” explained Tammy Shoham, vice president of economic development and research for the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District (BID).

Now residents can walk just a few blocks at most to get their groceries, instead of need to metro, drive or bike to the Safeway at Southwest Waterfront a metro stop away or the other nearest Harris Teeter a mile away and on a different metro line.

Shoham said Harris Teeter committed to the neighborhood before much of the recent growth really took hold. And she ventured that the presence of another quality grocer played a part in Whole Foods deciding to open a new 36,000-square-foot store store there at 800 New Jersey Ave. SE.

The neighborhood has been waiting for a grocery store and its recent surge in local amenities, so it could go from being a “proximate and connected” area to almost self-sustaining.

“It’s been a long time,” said Shoham.

Across the city in Ward 3, a well-established neighborhood is benefiting from some of the same improvements to quality of life that Harris Teeter brings to Navy Yard thanks in part to a new development called Cathedral Commons.

The new 56,000-square-foot Giant store, which replaces a previous one-story Giant grocery, anchors Cathedral Commons, a brand new, mixed-use retail and residential project on Wisconsin Avenue north of the National Cathedral, south of Tenleytown. The new development was nearly two decades in the making because of site constraints, neighbor opposition and economic limitations, among other reasons.

“The last two years of intensive construction are almost over, and the local residents, exhausted of waiting, look forward to the opening of the new development that will bring an improved Giant Supermarket, and retail to the neighborhood,” said Cathedral Heights Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Victor Silveira in an email to District Source .

Silveira said his community was long a “paragon of economic stability ” for the city between the 1960s and 2000s.

“Over the last two decades the city government tried its best to promote growth opportunities in the other parts of Washington, D.C., which we observe in the exponential growth seen throughout D.C. As the economic growth and the benefits it brings equalize, Ward 3 is beginning to look a bit ‘dated’,” said Silveira.

While residents are eager for new amenities like nicer grocery shopping experiences or new retail, Silveira said residents also want to maintain their relatively low-density communities. They worry about traffic and congestion that new development brings.

The 137 new residential units and all the people living there add density to a stretch of Wisconsin avenue that already faces congestion at points because it serves as an arterial to downtown.

“It will be very wise for the city to consider introducing congestion and pollution charges as another tool in the tool-kit to help reduce congestion and pollution,” suggested Silveira.

Both neighborhoods generally welcome the arrival of new community-serving retail, but it is hard not to contrast the exuberance in Navy Yard and the cautious optimism in Cathedral Heights. That difference demonstrates the diversity of opinion when it comes to new development and added density in the District and the challenge facing city planners and leaders as they make decisions that impact the entire city.

Event information: The Ribbon cutting for the new Giant in Cathedral Heights is Thursday, Nov. 6 p.m. at the Cathedral Commons Giant, 3336 Wisconsin Ave. NW. Leaders including Mayor Vincent Gray, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton and others will be on hand for the event.    

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