Menu »« Close Menu

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.

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


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.



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.

Read more: 


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.


*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.


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.


Dupont’s Omega Club Building Approved for Residential Use

Former home of Omega DC club could become a single-family home.

Former home of Omega DC club could become a single-family home.

The Spencer Carriage House and Stable at 2123 Twining Ct. NW, most recently home to club Omega, can now become a private residence for owners Gerard Boquel and Lew Hages, who purchased the carriage house in late 2012. Tuesday the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) approved their requested relief including allowing the commercial structure to be used as an alley dwelling.

The Historic Preservation Review Board approved their plans in May 2013 for the structure, built in 1905.

According to Zoning documents:

“The proposed work includes a full renovation of the interior of the Building, restoration
of the exterior – maintaining the original characteristics of the Building, construction of a small one-story addition for a garage extension, and altering the roof to accommodate a roof top deck and mechanical equipment.”

The building at 2123 Twining Ct. is situated behind a four-story commercial building at 2122 P Street, and a 10-story Marriott Residence Inn at 2120 P Street.

Another issue requiring a zoning variance is the alley width around the property–the requirement calls for an alley with a 30-foot width. The 30-feet requirement was written in the zoning code at a time when a fire engine would have struggled to access an alley smaller than 30 feet, but today’s engines require less space.

“I think they’ve proven their case. This is truly a unique property,” said Board memberJeff  Hinkle.

The BZA approved the project Tuesday.

Related:  Former Omega Club in Dupont to become Single-family Home


Columbia Heights Brownstones Break Ground in August

Rendering of the Sherman Avenue view of the new Morton Street Mews.

Rendering of the Sherman Avenue view of the new Morton Street Mews.

The new construction portion of the Morton Street Mews–26, two-level condo units on the site at the corner of Morton Street and Sherman Avenue NW in Columbia Heights–will break ground and begin land development in August. OPal DC is developing the project.

The plans include 10 units in an old church on the site and an additional 16 newly-constructed units in new buildings on a large parking lot at the corner of Sherman Avenue.

“Our homes will be the perfect fit… a tad funky with fun painted brick brownstones along Sherman, colorful hardieplank siding brownstones along Morton with contrasting color shutters,” OPaL development company Principal Sean Ruppert said in a previous interview with District Source.

All of the units will come with parking included in the price.

Though the brownstones will begin rising out of the ground by October, the church portion of the project will not start for some time Rupert tells District Source.

Related: Columbia Heights Church Condos: Developer Went to Mass to Get the Scoop

Morton Street Mews coming soon. Photo Courtesy of OPal, LLC on Facebook.

Morton Street Mews coming soon. Photo Courtesy of OPal, LLC on Facebook.


DC Brewery Law Lets You Have Your Beer and Drink it Too

Three Stars Brewery, a D.C.-based craft brewery, did a tap take-over at the Argonaut in February.

Three Stars Brewery, a D.C.-based craft brewery, did a tap take-over at the Argonaut in February.

Next time you go to a D.C. brewery to get a growler filled or pick up a six-pack of local craft beer, you can pay to have a pint as well.

The District’s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA)announced Monday that a new permit option is available to District breweries that allows customers to purchase and drink the brewery’s beer while visiting the facility. Until now visitors were able to try free samples, but were not allowed to purchase beer for on-site consumption.

With this new permit in-hand a brewery could be open, selling beers for consumption on premises seven days a week from 1-9 p.m. Many breweries currently are only open to the public on the weekends for growler fills and tasting room hours.

The permit will run breweries $1000 annual fee–it would pay for itself after the 200th beer is sold for $5.

Breweries wishing to provide free tastings will still need a separate permit to do so.


Stead Park Demolition, Renovation to Begin July 14

Stead Park in Dupont Circle.

Stead Park in Dupont Circle.

The long-awaited $2 million upgrades coming to Stead Park, 1625 P St . NW, in Dupont Circle begin with demolition work on July 14; the project is expected to wrap up by Thanksgiving. The project is funded through a $1.5 million D.C. government grant , with additional monies raised by community groups and as part of a community benefits agreement from a nearby development project. New features will include:

  • artificial turf at the field,
  • a rubberized running track around the perimeter of the field,
  • a splash pad water feature,
  • a stage for community events,
  • and new landscaping and shade trees.

The turf field was designed to be big enough to accommodate two concurrent kickball games at opposite corners. Construction information from the DC Department of General Services is as follows: For the first phase of the project, a construction entrance will be located on the East side of the field, at the point where Stead Field meets Church Street. Some parking spaces along Church Street will be temporarily unavailable, and part of the alley will be closed. Phase I will last approximately 12 weeks. Once Phase II begins, the East construction entrance will be closed, and the construction entrance moved to the service entrance that is located on the Northeast corner of the field. This will serve as the construction entrance for the remainder of the project.

For construction update, follow Friends of Stead Park on Facebook:

Editor’s Note: Lindsay Reishman is a board member of the Friends of Stead Park and is the principal broker of Lindsay Reishman Real Estate (LRRE). LRRE is the sponsor of District Source.