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JD's State of the Hood, January 2012

Previous Addresses: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007

As I write my Sixth Annual State of the Hood about the goings-on in Near Southeast (or, Navy Yard-that's-separate-from-the-202-year-old-Washington-Navy-Yard, or the Capitol Riverfront, or SoChill, or That Neighborhood Near the Ballpark That I Don't Know The Name Of), I have to admit that it's been nice to for a change to have no shortage of completed projects and anticipated starts to focus on, rather than filling space with laundry lists of "maybe this will start." I'm sure the developers, land owners, and residents of the neighborhood feel that way even more strongly than I do.
In my last SOTH, I asked, "[W]ill 2011 be the year that the logjam of long-stalled projects finally gets unstuck enough to see the announcement of something new?" The answer has turned out to be a firm Yes, and an even more emphatic YES! if applied solely to the category of Food Offerings. While the neighborhood's office market hasn't quite gotten unstuck yet, the emerging plans for more residential projects seem to indicate that the big money folks have watched existing developments fill up despite what can charitably be called a dearth of amenities, and they also appear to be recognizing that even more people will want to live a mile or less from the US Capitol once there are a few places to eat and do stuff.
There's a lot of ground to cover and a lot of words coming at you, so let's get started. (Note: This year I'm leaving statistics and occupancy numbers to the upcoming Capitol Riverfront BID annual report.) If you want to comment, head for the blog post on this.

2011's Completions and Openings

Overall, 2011 is probably more notable for the announcements of what would be coming in 2012 than for what projects were completed, but the ones that did cross the finish line this year aren't all small potatoes:

Foundry Lofts - A project had construction halted in 2009 thanks to the economy completed its resurrection in late 2011 with the first move-ins by residents. The 160-unit apartment building at The Yards, adapted from a World War I-era Navy Yard structure, is already 50 percent leased (even with some units still not released), and will also be the location of the Yards's first new restaurants with the opening of Potbelly Sandwich Works and Kubra Thai & Sushi by spring 2012. And the views, especially from the penthouses, are pretty spectactular.

1015 Half Street - While I mentioned it in last year's SOTH as a 2010 completion, this 440,000-square-foot office building had enough construction going on early in 2011 to sneak it into this list as well. Like the Foundry Lofts, 1015 Half spent some time on the injured reserve after original developer Opus East went bust, but Douglas Wilson Companies got the building finished, and will apparently be selling the building to Prudential Real Estate Investors in January. For now though it stands empty, though that apparently has drawn the interest of the Artomatic folks.

Yards/Teague Bridge - On Nov. 22 representatives from the city, DC Water, Forest City, and other organizations celebrated with a (very rainy) ribbon cutting to open the new 627-foot-long bridge connecting Yards Park with Diamond Teague Park (and, by extension, Nationals Park). Built in the same style as the Yards Park's boardwalk, this bridge adds to footprint of the ever-growing Anacostia Riverwalk Trail. (But best to look toward the water and not DC Water's cluttered lots on the shoreline when walking across it.)

New Nats Park Food - Would it really be news that a baseball stadium would be opening new vending windows for burgers, fries, tacos, and BBQ? Yes indeedy, if it's going to be Shake Shack, Box Frites, El Verano Taqueria, and Blue Smoke, as evidenced by the reaction to the mid-June arrival of these offerings at Nats Park from Danny Meyer's Union Square Hospitality Group. Thirty-minute waits at the Shack were not uncommon, but, dang, that's a good burger. (Also, when there aren't many food options outside the park....)

Harry's Reserve - Not everyone is thrilled when a liquor store opens in a neighborhood, but when Harry's opened in the ground floor of 909 New Jersey on April 30, customers found a shop emphasizing more "high-end" wines and spirits. Harry's has offered tastings, food beyond plain munchies, and even some "front-yard" free barbecues in the summertime.

Lot 38 Espresso - After a long road that saw the decision to change from a liquor store to a coffee shop and the construction of a new building, the old Star Market/Little Red Building site became home on Dec. 21 to Lot 38 Espresso, giving residents the non-Starbucks coffee option so many have wanted. Its location directly across from Canal Park will bring it a wider clientele when the park opens in mid-2012.

(And, while it's outside of my cannot-be-breached coverage boundaries, I should note that construction also got underway this year on Camden's 1345 South Capitol apartment building, directly across the street from Nationals Park. It should be completed in 2013.)


What to Expect in 2012

Could 2012 be the year that Near Southeast gets past its reputation as a neighborhood with a well-regarded baseball stadium, a unique public park, and little else to draw visitors? There are certainly going to be some big changes, especially in the all-important Dining category....:

Food, Glorious Food! (And Recreation, Too)

The dearth of food offerings in Near Southeast has been a sore point ever since the new wave of residents and office workers began arriving in the mid-2000s. But the floodgates will open in 2012, with at least nine restaurants announced to be opening within the next year.

Potbelly and Kubra Thai - The ground floor of the newly opened Foundry Lofts by Forest City Washington at the Yards will see the arrival of two restaurants in the first part of 2012, with Potbelly Sandwich Works occupying the building's northwest corner, near the US Department of Transportation HQ, and Kubra Thai and Sushi (from the Teak Wood/Galae Thai and Sushi folks) on the southwest corner, near the Yards Park. A third retail space, on the southeast corner, remains unleased.

Boilermaker Shops - The showiest of the Yards's adaptive reuse projects at last got underway in 2011, with construction to update the 1919 industrial building preceded by the splashy announcements of six restaurants, starting in fall 2012: Buzz Bakery, Austin Grill Express, BRB, Huey's 24-7 Diner, an unnamed craft brewery from the Birch and Barley folks, and sports bar Willie's Brew and Cue from Xavier Cervera. Residents, office workers, and Nats fans are already tapping their toes impatiently. (And there's still a few spaces to be leased.)

Canal Park - One of Near Southeast's longest-planned projects finally got underway in early 2011, as the three-block park along 2nd Street between I and M is expected to open in spring 2012. With all manner of "active" and "passive" spaces, including a water fountain that will become an ice rink in winter and the Park Tavern cafe in the large boxy pavilion space on the south block, it will be another public-space draw for the neighborhood, alongside its sibling the Yards Park. (And look for lots of events to be held there, with the Capitol Riverfront BID in charge of its "programming.")

Other Anticipated 2012 Completions

225 Virginia/200 I - A "stonebreaking" on Feb. 15 marked the start of the transformation of the old Star/Post Plant into what should be by mid-2012 the new home for three city agencies (Department of Child and Family Services, Office of the Chief Technology Officer, and the Commission on Arts and Humanities). The joint development by the city and StonebridgeCarras has already resulted in replacing the old cold stone monolith with a nicely updated office building--with windows!--that will have its entrance just to the north of Canal Park.

Capitol Quarter - Hard to believe that, seven years after demolitions began and three years after construction started, the mixed-income townhouse development by EYA and DCHA to replace the Capper/Carrollsburg public housing complex is nearing the finish line, with work now underway on the final blocks. All told, CQ will include about 120 market-rate and 91 workforce-rate townhomes, 23 Section 8 units, and 88 subsidized rental units--but it has already transformed a downtrodden, crime-ridden area into an entirely new community.

Getting Started in 2012

401 M/1212 4th - This was the year that the "unconfirmed grocery store at 4th and M in the Yards" officially became a 55,000-square-foot Harris Teeter, and late in the year permits came through to mark the start of work on this project that will also include 220-ish apartments, an unnamed-but-named fitness center, and other retail offerings. Completion of what will be Near Southeast's first supermarket is expected in late 2013 or early 2014. (But some residents are still pining for a Whole Foods or Trader Joe's, somewhere....)
Lumber Shed - The defrocked old storage shed at the Yards Park has been acting as a temporarily pavilion for the past year while Forest City has continued to work on financing and leases in order to get construction started. (The company even got a zoning change allowing it to temporarily move its Washington office to the Shed's 2nd floor in order to up the leased square footage.) Right at the end of the year the Capitol Riverfront BID said that construction would be beginning in April, but no announcement yet from Forest City as to who the (other) tenants will be.

880 New Jersey - The first new construction multi-family building since 2009 could get underway in the spring, as William C. Smith has announced plans for 880 New Jersey, a 430-unit apartment building that would be the first phase of its plans for Square 737, bounded by New Jersey, H, 2nd, and the new I Street that will be built. But first, DPW needs to move its New Jersey and K operations in order to allow WCS to purchase the sliver of DPW land that crosses into its site. Can this still get underway on WCS's announced timeline? We shall see....

Other 2012 Goings-On and Possibilities

11th Street Bridges - Construction of replacement spans has been underway without much fanfare since 2009, but late in 2011 the project reached its first major milestone, the opening of the inbound freeway bridge. The outbound bridge will follow in early January, and by summer a new "11th Street Local" bridge connecting Anacostia and Near Southeast should open, with wide sidewalks making for a pleasant crossing for pedestrians and cyclists. (Alas, planned streetcar tracks won't be laid just yet.) More ramps are to be built as well, with all completed in 2013.

Navy Yard-Ballpark - With the impending arrival of Metro's Silver Line necessitating a reworking of the subway system's maps, a land rush of sorts erupted as organizations tried to get their names on nearby stations. The Navy Yard station had two suitors, with the Capitol Riverfront BID wanting its name added (even if it meant dropping "Navy Yard"), and the Nationals pushing to have a included. In the end, a switch to a simple "Navy Yard-Ballpark" was approved in November, and will take effect in June of 2012.

Florida Rock -- The six-acre site along the Anacostia that's been in development forever picked up financial backer MRP Realty Partners in 2011, and made plans to start with a residential building on the site's east end in 2013. (But first, back to the Zoning Commission. Again.) In the meantime, the concrete plant itself was demolished in late 2011, taking away what most people considered to be an eyesore when looking toward the river from the stadium.

CSX - In May 2011 CSX announced it would spend $160 million of its own monies to expand the Virginia Avenue Tunnel, a project which infrastructure experts see as very much needed but which is eyed with great consternation by residents along and near where an open trench may run for a number of years. With an environmental review process spearheaded by DDOT and FHWA now underway, 2012 will see a lot of wrangling as all sides try to thread the needle on how exactly the potentially disruptive construction project should proceed. Will it happen fast enough to have shovels hit ground in 2012? Time is ticking....
On the retail front, in the "Maybe....?" category, rumors abounded in mid-fall that brewery/restaurant Gordon Biersch would be coming to the corner space at 100 M, and late in the year Monument Realty confirmed that Bank of America is in negotiations to open a branch at 55 M. Meanwhile, the Beer Garden planned for 8th and L seems to be stalled (though the owner expresses hopefulness). And the desire for some sort of neighborhood-serving retail in the ground-floor space at Capitol Hill Tower on New Jersey Avenue were dashed when Georgetown University leased the space for a medical office that apparently will do some sort of "community outreach" as part of their Health Disparities Initiative.
As for other possible starts, hope springs eternal that either Akridge or Monument will begin construction on their empty Half Street lots, since it's always that one-block stretch north of the ballpark that receives the laser-like focus of media outlets wanting to gauge the health of the neighborhood, no matter what's going on elsewhere. And of course one of the many office buildings on the boards could snag a big enough tenant to start development.
There may also be some movement on the redevelopment of the "Blue Castle" at 770 M Street, though there will be a long slog through planning and historic preservation review before work gets started. Perhaps funding will be found for the new South Capitol Street/Douglass Bridge and all the accompanying improvements to the South Capitol Street corridor, though in the meantime DDOT will finally undertake the long-desired M Street SE/SW Transportation Study. And maybe Artomatic will return to the neighborhood for a repeat engagement after its successful 2009 run at 55 M.

Other 2011 Happenings of Note
To whiplash you yet again, here's one additional look back to 2011 for a few stories that were of particular interest:
Nationals Park - Has baseball really been at the stadium for four seasons now? It's true, and in 2011 the team ended just shy of .500 with an 80-81 record, drawing 1.94 million fans over 78 home games, moving the team up three spots to 20th out of 30 in MLB's attendance tally, with an average of 24,877 tickets sold per game (2,300 more than 2010). And this in a season mostly without Stephen Strasburg, and still little to do outside of the ballpark, and with what seemed to be blech weather a lot of the time. (But there was Shake Shack!)

Das Bullpen/Truckeroo - With Akridge's land just north of the stadium continuing to await the start of development, Bo Blair expanded his Bullpen empire to the north end of the block, adding a German beer garden spot for Nats fans desperate for a place to hang out before and after games. (It was officially named "Das Bullpen" after a certain blogger dubbed it so when first writing about the new venture.) Then, in June, Blair launched "Truckeroo," a day-long gathering for the city's burgeoning food truck population that ran monthly through October with great success.

101 M Street - After being home for nearly 50 years to various shadowy government agencies, the windowless building on the southeast corner of 1st and M bade goodbye in September to the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, which spent much of the year moving to swank new digs down at Ft. Belvoir. Eventually the site will be redeveloped as the northwestern-most corner of the The Yards, but in the meantime, getting rid of guards with guns from a building just a block away from the stadium will probably help to perk up the 1st Street vibe a bit.

Market Deli - A boarded-up deli known to residents mostly as a rat and cat hostel became one of the new Near Southeast's first real flash points when ANC commissioner David Garber decided without much apparent neighborhood support to apply for a historic landmark designation for the "humble" 1885 building, generating weeks of entertaining griping in various comments threads. But ultimately the Historic Preservation Review Board did not agree with Garber's notion, declining to support the application, and in mid-July the Deli was demolished.

Navy Yard Riverwalk - A long sought-after opening happened via baby steps in 2011, when the Navy Yard finally opened its portion of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail between 11th Street and the Yards Park. At first it was just from 8 am to 5 pm on weekdays, but by June the installation apparently felt comfortable enough with the public to expand its available hours to 5:30 am to sunset, seven days a week. This allows park-goers to stroll all the way to the Display Ship Barry (and, soon, a small park area between the new 11th Street Bridges).

Redistricting - Every 10 years jurisdictions undergo federally mandated redrawing of voting borders to even out population sizes, and the residents of Near Southeast got a bit of a goosing in DC's 2010 process when council member Marion Barry announced his desire for the neighborhood around Nationals Park to become part of his Ward 8. That quest for "annexation" didn't last long after residents went ballistic, and in the end the neighborhood remained in Ward 6. The stark rise in population of Census Tract 72 also meant that Near Southeast will be be split between two districts in ANC 6D starting in 2013.


JDLand's 2011 Top 10

It's become quite a trend for blogs to list their Top 10 Posts of the Year, so I figured I'd hop on the bandwagon (though technically mine is Top 10 Most Visited Posts and Non-Project Pages of 2011). If you look at this, you may not have even needed to plow through all the verbiage on the rest of the page, but I hope you did anyway:

1. Photo Gallery from Nats Park Shake Shack's Media Preview

2. Forest City Announces Harris Teeter, Yards Restaurants

3. First Details on William C. Smith's 880 New Jersey Apartment Building

4. The Do-It-Yourself Ward 6 ANC/SMD Redistricting Map

5. Florida Rock Gets an Equity Partner, Decides to Start with Residential

6. My Father's Memories of Living on Capitol Hill, 1959-1969

7. 2011 State of the Hood

8. Historic Landmark Nomination Application Submitted for Market Deli

9. Marion Barry Says Near Southeast Should Move to Ward 8

10. Foundry Lofts Progress Photos, Nov. 1

JDLand got about 557,000 page views in 2011, which is around 25,000 fewer than in both 2009 and 2010. (My highwater mark, of course, was The Year of the Ballpark, 2008, when the site garnered 1.25 million pageviews. Those were the days...)


Previous Addresses: 2011 | 2010 | 2009 | 2008 | 2007

To see the latest on these projects and others in the months and years to come,
visit my Project Directory for quick info on what's coming and what's here.

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