Since January, 2003
 (a random before-and-after moment)
August 28, 2004
June 4, 2017
Half at K, Looking North-Northeast (see more)

With the DC apartment market continuing to perform strongly (perhaps even too strongly), and with Near Southeast's existing rental buildings continuing to be successful in attracting tenants, it would seem to follow that developers who have been long planning new residential projects in the neighborhood would be making moves to get their projects underway. And that's what's happening with William C. Smith & Co., which has been working on the initial plans for a 13-story, 430-unit apartment building at 880 New Jersey Ave. SE, just south of the freeway on the southwest corner of their Square 737 site that they've owned since 1999.
WCS isn't ready yet to release renderings of the building, though they did show me an early design by Esocoff and Associates (who also designed Onyx and who are working on Akridge's Half Street residential building), showing a brick/masonry structure with a lot of "articulation" (i.e., not a big flat box) and with double-height windows. Some anticipated amenities include an indoor pool as part of its fitness center (which could also have spinning and yoga rooms), in addition to the now-all-but-standard rooftop pool, and a bicycle entrance to a sizeable storage room separate from the three levels of underground parking. There will also be an interior courtyard that the building wraps around.
One amenity that this building won't have is a Whole Foods Grocery store, after that plan collapsed earlier this spring. There will be a small amount of "convenience" retail (1,500 square feet), on the southeast corner of the building.
There are a couple of items that need to happen before construction can get underway, starting with the move of the Department of Public Works out of their site at New Jersey and K to a new location on Okie Street in Northeast, the construction of which can now proceed thanks to the council passing last week emergency technical legislation allowing a portion of Capper PILOT monies to be used for off-site construction (though another bill still has to pass to actually allocate the funds). Then the DC Housing Authority needs to demolish the trash transfer building (a raze application permit having been filed last week), at which point WC Smith will purchase the portion of the trash transfer site that juts across and north of the I Street footprint, as seen at right; the Smith site is on the right side of the photo.
It is hoped that DPW will relocate by early fall and that DCHA will get the site cleared by the end of 2011; WCS is targeting April 2012 for the start of construction on the building itself, with the project expected to take 24 months. (It should be mentioned here that this is not the apartment building planned for the trash transfer site itself; that will be a Capper mixed-income building, with no current start date announced.)
WCS will also be building the new stretch of I Street that will run between 2nd Street and New Jersey Avenue, as well as punching H Street through to New Jersey on the north end of Square 737. (And no, this won't drive out the horse stables nestled under the freeway just north of H.) They are expecting that the new block of I Street will have two travel lanes, two bike lanes, and two parking lanes. And this stretch of New Jersey Avenue will get the wide landscaped sidewalks that are seen in front of the other new developments on the street.
This is the first phase of Smith's plans for Square 737, seen at left from above, back in 2008. While originally the plan had been for two residential buildings and two office buildings, the current realities of both markets have the company looking toward filling the block with apartments, totalling around 1,200 units in four buildings. (And note that the entire four-building project is "matter of right," so there will be no zoning reviews or PUDs.) They are anticipating greater amounts of retail in the two buildings that will front 2nd Street, near Canal Park and across from 225 Virginia.
If you want to see more photos of Square 737 and get additional background, check my project page and previous posts. And, given that Smith's representatives say that they are "very excited to get started" on the development, hopefully renderings of 880 New Jersey and additional details will be available in the next few months.
While this will be William C. Smith's first apartment project in Near Southeast, they have been committed to the neighborhood for a number of years, having constructed 1100 New Jersey Avenue in 2004 (which is where their offices are). They have also been a big player in the creation of Canal Park, and are part of the Capper PUD team as the developers of the planned 250 M Street office building.
Comments (10)
 More About 880 NJ/Park Chelsea Home


F says: (6/20/11 8:37 PM)
JD- Great news all around...except for the lack of a Whole Foods. Any chance WCS will reengage on that? Without it, the only other proposed large grocery store is the prospective Harris Teeter at The Yards.

A Whole Foods would fit nicely into Near SE and would have four new apartment buildings worth of tenants just above them.

JD says: (6/20/11 10:55 PM)
F, I imagine if they thought there were still a chance, they'd be working on it. But they gave not a single hint that there's an opening for the deal to come back together.

By the way, I should just note that a purported rendering of 880 New Jersey that appeared on the web a few weeks ago is about 1 billion percent *not* what the developer showed me today: link . Don't know where they got that rendering, maybe it was for when WCS was trying to lure Homeland Security to Square 737. That drawing is clearly an office building and not a residential building (which is why I never linked to it).

Jim Ed says: (6/21/11 9:39 AM)
JD - I have a question about the land across the street from this; the open space behind the Axiom bounded by NJ ave and 395. Who owns this, and has there ever been a plan for it?

I ask because I saw a guy in a hardhat and construction vest driving around it and periodically getting out and surveying things last night.

JD says: (6/21/11 9:45 AM)
Jim--most of that land (with the exception of the sliver at New Jersey and I, where the parking lot is) is owned by CSX. No plans ever announced, and I doubt there will be anything done with any of it anytime soon.

Jim Ed says: (6/21/11 10:37 AM)
I had a feeling it was CSX related. I hope they aren't turning that area outside my bedroom window into a staging area for the tunnel work...

lester says: (6/21/11 12:27 PM)
One thought... Not having formed any strong opinions one way or the other (and with a lot of details yet announced), I would like to point out that, while the development may be "by right," seeing how some of the land that WC Smith is planning on building on top of is owned by the DC Government ("trash transfer" facility), there should be opportunity for a vigorous public discussion about the project once it is presented.

JD says: (6/21/11 12:39 PM)
The DC government won't own any of the land once the project is underway. As I said in my post, that small sliver will be sold to WC Smith. The bulk of the trash transfer site, south of what will be I Street, is part of the Capper PUD and so when its apartment building comes down the pike, there will be scads and scads of public comment opportunities.

F says: (6/21/11 1:28 PM)
Will the new section of I ST be open to traffic during construction or will they build it out, but wait until after construction to allow access?


JD says: (6/21/11 2:11 PM)
It won't open until after this first phase of construction is done, is what they told me.

MJM says: (6/21/11 2:26 PM)
At least with a new H and I St that should/hopefully take the pressure off L St.

Why a vigorous discussion once presented? I'm ready to see less surface parking lots and less award winning trash transfer centers in the area. If people in CHT are gonna protest because people lose their view of the Capitol....

Anyway, that area west of NJ Ave is gonna be the staging area for the tunnel. But who knows what it will look like post-tunnel community improvements.

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