Since January, 2003
            
 Sliding from Before to After

At a public meeting on Thursday night, Yards developer Forest City Washington presented very early plans for the portion of the DC Water/WASA site on 1st Street that the company is currently working to secure the development rights for.
While people are always interested in projects for more residential buildings with ground-floor retail, it was the plans for a movie theater on the site that drew a decent-sized crowd to the meeting, and the attendees learned that Showplace Icon is the heretofore unnamed operator that Forest City is currently in negotiations with.
It would be a 16-screen theater with more than 2,000 seats on N Place SE (see my quickie map for placement in regards to Nats Park and the main WASA pumping station), and Icon's more upscale amenities and approach to movie-going were extensively touted, including all reserved seating, VIP areas in each theater with extra-wide seats and person tables, wall-to-wall and ceiling-to-floor digital screens, no on-screen pre-show advertising, fresh-not-frozen food prepared on site, and their "lobby lounge," with about 100 seats and 21-and-over-only admittance.
But it was Icon's "policies to encourage courteous behavior" that seemed to defuse the "ZOMG GALLERY PLACE" concerns about the theater that had been cropping up on neighborhood mailing lists and elsewhere over the past few weeks. The theaters will not allow children under 17 after 7 pm without an adult, no one is admitted after the movie starts, no children under seven are admitted to PG-13 or R movies after 7 pm, and the adult admission price also applies to children.
Bob Gallivan of Kerasotes Showplace Theaters said that the company's theaters in Chicago and suburban Minneapolis are "bringing people back to the movies who haven't been for awhile" thanks to these policies, because they are trying to "create a civilized atmosphere." ("We're not a babysitting service," he also said.)
Thanks to being an all-digital theater, the venue would also be able to offer other content, such as simulcasts of the Metropolitan Opera, sporting events, and other events. And the theater would also have some small retail and maybe artist space along N Place.
As for the rest of the plans for the site, along 1st Street across from Nationals Park there would be two residential buildings, totalling 625ish units, each with ground-floor retail; and the northern one of the two would incorporate the brick/industrial facade of the existing DC Water fleet management building on 1st between N Place and O (seen at left).
O Street would be re-established from 1st east to the new 1 1/2 Place, and Potomac Avenue would be extended east from 1st as well to 1 1/2 Place.
Forest City's planners envision a "lower-scale" retail experience along 1 1/2 Place (smaller "eclectic" retailers, not "low-end"), with more "large-scale" offerings long 1st thanks to the size of the street and its location across from the ballpark. All told this area of the Yards would have about 50,000 square feet of retail.
Diamond Teague Park would also be expanded somewhat to the north of its current footprint, up to the new Potomac Avenue. It's possible that Potomac Avenue and the lower part of 1 1/2 Place could be closed at times for street festivals, etc.
As for any timeline on all of this, first Forest City has to actually acquire the land from DC Water and the city, and then has to complete the negotiations with Showplace Icon. (The fact that Forest City has even named Icon before executing the lease is a pretty big departure for the company, and shows an understanding of the need to clearly define what sort of theater experience would be on the boards.) Then the project has to go through the zoning process (it will be a PUD), and then get building permits. Forest City "hopes" to begin the approximately two years of construction for the theater in 2014, but that's a lot of ducks to get in a row first. (The residential buildings would come later.)
Audience members had questions about security (Icon uses off-duty police in Chicago, and Forest City would have its own security as well), types of films that would be offered (art-house and blockbusters), worries that the Lobby Lounge might become a club (not an issue, Icon says), and how traffic generated by the development would co-exist with 40,000 fans one block away at Nationals Park 81 nights a year (or more!). Because it's still early in the process, there weren't concrete answers to some of the concerns, but this project still has to go before ANC 6D and the Zoning Commission before being approved, so there will be plenty of opportunities for additional detail to be insisted upon.
Should I mention again that this is all still subject to both the DC Water land deal and the lease with Icon getting finalized?
Much more to come on this, obviously. And, for people who weren't at the meeting who didn't get to see any of the EARLY CONCEPTUAL NOT FINALIZED drawings, I have asked for at least the EARLY CONCEPTUAL NOT FINALIZED rendering of the glass-walled theater exterior to post, and hopefully before too long Forest City will be ready to share it.
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Jaybird says: (11/16/12 9:14 AM)
Glad to see someone looking out for those who appreciate good movie behavior.

Sometimes there's that moment when the movie starts, all is quiet, then someone comes in and plops down beside you, noisy with their wrappers.

Ok, I admit I'm a movie snob :-)


Shogungts says: (11/16/12 9:16 AM)
Great info, thanks JD.


MJM says: (11/16/12 10:01 AM)
Great to see an upscale theater. Hopefully everyone's blood pressure can go down. If this happens it gonna be a great addition.


MJM says: (11/16/12 10:03 AM)
And if the Twins can have a movie theater near/next to their stadium with game day parking, I'm sure the Nats and FCE can too.


Eric says: (11/16/12 10:17 AM)
Yeah, ZOMG GALLERY PLACE complaint withdrawn.


Eric says: (11/16/12 10:18 AM)
Now I'm just mad this theatre won't be done until 2016 at the EARLIEST.


Westnorth says: (11/16/12 12:34 PM)
For what it's worth, ShowPlace Icon's theater in Chicago is also in a post-industrial neighborhood of new condos between downtown and the South Side, and it gets favorable reviews on Yelp:
link
A glass wall sounds curious for a movie theater, but it's good not to have a windowless box even deep for a site deep within a superblock. Angelika at Mosaic's concession stands have a panoramic view over the plaza in front, and it's kind of cool to walk out of a movie and instantly be immersed in the real world.

I think a cinema would be a great way to keep a steady stream of customers for the neighborhood's restaurants on the 85% of evenings that don't have a Nationals night game. (Of the 81 regular-season home games, 1/3 are day games. Weekend night games occur only 26 nights a year, or 7% of the year.)


Erik says: (11/16/12 1:43 PM)
I was impressed with the presentation. I think the operator said that children younger than 18 would need to be accompanied by a parent, not just someone of legal age.

They talked about opening up some streets, 1 1/2 St, and N place, presumably to get suburban(?) clientele to the theatre parking. I would recommend making the streets as narrow as possible to control speed, and making the sidewalks as wide as possible as the developer is making attempts to design for pedestrian activity in the area. I would also recommend designing bike parking as over 35% of DC residents don't own cars, and bicycles have become a popular and convenient way to get around town.


LisaTinDC says: (11/16/12 1:54 PM)
Also, FWIW, the theater in Minnesota is actually part of a new shopping development just outside of downtown, so not actually close to Target Field (where the Twins play). However, that movie theater is fantastic and I'd love to have one close to home!


Alex B. says: (11/16/12 2:52 PM)
LisaT,

I think the Minneapolis reference was not to the Showplace Icon theater in suburban Minneapolis, but to the 15 screen multiplex a block away from Target Field at the Block E development.

Granted, the multi-plex closed down this fall, but it peacefully co-existed with the Twins stadium for several seasons.

Point being, those worried about movies and baseball coexisting: worry not.


BillP says: (11/16/12 4:04 PM)
get... it... done!


Jaybird says: (11/16/12 7:07 PM)
"no on-screen pre-show advertising"

Given that the movie previews now extend to 20 minutes in some cases, this will be welcomed. I noticed Angelika also cuts back on the trailers.


MJM says: (11/17/12 12:48 AM)
Thanks Alex B - yes to what you said.

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