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Developer Jair Lynch's plans to finally get development going on the site at Half and N just north of Nats Park known in some parts as "Monument Valley" or the "Half Street Hole" went before the Zoning Commission on Thursday night for a Capitol Gateway Overlay Review.
I went into detail on the updated designs a few weeks ago, but the quickie summary is that there will be somewhere between 350 and 445 residential units (including condos!) in two buildings, and as much as 68,000 square feet of retail on two floors. (There could possibly be a small hotel as well, which would bring the residential count to the lower end of the proposed spectrum.) There would also be 231 parking spaces and bike parking in three underground levels, the hole for which, as we all know, has already conveniently been dug.
Both Jair Lynch and project architect Chris Harvey of Hord Coplan Macht talked about how the building is designed to bring the "indoors out, and the outdoors in," with huge windows for retail spaces and with the upper floors designed to take in views not of the surrounding skyline but of the street below, especially as the festive gameday atmosphere unfolds. "We believe it will define the ballpark entertainment district," Lynch said, calling it a "unique destination" for the three million people who visit the ballpark and the neighborhood every year.
The comments from the zoning commissioners were uniformly positive*, with the discussion going through especially zoning-y zoning issues, such as the design of the roof, the status of LEED certification (they're going for Silver, apparently), the lack of affordable housing (short version: this project is expensive!) and the location of a lobby entrance at the corner of Half and the new pedestrian-only Monument Place.
Much of the remaining discussion ended up centering around the streetscape plans, with commissioners agreeing that a curbless street being a wise decision with thousands of people walking through and not watching where they are going, but with DDOT needing to work with Lynch's group to decide exactly how to approach, since as of now DDOT really has no guidelines for such a design.
DDOT also appeared to be putting the kibosh on the idea of "catenary lights" across both ends of Half Street (which has been in the drawings for the site for many years), as well as wanting planned bollards ditched and wanting a different layout for sidewalk trees, since the lack of overhead wires on Half means that there could be a substantial tree canopy if the proper trees are used.
In response to a question from commissioner Robert Miller, who described the project as "very long-awaited and dynamic and exciting," Lynch said that the expectation is to break ground in 2016 and be finished in 2018 (presumably in time for a certain all-star event). Cushing Street would be used as the route for construction vehicles (though work would stop three hours before any Nats game), but Lynch also said that the fact that the excavation is mostly complete "should help tremendously."
With the Office of Planning and DDOT each supporting the plan as long as a few items are addressed, and with ANC 6D having voted to support it as well, there appears to only be the need for some mopping up submissions (renderings from street level for Cushing Street and Monument Place, better roof plans, the fixes for OP, yadda yadda), it sounds as if this project should be voted on favorably, perhaps at the June 29 commission meeting.
My page for this Half Street project gives additional details on the site, as do my previous posts.
And maybe before too much longer we'll see some details of JBG's plans for the other side of the street.
* Or, in the case of Peter May, not actually negative.

A missive from CSX just now:
"CSX today started the major construction phase of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel Project. The support of excavation work now underway consists of drilling 42-inch holes for steel and concrete pilings that will support a temporary retaining wall necessary to construct the first new permanent tunnel elements. This work is taking place at the west end of the project site in public space near 2nd and H Streets, S.E."
It goes on to say that similar work will get underway at the eastern end of the tunnel near 11th & M SE "within the next few weeks."
As always, to get more information, check out my Virginia Avenue Tunnel page (which probably needs a bit of freshening) or the official web site, where you can also sign up to be on the project mailing list.

As the city's FY16 funding process reaches its crunch time, the council late this afternoon released its amended budget.
And deep in the multitude of documents and words is the "11th Street Bridge Park Funding Limitations Act of 2015," which states that "no funds allocated for the Park may be awarded or disbursed for purposes of construction until at least 50 percent of the total projected construction costs of the project have been raised from private donors."
The act also "prohibits the use of District funds for the purpose of operations or maintenance" of the planned park.
The piers left from the now-demolished downstream 11th Street Bridge span would be used to build this park, running from just east of the Navy Yard over to Anacostia Park, has a $40 million price tag attached to it, according to published reports.
The District has previously committed to providing $14.5 million of the $25 million construction costs, and a fundraising campaign is underway to fund both the $10.5 million construction funding gap and the estimated $15 million in operations funding.
The council will be voting on its proposed budget tomorrow, Tuesday, May 27.
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More posts: bridgepark

I wrote a few weeks back about the release of the draft EIS in the ongoing search for a site for a new Marine barracks, and about the five sites the document analyzed, three of which are on privately held land or privately-controlled land (at 8th & Virginia, 11th & M, and in the northeast corner of the Yards), and two of which are at sites under federal control, within the walls of the Navy Yard and on the current Bachelor Enlisted Quarters land at 7th and L.
Today, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton released her comments on the study, saying that the private sites "should not be chosen because of the significant negative impacts on District residents, District business owners, and the District economy" and that the Marines "cannot now swoop in and take these prized sites in a city that has almost no land left for development for the benefit of its growing population and businesses."
In comparison, she says, the two sites on federal land "will protect private landowners and lessees in the District while at the same time providing the opportunity for increased economic development at the current Building 20 site" (at 8th and I).
The period for commenting on the EIS ends today, May 26. so if you are desperate to add your voice, I would hope you can submit via the web site until midnight.
My post on the draft EIS is far more detailed than this quickie update, so I suggest reading it for further background.
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More posts: Barracks

Today Judge Christopher Cooper has denied the Committee of 100's appeal of his April ruling denying the group's request for an injunction to prevent CSX from moving forward on the Virginia Avenue Tunnel construction while the C100 lawsuit works its way through the process.
Quoting from the order: "The Committee contends that new information gleaned from the recently-produced administrative record demonstrates that the federal and local agencies involved in the environmental review of the reconstruction project unlawfully predetermined its outcome. The Court concludes, however, that the Committee’s new evidence does not satisfy its burden to demonstrate that the agencies failed objectively to consider the environmental impacts of the reconstruction. Accordingly, it will deny the motion."
The Committee of 100 had filed their appeal in May, saying that new access to the "full record in the case," all 130,000 pages of it, showed "persuasive evidence of improper predetermination that was not available to the District Court" at the time of the initial injunction denial. But Judge Cooper wrote that "the portions of the administrative record provided by the Committee do not support its position that DDOT unlawfully predetermined the NEPA outcome or that FHWA failed to independently consider the environmental effects of the tunnel reconstruction."
You can read the full opinion/order for more detail.
(And, whaddya know, C100 is still using my photo on their web site! UPDATE, 5/27: It took a bit of back-and-forth, but the photo is now taken down.)

If you've been feeling like your baseball experience is lacking in Texas barbecue, you are in luck, with the news that Hill Country Barbecue will be running a gameday sandwich shop called "The Home Stand" on the JBG/1244 South Capitol site on the northeast corner of South Capitol and N streets, SE, immediately north of the Nats Park western parking garage.
There will be picnic seating for 200, with a rotating lineup of sandwiches ranging from their Chopped Beef, Pit Smoked Turkey and Hot Link Sausage sandwiches as well as a "daily Pitmaster special." Each sandwich will come with your choice of cucumber salad, baked beans, or pasta salad.
There won't be beer and wine offerings to start, but those libations should be part of the lineup eventually.
The Home Stand will be open two hours before and after the game on home game days.
The Post says that it could open this Friday, or "if not this Friday, then by the next homestand," according to a Hill Country rep.
This site is slated to become a 290-unit residential building with 26,000 square feet of retail, but it hasn't been expected that work would begin on that project until after baseball season at the earliest.
UPDATE, 5/24: "The Home Stand" started operating on Friday, and is now duly photographed, as you see above, and here.

The neighbors are coming home after quite the road trip, and to welcome everyone back, the team has announced that the new Virginia Country Kitchen stand at Section 113 will be debuting on Tuesday.
Both the Virginia Ham and the Old Dominion Chicken biscuits were teased at the April ballpark tour (and received the JDLand Taste Bud seal of approval), and there will also be mac-and-cheese, a housemade version of Cracker Jack called "Virginia Crunch," and a "Blue Ridge Bourbon and Tea" made with Filibuster Bourbon, peach schnapps (sold!), iced tea, and mint.
Also debuting on Tuesday will be the new home for the main team store, now located inside the gates in the ground floor of the eastern parking garage and nearly double the size of the old outlet facing N Street. No announcement yet as to what will be going into the old space, though it was said back in 2014 that the plan is "to convert the old space into a restaurant that fans will be able to enjoy throughout the year."
The Yankees will be the visitors on Tuesday and Wednesday (May 19 and 20), followed by a weekend set with the Phillies, which also includes the second Pups in the Park on Saturday, May 23. There will also be tote bags for the first 25,000 fans on Tuesday, a 10th anniversary poster for the first 10,000 fans on Sunday, and a number of presentations and ceremonies honoring the military as part of this Memorial Day weekend series.
And as if that's not enough, the team and MLB are partnering with the American Academy of Dermatology on Friday, May 22 for the "Play Sun Smart" initiative that is promoting skin cancer awareness. (As a freckle-faced fair-skinned lass of Irish descent, I fully endorse this project.)
The entire lineup of activities, ceremonies, and giveaways is available here.
And, the Capitol Riverfront BID has put together this roundup of gameday restaurant specials outside the ballpark, in case you need additional sustenance before or after the game.
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More posts: Nationals Park

With a May 28 Capitol Gateway Overlay design review on the calendar, the Jair Lynch/Half Street Hole project has within the past few days submitted additional materials to the Zoning Commission. And since I know how much everyone loves renderings....
The one I know will be of most interest is above left, showing what the new skyline would look like just to the northeast of Nats Park as seen from home plate, where Lynch's planned residential project will be situated. (They seemed to have tried to go for some sort of tilt-shift look, so it's not your eyes or my image file that's blurry, it's the original.) At right is a sharper/snazzier view of the building as seen from ground-level at Half and N, with the glass-walled corner portion of the planned 60,000-plus square feet of retail space a definite focal point. The darker façade facing N Street delineates the planned condo portion of the project from the rental units (and possibly a hotel, or possibly not) around the corner on Half.
I wrote in detail about the plans for the site a few weeks ago, or you can check my Lynch Half project page for additional details.
Meanwhile, in other Ballpark District 2.0 news, I see an indication of forward progress on JBG's planned 290-unit residential project just north of the ballpark at 1244 South Capitol: an application was filed last week for a shoring/sheeting/excavation permit (got to dig down before you can build up!). The company has said they are looking to begin construction in late 2015 or early 2016.

From HillNow: "Pacers Running is expected to arrive on Tingey Street SE in August, the chain’s chief executive officer, Kathy Dalby, said today. "
It will be coming to the Boilermaker Shops, and will fill the last available retail space in that building, which opened in 2013. It will be the seventh Pacers location nationwide, and fifth in the DC area, and will join Unleashed, Hugh & Crye, GNC, and Wells Cleaners in the lineup of current non-food offerings in the rehabbed building.

It's a fairly sizeable lineup of events on the neighborhood calendar over the next few days:
* BIKE TO WORK DAY: The forecast looks swell for DC's annual Bike to Work Day, on Friday, May 15. Canal Park is one of the pit stops, from 7 to 9 am, at which there will be refreshments and food, plus you'll have a chance to win prizes if you have registered. (Looks like the free t-shirts are all already claimed, though.) Read about commuter convoys, ride buddies and more at the official web site.
* FRIDAY NIGHT CONCERTS: The Friday night Summer Concert Series at Yards Park kicks off this week, with the R&B stylings of Jimi Smooth. The concerts begin each week at 6:30 pm, and the Grassy Knoll fills up pretty quickly, so arrive early!
* OPERA IN THE OUTFIELD: Saturday is Cinderella Day at Nats Park, thanks to the the return of the annual Opera in the Outfield simulcast. Gates open at 5 pm, with a slew of pre-performance activities and entertainment, including a Royal Parade that will allow "kids of all ages" to arrive in costume and march around the lower concourse. The actual simulcast begins at 7 pm, and it's all Rain or Shine, and all free and open to the public. Note that sitting in the outfield now requires a wristband handed out on a first-come first-serve basis. More details here.
* GLUG GLUG GLUG: This most assuredly is not free, but Canal Park on Saturday will host "ABV," an afternoon of "outdoor imbibing" of the "finest craft beverages," put together by Greg Engert and friends. It will run from 3 to 8 pm, rain or shine, and tickets are $20 at the door or in special advance packages. The full list of beer, wine, and spirits to be available is here.
* FITNESS IN THE FRONT: Technically not a weekend event, but you may need to toss in a workout session or two after a big weekend--and just your luck, the lineup of outside summer fitness classes gets underway on Monday, May 19. Brought to you by VIDA Fitness and DC BFIT and located in Yards and Canal Parks, the classes range from Yoga to Zumba to "high energy" to Boot Camps to a once-a-month family fitness session. The schedule is here, and classes are free and open to the public.
* MARGARITA WARS: In case you didn't get your fill of drinking in a neighborhood park at ABV, City Paper's third annual Margarita Wars is slated for May 21 at 6:30 pm at the Yards Park. "You be the judge as the region's top mixologists compete for your vote in a winner take all battle for 'rita supremacy." Tickets are $25 and include unlimited margarita tastings. Also included: one of those extra-special tequila-fueled hangovers. (But you'll want to recover by May 30, when the Tour de Fat extravaganza returns to Yards Park.)
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