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CSX has put out the word that there will be two utility relocation sites related to the Virginia Avenue Tunnel project gearing up starting on Monday, April 20, or thereabouts:
* Traffic lanes on 4th Street SE between the westbound lanes of Virginia Avenue and I Street will "temporarily shift to accommodate utility relocation work." The work will happen between 7 am and 7 pm on weekdays only and is expected to last about two months. "Some parking spaces will be temporarily occupied during the work period to accommodate lane shifts."
* There will also be utility relocation work under the Southeast Freeway in the "ad hoc recreation area," that little pass-through popular with the skateboard kidz where you can walk from 2nd Street under the overpass and into Garfield Park. "Access to the area will be limited during construction hours and visitors are encouraged to be cautious when traveling near the area." There's also the note that in the coming weeks "this work will extend into the intersection of 2nd Street S.E. and Virginia Avenue."
If you wish to discuss any of this with CSX, there will be an open house on April 23 from 4:30 to 7:30 pm at the Courtyard by Marriott hotel at 140 L St. SE. There's also expanded hours at the CSX community office on New Jersey Avenue: it's now open from 7 am to noon Mondays and Wednesdays and noon to 8 pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. You can also contact them by e-mail, phone, or web.
I wrote a few months ago about the initial construction plans, under which "utility relocation" qualifies.

 

It's a noteworthy enough event that Forest City has issued a press release this morning announcing the final pour of concrete that marks the "topping out" of its 327-unit Arris apartment building at the Yards, on the southwest corner of 4th and Tingey. (So if you see a bit of a celebratory-looking luncheon at the construction site today, that's why.)
The eastern side of the building, along 4th, is 11 stories high, while the three western wings reached eight stories a few weeks ago. When finished, Arris will have 19,000 square feet of ground-floor retail, and "some of the best waterfront views in the city."
It's now being said that the project will be "substantially complete" in early 2016.
An initial web site where you can sign up for information on leasing is at LiveArris.com.
Forest City tells me that work on the facade will continue through the next few months, with the expectation that the building will be completely enclosed by the end of the summer.
Also nestled into the press release about Arris is the statement that sometime this summer "development will begin on a 50-slip public marina as the newest addition to Yards Park," with completion expected by the end of the year.
(I was planning to get updated photos this weekend, so dang it, no up-to-the-second shots available. But you can see what it was looking like in late March.)
 

Word is hitting the streets this morning that Akridge has now sold its remaining holdings on the west side of Half Street just north of Nats Park, ending an ownership that began in 2008 but that saw the Fairgrounds as its only development.
Back in February, Akridge sold the southern two-thirds of the block-long lot to JBG, and at the time it was said that the company was also "under contract to recapitalize the northern third of Half Street." It turns out that that "recapitalization" was a sale to an affiliate of Brandywine Realty Trust for $20 million, according to WBJ.
Akridge's arrival on this lot began back in 2007 when the company won a WMATA bidding process for what was then the Southeastern Bus Garage site. But Monument Realty, expecting to have the rights to develop the site, was quite unhappy, and sued, which resulted in the settlement that awarded the bus garage site to Akridge for $46.5 million and the adjacent Metro parking lot across Van to Monument for $22.6 million. Monument then sold its holdings on the south end of the bus garage block to Akridge for $9.66 million.
The company got zoning approvals in early 2009 for its Half Street plans, as a 700,000-square-foot mix of two office buildings, one residential building, and 56,000 square feet of retail. But, of course, none of that ever happened, and in the meantime Akridge provided the space for first The Bullpen, then Das Bullpen, then the block-long Fairgrounds site.
Now we wait to see what the plans for the north end will be, now that JBG has said it will be building two residential offerings on its portion near the ballpark.
(And I know the web site response is atrocious this morning. Guess I'm going to have to stop just wishing it will get better, though the support people tell me that a lot of this is supposedly now the fault of another site on the same server, which has two more days to clean up its act or else it'll be shut down. We Shall See.)
 

Just like the perennials that begin popping up in springtime, the process to find a site for a new Marine Barracks has once again reappeared, with a Draft EIS released late on Friday that provides a deep study of five potential locations but does not identify the usual "preferred alternative."
For those lucky readers who have not been traveling on this path since it began in 2010 (!), the Marines are desperately wishing to move out of the antiquated and not-removed-enough-from-the-streets Building 20 at 8th and I streets, SE. (No, not the historic buildings that run along 8th Street where the Friday night parades are held--this is that lovely midcentury modern monolith on the south side of I Street.)
After the initial round of public workshops failed to magically come up with a solution that met the requirement that any new barracks be within 2,000 feet of the main post, an Environmental Impact Study was announced in 2012 and launched in the fall of 2013 (during my hiatus, so apologies for the hole in my reporting).
This draft EIS identifies five alternatives that meet the requirements that include constructing a 191,405 sf Bachelor Enlisted Quarters (BEQ) complex that complies with anti-terrorism/force protection setbacks as well as finding spaces for various support facilities currently housed in Building 20. But, in an unusual situation for a draft EIS, no "preferred alternative" has been identified--the Marines apparently don't have a (publicly stated) preference, and "each of the action alternatives involve trade-offs among economig, technical, environmental, and Marine Corps statutory requirements."
As for the five alternatives, they include:
* (Left) Taking 3 acres of privately held land on the two blocks bounded by Virginia, 8th, 9th, and Potomac, which would include acquiring 24 privately held properties, demolishing 14 buildings, and closing a one-block stretch of L Street, to build a five-story building with underground parking;
* (Left center) Taking two acres of former Southeast Federal Center land within the footprint of The Yards immediately to the west of Hull Street and the Navy Yard to build an eight-story building with an attached above-ground garage, a move that would necessitate an agreement with both Forest City and the GSA to transfer the land to the Marines and which apparently has already engendered Forest City's "formal opposition" (page 2-21);
* (Right center) Taking 1.67 acres within the walls of the Navy Yard, just south of M Street between 9th/Parsons and 10th, to build a 5- or 6-story building, while demolishing a building currently used by the Marines (Building 169) as well as tennis and basketball courts and a parking lot; and
* (Right) Using .89 acres nestled between the existing BEQ site at 7th and K and its lovely above-ground parking garage on L Street to build a 6- or 7-story building that would wrap around the existing Building 25, while still keeping the footprint of the large soccer/marching band field untouched. Parking would be in the existing underground garage at the old Building 20 site for both this alternative and the Navy Yard one.
(Why am I only mentioning four of the five? Because the Alternative B site is now newly spoken for, though I guess if the Marines really really want it....)
I am of course just scratching the surface of the 300-page document. If you want to learn more, and/or want to provide comments on any of these plans, there is going to be an open house public meeting on Wednesday, April 22, from 5:30 to 8:30 pm at Tyler Elementary School (1001 G St., SE). Comments can also be submitted until May 26, either through the mail or the EIS web site.
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More posts: Barracks
 

The notion of the Washington Humane Society acquiring the former Exxon site at 11th and M SE was in the news back in February, and I can now report that the land deal has been completed, thanks to a $5 million grant from the city.
This location will apparently replace the WHS facilities on both New York Avenue NE and Georgia Avenue NW.
But this won't be the agency's only presence on the block: it already operates its spay and neuter clinic in a building at 10th and L adjacent to this Exxon lot.
I had hoped to include more details on the plans for the site, but this post couldn't wait any longer, thanks to the newly released Draft EIS for the Marine Barracks hunt, in which this 36,500-acre lot was identified as one of five possible sites for the new barracks. {Cut to Barracks hunters despondently crossing yet another potential location off their list. Or not.}
This site, officially located at 1022 M St., SE, has been vacant since the Exxon closed and was demolished in 2008, except for a brief residence by a chair.
More to come on the Humane Society plans.
 

Some brief links, because I think I've used up my allotment of words over the past few weeks, but also because the continuing web site problems have just utterly worn me down. (Reminder: if you get a 503 Service Unavailable error, or the site is loading but with all sorts of formatting problems, just count to 10--or maybe 20--and reload. They are supposedly investigating, but I may have to be committed before they manage to fix it.)
* RAMP CLOSURE SATURDAY: The ramp from M Street at 11th to the outbound 11th Street freeway bridge will be closed for "pavement striping modifications" on Saturday, April 11, from 7 am until 5 pm. The local bridge will be the detour. (DDOT)
* NO HOLIDAY FOR METERS: If you are thinking that you can park for free in metered street spaces near Nats Park on game days that fall on Sundays and holidays, you would be wrong. (DDOT)
* DOUGLASS BRIDGE $$$: Mayor Bowser's proposed FY16 budget includes $512.7 million for the new Douglass Bridge. (WBJ)
* BEST BAR BLUEJACKET: Esquire's "Best Bars in America" visited Bluejacket, among other spots, calling it the "Willy Wonka of beer breweries." (HillNow)
* FAIRGROUNDS LAMENT: "The Fairgrounds is a dying breed of the Nats fan experience." (WaPo)
* BREAKING ICE CREAM NEWS: Ice Cream Jubilee has added "Chocolate Matzo Crack," "Fig, Port, & Goat Cheese," and "Cherries Jubilee" as springtime flavors. And milkshakes!
 

We've been calling it Ballpark Square, but now the Grosvenor/McCaffery residential, hotel, and retail project along 1st Street SE between M and N has its official name:
F1rst.
(Yes, that's a numeral "1" in place of the "i".)
We also now have an operator for the 170-room hotel--it will be a Residence Inn by Marriott, joining the chain's Courtyard location that's been in the neighborhood since 2006.
The residential building will have 325 units--a mix of studios through 2 BR/den--plus a fitness center, club room, outdoor courtyard, garage with bike parking, and a rooftop deck with a pool, grilling stations, dog park, and an "outdoor multimedia theatre" on the building's southwest corner that will have stadium-style seating and a view into Nats Park.
It will take about two years for the buildings to be completed, though some retail tenants could move in starting in the first quarter of 2017.
And, as I reported a few weeks ago (even though nobody believed me), Taylor Gourmet and Chop't are already signed for some of the project's 25,000 square feet of retail.
The event today did not have shovels and hardhats--which made sense given that the ground has already been broken--but there were dignitaries and speeches, and a ceremonial throwing of baseballs into the construction footprint.
I took photos, of course, and here's the full gallery. A few snippets here, though:
 

It took way too long, but last week I finally got my first real look in and around Toll Brothers's Parc Riverside apartment building at 1st and K streets, SE.
It's been open to move-ins for a few months now, even while final construction activities were wrapping up, but on April 2 they threw a not-small grand opening party, where I took advantage of getting in a little ahead of the crowds to snap some quick shots of the communal spaces, the roof, and the model unit. (I also used the occasion to grab overhead photos of the holes in the ground at 82 I and 909 Half.)
Here's a smattering of images (click to enlarge), but check out the gallery for the complete lineup.
(I know the pictures with shots of the Capitol dome will *thrill* anyone who lives at Velocity.)
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More posts: Toll Brothers Lots
 

Today US District Judge Christopher Cooper ruled against the request for an injunction in the lawsuit brought by the Committee of 100 over the plans and process around the expansion of the Virginia Avenue Tunnel.
You can read the opinion here, but here's a quote that gets at the meat of the ruling, on page 3:
"Before the Court is an application by the Committee for a preliminary injunction prohibiting DDOT from issuing the necessary permits for reconstruction of the tunnel to begin. The bar for obtaining a preliminary injunction pending resolution of a suit on the merits is high, and the Court concludes that it has not been cleared here. On the record before the Court, the Committee has not established that its suit is likely to succeed on the merits. Nor has it shown that the potential environmental harm of reconstruction outweighs the public benefit from modernizing the tunnel. The Court will, accordingly, deny the Committee's application."
There then follows 40 pages of discussion of the legal merits of each of the Committee of 100's points of contention, before concluding:
"The Court concludes the balance of the equities tips decidedly in the Defendants' favor, and particularly towards the public interest. As discussed above, the Committee's contentions that a new tunnel will lead to more accidents and a greater risk of terrorist attack are speculative at best. And with the exception of the removal of some 200 trees, the Committee has not established that any environmental effects of the construction activity will be severe or irreparable."
It goes on to say that, while a resident's misgivings about a large-scale construction project outside her windows are "understandable," those concerns "do not outweigh the broader public's substantial interest in modernizing this deteriorating and outmoded tunnel."
This is not necessarily the end of the lawsuit--it just means that there is nothing preventing DDOT from issuing the permits that would allow CSX to begin work on the project while the lawsuit continues to wind its way through the process.
See my Virginia Avenue Tunnel page for an overview of the project; and back in February I looked at the staging plans for the first few months of construction, which can begin once the required permits are in CSX's hands.
And perhaps this is as good a time as any to mention that CSX's next quarterly open house is scheduled for April 23 from 4:30 to 7:30 pm at the Courtyard by Marriott at 140 L St., SE.
 

The digging is already underway on the west side of 1st Street SE midblock between M and N, but that won't get in the way of a ceremonial groundbreaking scheduled for Wednesday, April 8, at 2 pm, that will celebrate the start of the 450,000-square-foot Grosvenor/McCaffery residential/hotel/retail project just north of the already under construction Hampton Inn.
This development has been referred to up until now as "Ballpark Square," but apparently its real name will be unveiled at this event.
The rendering above shows, from left, the project's two-story retail building at 1st and N, just across from Nats Parking Lot C, then a blank spot where the Hampton Inn is being built, then the 285-unit (or is it 325-unit) residential building, then the 170-room hotel (no operator so far named). At far right is the 233,000 square foot 99 M Street office building being developed by Skanska, which isn't technically part of this groundbreaking but which appears to be close to getting its own permits to start digging.

 
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