Near Southeast DC: Past News Items - September 2007
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Council Hearing on Canal Park, Southwest Waterfront, and More
Oct 1, 2007 7:02 AM
Just a reminder for those interested in the progress of Canal Park (as well as the Southwest Waterfront, Hill East, and other former AWC initiatives) that there's a DC council Committee on Economic Development Public oversight hearing on these projects on Monday (Oct. 1) at 12 noon in Room 500 of the Wilson Building. The DC Cable 13 schedule indicates that the hearing will be broadcast live, which means you can either watch the live webcast or dial up Channel 13 if you live in the District and have cable.
More posts: Canal Park

New Batch of Photos, Pt. 2 - Stadium's West Side
Sep 30, 2007 7:05 PM

Now posted for your perusing pleasure, another batch of photos from around the neighborhood, taken this afternoon, with the focus being on the western side of the ballpark, along South Capitol Street. This means that the Stadium Exterior Construction Gallery is now about two-thirds updated over the past two days, and don't forget to look at the Expanded Stadium Archives for South Capitol Street and N Street if you want even more before-and-afters. (Or here's all photos from today on a single page.) Grass is now being put down in the median on South Capitol, and the new historic globe streetlights are in place, along with stoplights-to-come at the O and P intersections. The newly widened sidewalks and curbs along the west side of the street are almost complete as well.

My favorite part of the day was when I walked down the median of South Capitol from N to Potomac, snapping photos along the way. The inbound lanes coming off the Douglass Bridge were closed, so it made for some nice car-free shots, until I realized that there was a big red pickup driving the south in the northbound lanes of South Capitol, moving very slowly and always staying about 40 feet behind me. I'd walk a half-block and stop, and the truck would drive a half-block and stop. Then, when I got to South Capitol and Potomac, the truck turned around and parked. Of course, it was Hired Badge Harry, making sure that I made not the slightest attempt to get anywhere near the inside of the ballpark perimeter. When I finished my work at South Capitol and Potomac, I waved and called out, "Okay! I'm walking back north now!!!" and we resumed our shadow-dancing, even though by this point I was walking on the west side of the street and so was nowhere near the construction. While I certainly appreciate having my own escort at all times, I do think it's kind of funny that they're expending so much effort keeping an eye on the ONE person who has absolutely no interest in darting into the stadium interior uninvited. And so, if you're wondering why so many of today's photos have a big red pickup in them, that's why.
UPDATE: Oops, sorry, the all-in-one link was to yesterday's batch. Now fixed.

More posts: Nationals Park

New Batch of Photos, Pt. 1 - Scoreboard Stars and More
Sep 29, 2007 5:08 PM

The breadth of construction around Near Southeast is now so vast that I'm forced to break my photo sojourns up into multiple sessions. Today's batch includes a few from the eastern side of the stadium, which are somewhat hard to come by these days--make sure to see the second photo down on the Stadium Exterior Construction Gallery, which shows the red stars that were added to the scoreboard in the past few days as part of the installation of the clock. (The "Nationals" lettering is cool to see as well, even if it's backwards.) The rest of the new stadium photos are more toward the bottom of the gallery (look for the icon) and on the First Street and N Street expanded galleries, but I'm planning to take a complete batch of photos of the western side of the ballpark on Sunday.

There's also the usual updates to the project pages for residential projects 70/100 I and Onyx on First and the 100 M Street office building, as well as plenty of other vantage points that can be seen on the expanded galleries or on the see-'em-all-on-one-page output. Try not to be blinded by the incredibly blue sky when looking at these shots, and cross your fingers I get that weather again on Sunday.
I've also got one not-so-good comparison showing the slow progress on the demolition of the GPO building at The Yards, though fences and construction vehicles are making it very hard to get good shots of what's going on there.
I did also notice that the DC Foreign Car garage on K west of Half is definitely now abandoned, sometime within the past month or so. No "we've moved" sign is up anywhere, and so it's possible that it's been a number of weeks since they closed, but now all the windows and doors are busted, so it was obvious even to my sometimes-distracted brain. Opus East has said they're planning to start construction on 1015 Half Street in October, which would mean this garage should be gone before much longer.
Tune in tomorrow for the next batch.

New Web Cam: Monument Half Street
Sep 28, 2007 2:20 PM

Hot on the heels of the uber-successful Stadium Construction Web Cam, there's now a new webcam available, showing the progress of Monument Realty's Half Street project, which includes the expansion of the Navy Yard Metro station. And it shows that the vertical construction of 55 M Street (the 275,000-sq-ft office building at the corner of Half and M that will house the subway entrance) is nearly to ground level. Also, I'm psyched that I can now keep an eye on the properties along First Street without taking off my fuzzy slippers, to watch for if and when those buildings get demolished. (It also shows that the GPO building at The Yards is still partially standing.) For baseball fans, it does show a smidgen of the ballpark, mainly from the restaurant eastward and southward, as well as all of the eastern parking garage. The images go back to Aug. 28, but I guess I kept overlooking the webcam link on the official Half Street web site.

UPDATE: Alas, the web cam has spent most of the day frozen at 12:51 pm. Hopefully someone will go to the top of 20 M Street and kick the tires.
UPDATE II: And now it's back.

Rendering of 1100 South Capitol, and New Page
Sep 28, 2007 10:30 AM
The fine folks at Ruben Companies have passed along to me a rendering of its planned 350,000-sq-ft office building at 1100 South Capitol, now dubbed "SC1100." With that in hand, I've created a page for both SC1100 and the rest of the block it will occupy, known by the cool land-record kids as Square 698, and have added it to my main map. Ruben also now has a page about the project on its redesigned web site. There's no timeline as yet for the start of construction.

Monument Files Protest Over Bus Garage
Sep 28, 2007 10:19 AM
The Post reports on yesterday's WMATA board vote to sell the Southeastern Bus Garage to Akridge (see my post on the vote here), saying that "Monument Realty, which owns several acres nearby, filed a formal protest late Wednesday. Company officials have said that Monument was promised first dibs on the site by the D.C. government and Metro several years ago when the company was named 'master developer' of the area and given the task of building an integrated 'ballpark district.' " Also: "Monument principal partner Jeffrey T. Neal has threatened to file a lawsuit to stop the sale. In a letter to Metro last month, Neal also said Monument might slow its renovation of the Navy Yard Metro station, the closest stop to the ballpark, if the company does not win Metro's bus garage property." Metro says that Monument's protest will be reviewed before the sale to Akridge is completed. It also repeats what was mentioned in yesterday's Post article, that Monument is seven weeks behind on its renovation of the Navy Yard Metro station west entrance, and that Monument has acknowledged the delays but is spending extra money to make up the lost time. Also, here's the Washington Business Journal's piece on the bus garage sale and attendant controversy, and the Examiner's.

Starbucks Opening Monday? Yes. And Free Coffee on Friday
Sep 27, 2007 4:31 PM
Caffeine-deprived correspondents are writing in to tell me they're hearing that the Starbucks at the corner of New Jersey and M (at the DOT HQ) is set to open on Monday (Oct. 1). The rumor mill adds that it will be open seven days a week.
UPDATE: I've now had it confirmed that Monday is indeed the opening day for Starbucks. And hours will be 6 am to 9 pm Monday through Friday, and 7 am to 7 pm Saturday and Sunday.
UPDATE II: Via the BID, there's also apparently a "Friends and Family Extravaganza" at the new Starbucks on Friday (Sept. 28) from 1:00 to 6:00 pm. "Free Food and Coffee/Community Networking Opportunities/Special Offers."

Metro Board Approves Bus Garage Sale to Akridge
Sep 27, 2007 1:45 PM
Without too much discussion, the WMATA board of directors has just approved the sale of the Southeastern Bus Garage at Half and M streets to the John Akridge Development Company. There was a brief exchange between Jim Graham and (I believe) the corporate counsel about what was apparently an "escalator clause" in Monument Realty's bid for the garage site, stating that their $60 million bid should be raised to $250,000 above the higher bid. The counsel indicated that the sale was not being handled under a Request for Proposals, but under a sealed bid process that WMATA procedures stipulate do not allow for alternative bids. The counsel also said that Monument's bid in fact stated that if WMATA's procedures did not allow for alternative bids, to then revert to Monument's $60 million initial bid.
With that cleared up, and with a bit of discussion about how these sorts of property sales should be handled in the future, the board voted to approve the sale. However, settlement on the deal is still contingent on the board's approval of a new Southeastern Bus Garage project at DC Village in Southwest, which Graham pleaded be handled as quickly as possible to ensure that the buses are out of Half and M before Opening Day 2008, so that both pedestrian safety issues and additional ballpark parking can be addressed.
So now we'll wait and see if Monument follows through with the threats detailed in this morning's Post to possibly file suit over not being awarded the garage site, or slow down their work on the expansion of the Navy Yard Metro station across the street, which would seem to not really be a good way to endear yourself to the public, the city, or WMATA.
If you want to listen to the audio of the meeting, it will be available here once the meeting itself is finished. And I did put together a new Bus Garage section under my Ballpark District pages, with just a few photos of the site. (Finally. Guess I never thought it would turn into such a perpetual topic of conversation.)

A Blogger is a Person In Your Neighborhood....
Sep 27, 2007 9:32 AM
Capitol Hill's Voice of the Hill newspaper has a co-profile of two local bloggers in its new issue--Elise Bernard of Frozen Tropics (covering H Street NE) and yours truly. Descriptions of me and JDLand include "fastidiously issue-neutral" and "almost aggressive in its lack of color"--but those are actually compliments. And there's a photo that perfectly captures my perpetually bemused state, but that might just be because I was suffering through the replay of the 225 Virginia hearing when the photographer arrived (those with x-ray vision can see Phil Mendelson on one of my computer screens). It's kind of a sequel to the piece they did in 2005.
So, since I'm already self-promoting, I'll mention my Ballpark and Beyond column in today's Post, which talks about the possible sale of the Southeastern Bus Garage to Akridge (we'll find out today--the WMATA board meeting is at 11), the new funding for the waterfront parks, and the Garfield Park-Canal Park connector project.

The Ballpark Parking Struggle; Monument Veeeery Unhappy About Bus Garage
Sep 27, 2007 12:21 AM

Thursday's Post has "Struggles Cloud Stadium Progress," which details a number of issues currently causing headaches in the Ballpark District. The story reveals that the renovation of the Navy Yard Metro station's west entrance, to expand its capacity to 15,000 users an hour, is seven weeks behind schedule. Also, talks that the Nationals have been having with the US Department of Transportation about possibly using the 800 parking spaces beneath the new DOT HQ have been fruitless. And, with the WMATA board set to vote on its plan to award Akridge the sale of the Southeastern Bus Garage, Monument Realty has apparently "cried foul, arguing that it was promised first dibs on the property by District and Metro officials several years ago to build an integrated mixed-use 'ballpark district.' " Monument, which owns almost the entire rest of the Square 700 block that the bus garage sits on, is threatening lawsuits, and even is suggesting that its stewardship of Navy Yard Metro expansion as part of its mixed-use development on the east side of Half Street could be slowed down if Monument is not awarded the WMATA site--though, at the same time, they say they are addressing the current schedule slippage. Guess this might make the WMATA board meeting audiocast somewhat interesting.

On the plus side, "D.C. leaders expect whichever developer wins the Metro bus property to allow 350 cars to park on the site for the first season or two until more significant construction begins." And negotiations are continuing to allow gameday parking at RFK, with free shuttle buses to the new ballpark, although there are concerns that Hill East residents might not appreciate the traffic. (See my stadium parking page for more details on where parking lots are expected to be available.)
And, just some clarification, for those of you looking at the map that accompanied the article: the land that encompasses the bus garage sale is not all of the sites indicated as "Metro Property" on the map; it's just the bus garage itself and the parking lot to the garage's west, on the southwest corner of Half and M. The land on the east side of Half Street, at the west entrance of the Navy Yard Metro station, is no longer owned by Metro, having been sold to Monument Realty in late 2006. The east entrance of the station, at New Jersey and M, is being sold to Donohoe as part of the 1111 New Jersey office development. And the little lot at Half and L is the station's chiller plant, which at one point was appearing to be offered as a joint development opportunity, but which appears to have stalled.

More on End of MPD Move to 225 Virginia
Sep 26, 2007 10:22 AM
I was out of town during last Thursday's oversight hearing on space needs for public service agencies, and since The Post published a piece the next day on the big news--the confirmation that the police department's move to 225 Virginia Avenue is indeed off--I've been dragging my feet on posting my notes from the hearing, which I watched on a replay Monday night.
Here's what Office of Property Management director Lars Etzkorn said in his opening remarks about 225 Virginia: "While initial plans focused on co-locating several police functions in this leased building, a review of estimates revealed that total improvement costs exceeded the $100 million provided for in the lease. Hard costs alone were estimated to exceed $150 million. In addition, there were issues with compatibility in implementing the full program in the neighborhood. These include MPD's 24-7 operations and parking demands for 658 vehicles. Currently, we are examining potential alternative uses for the space, including the possibility of using it as office space for government agencies."
During questioning by Tommy Wells, Etzkorn said that he anticipates being able to come to council members by the end of October with recommendations on uses for 225; Wells remarked that the city needs to make sure that "we don't stack a bunch of uses" in the building without thinking of their impacts on the surrounding area.
There was a lot of back-and-forth between Etzkorn and Phil Mendelson about whether the police move to 225 is in fact called off--I don't think it's too much of an editorial statement to comment that Etzkorn clearly embraces bureaucracy-speak and well-parsed statements, which frustrated Mendelson to no end during the hearing. When Mendelson asked if everything that was planned to go to 225 is now not going there, Etzkorn's response was "the recommendation is that they not go there." Mendelson pressed repeatedly on 225 remaining an option for various police agencies, given that there are currently no other viable alternatives on new locations coming from OPM (though lots of possible locations are being reviewed). And there were disagreements between Etzkorn and Mendelson about whether the 225 landlord has indeed been told to stop work on the buildout plans, which Mendelson said he'd been told had not been stopped but which Etzkorn said were in fact stopped but that the landlord had been asked to do some pricing of potential other uses for the space.
One other tidbit mentioned in the hearing I had never come across before--there were apparently plans late in the Williams administration to move the headquarters of the Office of Corrections to leased space at Maritime Plaza at 12th and M, SE, but those were called off earlier this year.
And, as I'm finishing up, I see that Voice of the Hill has posted its piece on the hearing (on their newly redesigned web site!), which also covers the issues surrounding the possible move of the MPD 1D headquarters in Southwest, since the hearing did cover more than just the issues surrounding 225 Virginia.
If you're interested in not only the content of the hearing but also in watching the thrust-and-parry between Mendelson and Etzkorn, keep an eye out for any replays of the telecast (look for a Sept. 20 oversight hearing replay).

NGA's New Home Underway
Sep 26, 2007 9:03 AM
The planned departure of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency from the big windowless white building at First and M remains on track, with a groundbreaking held yesterday at Ft. Belvoir for their new home at the Engineer Proving Ground. Under the Department of Defense's Base Realignment and Closure Act, NGA's various facilities around the DC area must be relocated to Ft. Belvoir by Sept. 15, 2011; NGA's FAQ on the move says that they expect to begin closing their existing sites in Near Southeast, Bethesda, and Reston in late 2010. Once they are out of First and M, that site will be redeveloped as part of The Yards, most likely as an office building that presumably won't get you sent to Guantanamo if you try to take pictures of it.

Omaha Looking at Stadium Area as a Model
Sep 25, 2007 10:12 PM

Okay, everyone, shine your shoes and put on your Sunday best, because we've got company coming to check out the place: "Omaha Mayor Mike Fahey and other city officials will check out Washington's new baseball stadium and the surrounding neighborhood during a lobbying trip to the nation's capital this week. [...] A group of more than 100 government, business and community leaders are flying to Washington tonight for two days of meetings with federal officials and lawmakers on Capitol Hill. The Omaha Chamber of Commerce arranged the trip. Added to the itinerary at the last minute was a 45-minute bus ride around the area of southeast Washington where the new stadium is almost finished."

Inside Scoop: I got an e-mail a few days ago from someone with a Nebraska e-mail address telling me they were going to be coming to DC with a group including people interested in economic development, and they were wondering whether a bus tour of the area around the stadium would be a good idea (would there be anything to see?). I sent them a link to my Overhead Photos page, which I thought might give a good overall impression of the current state of the neighborhood; perhaps that helped seal the deal.... (h/t to reader J. for the article link.)

More posts: Nationals Park

Weekend Douglass Bridge Inbound Lane Closures
Sep 25, 2007 11:40 AM
While the worst of the Douglass Bridge Extreme Makeover pain is now over, there's still some work to be done, and this weekend the inbound lanes of the Douglass Bridge will be closed starting Friday, Sept. 29 at 9 pm, until as late as Monday, Oct. 1 at 4 am. Here's the DDOT press release with details. Quote: "The second phase of construction includes additional work on the swing span area of the bridge and streetscape improvements along South Capitol Street. Upgrades include new environmentally sensitive lighting, pedestrian access improvements such as handicap ramps, pedestrian traffic signals and new sidewalks. Resurfacing work will also take place this weekend on the inbound lanes on South Capitol Street up to N Street." Article on New Ballpark (On Time and On Budget)
Sep 24, 2007 12:39 PM has a long article today talking about the new Nationals ballpark, reiterating that it is on time, and on budget with about 75 percent of the project completed, and will be ready for Opening Day 2008. For those who don't follow the day-to-day news items about the stadium and are just looking for a nice survey of what's going on with the stadium, how it got to where it is, what still needs to be done to get ready to open, and issues of parking, premium tickets, stadium upgrades, etc. this article is a good overview. (P.S.: Turf expected to be put down in late October.)
UPDATE: As I catch up from my weekend away, I'm only now seeing this article from Sunday's Washington Times, detailing the somewhat bumpy ride of the Lerners as owners of the Nationals, with a long section detailing the tensions with the city over various issues surrounding getting the new ballpark completed.
More posts: Nationals Park

Akridge on Tap to Win Southeastern Bus Garage Site
Sep 24, 2007 11:29 AM
The agenda for the Sept. 27 WMATA board meeting is now online, and attached documents reveal that the John Akridge Development Company has been picked (pending board approval) to purchase the Southeastern Bus Garage site at Half and M, having bid $69.25 million for the 97,000-sq-ft site. Akridge's bid was determined to be "the most advantageous to the Authority" in terms of not only the purchase price but also the terms of a "leaseback" rental, which would be required until the buses currently at the garage can be relocated to other sites and which would be funded by the proceeds from the sale above the $60 million needed to fund the construction of a new garage at DC Village. Settlement on the sale would not happen until the DC Village site has been acquired from the District of Columbia and the WMATA board officially approves the Southeastern Bus Garage replacement project.
If this sale goes through, Akridge would control most of the western side of Half Street between M and N, which is the route that stadium-goers would walk to get to the ballpark from the Navy Yard Metro station. Monument Realty owns the rest of the Half Street frontage, and all of the rest of that city block (known as Square 700), except for the Public Space Storage building on South Capitol Street, and had had its eye on the WMATA site for a long time. It will be interesting to see how the development of Square 700 (smack in the center of the Ballpark District) proceeds.

Today's Oversight Hearing on AWC/NCRC Transition
Sep 24, 2007 10:52 AM
This morning the DC Council Committee on Economic Development is having a public oversight hearing on "Projects Managed by the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development" (it's being broadcast live on DC Cable 13 and live webcast, if you're interested). The hearing is still ongoing, and is addressing many projects around the city, but there were two Near Southeast-related items in Deputy Mayor Neil Albert's opening statement that I thought were worth passing along now.
First, it's been decided to not continue to use the old Anacostia Waterfront Corporation space at 1100 New Jersey Avenue after all, and so the expanded Deputy Mayor's office will be split between the Wilson Building and the old National Capital Revitalization Corporation office space at 2020 M Street, NW, and the office moves should happen this week.
Second, Deputy Mayor Albert mentioned Canal Park, saying that "coordination of the site survey, and various site management plans including erosion and stormwater management are scheduled to begin in the next month." He also said that his office is in discussions with the Office of Property Management to relocate the school buses currently occupying two of the park's three blocks to other sites in the city, and that he "expects to have a solution soon." Canal Park is one of the items specifically on the agenda for an Oct. 1 oversight hearing, so hopefully there will be more concrete news then.
If there's additional news from today's hearing, I'll update this entry.
UPDATE: Nothing earthshattering from the rest of the hearing (which, admittedly, I've been listening to with one ear, since the vast majority of it has been on topics outside of Near Southeast). In answering council member Wells's concerns about who will be in charge of the upkeep of the new parks being planned, Deputy Mayor Albert mentioned possible public-private partnerships with the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District for Canal Park and the Earth Conservation Corps for Diamond Teague Park, though he stressed that neither of these have been officially decided on. Wells also asked about whether there's thoughts of creating a Water Authority to help streamline decisions that will have to be made that effect the rivers (such as water taxis, ferry piers, possible new boathouses, etc.); Deputy Mayor Albert said that they've hired a consultant to help them decide how to handle these issues. And, one last tidbit--Albert mentioned that there will be a groundbreaking at The Yards in mid-October.
(If you're interested in Poplar Point or the Southwest Waterfront or the West End library deal, you might want watch for a replay of the hearing broadcast, because those subjects were much discussed. Marion Barry made clear he was not pleased with how the city has handled Poplar Point, and said that he and the Ward 8 community "will oppose any Poplar Point proposal that doesn't include a stadium.")
UPDATE II: Here's a Washington Business Journal blurb on today's hearing, focusing on the savings to the city from the consolidation of the AWC and NCRC functions in the Deputy Mayor's office.

More Work Underway at The Yards
Sep 24, 2007 8:04 AM
I was out of town for the past four days (hence getting caught unexpectedly without internet access on Thursday), so I'm digging around today to make sure that I didn't miss too much. One item I meant to post but forgot about in the whirlwind of travel: a week ago, when I was checking on the state of the GPO building demolition, I found that some digging is underway on the open lot south of Tingey east of the WASA building, which is probably the beginning of the infrastructure work at The Yards. While taking photos of the digging, I noticed a man making multiple trips to put items in his car at the Federal Protective Services trailer on the lot, and thought that maybe the trailer was being vacated. (I would have taken photos of that, but wasn't in the mood to be wrestled to the ground and shipped to Guantanamo.) Sure enough, when I wandered past on Thursday morning on the way out of town, I found that the trailer was gone, leaving only a small Staircase to Nowhere. It's now #140 on my Demolished Buildings page, though I am ashamed to note that #139, the GPO building, is no further along in its demolition than it was a week ago when I decided to prematurely add it to the list.
UPDATE: Easing my guilty conscience, I see that more demolition was underway this afternoon at the GPO building. But there's still a lot of it left.

DOT Payments to Fund Waterfront Parks
Sep 22, 2007 9:59 AM
On Thursday the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development announced that a $111.5 million bond financing package has been finalized that will use payments in lieu of taxes (PILOT) by the developer of the new US Department of Transportation HQ on M Street to "significantly" fund four parks along the Anacostia River. Two of the parks are in Near Southeast: the 5.5-acre waterfront park at The Yards, scheduled to be opened in 2010, and Diamond Teague Park, at the foot of First Street across from the new baseball stadium. (Kingman Island and Marvin Gaye Park are also on the list, and the press release notes that this funding could also be used "to finance parks and infrastructure at Poplar Point, the Southwest Waterfront, the Southwest Waterfront Fish Market, along South Capitol Street and a pedestrian bridge connecting the Parkside neighborhood to the Minnesota Avenue Metrorail Station.") The announcement also mentions how the city never received any sort of tax income from the old DOT HQ in Southwest, since the federal government doesn't pay taxes on land it controls in DC. I wrote more about this PILOT package when the bill passed the city council in July.
More posts: Teague Park, The Yards

Garfield Park - Canal Park Connector Project Underway; Design Workshop on Oct. 24
Sep 21, 2007 4:01 PM
A project is underway to design and create a "Connector Path" between Garfield Park just north of the Southeast Freeway and the to-be-constructed Canal Park in Near Southeast one block south of the freeway, with the goal of improving "the bicycle and pedestrian passage under the Southeast Freeway at 2nd Street, SE; making this linkage into a functional and attractive route between Capitol Hill and Near Southeast." There's a web site now online for information about this project, and on October 23 there will be a design workshop for those interested in participating in the process. It will be at St. Peter's Catholic Church (Social Hall), 128 2nd St., SE, from 6 to 9 pm.
UPDATE, 10/1: The date on this workshop has been changed to October 24. Same time, same place.
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