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Near Southeast DC Past News Items: 225 Virginia/Old Post Plant/200 I
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75 Blog Posts Since 2003
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(A little diversion while everyone's waiting for Tuesday.) Those few hardy souls who've scrolled down on my 225 Virginia page may recognize the photo at left, which is a picture of my brother on the swingset in Garfield Park in 1964, with 225 Virginia (then the Washington Star building) at rear, and with the Southeast Freeway under construction. In playing with the family movies this weekend (having gotten them transferred to DV tapes from Super 8 film), I found about a minute of footage from that same day, briefly showing the Star Plant along with the rest of Garfield Park.
This led me to a few other clips I think some DC readers might get a kick out of--they're not of Near Southeast, but various streetscapes and parks pretty close by, on the south side of Capitol Hill. Here's three minutes showing both the 100 block of E Street, SE (where we lived) and Marion Park at Fourth and E in 1966 or 1967. You can clearly make out "Turtle Park" as well as the 1D1 police station at Fifth and E in the background. (It's *possible* that the E Street footage is from the January 1966 blizzard, but the Marion Park footage can't be from that storm, because the little blob in white is me, and I didn't come along until the summer of 1966. And yes, that makes me old.) Also note that at about the one-minute mark you see the original location of Weisfeld's Market at 131 E, before it moved to Fourth and E (and eventually became the Capitol Supreme Market).
Then there's my brother and I running around in Folger Park at Second and D on Easter, 1968. I like this footage because in the background is Brent Elementary at Third and North Carolina under construction, and a beautiful old school building on the same lot that's no longer there.
Finally, there's this clip from Second Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, in 1964, which back then was not the Madison Annex of the Library of Congress but was a wide-open park. This brief pan shows you the block where FedEx and Le Bon Cafe are now, along with the church at Second and C and the townhouses along there, around to the Cannon House Office Building, the Capitol and the Library of Congress. (Sorry the streaming quality isn't better.)
(These aren't *completely* outside of the JDLand mandate. They're befores, after all.)
UPDATE: And, amazingly, in my grandmother's home movies (which I've never seen before today), I found footage from 1969 of my parents playing tennis on the courts just south of the freeway on the west side of South Capitol, at I. A pretty neat (if brief) pan of the Southwest skyline (and the freeway, and the South Capitol ramp) from that spot.
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On Monday night the Zoning Commission held a brief hearing on Case 06-32a, the request by the city to move the old Post Plant at 225 Virginia Avenue into the "Capitol South Receiving Zone," which would allow the block to receive transferable development rights, allowing greater height and density than the 6.5 FAR and 90-ft-height currently allowed.
When this was originally brought before the commission by developer Washington Telecom Associates for setdown two years ago, the Office of Planning indicated that they wouldn't support the request because of concerns about the added density on that block affecting both Canal Park to the south and Capper/Carrollsburg townhouses to the east (read the transcript for more details). Since that time, the city subleased the building (paying $500k a month in rent), but has decided not to use it to house police department functions and so is in the process of finding a developer to take over its sublease (which also has an option to buy).
In their pre-hearing report and during last night's session, OP said they are now prepared to support the move to the receiving zone, "provided that there is Zoning Commission review of the design of the portions of a building proposed to rise higher than 90' " which would confirm that the building "will be sufficiently setback from the eastern building face to avoid shadowing the lower buildings in Square 797 to the east" and that it "will provide a suitable northern focal point for the Canal Blocks Park." The OP report says that this lot would not be exempt from the city's inclusionary zoning requirements.
The three commissioners in attendance (Hood, May, and Turnbull) asked a few cursory questions, and noted that there was no report from ANC 6D nor any witnesses in support or opposition. The ZC will vote on this case at its Nov. 10 public meeting.
With the OPM page on the 225 Virginia Request for Expressions of Interest saying that notification was to have happened yesterday, I thought there was a possibility that this hearing would give us some hint as to who might be taking over the city's lease, but the Office of Planning said they didn't know who the developer might be.
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More posts: 225 Virginia/Old Post Plant/200 I, Canal Park, Capper, Capitol Quarter, meetings, zoning

A few items to quickly get posted before I disappear back down the rabbit hole:
* As has already been mentioned in some places, the bill to approve a FiOS franchise agreement with Verizon has been introduced to the city council (the agreement itself was announced in early August). The city's press release says that "Verizon plans to begin designing and upgrading its network in the District to all fiber optics and could begin offering its fiber-optic-based FiOS TV service in the District within about a year"--the question is whether the neighborhood that a few months ago saw a sign proclaiming "1st Neighborhood in DC to Offer Verizon FiOS" will indeed be one of the first areas to get it. (The 70/100 I apartment buildings have said that they are pre-wired for FiOS.)
* Proposals to take over the city's lease at 225 Virginia (the old Post Plant) are due by no later than noon on Wednesday. The OPM page on the offering indicates that the winner will be notified by Oct. 27--it seems like a pretty swift decision timeline, but I'll note that Oct. 27 also happens to be the day of the Zoning Commission hearing on the proposed shift of the 225 lot to the Capitol South (or is it Capitol Gateway) Receiving Zone.
* I obliquely Tweeted this last week, but was remiss in not officially giving props to DC Metrocentric for the kind words in this Washingtonian Blogger Beat profile. (I'll leave it to you folks to react to his comments on the neighborhood itself.)
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A recent wander past the Office of Property Management page on 225 Virginia (aka the old Post Plant) brings the news that the deadline for proposals from entities interested in taking over the city's $500,000-a-month sublease has been pushed back to Oct. 15. The page has also been updated with a few other items of note:
* One of the results of the case that's coming before the Zoning Commission on Oct. 27 that seeks to add the plant's block to the Capitol South Receiving Zone would be to allow the property to receive transferred development rights, which allows for increased density (i.e., add some floors on top), though the page notes that "[a]dditional height is expected to be subject to some design review by the Office of Planning."
* The building is not a historic building, and the city will not be seeking any historic landmark designation for it.
There's also this: "The trash transfer station located at 900 New Jersey Avenue, SE is expected to be relocated by September, 2009." I get asked a lot about What The Deal Is with the trash transfer station, so here's a bit of a roundup:
The city is working on moving the current DPW operations out of the building to other locations around the area, with that September 2009 mentioned above now being the official timetable (though perhaps some of the functions will be gone sooner than that). In the meantime, the city is still waiting for the little plot of land on the edge of the transfer station known as Reservation 17A to be transferred to District control from the Feds. (That land will then be transferred from the city to William C. Smith to round out the land that will be home to their 1.1-million-sq-ft 800 New Jersey Avenue project.) This transfer has been hung up for almost two years (it's part of the same transfer that would give Federal land at Poplar Point and in Hill East to the city), but there may be some movement soon.
The next step once DPW has left and the land transfer is settled would be for the city to start the infrastructure work, environmental cleanup, and demolition around the trash transfer site (including the new section of I Street to be built between New Jersey and Second), which will be paid for via another PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) plan that requires financing via the bond and credit markets--you know, those same bond and credit markets that are wheezing just a wee bit right now.
[All together now:] We shall see....
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More posts: 225 Virginia/Old Post Plant/200 I, Capper, Capper New Apt Bldgs, Trash Transfer Site/DPW, WC Smith/Square 737, zoning

Did anyone see some people traipsing around the old Post Plant this morning? There apparently was a site visit was scheduled at 9:30 am as part of the city's move to unload its sublease of the building. The Office of Property Management now has a page devoted to 225 Virginia, with some additional overview documents and rough sketches of how the building could be re-adapted. It also mentions that the original Sept. 26 deadline for responses to the Request for Expressions of Interest is going to be extended, by not less than a week. UPDATE: The deadline is now set for October 3.
For those who haven't been following along, in late 2006 the city signed a sublease for the building with the intent of moving many functions of the police department there. But in the summer of 2007 OPM decided not to go forward with the move, leaving the building empty and the city paying over $500,000 a month in rent. They are looking for some developer to completely assume the sublease, that also contains an option to buy the building outright.
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With thanks to reader J. for the tip, I can report that the cab garage on the northwest corner of First and K is getting demolished today. This is where the DRI/Transwestern Plaza on K may be getting underway this fall. (I'm posting this from my cell, so links will have to wait 'til later.) UPDATED with a link and a tiny before and after photos above. I've also added it as #153 in the Demolished Buildings gallery.
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More posts: 225 Virginia/Old Post Plant/200 I, Plaza on K/Square 696

It may have been late late on a Friday afternoon, but the city did what it said it would and released a Request for Expressions of Interest for 225 Virginia Avenue, looking for someone who wants to sublease (with an option to buy) the 421,000-square-foot building that was once the Washington Star printing plant, until it folded in the early 1980s. The Post used it as a printing plant until 1999, when it sold the building to the William C. Smith Company, who sublet it to Washington Telecom Associates, who sublet it to the city in 2006. (Got that?)
Quoting from the RFEI: "The District's primary goal, in issuing this RFEI, is to assign its leasehold interest, including the purchase option, in 225 Virginia Avenue, SE. The District's secondary goal is to enable the site to be used and redeveloped at its private sector highest and best use." The city currently leases the building for $6.5 million a year; the option to buy can be exercised for $80 million prior to the third lease year.
Proposals are due by noon on September 26, with October 13 listed as the notification date.
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Fox5 News blows the lid off of 225 Virginia Avenue, telling the world what us smart people have known for a while about the old Post plant, saying that "DC taxpayers would be outraged to know a building that the city government spent millions on has been left sitting vacant": "The building was supposed to consolidate five public safety functions into one building to increase efficiency of the police department. A year ago the Fenty administration changed their minds on the plans, so the multimillion dollar building is just sitting there, empty. The city spent an additional 1 million for the plans to renovate and has, to date, paid more than $6.5 million in rent." Monthly rent is $500,000.
However, there might be some actual news at the end of the piece: "By the end of the week, the Office of Property Management will request someone else take over the lease and option to purchase the vacant building." The Mayor announced the city's intent to do exactly this back in November 2007 (back when the District was wooing NPR for the building before losing them to NoMa) so perhaps this story suddenly appearing now means they've found someone. We'll see.
You can read my 225 Virginia news items if you want more of a history on the plans to move MPD (and then not move MPD) there. (Though I bet Phil Mendelson still hasn't given up hope.)
UPDATE, 8/14: It turns out my crack about Phil Mendelson was more on-target than I might have imagined--the Fox 5 story (and this more complete one in today's Examiner) were spurred on by a press release from Mendelson noting the one-year anniversary of the city deciding to not move MPD to 225 Virginia and castigating the city for the money being spent on the building. It's not yet posted on Mendelson's site, but it includes this quote: "At this point, I hope the administration won't be so desperate that they will make a bad situation even worse by trying to unload this property in a sweetheart deal with some developer in return for tax or zoning promises." The Examiner indirectly quotes city spokesman Sean Madigan as saying that the city "plans to seek" developers' interest, so an actual deal is not immediately forthcoming--there's going to be a Request for Expressions of Interest to look for within the next few days, I guess.
(This is also a good lesson in how news stories are so often driven by press releases, without any indication of their existence. Boo.)
Mendelson's comment about "zoning promises" also reminds me to finally mention that within the past week the request to add 225 Virginia to the Capitol South Receiving Zone has suddenly popped back onto the Zoning Commission's calendar (now scheduled for Oct. 27), after lying dormant since early 2007.
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More posts: 225 Virginia/Old Post Plant/200 I, zoning

* A reminder that Saturday at 1 pm will the very first baseball game played at Nationals Park, between George Washington University and St. Joseph's University. has more--and I'll have photos from it sometime Saturday or Sunday.
* also has a Q&A with Stan Kasten about the ballpark and other items. "You want all of it to work right, but you know there is going to be a hiccup here and there. We are going to be looking at everything. We'll be getting right back at it that Monday morning [March 31] to see what worked and what didn't work -- to see what we could improve on. Hopefully, we'll have that whole week to improve things even further."
* You can't swing a cat today without hitting news of the Metro Peeps.
* Poor Phil Mendelson. He still wants to use 225 Virginia Avenue for some MPD functions, and the mayor and the executive branch appear to be ignoring him.
* Elephants will be on parade just a few feet north of the neighborhood on Monday morning. No, really. I'm serious.
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More posts: 225 Virginia/Old Post Plant/200 I, Metro/WMATA, Nationals Park

A press release just out from the mayor's office announces that National Public Radio will be building its new headquarters at 1111 North Capitol Street--a disappointment to the buildings in Near Southeast that had been courting the company during its search for 400,000 square feet of available space. (The city may be disappointed as well, given that rumors abounded last fall that they were trying to have NPR take over the lease at the old Post Plant at 225 Virginia Avenue.)
UPDATE: Here's the Washington Business Journal article on the move.
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