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I wandered down to Nationals Park last night to take in the atmosphere of not only the four new eateries, but also the return of Ryan Zimmerman. It was a healthy crowd (26,700+), and only about half of them seemed to be in line at Shake Shack and the other new food concessions (though by later in the game, the non-Shake Shack options had no lines).
I took another slew of photos (since the original batch from Monday's preview event proved to be pretty popular) mainly trying to get shots of these new "iconic" ballpark features from various angles, along with a few other shots of interest. As you can see in the shot at right, you can look at Blue Smoke and Box Frites with the Yards Park "iconic" pedestrian bridge and Navy Yard riverwalk directly behind, or with an east-of-the-river vista. I also grabbed a view of the progress on the bridge between Diamond Teague Park and Yards Park, my first shots of Das Bullpen, and both the sunset and the moonrise. And they would have all been even better if I had brought the official JDLand DSLR camera and not my less-than-fabulous point-and-shoot. Browse the gallery, and then mock me for leaving in the top of the 7th inning.
Other recently tweeted tidbits:
* The Yards' new Facebook page now includes a 2 1/2-minute virtual tour of what the neighborhood will look like when it's all built out. To see what it looks like now (and what it looked like a few years back), wander through my Yards project page.
* On Sunday morning a group of volunteers descended on the empty lot just east of the Velocity condo building to turn it into a demonstration rain garden. It's a project of the DC chapter of the Surfrider Foundation, and is being funded by REI and the Cohen Companies (developers of the block), among others. They are having a meeting at Velocity on June 20 at 6 pm to discuss the project, and there will be another work day on the site on Saturday, June 25. The project's blog has photos and a lot of details; it's officially named the David Stemper Memorial Rain Garden, in honor of a Surfrider volunteer who passed away in 2010.
* The BID says that the next Truckeroo food truck festival at Half and M SE will be on Friday, July 15.
* Last week CSX sent a letter out to residents who live near Virginia Avenue introducing the plans to rehab the Virginia Avenue Tunnel. (It was probably quite useful for people who don't read JDLand!)
 

It's hard for me to believe that this week marks three years since the first Opening Day at Nationals Park, but time does march on. Wednesday evening's NatsFest followed by three games against the Braves (starting with Thursday's 1:05 pm season opener) will bring a lot of people back to Near Southeast for the first time since last summer.
If you're one of them, and you haven't diligently been reading my posts (gasp!), you might be interested in knowing what's been going on since the last time you ventured into this neck of the woods. Here's the big items:
Yards Park: In early September, the first phase of the six-acre Yards Park opened on the banks of the Anacostia, just two blocks east of the ballpark. It's a space unlike any in Washington, and is definitely worth a visit, perhaps even on your way to Saturday's afternoon game, since the park is holding a Family Fun Day that starts at 11 am. (Even if you don't make it to the park right away, you can easily see it from the ballpark's southeastern viewing platform.)
It will probably be a neat place to watch the Friday night post-game fireworks as well (UPDATE: waah! no fireworks this year!), a trip which will be made even easier when a floating bridge connecting Diamond Teague Park--just across Potomac Avenue from the First Base Gate--with the Yards Park is completed, perhaps by the end of the season.
Unfortunately, most people visiting the park in conjunction with a Nationals game won't get to walk along the river all the way to 11th Street: while the Navy Yard has announced that its stretch of the boardwalk is opening April 1, the initial hours will only be from 8 am to 5 pm Monday-Friday.
Foundry Lofts: Just to the north of the new park, work re-started last September on the stalled Foundry Lofts building at 3rd and Tingey, and it is expected to be completed this fall.
Bullpen: It may not be ready by Thursday, but the open-air bar and live music gathering place across N Street from the stadium known as the Bullpen is opening a gameday beer garden to the north of its current spot, on the corner of Half and M across from the west entrance to the Navy Yard Metro station. With close to 80 picnic tables, it will have a capacity of over 600 and will offer European beers, sausages and other like fare, and a quieter environment than the original Bullpen (which will be remaining open for this season as well). The name of the new spot? Das Bullpen. (Yes, that's the moniker I flippantly gave the project back when the news first broke, which the owners decided to go ahead and use. #winning!)
Capitol Quarter: If you park in lot T on 3rd Street, SE, you'll see new townhouses going up directly across the street as part of Capitol Quarter's second phase of construction.
200 I: Just to the north of lot T and right by the Southeast Freeway, you'll see the old Star/Post Plant at 225 Virginia Avenue in the process of losing its exterior "skin" as it moves toward becoming 200 I Street, a DC government office building that will be completed next spring.
Canal Park: Right in the middle of things, across from the Five Guys and Subway, you'll see construction at last underway on Canal Park, the stretch of 2nd between I and M that at one time was a schoolbus parking lot and which has been plain open space for the past two years. The park is expected to be open by spring of next year, and so during the next 12 months expect there to be almost no parking along 2nd; the eastern part of the street is closed altogether. Also, note that L Street is closed for this one block, so you can't use it to get from New Jersey to 3rd or vice versa.
Harry's: If your path to and from the ballpark includes a walk down New Jersey Avenue (perhaps from the Capitol South Metro station), and you find yourself in desperate need of adult beverages, Harry's Reserve has now opened on the southwest corner of New Jersey and I, in the ground floor of the 909 New Jersey apartment building.
Florida Rock: While it hasn't happened yet, plans are for the concrete plant just south of the ballpark to be razed sometime this year, bringing unobstructed views of the Anacostia River to the southeastern viewing platform and clearing the Florida Rock site until the proposed 1.1-million-square-foot RiverFront project can get some financing and get started.
Getting Here: I've got my Stadium Parking map ready to go for 2011, though I've made no additions or deletions on it yet for the new season. I'll wander around this weekend and see if any new lots have popped up or old ones have gone away, though first impressions are that there are no major changes, certainly not in terms of the official Nats lots. (If you see any new lots or old ones that have gone offline, let me know so I can update the map.)
But with this area being a multimodal paradise, your better bet is Metro, or the Circulator that runs from Union Station and Eastern Market, or even Capital Bikeshare, now that there's a station at 1st and N. UPDATE: Forgot to mention the water taxi running from Alexandria, and it's possible that the new American Water Taxi service may get started up soon.
Retail? Eats? Unfortunately, if you were expecting this post to include a litany of new food and retail offerings, you will be just as disappointed as the residents and officeworkers currently are with the continuing lack of options beyond Subway, Five Guys, Justin's Cafe, and Cornercopia. There could be at least two additions before the end of the season, however: another beer garden (separate from Das Bullpen) is under development at 8th and L, SE, and the old "Little Red Building" site at 2nd and L is on its way to becoming "Lot 38 Espresso." Neither project has an announced opening date.
There is also lots of under-the-radar chatter of various restaurateurs starting to look at the area (which I haven't bothered posting, because a) I don't do rumors and b) it shouldn't really be news that they're looking in such an underserved area). With the above projects underway, along with DDOT and the FAA soon moving into 55 M, 20 M now 97 percent leased, and 100 M off the DL thanks to its foreclosure sale, there is a definite shift in the economic winds, and it would not be surprising to get some announcement of some new retail before the end of this season.
For more information on what's changed and what might be changing, check out my 2011 State of the Hood. The BID also did a recent roundup of changes.
If you want to relive the glory days of the ballpark's construction, you can wander through all my exterior and interior photos from that heady time, along with my many photo galleries from ballpark-related events over the years, from the groundbreaking to the topping out to each Opening Day. You can also check out what that part of the neighborhood looked like before the stadium's arrival. (Yes, I'm wallowing in nostalgia. It was a fun time.)
(UPDATED headline, because I can't count.)
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Today the head of the National Community Church is announcing to his parishioners that a deal has been struck for NCC to buy the People's Church at 535 8th St. SE in the middle of Barracks Row.
With their home base at Ebenezers Coffee House near Union Station overflowing and any completed construction on their new Virginia Avenue footprint probably 3-4 years away, this gives the church an instant "phase 1" building with more than double the capacity of Ebenezers.
Mark Batterson tells me that the first service on 8th Street will be on Palm Sunday, April 17. They'll have one service a week there until the land deal is completed in early June, after which more services and events will be held at the new location, but they'll continue to meet at Ebenezers as well. In time, they are looking at converting the building back to its previous life as a movie theater: it opened as Meader's Theater in 1910, then became the New Academy Theatre before being converted to a church in the early 1960s. (If you've been inside the church, you certainly would recognize the seats and layout as vintage movie theater design.) NCC may even reopen the balcony, which has been closed off as a separate meeting space. They also hope to adapt the stage so that the space can be used for community events; and they're open to suggestions and ideas if you have any.
The People's Church will be moving to Maryland, where most of their members now live.
This gives NCC a bit of breathing room for designing and getting through all the bureaucratic hoops of building at 8th and Virginia, but Batterson considers 535 8th to be a "stepping stone" to the new location. And you can see how excited he is in his recent tweets hinting at the deal, which described to me as a "double miracle for both churches."
UPDATE: Here's Batterson's blog post on the news, with some cool vintage photographs of 535 8th.
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More posts: Development News, 8th Street, Nat'l Community Church, square 906
 

I've gotten a bit more information about the raze permit application at the Florida Rock site, the concrete plant on the banks of the Anacostia directly across from Nationals Park.
According to Florida Rock Properties, the owner of the site, the tenants are building a new plant on land also owned by FRP down South Capitol Street on Buzzard Point (at S and Water streets near the Pepco plant and the Coast Guard building). Once that new site is completed, the existing operations on Potomac Avenue will be shut down and the structures will be razed, which should happen sometime this summer (though timelines on these sorts of projects are never written in concrete, ha ha).
The plant is one of the last specimens of the ballpark area's previous life as an industrial zone, and has housed a gravel/stone/concrete operation since the 1920s, when Smoot Sand and Gravel operated there after moving from what is now the Yards Park site when the Navy Yard expanded its boundaries during World War I. I have taken scads of photos that have included it over the years, and should probably thank my lucky stars that I was never mowed down by any of the trucks coming in and out of there during all my photographing of the ballpark's construction. There was certainly a close call or two.
As I've noted about a billion times over the past eight years, the site's redevelopment plans call for a 1.1-million-sq-ft mixed-use four-phase development, but Florida Rock Properties does not as yet have any deals in place to get this new "RiverFront" project started. In 2009 they received a time extension on their zoning PUD, and are not required to file building permits until June 2012. The site will probably remain fenced and unused in the interim, but at least the dismantling of the tower will finally allow unobstructed views of the Anacostia River, the Douglass Bridge, and the east bank of the river from the ballpark's southeastern viewing platform. Not to mention nicer views of the ballpark from the river, for boats such as those using the Diamond Teague Piers next door. At least until the new development goes up....
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More posts: Development News, Florida Rock
 

With an instruction to residents to Please Don't Panic, I'll pass along the news that Onyx on First, the 266-unit apartment building at 1100 1st St. SE, is up for sale. With a brochure touting "Excellent Transportation Infrastructure, Phenomenal Employment Opportunities," and "Shopping and Entertainment Options Abound," the sellers look to be trying to get in on what is clearly a rebounding multifamily market in DC.
Apparently there's no price set for the sale, and with a building that's 92 percent occupied with what looks like pretty high average rent numbers, I imagine investors will be taking a close look. The eventual sale (should there be one) could also be an interesting barometer of how "the markets" view the neighborhood. Proposals are due April 14.
The building, originally planned to be condos but converted to apartments during the construction phase, was developed by Faison and the Canyon-Johnson Urban Fund and completed in 2009. It was built the same time as its neighbor 100 M, the office building that recently bought for $57 million in a foreclosure sale. Onyx is on the same block as the New Jersey Avenue entrance to the Navy Yard Metro station, two blocks north of Nationals Park, and one block west of the Courtyard by Marriott that is being bought for $68 million. And, of course, just across the street from the Market Deli.
You can see my Onyx project page for photos and more information.
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More posts: Development News, Onyx, Square 743N
 

Tucked away in today's DC Register is a zoning request by Forest City Washington to allow the second story of the currently de-skinned Lumber Storage Shed at the Yards Park "to be used for general office purposes, on an interim basis, for no more than 20 years." The filing says that Forest City wants to temporarily relocate "in order to facilitate the leasing of the ground floor and to finance the building's restoration."
The intention has been for the shed to be given glass exterior walls and be a retail space--this new plan would still include ground-floor retail (in a very picturesque location at the Yards Park, right by the 3rd Street Plaza and the overlook). There are two other retail pavilions planned for later phases of the park as well, on the open spaces just to the east of the shed.
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More posts: Development News, Lumber Shed/Yards, Retail, The Yards
 

Last night the National Community Church held its "All Church Celebration" at the Lincoln Theater, and, while I wasn't there for the "big announcement," I do know that lead pastor Mark Batterson told the assembly that the last of their land acquisitions on Square 906 (bounded by Virginia, 7th, 8th, and L) have been finalized.
As I've been conjecturing, this includes the auto garage on the corner of 7th and Virginia. But it also includes a contract for the two small apartment buildings at 716 and 718 L Street, just west of the alley. Batterson tells me that they are leasing back the garage to the current occupants until July so that they can find a new location.
Combined with the Miles Glass site that started it all and the empty lot on 7th, this now gives NCC (the folks behind the successful Ebenezers coffee house near Union Station) over 26,000 square feet of land on a somewhat T-shaped footprint on which to build their combination coffee house/performance space/offices. As I've mentioned previously, Batterson wrote on his blog in mid-February that they are now "full-steam ahead with designs" now that the footprint is finalized, and that he is "looking forward to initiating meetings with Historic Preservation, ANC, Riverfront Bid, Barracks Row Main Street, Office of Planning, etc." It wil be interesting to see if the zoning and height changes that business owners are looking for along lower 8th get through, and whether NCC would be taking advantage of being able to build a bit higher as a result.
Of course, this isn't the only new activity on Square 906, since it's on the south end of the block where the beer garden at 8th and L is supposed to be going in once the design gets through its historic preservation review, a process NCC will have to undergo as well since the block is within the Capitol Hill Historic District. This Saints and Sinners stretch of 8th is definitely going be a focus of activity in 2011.
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More posts: Development News, 8th Street, Nat'l Community Church, square 906, zoning
 

Just crossing the wires: "Chesapeake Lodging Trust announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire the 204-room Courtyard Washington Capitol Hill/Navy Yard located in Washington, DC for a purchase price of $68 million, or approximately $333,000 per key." The hotel, at New Jersey and L, SE, opened in spring 2006 along with its next door neighbor, the Capitol Hill Tower co-op; both were developed by Valhal Corp. (whose principals then formed Ranger Properties in 2007). It will apparently remain a Courtyard; no word of what if any impact this sale would have on Capitol Hill Tower.
 

This was referenced in the flurry of stories on the company a few weeks ago, but Monument Realty has now officially announced that they have signed a 10-year 50,000-square-foot lease with the Federal Aviation Administration at 55 M Street, the building on top of the Navy Yard Metro station just north of Nationals Park. With this lease, DDOT's 150,000-square-foot lease signed last fall, and two other smaller tenants, the 275,000-square-foot building is now 85 percent leased, with only three smaller office suites remaining (as well as all of the building's ground-floor retail space).
The press release says that the FAA is expected to move into their new spaces on the 8th and 9th floors in April, and that DDOT is expected to complete its move to the fourth through seventh floors during the second quarter of the year.
As for the rest of the Monument Half Street project, which as designed includes a 200-room hotel and 332 residential units and plenty of ground-floor retail to the south of 55 M, the press release quotes executive vice president Douglas Olson as saying that they are"actively working to move forward with Monument's next phase of Half Street."
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More posts: 55 M St., Development News, Monument/Half St., officespace
 

Flying around the Twitterverse yesterday and today has been a pile of links to "In Washington, a Historic Retail Strip is Revived," a New York Times article on Barracks Row, with a big focus on the portion of it south of the freeway often called "Lower 8th."
A quote: "But like many cities around the country, Washington is stuck with the consequences of allowing a highway to slash through an urban neighborhood. In 1962, the Southeast Freeway bisected Barracks Row. 'That became the moat,' said Michael Stevens, the executive director of the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District, which has helped to promote development around the new ballpark. 'It created a large physical barrier.'"
The article, which has a festive accompanying photo of Madison Marquette representatives outside of the Blue Castle, mentions the Lower 8th Visioning Report that I wrote about last week, and also the National Community Church's plans to build a church and performance space at the corner of 8th and Virginia, which the head of Barracks Row Main Street is quoted as saying "will definitely be a catalyst for development. We have a number of investors who just didn't want to be first."
Speaking of which, NCC's Mark Batterson has posted on his blog today that their Capitol Hill campus "footprint is finalized," which I would guess means that the deal has closed for the auto-repair garage at 7th and K that I mentioned NCC was trying to acquire (if in fact that's the lot they're looking at, because it's never been said publicly). Batterson also says NCC is "doing another set of conceptual drawings," and that with the site finalized "we're full-steam ahead with designs." And: "Looking forward to initiating meetings with Historic Preservation, ANC, Riverfront Bid, Barracks Row Main Street, Office of Planning, etc. I think our development will be a catalyst for and part of the renaissance that will happen in that part of the city."
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More posts: Development News, 8th Street, Nat'l Community Church, square 906
 

I keep saying I'm never going to take any more photos of politicians at microphones, but who can resist them slinging sledgehammers? This morning there was a brief ceremony officially kicking off the redevelopment of 225 Virginia Avenue, turning what was the old Washington Star building and then Washington Post printing plant into 200 I, a 320,000-square-foot LEED Gold office building housing three city agencies. Here's a slew of photos, not only of the ceremony but also a few images from inside the building, as well as two renderings of what the lobby will look like when it's completed.
Though the sun was out, the assembled guests (and gate-crashers!) probably wished this little shindig had been held yesterday, when it was about 25 degrees warmer. But at least it made for a quick event, which didn't seem to bother anyone too much.
The renovation is expected to be complete and tenants moved in by the second quarter of 2012. The Office of the Chief Technology Officer, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and the Child and Family Services Agency will all be occupying the building, and there may also be some "incubator retail space" on the ground floor's southwest corner. There will also be an art gallery in the new lobby that will open out onto I Street and Canal Park, showcasing works from the Arts and Humanities commission's collection. There will also be 180ish parking spaces on site, some in the building's basement but about 100 of them in a two-level parking deck on the 3rd Street side of the building (where the current surface lot is). And the loading dock will now be just west of 3rd, on Virginia.
The building was bought by the city for $85 million in 2009, and then leased it to StonebridgeCarras in a 20-year lease/leaseback agreement to fund the construction. You can check out my 225 Virginia project page for lots (and lots!) of background on this building, though the page isn't quite up-to-date with today's stuff. Yet.
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More posts: 225 Virginia/Old Post Plant/200 I, Development News, officespace
 

In my post about the Bier Garden plans for the northeast corner of 8th and L, SE, I promised a couple of extra tidbits about Lower 8th Street. To wit:
* Rumors abound that the National Community Church has acquired the auto repair garage at the corner of 7th and K/Virginia, SE, but despite someone saying otherwise at Tuesday's ANC 6B meeting, I'm told that no deal has been completed as yet. But even that at least confirms my not-terribly-hard-to-guess suspicions that NCC would be eyeing that lot for their new coffeehouse/performance space/offices, since they now own the land to both the east and south of the site. The garage's lot is 5,300 square feet, and was assessed in 2010 for just under $1.5 million.
* Madison Marquette, the developer who owns the Blue Castle at 770 M St., SE and is also now a partner in the redevelopment of the Southwest Waterfront, is entering into a joint venture with the ICP Group, owner of the gray building (with Quizno's) at 8th and Potomac and other Square 929 properties that have been suffering from extended financing troubles. WBJ reported on this in late January, noting that those familiar with the deal "say Madison and its 'fairly deep pockets' will take over as lead developer for all the parcels." This also presumably gives Madison access to ICP's properties on Square 929, just across 8th Street from the NCC/Bier Garden block and to the north of the Quizno's block.
Squares 929 and 930 have been the subject of a lot of discussion as one of the sites that the Marines might be looking at as a location for their new barracks, because a development team could submit a proposal for a public/private partnership on that site if they controlled all properties on those two blocks. (This assumes the Marines do decide to go the public/private route; they could instead build additional barracks space on their existing land at 7th and L or manage to acquire some other government-owned site, such as the old Capper Seniors/Square 882 site, which is owned by DCHA but which seems to be stalled in its attempts to get funding for the mixed-income apartment project on the north side of the block.) There's also the Navy's potential plans to expand outside their walls, which could include some of the close-by lots along 8th or maybe the old Exxon site at 11th and M.
In fact, in an e-mail to me last month, ICP President Leon Kafele referenced these possibilities by saying that the joint venture with Madison Marquette will "position [ICP's] assets to better respond to the Marines Corps and Navy Yard supply and demand for a BEQ, retail, and office space on or around lower 8th Street Barracks Row." And Madison has mentioned in public meetings that the Blue Castle could become home to some of the "shared uses" that the Marines are hoping to have be part of any new barracks venture.
So, with NCC and the Bier Garden making moves on Square 906, Madison Marquette increasing its presence by making deals on Squares 929 and 930, and the Navy and Marines in the mix as well, does this mean that Lower 8th is starting to perk up? And, how will any new projects tie in with the Lower 8th Street Vision Report developed by the Capitol Riverfront BID along with all manner of representatives of Barracks Row, the Navy and Marines, business owners, and local residents?
I haven't written much about the whole vision thing, especially once the discussion of the Marines' land needs began to focus south of the freeway and it became clear that until they decide what they're doing about their barracks, any real discussion of what Lower 8th may look like in the future is very much up in the air.
That said, the vision report has mostly general recommendations that aren't exactly controversial: "Encourage a Mix of Uses," "Historic Preservation is a Must," improve the underpass to encourage pedestrians to come down from north of the freeway, address parking/circulation issues, and others.
But there is one concrete suggestion in the report: increasing height and density limits on some of these squares. The current 45-foot limit on 8th would be maintained for new structures, but greater heights (65 to 85 feet) could then allowed 20 to 30 feet behind existing historic 8th Street structures.
You can see on page 17 of the report some drawings of what the Bier Garden corner at 8th and L would look like with a 45-foot building on the site, and there are other drawings depicting height changes on the following pages, including allowing the less-historic western side of the Blue Castle to be built up higher.
The Bier Garden's one-story-plus-roof-deck design would seem to be not exactly what the visioners envisioned, but the developer has said he anticipates it to be a temporary structure (though that's not a guarantee). There's been no public opposition to the Bier Garden from the BID or Barracks Row Main Street--but no letters of support, either.
It will be interesting to see what the National Community Church comes up with for their design, and whether it'll try to take advantage of the desire for larger building heights set out in the vision document, if that idea ends up being embraced by the city.
And, there's still the Marines' decision to look for, which could be the biggest driver of all for redefining Lower 8th.
 

The Bullpen, the outdoor bar and festivities spot that has operated just across the street from Nationals Park during stadium events since 2009, is making plans to open a "Beer Garden" at the northern end of their current block, at Half and M streets, SE, facing the western entrance to the Navy Yard Metro station. (See my high-quality graphic at right.) With 79 picnic tables holding eight people each, it would have a seating capacity of 632 people, and would offer draft German beers (and perhaps other European beers) along with German sausages, kielbasa, and other light (ahem) fare.
"Das Bullpen" [copyright JD] is being envisioned as having a very different atmosphere from the current Bullpen, with the beer garden not having game areas with lots of kids running around. There would be no amplified music, and it would operate during the same hours as Bullpen 1.0 (which will be remaining open this year as well). It would have its own entrance, right across from the Metro station's entrance, and would be fenced in and partially covered/tented in the same way as the existing Bullpen.
At an ANC 6D ABC subcommittee meeting tonight, a Bullpen rep explained that Akridge, the owners of the entire block bounded by M, N, Half, and Van, has informed the Bullpen owners of plans to begin construction perhaps as early as October of this year on the southern end of the block, where Bullpen 1.0 is located. (There seems to have been some sort of "hint" that if the Bullpen wants to have a shot at a permanent home in the new ground-floor retail spaces that will be available when the block is completed, they need to expand to this additional area this year.) If Akridge's plans are unchanged from what went through the zoning process a few years ago, the southern end of the block would be a 300-unit residential building with ground-floor retail. You can see renderings on my Akridge Half Street page.
As you can see on my cruddy map, there will still be substantial parking available between the two locations. (For old-timers, this new site is where WMATA's old Southeastern Bus Garage entrance was located.)
The Bullpen's lawyers are trying to determine whether this constitutes an expansion of the current operation, to allow Das Bullpen to open under their existing liquor license, or whether a new license (and then a new voluntary agreement with the ANC) will be needed. More to come, I'm sure.
UPDATE: And it should be noted that this is a completely separate venture from the Bavarian Beer Garden plans at 8th and L, SE. Beer gardens to the left! Beer gardens to the right!
UPDATE II: To clear up any confusion, they are intending to have Das Bullpen open this spring, with Bullpen 1.0 open as well through the end of the 2011 baseball season.
UPDATE III: Another clarification: The new site has no official name yet. "Das Bullpen" is purely my invention, because I wanted something catchy to describe it.
 

Both the Washington Post and the Washington Business Journal (subscribers only) came out with stories this week chronicling the rise and fall and now re-rise of Monument Realty. They both describe Monument's high-flying ways during the real estate bubble of the early 2000s with "high-risk, high-return deals and an aggressive, cowboylike approach to development that rubbed the old guard the wrong way," followed by their near dissolution thanks to the collapse of their backer, Lehman Brothers. But thanks to some new deals around the region with different financing partners, Monument appears to be rebounding.
There's not been an announcement from Monument that I've seen, but the WBJ article says that Monument has signed the Federal Aviation Administration to a 55,000-square-foot lease at 55 M Street, which I believe would bring the building to about 90 percent leased. (At the time Monument announced their deal to lease 150,000 square feet to DDOT, they said the 275,000-square-foot building's office space was 70 percent leased.)
However, in detailing what it says are $500 million in new Monument projects around the Metro area leveraged from a $10 million deal with Atlas Capital Group, WBJ makes no mention of any intentions for construction to get underway on Monument's remaining Half Street plans just north of Nationals Park. The well-known hole in the ground, dug in 2007 when 55 M was built, is eventually supposed to be 330 residential units and a 200-room hotel, which you can see a rendering of on my project page or on Monument's Half Street web site. Monument also owns all of the land on the east side of South Capitol between M and N except for the self storage building, as well as the 50 M street lot on the northeast corner of Half and M.
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More posts: 55 M St., Development News, Monument/Half St., officespace
 

This has been hinted at throughout the fall, and property records now reflect that the National Community Church/Ebernezers folks have added to the Miles Glass site on Virginia Avenue they bought in August by purchasing an empty lot around the corner on 7th Street, SE, for $875,000 in December. This now gives them about 19,000 square feet of land on Parcel 906, if my math is correct.
If you look at the satellite view of the block, you can see how NCC's holdings--the Miles Glass building, the empty lot just to its west, now and this separate empty lot on 7th across from the Marine Barracks--are connected. And one certainly has to wonder if the car shop on the corner of 7th and K/Virginia, now surrounded by a single landowner, is going to be staying in that spot much longer. (The other empty lot on the block, at the lower right, is where the Bavarian Beer Garden may be going in, creating the Saints and Sinners stretch along 8th.)
If you haven't been following along, the church's head, Mark Batterson, wrote on his blog in late August about the purchase of the 8th and Virginia site, saying that church is running out of space for services and staff at Ebenezers near Union Station, and since his vision for NCC is 20 locations and more than 100 staffers, they're looking at "going vertical" and constructing a building with about 50,000 square feet of space. They have been doing some "visioning" to figure out their plans for the site, and Batterson told City Paper in November about ideas of "two performance spaces, one at about 500 seat capacity and another at a thousand, with at least one level of underground parking to handle the crowds," but nothing specific has been announced yet.
The empty lot on 7th was once going to have a small apartment building constructed on it, but was foreclosed on in 2009 and sold for $400,000 at auction.
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More posts: Development News, 8th Street, Nat'l Community Church, square 906
 

On the heels of Monday's news of a new tenant for 20 M St., SE, Lerner Enterprises has just announced another 20,000-square-foot lease, bringing the building to 97-percent occupancy. This tenant is Systems Planning and Analysis (SPA), which will be occupying the 8th floor. They are expected to move in this spring, and will join the Bureau of Land Management, Booz Allen Hamilton, and the Columbia Group as the building's office tenants; Wachovia Bank at this point is the building's only retail tenant. 20 M was completed in March 2007.
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More posts: 20 M, Development News, officespace
 

Lerner Enterprises has just passed along the news that The Columbia Group has signed a lease for 20,039 square feet at 20 M St., SE, bringing the building to about 84 percent leased. The company--which does "technical services support" for the US military--is expected to move in this spring, and will be occupying space on the 7th floor. The other tenants--the Bureau of Land Management and Booz Allen Hamilton--are expected to start moving in in January.
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More posts: 20 M, Development News, officespace
 

From Monday's WaPo Capital Business: "Real estate developers and brokers in Southeast Washington say that Kaplan has been looking for office space suitable for the opening of a law school near the Washington Nationals' baseball stadium.
"Speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized by Kaplan to discuss the company's plans, the sources say Kaplan hired the real estate brokerage firm Jones Lang LaSalle and has been seeking up to 130,000 square feet in the Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District, around the Nationals' park, so it can open a law school there in 2013."
There's not much additional meat in the story, other than saying that Akridge (which owns the Half Street block northwest of the ballpark) is one of the developers vying for Kaplan's attentions. There's certainly a number of planned office buildings that could accommodate 130,000 square feet, and maybe the credit markets have shaken out enough that a lease taking 50 percent-ish of a building would be enough to get a construction loan. But there's also the issue of whether some proposed federal aid rules might hamper Kaplan's plans for expansion. [Full disclosure: Kaplan is owned by the Washington Post Co., my corporate overlords in my non-JDLand real life.]
We shall see....
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More posts: Capitol Riverfront BID, Development News, kaplan, officespace
 

City Paper's Housing Complex blog has some new details on the plans for the Miles Glass site at 8th and Virginia by the new owners, the National Community Church (aka the Ebenezer's Coffeehouse folks). Pastor Mark Batterson says that he's envisioning "two performance spaces, one at about 500 seat capacity and another at a thousand, with at least one level of underground parking to handle the crowds. To keep the kids busy while adults are worshiping–or drinking coffee, or going to a play–there will be a large childcare center so special that they've retained the architects who created downtown Disney to design it."
They are also negotiating with adjacent parcels (which Batterson alluded to a few weeks ago, which by his description seems to include the empty lot on 7th), to make the "campus" somewhere between 50,000 and 75,000 square feet of developed space when completed. Batterson hopes to break ground within a year, with construction taking 12 to 18 months (so, probably 2013).
With a coffee house/performance space/church at the north end of the block and a beer garden at the south end, I may have to dub this spot the Saints and Sinners Stretch of 8th Street.
UPDATE, 11/18: If you've got ideas or notions for what you'd like to NCC do on this site, leave them in the comments--Mark Batterson has posted there this morning that everything's still really "up in the air" at this point, and they'd love to hear feedback.
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More posts: Development News, 8th Street, Nat'l Community Church, square 906
 

I wasn't able to attend* today's foreclosure sale of 100 M Street, but word filtered to me early this afternoon that the 220,000-square-foot office building was picked up for a cool $57 million by Northwood Investors, a real estate investment management firm based in New York City. I've been told (and I'm trying to confirm) that Northwood had bought the original loan/note from Bank of America, and then had the high bid today against one other bidder, whose identity I don't know.
This appears to be Northwood's first foray into the DC market, and the rumor is that they plan to hold 100 M and get it leased up. Perhaps the DC biz media will have more on this sale in coming days....
As I wrote about previously, this sale was for the building itself and not the land, since 100 M's developers (Opus East) never bought the land and instead paid rent to the owners. You can read more about the building's history here; it opened in late 2008 and is currently about 43 percent leased.
[*My exile from blogging is coming to an end soon, I promise--though there really hasn't been much going on this week that I feel like I've missed completely, since I have managed to tweet from time to time.]
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More posts: 100 M, Development News, officespace, Square 743N
 
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