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Near Southeast DC Past News Items: 8th Street
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It was a blockbuster piece of news a few weeks ago that the National Community Church had decided to buy the Navy Yard Car Barn, aka the Blue Castle, at 770 M St. SE.
There hasn't been any official statement about the purchase from the church, but recently its lead pastor, Mark Batterson, agreed to reply by e-mail to a list of questions I sent his way about how this move came about and what the church may be envisioning for the landmark building. (Hyperlinks added by me.)
JD: How did the idea of buying the Blue Castle end up on your radar?
MB: Our team had been actively seeking ways to build out our Virginia Ave property, but we’ve been in a holding pattern because of the CSX project. When we heard that the Blue Castle was for sale, it made sense. We just had to make the math work. After quite extensive research with a development team, we came to the conclusion that it will be easier, faster, and perhaps less expensive, to build on top of the castle than it would be to build on Virginia Avenue.
We feel very fortunate to have gotten the contract. We know this is an incredibly iconic building that is interwoven into our city's history. We hope to steward it well.
JD: What are your plans for the building? i.e., Will it be purely uses for your church, or will the neighborhood see some sort of benefit as well? Also, do you have any plans to expand the building itself? How much additional square footage could that potentially include?
MB: We plan to develop the Blue Castle property by building what NCC needs on the roof deck of the existing structure. The key components of the build-out are a multi-purpose performance space with 1500-2000 seats, as well as a central location for our staff. The performance space will be designed for seven day a week use as a music venue and/or theater space. We will assess community needs to make sure the castle serves the best and highest use. We have some preliminary ideas that we think the community will be excited about, but we need to get a little further down the planning road. One thing we know for sure is that we’d like to build out another Ebenezer’s Coffeehouse, like our coffeehouse at 201 F Street, NE.
JD: What about the existing tenants?
MB: The existing tenants have a lease through July of 2018. We have not made any decisions beyond that, but our goal is for the space to serve community needs. Part of our process will be listening to the needs and goals of neighbors, as well as figuring out what best compliments NCC. We will explore a wide variety of uses, along with current uses; in determining it's future.
JD: What sort of timeline are you looking at for making it into what you are hoping it will be?
MB: Until the architectural designs are completed, we can't estimate an accurate timeline. But we have already initiated some conceptual design work. So the wheels are turning. National Community Church continues to outgrow our spaces, so we need it as soon as possible. We also know that there is a timeline and protocol to follow. This is an iconic building, and we want to make sure we get it right.
JD: How does this impact your previously announced plans for your land along Virginia Avenue?
MB: We view the Blue Castle as a better path forward in addressing spacing needs because development of the property is not directly impacted by CSX. The building is also three times larger than Virginia Avenue. This will help us move toward our 2020 vision of 20 expressions of NCC by 2020.
Ultimately, our goal is to master plan both the Blue Castle and Virginia Avenue. Because we own both properties, it positions us to have a more coordinated development.
JD: And, finally... What. About. the. Blue?
MB: Honestly, we hope that someday the Blue Castle will just be the Castle. Of course, we have to factor in the financial impact. And we'l obviously need to work with DCRA and HPRB to make a determination on any changes to the exterior of the Blue Castle.
 

Monday's news that "The Brig", the long-planned beer garden at 8th and L, is moving forward caught certain observers flat-footed, especially certain observers who had lost the thread of the project's long road through the city's historic preservation review process, especially as it reappeared during 2013. (Though, to be fair, certain observers were in 2013 distracted by other circumstances.)
But in reading various documents more closely, the equally big news is that the project has gone from a restaurant with a roof deck and patio to a design that's more in keeping with the idea of a real "beer garden" -- the design that will now be built is of a big outdoor space with tables and room to stand around, plus a small "service" building that has no seating.
In 2011, site owners Mark Brody and Alan Gaunoux had planned what I described at the time as a "one-story building with a roof deck, in addition to the proposed ground-level summer garden. The look of the building (which is closer to 1 1/2 stories high) is very industrial, with large multi-paned windows and lots of "wood rainscreening" on the exterior and the roof deck."
The Historic Preservation Review Board's staff report in Feb. 2011 referred to the design's "somewhat chaotic and unfinished appearance," but the commissioners felt that it was on the right track and "was very close" to achieving acceptance. The next month, the owners returned with a "substantially simplified" design, moving to a brick veneer and other changes. This version appeared on the board's consent calendar, with final approval delegated to the board's staff.
And then we fast-forward to April of 2013, when Brody and Gaunoux returned to the HPRB with a scaled-back plan after apparently having "reevaluated their finances." The HPRB staff report described the new version as "largely an open-air 'use' of the existing lot, with a smaller service building rather than the indoor restaurant space previously proposed."
The new design included a one-story stucco building along the northern edge of the property, just for restrooms, storage, a small kitchen, and the bar opening up to the garden. There would be a roof-type structure projecting 10 feet southward to cover the bar area, and a paved area along the east edge of the site that could provide space for a food truck and trash collection. The bulk of the site would be "paved" with flagstone, and there would be a 6'6" "ornamental" metal fence surrounding the site, plus a central pole anchoring string lights that would provide illumination. All of which, according to the board's staff, would improve on the "visually disadvantageous" parking lot now on the site, as seen in the above photograph from March of 2014.
The service building became a focus, with the Historic Preservation Office having "discouraged the applicants from proposing trailers, shipping containers, or portable toilets." In June, a revision of the revised design updated the service building including signage and new fixed shutters on the building's blank wall along 8th Street, plus a "decorative parapet" and cornice along the roof line, similar to what is seen on several of the one-story buildings along Barracks Row.
On July 11, 2013, the board approved these concept plans, and by mid-August a building permit had been applied for, with a scope of work described as "a prepared food shop with an accessory fast food establishment (food truck) for 210 seats and 399 occupants." That permit took nearly 15 months and numerous corrections to get its approvals, with the permit finally being issued last week and the owner saying that he expects to break ground soon.
(And this huge summary doesn't even get into the Class CT Tavern liquor license fight back in 2011!)
So, all in all, it does sound like if you're one who likes your beer garden to be heavy on the "garden," this will be right up your alley. It also sounds like it's perhaps starting small, without too much of an investment, to see whether it catches on.
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WBJ's Michael Neibauer, with his teeth as always deeply sunken into the news of Lower 8th Street, is reporting what I had heard within the past few days but could not confirm, that the National Community Church is buying the old Navy Yard Card Barn, aka the Blue Castle, at 770 M Street SE.
Madison Marquette, the current owners of the Blue Castle, put it on the market about a year ago, after purchasing it in 2007 from PREI, which had bought it in 2005.
WBJ reports that the sale price is expected to be between $25 million and $35 million, with the church benefitting from a $4.5 million donation to help fund the purchase, along with income from existing leases for the Castle's remaining tenants to help cover the $1.5 million-a-year mortgage.
As you may recall, NCC went on a Lower 8th buying spree back in 2010 and 2011, snapping up 10 lots on the block bounded by Virginia, 7th, 8th, and K, including the old Miles Glass building at 8th and Virginia, which was demolished in 2012. (Their holdings do not include the lot on the corner of 8th and L, where "The Brig" beergarden is going to go.) The church also owns and operates out of the former People's Church a few blocks to the north, on Barracks Row.
When making the Square 906 purchases in 2010 and 2011, it was with an eye toward perhaps some combination of coffee house, performance space, and church offices, though no designs or plans have ever publicly begun moving forward.
The church's Virginia Avenue lots are also right on the front lines of the CSX Virginia Avenue Tunnel project--and back in August the Post quoted NCC head Mark Batterson as saying, "It’s been difficult to take the first step because we don’t know exactly what or when CSX will build and how that will affect us." Which, alongside today's news, does make one wonder about the NCC-related future of those properties.
WBJ says that Batterson told his congregation that the church "hopes to tack on several new floors" to the building--though I have no doubt that that will be a festive trip through the historic preservation review process, along with the Navy giving the stink-eye from across M Street.
 

A truly unexpected piece of news has just come across the transom, via WBJ: Apparently a permit was issued Friday that will allow the start of construction on the long-planned beer garden at 8th and L, SE.
It will be called "The Brig," and will seat 210 and serve 299, and property owner Alan Gaunoux told WBJ that he "expects to break ground next week." I believe the seating is configured as 99 indoor seats and another 200 outside. (see update, below)
This project has been so dormant that I haven't written a post about it since November of 2011. I thought it was still languishing in the Historic Preservation Review Board process, but apparently all systems must be go, though, as WBJ says, "early versions of the development were scaled back[.]"
You can see the rendering from back in 2011 and read the multiple posts on the project's early days on my project page, though I don't know how much it resembles what will actually be coming. It is still apparently a one-story structure, with a bar, and some food, and perhaps some live music.
UPDATE: I will write another post on this in a few days--I'm looking at documentation that indicates this is definitely a very far scaled back operation in terms of a "building" from what was being looked at in 2011. Puts the "garden" in beergarden.
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Trying to start 2014 off right--even if it means posting a few things I didn't quite get to in 2013.
* ANC: Ed Kaminski has resigned as Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for 6D02, the area basically from the ballpark northward to the south side of I Street. A special election will be in the offing before too long.
* METRO: Via CapBiz, Metro has put out "development concepts" for the five station sites it is touting to developers. However, when it came to the Navy Yard/Chiller Plant site on the southwest corner of Half and L, there were no pretty drawings, just a suggestion to acquire the privately owned lot next door, and that maybe a project with ground-floor retail would be nice, too. If you want to know the increasingly long history of WMATA's attempts to find a developer for this land (and get a new chiller plant as part of the deal), here's some reading for you.
* BALLPARK SQUARE: New fence signage along 1st Street north of Nats Park touting the Ballpark Square residential/hotel/retail development, "delivering in late 2015." There do appear to be building permits for the residential and hotel parts of the development currently working through the pipeline, though there is No Time To Lose to hit that "late 2015" date (and co-developer McCaffery hedges a bit with "early 2016"). I will note, though, that there is something kind of missing in the rendering shown on the fence signage. (Hint: It's L-shaped, and is by a different developer, and is supposed to start soon too.)
* WAYBACK: The Hill is Home's "Lost Capitol Hill" series looks at the Anacostia Engine House, located at 8th and Virginia for most of the years from 1839 until the glorious arrival of the Southeast Freeway in the 1960s.
* NO, REALLY: My latest excuse explanation for my decreased blogging output. (Though if you follow JDLand on Facebook or Twitter, you already know this.)
 

There's been a whirlwind of "big" posts as 2012 has gotten underway, so here's a few items I've neglected:
* BID Reports: At its annual meeting last week, the Capitol Riverfront BID released both its annual report and the "Green Print of Growth" study they commissioned, which showed that the portion of the Green Line from the Navy Yard station to Georgia Avenue/Petworth has become over the past 10 years a "regional leader" in "capturing highly-prized young professional housing demand and high-wage employment," just nosing ahead of the Orange Line's Rosslyn-Ballston corridor and outstripping the Red Line's stretch in Northwest DC when looking at household growth in the 18-to-34 demographic. The report also says (shocker!) that "the analysis conducted suggests that the Capitol Riverfront--given its Green Line access at the Navy Yard Station and its significant amount of development capacity--is among the most competitive locations in the region for households, companies, and retailers."
You can read the executive summary, the complete version, and the slides that RCLCO's Shyam Kannan displayed during his presentation at the meeting. (Additional coverage from WBJ and CapBiz.)
This was followed by a commentary by BID chief Michael Stevens in Monday's Washington Post/Capital Business in which he argued: "It's time for business and residents to recognize and acknowledge a new reality: The Green Line corridor has emerged as a powerful economic engine for the District and the region. And it's time for Metro, the city and the private sector to invest more in the area to support this growth trajectory."
UPDATE: Also coming out of the annual meeting, the BID voted to change how it handles its taxes, which still needs to be approved by the city council to take effect. (WBJ)
* On a parallel track, though it doesn't have to do with Near Southeast specifically, the Post's Steve Pearlstein wrote over the weekend about how signs suggest "that the next phase of growth in the Washington region will focus on these underdeveloped areas in the eastern quadrants of the District and some of the region’s older, closer-in suburbs."
* New Views: While I was at the BID's meeting, I took the opportunity to get some photos of the inside of 1015 Half Street, plus one shot looking out that shows not all views of the U.S. Capitol dome are, by default, "majestic." (Alternate caption: "Would you like fries with that democracy?") One Twitterer suggested that the rock circle at far right, on the Capitol Hill Power Plant's property, is where the ritual sacrifices are held. So, if you see the Congressional leadership skulking around I Street late at night....
* Artomatic Decision: The Post's Jonathan O'Connell tweeted this morning that Artomatic is headed to Crystal City. Organizers had been looking at both 1015 Half and the old National Geospatial Intelligence building at 101 M.
* CSX: The Virginia Avenue Tunnel web site now has public comments on the Nov. 30 "concepts" meeting, as well as the transcript of that session. Comments are still being accepted through the end of January.
* Protest: A reader who lives on 7th Street just across from the Marine Bachelor Enlisted Quarters has passed along that the neighbors on that block have decided to lodge a formal protest at the liquor license renewal of the 7th and L Market, thanks to having witnessed multiple examples over the past few years of public drunkenness and urination, loitering, littering, drug dealing, indecent exposure, and even one proposition by a prostitute. There's no doubt that that market is a bit of a throwback to the neighborhood's previous incarnation; it will be interesting to see how this proceeds, and also how the eventual arrival of the National Community Church on that block changes (or doesn't change) things.
* AIIIEEEE!: Don't have enough to worry about these days? How about rising sea levels inundating areas along DC's waterfronts? (WaPo/Capital Weather Gang)
* Neighborhood News Roundup: The Post's new Where We Live real estate blog has a rundown and photo gallery today on the latest progress on the development and food fronts in Near Southeast. If it all looks and sounds strangely familiar, that shouldn't be a surprise.
 

Back in February, the National Community Church applied for a raze permit for the Miles Glass site on the southwest corner of 8th and Virginia that it acquired along with a number of adjoining lots on Square 906 in 2010 and 2011. However, perhaps something was not quite right, because two new raze permit applications for 733 Virginia are now in the city's database, along with a separate new one for the car garage next door at 701 Virginia, the lot that finalized NCC's footprint.
Last week, NCC representatives told ANC 6B's Planning and Zoning Committee that they plan to have the demolitions completed by March, and will "then move to establish a temporary parking lot and community green space for an estimated two-year period" while the church continues to work on its final plans for the site, which in the past have been described as being a combination of coffee house, performance space, and church offices.
Any goings-on at the site, though, will be impacted by CSX's planned Virginia Avenue Tunnel construction, and in October NCC head Mark Batterson told the Washington Business Journal that "it doesn't make sense to do our project and then have them come through and rip everything up and make it difficult for us to even access our property."
Meanwhile, a couple blocks to the southeast, two raze permits have also now been filed for 816 Potomac, the long-closed-up brown apartment building on the northwest corner of 9th and Potomac. This property is one of the lots on Square 930 that Madison Marquette now co-owns as part of its "joint venture" with ICP Partners.
 

It was one year ago today that we heard the first rumblings of plans for a beer garden to be built on the northwest corner of 8th and L, SE. It would have 99 indoor seats and space for an additional 200 customers in a "summer garden," and would offer live music.
The project went through all manner of liquor license wrangling, followed by a lot of work on the design in order to satisfy the Historic Preservation Review Board (which it finally did, in March). At many of these sessions, the owner spoke of wanting to get the project underway as quickly as possible, but since the HPRB approvals in spring, it hasn't seemed like anything has been happening.
However, late last week, when I was playing around with DDOT's new Public Space Permit locator app and figuring out how to import its Occupancy Permit data into my own list of Near Southeast Public Space Permits, I saw that a construction staging area permit had been issued for 720 L St. SE on Sept. 22. Some digging into the city's building permits application also found building permits applied for on Aug. 18, but still not yet approved.
I contacted the owner, Mark Brody, and he tells me that they indeed are working on permits, but "it's taking longer than expected." (I know, this is a shocker.)
So, no timetable for the project's opening at this point, but it appears it hasn't fallen completely off the map.
(And, speaking of the permits feed on the JDLand home page, I've tinkered with both the public space and building permits so that they're now sorted and grouped by address.)
 

Today's Washington Business Journal reports (subscribers only, alas) that Madison Marquette, owners of the "Blue Castle" at 770 M Street SE and co-owners of a series of additional parcels across 8th, "will soon formally launch its Lower Barracks Row redevelopment process, hiring land use planners, wooing an anchor retailer for the historic car barn and tackling a range of hurdles that stand in the way."
It's that "range of hurdles" that the article focuses on--MM will need to figure out where will parking for the car barn be able to be placed and how much additional height can be added given not only historic and building height restrictions but the Navy Yard's concerns with having buildings that can look over their walls.
Then there's the looming CSX Virginia Avenue Tunnel construction, which could impact all of the landowners along Lower 8th given the disruptions that will no doubt ensue during the project. Mark Batterson of the National Community Church, which now owns all of the properties along Virginia between 7th and 8th and is looking to build a large coffee house/performance space and offices there, says in the article that their planning is very much tied up in CSX's timeline. "It doesn't make sense to do our project and then have them come through and rip everything up and make it difficult for us to even access our property."
Back in 2009 and 2010 there was a long Lower 8th Street Vision Process, which suggested allowing building heights of 65 to 85 feet on new structures 20 to 30 feet behind existing historic 8th Street structures. (The process report has a lot of drawings on how the 45-foot limit along 8th could co-exist with these potential greater heights further off the street.)
And, while not mentioned in the WBJ article, there's still the question of whether the Marines will end up building a new barracks in this area, as they have been hoping to do.
So, while the current Blue Castle leases are up in 2012, giving MM the opening to begin the process, the article makes clear that any makeover of Lower 8th will probably proceed slowly, at best.
Oh, and when it's all done, the Blue Castle probably won't be blue anymore:
(Rendering courtesy Madison Marquette. And maybe there's a hint in it of where they think the parking could go!)
 

A slew of tidbits, some already tweeted, some not:
* The third Truckeroo food truck festival is now scheduled for next Friday, Aug. 12, from 11 am to 11 pm. They'll keep doing them monthly, through October.
* This isn't news for anyone who's seen the big holes punched in the sides, but work on the Boilermaker Shops retail space at the Yards is finally underway. It's expected to take about a year. This is where the new brewpub by the Churchkey folks will be, along with Buzz Bakery, Austin Grill Express, BRB, and Huey's 24-7 diner.
* Along with their announcement of a new Circulator route that will run from east of the river across the 11th Street Bridge and up 8th St. SE over to Potomac Avenue, DDOT has also announced that the Navy Yard Circulator route will no longer go into the Union Station garage. Instead, it will stop at a new location near the flagpoles in front of the building. There won't be any stop at Louisiana and D anymore, either. (See the DDOT presentation posted by DCist for the details, with the Navy Yard route stuff being on page 7.)
* The Capitol Hill Day School's blog is doing a good job keeping track not only of the renovation work at Dent School, but also on the progress on their temporary location at 5th and K, SE. The modular classrooms are arriving, plus there's now power!
* For people who don't stay glued to comment threads (for shame!), ANC commissioner David Garber recently posted with more details about the Georgetown University Health Disparities office moving into the retail space at Capitol Hill Tower: "I was reassured that this will not be a health clinic, and that it is better to think of it as the research center's "home base" on this side of the city. It will mostly be office space, and employees will spend most of their time outside the office at sites in Wards 6, 7, and 8, facilitating research on environmental health, obesity, and breast cancer research. I was told that no more than five clients would be visiting the office each day -- not as a medical clinic-- but that the space would likely also be used to hold meetings for the center's organizational and community-based task forces/committees."
* The Hill is Home gives an update on the 8th Street underpass, where a mural is about to be created to spiff up the space, and where the public parking lot is going to get new signage, lighting, and pricing to encourage Barracks Row visitors to use it.
* President Obama gave a big speech on jobs at the Navy Yard this morning, which will be notable mostly for how my Google News Alert for "washington navy yard" will take days to get back to normal.
There's probably more than this, but this has already cut into that mini-break I was trying to take....
 

After all the big news of late, downshifting into a Tidbits post doesn't really seem like much fun, and of course if you're following me on Twitter or Facebook (or checking out the Twitter box on the JDLand home page every so often), you've already been alerted to many of these. But, onward:
* If you're wondering how the ANC redistricting process will work (especially since the ward version was so much fun!), here's the official memo on the procedures going forward. As in previous years, ANC single member districts will have populations between 1,900 and 2,100 residents. Census Tract 72, which covers all of Near Southeast and so includes all of ANC 6D07 plus the small number of houses from 7th Street east to 11th that are in ANC 6B04, was counted at 2,794 residents in the 2010 census.
The Office of Planning has the census-block-by-census-block numbers, but, ahem, I don't actually know which blocks are which, though if I had to guess by looking at the numbers and how the blocks are organized, I'd say that 6D07 probably came in at 2,743 and south-of-the-freeway 6B04 at 51. Ish. (Perhaps an ANC version of the GGW Redistricting Game isn't far off!) It isn't enough to split 6D07 into two single member districts, but it also can't stay as is. The question will also loom large as to whether new boundaries will split the neighborhood even more between ANC 6B (Capitol Hill) and 6D (Southwest), or move it all into one or the other. UPDATE: Thanks to IMGoph in the comments, I got a look at the map, and it appears the actual residential split is 2,767 to 27. Read my comment for details. I'll make a map at some point.
UPDATE 2: And here's a quick and dirty map, showing block by block what the census folks recorded the neighborhood's residential population at, as of April 1, 2010. As I mention in the comments, the residential buildings west of 2nd Street SE add up to 2,054 residents, perfectly within the numeric requirements for an SMD. But how SMDs will actually be divvied up is anyone's guess right now, beyond the fact that there's no way the vast bulk of Near Southeast will continue to be in just one SMD.
Council members are supposed to appoint their ward task force members by Friday, with progress reports due on Aug. 1 and Sept. 1. The entire process has to be completed by the end of 2011.
* The Hill is Home has posted the first of a two-part look at the history of the Washington Canal, which used to run along where Canal Park is under construction. (Speaking of which, I grabbed a quick cellphone shot from above the park last week showing the work on the southern block, where the foundation for the pavilion is being built.)
* Housing Complex writes about the deal finally being finalized for Greenspace to move into the empty retail spaces in the 1st Street facade of Nationals Park, creating a "12,000-square-foot center for green building and design." This has been in the works for nearly two years, but even though there was a "launch" of the space on Tuesday (which I didn't hear about until people at the event started live-tweeting it), Housing Complex says that the project won't come to fruition until Greenspace "is able to raise another $600,000 in cash and in-kind contributions, adding up to the $2 million necessary to build out what's currently a blank shell." Perhaps someday, when Florida Rock is built out to the south and later Yards phases along 1st Street are completed, the "real" retail envisioned for this portion of the ballpark will come to pass. Here's the press release on the Greenspace project.
* Madison Marquette, owner of the Blue Castle at 770 M St. SE, has now apparently completed a joint venture deal with local landowners ICP Group for all ICP's various properties on the east side of 8th Street south of the freeway, including the gray building at 8th and Potomac that houses Quizno's and the other properties along the 800 block of Potomac, and others. No news as to what might be done on those blocks, though if the new Marine Barracks site search ever crops back up, a group owning all of the land on Squares 929 and 930 could conceivably submit a proposal for a public-private partnership.
Coming later today, an equally bulleted post highlighting the slew of upcoming events in the neighborhood, both for this holiday weekend and beyond.
 

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.
 

The proposed 8th Street Beer Garden is back before the Historic Preservation Review Board, with a "substantially simplified" design that the board's staff has deemed sufficiently compatible with the character of the surrounding Capitol Hill Historic District.
The first floor is now proposed to have a brick veneer (though it's not really shown on the new rendering that the beer garden team was kind enough to pass along), and there have been other changes that HPRB staff say have improved the overall proportions of the building. There's also now a pergola (arbor) on the roof to help with shading on sunny days. Sidewalk seating spaces are also shown, though the developer will have to get a public space permit and work around the bus stop currently at the 8th and L intersection.
There are still a few small issues the HPRB staff would like to see addressed, but they have recommended that the concept be approved by the board, and the project has been placed on the consent calendar for the March 24 meeting. (Though the board may choose to remove it from consent if they have any issues they want to discuss before voting.)
You can see a larger view of this revised design alongside the previous version and some current photographs on my new 8th Street Beer Garden page, which isn't exactly a barn-burner but at least it's something. (It goes hand-in-hand with my new National Community Church page, which has photos of the lots NCC now owns.)
The HPRB meeting is on Thursday at 10 am, and will be available via live streaming or on demand. (Or you could go to the meeting in person, but that's so 20th century.)
UPDATE, 3/24: The consent portion of the agenda passed with no discussion, so the design concept is now considered approved by the board ("as consistent with the purposes of the preservation act"), with final approval delegated to HPRB staff.
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More posts: The Brig Beer Garden, 8th Street, meetings, square 906
 

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.
 

On Thursday the city's Historic Preservation Review Board took up the designs for the new building to be constructed at 720 L St. SE that is going to house a beer garden. You can watch the proceedings if you want (it's about 25 minutes long), which might be of interest if you're an architect or deeply interested in building design.
The commissioners all seemed to feel that the staff report (which I summarized here) was on the right track with its comments on the building's design: "You're close, you're very close," said board member Robert Sonderman to the building's team, and staffer Amanda Molson and other board members seemed to agree.
Before the board members had a chance to weigh in, applicant Mark Brody responded to some of the concerns in the staff report, offering to remove the rain screens that go up above the roof deck, reducing the number of finishes, providing more information about how the roof deck's lighting and sun-screening will be designed, and looking more at how the business relates to the 8th Street streetscape (Brody said that they'll be trying to include a sidewalk cafe in the final plans).
Architect Matthew Battin did seem a little frustrated by the amount of input the design has received, talking about how some design changes have been in response to comments, which have then generated comments that counteracted the initial comments. The board members seemed sympathetic to the "too many cooks" issue, and many focused on wanting the design to be simplified in order to "clarify the concept." They also seemed to like the industrial/warehouse feel, and were not concerned about it fitting in with the Capitol Hill Historic District. There was some discussion about using roll-up windows rather than the flat ones to further emphasize the warehouse feel (though costs do seem to be a concern in much of the design). There was also a suggestion that an archaelogist be brought to the site, given its location near the Navy Yard and on a hill with views of the Potomac where "the people before us" lived.
While the original staff recommendation was for the design to be approved by staff once comments are incorporated, chair Catherine Buell suggested it come back to the board one more time, "hopefully on the consent calendar." This was approved unanimously.
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More posts: The Brig Beer Garden, 8th Street, meetings
 

[While this is technically outside of my strict boundaries, I know a lot of Near Southeast residents patronize the restaurants and shops on 8th Street, so....] A survey is being conducted on resident attitudes toward restaurants on Barracks Row. It's being funded by the business owners, and is being overseen by Barracks Row Main Street. Deadline for completing the survey is midnight, Sunday, Feb. 27, and four participants will win a $25 gift certificate to the Barracks Row restaurant of their choice.

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More posts: 8th Street
 

Posted on Friday was the Staff Report from the Historic Preservation Review Board on the design for the proposed Bier Garden at 8th and L, SE, as the owners of the site at 720 L continue to work toward constructing a one-story building with an accompanying summer garden and roof deck. (You can look to the left, or see a slightly larger version of the design, as it was presented to ANC 6B last week; 6B voted to support the design.)
If you're not up for reading all six pages yourself, here's my Zagat-style report on the report:
It makes for good reading if you're interested in how new buildings in historic districts are evaluated; you might be surprised (I was!) that design guidelines actually "discourage the exact duplication of historic styles," opting instead to encourage applicants to consider a new building as an "enhancement" to the district "while respecting the historic context." The report discusses how the decision to go with a one-story structure could draw on "the vernacular of Washington's modest industrial buildings and alley warehouses," and in fact the report includes a photo of the Bier Garden lot in 1949, when a one-story building housing a laundry/tailor stood on the site.
The report finds that the proposed massing of the new building does reflect the character of the historic district and "references recognizable attributes" of both industrial buildings and traditional beer gardens. The report also sees the rain screen and other more contemporary design choices as reflecting the "whimsy, casualness and somewhat ad-hoc nature of many outdoor beer gardens."
However, there are concerns that there are so many finishes applied "in so many different directions" that the result is a "somewhat chaotic and unfinished appearance," and suggests selecting one or two key ideas that would allow the building "to be showcased in a less hectic manner." Other major issues cited include choices on the roof deck (and the lack of any lighting or shade up there in the current design), the proportions of the doors, and the designs of the rain screens, as well as how the building's "streetscape presence" along both 8th and L.
The report ends with a recommendation that the applicants "restudy the issues outlined [...] as they pertain to the principles of design cohesiveness, proportion and scale, and streetscape presence." It's also recommended that the board delegate final approval of the design to the board staff once the comments from staff and the board are addressed in the revisions.
The hearing begins at 10 am on Thursday, and can be watched live, or on demand starting the next day. (And this will actually be the first HPRB hearing I'll have ever watched!) You can read my previous Bier Garden posts if you're needing to get caught up.
UPDATE: And now we return back to "Beer Garden" from "Bier Garden," as Mark Brody informs me that it was a typo on the plans.
 

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."
 

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.
 

While the neighborhood's big Beer Garden News last week was the plan by the Bullpen folks to create one at Half and M, SE, the other proposed beer garden in the area, at 8th and L, SE, is continuing to proceed through the city's bureaucracy. With its liquor license having been dealt with last month, this "Bier Garden" is now undergoing the Historic Preservation Review process, a necessary step thanks to its location within the Capitol Hill Historic District (which I'm sure Das Bullpen is thankful to be well outside of).
Original plans for a temporary structure were undoable thanks to historic district restrictions, so now the applicant, Mark Brody, and his architect have opted to go with a one-story building with a roof deck, in addition to the proposed ground-level summer garden. The look of the building (which is closer to 1 1/2 stories high) is very industrial, with large multi-paned windows and lots of "wood rainscreening" on the exterior and the roof deck. (I've asked for electronic versions of the color renderings that were shown at Tuesday night's ANC 6B meeting, but Mr. Brody is still pondering whether to pass them along.) UPDATE: Since the renderings have been submitted to the Historic Preservation Office and have been shown at a public meeting, an interested party passed them along. (UPDATE 1A: And Mr. Brody's architect has now sent it to me as well--thank you!) Here is the main image, looking at the corner of 8th and L:
The ANC's Planning and Zoning Committee had a first look at the designs on Feb. 1, and, according to the committee report, expressed a number of concerns about "the proposed materials, the open deck design, and the lack of letters of support from other establishments and or affected neighbors" as well as the "unfinished appearance" and issues with not having received details such as "views of the affected area with relationship to existing structures and plat specifications."
By the time the full commission met Tuesday night, Brody had made some changes to the initial designs, and forwarded letters of support from two neighbors on L Street as well 18 letters from Capitol Quarter residents (thanks probably to an e-mail that went to the private CQ mailing list asking for support). When asked, Brody said that Mark Batterson of the National Community Church (which is buying up the north side of this "Saints and Sinners" block to build a new office and performance space) has decided that he "will take no position" on the beer garden plans.
There ensued much discussion, with the bulk of concerns coming from Kirsten Oldenburg (in whose SMD this is) and David Garrison, who both clearly are unhappy with the design, especially the roof deck. (Perhaps Kirsten will write more about this project on her blog so I don't have to try to summarize, HINT HINT.) But other commissioners made clear their desire to get something built on this portion of Barracks Row south of the freeway to help jump-start the area.
After an initial motion to oppose the designs while the applicant and the city's Historic Preservation Review Board continue to make refinements failed 3-7, a second motion to take no position failed 4-6, followed finally by a motion that passed 7-3 to support the designs, with an accompanying letter to the Historic Preservation Office detailing the commission's concerns about safety on the roof deck, the design of the doors (too stubby, Oldenburg says), the "parapet" that is above the front door, and the design's "historic character." Commissioners Oldenburg, Garrison, and Norman Metzger were the three commissioners in opposition. The HPRB may hear this case at its Feb. 24 meeting, though that agenda has not yet been set. (Note that the Capitol Hill Restoration Society will be a source of comments about the project as well.)
Interestingly, the liquor license apparently will not cover the roof deck, so Brody will have to come back to the ANC if he intends to serve alcohol in that space. There was also mention made of wanting to have sidewalk tables during warm weather, which will require a public space permit and another trip back to the ANC (athough the bus stop right out front might make for a space issue).
There's probably more to write about this, but I'm pacing myself, since I'm guessing there will be plenty of additional chances to cover the process. And hopefully I'll get some renderings to post soon, but when the project gets onto an HPRB agenda they'll become part of the public record, so I'll definitely have them then.
There were some additional South of the Freeway tibits that came out during these discussions, but I'll save those for another post.
UPDATE: Here's Kirsten Oldenburg's thoughts and concerns about the design.
 
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