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The group of urban planning students at the University of Maryland who have been studying the lower part of Eighth Street will be presenting their "Connect Barracks Row" findings at a public meeting on Dec. 18 from 7:30 pm to 9 pm at the Navy Yard Car Barn, better known as the Blue Castle, at 770 M Street, SE. You can see the presentation from their Oct. 29 community meeting and read a little more about the project on their web site.
The students' work also got a write-up in today's Washington Business Journal (subscribers only), which says: "Their findings so far come as no surprise: Walking beneath the noisy highway is undesirable, parking isn't easy to find and there is little reason to go to the site in the first place."
In describing lower Eighth Street, WBJ also says: "A developer had plans to turn one block into housing and residential space, but that plan apparently went nowhere." Sounds like a reference to the original plans for the Admiral at 801 Virginia, which as I've been writing over the past few weeks has been redesigned as an office building and received its Board of Zoning Adjustment approvals on Tuesday.
There's also mention of the hopes by Madison Marquette to turn the Blue Castle into a 99,000-sq-ft retail destination, but no progress has been announced.
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More posts: 8th Street, meetings, Retail, zoning

This afternoon the city's Board of Zoning Adjustment approved unanimously two requested variances that will allow 801 Virginia Avenue to go forward as a 19,000-sq-ft office building with 3,000 feet of ground-floor retail. I admit to listening to the webcast with only about half an ear, but the bulk of the discussion seemed to be centered around the applicant's request to only have 17 underground parking spaces instead of the required 30 (17 is still four more than were allotted in the original condo-building design). As I wrote about a few weeks back, the developers say that groundwater levels and potential soil contamination issues would make it prohibitively expensive to dig two additional levels of parking (and having to have the garage entrance on L Street apparently doesn't help, either).
The 17 spaces will all be assigned to the office tenants, so there will be no parking for retail customers. (There was some discussion of creating overflow parking if necessary at 816 Potomac Avenue, another property owned by the same developer.) The applicant's traffic consultant also laid out the proximity of the site to Metro subway stations and bus lines, and with the request having the full support of the Office of Planning, ANC 6B, and the Capitol Hill Restoration Society, the board voted to approve the variances.
No word on when the project might get underway.
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More posts: 801va, 8th Street, meetings, Retail, zoning

While we're all busy looking at the hole in the ground on the east side of Half Street, plans are apparently moving forward across the way: Akridge's 700,000-sq-ft mixed-use project on the old WMATA Southeastern Bus Garage site (just across from the Metro station entrance) is now on the Zoning Commission docket for a Capitol Gateway Overlay Review on Jan. 29, 2009.
This project will cover the entire block bounded by M, N, Van, and Half, which is the stretch along which fans walk to Nationals Park from the west entrance of the Navy Yard Metro station. (Akridge bought the southernmost parcel from Monument Realty back in late August, at the same time it finally closed on its $46 million purchase of bus garage site.) A raze permit application was filed for the bus garage building in September.
There hasn't been much made public yet about this development, other than it will be a mix of office, residential, and retail, and the hearing announcement says that the FAR will be 7.9 and the maximum building height will be 110 feet. In addition to the overlay review (which sets out some firm guidelines for projects along M Street and in the Ballpark District), Akridge is also asking for relief from roof structure requirements, loading requirements, ground-floor retail requirements, and step-back requirements.
It's been reported that Akridge is expecting to begin on the project in 2010; they've hired HOK (designers of the ballpark and the Plaza on K), Esocoff & Associates (Onyx) and StreetSense Inc. to design what an Akridge press release calls a "one-of-a-kind destination." Quoting further: "'Half Street is the city's newest and most unique urban destination,' says Matthew J. Klein, Akridge President. 'This stretch between the Metro and the ballpark has great energy and we look forward to capitalizing on that and other natural amenities like the river, to deliver the area's best urban living, working, shopping, dining, and entertainment project.'"
I've marked this movement by finally giving the site its own project page (now separate from the old "Ballpark District" page). Hopefully in the lead-up to the zoning hearing we'll get a peek at some renderings.

I have to admit that information fairs aren't quite my gig (especially since I'm immersed in this stuff everyday), but I did wander past today's Anacostia Waterfront Community Information Fair at the ballpark to see what there was to see. I got there pretty early and left pretty early, so didn't see any of the panel discussions (and didn't take any of the bus tours), but if you want to see how they configured the exhibitions within the Stars and Stripes clubs at the ballpark, here's a batch of photos. (And, if you were there, maybe you're in one or two of them!)
I also took a few new photos on First, Third, and New Jersey of 909 New Jersey, Velocity, Onyx, and the Foundry Lofts, which will serve mainly as a reminder of why I don't normally go on photo expeditions on cloudy days. If the weather finally shifts, I expect to be out taking some additional ones on Sunday, especially of 1015 Half, since the first columns are visible above ground-level.
Plus, I felt a burst of inspiration yesterday the likes of which I haven't seen in months, and *finally* created project pages for William C. Smith's 800 New Jersey Avenue development and for the 11th Street Bridges reconstruction. The 800 NJ page has almost no information (since there's so little to be had about the project beyond the basic 1.1-mil-office-residential-retail-and-maybe-Whole-Foods profile); the 11th Street Bridges page is a little better, but still is just a lot of pictures of overpasses and flyovers. Better than nothing in both cases, though!

Today's print edition of the WashBizJournal has some big retail-related Near Southeast items of interest:
* "The developer of The Yards, the 42-acre Anacostia riverfront project near the Nationals ballpark, is close to landing a jazz club and Dogfish Head Alehouse and may move its local headquarters to the former Navy Yard. The two retail tenants would be the first in the Boilermaker Shops, a three-story industrial building with walls of red brick and plate glass on Tingey Street between Third and Fourth streets SE." (The Boilermaker Shops are scheduled to open in mid-2010, along with the Park at the Yards and the Foundry Lofts.)
* The planned office building at 401 M could become home to Forest City Washington's headquarters; it's the one with the grocery store space in the ground floor. WBJ says Forest City "is 'nearing a deal' with a grocer for 50,000 square feet and an announcement could come in 60 days. He would not reveal the chain, but sources say it is Harris Teeter Inc. which has two D.C. stores and plans a third in Northeast." 401 M is not expected to be constructed before 2011, however.
* Also on the grocery store front, confirmation of the rumor that's been hashed around here lately: "William C. Smith & Co., meanwhile, has been in discussions with Whole Foods Market Inc. about a store in its planned 4-acre development between New Jersey Avenue, H and Second streets, known as Square 737." (See, I tried to tell you folks it wasn't going to be at New Jersey and K; and Jonathan, you're welcome for this tip.)
UPDATE: Finally getting *some* piece of news about 800 New Jersey finally spurred me, after all this time, to create a project page for it. There's no renderings, just a bunch of "before" pictures, but at least it's something. And, since talk of grocery store on this site back in *1999* was one of the first tidbits that led me to start paying attention to the neighborhood, I guess it finally deserves its own page.

Two upcoming events, mentioned in the Capitol Riverfront BID's e-mail-only newsletter:
* On Friday (Oct. 3), the new Wachovia Branch at 20 M Street is having its official Grand Opening celebration, from noon to 4 pm. Stop by "for some food, music, and prizes!"
* On Oct. 24, the nonprofit group Living Classrooms is holding an event dubbed "A Night at The Yards," to raise money for their operations, including the Discovery Creek Children's Museum, and the City Kids Wildreness Project. It's at at Fourth and Tingey streets, from 7 pm to 12:30 am. Tickets are $125 each. There will be food and drinks, and a performance by the English Beat. (No, seriously.) Living Classrooms, a non-profit group that "uses maritime settings, community revitalization projects and other challenging learning environments" to provide hands-on education and job skills training for students (especially at-risk youth), has plans to eventually build its new "main campus building" on the far eastern edge of the Waterfront Park at the Yards
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More posts: 20 M, Retail, The Yards, Yards Park

I've gotten a couple messages over the past few days from people passing on rumors that perhaps a restaurant is getting ready to occupy some or all of the 7,500-sq-ft space in the ground floor of Capitol Hill Tower on New Jersey Avenue, north of L. Here is the complete response I got from CHT's developer when I asked if there was any news: "Not yet ready to announce but stay tuned."
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More posts: Capitol Hill Tower, Retail

Two pieces in Friday's Post of interest to Near Southeast fans: "Nationals Park Revenue Falls Short of the Mark," detailing how tax revenue for the first year at the ballpark is expected to be about $2.6 million short of the $13.5 million originally projected, and a sidebar piece, "Though Developers Built It, The Tenants Did Not Come," about the empty buildings in the neighborhood, using Lerner's 20 M Street as a jumping off point: "In many ways, the Lerner building -- owned by the Bethesda real estate family that also owns the Nationals baseball team -- is symbolic of the emerging district around the ballpark. Sleek new buildings with offices, condos, apartments and retail space have popped up all over. But many remain empty, seeking tenants in a sluggish economy."
The first piece, on the taxes, also talks about the ongoing dispute over whether the stadium was "substanially complete" by Opening Day, and that the Nationals are still withholding their $3.5 million rent payment. On the other hand, the article says that the city has enough money to cover the debt service on the stadium financing because the special ballpark tax on city businesses is bringing in more revenue than expected.
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More posts: Retail, Nationals Park

Rumors started flying in a few places lately that Whole Foods is coming to New Jersey and K, SE. I usually shy away from writing about rumors, but this one is persistent enough that it probably needs some addressing. It's not listed on their Stores in Development page, and no one's leaping to tell me this is or isn't true (which isn't surprising), but it's not completely out of the realm of possibility. There's been references here or there to "two grocery stores" coming to the neighborhood (with space for one set aside at the The Yards, coming in 2011 or later), and I've heard nonspecific Whole Foods/Near Southeast rumors a few times over the past year.
But I'm skeptical about it coming to the New Jersey/K intersection. There's only 6,000 square feet of retail in 909 New Jersey (not enough for a grocery store), and the plan for the trash transfer station has always been for it to be part of the Capper Hope VI project, with an apartment building that probably won't start before 2011. That leaves the southwest corner, where the Cohen family owns the small lots along K between New Jersey and First; there's also the Positive Nature lot at 1021 New Jersey and one to its south owned by Potomac Development Corp., who it should be noted picked up 51,000 square feet of transferred development rights earlier this year. (Can someone at CHT look out their window and confirm that the Positive Nature sign is still there?)
So maybe the "New Jersey" part is right, but not the "K"? My gaze (and my betting dollars) might head north a block or two, to 800 New Jersey (also sometimes known as 120 Canal), where for years William C. Smith has envisioned a grocery store as part of its planned 1.1-million-square-foot four-building development on the Square 737 block bounded by Second, H, New Jersey, and the eventually reconstituted I Street. No timeline for the start of this project has been announced, though. (In fact, there's so little information about the project that I haven't even felt compelled to build a project page for it.)
In other words, there aren't really any tea leaves to be read on this one, so if someone wants to spill the beans, I'm always listening.

* As I mentioned below, the garage that housed both the Merritt and Four Star cab companies started getting brought down today. They didn't get it all on Thursday, but I imagine by sundown Friday the rest will be gone. (See pictures from midmorning, though it's hard to see much in the way of a difference from First and K, since they took out the back of the building and only a smidgen of the K Street facade.)
* Only a few hours after I said that Capitol Quarter framing would start "in the next few days," lumber went up on the first house on the south side of L east of Fourth. (No pictures yet--this weekend!)
* Sometime this week the crane was put up at 1015 Half Street, so we should be seeing vertical construction before too long.
* Building permits for the external renovations to 900 M Street are now winding their way through the bureaucracy. No word yet on any retail tenants.
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