At a public meeting on Thursday night, Yards developer Forest City Washington presented very early plans for the portion of the DC Water/WASA
site on 1st Street that the company is currently working to secure the development rights for.
While people are always interested in projects for more residential buildings with ground-floor retail, it was the plans for a movie theater
on the site that drew a decent-sized crowd to the meeting, and the attendees learned that Showplace Icon
is the heretofore unnamed operator that Forest City is currently in negotiations with.
It would be a 16-screen theater with more than 2,000 seats on N Place SE (see my quickie map
for placement in regards to Nats Park and the main WASA pumping station), and Icon's more upscale amenities and approach to movie-going were extensively touted, including all reserved seating, VIP areas in each theater with extra-wide seats and person tables, wall-to-wall and ceiling-to-floor digital screens, no on-screen pre-show advertising, fresh-not-frozen food prepared on site, and their "lobby lounge
," with about 100 seats and 21-and-over-only admittance.
But it was Icon's "policies to encourage courteous behavior" that seemed to defuse the "ZOMG GALLERY PLACE" concerns about the theater that had been cropping up on neighborhood mailing lists and elsewhere
over the past few weeks. The theaters will not allow children under 17 after 7 pm without an adult, no one is admitted after the movie starts, no children under seven are admitted to PG-13 or R movies after 7 pm, and the adult admission price also applies to children.
Bob Gallivan of Kerasotes Showplace Theaters said that the company's theaters in Chicago and suburban Minneapolis are "bringing people back to the movies who haven't been for awhile" thanks to these policies, because they are trying to "create a civilized atmosphere." ("We're not a babysitting service," he also said.)
Thanks to being an all-digital theater, the venue would also be able to offer other content, such as simulcasts of the Metropolitan Opera, sporting events, and other events. And the theater would also have some small retail and maybe artist space along N Place.
As for the rest of the plans for the site, along 1st Street across from Nationals Park there would be two residential buildings, totalling 625ish units, each with ground-floor retail; and the northern one of the two would incorporate the brick/industrial facade of the existing DC Water fleet management building on 1st between N Place and O (seen at left).
O Street would be re-established from 1st east to the new 1 1/2 Place, and Potomac Avenue would be extended east from 1st as well to 1 1/2 Place.
Forest City's planners envision a "lower-scale" retail experience along 1 1/2 Place (smaller "eclectic" retailers, not "low-end"), with more "large-scale" offerings long 1st thanks to the size of the street and its location across from the ballpark. All told this area of the Yards would have about 50,000 square feet of retail.
Diamond Teague Park
would also be expanded somewhat to the north of its current footprint, up to the new Potomac Avenue. It's possible that Potomac Avenue and the lower part of 1 1/2 Place could be closed at times for street festivals, etc.
As for any timeline on all of this, first Forest City has to actually acquire the land from DC Water and the city, and then has to complete the negotiations with Showplace Icon. (The fact that Forest City has even named Icon before executing the lease is a pretty big departure for the company, and shows an understanding of the need to clearly define what sort of theater experience would be on the boards.) Then the project has to go through the zoning process (it will be a PUD), and then get building permits. Forest City "hopes" to begin the approximately two years of construction for the theater in 2014, but that's a lot of ducks to get in a row first. (The residential buildings would come later.)
Audience members had questions about security (Icon uses off-duty police in Chicago, and Forest City would have its own security as well), types of films that would be offered (art-house and blockbusters), worries that the Lobby Lounge might become a club (not an issue, Icon says), and how traffic generated by the development would co-exist with 40,000 fans one block away at Nationals Park 81 nights a year (or more!). Because it's still early in the process, there weren't concrete answers to some of the concerns, but this project still has to go before ANC 6D and the Zoning Commission before being approved, so there will be plenty of opportunities for additional detail to be insisted upon.
Should I mention again that this is all still subject to both the DC Water land deal and the lease with Icon getting finalized?
Much more to come on this, obviously. And, for people who weren't at the meeting who didn't get to see any of the EARLY CONCEPTUAL NOT FINALIZED drawings, I have asked for at least the EARLY CONCEPTUAL NOT FINALIZED rendering of the glass-walled theater exterior to post, and hopefully before too long Forest City will be ready to share it.