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10 Blog Posts Since 2003

The week begins with the news that WC Smith is officially beginning construction this week on 800 New Jersey, the 336-unit apartment building just south of the Southeast Freeway and just north of the topped-out Park Chelsea.
And, in case you don't believe me, I have proof! Witness dirt being dug! A press release from WC Smith officially announcing the start of the $87 million construction project says that pile driving operations will be getting underway this week.
But of course the excitement in the neighborhood surrounding this project isn't for the arrival of still more residential units--it's for the building's 35,000 square feet of ground-floor retail space, which will be home to a long-sought Whole Foods after the building is completed in late 2016.
And, just like with its sibling to the south, 800 NJ's construction will include the construction and opening of a "new" street between 2nd and New Jersey--this time it will be H Street, running from just north of 200 I over to New Jersey just south of the freeway.
This is the second of three residential buildings on the block, with a third, 393-unit building fronting 2nd Street to follow. Residents in all three buildings will be able to use the facilities in every building, giving them "unparalleled access" to club rooms, game rooms, rooftop pools, an indoor lap pool, exercise facilities, dog walk areas, a demonstration kitchen and the 15,000 square foot courtyard.
As for the Park Chelsea, having been topped out a few weeks ago, work continues, with the bricking of the exterior being the next obvious milestone now underway.
My camera got a tour of the Park Chelsea this afternoon, and everyone better appreciate the 12 flights of stairs I walked up to get some of these pictures. (I do and I do and I do for you people.) It is expected to open in Spring 2015.
 

* TEETER AND VIDA: At last week's BID meeting, Michael Stevens said that Forest City would soon be "handing the keys" to Harris Teeter to begin their build out at the north end of Twelve12. And apparently the Vida Fitness space on the south end of the block will be turned over very soon to its tenants as well. Vida is looking at a summer opening, and Teeter in the fall. And leasing for the apartments themselves should start this spring.
* WHOLE FOODS: Meanwhile, at that other grocery store/residential site, I'm told that some initial infrastructure work is already underway (probably hard to really differentiate it with all the work going on at the Park Chelsea next door). The plan is still for 800 New Jersey/Whole Foods to officially get underway this spring, probably in March (which so often is the month that a developer's thoughts turn to excavation).
* A VIEW OF THE PARK: And, speaking of the Park Chelsea, I can now offer this high-speed photo of the construction from a different vantage point from usual (and no, I didn't walk up onto the freeway):
Of course, this view of the Park Chelsea will only last until 800 New Jersey starts sprouting in the spot in between this construction and the freeway.
* FREEWAY VISTAS: It's been a while since I've updated my skyline-from-the-freeway images, but I did get them this weekend. I would suggest taking a look at the whole lot, but this is probably the best comparison, of January 2005 to the present:
At center of the new image is the River Parc residential building speeding along next to Velocity. But these two don't even tell the entire story of the eight years that passed between them--check out the complete lineup of images from this angle to see the other buildings that went up since 2005 but are now obscured.
But really, check out all the before-and-afters I've taken from the freeway at South Capitol over the past 14 years, and click on the See All Photos of This Angle icons to see the progressions.
* THE CRAZY AUNT AND HER SLIDES: Sunday was the 11th anniversary of that fateful drive around the neighborhood that resulted in some photos on my web site, and then yadda yadda, here we are. So of course I have to point you to those pictures. (Though yes, technically I took my first photos of the area in fall 2000, but those were on bad film and I didn't even rediscover them until 2004.)
***UPDATE***: Adding on to this post with the news that Bluejacket and its much-touted head brewer Megan Parisi have parted ways, according to the Post.
 

I guess Whole Foods figured that waiting another month for an official announcement after yesterday's flurry of news was a little unnecessary, because this morning there is an official release--and a new rendering, with all the appropriate signage (click to embiggen). The under-construction Park Chelsea is visible to the right, so this view is of the corner of New Jersey and H.
The William C. Smith release:
"Washington, DC - Developer WC Smith has signed Whole Foods Market to anchor the retail portion of its $443 million development in the District’s Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. The 36,000 square foot store will be located on the first floor of the second of three residential buildings the company has in development on New Jersey Avenue SE, two blocks from the Navy Yard Metro station.
"'We are delighted to welcome Whole Foods to the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood,' said Chris Smith, chairman and CEO of WC Smith. 'Their dedication to healthy living and commitment to community dovetails with our mission of creating green, sustainable communities for residents of the District of Columbia.'
"The first component of the new development, a 432-unit luxury apartment building known as Park Chelsea, is currently under construction with a projected fall 2014 delivery date. Construction on the second building is scheduled to begin early in 2014, with a 2017 opening of the Whole Foods Market and delivery of 336 residential units. The residential units will offer 10 foot ceilings and a commanding view of the Capitol and the monumental skyline. Completion of the third Class A residential building will bring the unit total to over 1,100 for the development.
"All of the buildings will provide on-site parking and will be highly amenitized with club rooms, rooftop pools, and exercise facilities. Additionally, each site will offer a unique amenity space for use by residents of all three buildings. Those amenities include an indoor lap pool, an all-purpose gymnasium, a demonstration kitchen, and a 15,000 square foot courtyard. The development is within walking distance of both the Navy Yard and Capitol South Metro stations and adjacent to newly created Canal Park with water features, ice skating rink, public art, programmed activities, and Park Tavern restaurant."
UPDATE: The separate joint release with Whole Foods is a little long to cut-and-paste, but there's this quote:
"'Washingtonians asked and we listened,” said Scott Allshouse, Whole Foods Market Mid-Atlantic regional president. “People who live and work in Southeast have been requesting a Whole Foods Market for some time. We are thrilled about finding the right fit given the combination of factors that go into deciding on a new location.'"
 

A mere 11 years after the notion was first floated, there is apparently finally a signed contract to bring a Whole Foods grocery store to 800 New Jersey Avenue SE. Though the chain isn't expected to make an official announcement until next month, a representative of WC Smith told Monday night's ANC 6D meeting of the news.
Note that the store won't be at the Park Chelsea, WC Smith's apartment building currently under construction at 880 New Jersey. This will be a new apartment building just to the north, running along the to-be-rebuilt H Street between New Jersey and 2nd, immediately south of the freeway. It's expected to have 330ish units and all the usual amenities. But with construction not currently expected to start until spring 2014, and the timeline of the buildouts of both the building and the interior work for the store, you probably won't be buying your quinoa there before 2017.
This is a deal that has started and stopped more than once, the last time around in 2011 when Smith looked for an $8 million tax break for the project, an idea which died a few months later.
The neighborhood's other grocery store, Harris Teeter, is currently under construction at the Twelve12 apartment project in the Yards, and is now expected to open in the fall of 2014.
 

The Washington Post is reporting that developer William C. Smith is "no longer seeking" a proposed $8 million tax abatement to bring Whole Foods to a planned 375-unit apartment building at 800 New Jersey Ave., SE, and that in fact the news coverage of the proposal may have killed the deal altogether.
The article quotes a statement from Whole Foods saying that the company "was not involved in any tax break or lease agreement negotiations" with WC Smith, and Michael Stevens of the BID is quoted as saying "I used to know that Whole Foods wanted to be in the neighborhood. After that article, I don't know anymore."
Whether the entire Whole Foods deal is truly dead or there's just some steam being let off is not 100 percent clear in the article, though it quotes an anonymous source as saying that Whole Foods could still end up somewhere in the area and is "fielding entreaties from other developers."
This is/was not the only grocery store planned for Near Southeast, with Forest City including supermarket space in the apartment building that it has planned for 401 M St., SE at the Yards, which could be getting underway late this year or early in 2012. (Standard statement whenever mentioning this: it's long been reported that Harris Teeter will be occupying that space, but neither Forest City nor the grocery chain have ever publicly announced a deal.)
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More posts: Retail, WC Smith/Square 737, wholefoods
 

From Tuesday's Washington Post, confirmation at last at what has been reported since 2002, but with a bit of a twist:
"Whole Foods Market and a D.C. real estate firm are interested in building a new store in Southeast Washington near Nationals Park, but the developer says that luring the grocer would require $8 million in tax breaks. William C. Smith and Co. is proposing a 39,000-square-foot Whole Foods for 800 New Jersey Ave. SE as part of a building that would include 375 apartments."
More: "Smith said the $800,000 annual tax break would cover requests by Whole Foods including an additional level of underground parking, extra elevators and higher ceilings on the bottom floor. Without the tax break, he said, he would either wait to develop the site or build a smaller apartment building with little or no retail."
Tax breaks for developments are being requested more frequently during this Era of Economic Difficulties, but the city's own financial troubles, and the amount of assistance that has been going to Ward 6 in comparison to other parts of the city, may make a request like this a tough sell, the article says.
There are already plans to bring a not-officially-named grocery store (*cough*Harris Teeter*cough*) to the neighborhood perhaps in 2013 at 4th and M in the Yards. This Whole Foods site, though, would also be a draw not only for Near Southeast residents but for folks on the south side of Capitol Hill, given its location just on the other side of the Southeast Freeway. You can see some photos of the site here.
WC Smith has been planning a four-building, 1.1-million square foot office/residential/retail project on this block (Square 737) for some time. The transfer of a small plot of land known Reservation 17A was finally completed last year from the Feds to the city, clearing a long-time bureaucratic hurdle to getting the site redeveloped. (This will also allow I Street to be built through between 2nd and New Jersey once the DPW building just to the south is demolished, which may happen this year.)
There has been chatter over the past few months that Smith was pitching the entire site for the 1.1-million-square-foot Department of Homeland Security lease that GSA currently has out for bid--this movement on getting a residential building started might seem to signal a shift from that possibility, along with being another indication that developers are sensing Near Southeast is a strong residential market.
This lot is next to 225 Virginia Avenue, the old Star/Post plant that is hours away from starting its transformation into 200 I Street, which will be home to three city agencies when its "re-skinning" and renovation is completed within the next two years.
(A note: The article says that WC Smith purchased the land from the Post in 2000 for $50 million; I think a decimal point got lost somewhere, because DC Property Records say that the lot, which used to be home to an old warehouse owned by the Washington Star and then the Washington Post, sold for $50,000 in December 1999. That number might not be right either, but considering that even now, in a completely changed neighborhood 11 years later, the 800 New Jersey land is assessed at just over $19 million $58 million, I doubt that Smith paid $50 million. [UPDATED because I looked at only one assessment record instead of three.] The WC Smith parcels were assessed at about $2.5 million in 2001, the oldest records that I have.)
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More posts: Retail, WC Smith/Square 737, wholefoods
 

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.
 

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.
 

Today's print edition of the Washington Business Journal reports that the Blue Castle at 770 M Street has sold again, this time for $25 million to Madison Marquette. The company's managing director of investment told WBJ that the building could be refurbished as a mixed-use development that would serve as an anchor to Barracks Row, and that "the space probably will have one or more major retailers as well as restaurants, an office or residential component and possibly a grocery store." The groups currently in the building have leases that expire in 2012. Preferred Real Estate Investments bought the building in December 2005 for $20.2 million, saying at the time that the building was ideal for retail stores such as a Barnes & Noble bookstore and a Whole Foods grocery, and that they hoped to start construction in 2007.
UPDATE: I guess I should have mentioned that the Blue Castle used to be a trolley barn.
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More posts: Blue Castle, East of 11th Street, M Street, Retail, wholefoods
 

Today was a bonanza of Near Southeast alley closing requests, as four pending bills received their public hearings in front of the city council "Committee of the Whole" (i.e., Chairman Cropp, the only council member in attendance).
The first was B16-0799, alley closings and new street designations as part of the Capitol Quarter/Capper Carrollsburg project. Nothing really new in the testimony, except that it has been requested that the bill be considered by the council on an emergency basis, in order to help speed the process of getting the project underway. Ms. Cropp called the project "very, very exciting" and seemed particularly enthused by the mixed-income aspect of the project, noting that the city's past creation of "economic ghettos" hasn't worked out well.
Next up was B16-0888, which seeks to reopen H and I streets between 2nd and New Jersey, and to close alleys and streets within those two blocks; I was not aware until today that a portion of this land is actually federal land (Reservation 17A), which is part of the land transfer bill currently pending before Congress. The northern block (Square 737, north of I) is where William C. Smith is planning a mixed-use project, which in their testimony they broke out as two office buildings totalling 600,000 sq ft, two apartment buildings totalling 600 units (with a 10% affordable housing component), 1100 parking spaces, and 80,000-100,000 sq ft of retail space. They mentioned that back when they first bought the land in 1999 they got a letter of intent from Whole Foods to include a grocery store in this location, but then Whole Foods came down and saw that at that point there wasn't a whole lot of development going on, they pulled out; but Smith is still very interested in getting a grocery store in this development. They anticipate beginning work on this project in 2008 and completing it in 2011. As for Square 739 (where the DPW trash transfer station currently resides), it is actually part of the Capper/Carrollsburg redevelopment, and plans are for a 322-unit apartment building with 115 affordable units, and also ground-floor retail. They don't anticipate beginning work on the building for at least another 4 to 5 years. Ms. Cropp did express some concerns about where the DPW vehicles will be relocated to, given the lack of industrial land left in the city.
After lunch was B16-0879, Monument Realty's request for alley closings on Square 701 between Cushing, Half, M, and N (in the block just north of the ballpark) as part of their "Ballpark Phase I" project, which also includes the expansion of the Navy Yard Metro station at Half Street, which Monument is responsible for as part of their purchase of the WMATA land on the southwest corner of Half and M. New news from the hearing is that there will also be a hotel in addition to the previously announced 275,000-sq-ft office building at Half and M and the 350-unit residential building (mix of rental and condo, with up to 20% affordable housing) at Half and N--Monument is working with W Aloft to develop a 200-key boutique hotel on Half Street. The entire project will have 700 parking spaces, and Monument is planning to begin construction in January 2007 so that these three levels of underground parking (as well as perhaps some of the 50,000 sq ft of planned ground floor retail) can be completed by Opening Day 2008; they will then continue work on the upper floors to have the entire project completed in 2009. UPDATE: I should also note that as part of their plans, Monument will be extending Cushing Place approximately 80 feet, so that it will run through to N Street
Finally came B16-0880, another request from Monument Realty, this time for alley closings on the west side of Square 700, just across Half Street from the Phase I project in the previous alley closing hearing. They are still negotiating with WMATA to attempt to purchase the bus depot land on Square 700, but in the meantime are moving forward with a 115,000-sq-ft/100 unit residential project on the northwest corner of Half and N, on the site of the Good N Plenty carryout (whose lease expires today, it was mentioned). This project will have 12,000 sq ft of ground-floor retail, which, given its location directly across from the stadium plaza entrance, will be quite a prime location. Ms. Cropp was concerned that the project will only have two levels/74 spaces of underground parking (you got the feeling that parking is very much on her mind these days!). There was no stated timeframe for this project, except to say "after Square 701." And of course by then they'll have probably secured the bus depot.
For all of these bills, the next step I believe is getting them on the council consent calendar, for votes to be taken.
Is that enough information? Can I stop now? :-)
UPDATE: These hearings are all available via DC Cable 13's on-demand video offerings.
 




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