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* The Post's DC Wire blog is reporting that at 5 pm today DCRA will be having a lottery for the 28 street vending spots near Nationals Park. "Winners will enjoy their spots for one month, starting on June 1. Then the process starts all over again with a lottery on the last Tuesday of each month until the baseball season ends." (Vendors grumbling about neon-green On the Fly's vending on Half Street have found out that the eco-vendor is actually on private property.)
* From the Examiner: David Catania gets back into the baseball carping business, saying the city should get its money back from the consultants who predicted in 2005 that the Nats would average 39,000 fans in the first year at Nationals Park, since there's only been an average of 29,000 fans during the first third of the season. Catania says "that ERA may have seriously overestimated ticket sales, which represents a major portion of stadium-related revenues." However, DC CEO Natwar Gandhi has replied that "the ballpark bonds are structured in such a way "that a significant drop in attendance would not hinder our ability to pay debt service" and that "in a worst-case scenario, total attendance at the new stadium could drop to approximately 10,000 people per game without affecting debt-service payments." The Examiner also says: "Ticket prices at the new ballpark are 20 percent higher than the consultant predicted, Gandhi said, which will drastically reduce the effect of reduced attendance." I wonder if the consultants factored in cold and miserable April weather? The Post's DC Wire has more on this.
* The Nats announced earlier this year that tours of the ballpark are available on non-gamedays; yesterday they sent out word that proceeds from those tours will benefit the team's Dream Foundation, which currently has a number of initiatives underway, including the Neighborhood Initiative that's providing three years of funding to the Earth Conservation Corps. Info about the tours is available here.
* My Ballpark and Beyond column in today's District Extra is short and sweet, with blurbs on the RiverFront/Florida Rock zoning approval and the almost-arrival of 700 new residential units at 70 and 100 I Street.
* Also in the District Extra is a big piece on whether the diversity of the Nats' roster, "combined with their state-of-the-art stadium, will be enough to attract young blacks and Latinos to the game in the District."
* DC United wants the city to pay $225 million for its Poplar Point stadium, which the Post says is "far more than some city leaders say they would support" and that "even the amount officials have considered, $150 million, has raised some concern with D.C. Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi, whose analysis has concluded such a deal could push the government above a Wall Street debt ceiling that he recommended last year." In the meantime, Marc Fisher thinks it's all a bad idea.

It's nowhere near as exciting as zoning hearings (then again, what is?), but I see that the City Council hearing on the bill to close a 2,400-sq-ft alley on Square 700 is happening tomorrow (May 29), after having been canceled back in February. The alley is just north of what used to be the BP Amoco station on South Capitol Street at N (which is now Nats Parking Lot N). Monument Realty is requesting this closure to allow for the combining of both the Amoco site and the parking lot to its north, with plans to build what was described in January as a residential building with 150-200 units and 14,000 sq ft of ground-floor retail space, as part of Monument's Half Street projects. Additional details are in my January report on Monument's request for ANC 6D's support (which they didn't get, thanks to a 2-2-1 vote). The bill is B017-0552, if you'd like some light afternoon reading. The hearing is scheduled be televised/streamed on DC Cable 13, starting at 10 am.

There's two Near Southeast projects with hearings in front of the Zoning Commission this week:
* On Wednesday (5/28) the ZC will hear the request to extend the height of the office building planned for 250 M Street. I've written about this here, and you can read the Office of Planning's final report for much more detail on the request (and see the latest design). OP recommends approval of what is technically a modification to the Capper/Carrollsburg second-stage PUD (yes, this office building is part of the Capper redevelopment). After initially refusing to vote on the plan because of a lack of community benefits, ANC 6D voted 3-3 on it at its May meeting, which means there will be no support from the ANC. (I wasn't at this meeting, so I can't give you the specifics of what the developer offered to the ANC, or why the resolution didn't pass.) It's possible that 250 M will begin construction this year, but there's no confirmation of that.
* The next night (Thursday 5/29) the ZC will undertake a Southeast Federal Center Zoning Overlay District Review for the first-phase plans of the 5.5-acre waterfront park at The Yards. This design was approved by the National Capital Planning Commission back in February (with some suggestions for refining the pedestrian bridge that is one of the focal points of the design). The Office of Planning report for Thursday's hearing gives a lot of good detail on the plans for the park, as does my original entry from when the design was unveiled. OP supports the design for the park, while also hoping for refinements to the bridge and noting that there should be additional bike racks. You can all sorts of cool renderings of the plans on my Yards Park project page. The first phase of the park is expected to be finished by the end of 2009; subsequent phases, which will include piers and retail pavilions, will come later.
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More posts: 250 M, The Yards, Yards Park, zoning

With a unanimous 5-0 vote after a brief discussion, the Zoning Commission approved last night the plans for "RiverFront," the 5.8-acre mixed-use project on the Anacostia River south of Nationals Park, ending the decade-long trip through the zoning process for the site long known as Florida Rock.
Before the final vote, chairman Anthony Hood quoted from the recent ruling by the National Capital Planning Commission that the RiverFront project "would not adversely effect" any federal interests. Remarking that the passage "says it all," Hood read: "This project is expected to bring activity and amenities to the Anacostia waterfront and is respecting the planning for the South Capitol Street corridor and the new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge. Furthermore, it is enhancing the connection of the Nationals Baseball Park and surrounding district to the Anacostia waterfront, goals supported by the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative[.]"
Now it's onto construction drawings and a trip through the city's permitting process. It's not expected that work will begin until sometime in 2009 on the first phase of the site, which includes an office building with ground-floor retail and a public plaza across Potomac Avenue from the ballpark's grand staircase. [see update below for caveat]
If you want to know more (dear heavens, I'm not going to go through all the details AGAIN), look at my project page for renderings and also scroll through five years' worth of news items on it all. UPDATE: The press release is out, and I'll note that it gives no indication of when the first phase could start. Given the Monument Realty news of financing troubles, Camden's pause at 1345 South Capitol, and the commercial real estate biz in general, it's probably best to now be pretty skeptical of start dates until permit approvals start popping up and shovels start digging into the ground.
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More posts: Florida Rock, zoning

The agenda for Monday's ANC 6D meeting has been sent around (although not posted on their web site, sigh), and it has a couple of Near Southeast items. There will be a presentation on the plans for the Waterfront Park at The Yards, in advance of a May 29 Southeast Federal Center Overlay District Review covering new structures that will be built to house retail pavilions at the park. There's also apparently a public space permit application from the Onyx folks at 1100 First Street for a fence along L Street, plus garden masonry piers and light fixtures. And the developers of the 250 M Street office building are back again, after having not gotten very far at last month's meeting with their request for support for a second-stage PUD modification at a May 28 zoning hearing to increase the building's height (but not its square footage) from what was originally approved, since the commissioners wanted a new round of community benefits in return for their support, which W.C. Smith balked at given that the project isn't requesting to take any new amount of public space. We'll see if there were any negotiations since then. The meeting will be at 7 pm at St. Augustine's church at 6th and M streets, SW.
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More posts: 250 M, ANC News, M Street, The Yards, Yards Park, zoning

Just a quick note that both the zoning review and special exception applications for the office/residential/grocery project planned at 401 M Street at The Yards and the Public Space Committee's consideration of an application for Five Guys to operate a sidewalk cafe appear to have been approved. (I didn't get to see either meeting, so I know nothing more than that.) See the entry below for additional links and details to find out what the heck I'm talking about. And normal posting here on the blog will resume very soon (I promise), since the JDLand batteries are now just about recharged.

Apr 23, 2008 10:36 AM
A somewhat busy Thursday (April 24) is on the boards:
* We might be getting some news on the state of Monument Realty's lawsuit against WMATA over the sale of the Southeastern Bus Garage to Akridge--the WMATA Board of Directors is meeting at 11 am, and the agenda for their executive session includes "Legal Issues - Monument vs. WMATA." I know nothing beyond that.
* Forest City's plans for the office/residential/retail project at 401 M Street will be getting a Southeast Federal Center Overlay District Review in front of the Zoning Commission at 6:30 pm at Suite 220 South, 441 4th St., NW; you can also catch it via live webcast, if it's working. Read more about this from my ANC 6D wrapup last week and an earlier entry on the project.
* And, if you want to make your voice heard about the public space application by Five Guys for a sidewalk seating area, the Public Space Committee will be bringing it up at its monthly meeting, at 941 North Capitol Street, NE, 7th Floor, starting at 10 am. This is the application that ANC6D refused to support last week because of the lack of a community benefits package for the "loss of public space."

Apr 17, 2008 8:56 AM
So, the faithful are streaming toward the ballpark as we speak. Although the 55 M cam showed the upper decks pretty empty with about 90 minutes to go, Channel 9 (already on the air with its coverage of the mass) gives a better view of the tens of thousands already inside. (48,000 people are expected.) How's everyone faring, either trying to get out of the neighborhood or into it for work? Or is everyone just staying home? And, for those reading this later today who went to the mass, how did your trip go?
In other news, my Ballpark and Beyond column this week is yet another one about stadium parking, taken mainly from my Monday night post about ANC 6D's muted reaction to parking and traffic issues (along with the Zoning Commission's approval of having additional lots built in Southwest if landowners want them). I also tossed in a quick roundup of the private cash lots springing up.
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More posts: ANC News, parking, Nationals Park, zoning

Apr 15, 2008 1:03 PM
I'm just going to bullet-point all this stuff. Follow links for additional background. (See my entry from last night for news on the ANC's discussion about parking and traffic issues during the first games at the ballpark.)
* The commissioners voted to support Forest City Washington's plans for an office/residential/retail project (including a grocery store) at 401 M Street in The Yards. This support hinged on a Memorandum of Understanding on community benefits being offered by Forest City, including a lottery that could allow a 25 percent preference (or higher) for ANC 6D residents when it comes to the 30ish affordable housing rental units in the 194-unit project. (The final verbage of the MOU was hashed out at the meeting; talk about watching the sausage get made.) An audience member complained that LEED certification for the project should not be considered an amenity, but Forest City replied that the city's green building law does not go into effect until 2012, and these buildings are expected to be completed in 2011. Other components include preferences for ANC 6D certified business enterprises and a promise to report yearly to the ANC about the project. A lack of a community benefits package had tripped up this request for support at the ANC's April meeting. This project now goes to the Zoning Commission for a Southeast Federal Center Overlay Review on April 24.
* A request to support William C. Smith's modifications to its plans for 250 M Street (raising the height of the building to 130 feet) was postponed, as the commissioners expressed their unhappiness at the lack of any community benefits. The developer's representatives said that community benefits were part of the original approval of the project as part of the Capper/Carrollsburg PUD, and that this modification is not resulting in any increase in square footage from that original plan. Commissioners had no suggestions for what benefits they would be seeking, only that they want more. This project may be back in front of the ANC at its May meeting, since the Zoning Commission hearing on the PUD modification isn't until late May.
* A request to support a public space permit request by Five Guys to add an outdoor seating area at its Second Street location was turned down, not only because the commissioners said that Five Guys had not provided information on the request to all the commissioners in a timely manner but because there's no offer of, you guessed it, a community benefits package in return for the "public space" being taken.
* A representative of the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs updated the commission on plans to add 40 vendors on the streets surrounding the ballpark, thanks to emergency legislation passed on April 1 by the council. The mayor is expected to sign the act today, at which point DCRA will have 21 days to identify sidewalk locations for the vendors to set up shop. It's not expected that any will be on South Capitol Street or on M Street (thanks to narrow sidewalks), and rules prohibit vendors on residential streets. However, in a few months a larger initiative will get underway, with the Capitol Riverfront BID's involvement, to create a "Development Zone" allowed for in the recent overhaul of city vending regulations, which will give the city and residents greater say in where vendors are placed, what they sell, and the appearance of their carts. And, in response to questions from commissioners and audience members: no cigarettes or alcohol will be sold at these carts, and there don't appear to be any concerns on the city's behalf about terrorism related to these carts or their operators. (I'm just reporting what was asked.)
* The commission voted to support the liquor license application of former O Street clubs Ziegfield's and Secrets to reopen at 1824 Half St., SW, at the site of the old "Lime" nightclub. A voluntary agreement with the clubs' owner was reached to address concerns about traffic, cooperation with police, and community input.

Apr 14, 2008 11:12 PM
On Monday night, without much discussion, the Zoning Commission gave approval to the request to add additional blocks in Buzzards Point to the zoning amendment allowing temporary surface parking lots near the baseball stadium. The commissioners who spoke mentioned the need to give the Nationals the flexibility the team was seeking to be able to build new surface lots as development possibly takes away the lots currently in use. The vote was unanimous, although Commissioner Turnbull stated for the record his concern that lots north of Potomac Avenue, closer to the residential portion of Southwest, could introduce significant traffic. As of now, the Nationals have announced no plans to use any lots at Buzzards Point this season.
At about the same time the Zoning Commission was voting, ANC 6D was discussing how the first few games at the ballpark went, in terms of traffic and parking impacts on Southwest and Near Southeast. And, for a group of people who, shall we say, have not been shy over the past few years about voicing fears as to how the new stadium would impact their neighborhood, the reaction was surprisingly muted. Visitor parking passes did not seem to get to all residences, additional signage needs to be installed, issues with left turns and parking enforcement on G Street, SW will need to be addressed, and there were questions about whether the parking restrictions on M Street could be eased, but overall the commissioners seemed to feel that there had been no major issues. Commissioner Robert Siegel, who represents all of the ANC east of South Capitol, proclaimed himself "very pleased." (Though Commissioner David Sobelsohn did remark that things "will go smoothly as long as the Nationals keep losing.")
The meeting itself was pretty sparsely attended, with few of the residents who have been vocal about potential problems at previous meetings on hand. Only a couple people in the audience spoke up about any issues they'd had or seen, and did so without much emotion. The discussion was over in probably about 15 minutes. If you've ever attended an ANC 6D meeting, you know how astonishing this is.
Tommy Wells will be having a community meeting to look at how the new on-street parking regulations are working, both for residential streets and the retail stretches along Pennsylvania Avenue and Barracks Row, on May 7 at 7 pm, at the Capitol Hill United Methodist Church (Fifth Street and Seward Square, SE).
There's other items to report from tonight's meeting, but I'll write about those in an entry to come.
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More posts: ANC News, parking, Nationals Park, zoning
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