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While it needs to be stressed that there is currently no evidence of this being a done deal, it should be passed along that city officials have apparently been considering renovating the old GSA warehouse at Half and L Streets, SE, into a shelter for homeless families.
This is the building that was the subject of a drive back in 2013 by residents who hoped that it could be transferred to city control and eventually become a "market and community space" called the Half Street Market. And it was a little over a year ago that the news came out that the federal government was indeed looking at swapping the building for construction services to be provided by DC at the St. Elizabeth's/Department of Homeland Security site.
My understanding is that Ward 6 council member Charles Allen, while acknowledging the need for such a shelter, is not in favor of using this particular building in its current one-story warehouse form for such a project, citing the loss of potential development above ground level on the site as well as retail in a space so close to both the Navy Yard Metro station and Nationals Park just down Half Street.
(And, it must be said, the optics of having the words "warehouse" and "homeless shelter" so closely tied together are a bit cringeworthy.)
The building is also getting a new neighbor on its southern end, as a Homewood Suites hotel is currently under construction at 50 M.
I sent a request on Monday to the mayor's press office for additional information, but haven't as yet heard back. If I do (because you know how top-level offices love responding to requests from low-profile bloggers), I'll update this post.
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More posts: 49l, Development News, halfstmarket

A press release put out by Eleanor Holmes Norton this morning says that the General Services Administration "has entered into formal negotiations with the District of Columbia government regarding property located at 49 L St. SE[.]"
The proposal apparently is to exchange both the L Street building and its land for various streetscape and construction improvements to be performed by the District along of Martin Luther King Avenue adjacent to St. Elizabeths. "In return, the District would own 49 L Street SE in fee simple with full rights and ownership over the property."
Quoting the quote from the EHN release: " 'This exchange takes GSA further with work necessary to complete the DHS headquarters,' Norton said. 'In the process of moving a DHS priority, GSA has found a way to dispose of the long-underutilized 49 L Street SE by exchanging it for construction services from the District.' "
This is the building that residents have eyed as possibly becoming the Half Street Market, envisioning the building as a "public venue for a food market, restaurant, and flexible community space." (The group recently posted a new video rendering of their reimagining.)
As the release says, this is still in the negotiations stage, and even if the city does get the building there will then be I imagine a process about how to handle the site, but it's the first sign of movement since the flurry of activity about the building and the market idea back in 2013.
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More posts: 49l, Development News, halfstmarket

I wasn't able to be at Thursday's hearing on the fate of the federally owned warehouse at Half and L Streets, but I can cobble together an update thanks to the folks who were there:
City Paper: "A group of Capitol Riverfront residents has been pushing to turn a vacant warehouse at 49 L Street SE into a community amenity called the Half Street Market. But if a congressional hearing there this morning was any indication, they may be facing an uphill battle."
WashPost: "An official for the General Services Administration, which manges federal real estate, told the representatives that the 32,013-square-foot brick building was no longer needed by the government and that the agency was in the process of preparing it to be sold or traded for construction services on other projects, for which the GSA is in need of funding.
"'Given the high real estate value and rate of growth in the surrounding Capitol Riverfront neighborhood, the 49 L Street property presents us with many potential opportunities to find a better use for or to dispose of a vacant property from the federal real estate inventory and provide considerable savings to taxpayers,' said Michael Gelber, acting deputy commissioner of the GSA’s Public Buildings Service."
WBJ: "D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells, D-Ward 6, testified, saying that the District could be willing to put up the $19 million price tag for the property. U.S. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., spoke passionately in support of the project.
"The will is certainly there. But what of the way?
WashPost: "The GSA, however, is not in the business of giving away property at a discount even if its acting administrator, Dan Tangherlini, is a former D.C. city administrator and transportation official. Gelber reiterated in an interview that the agency’s preference was to trade the building for construction services, similar to the way the GSA is trying to use the J. Edgar Hoover Building as a trading chip for a new FBI headquarters elsewhere in the region.
"GSA has not disclosed how much it believes the L Street warehouse is worth but Gelber said putting it up for auction, as the agency did with the West Heating Plant, would likely fetch the highest price. Adding a requirement that a market be part of the redevelopment wasn't likely to help the sales price — quite the opposite. 'The more conditions you put on a sale the more that you affect valuation,' he said.
City Paper: "So it appears likely that the feds will be selling the property to the highest bidder—and with Union Market and Eastern Market both within a few miles of the site, the highest bidder probably won't want another market there."
JDLand: It's also worth noting that 50 M Street, the empty lot on the south end of the warehouse's block, fronting M Street directly across from the Navy Yard Metro station entrance, is now on the market, making it possible for a developer to have the entire block if it were to gain control of the warehouse and buy the 50 M site.
UPDATE: Here's Urban Turf's take on the hearing, which includes this:
"A sizable contingent (for a Thursday morning) came out to the meeting in support of the Half Street concept, and Councilmember Tommy Wells and ANC 6D Commissioner Ed Kaminski testified in support of the project. Kaminski brought up a potential revenue stream that could help fund the market and culinary incubators on the ground floor: a boutique hotel on the upper floors could send a stream of cash to the GSA. Generally, Kaminski felt that the air rights over the warehouse could be utilized in a profitable manner.
The representatives seemed supportive of the local officials, and were open to the prospect of putting in motion a process that would lead to selling the building to the city. However, the question remains: can DC afford it?"
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More posts: 49l, halfstmarket, meetings

News came via Twitter on Thursday that the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform's Government Operations subcommittee will be holding a hearing on the future use of the empty warehouse owned by the Feds at Half and L SE, the building being eyed by neighbors as the potential Half Street Market.
Tommy Wells and ANC 6D02 commissioner Ed Kaminski will be testifying in support of returning the building back to DC's control, and to make it all even more festive, the hearing is going to be held in the warehouse itself, at 9:30 am on Thursday, April 25.
Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.), who is the chair of the committee, has been making his displeasure known about the (lack of) speed with which GSA has been disposing of excess property. And, as Housing Complex puts it today, "At the time, Rep. Jeff Denham (R-Calif.) said the subcommittee would consider holding hearings at vacant federal properties around the country if GSA didn't start moving on them more quickly. Now, the congressmen appear to be making good on their pledge."
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More posts: 49l, halfstmarket, meetings

The resident organizers of a drive to transform the warehouse at Half and L Streets SE into a "Half Street Market" are holding a public meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 19 at 7 pm at 200 I Street (aka the Post Plant, aka 225 Virginia Avenue).
The "idea and design team" -- now with neighboring ANC 6D07 commissioner David Garber taking on a larger role and 6D02 commissioner Ed Kaminski having "stepped away," according to Garber -- are wanting to have the building become a "public market, restaurant(s), and culinary incubator/training center."
There's no indication from GSA that the building's move to the surplus list is imminent, and there's also questions on how exactly the building (on such valuable land, just north of the Navy Yard Metro station's Half Street entrance) would escape being auctioned to net the feds millions of dollars and instead be transferred to the city and/or some as-yet-uncreated nonprofit group. This would have to happen under the federal guidelines for acquiring federal real property for educational purposes, which includes applying to the Department of Education to sponsor the transfer and which would seem to require that the incubator/training center be the centerpiece of the building's new mission. On the other hand, Garber recently described the project in an e-mail to his neighborhood mailing list as "still in its infancy and constantly evolving," so no doubt the organizers of the drive to acquire the building have a plan they feel will meet the feds' requirements.
I probably won't be at the meeting, so if you're interested in the project, best get thee to 200 I on Tuesday rather than looking for a summary here.
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More posts: 49l, halfstmarket, meetings

Could Near Southeast get a new "food destination"? Resident Nathan Alberg and new 6D02 commissioner Ed Kaminski are proposing that the federally owned warehouse at Half and L SE be converted to a market and community space called the "Half Street Market," and are now starting the process of drumming up support.
Alberg, who lives just across the street and so presumably has spent a lot of time looking out his window at the warehouse, envisions the building as a site similar to Eastern Market or the new Union Market in Northeast DC, or Milwaukee's Public Market. He hopes it could "offer independent merchants a market to sell their artisan foods and prepared food products to the public, provide a managed risk incubator for self-employment, to provide public culinary training and education in a working demonstration restaurant, drive the development of new food markets, income generation, increased economic growth." In other words, it could be a combination indoor/outdoor market, cooking school, and rentable event space.
A survey to gauge interest in the idea is currently being run (so go give them your input!), and a public meeting will be held sometime in early February to discuss the notion further. This presentation was made to residents of Velocity this week, though it's stressed that these are early concepts.
How exactly the building would go from excess GSA space to Half Street Market is a bit murky--Alberg, Kaminski, and 6D07 commissioner David Garber say that the feds are "in the process of potentially auctioning the building or possibly giving it to the city." The warehouse, built around 1924, is on a nearly 30,000-square-foot lot, which was most recently assessed at $19.2 million. Just to the south is an empty lot facing M Street where a Sunoco station once stood and is the current home to Nats Parking Lot J.* Those two lots together, creating a block the same size as the 80 M office building, directly across M Street from the Navy Yard Metro station and a block away from Nats Park, would presumably be pretty appetizing to deep-pocketed developers, so if the warehouse property were to go to auction, it probably wouldn't be sold on the cheap.
What do you think, readers?
(* Side note: The old Sunoco site has been known as 50 M Street, being marketed by Monument Realty and owned in a partnership by Monument, MacFarlane, and Lehman. But my understanding is that, with the property being worth less than the loan, and with Lehman also being the lender on the loan, this site, along with the lot on the old BP site at Half and N that had the same ownership configuration, has gone through "foreclosure" in recent days so that Lehman now is the sole owner.)
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More posts: 49l, Development News, halfstmarket, sq699

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