Housing Complex

City Names Three Finalists to Oversee Scaled-Back Streetcar Network

streetcarIn what he described as a "bittersweet" milestone for the city's planned streetcar system, Mayor Vince Gray today announced the shortlist of three potential teams to oversee the network, which may not reach its initially intended scale after the D.C. Council cut its funding this spring.

Gray's office calculates that the Council's changes to the streetcar funding mechanism will result in $1.4 billion less in funds available for the streetcar than the mayor had requested. As a result, the parameters for the contract that will be awarded to one of the three finalists are significantly scaled back: Instead of a 22-mile priority streetcar network and an eventual 37-mile one, the city is now offering a contract for just two lines, totaling 8.2 miles.

Of the five teams that responded to the city's request for qualifications by the March 31 deadline, the city has selected a short list of three finalists: DC Transit Partners (consisting of Clark Construction, Shirley Contracting Company, and Herzog Transit Services); Capital Transit Partners (Balfour Beatty, Rail Infrastructure Inc., FCC Construction, CPT Operators, CPT Construction, and Parsons Brinckerhoff); and Potomac Transit Partners (URS, M.C. Dean, Facchina, and RDMT). The city twice informed the initial respondents that it needed additional time to draw up a shortlist, due to the Council's cuts, which came after councilmembers were concerned the city was committing too much money to the project.

After a year of review of the submissions and discussions with the short-listed teams, the city will issue a request for proposals to those teams in January 2016. Proposals will be due by May 2016, and the city hopes to select a winning team by December 2016. The city will pay each of the other two teams up to $1 million for the time they put into the proposals.

The contract for the so-called Integrated Premium Transit system was initially supposed to include not only the larger streetcar network, but also the Circulator bus network and local buses run currently run by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. The mayor's office decided to remove the Metrobus component, and has also cut back the streetcar lines included in response to the Council's changes. The Circulator remains part of the package.

Read more City Names Three Finalists to Oversee Scaled-Back Streetcar Network

Morning Links

swLots of questions remain as streetcar gets ready to start operation. [Post]

The competing proposals for development at the St. Elizabeths East Campus [WBJ]

A schism in the tiny-house community [WCP]

The story of San Francisco's diverse homeless population [Vox]

D.C. has America's second-most residential toilets per capita. [Redfin]

The sidewalk-biking ban is dumb, but it presents an opportunity to address other problems. [WABA]

Petworth funeral home hits the market for $2.2 million. [PoPville]

David Catania weighs in on transportation, housing, and growth. [GGW]

Today on the market: Southwest 2BR—$249,900

Shelter Skelter: Why Shuttering D.C. General Won’t Be Easy


Residents of the Hill East neighborhood weren’t happy when the city, facing a spike in homelessness, announced it would add 100 beds to the shelter at the former D.C. General Hospital. To assuage their concerns, city officials took pains to stress that the increased capacity would just be temporary. The extra beds, insisted the director of the Department of Human Services, were “for this hypothermia season, period. End of sentence.”

That was seven years ago. When winter began in 2007, D.C. General had 75 family shelter units. Since then, the ostensibly temporary shelter has only grown. It now has 288 family units, which weren’t nearly enough to house all of the District’s homeless families during a surge last winter that saw hundreds put up in makeshift shelter spaces in motels and recreation centers.

Given that the city has never invested in making D.C. General a viable long-term shelter, it should come as no surprise that conditions there have been subpar. There have been reports of vermin infestations, sexual predation by employees, and abuse among residents. Public outrage over the shelter’s management peaked after an 8-year-old shelter resident, Relisha Rudd, disappeared in March, apparently kidnapped by a D.C. General janitor.

Now, finally, the city is preparing to make that investment—by closing D.C. General for good. Mayor Vince Gray released a plan last week to replace D.C. General with a network of smaller shelters scattered throughout the city, possibly as soon as fall of 2015.

“Closing the D.C. General Family Shelter,” the plan states, “which was not designed to be a family shelter and has provided a stop-gap solution at best, is in the best interests of families and the District.”

But the plan, short on details in an effort to take a flexible approach, raises plenty of questions about its feasibility and the core matter of whether the city’s homeless families will truly benefit from it.

Read more Shelter Skelter: Why Shuttering D.C. General Won’t Be Easy

Loudoun County Needs Your Help Naming Its Metro Stations


With the first segment of Metro's Silver Line open, it's on to planning the next stretch. The stations in Loudoun County won't be operational until 2018 or later, but like an overeager would-be parent, the county is getting started early on coming up with baby names. One of the county's three stations, the one Washingtonians are most looking forward to, already has a name: Washington Dulles International Airport. But for the other two, Loudoun needs your help.

Metro policy requires station names to be "relevant" (using geographic features, landmarks, or nearby centers of activity), "brief" (no more than 19 characters, including spaces and punctuation), "unique" ("distinctive and not easily confused with other station names"), and "evocative" ("evoke imagery in the mind of the patron"). Given these guidelines, the best options Loudoun has come up with are as follows.

For the station at Route 606:
Broad Run
Dulles Gateway
Loudoun East
Loudoun Gateway
Loudoun Dulles North

For the station at Route 772:
Loudoun Gateway West

Yes, there's nothing quite so evocative and unique as a pair of stations named "Loudoun Gateway" and "Loudoun Gateway West."

Read more Loudoun County Needs Your Help Naming Its Metro Stations

Morning Links

anacostiaSouthwest neighbors grow frustrated over lack of community benefits in soccer stadium plan. [Post]

A new ban on sidewalk biking? [City Desk]

Tickets for sidewalk biking tend to hit minorities hardest. [Streetsblog]

Armed Forces Retirement Home developer could be chosen by next summer. [WBJ]

Deputy mayor: Post columnist got the facts wrong on affordable housing. [Post]

Metro sees a spike in indecent exposure. [City Desk]

It'd cost over $19,000 to get around by Uber for a year. [DCist]

After years of fighting, a stretch of Klingle Road will become a trail. [WBJ]

Today on the market: Anacostia 2BR condo—$79,898

Angry New York Union Skewers D.C. Building’s Pitch to Millennials


New York labor politics fall well outside the purview of this blog—until, that is, the battles lead to video spoofs of D.C. housing developments.

The Service Employees International Union's Local 32BJ, comprising doormen, janitors, and other building workers, has picked a fight with residential developer AvalonBay Communities, whose employees it's hoping to organize. In the process, it recently produced a parody video poking fun at AvalonBay's over-the-top attempts to appeal to millennial renters with its new line of apartment buildings, branded AVA.

One of these new developments is in the District. Located at 318 I St. NE, it's unsurprisingly branded AVA H Street. Studios start at $1,750. And AvalonBay's clear demographic target is millennials.

AvalonBay, based in Arlington, put out a promotional video intended to lure millennials to the building. The YouTube description accompanying the video itself reads like parody; it manages to fit the word "chill" three times into two sentences:

AVA is a new living space steps from the energy of H Street—where bars and clubs converge with galleries and restaurants, where sushi meets tacos, and music collides with performing arts. Oh yeah, and we're just blocks from Union Station Metro and Capitol Hill. At AVA H Street, the studio, 1 & 2 bedroom apartments, and a few over-the-top penthouses, feature urban-inspired design that extends beyond your walls to social spaces to connect, chill and play. There's the Loft and outdoor chill space with iPod hookups, flat screens and comfy seating for hanging out with friends or chilling alone, an awesome fitness center and lots of underground parking and bike storage. Dive in and make it yours.

Here's AvalonBay's video:

Read more Angry New York Union Skewers D.C. Building’s Pitch to Millennials

City Outlines First Steps for Implementing 25-Year Transportation Plan

A map of D.C.'s major transit networks, part of the MoveDC plan.

A map of D.C.'s major transit networks, part of the MoveDC plan.

Two hundred miles of new bike lanes and trails. Seventy additional miles of "high-capacity transit" routes for streetcars and buses. Congestion pricing downtown, and water taxis on the Potomac and Anacostia rivers. Sidewalks on every street. The city's 25-year MoveDC transportation plan released in May wasn't lacking in ambition. The question was how the District would go about hitting these audacious targets.

Today, Mayor Vince Gray provided a partial answer by releasing a two-year "action plan" that lays out the first steps in tackling the broader quarter-century initiative.

The 36 action items described in today's plan tackle a broad array of challenges. There are public transit improvements, like dedicated bus lanes on a stretch of Georgia Avenue NW, traffic-light priority for 16th Street NW buses, and real-time arrival information in bus shelters across the city. There are cycling boosts, like 15 miles of new or upgraded bike lanes, completion of segments of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail and the Metropolitan Branch Trail, and a study of bike infrastructure improvements for the east side of downtown. There are major road construction projects, like starting construction on a new Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge and working on replacing other structurally deficient bridges. And there are pedestrian benefits, including at least 25 blocks of new sidewalks and safety measures at intersections.

In addition, the District Department of Transportation released the final version of the full MoveDC plan. Today's releases mark the end of an 18-month planning process, which will now transition to implementation.

Map via MoveDC

In a Changing Washington, Lots of Stuff


As it does nearly every year, the New York Times discovered D.C. dining yesterday. The conceit of the story was the same as all the others: High-quality restaurants are—magically, mysteriously—materializing in heretofore wastelands like "once-dicey Adams Morgan," "the emerging neighborhood of Bloomingdale just blocks from a public-housing project," and "the once highly shady Logan Circle." To spare you the trouble of continuing to read these Groundhog Day-like accounts of D.C.'s remarkable transformation, here's an amalgamation of every such Times story, past and future.

The corner of 10th and F streets NW in Washington, D.C., is best known for a horrific murder that once occurred there, in which a crazed gunman opened fire inside Ford's Theatre.

These days, the historically troubled intersection has begun to show signs of a rebirth. Two trendy European fashion boutiques, Zara and H&M, have set up shop at the northwest corner, enticing well-heeled young professionals with edgy music projected onto the street. So has Madame Tussaud's, a popular tourist attraction that seeks to preserve in wax the former faces of a fast-changing city.

Welcome to the new Washington. The capital's reputation for fusty steakhouses and musty suits and dusty lobby shops is going the way of the boaters who have recently drowned in the Potomac River, lured by the city's newfound sense of adventure.

In Mount Pleasant, a neighborhood known for its legacy of racial strife and located just blocks from a massive public housing complex, mothers can sometimes be seen pushing strollers without any apparent sense of fear for their safety. In Anacostia, famous in earlier times for its bucolic rolling hills, people now live in houses and apartments and shop in stores. Exclusive Reston, long an isolated enclave of the fortunate, is now accessible to wide-eyed Washingtonians via the new Silver Line subway.

Read more In a Changing Washington, Lots of Stuff

Morning Links

easternWill Sheridan Station live up to its promise? [GGW]

A large chunk of the Armed Forces Retirement Home is again up for development. [WBJ]

At "Yards West," Zoning Commission pushes for family-size units. [JDLand]

The landlord side of the affordable-housing equation [Post]

One of the ways landlords take advantage of poor tenants [Next City]

WMATA reassesses its entire Metrobus structure. [PlanItMetro]

JBG's Atlantic Plumbing condos hit the market for up to $2 million. [WBJ]

A 12-bedroom guest house in Woodley Park heads to auction. [UrbanTurf]

DDOT will reconfigure a dangerous stretch of Arkansas Avenue NW. [GGW]

Today on the market: Fixer-upper near the city's eastern tip—$189,500

Get Ready for the Hordes: D.C. Is Lonely Planet’s Top Tourist Site for 2015

lincolnThought the crush around the Tidal Basin during the Cherry Blossom Festival (or on the left side of the Metro escalator) was bad this year? Just wait till 2015. Lonely Planet has come out with its top 10 global destinations for the coming year, and the District is No. 1.

Credit the Smithsonian museums, new developments like CityCenterDC and The Yards, and restaurateur José Andrés for the top ranking, all cited by Lonely Planet in its glowing writeup of the District's offerings. And of course there's an anniversary peg, the sure-to-be-festive 150th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln's assassination, which "will be marked with the kind of pomp you’d expect from a city whose official religion is national politics and whose history is etched into America’s foundation story," according to the Lonely Planet.

It's the first time D.C. has made Lonely Planet's list at all, according to the Washington Business Journal, which first reported the news.

D.C. beat out a list of famous and not-so-famous destinations for the No. 1 spot; it's followed in the rankings by El Chaltén, Argentina; Milan, Italy; Zermatt, Switzerland; Valletta, Malta; and Plovdiv, Bulgaria.

Of course, there's always an element of arbitrariness in these types of rankings, which often go out of their way not to include previous picks. And so it's not clear that Lonely Planet's choices will truly bring a substantial tourism boost to the District—not an obscure destination to begin with—to eat at Jaleo and check out mementos of our 16th president's bloody death.

Read more Get Ready for the Hordes: D.C. Is Lonely Planet’s Top Tourist Site for 2015