Housing Complex

Morning Links

takomaThe rapid rehousing pinch gets tighter as the city cuts back. [Post]

A post-exit interview with Victor Hoskins [WBJ]

Profiles of three people who have helped build D.C. (including Hoskins' wife). [Post]

The life and houses of R. Donahue Peebles [WSJ]

In defense of shoaling. [CityLab]

The Pigskins and D.C. Olympics backers find themselves allying on a new RFK Stadium. [Post]

Fires force Marriott Wardman Park guests to sleep in ballrooms. [WJLA]

Metro critiques Boston's Silver Line. [PlanItMetro]

Today on the market: Takoma 2BR condo—$329,900

Busboys and Poets in Negotiations to Open Location at Hecht’s Development

From NY_Option-Glass Block

Well that was quick. Just a day after Mayor Vince Gray released a plan to spiff up Ward 5's industrial properties comes news that one such property is about to get quite spiffy.

The former Hecht Company distribution center at 1401 New York Ave. NE, a 1937 Art Deco behemoth that's stood vacant for nearly a decade, is in the process of starting a new life as residences and retail, courtesy of Douglas Development. As of the January groundbreaking, Douglas had attracted two major retail tenants: Mom's Organic Market and Planet Fitness. But Washingtonian's Marisa Kashino reports that a slew of other tenants have signed on, portending a buzzy future for the derelict site in struggling Ivy City.

Among the future tenants at Hecht's, Douglas founder and president Doug Jemal told Kashino, will be Busboys and Poets, Banana Republic, Gap, Nike, Petco, and three restaurants from the people behind Ghibellina and Acqua Al 2.

Read more Busboys and Poets in Negotiations to Open Location at Hecht’s Development

Morning Links

loganD.C. wasn't really built on a swamp. [Post]

Why a big federal building is missing a corner. [GGW]

Schools plan is needed, and mayoral candidates aren't being helpful. [Post]

Reactions to the prospect of a new football stadium. [WBJ]

Better alternatives to a new stadium at the RFK site. [Tim Krepp]

The Canadians turn bike lane-blocking on its head. [GGW]

For ANCs, a little neighborhood outreach goes a long way. [SALM]

Data wonks: Get your latest raw Metro ridership numbers. [PlanItMetro]

Today on the market: Logan Circle 3BR condo—$1,849,900

Today on the Market: Fannie Mae’s Headquarters


Many property owners in D.C. are looking to cash out in an up market, but this set of properties soon to be up for sale stands apart. As first reported in the Wall Street Journal, Fannie Mae announced yesterday that it is planning to sell its deluxe headquarters on Wisconsin Avenue NW, as well as two other buildings it owns, in order to consolidate its five D.C. locations into a single leased space.

The headquarters building, across from Sidwell Friends School at 3900 Wisconsin Ave. NW, is one of the most palatial properties to hit the market in D.C. in recent years, a sprawling brick facility spread over 422,876 square feet of land and assessed by the city this year at $81 million. But the other two buildings Fannie Mae plans to sell are no dives either: Nearby 3939 Wisconsin Ave. NW is worth $20 million and 4250 Connecticut Ave. NW $71 million, according to city property records.

Fannie Mae, the government-sponsored mortgage backer, faces an uncertain future amid congressional efforts to disband it, along with its companion Freddie Mac. Fannie Mae spokesman Pete Bakel told the Washington Post's Jonathan O'Connell that possible congressional action wasn't a factor in the decision to sell the properties, which was instead driven by the need to operate more efficiently through consolidation.

Update: According to a press release from Mayor Vince Gray, Fannie Mae announced that it would remain in the District. “Fannie Mae has been an important corporate citizen of the District for more than 50 years, and I look forward to them remaining in our city for many years to come,” Gray said in a statement. “I thank the leadership of Fannie Mae for its commitment to stay in the District of Columbia as they consolidate their office space into one building.”

Image via Google Maps

Mr. Gray Goes to Beijing (Again)

Gray_4Many D.C. residents are embarking on their final summer travel this weekend, but for Mayor Vince Gray, the fun's only just beginning. Next Wednesday, his office just announced, he'll start out on a 10-day trip to China.

It's the second time during his administration Gray will have visited China, the top overseas source of tourists to the District and an increasingly important investor in D.C. projects. Chinese nationals comprise the bulk of investors in D.C. real-estate developments through the EB-5 program, a federal system for granting foreigners green cards in exchange for financial investment and job creation in the United States.

Investment and trade will be at the forefront of Gray's itinerary in China. He'll attend a ribbon cutting for the opening of the second D.C. China Center, in Beijing. These centers aim to promote economic interaction between the District and China. The first center, located in Shanghai, opened in 2012.

Gray will also celebrate the 30th anniversary of the District's sister-city relationship with Beijing and tour the No. 65 Middle School in Beijing "in an effort to establish a Sister School Relationship with McKinley Technology Education Campus in the District," according to a press release.

Jeff Miller, the interim Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, will accompany Gray on the trip. Gray has made closer ties to China a priority of his administration and touted recent developments like the start of direct Air China flights between Washington Dulles International Airport and Beijing. Read more Mr. Gray Goes to Beijing (Again)

Morning Links

bellevueDan Snyder: Football team is working on design for new stadium. [Comcast SportsNet]

And it could be a dome on the RFK site. [NBC4]

Where have all the dive bars gone? And can they be replaced? [WCP]

This is where people ride the bus at night. [PlanItMetro]

Vince Gray to mayoral candidates: Don't politicize the schools. [LL]

Amid 90-degree temperatures, Sursum Corda residents may be without power for days. [WJLA]

GSA backs Hoover Building swap, though not others. [WBJ]

The history of Ward 8's roads [GGW]

Developer offers Rhode Island Avenue NW condo association $500,000 for air rights over driveway. [SALM]

Today on the market: Brick house in Bellevue—$299,999

Zone Defense


Border Patrol: Residents are griping about losing access to Wilson High School.

It took just 20 minutes from the time Mayor Vince Gray announced his planned overhaul of the city’s public school assignment system last Thursday for the boos to start raining down on the DC Urban Moms and Dads online discussion forum. “Well, that sucks,” was the first reaction, from a Crestwood resident posting anonymously. “Just lost Deal Middle School access, which was a prime reason for buying our house 2 years ago. Wondering what this does to our property value.”

Two hours later, an email of a different sort hit the Mount Pleasant neighborhood listserv. “We did it!!!” was the subject line. “The adopted plan puts all of Mount Pleasant in bounds for Bancroft Elementary, Deal Middle School, and Wilson High School,” read the message, written by Joshua Louria, a five-year Mount Pleasant resident who’s worked with neighbors to try to persuade D.C.’s political leaders to give the neighborhood continued access to the city’s best-regarded public middle and high schools. “The adoption of this plan goes a long way toward ensuring excellent educational opportunities for years to come for our diverse Bancroft and Mount Pleasant community.”

It was inevitable that the first comprehensive redrawing of school assignment boundaries in more than 40 years would produce sharply different reactions among the perceived winners and losers of the process. The current system is riddled with problems: Convoluted feeder patterns allow a wide swath of the city to attend Deal and Wilson, both located west of Rock Creek Park, resulting in overcrowding at these schools while many in the eastern part of the city suffer from underenrollment. But any attempt to resolve this imbalance requires cutting off access to the city’s most popular schools for certain neighborhoods—where, intensifying things further, people may have bought homes with the expectation that their children would attend those schools.

And no two neighborhoods are more divided in their assessment of Gray’s redrawing of the boundaries than Mount Pleasant and adjacent Crestwood.

Until now, these neighborhoods have been geographically divided by the skinny stretch of greenery straddling Piney Branch Parkway but otherwise had much in common. They both jut westward from 16th Street NW into enclaves tucked within the east side of Rock Creek Park. They both have attractive housing stocks and increasingly affluent populations. And both have long enjoyed access to Deal and Wilson, despite their location on the other side of the park.

Last Thursday, Piney Branch became a divider of a much more important sort. Under the new system, which will take effect next school year but with a grandfathering provision that allows students to remain in their current schools, children in Mount Pleasant will retain access to Deal and Wilson. Those in Crestwood won’t. They’re slated to attend MacFarland Middle School, which closed last year due to underenrollment but is now set to reopen sometime in the next few years, and Roosevelt High School, which has barely one-quarter of Wilson’s enrollment and some of the worst test scores of any D.C. neighborhood high school.

“I feel like Crestwood essentially is negatively impacted by this outcome more than any other neighborhood in D.C.,” says Amanda Pezalla, a three-year Crestwood resident with 4- and 6-year-old children. “We lost our middle school. We lost our high school. I moved to this neighborhood because I planned to send my kids to Deal and Wilson. I’m outside my house, and the two houses that I’m looking at, my neighbors moved here because they planned to send their kids to Deal and Wilson.”

Read more Zone Defense

On Ward 5 Industrial Land, Striking a Balance Between Neighbors’ Desires and City’s Needs

ward 5

Last year, I stood with Doug Jemal on a portion of a derelict lot on New York Avenue NE that he was planning to turn into a major commercial and retail development. The site of the former Hecht Company distribution center—which Jemal, Douglas Development's founder and president, has since decided to turn into residences instead of offices—didn't look like much at the time, but Jemal had grand visions for what it would do to the poor, industrial surrounding neighborhood.

“This could be the Meatpacking District,” Jemal told me, eight months before breaking ground on the project. “This could be the coolest part of town." Then he turned and gestured at the city-owned parking lot full of garbage trucks across the street. "But this," he said, “is a mistake.”

Residents of the stretch of Ward 5 along New York Avenue have complained that the city has used their neighborhoods as a dumping ground for facilities that other parts of town don't want. But with increased demand and development coming to the area, new and more desirable buildings and businesses are starting to emerge. For residents, that's great news; for the city, which is quickly losing its remaining industrial land, it's a mixed bag.

industrialAt New Columbia Distillers on Fenwick Street NE, D.C.'s first distillery and a prime example of the new uses taking over old industrial spaces, Mayor Vince Gray and Ward 5 Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie unveiled a plan today for managing the future of Ward 5's industrial spaces. The five-year strategy, titled Ward 5 Works, was produced by a task force consisting of McDuffie, former Planning Director Harriet Tregoning, former Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins, and a dozen other government officials and Ward 5 residents. Its proposals reflect a need to walk the fine line between satisfying neighbors' concerns and preserving space for industrial functions.

On the one hand, Ward 5 is home to half of the District's industrial land. While such space comprises less than 5 percent of the city's total land, it makes up 15 percent of Ward 5. There are 1,030 acres of industrially zoned land in the ward with 508 active industrial businesses, employing more than 10,000 people in industries like wholesale trade, transportation, and construction. D.C. has lost a quarter of its industrially zoned land since 1975, and industrial space has grown more expensive: It now rents for an average of $10.35, versus $9.31 in the D.C. suburbs.

The task force report aims to slow these trends. Among the proposals are the creation of an "Industrial Advocate" position to promote industrial uses, perhaps under the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, and a revision to the zoning code to make it harder for developers and businesses to use industrial land for "higher value uses" like hotels, educational institutions, and self-storage facilities.

Read more On Ward 5 Industrial Land, Striking a Balance Between Neighbors’ Desires and City’s Needs

Morning Links

gtownIt makes no sense to demand better schools before reassigning students. [GGW]

Maryland report finds more FBI workers live in Maryland than Virginia. [Post]

Cheap DIY fixes to bring new life to a street. [Elevation]

Congrats, D.C. drivers! You're only the third-worst in America. [City Desk]

Unauthorized Buchanan Street NW raze damages adjacent houses; DCRA reportedly asks neighbors to pay. [PoPville]

GW cracks down on off-campus student noise and trash. [Hatchet]

Amusing conspiracy theories about D.C. urban planning. [DCist]

Today on the market: Georgetown 1BR—$430,000

Bowser Opposes School Reform Plan for Worsening “Educational Inequality”

Elect_14_Bowser-1A day after her top rival in the mayoral race announced his opposition to Mayor Vince Gray's plan to overhaul public-school boundaries and assignment policies, Democratic nominee Muriel Bowser says in a statement that she, too, can't support the plan.

Last week, Gray unveiled a series of changes that will comprehensively reform D.C.'s system for assigning students to public schools for the first time in more than four decades. The current system is complex and has led to overcrowding at some schools and underenrollment at others. But the changes he's adopted have angered some parents who will lose access to highly regarded schools, including those in the Crestwood neighborhood of Ward 4, which Bowser represents on the D.C. Council.

Bowser's statement of opposition is brief:

The Mayor's plan on school boundary changes is not ready.  His plan serves to exacerbate educational inequality and does little to move school reform forward faster.  It lacks the necessary budgetary and leadership commitments to bring about a truly fair neighborhood school assignment policy.  I cannot accept these recommendations.

Only the next Mayor can address the plan's unanswered questions, inherent inequalities across neighborhoods, and with the new Council, address significant budgetary implications.  If elected Mayor, I pledge that my first budget will reflect our commitment to make every school high performing. Then, and only then, will we advance meaningful school reform.

Read more Bowser Opposes School Reform Plan for Worsening “Educational Inequality”