Housing Complex

Morning Links

gtownParsing D.C.'s latest affordable-housing law. [District Hopper]

Diversity in gentrifying neighborhoods: a social benefit or just window dressing? [CityLab]

Harriet Tregoning tackles national homelessness. [National Journal]

One-way streets are terrible. [Post]

America spends much more subsidizing homeowners than supporting affordable housing. [CityLab]

Crystal City stands to benefit from the 1776-Disruption merger. [WBJ]

A profile of Lucy, DC Water's newest tunnel-boring (and tweeting) machine. [Express]

Today on the market: 8BR Georgetown house—$9,500,000

NoMa Underpass to Become Never-Ending Rainstorm


Over the past six months, representatives of NoMa have contemplated whether they should turn one of their neighborhood's grimy underpasses into a silent movie theater. Or a giant optical illusion. Or a sign-language classroom.

Finally, they've settled on their first answer: a never-ending rainstorm.

NoMa, you see, has a problem with parks. Which is to say, it doesn't really have any. The neighborhood was designed for offices, with little thought for the residential population that might someday inhabit it. But in recent years, the population has skyrocketed. When the Metro station opened in NoMa in 2004, and for several years after, the neighborhood had zero residences. Now there are more than 3,000 of them.

Courtesy of $50 million from the city, the NoMa Business Improvement District is trying to retrofit the neighborhood with attractive public spaces. Some of them will be traditional parks, like a small one north of New York Avenue NE and a plaza on L Street NE. But lacking spaces for a full slate of proper parks, the BID also has to be creative. So last year it launched a design competition to overhaul its four less-than-attractive underpasses below the railroad tracks. The BID is spending $2 million of its parks funding on the underpass transformation.

And the NoMa Parks Foundation has selected its first winner. The underpass on M Street NE will be redesigned by a team of Rhode Island-based Thurlow Small Architecture and the Dutch firm NIO, who pitched a concept called, simply, Rain.

The team actually proposed the idea for L Street NE, but the NoMa representatives opted to move it to M Street. The proposal is still in the conceptual design phase, but the idea is for LED lights inside hundreds of polycarbonate tubes to produce the effect of raining. As people move through the space, the rain will appear to move with them—a similar concept to the Rain Room that drew large crowds to the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 2013.

Read more NoMa Underpass to Become Never-Ending Rainstorm

Five Maps and Charts That Explain D.C.’s Growth


All courtesy of the State of Downtown report released today by the Downtown Business Improvement District

1. Downtown's surface parking lots have vanished over the past 18 years.

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2. As these lots have disappeared, downtown's share of D.C. development has tanked. Read more Five Maps and Charts That Explain D.C.’s Growth

Morning Links

gloverArtisphere never had a chance. [Post]

H Street NE library development moves forward, with a simplified design. [UrbanTurf]

Recreating D.C.'s defunct train lines, in map form. [Curbed]

Why the Green Line bridge collapse affected riders on the other end of the system. [GGW]

DEA carries out a big raid at Greenleaf Gardens public housing complex. [Hill Rag]

Today on the market: Glover Park 1BR—$365,000

A Lot to Lose: Can a Parking Lot Be an Historic Landmark?


On Aug. 14, 1942, the Washington Star announced the arrival of a new D.C. retail landmark, a “tastefully designed pioneer in the fast growing movement to make adequate shopping facilities available to Washingtonians in suburban sections.” Garfinckel’s, which had already established itself as the city’s premier downtown department store, was following the move of people and dollars to the suburbs, opening its first outpost on the District’s margins. In its advertising, the store promised “all the charm of old Williamsburg set down at the edge of a dark, cool forest. It’s way above the average as suburban stores go.”

The developer of the new store, the W.C. & A.N. Miller Development Co., had also been responsible, starting in the 1920s, for building much of the surrounding Spring Valley neighborhood. Just inside D.C.’s western boundary, Spring Valley did feel much like a suburb. It was spacious, it was new, and it was exclusive: Racial covenants prevented Spring Valley homeowners from selling their houses to blacks or Jews.

Fast forward 73 years. Spring Valley is no longer new and the racial covenants are gone, but it’s still exclusive. It has the city’s lowest property and violent crime rates, as of 2011, and one of the wealthiest citizenries: According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the average household income, measured from 2007 to 2011, was $379,276. Though D.C. is a majority-black city, the neighborhood is still just 4 percent black. (Data on the neighborhood’s Jewish population isn’t  available.) In a telltale sign of its remove from the city’s mainstream, it was also the only precinct where a majority of voters opposed last year’s ballot initiative to legalize marijuana.

And developers are still seeking to add retail—on the same site, in fact, where the Miller company built the Garfinckel’s store. Last fall, Miller sold the Spring Valley Shopping Center on Massachusetts Avenue NW, anchored by the Crate & Barrel that took over the old Garfinckel’s space, to the Washington Real Estate Investment Trust. WRIT, as it’s known, recently announced plans to erect a two-story building on a portion of the parking lot between Crate & Barrel and Capital One Bank, with ground-floor retail topped by offices or additional retail.

Not so fast, said some neighbors: That parking lot is an historic landmark. 

Read more A Lot to Lose: Can a Parking Lot Be an Historic Landmark?

Morning Links

trinSix storefronts on Columbia Road NW face the wrecking ball. [WBJ]

1776 takes over Arlington tech hub. [Post]

In which I "perpetuate a noxious myth" on economic growth. [Economic Growth DC]

The story behind those cheery sidewalk-chalk messages. [Post]

Metro contractor screws up; part of Green Line shuts down. [WTOP]

Mandatory helmet laws just allow drivers to pass the blame on to cyclists. [Post]

Today on the market: Trinidad fixer-upper/popper-upper—$360,000

Map: Metro’s Cash Cows


When federal and regional officials were planning the Metro system, it took intense pressure from D.C. community and government leaders to persuade them to build a line serving low-income neighborhoods in the center of the city. Those neighborhoods, along what's now known as the Green Line, are no longer so poor. But looking at Metro's revenue, it's clear why the Green Line wasn't the highest priority of the system's planners.

The map above, courtesy of Metro's planning blog, shows average daily fare revenue by entry station. The cash cows are clustered in two areas: the downtown employment centers and the ends of the Red, Orange, Blue, Silver, and Yellow lines in the suburbs. The lowest-revenue stations are located mostly in outlying District neighborhoods and in the inner suburbs, particularly on the Green, Orange, and Blue lines.

Here's the breakdown between morning peak and evening peak. First, the morning. (These maps are interactive, but they're also a tad wider than the page, so you'll have to scroll around a bit.)

Read more Map: Metro’s Cash Cows

What Drives Public-School Demand? Location, Location, Location.

waitlist map

Last week, the District released the waitlist numbers for each public and charter school. For D.C. Public Schools, this means the number of students who couldn't get in on the first round to an out-of-boundary school or to a pre-kindergarten program. For charters, it's the number who couldn't get into a school in the citywide lottery, since there's no neighborhood preference for charters.

The map above shows the results, courtesy of the District, Measured blog from the Office of Revenue Analysis. Orange circles represent traditional public schools; blue circles represent charters. The larger the circle, the longer the waitlist.

The pattern for traditional public schools is striking. Nearly every public school with a long waitlist is west of Rock Creek Park or on Capitol Hill. The trend among charters is less obvious, since there are no charters west of Rock Creek Park. But all the longest waitlists are still west of the Anacostia River, although there are plenty of charters to the east of the river.

Even when two schools have equal academic performance, there's a sharp geographic disparity in demand for the schools. Take Capitol Hill Montessori at Logan and Shepherd Elementary School. Both are DCPS elementary schools with 73 percent reading proficiency. But Capitol Hill Montessori, near Union Station, has a waitlist of 716 students, while Shepherd, in Shepherd Park, has a waitlist half that size, with 394 students.

Or take two lower-performing elementary schools: Bancroft Elementary School in Mount Pleasant and Martin Luther King Elementary School in Congress Heights. King actually has slightly higher reading proficiency: 32 percent to Bancroft's 31. But Bancroft's waitlist is 460 names long, while King has no waitlist at all. Why? In part, it's surely because Bancroft feeds into well-regarded Deal Middle School and Wilson High School, while King feeds into lower-performing Hart Middle School and Ballou High School.

Read more What Drives Public-School Demand? Location, Location, Location.

Morning Links

barnabyAmazing photos of Columbia Heights after the 1968 riots. [Ghosts of DC]

Shadow Sen. Paul Strauss scuffles with D.C. Council over emergency housing bill. [Post]

For $1.4 million, a beat-up house on a whimsically named street. [Washingtonian]

What the 7000-series Metro cars look like with passengers. [GGW]

But many riders don't care much about the new trains. [Post]

Despite Metro proximity, NIH insists on tons of parking in Bethesda. [WBJ]

Today on the market: 5BR house in Barnaby Woods—$1,399,000

Developer Plans to Replace Museum Square With 825 Apartments and Condos

The Museum Square Apartments have been the subject of two lawsuits and three D.C. Council bills.

The Museum Square Apartments have been the subject of two lawsuits and three D.C. Council bills.

Two lawsuits, several legislative interventions, and a whole lot of drama later, the low-income residents of the Museum Square Apartments in Mount Vernon Triangle still don't know if they'll be able to stay in their homes. But if they don't, now we have a better sense of what would replace those homes.

The Section 8 property's owner, the Williamsburg, Va.-based Bush Companies, informed the building's tenants last summer that the property would be demolished unless they ponied up $250 million to buy it under the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act. That led to a prolonged (and still unresolved) legal dispute over whether the $250 million price tag constituted a "bona fide offer of sale," as required by law, with residents and some members of the D.C. Council calling it exorbitant and arbitrary.

Bush justified the price by describing what would take Museum Square's place if it were demolished. In a series of emails I obtained last fall through the Freedom of Information Act, prolific landlord attorney Richard Luchs argued to the Department of Housing and Community Development that the building would fetch a price of $250 million "if it is developed as [Bush] intends, into a combination of 800 condominium and apartment units." Luchs stated that with 800 units, the price per unit wouldn't be $828,000, but a much more reasonable $312,500.

Now, UrbanTurf reports that Bush has honed its plans. The developer aims to build 825 units in two buildings on the site: a 14-story building on K Street NW with 450 apartments and a 13-story building on L Street NW with 375 condos. The plans also call for 17,000 square feet of retail space and a four-story parking garage. Construction, the company tells UrbanTurf, would begin next year and conclude in 2018.

Read more Developer Plans to Replace Museum Square With 825 Apartments and Condos