Housing Complex

Is the City to Blame for Anacostia’s Vacant Properties?

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It started with the art, but it wasn’t really about that.

After a city-funded public installation featuring scattered detritus in a vacant Anacostia storefront spurred outrage among neighbors who have worked to improve the community’s troubled reputation, a public canvas appeared on one of the storefront windows as an outlet for their frustration. The first comments scrawled on it with colored markers took aim at the artwork itself, part of the ongoing 5x5 Project, which includes installations across the city.

“Why trash?” asked one scribbler. “Broken tires and mirrors, burnt wood—are you saying Anacostia is trash and broken?”

“Artist (?) from New York, curator from Australia, $money from D.C. taxpayer,” added another, referring to the project’s New York–based artist, Abigail DeVille, and its curator, Justine Topfer, who grew up in Australia and is based in San Francisco.

“This is some shit get the fuck out of here,” contributed one pithy neighbor.

Then the comments began to veer in a different direction, one that challenged not the art but the vacant storefronts on Good Hope Road SE in which it was installed. The D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development owns four derelict buildings, including the ones hosting the 5x5 installation, and a vacant lot at the corner of Good Hope and Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue SE, the main intersection in a neighborhood that’s finally beginning to reduce vacancy and attract the type of retail residents have long sought. On the comment board, neighbors questioned the existence of the unused city-owned property that made the exhibit possible in the first place.

“Why is DHCD hoarding properties not developing them??” someone wrote.

“Stop lying to us DHCD!” another pleaded.

Someone taped up maps of the city, circling the area east of the Anacostia River that includes Anacostia and adding the labels “lots of subsidized housing” and “little development.”

Even Ward 8 Councilmember Marion Barry got in on the action, albeit not with a marker. In a Sept. 11 email to DHCD Director Michael Kelly (obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request), Barry slammed the “‘so called’ despicable art work” and requested a community meeting within two weeks to gain public input into the site’s development. “I would also like for DHCD to issue a Request for Proposal for this site as soon as possible,” he wrote. “In addition, I would like a detailed short term plan for the properties.”

Read more Is the City to Blame for Anacostia’s Vacant Properties?

D.C. United Presents Stadium Plans to an Anxious Neighborhood

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The proposal to build a D.C. United soccer stadium at Buzzard Point involves complex land swaps and a substantial city investment that some residents have criticized as fiscally imprudent. But at a community meeting hosted by the team last night in a spartan room on the eighth floor of 100 M St. SE, some neighbors' concerns had more to do with self-preservation.

"They're digging up the earth, are we going to fall in?" asked Donricka Walker, who lives nearby.

Team and city officials presented their plans to the neighborhood, which could be further transformed by a stadium less than a decade after the opening of Nationals Park helped bring residences and retail to Navy Yard. Neighbors' concerns, which included parking and handling the large crowds that would come with the 20,000 seats at the new  stadium, were met with explanations and plenty of charts, maps, and diagrams.

Alan Harwood, a representative of engineering and architecture firm AECOM, assured neighbors that the project would give residents more places to congregate, saying developers "want everyone to walk together and drink beer together" by giving them access to the city's waterfront.

Walker said the explanations were good, but that she still had her worries, including dust from construction. Overall, though, she said the potential benefits of the project were "exciting" for her.

Read more D.C. United Presents Stadium Plans to an Anxious Neighborhood

Fundrise Raises Largest D.C. Haul for Florida Avenue NE Project

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This site is set to become 45 apartments.

A 45-unit residential building is coming to 1326 Florida Ave. NE, and crowdfunding from 37 small investors through Fundrise will be responsible for $650,000 of the financing.

Founded in 2010 by brothers Ben and Dan Miller, Fundrise began as a novel way of funding development projects by bundling small investments from community members, but the firm hit the big time this May when it raised more than $31 million from major national and foreign investors. The company recently raised $1 million for a project in the Hamptons on Long Island, but the $650,000 haul for the Florida Avenue project, just off the H Street NE corridor, where Fundrise has been active, is the most the company has raised for a D.C. project to date, according to Dan Miller.

Ditto Residential is building the project, which will consist of 45 apartments—mostly micro-units as small as 312 square feet, with a few larger ones up to 1,000 square feet. Construction is scheduled to begin this fall and conclude in time for residents to move in late next year. Ditto has completed a number of boutique residential projects in the District, including a renovation of the iconic Round House in Brookland, but this is its largest project to date.

Miller says his company's fundraising has been "steadily increasing" from the early days, when it would typically bring in around $325,000 or $350,000. "We’re also starting to get larger checks," he says. "People are getting more comfortable with investing on real estate online." The largest investment in this project was $200,000, according to Miller, with the top five or six investments comprising about half of the total investment. Thirty-five percent of the investors are from D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.

Still, Fundrise's contribution is only about 5 percent of the project's total financing, which comes out to $14 million. Miller says Fundrise is "becoming a more significant source of capital for these deals." He expects Fundrise to be raising money for a couple of projects per month this fall, and while he can't name specific projects in the pipeline, he says there are a few in Petworth and Columbia Heights, on 14th Street NW, and, of course, on H Street.

This post has been updated to include a more accurate figure for the largest investment in the project. Miller initially said it was about $100,000, and later corrected that to $200,000.

Photo via Rubenstein Public Relations for Fundrise

Developer Pitches a Private Version of New Communities in Brentwood

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On a recent afternoon, Brookland Manor's spacious courtyards are mostly quiet. So are the basement community center in one of the 19 apartment buildings, where the kids have yet to arrive, and the nearby community garden teeming with brassicas but devoid of humans. Out in front of the decrepit strip mall facing Rhode Island Avenue NE, three men are hanging out, but the place is otherwise deserted, and the stores—a pawn shop, a cleaner, a nail salon, a large vacant space—don't show many signs of life.

Between the shopping center and the apartment buildings, on 14th Street NE, it's a different story. Close to 30 people, mostly men, mostly young, gather in clusters around dominoes or open liquor containers or nothing in particular. A couple of cops eye the crowds from a wary distance, making sure nothing gets out of hand. Rounding the corner onto 14th, visitors are treated to a whiff worthy of Bonnaroo. "The smell of weed is never very far," says Michael Meers.

If Meers' plans come to fruition, the place could look dramatically different in a few years' time. Meers is executive vice president of the Germantown-based Mid-City Financial Corporation, which owns Brookland Manor, a Great Depression-era complex of 535 apartment units, about two-thirds of which are subsidized by the federal government through the project-based Section 8 program. (Despite its name, Brookland Manor is located in the Brentwood neighborhood and is sometimes known by its older moniker, Brentwood Village.) Mid-City also has the strip mall under contract and expects to close on it next year.

And today, Mid-City filed its first application with the city to demolish both Brookland Manor and the shopping center and rebuild them as a mix of apartments, townhouses, and retail that would essentially create an entirely new neighborhood.

Read more Developer Pitches a Private Version of New Communities in Brentwood

“Comfortable” But “Boring” Design Wins Out on K Street

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Too hot for K Street.

D.C. residents worried that K Street architecture is getting too risqué can breathe a sigh of relief: After rejecting an outside-the-box design for an office building at 2100 K St. NW with an unusual rooftop embellishment, the Zoning Commission has approved a revised proposal for, well, a box.

At the July 31 Commission hearing at which the earlier design was nixed, architect Shalom Baranes grumbled, "When you look at the Washington, D.C., skyline, it’s basically unaddressed. It’s kind of a leftover." Now the commissioners have chosen to embrace the preservation of that skyline, voting unanimously on Monday to approve an updated design that scraps the embellishment.

But not all of them were happy about it. Commission Vice Chair Marcie Cohen said she thought the July design would have "brought some differentiation" to a monolithic corridor. "I just felt that it would have been a great addition to a very boring street," she lamented. "I walk down K Street a great deal, and I’m still seeing everything looking alike."

Chairman Anthony Hood expressed a similar sentiment. "I’m very disappointed," he said. "I don’t know personally if I agree with you on the proposed design with no embellishment. I kind of liked the embellishment." He added later, "No embellishment to me looks kind of flat. ... You pick and choose your battles, but I think we are doing this site a disservice by not going with what we had."

Read more “Comfortable” But “Boring” Design Wins Out on K Street

Morning Links

edgewood34-unit flatiron building pitched for east end of H Street NE. [UrbanTurf]

NCPC staff recommends approval of revised Eisenhower Memorial design. [WBJ]

People are obeying traffic laws. That could leave the city $70 million short of expected revenue. [Post]

We know what makes kids more likely to drop out of school. We don't know how to stop them. [GGW]

Feds award $139 million contract to renovate St. Elizabeths Center Building for DHS. [WBJ]

Cycletrack obstructions take a turn for the excretory. [GGW]

Today on the market: Edgewood rowhouse—$589,999

Morning Links

loganZoning Commission gives McMillan project first-stage approval. [WBJ]

American University will foot the bill for Metro service from Nats playoff games. [City Desk]

D.C.'s first shipping-container apartments look cool...and cold. [UrbanTurf]

D.C. United anticipates nearly half of fans will arrive at new stadium by transit. [WBJ]

Where D.C.'s "creative class" lives. [DCist]

More details on a development coming to the 600 block of H Street NE. [UrbanTurf]

Metro adds Silver Line bike racks to meet demand. [PlanItMetro]

Today on the market: Logan Circle 1BR loft—$899,900

Free Streetcar Rides for a Year? DDOT Won’t Say.

streetcarAfter months of delays and missed deadlines, the streetcar finally began running on schedule along H Street NE today. Not with passengers, of course—there's no timeline for when that'll happen, although the District Department of Transportation is aiming for sometime before year's end, possibly November—nor without some hiccups. But with streetcars actually traveling from stop to stop, it's actually starting to feel like this thing may actually start moving real live humans someday.

The question is how many humans will choose to ride a streetcar that'll operate in mixed traffic, stopped indefinitely whenever someone double parks, and largely duplicates the existing X2 bus line (which extends all the way downtown, rather than just to a bridge near Union Station). And you know what could entice a lot more people to make that choice? This:

"No determination has been made on that," says DDOT spokesman Reggie Sanders. "We’re looking at every option right now."

So it's a possibility? "Nothing’s been ruled out," Sanders responds, "but I wouldn’t say it’s a possibility."

A nonconfirmation nondenial as inscrutable as the streetcar's timeframe itself. What DDOT lacks in prognostication it more than makes up for in obfuscation. This round's yours, Sanders.

Photo via DDOT

Morning Links

brightwoodD.C.'s attorney general candidates go head to head (to head to head to...) tonight. [LL]

A Georgetown Metro station would be among the system's busiest. [GGW]

Grimke redevelopment starts to take shape: museum, residences, nonprofit, and no height increase. [UrbanTurf]

With more people living downtown, a push for playgrounds. [Post]

ANC doesn't buy proposal for parking-free micro-units on Blagden Alley. [SALM]

Fort Totten Walmart gets its permit for build-out. [WBJ]

A history of the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, once called America's "greatest monstrosity." [Streets of Washington]

Today on the market: Brightwood Park rowhouse in need of some upgrades—$495,000

Roadside Will Rebuild Frager’s Hardware, With Residential Addition

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A year after Frager's Hardware on Capitol Hill was destroyed by a fire, Roadside Development announced today that it is purchasing the store's century-old home to build a renovated space for Frager's topped by new residences.

Frager's has operated out of temporary locations on the Hill while its owner, John Weintraub, sought a development partner to rebuild the building at 1101-1117 Pennsylvania Ave. SE where it had been located since 1920. Weintraub ultimately selected Roadside, citing its track record of adaptive reuse in developments that incorporated old structures, like the CityMarket at O project on the site of the former O Street Market in Shaw.

Roadside will build residences above the retail space to offset the cost of the development. The company doesn't yet know how many residences there will be; that depends on the design for the site, according to Lionel Lynch, Roadside's director of new development. Roadside doesn't intend to pursue a change to the zoning for the site, Lynch says. The building is located in a C-2-A zone, allowing Roadside to build up to 50 feet.

Frager's will return to the building under a long-term lease when construction is complete. Roadside plans to preserve the building's historic facade.

Photo by Jenny Rogers

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