February 28, 2006


Think you have to coolest, freshest, juiciest studio apartment in all of DC? Step aside you Gore-Dean designed Georgetown Mansions, here is a contest to find the best dressed studio, junior one bedroom or full-on one-bedroom apartment in the lower-48 states. Supersized units need not apply.

Contest winners receive store credits from Design Within Reach, which has locations in Adams Morgan and Georgetown, and Apartment Therapy, who say:

"Because we've never accepted that a lack of space is fatal when it comes to creating an inspiring home and nothing jazzes us more than the hand-made home or the stylish studio wedged into an urban crevice. Because somewhere there is ONE APARTMENT that is so small and so cool that it should be recognized as the ultimate achievement in its class."

The deadline is March 13.

WAY TO GET A LEG UP ON THE CONTEST is to go to the design workship at the Adams Morgan DWR store. "Nervous about mixing modern pieces with Aunt Millie's armoire? Thinking of working with an architect?" If so, ask the experts Feb. 28th during the three-person panel discussion.

HGTV CASTING CALL. Beyond Productions in D.C. is casting a series about makeovers of children's spaces in local homes. "Do you have a place in (or outside) your home you want to turn into a cool space for your kids? We're looking ... a space around your home you'd like to transform," says the announcement. You provide the space and your whole family become the "cast" for about for a few days. Contact: katie_gerringer@beyond.com.au or Washington_DC@beyond.com.au.

February 27, 2006


Plans are to convert part of the glorious Wardman Park Mariott into condos and then to tear down an existing ballroom and parking structure in 2007 and to build more ... can you hold your breath? ... even more condos.

To discuss the project the Woodley Park ANC will hold a meeting Feb. 27 at Oyster Bilingual Elementary School at 29th & CalvertStreets NW with the developer JBG. Though the building currently is zone for residential and hotel use, JBG need permission to convert the hotel to condos and raze the ballroom, plus make three always controverial curb-cuts. Curb cuts reduce on-street parking, which is so vital in a neighborhood that sits atop a Metro station and a major bus line. The dialouge with the JBG has already begun.

More residential units in Woodley Park may help the dreadful dining in the neighborhood. Many restaurants along the strip in WP look great, but taste very mediore. Spend money to attract one-time customers from the hotel, but dont bother to make it taste good because we will never see them again, you can imagine restrauntuers saying.

February 26, 2006

Old Threads

Changes coming to K Street. ... Does the baseball stadium matter? ... Retail developments break ground. ... Father of murder victum in Adams Morgan demands help. ... Michel Richard to open burger joint. ... Inclusionary zoning advances. ... Endangered history list in DC: Mount Pleasant Bodegas. What do you nominate? ... NOMA construction. ... Older threads.

February 24, 2006


How do you price a condo in NOMA? There is a glut so don't expect anyone to pay a million bucks for that 1600SF penthouse. Plus this is DC, not Manhattan, so be reasonable. Right?

But doesn't supply create demand in certain circumstances. NOMA is not Centerville, Va. It's an incredible location that has sat empty for decades because of weird historical factors, i.e. riots and the false beleif that with a car it does not matter where you live.

Now hundreds of condos are being developed. A Safeway supermarket is on the way, and the restaurants, health clubs etc. demanded by busy people will follow. Consideiring how blighted Massachusetts Ave. was, the sight of the construction cranes and deep holes in the ground are amazing.

Is NOMA an exception to the rule? Price goes down as supply goes up?

Madrigal Lofts -- A 12-story, loft-style condo near the corner of Massachusetts Ave. and Fourth St. NW

The Sonata -- An 11-story, loft-style condo near the corner of Massachusetts Ave. and Third St. NW

The DuMont at Massachusetts Ave. and Fourth St. NW

February 23, 2006

Save Our Bodegas

Nominations for the list of Most Endangered Places in Washington for 2006 are being accepted by the DC Preservation League. Nomination forms must be submitted no later than March 1. The 2006 list will be announced in May.

This list, issued annually since 1996 has included historic resources such as St. Elizabeths Hospital, McMillan Reservoir,Woodlawn Cemetery and Washington's Symbolic Core. The Most Endangered Places in Washington are chosen by the Board of Trusteesof the DC Preservation League from nominations submitted by concerned individuals and organizations.

These sites are chosen based on the severity of the threat of destruction to the buildings and landscapes in question, whether through demolition, neglect, or inappropriate alteration. The list can include buildings, parks or other landscaped areas, or even vistas and other aspects of the city's unique planned history.

Hmmm...How about putting the latino markets, bars and markets along Mount Pleasant street on the list. Think of all the latino stores along 18th St. in Adams Morgan. You can't? Well they were displaced by suburban hipster bars about a decade ago. Thats what's gonna happen to Mount Pleasant street. Or maybe we should put Dupont Circle on the list. The park, which once was a relatively quiet setting, now is overrun, thus should be expanded.

Those trying to "save" the Heurich Mansion now have until March 15. Ahhh....the ides of March. This melodrama even more dramatic than we first thought. Before you donate remember this DC Landmark is protected, thus can't be outright demolished or altered, which no one is suggesting. So what are we "saving" it from?

And think of the tens of thousands of visitors that the Brewmaster's Mansion attracts annually. You've seens the lines up and down New Hampshire Ave. ... Well there actually aren't any lines because only 8,000 people visited the mansion last year. Rather than "save" it, how about turning it into a historically accurate brewpub?

February 22, 2006


The DC Zoning commission is looking at adopting an inclusionary zoning requirement for new condo construction. Last week, the panel gave prelimary approval to the requirement that would force developers to set aside a certain number of units for those earning a percentage of the average area income. The version of the rule (04-33), which the panel recommended for adoption following a 45 day comment period, is not yet available. Next the panel must decide which parts of the city will be subject to the rule.

As DC Bubble said last month, inclusionary zoing can be great if done right. Economic diveristy is one of the things that make a city great. But if the burden is too onerous on developers, new construction will cease. Also, the zoning commission must recognize that the condo market has changed and is not experiencing go-go price increases that can cover up an over ambitious requirement. We anxiously await the final version of this rule.

Not Your Average Burger Joint

Cintronelle chef, auter Michel Richard will open his second DC restaurant. Not another three-star aspirant or labrotorio, this will be a burger joint at 1001 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Instead of being asked the usual "rare, medium or well-done," partrons of "Central" will choose from tuna, lobster or beef burgers. Interesting.

Richard (healthy man on the left) has a great reputation around town, particularly if the honorific in front of your name is "Sen." instead of the ususal "Mr." or "Ms." We were at Cintronelle once and when we asked to substitute on the cheese plate for something other than a goat cheese, a simple Brie perhaps, the waiter got huffy and told us that the plate was personally selected by Richard and could not be altered.

So if you want a half tuna/half lobster burger at the new place, be sure to reserve your table with the proper honorific. Given the Pennsylvania Ave. address, we recommend using the title of Ambassador and maybe then Richard will hold the dressing on the side if you ask nicely.

February 21, 2006


The father of Marc Ficarra who was beaten to death off of 18th St. in January wrote a letter chastising the police for not finding leads and asks anyone who has information about the crime to come forward.

The letter said:

"My son not only leaves behind a loving mother, father, and sister, but a loving wife and three beautiful children. Don't you think it time for the good people of Washington D.C. and the news media to take a stand and demand a through investigation in to the murder of my son? Marc deserves justice. Justice for all........"


Considering the lack of retail we all suffered though for decades these developments are amazing for their scope and location.

On March 1, a $51 million shopping center and residential project at Camp Simms, a 25-acre former National Guard property in Anacostia, is set to begin. Anchored by a 63,000 SF Giant Food store and about 45,000 SF of additional retail space, including a restaurant. The developer, William C. Smith & Co., also plans to build 75 detached single-family homes on the site, which sits between Alabama and Mississippi Aves.

The project really could transform DC east of the river, where the median household income is about $25k per year. Anacostia is the only area of DC that has not really seen gentrification, but with major developments like this the area will attract more and more people. Let's face it Anacostia is way closer to the Capitol than is Arlington, and there is no bubble there to wait to burst. The project was not listed in the recent supermarket roundup.

And ground has officially been broken on the Target-DC USA retail development in Columbia Heights. The 500,000 SF retail and entertainment complex is being developed on the west side of 14th Street between Park Road and Irving St. A two-level Target will anchor the complex and will occupy 180,000 SF.

In addition to Target the following retailers have signed letters of intent or are in negotiations: Bed Bath & Beyond, Whole Foods, Best Buy, Old Navy, Washington Sports Club, Marshall's, Staples, Starbucks, Petco, Modell's, Vitamin Shoppe, Payless Shoes, Casual Male, Mattress Discounters, Panda Express, McDonald's, Nine West, Motherhood, Cingular Wireless and various local retailers.

February 20, 2006


Is development coming to the waterfront because of the stadium? Would development have happened no matter what given the DC's desire to spur development and that so much of downtown has been built out? This chart clearly shows how dependent upon the stadium waterfront development is.

The Washington Post quotes Arthur B. Benjamin, a senior vice president at AMR Commercial Real Estate in Bethesda who points to factors in addition to the stadium to support his arguement about why development is happening:

"The prices of land in Near Southeast are so high because the city has said they want vibrant development to happen there and [through zoning they've allowed more density there] so that makes it more valuable. ... Plus, it's getting to a point where there's less ground left [in DC], and that's pushing the price up."

Ronald Cohen, a developer best known for building big-box stores on Rockville Pike, recently paid $51.6 million for a block at First and K streets SE.
"Ground is being purchased and buildings are being built based on where the new stadium is going. ... Clearly all of these sales weren't taking place before" the stadium was announced.
Given the lingering debate over the stadium, the real question at this point is: what happens to the proposed development if the stadium is not built?


Known as the heart of the DC lobbying machine, "K Street" has a reputation as a lifeless 8-to-6 corridor. But redevelopment is coming and the effort is intended to bring some excitement to the area anchored by the busy Farragut North, Farragut West and Mcpherson Square metro stations. Name architects, retail, steel and glass are in the offing.

Similar to the way the Southwest corner of K St. and Connecticut Ave. was transformed other properties on the street will be upgraded. But there are limits to what can be achieved, though, because DC height restrictions mean developers must maximize the developable space, rather than use innovative designs. Like 1700 K expect something snazzy, but not moving beyond the cliche.

Another slight disappointment about 1700 K was the retail that took the space. A Chevy Chase bank, a coffee shop and a jeweler. Nothing all that unusual for K St. and certainly nothing that will add vitality to the area at night or on weekends.

On the drawing board:

  • At the northwest corner of Connecticut and K Bernie Gewirz, Ed Kaplan and Albert Small plan to tear down the existing buildings and put up a 395,000 SF office. The new building was designed by renowned architect James Freed of Pei Cobb Freed & Partners. Freed was the primary architect behind the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
  • Charles E. Smith has tapped German architect Helmut Jahn of Chicago-based Murphy/Jahn to design the new 1925 K St. Jahn has designed the Sony Center in Berlin.
  • February 19, 2006

    Lucky Strike
    in Gallery Place

    Old Threads

    Fight over Giant Supermaket in Cleveland Park continues. ... DC Office of Planning focusing in on NOMA. ... Councilman Jim Graham justifies vote against stadium with Wall Street Journal op-ed. ... Council of Econonmic Advisors expects housing construction to slow. ... Ads on Metro cause a stir. ... Commerican office space glut looming? ... As DC restaurant scene grows in sophistication, some see stand-off between suburban hipsters and the family-friendly. ... Mortgage rates creep up. ... Base realignment in Virginia could alter DC market. ... Recycle old cell phones at the National Zoo. ... Logan Circle condo. What's it say about the market?... Older Threads.

    pix by birdcage

    February 18, 2006


    Logan Circle one-bedroom. After being on the market for 44 days, the price is $419,500. Started out at $424,500. Condo fee: $327. Loft style unit. Features: "Chefs Caliber Kitchen, Wall of Windows," washer/dryer in the unit, parking space, common-area party room and patio, fitness center. The Radius is located at 1300 N St. NW. MLS# DC5492217

    High ceilings.

    Looks a little cluttered.

    Given the amenities, this price does not seem all that high. You have to ask how much lower a seller like this should go on price, given that the unit from the looks of it could rent in $1700 range. $419,500. Fair price? What It Worth to Ya?!?

    Update: MLS# MLS DC5510839. Still active after 27 days on the market. Now that the Super Bowl is over and the snow is gone, it should be interesting to see what happens next.

    February 17, 2006


    Your old one at least. Like many other zoos across the country, the National Zoo has partnered with ECO-Cell to collect and recycle Zoo visitors' cell phones, batteries, and accessories.

    Working cell phones will be refurbished and donated to low-income people abroad and selected local organizations, such as battered women's programs for emergency use. Bring your phones to the visitors' center by the Connecticut Ave. entrance between Woodley Park and Cleveland Park.

    ECO-Cell will pay FONZ up to $15 for every working cell phone. All other phones and accessories will be recycled under EPA guidelines, keeping hazardous materials from reaching landfills and harming human and environmental health.

    Don't forget we live in a backwards country. Disposing of poison should not be viewed as some crunchy eco-thing you do when its convienent. Proper disposal of the poisons, such as those in cell phones, ought to be mandatory and convenent. In the meantime, bring used phones over to the zoo and look for the panda toddler.

    BRAC IS A FOUR LETTER WORD IN DC, not just in Crystal City. With the economic impact of the Base Realignment Commission set to bear down on Crystal City in the next few years, DC commercial landlords may want to brace themselves too. As part of the plan to downsize and consolodate the military, 4 million SF of office space will be vacated and 20,000 jobs will retreat from Crystal City.

    Will Crystal City landlords look across the Potomac to fill this gapping hole. You betcha! Need proof? National Cooperative Bank announced its moving its headquarters from DC to the Crystal City in September. NCB signed a 15-year lease for 86,000 SF in Crystal City. NCB will be vacating its previous location, 1725 Eye St. Coincidence? Prehaps. There probably were many factors driving NCB's decision, but the Crystal City landlord's probably made the deal as sweet as possible knowing what they were up against.

    No matter what the savings, can you imagine the joylessness in the office the day the "Relocation Memo" was circulated. "We thought about staying put, moving to emerging NOMA or down in Southwest near the planned baseball stadium, but decided upon Crystal City." Oh the horror! From vibrant streets, diverse lunching options and a nice park with trees to Logan's Run underground. Will someone do a study on the health risks associated with over exporsure to flouresent lights?

    HOUSING STARTS ARE UP, says the Washington Post. Warm weather? Foolish builders? You make the call.

    February 16, 2006

    MORE ON THE DC HOUSING BUBBLE. DC ranks 16 on a new list showing the extent of the housing bubble. According to the The Data Almanac 2006, it cost $499 more per month to buy a home than to rent a home in DC. In San Diego the difference was $1442. In New York, it was $1,118. Numerous California and New York City Markets topped the list.

    The placement of DC away from the top of the list jives with studies, such as one completed recently by Delta Associates. Because the list relies on HUD data from 2003, its value is that it demonstrates the relative modest risk of the DC market compared with other U.S. housing markets.

    MORTGAGE RATES CREEP UP AGAIN. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.28 percent, with an average 0.5 point, for the week ending February 16, up from last week’s average of 6.24 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.62 percent, according to the Freddie Mac survey.

    The average for the 15-year fix-rate mortgage this week is 5.91 percent, with an average 0.5 point, up from last week’s average of 5.83 percent. A year ago, the 15-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 5.14 percent.

    Five-year adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 5.95 percent this week, with an average 0.5 point, up from last week when it averaged 5.89 percent. A year ago, the five-year ARM averaged 5.05 percent.

    "So far this year, fixed-rate mortgage rates have risen only slightly," said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac chief economist. "Long-term mortgage rates are only marginally higher than they were two months ago."

    TEN HIGHWAY BOTTLENECKS, as pinpointed by the Washington Post. Sounds like good news for DC. Only two of the trouble areas are in the city and those involve commuters to and from Maryland. Check out the graphic from the Washington Post.

    What are we going to do?!? Tafffic. Traffic. Traffic. I guess everyone in Rockthesda and Alexandrington should have factored in the limited number of roads and the infinite number of cars when they decided to live out there. Plus you can't walk anywhere.

    DC CULINARY SOPHISTICATES. Just because DC is growing in culinary sophistication (and condo prices are higher than they were in the 1990's) does not mean it's becoming like Manhattan. In our view, its become well more like, well, Washington or like the Manhattan of the 1950's and 1960's when actual middle-class families lived in NYC.

    Two examples of the percolating urban environment that shows how DC is becoming sophisticated in its own way:

    1. Friday before last, we went to 2 Amy's. We were served: Negronis, Magarhetta Pizze and Crayons. Simple, direct food. Stylish setting. Family-friendly. Children everywhere. Maybe this could have been Manhattan long before one-bedrooms averaged $1 million, but hardly anywhere today.

    I loved 2 Amy's before our daughter was born and love it even more now because we ate good food and did not have to worry about the screaming kid(s) disturbing anyone. Child friendly does not mean TGIF's in Rockthesda, not does it mean getting a babysitter so parents can have "adult" food. It means a night out in Cleveland Park with the whole clan.

    2. On Valentine's Day, we went to Charlie Palmer Steak and absolutely loved it. Gourmet power lunch. The capitol view and lunching senators waiting for three-bells demand "serious" food, i.e. steak. And CP came here from NY because he knows that DC has evolved.

    Aside from the meat, we loved the blue-grey suited wait staff who were not overly friendly but let us know they had personality too. We loved the fact that our hangar-steak, not a porterhouse, was served on broccoli rabe and that we had an appetizer of skate with very-light gnocchi. We also loved the french fries, which let us know good food, not portentous food, is served here. We loved the warm modern setting. The Palm is very Washington, but Charlie Palmer is too and its sophisticated as well. Watch out for another NYC export: BLT.

    Just because DC is becoming more sophisticated and complex does not mean its becoming like Manhattan. So long sleepy Southern town, we are becoming sophisticated in our own way. (Damn, even why we try to stay clear of the DC vs. Manhattan cliche we end up making one of our own.)

    February 15, 2006

    OFFICE SPACE GLUT LOOMS. The DC commercial market continues to roll on, but for how long. Rents continue to rise. Vacancies are down, but there are lots of construction cranes on the horizon, says the Washington Post.

    Both in the Downtown and Capitol Hill submarkets landlords were asking a healthy $44/SF for rent during the fourth quarter. Compared with the third quarter, this a $2.03/SF rise for downtown and a few extra pennies for Capitol Hill.

    And the vacancy rate edged lower. In the fourth quarter, the vacancy rate was 7.6 percent, compared with 7.8 percent in the third quarter and 8.1 percent a year ago. Downtown has a vacancy rate of 7.6 percent, Capitol Hill has a rate of 8.8 percent and Georgetown/Uptown has a rate of 5.1 percent, all in the fourth quarter.

    About 6 million SF of space is under construction. About 3 million SF downtown and 3.6 million on Capitol Hill. Going forward its going to be tough to fill all that space, and talk of a condo glut could turn into a commerical glut before we all like it.

    What's interesting is the fact that Capitol Hill rents are holding strong, given the relatively higher vacancy rate and the amount of space in the pipeline. Now that downtown has been mostly built out, tenants and landlords continue to look for options. And this means going east, rather than west to say Georgetown.

    pix by Daquella manera

    METRO AD OFFENSIVE. We thought most people like us usually ride the bus or Metrorail half asleep barely noticing the advertisements. Wrong. Well the thin-skinned better brace themselves because WMATA is about to boost the types of ads placed on trains.

    To raise revenue, WMATA in March will start placing ads in the tunnels. As trains speed by the ads, riders will get a sense that the figures, text, whatever on the ads are moving, like a flip-book cartoon. Then in April, Metro staff will ask the board to endorse a contract for advertising on video monitors on trains, said WMATA General Manager Richard White.

    More revenue. Cool graphics. Fewer fare hikes. We have no problem. But one recent complaint about ad content, for us, is hard to believe.

    The allegedly offensive ad goes something like this:

    "New words defined. "Sumpnspicious" an unattended package or odd, unusual behavior that is reported to a bus driver, train operator(via intercom at the end of rail car), station manager or Metro Police at (202) 962-2121".
    Comment from Metro discussion: "Since I had never heard the word in question, I immediately went to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary and to my surprise it was not in the dictionary. Would you tell me where to find this word or was your agency being obnoxious and degrading to a certain race? Being Black myself, I found the word quite offensive. I don't consider myself to be an illiterate person, nor do I believe the majority of the Black population that travel Metro's Green Line to be illiterate either. It would have seemed, with the number of minority employees your agency has, this word would have been offensive to you, as well as to them."

    NAT GIVES NAT DEAL A THUMBS UP. The Washington Post reports that DC CFO Natwar Ghandi says stadium lease is kosher and he can sell it to Wall Street. Stadium debt will get investment grade rating, Ghandi predicts.

    February 14, 2006

    W EXPECTS HOUSING CONSTRUCTION TO SLOW BY 2007, therefore probably is not overly concerned about the value of his mansion on 16th St. You see, Bush wont be moving until 20009 and by then the Council of Economic Advisors believes the building boon creating a housing glut will be over. This tidbit was gleanded from the 2006 Economic Report of the President, which states the following:

    "On balance, residential investment is not projected to contribute to real GDP growth during the four quarters of 2006; in subsequent years, it is expected to subtract a bit from overall growth."
    Our read on that is the Council of Economic Advisors expects the national oversupply of housing to begin to dry up begining in 2007. In 2006 supply should continue to come on line, but by 2007 housing construction nationally should slow. The administration mainly points to rising interest rates as the culprit behind the coming slowdown.

    The prediction jives with whats happening in DC. Much construction in Columbia Heights and NOMA is expected to be ready to move in late in 2006 or sometime in 2007. With all the talk of a glut, its hard to believe that projects currently on the drawing board, but not approved or ready to break ground, will go forward as condos.

    ZILCH FROM ZILLOW. If you live in DC, dont listen to all the hype about the new google mashup site Zillow, which shows house prices on a map. For DC it shows the tax assessment value, which of course has gone through the roof too, but not the fair market value as is shown for other cities. Only when Zillow shows real prices will we begin the nearly impossible task of figuring out how prices of mid-rise condos are shown.

    STOP THE STADIUM GRAHAM-STANDING. Councilmember Jim Graham has been circulating a Wall Street Journal op-ed about the latest DC Stadium lease to justify his "no" vote last week. Graham uses the op-ed by economist Mark Rosentraub to reinforce his own belief that "we have struck a bad deal financially." Graham's reading of the piece is over simplistic and misleading.

    Rosentraub mainly says DC could have and should have gotten a better deal, but the stadium will help revive the Southwest waterfront:

    • "Five years from now people will point with pride to the stadium [in Southwest] and mention the District in the same breath as San Francisco, San Diego" and other cities where stadiums were used to attract real estate development;
    • "The new lease is a step forward for the District, but negotiating it was like closing the barn door after the horses escaped."
    • "The District is using taxes on businesses, thereby minimizing the pain for lower-income residents."

    Moreover, the article is incredibly damning for DC political leaders, which makes it hard to see why Graham is quoting it. What Rosentraub describes as "district leaders' failure" to leverage their relative economic strengh compared to counterparts in Portland and Las Vegas applies equally to the DC Council and to the Mayor.

    Given the opportunity presented by the stadium, Mr. Graham how come you did not show leadership by fighting for a better deal, rather than just opposing it? Perhaps you were to afraid that Virginia would/will steal the team away, so rather than getting your hands dirty, you played it safe and opposed the lease. Some councilmembers are coming under fire for their "yes" votes, maybe the "no" voters should get some heat as well. (This post has been emailed to Councilman Graham.)

    February 13, 2006

    NOMA-VISION. Not some precursor to hi-def video like sense-0-round, but the planning process for the emerging NOMA -- North of Massachusetts Ave. -- neighborhood. Too much office space would mean another bland K Street corridor. Too much residential and the area may never grow, despite all the promise.

    As reported in the Washington Post, DC Planning Office associate director Patricia Zingsheim said, "we want to create an area that has a mix of uses and doesn't die at 5 at night." Music to our ears. Let's hope they get it right. The original goal was to finish a planning document by April, now they ambiguously promise this spring.

    It's odd how the Washington Post will lump different neighborhoods together to prove a point. While the Post correctly includes as part of NOMA the Bureau of Tobaco and Firearms building and the XM Satelite Radio building, it also lumps in the new Securities and Exchange Commission HQ, near H and Second Sts. NE. The SEC seems more part of the H Street NE corridor. Of course, nothing prevents one building being counted twice.

    Right now it appears to be a battle royale among developers between NOMA, Southeast and H St. NE to see who will capture the overflow from downtown. As usual GSA and condos are the prize in this fight. NOMA with its Metro access and construction cranes seems out front but the stadium could give Southeast a boost. H Street seems more like the place for the next decade.

    Demonstrating how dynamic NOMA is right now, PEPCO has begun marketing four acres there. The land was orginally purchased for a substation, but the utility decided the infrastructure is not needed. Anyone got $120M to spare?

    A GIANT MESS. Some neighborhoods in DC thrive. Others stagnate. 17th St. in Dupont Circle hasn't changed much for years and looks pretty much as it did 15 years ago -- a decent restaurant or two mixed with the Safeway and CVS. It's so wash-and-wear. P Street in Logan Circle on the other hand has gone from nothing to a vibrant strip with Whole Foods, CVS and several good places to grab lunch and other retail.

    What about the strip of Cleveland Park along Wisconsin Ave? It probably falls between stagnanting and vibrancy. (Of course home values in Western CP only recently have slowed.) A few good restaurants and other retail, but somehow you would think it would be doing better. The other Cleveland Park main drag on Connecticut Ave. is doing boatloads better. That's not surprising given the Metro.

    So what's holding its brethren back. The nasty Giant Food store at 3336 Wisconsin Avenue NW. Over your tears for this situation, you ought to light six candles -- one candle for each year that has passed since Giant announced it would renovate and expand the store.

    But, of course, there are opponents who want a better store but not more customers. Technically, what they object to is increased traffic, more and larger trucks making deliveries and lately a lack of historically sensitive renovation plans. To us, the "Soviet Giant" looks like an ugly shoe box.

    To get the ball rolling anew, Anthony Colavolpe of Stop & Shop Supermarket, which is running Giant for a Ahold USA, a Dutch conglomerate, will make a presentation at the ANC 3-C meeting tonight. (But rescheduled for Feb. 28 because of the snow.) According the the agenda, Colavolpe plans to discuss "ideas about expanding and improving the store and also how the two blocks owned by parent company ... could be organized to improve the streetscape and the vitality ofthe commercial area." Plans are in an early conceptual stage. Can we please move on.

    February 12, 2006

    Urban Winter Wonderland!

    Old Threads

    From Adams Morgan to the West End: Supermarket Roundup. ... Il Pallazo condo runs into trouble with landmark status. ... Market for condos and single-family houses moving in different directions. ... Bill would let developers rebuild public schools, libararies in exchange for developable land. ... Bar EC-12 with XM Satelite radio connection to open by St.-Ex, Bar Pilar; Howard Theater RFP issued. ... DC Council approves stadium lease with spending cap. MLB has doubts. ... DC schools get mixed reviews, plus DC Council passes modernization bill. ... Mortgage rates are steady; Woodword buidling to be turned into apartments. ... Bed, Bath & Beyond opens, Baluducci's moving along. ... Dupont Circle condo pricing suggests owners might be better renting; Source Theater spaced turned into bar. ... Charts show growing inventory for single-family homes and condos.

    February 11, 2006

    A total of 1006 condos and co-ops in DC were on the market in Jan. 06 compared with 436 a year ago. That's a 130% jump. There were 12.2% fewer contracts in Jan. 06 compared with Jan. 05, according to the Greater Capital Area Assn. of Realtors.

    A total of 953 single family houses were on the market in Jan. 2006, compared with 591 in 2005, a 61.3% rise. There were a 8.7% fewer contracts in Jan. 06 compared with Jan. 05.

    BASEBALL STILL CONSIDERS STADIUM COST CAP, The Washington Post says. Original agreement does not envision spending cap, so MLB is weighing arbitration. Will this saga ever end? ... In case you missed it, Marion Barry's sentencing was postponed. Will this saga ever end?

    February 10, 2006

    What's It Worth To Ya?!?!

    DUPONT CIRCLE CONDO DROPS BY $10K. Going from $369K to $359K is not all that significant of a drop in dollars or percentage, but how low is it gonna go?

    Classic Dupont Circle one bedroom. Walk to everything. It's only 560SF but has a balcony with stainless-steel kitchen and butcherblock counters. French doors. Wood floors. MLS: DC5510839.

    Cozy, cozy, cozy.

    Nice package!

    How much will the owner get? At what price point should the owner pull this thing from the market and rent for five years?

    GOODBYE SOURCE, HELLO BILLIARDS. The Source Theater will lose its home at 1835 14th St. NW between Mike Benson's Cafe Saint-Ex, Bar Pilar and forthcoming EC-12. Geoff Dawson - who owns Buffalo Billiards, Atomic Billiards and Continental among other area bars - will call the 8,000-square-foot restaurant Standard Bar & Grill and put about $1.5 million into the space. The plan is to open a two-story neighborhood bar and grill in September with pool tables and board games. Dawson also is close to grabing a basement space on Seventh Street SE on Capitol Hill and looking at space in Columbia Heights.

    SOHO IN DC. Not the SoHo of Manhattan of the 1960's and 1970's when it was filled with galleries. But the SoHo of today along Broadway with its mix of chain stores, movie theaters and restaurants that are forcing the galleries to Brooklyn.

    In "Gallery Place" there never were more than a handful of galleries to force out, but we are getting the chain stores anyway and some of the other SoHo's energy. Walk up 7th St. and it feels like Broadway, kinda.

    There is a good mix of people: DCists, suburbanites, whites, blacks. It feels a little sanitized but not like downtown Bethesda. And of course this is only the beginning.

    Maybe you missed it, but Bed, Bath & Beyond opened this week. Please go into this store and give those poor sales-clerks something to do. We went in this morning and were greeted over and over and over. Two notable aspects: 1. BBB promises same day delivery in DC on all purchases, 2. BBB has a wedding registry featuring Villeroy & Boch, Vera Wang etc. It's definitely not down market.

    Its been known for months that Balducci's is coming to 7th St., but finally seeing the "coming soon" signs and the signs of construction are reassuring. Like so many things in DC (waterfront baseball stadium, for instance), we've said countless times "we'll believe it when we see it."

    7th St. is not a destination yet, but you can imagine it to be within a few years. Of course, go there for a Verizon Center event, a movie whatever. But by 2008, it will be a place for people who live in DC to hang out on a warm Saturday afternoon the way Georgetown is now for people who live in Virgnia. (Our trips to Georgetown usually only go as far as Meiwah on New Hampshire Ave. and M St.) .... NOW THAT YOU PUT THE CORKS BACK IN THE CHAMPAIGNE BOTTLE, and heard the less than enthusistic comments from Major League Baseball about the lease deal, the spending cap bill is now are out and in the Washington Post.

    February 9, 2006

    NO SURPRISES, STEADY MORTGAGE RATES. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.24 percent, with an average 0.6 point, for the week ending February 9, 2006, up from last week’s average of 6.23 percent, said Freddie Mac. Last year at this time, the 30-year fixed rate mortgage averaged 5.57 percent.

    The average for the 15-year fixed rate mortgage this week is 5.83 percent, with an average 0.6 point, up from last week’s average of 5.81 percent. A year ago, the 15-year averaged 5.10 percent. Five-year adjustable-rate mortgages averaged 5.89 percent this week, with an average 0.7 point, up from last week when it averaged 5.87 percent. A year ago, the five-year ARM averaged 4.99 percent.

    "With no big economic news to influence the direction of mortgage rates this week, the numbers drifted very slightly upward," said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac chief economist. "We see this trend continuing throughout 2006, with the 30-year fixed rate mortgage ending the year at about 6.3 percent as the housing market eases back from last year’s record setting levels toward a somewhat more normal rate of activity."

    If rates do level out around 6.3 percent that would provide some certainty for buyers contemplating getting into the market, said Timothy Barnes of American Home Mortgage. With interest rates leveling off, "We'd have more confidence in the buying market and increased demand for morgtages to finance houses and condos by the end of the year," he predicted.

    UPSCALE APARTMENTS are headed for unloved Woodward Building at 15th & H Sts. NW. SJG Properties, a family-owned property developer and manager, owns the 11-story Woodward Building and will convert it into 189 apartments that should be finished by the fall of 2007. Years ago there was talk of tearing the building down because it was not historically significant enough. We think this sign for "Woodward Liquor" on the building is cool, and Downtown is a better place with the Woodward there. ... Real estate developer Penzance Cos. is scheduled to break ground today on a 12-story, 250,000-square-foot office building at 455 Massachusetts Ave. NW in NOMA.

    pix by edwardaggie98

    EDUCATION ISSUE. We're happy that the notion of cost containment dominated the DC Council's discussion earlier this week. Unfortunately, the green eyeshaders set the tone over the stadium lease debate and not the school modernization debate.

    Modernizing schools is laudable, but DC has a very poor history of managing public resources, in particular the schools. March Fisher points to a story he wrote in the 1980's to illustrate how deeply rooted the incompetence is. But not all, new schools have produced mediocre results. Look at Oyster School in Woodley Park.

    The DC Bubble hopes that the $100 million a year in sales tax revenue dedicated to renovations and expansions of the school system will not be a colossal waste. It unnerving that the modernization bill has passed before the school masterplan has been issued by Superintendent Clifford Janey. As many have acknowledged as well, there are way too many public schools as it is. Spending money on modernization is a good thing, but spending money will not solve the problem of dilapidated schools. Only good management will fix that.

    A SO-SO GRADE WAS GIVEN to the DC public school system by the Council of the Great City Schools for the way it manages the system. The assessment by the coalition of large urban public shcool systems says "the school district manages its resources far better than it used to, but not as well as it could." Weaknesses include: inadequate internal controls, poor staff training, weak procedures, redundant processes, poor position control, and out-of-date technology. Yeah lets give them a $100 million per year.

    More generally, the report said: "It is too soon to tell whether the new reforms will yield academic results, but the city seems determined not to let its latest opportunity to improve schools fall into the trash heap of good intentions. The district, for its part, is making progress on the number of schools attaining Adequate Yearly Progress. There is reason to be hopeful, but it will need to rethink how it uses it resources if it ultimately wants better academic results."

    PARTNERSHIP WILL MODERNIZE SCHOOL WITHOUT WALLS in Foggy Bottom. The George Washington Universtiy and the school, which actully has walls at 2130 G St. NW, agreed to let GWU build student housing on a parking lot and to renovate and expand the school.

    February 8, 2006

    Late Morning Flash

    DC COUNCIL APPROVES LEASE, CHANGES THE STRIKE ZONE. The DC Council passed the lease early this morning. As usual chaos ruled the day. Council members: Marion Barry, Carol Schwartz, Kwame Brown and Vincent Gray switched their votes from "Nay" to "Yeah," after a spending cap was agreed to.

    MLB has not commented on the approved lease yet. They could be awaiting a third vote on the lease -- perhaps a DC specific strike zone is looming? Or a lease that demands a certain percentage of the Nats to be DC born and raised? Or a lease that imposes special penalties for double parking near the stadium except on Sundays? We are waiting on the edges of our seats.

    According to the Washington Post, the deal calls for Major League Baseball:

    • To cap spending just shy of $611M
    • To pay start up costs for a new youth baseball academy;
    • To give 10,000 free tickets a year to low-income DC residents;
    • To make community appearances each year;
    • To locate the business office for the Nats in DC;
    • To look for DC workers;
    • To hold MLB owners meeting in DC by 2008;
    • To turn over land for development profits;
    • To give the District two-thirds of the parking revenue on non-game days;
    • To forgo the rent penalty if the stadium is not built on time;
    • To issue a letter of credit to assure DC secures low-interest rates.

    ST-EXEMPIRE TO GROW WITH SATELITE RADIO. A slew, well three, development announcements came out of the DC Office of Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development recently. One in Eckington involving the St. Ex-Bar Pilar crew with friends from XM Satelite Radio, one in Ivy City and one in Shaw.

    The managers of Cafe Saint Ex and Bar Pilar on 14th Street NW, along with Next Gen Construction and Renovation LLC, a DC development firm, were selected to restore Old Engine Company 12, located at the corner of North Capitol Street and Quincy Place NW in Eckington. Built in 1897, the historic firehouse is one of DC's 29 pre-World War II firehouses.

    The plan is to convert the building into a full-service, sit-down restaurant named "EC-12" with a second-floor cultural and performing arts space programmed by XM Satellite Radio, who will broadcast live music events from the location. Wow. DC Bubble votes for this crew to play a role in the next item too.

    In Shaw, A Solicitation of Offers for the redevelopment of the historic Howard Theater, located at 620 T Street NW will be issued Friday, the press release said. Built in 1910, the Howard Theatre was a prominent performing arts center when U Street was known as Black Broadway. It closed after the riots and now is in ruins.

    "DC's vision is to reposition the Howard Theatre as not only an icon of past achievements, but also as a competitive, self-sufficient and contemporary venue for launching future generations of musical and cultural talent and for showcasing today's most celebrated artists," said the DMPED release. We hope this does not become an under-performing Lincoln Theater redux.

    In Ivy City a request for proposals to develop 37 properties was issued. 50% of the units produced would have to be affordable, with special emphasis on units affordable to buyers who earn below 50% of the Area Median Income. DC has promised up to $3 million in public subsidy to assist developers in meeting this requirement.

    The RFP "strikes a desirable balance by providing unprecedented affordability for a neighborhood revitalization project of this type while creating more opportunities for workforce housing for teachers, police officers, and workers in the hospitality industry," said DMPED.

    pix by rj3dc

    February 7, 2006

    HELLO ARBITRATION. DC Council rejects stadium lease. The score was 8 to 5. The Washington Post says this.

    SENSIBLE. RATIONAL. NOT FOR US. Cheers to the Washington Post for calling attention to the idea of allowing developers to rebuild schools, public libraries etc. in exchange for the right to build condos on leftover land. It's a win-win and seems so simple and rational, but we live in Washington DC, not Stockholm. Rationality and simplicity often lose out here. Fresh thinking and new blood sometimes are as welcome as a drug-taking Mayor. Nevermind, you know what we mean.

    Years after the Oyster School was built in Woodley Park in exchange for the right to build the Henry Adams House condos next door, few remember the screaming and carrying on (Think of a three-year old going to the doctor to get a shot). The debate lasted for years. Now the school is popular, safe and well-constructed, and DC has a boatload of new taxpayers living in the condos. But the project was a nasty fight every step of the way.

    The expansive Marie Cook Learning Center at 2200 18th St. NW in Adams Morgan is another possibility for redevelopment. The school uses an out-dated open classroom model and needs plenty of work and, anyone who has walked along 18th St. knows the plaza near the tennis courts is underutilized. To get a sense of how intense, the fight over the school would be see look at this issue of the Kalorama Citizen Assn. newsletter.

    In the West End, a similar fight is expected over the library and related police facility at 24th and M Sts. An unsolicited proposal for the development was submitted by the development-firm of Orr Partners of Northern Virgina.

    Other sites pointed out by developers and city officials: Shaw Junior High at 925 Rhode Island Ave NW, Watha T Daniel Library at 1701 8th Street NW, the air rights over I-395 in NOMA, Hine Junior High at 335 8th St SE on Capitol Hill, just to name a few. DC Council Chair Linda Cropp in a bill exploring these partnerships would like city planners to evaluate which sites might work best.

    Given the opposition to these sensible partnerships, DC Bubble will dangerously, foolishly compare some DC residents to the Palestians, who are often their own worst enemies. Sound like "some people" you know?

    MULTIPLE CONTRACTS IN A SLOWING MARKET. Inventory is building in DC, but not in all submarkets. You don't see multiple contracts, except when you do. Sellers should not expect full-value contracts unless of course two buyers really want the place. We are living in a market full of conundrums, realtors report.

    The long and the short of it is that the DC condo market is very soft, often down 10% or more off its peak. The problem with the peak was that there often were four or five contracts for one unit, and that drove the price way above the ask, creating an unrealistic expectation for future sellers. Now a condo can sit for weeks with no buyer, and rather rising from the ask, prices drop. Painful for sellers now. Painful for buyers who got in 6 months ago. Good for new buyers. And don't fool yourself, condos still are trading hands. Today it takes a few weeks, but not hours like it did before.

    While DC home prices have flattened with some areas hotter than others. Capitol Hill is slower than Mount Pleasant, for instance. This does not mean prices jump above the ask or that sellers always get their ask, but that hosue sellers (condo sellers too!) often must deal with contingency clauses, regardless of price. Inspection clauses. Home sale contingencies. You name it.

    The market is more balanced among buyers and sellers. Buyers tend to be the arrogant ones. Houses should retain their value over the next two years. Condos probably have a bit more to give in price, but once the inventory has been absorbed in two years prices could start to creep up again.

    And lets not forget that DC is still rebounding. Traffic is nightmarish beyond the Beltway. The DC economy is healthy with a strong employment base. Lots of families with babies who once ran to 703 or Rockthesda, now are staying. Long-term investors will do very fine in DC whether they own a condo or a house.

    If you are feeling pain because you paid too much or should have gotten out sooner, remember the first rule of real estate: time heals all wounds.

    February 6, 2006

    IL PROBLEMO AT IL PALLAZO. It's the grand, former Italian embassy on 16th St. NW in Adams Morgan. For years it sat decrepit and waiting. Finally developers took notice and planned to sink $50M into renovations and a dramatic glass and steel addition.

    But wait. Once again before DC makes progress (or not), it must show to the world how it's the junior varsity player casting about on the turf of world class cities. In the end, the historic preservation process relied on for decades has proven faulty enough that it crumbles, perhaps justly, as soon as it is challegned.

    In this case the monkey wrench was thrown into the mix by David Maloney of the DC planning office, who asked the DC Historic Preservation Review Board to declare the former embassy "an historic landmark." So why did you wait so long Mr. Maloney? The board, says the Washington Post, likely will grant landmark status, which will slow the development process and cost enough to put the kabosh on the deal for now.

    The developer claims the city is stepping in at the 11th hour. To address the historic preservation aspect, Bruce F. Bradley, president of Castleton Holdings LLC, relied on a long-standing, but informal process, in which the Preservation Board deferred to the DC Preservation League, which in this case blessed the Il Palazzo project. Why not defer as you have in the past Preservation Board? Hey developer, you invested $50M and relied on very shakey preservation review process?

    This minor opera (the Baseball stadium lease saga qualfies as major) kind of reminds me of how business is done in China, except in the Middle Kingdom a last minute "no" means make the bribe bigger. In DC it shows how all decision-making is ad hoc and convoluted and does not stand up in the court of law or public opinion.

    Question: Who are the losers here? Answer: The buyers who have already sunk $30M into the project in the form of condos they purchased.

    LOST AMONG THE SUPERMARKETS. Back in the dark days before Marion Barry started making comebacks, DC food shoppers bought their ramen and milk (Yuk!!) at Giant, Safeway or the poor stepchild of Safeway, Townhouse. Well so long condo glut and hello Supermarket glut, of course no one is complaining about this overbuild.

    The latest addition to the mix is a Harris Teeter on H St. NE. The previously announced plan to build 230 market-rate apartments in the 300 block, includes a proposal for a Harris Teeter, which has signed a letter of interest with Steuart Investment. Harris Teeter also has looked at the old Washington Coleseum site at between at 2nd & L Sts., NE.

    The Steuart Investment project sits right next to the Senate Square and really would galvanize H St. as a destination. This would be the third Harris Teeter in DC with one under construction at the sold out Jenkins Row development at 1391 Pennsylvania Ave. SE on Capitol Hill and in Adams Morgan where the store is edging toward approval. The Adams Morgan and Capitol Hill stores are slated to open next year.

    Also in the works is a Trader Joe's at 25th and Pennsylvania NW, which will open in June and a Safeway at 5th and K Sts. NW as part of the City Vista development in NOMA. And Yes! Organic Market is planning to open in Brookland. Off the books most likely is the Whole Foods in Columbia Heights.

    The Adams Morgan Safeway on Columbia Road will expand too with the pending acquisition of the Citibank at 1749 1/2 Columbia Road NW, said a Safeway store manager. Remember when the Giant store on Columbia Road closed because DC could not support so many supermarkets. Times sure have changed.

    February 5, 2006


    pix by Terecico

    Old Threads
    Washington Examiner reports of booming housing market in NOMA where A.V. Restorante is being marketed for condos etc. ... Adams Morgan crime spikes ... Evidence of a soft landing in DC real estate. ... Furniture to go: Miss Pixies moves and Dragonfly opens. ... DC school closings and school modernization. ... Green buildings on the agenda for DC. ... Rising interest rates. ... Efforts to "save" the old Heurich Mansion, while management changes contemplated at the Lincoln Theater. ... Is this two bedroom condo in Southwest worth what they're asking? ... Tasty, unique wraps at Naan & Beyond. ... The Washington Post and Todd Lovinger of Logan Residents for Equitable Enforcement of Parking Laws report on the dispute between residents and parishioners, as well as the related verbal battle over at ANC 1B over accusations of racism.

    Cars illegally parked in Logan Circle
    on a Sunday in January.

    February 4, 2006

    Comfort Cuisine

    Tired of the wrap trend. Well Naan & Beyond will be bring you back to it. Passed this Naan & Beyond at 1710 L St. a million times and wondered whether its worth it. It is.

    In fact it worth a special trip for the Chicken Tikka combo, which we eat as take home for dinner sometimes and not just at lunchtime.

    Burritos with an Indian twist is definitely a novel take on the world of wraps, which now includes: breakfast burritos, Thai wraps, hotter than hell wraps...you name it.

    Using Naan, a flavorful indian flatbread, instead of a flour tortilla is where Naan & Beyond not surprisingly begins. My filling of choice is the grilled chicken, but you also can get lamb or veggies.

    While waiting for your food, watch "the chef" make your naan in the clay tandoor over. This process might take a while because of the long lines and oft disorganized service. But remember the long lines are indicative of the good food.

    Once you have tasted the succulently grilled chicken, you will notice the dipping sauces. The somewhat sweet mango gives a great balance to the chicken. The green cilantro and "hot" also are quite good. The staff will ask which one flavor you want with your wrap, but its not to hard to get all three if you are persistent.

    The combo also comes with a bag of homemade potato chips. These are addictive and the above mentioned sauces make them a perfect complement, particularly the mango. The mango shake is good and so are the various indian curries and samosas, but the chicken tikka is the best and worth going out of you way for.


    Developers have now kicked in $70M to guard against cost overruns, says the Washington Post. DC Council Chair Linda Cropp is now cautiously optimistic depending on which way the wind blows.

    February 3, 2006

    What's It Worth To Ya?!?

    SMART BUY OR OVERPRICED? Two-bedrooms, two full bathrooms with monument views and parking near revitalized L'Efant Plaza and DC Baseball stadium available in 2010 for $900k. But for sale now at $525K. But today really worth???

    Located at 350 G ST SW which has been dubbed by the developer: The Residences at Potomac Place.

    The sixth-floor unit has high ceilings, berber carpeting, washer/dryer, 24-hour desk, outdoor pool, business/fitness centers, TV/party room. See listing here.

    CHANGES TO THE CIRCULATOR BUSES COMING, confirms outgoing Metro Chair Richard White. Without confirming details, he said "there are changes bring discussed to better serve customer needs and minimize traffic delays." Nothing has been finalized, but "we are trying to make improvements prior to the busy spring tourist season," he added. ... Unsung Designers, an online boutique that carries hard to find indie fashion and talented emerging labels, is holding a sale on Saturday from 12-6 in its showroom at 2412 18th St NW (in the alley). Tops, bottoms, handbags, accessories, jewelry, they've got it all, ladies.

    ACT II AT THE LINCOLN THEATER. The DC government has not been thrilled with the way the nonprofit U Street Theater Foundation has operated the Lincoln Theater on U Street.

    To gage interest in the theater and what other operators might do differently, DC asked nonprofits and theater companies to express interest in the theater. "We really are intending, at this stage, to see what opportunities are out there," John McGraw, an aide to the Mayor, told the Washington Business Journal.

    With an occassional, high school graduation, speech by the Mayor, uplifting African-American morality play (Where Eagles Fly, Make Room for Love) and various musical events, the Lincoln has not really branded itself as the venue. Is it a grand space for semi-professional theater? A public auditorium? What kind of performance space is it? Given the types of events staged there, it is hard believe the the 1,000 seats have often been all filled when there is even an event.

    What's more, U Street has seen lots of investment in condos and restaurants in the last few years and the theater does not really drive neighborhood business. Then again there is lots of competition from the Warner, the National, the Kennedy Center etc. So programming must be a challenge. Nonetheless, its hard to remember the last time there was "a hit" at the Lincoln so maybe its time for a change.


    SAVE THE HEURICH MANSION. 8,000 people a year visit the Brewmaster's Castle at 1307 New Hamphire Ave NW. That's about 22 people a day who visit this example of high victoriana owned by the Heurich House Foundation, which "saved" the property a few years ago from being turned into a restaurant, according to the Washington Post. Now its a rarely visited museum in a city of museums. Unless $250,000 is raised soon the banks will foreclose. Preserving the building is laudable, but lets not keep it behind a proverbial piece of glass with a sign that says "don't touch" or worse present this facsinating piece of local history in the dullest, most portentious manner possible. How about a brewpub?

    pix by seth gains

    February 2, 2006

    MORTGAGE RATES CONTINUE UPWARD CREEP. “Mortgage rates will surely fluctuate in the weeks and months ahead, but the trend now is for higher rates over the long run,” said Frank Nothaft, Freddie Mac chief economist with the release of the weekly survey.

    The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 6.23 percent, with an average 0.5 point, for the week ending February 2, 2006, up from last week’s average of 6.12 percent. Last year at this time, the 30-year averaged 5.63 percent.

    The average for the 15-year this week is 5.81 percent, with an average 0.5 point, up from last week’s average of 5.70 percent. A year ago, the 15-year averaged 5.14 percent.

    “Still, to keep things in perspective, mortgage rates are currently only about one-half a percentage point higher than they were at this time last year," said Nothaft.

    SHIFT TOWARD A BUYERS MARKET. Pending home sales continue to decline but are expected to recover in the months ahead, according to the National Association of Realtors. Home sales lag a couple of months behind movements in mortgage rates, said National Association of Realtors' chief economist David Lereah, adding that the slower sales pace at the end of 2005 was a result of rising mortgage rates in the fall.


    The Four Seasons Washington hotel, a 211-room hotel in Georgetown, has been purchased Strategic Hotel Capital Inc., a Chicago hotel-management company. The $168.9M deal is expected to close early this year. The price for the hotel at 2800 Penn. Ave. NW is the highest per room ever for a DC hotel.

    GOODBYE CHOCOLATE CITY, HELLO SPINACH-OPLIS. A bill incorporating the tough-sounding Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standard into the DC building code will be the subject of a DC Council hearing next week. The standard will apply to DC-sponsored and commercial buildings over 20,000SF.

    The bill "not only provides developers, property owners, and their occupants with energy and water savings, good indoor air quality, and healthy, pleasant and productive surroundings, but also benefits the overall community by being resource-efficient and by conserving energy," said Councilmember Sharon Ambrose, who is taking the lead on the measure (B16-515).

    Several DC buildings meet LEED standards, including the National Assn. of Realtors Building at 500 New Jersey Ave., NW, and the National Geographic Society Headquarters (pictured at the left) at 1145 17th St, NW.

    Arlington, Chicago, New York and other cities already have adopted the LEED standard. Given the LEED standard's dull-toothed approach, there is no reason DC should not adopt this largely symbolic measure.

    But its better than nothing and its a start down the road toward building a windmill atop the US Capitol. Don't scoff even George W. now says the US addicted to oil.


    $370M surplus in DC spent even before the proverbial checks were in the mail. ... More on the Logan Circle parking debate. One guy has the nerve to say there are racial overtones to the parishioners vs. Loganites debate. Look over here for some background.

    pix by hypergenesb

    February 1, 2006

    EDUCATION ISSUE. At last, the DC Board of Education is about to vote to close some public schools in DC. One does not have to be a student or parent with a student at a DC public school to recognize that the system has too many school buildings. A glance at many buildings shows how impossible it must be to maintain so many facilities. A closer look reveals many are underutilized.

    The process of cutting fat will drag out. The Board of Ed vote only will affirm the need to cut, but the exact number of schools and which ones won't be decided until April.

    MODERNIZATION. The full DC Council is expected to take up the related school modernization effort next week. A DC committee voted to devote $200M to renovate schools. In anticipation of the council debate, the DC School Modernization Campaign is pressuring the council and has asked for support of its agenda to make modernization a top priority and to guarantee that all students within 10 to 15 years are in a 21st century facility etc.

    While the goals are admirable, the Campaign hardly calls for tough choices to be made, such as closing underutilized schools to help pay for the program. Backers of the Campaign include: DC PTAs, Save Our Schools, Parents United for DC Public Schools and, not surprisingly given the agenda, Washington Teachers Union. Despite the squishy agenda, DC Bubble has signed on.


    Harry Jaffee skewers Clifford Janey, D.C. schools superintendent, for changes he made at Eaton Elementary in Cleveland Park. ... The process to enroll a child in an out-of-bounds school began Jan. 28 and will run through Feb. 28. Anybody praying for Oyster? We would be very curious to hear from parents how this process develops.

    MOVING FURNITURE. She was shabby before it was chic (Ha Ha Ha!!). And now she has a new store in Adams Morgan. Miss Pixie has found new space now that uber developer Douglas Jemal has plans, and no one is saying what (condos, mega-restaurant?), for her old space on Columbia Road.

    New location 2475 18th St. NW

    Pixie has very reasonable prices for "furniture and whatnot." She has a great eye for that dresser you need and that lamp you dont need but buy anyway. Her offerings are sized for urban homes, not for the McMansions in god knows where.

    Remember check out the new store (near "the Diner") on Thursdays for the best selection.

    Also arriving in Logan Circle the neighborhood from Reston is Dragonfly Antiques. Kim brings a selection of Chinese, Tibetan and Burmese furniture and collectibles. The website says she "works directly with suppliers of authentic, hand crafted pieces, bringing the finest quality antiques and contemporary pieces to you at the most competitive prices." Very cool.

    Dragonfly, 1457 Church St. NW


    The DC Council was briefed on the revised lease for the baseball stadium. The vote is set for Feb. 7, and it will be a close call. Plus the lease will be amended again to make Wall Street happy. ... Bethesda's Woodmont Triangle gets dense housing development. Plus there are incentives to build low-income units.