June 20, 2006


How many times will we say: "At last a deal!" with respect to the baseball stadium in DC.

Well, we got another one. This time about the parking structure. Settling the above ground, below ground debate, Mayor Williams announced a hybrid above-below grade parking plan.

The plan calls for 900 parking spaces on one level below ground to serve the condo owners, hotel and retailers. Above ground, there would be two different structures.
The first two levels of both structures would be restaurants and shops and on top of those would be four levels of parking -- totaling 925 spots -- wrapped by condominiums. Another eight levels on top of that would be more condos, including 140 units priced below market value for lower-income residents.

Can you believe the Lerner's objected to below grade parking on the grounds it would slow construction. Do they not get why DC wanted the baseball stadium in the first place? Wasting all this valuable space with above-grade parking would have cost DC millions in lost tax revenue.

June 19, 2006

Ground Breaking In G'Town

National Park Service begins construction Monday on the long-awaited Georgetown Waterfront Park along the Potomac River, reports the AP.

The park will eventually replace a parking lot with a waterfront promenade that will include three overlooks with sculpted granite slabs etched with images of Georgetown's maritime heritage. There also will be trees, flowers, benches and pathways. The first phase of the park will stretch upstream from Wisconsin Avenue toward the Key Bridge.

But no playground, dog run, basketball court or anything that will make the park an active site. A glass half full is better than an empty one, but the redevelopment could be so much more.

June 17, 2006


Mayor Tony Williams proposed selling a chunk of land near the new baseball stadium to Western Development, which would build 900 above and below grade spaces for Nats fans too crazy not to take Metro.

What's unfortunate here is that the Lerners, who own the team, are opposing below grade parking. DC Bubble hoped the owners would pitch in for parking, but rather than help make the stadium better, they blocking the effort because they want their new digs ASAP. Short-sighted.

You would have thought it would be the Lerners offering to buy the land not Herb Miller. This does not bode well for the Lerner regime.

June 4, 2006


"For years, politicians, planners and citizens have discussed ways to bring the city's "forgotten half," east of the Anacostia River, into focus. ... [From the Point on the campus] when the leaves of the tall trees are down, the vista expands north to south from the campanile of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception to the Masonic tower on the hill above Alexandria."

Public access to the Point will never be, "if the federal government, which owns the 176-acre west campus, continues with its plans. The basic proposal: to transform the west campus into a headquarters compound for the Coast Guard and Department of Homeland Security."

"Carrying out such plans would involve developing 4.5 million square feet -- a Pentagon-size allotment. Although most of the older buildings would be renovated as common facilities for eating and meeting, adding so many buildings would alter the bucolic character of the place -- and not for the better." DC Bubble's view is that the words bucolic and city don't often mix, particularly in a city like ours with so many collars on development."

"But the worst aspects of the federal plans -- from the point of view of public access to the Point and its future as a symbol of Washington's unity -- are the proposed military-style security arrangements. There would be no public access to the Point. Much of the compound would be surrounded by fences (incorporating the historic brick and stone wall along Martin Luther King Avenue), and buildings would be set back a minimum of 100 feet from the borders. (Or, if built within that line, they would be "hardened" to withstand explosives. In other words, they'd be bunkers, designed to look sort of normal.)"

June 3, 2006


As if rising interest rates were not the only thing pressuring condo owners, fees increases of as much as 15 percent are not unheard of, says the WaPo.


At the International Council of Shopping Centers' convention this year, the focus was on bringing more grocery stores to the city, said the WaTimes.

"This is the year of the grocery store," Keith Sellars, director of retail development at the Washington, DC Economic Partnership, said before the convention. "We have nine meetings with grocery stores." Sellars added that the District turned down Save-A-Lot, fast-food chains and some other retailers. Years ago we would have loved to grab any new grocer, but now we can be selective.

The focus on groceries seems well founded. A grocery store really can anchor an neighborhood with restaurants, bars, drugstores etc. Bring on the groceries and the rest will follow with absolute certainty.

Still too bad about Balducci's. Good news that Trader Joe's is close to opening.

June 2, 2006


With concerns, the National Capital Planning Commission unanimously approved the first phase of the baseball stadium design, said WTOP.

Once the area is developed, NCPC fears "spectators will see the sides of offices buildings with mechanical penthouses on top," says NCPC member Michael McGill according to WTOP. Isn't this the whole point of spending hundreds of millions on the stadium to encourage development, Michael? McGill proposed new limits on buildings north of the waterfront 41,000-seat stadium to keep site lines open to Capitol Hill.

But D.C. panel member Jennifer Steingasser says restrictions would be a reversal of efforts to develop the area. Duh.


Realtor quoted in the WaPo unfazed by rising inventory in DC. "Prices have more or less leveled off" as the inventory of homes for sale has grown, says Donna Evers, head of Evers & Co. Real Estate Inc.

Inventory, Evers said, has reached numbers not seen since 1999. But she said sellers should not worry: "1999 was a boom year." Maybe so but given how quickly the backlog has grown and the fact that the Fed is not done boosting rates, if we were selling we would be very neverous.

June 1, 2006


During the three-month period ending March 31, DC housing prices jumped ... ok not jumped ... but rose 1.47 percent, according to the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight. Over a one-year period, prices were up a much sharper 20.84 percnet, said the OFHEO.

Most striking though is the fact that houses have gone up about 5.2 times their value since 1980. This statistic illustrates the paradym shift that has happened here in DC over the last 25 years or so. As a point of comparison, over the same period homes in the state of Virginia went up only 3.5 times their value and homes in Maryland rose four times their value.

In a nutshell, the paradigm shift argument states that capital disproportionally shifted to DC over the past few decades as the city revived and gentrified. Contrary to the title of this blog, the housing market in D.C. is not a bubble waiting to burst.


Though it opened with much fanfare back in the late 1980's, the Willard Hotel has not really contributed much to the idea that DC is a vibrant, exciting place. OK maybe elderly romantics from Virginia think the decor and menu is grand, but hardly anyone else does.

To add excitement, the Willard encouragingly will add a "Parisian bistro that's expected to open this fall on Pennsylvania Avenue," says WashBiz. Hopefully that will add some life to 14th St. near Pa. Ave., which for all intents and purposes really could be part of the 14th Street bridge for all the street life it generates.

To lead the effort, the Willard has named Boston hotel pro Daniel Kenney, who also will be executive chef to oversee the Willard Room restaurant. Hailing from the Langham Hotel in Boston, Kenny chefed at the hotels Julien and Cafe Fleuri restaurants. He is known for meals "heavy on the seasonal, artisanal delicacies, prepared with old-school (read: French) precision yet finished off with a contemporary flourish," says Gayot.

Sure wish the staffs from the Oriental and the Willard could do an exchange for a decade or so.