May 31, 2007

Old Rental to Condo to Rental Trick

Two years ago when part of McClean Gardens was being converted into a condo called Vaughan Place there was a brouhaha over how the conversion was done. Well nevermind. The unsold units are reverting to rentals, according to DCMud. Less than half of the units were reported sold as condos.

One reason DC is missing the worst of the exploding real estate bubble is that strong rental market that exists here. Can't sell you condo; rent it.

The long lines one used to see for sales open houses now are for rental open houses. In fact, the owner of the Vaughan have the rental portion of the building on the market too, says WashBiz.

The Mystery of the Thirteen Lockboxes

Above are the lockboxes outside of Quincy Court at 1117 10th St NW. Not quite Logan, not quite NOMA. Near the convention center and loads of other condo/lofts. Walkable to downtown. (A transitional 'hood going from abandoned to "upscale," somewhere on the road from dangerous to no man's land.)

The 13 lockboxes look dramatic and suggest the condo bubble is bursting because there are soooo..... many unsold units. So how come the MLS only has six units listed accordning to ZipRealty?

Upon closer inspection two of the six units are list by JP Real Estate Group and another two by condo marketer McWilliams/Ballard Inc. The JP Group website lists yet another unit as well, so seven total. Sounds fishy. What's going on here? How many units are there? Have the realtors forgotten to remove thier lockboxes after a unit sold? Unlikely.

My dear Watson, units being mothballed by the developer!!! Indubitably. Or maybe not. Prices have begun to creep up, but that could be artificially created by developers holding on to units. If I had deep enough pockets that what I would be doing too.

May 30, 2007

It's Not Just Shiloh

Shaw, NOMA and Logan Circle are plauged by more than 100 vacant, dilapidated properties the Mount Vernon Square Neighborhood Association complained to DC, the WashExam reported.

MVSNA wants the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs to devote more resources to fix the problem, to ensure vacant properties are assessed at the appropriate real estate tax rate — five times the standard levy — and to better maintain government-owned properties.

No word on whether Shiloh Baptist owns any of these properties. The church is in the habit of letting the buildings it owns in the area rot. MVSNA identified 71 were vacant buildings and 29 were empty lots. The area the group focused on is the area bounded by New York Ave. NW to the south and N St. to the north, between 1st and 7th St.

Why do landlords sit on these buildings when the city is reviving? Can you say condos? Too bad much of the property is probably in the hands of DC, which is in the habit of letting property it owns go underutilized.

Square 54: One Step Closer

The D.C. Zoning Commission unanimously approved the University's plan to develop Square 54 at its May monthly meeting, the GW Hatchet reported. The National Capital Planning Commission recommended that the Zoning Commission approve the plans in April.

The $250 million Square 54 project will feature approximately 336 "luxury" residential units (non-university housing), with over 80,000 sf of retail space (including a 27,000-sf supermarket and outdoor café space) and 440,000 sf of office space overlooking Washington Circle. Boston Properties and KSI Services are the developers.

Considering how complex the project is, it took GWU and the developers a reasonable amount of time to win approval of this project.

Oh wait. There is a 35-day appeal period before GWU can move forward with its construction plans. The Foggy Bottom Association threatened this spring to appeal the Square 54 decision, so it is possible that such an organization might seek further legal action during this appeal period, the Hatchet said. (Sounds eerily like the Onion.)

May 29, 2007

DC Holds 75 Meetings with Retailers

The city held 75-plus meetings with retailers at the International Council of Shopping Centers' annual convention last week, the WashTimes said. Retailers and restaurateurs cited the trifecta of high education levels, high income and high growth as the reason they wanted to be in the District.

For instance, DC is in talks with Nordstrom about opening in G-Town. That would be a coup.

Jair Lynch Gets a Bad Rap

The DC program to benefit local, small, disadvantaged business enterprises (LSDBE) is flawed, argues Jonetta Rose Barras in the WashExam. DC set aside millions of dollars for such LSDBE firms yet they often do shoddy work and are not rotated out of the program when and if they grow in size.

Developer Jair Lynch Cos., Rose contends remains LSDBE certified despite "despite repeated questions about the quality of its work." Jair Lynch has been active in Columbia Heights and Logan Circle.

May 28, 2007

Gettin' Ready for the First Pitch

The plan is to get The Yards' streetlights and sidewalks ready for baseball's opening day next spring, said the WaPo. Ultimately Forest City Washington and its partners will build or rehabilitate more than 25 buildings and fill them with 1.8 million square feet of office space, stores, businesses, restaurants, and residences.

"You really can create a neighborhood, and that's exactly what we're doing," says Deborah Ratner Salzberg, 54, president of Forest City Washington. "We are building . . . an active waterfront that will transform an entire section of this city."

DC is going to be a very different place in 2020. But without the baseball stadium this part of town would have been forlorn and forgotten.

DC Schools Should Be Reading from the YMCA's Grammer Book

In exchange for a portion of its land, Perseus Realty will rebuild the YMCA's Anthony Bowen facility at 1325 W St. NW and help the institution upgrade its facilities. "We are going to grow from a little tiny Y to a big facility with a huge swimming pool," said Pam Curran, vice president of operations of the YMCA of Metropolitan Washington in the WashExam.

Perseus will own the 200 apartments and retail portions of the development (12,000 sf) and the YMCA will own its 45,000-square-foot facility. The apartments will be market-rate housing for the most part, with a percentage set aside as affordable units under D.C.'s inclusionary zoning law.

Message to other institutions in the city: To stay relevant sometimes you must make a deal because there are no white knights out there to write you a check. Grow, change or die.

Along the same lines, the Tenleytown libray is looking to do a parntership revitalize itself, and and various public schools have been exporing thier options as well.

May 27, 2007

Don't Investment $$$ Follow Nightclubs

Remember when there was nude dancing on 9th St? Now there are offices and million dollar condos. Remember when there were similar clubs in Southeast? Now there is a baseball stadium.

So what's wrong with moving nightclubs to the New York Ave. corridor in Ivy City and Trinidad? Won't invest dollars follow? Residents complain the clubs will be too close together. Fair enough.

Even Councilman Harry Thomas Jr., in the Wash Exam, said "the fiber of that neighborhood has been waiting for a lot of change." Many club owners already have bought property in the area, the WaPost reports.

Maybe people complaining the loudest, don't own property and fear they will be forced out. Don't nudie bars need workers? Hello . . . jobs.

May 26, 2007

RAISE THE ROOF!!! Again!!!

Reiterating his argument that the height limit is bad for DC, UMD Prof.Roger Lewis in the the WaPo argued that with relaxed height limits:

"there would be places where taller, more iconic edifices could serve as landmarks. A bit more variation in building heights, and slightly more height for buildings framing key intersections, could enhance the look of many streetscapes. "

In effect, with downtown street widths rarely exceeding 90 feet to 110 feet, D.C. buildings can rise no more than 110 feet or 130 feet, except on Pennsylvania Avenue, where 160 feet is allowed.

Does the hight limit really matter when they are building 30 stories in Arlington? Brookings' Christopher Leinberger argued DC must grow up to grow.

May 25, 2007

Over at GPLiving they seem to be upset that a planned building at 704 3rd St. NW will feature commercial space only, but no retail, no condos, no apartments.

Considering for how many decades downtown went with virtually only commercial development and considering how much residential it has experienced (along with neighboring hood) of late, DC Bubble has to now respectfully say maybe we have struck a good balance.

Mixing commerical and residential development produces an 18 hour neighborhood. Retail can cater to officeworkers and residents from 7 am until 1 am. Coffee and bagels, lunch and soft goods, dinner and a movie and drinks afterward.

Now please don't construe this post as a criticism GPliving (because we love you to death!!), but we think a mix is better than too much of a good thing like residential development.

Thanks GP for the photo and the effort you put in to get it.

WashExam: DC Real Estate Market Recovering

WashExam headline says it all: "National, local housing market data mixed, but District shows recovery signs."

In the DC and Inside the Beltway, however, the market is beginning to gain steam, according to real estate broker Donna Evers. Volume is down, prices have started to go up after months of steady declines.

“The closer you get to the city, the hotter the market is,” she said. “If you look across the country, recovery has not occurred; they’re still in 2006 mode. Recovery has certainly occurred in Washington this spring.”

Further evidence of a nacsent turnaround:


DC had a meeting with Nordstrom about the idea of bringing the store to the dated Georetown Park mall, reports the WaPo. "We look for a location . . . that already has entertainment and restaurants that draw customers," a Nordstrom official says.

Western Development is reported to be planning major changes to upgrade the mall, which was built in the 1980s. There is talk of some sort of subsidy too. DC officials compared the situation to the construction of Gallery Place.

Remember when DC passed on a downtown Bloomingdales in the 1990's because it would not provide a subsidy. Times sure have changed.

May 24, 2007

Chocolate Store Opening in Logan Circle

Joining the growing list of fun and upscale retail in Logan Circle is Artfully Chocolate, which will be housed at 1529 14th St. NW below the Matrix Condo, which still has a few units left for sale.

The store will feature chocolate drinks (hot chocolate with chipotle chiles), candies, truffles, and works of art crafted by co-owner Eric Nelson. Also "customers will be able to watch the chocolatiers through a window," reported the WashExam.

The Logan Circle locale is a second store for the owners, who also have an outlet in the Del Rey section of Alexandria. Sounds like they tried out the concept there, and now are rolling out this store in a more prominent locale. Years ago the second store would be in Bethesda or if in DC only Georgetown would have been considered, but with the retail revival so many more neighborhoods are becoming more livable and interesting.

14th St. is fast becoming a new version of Conn. Ave. in Dupont. More upscale than 17th, 14th has newer and larger buildings so it can draw away retailers like Universal Gear and attract new ones like Mitchell Gold, which in turn attract new restaurants like Viridian. There are positive spinoffs left and right on 14th.

Hybrids Not Hyer-Fares For DC Taxis

Maybe the answer to higher gasoline costs is more fuel efficient cabs not a one buck per ride surchage, which the Taxi Cab Commission re-imposed as reported by DCist.

NYC said it wants to have an all hybrid fleet by 2012. "What we are trying to do is make the world a better place without waiting for Washington," Mayor Bloomber said. Maybe Washington (DC) should stop waiting for Washington too.

Our beef here is that DC has a 1940's technology at work in its cabs. No meters (1950s tech), no ads to offset fares (1960s tech), no seatbelts (1970s tech), no hybrid drivechains (2000s tech.)

Can something, anything be done to modernize, change DC's cabs?

U Street Futurama!!!

If DC condo buyers replaced the industrial fixtures in their loft condos with mission inspired lighting to go with their arts and crafts inspired furniture, what will the dwellers of the Lacey condo to make it look "traditional." I got it!!! Drape the exposed walkways in mauve velvet!! Put Campari prints over the glass!!

You have to admire Imar Hutchins for breaking the mold. The website brags: "Concrete walls, a solid steel framework, and transparent glass panels combine to create an intriguing 24,000 square foot, 4-story structure complete with an interior atrium. " Feels like Brasilia, circa 1963.

Located at 1100 Florida Ave. NW, next to the Florida Ave. Grill (in fact this used be the grill's parking lot), you have to think that only in an emerging area like the U St. corridor could someone develop something as avant-garde as this 24 unit building. Boldness aside, the building sure does create a bit of a hodgepodge on the street.

Hope they can sell 'em.

May 23, 2007

Time To Move the Reeves Center

The opening of the Reeves Center at 14th and U Sts. NW helped revive the U Street corridor. But much of the upscaling of U St. seems to have skipped that corner, which is dingy even by U St. standards.

Now the D .C. Office of Property Management has scheduled a June 5 public meeting to hear ideas on the future of the atrium and lobby of the building, reported the WashExam. The idea is to freshen the retail mix, which now includes a convenience store, cobbler etc.

Simply rethinking the first floor is “shortsighted,” said Dee Hunter, U Street advisory neighborhood commissioner. The entire building “should be in play,” he said, because its deteriorating condition is “hampering the revitalization of the neighborhood.”

Maybe the whole building should be shipped off to Anacostia to help revive that part of the city. Or at least more retail could be constructed on the plaza that faces the corner.

Let's think big Mr. Fenty.

Four Buck Gas Good for DC

and every other urban area in the country. "We love it out here, plus we are only 25 miles from Dupont Circle" say many suburbanites.

Well with traffic congestion suburban life now means more time in your car and with rising gasoline prices that means more money for the daily drive on 66, 95 or whatever interstate you pick. Moreover, the extra cost per square foot of that condo can now be more easily offset because of historicly high gasoline prices.

Of course, no one is going to move their settled family of four from Loudon to DC because of the high price of fuel. But if a family -- particularly a family of one -- is deciding where to live, the relative impact of commuting costs has changed as long as gasoline prices stay high. The way SUV sales are down, the prices of DC homes and condos tends to go up, all else being equal as the economists say.

True enough the price will settle down after driving season is over, but the high price is contributing to the DC renaissance. No doubt about it.

Movin' On Up

DC continues to experience an upswing with property gaining in value as the city rebounds.

Case in point the recent purchase by Hines of 2100 M St NW for $152.5 million at $497.29/square foot. The acquisition of the Farragut North property was done out of their value-add office investment program, said

One way Hines might add value to the project would be to add an additional 100,000 sf to the building, according Hines Vice President John Harned.

Harned may be thinking he can add a floor or two, which seems to be a trend of late. Ideally, he could add another 20, rather than just two, but alas that would mean we live in Arlington and not the nation's capitol.

May 22, 2007

Another Reason DC Housing Remains Strong

Losing sleep because you worry that mortgage foreclosures will harm the DC housing market? Time to rollover and hit that snooze button.

There were 58 foreclosures in DC in April, compared with 25,198 in California, according to the Bargain Network. Of course, California is a much, much larger market but a high level of foreclosures is not a factor here. For one thing, we have a very stable job base and economy.

So when you read headlines warning about concerns about housing prices and their impact on the DC market: we say forgetaboutit.

NAACP In DC: Definitely Maybe Not

Last year the NCAACP announced plans to move from Baltimore to DC, but the WashExam reported that the deal is off.

In fact, the developers of the Anacostia Gateway, a 63,000-square-foot mixed-use project the NAACP was supposed to move into, have put the building back on the market. The goal of the project was is to help revitalize that part of town and capture more jobs and retail.

The deal seemed to make sense for the NAACP too. Closer to the Capitol. In the heart of the DC, African American community. Nope. Among other things, the deal to sell the NAACP headquaters in Baltimore collapsed, according to the WashExam.

As for the Anacostia Gateway, the owners expect to have the building under contract to sell by the end of this month. Things seem like they are slowly percolating in DC's final frontier.

May 21, 2007

An Anacostian Tragedy

Shakespeare would have loved this one. Intrigue. Broken hearts. Greed. Lust. Negligence.

To the dismay of many, the Department of Housing and Urban Development plans to foreclose and sell Sayles Place at 2716 Douglas Pl SE to the highest bidder at auction Wednesday, despite the fact that the residents have financial backing to buy the property, said the WaPo.

HUD said it is foreclosing because the residents "did not improve physical and financial conditions to an acceptable level" as required under their cooperative agreement. Among other things, the property was cited for windows that don't open, doors that don't close properly and stove burners that don't work. The property repeatedly failed inspection.

To make matters worse . . . we mean more interesting . . . Mayor-For-Life Marion Barry is involved. "I'm going to fight as hard as I can to get this turned around." Falstaff speaks.

Tectonic Shift: Alexandria Slipping Away From DC

With each new feature that comes to the southern half of the city you can almost feel Alexandria and all its trade associations moving further and further away. Not in a physical sense, but in terms of travel time. While they once claimed "we're only minutes from Capitol Hill," only a year or two from now that will change to "we're only an hour, except on game days."

The impact on traffic of the baseball stadium, the redevelopment of L'Enfant Plaza, the Waterside Mall, the Southwest waterfront, the condo development has caught the attention of Councilman Tommy Wells noted the WashExam. “Even when there’s not a baseball game. We’re going to have to come up with a new traffic plan to begin with,” he said.

Also in the works is the redevelopment of the Randall School at 65 I St. SW, which was sold last year to the Corcoran Gallery for $6.2 million. Under the proposal, two-thirds of the original school building would be preserved and renovated to house new classroom, exhibition and studio space for the Corcoran College of Art and Design. As many as 500 new condominium units will replace the remaining buildings.

Maybe its time for those trade associations to relocate back to the city.

Who's The Boss

Now that its become a "how" not an "if" question about whether the National Capital Revitalization Corp. and the Anacostia Waterfront Corp. should be folded into a single new agency, DC Bubble points to a recent collumn by Steve Pearlstein in the WaPo for an answer.

The jist of what he recommends and we believe he is correct is that:

  • A legally independent authority is the politically the best solution,
  • The director of the authority should serve at the mayor's pleasure,
  • The authority should be self-funded through rents etc.

What's at stake here is the Anacostia waterfront redevelopment, the future of the old D.C. General Hospital site, St. Elizabeths Hospital and the McMillan Reservoir etc.

Things may have progress more slowly that some would have liked with these two entities, but this is DC the city with northern charm and southern efficiency. Things always seem to move as slow as molasses here, not that we object to things being pushed along.

May 20, 2007

The New Mantra for the Slowing Market

"The market is soft if you don't price it right." Repeat.

Elaborating Jane Fairweather of Coldwell Banker in Bethesda told the WaPo "You're now seeing probably 10 to 15 percent of the sellers out there who are going to see multiple contracts. Two years ago, it was probably 40 to 50 percent of the market that got multiple contracts. And the year before that and the year before that, 60 percent of the market got multiple contracts."

Some real estate agents say that, despite key statistics that show the slowest housing market in years, they are seeing cases of multiple bids and rising prices concentrated in close-in neighborhoods such as Chevy Chase DC and American University Park.

Peter Morici, an economic professor in the University of Maryland, added "with higher prices of gasoline, the preference of living far away is going to diminish, and that is going to make housing within the Beltway more attractive."

May 19, 2007

O St. Market Development Creeps Along

After years of delays and bad luck, Roadside Development is getting ready to move ahead with a development at the 8th and O Market, reported WashBiz.

The plans call for a new Giant Food store, a 180-room hotel, 300 condos, 300 apts, including senior affordable housing, 7,500 SF of locally owned retail, a reopened 8th St. and 700 parking spots, which will be offerred to neighboring churchs on Sunday. Can you believe?

Roadside recently has been before the review board of the D.C. Historic Preservation Office and is still working to get approal. It also will apply for at least $40 million in tax increment financing from the city.

Given the politics, preservation and other issues, it will be a miracle of this finally moves forward. With all the balls Roadside is juggling on this one, DC Bubble hopes the end-product is good enough to full the vow made by the developer. Armond Spikell, a Roadside Development principal, promised "This will be an economic engine for the entire corridor." We shall see.

May 18, 2007

Cool Moderno Condo Breaks Ground on U Street

Ground has been broken on the Moderno on U St. Like the other buildings developed by Robertson Development and Lakritz Adler, this condo is very stylish and breaks the mold of DC residential development. This is the kind of high-end residential building that DC was lacking for so long.

Flats. Duplexes and Triplexes with very fancy-shmancy finishes.

Presumably there is no extra charge for the purple prose on the Moderna website. Would the following make you feel better about buying here? "The spare sophistication of the modern furniture displayed at MoMa. The newest styles on the runways of Paris and New York. Even the simple clean lines of a wine glass." Not me.

Trinity of Church-Owned Buildings Condemned

Shiloh Baptist Church owns numerous buildings along quickly revitalizing 9th St., in Logan Circle/Shaw. Which of course the church would want to leverage and help its congregation and community, right? Wrong.

Their properties are eyesores and breed crime. And many, many electrons have been spilled on the net describing how awful the situation is.

Finally, the city has done something by condemning three of the properties, reports WJLA. Alexander Padro, an ANC Commissioner, says he has been trying for years to get Shiloh to do something about the dozen or so vacant properties the church owns around the hood." It should be embarrassing but you can't even get them to talk to you face to face," he said.

Shiloh Baptist has been unhappy about some new development in the hood, so what do they want? As for the property, we're not sure what the next step is and have a feeling this will be part of a very long process knowing our lovable city.

The Wash Exam reports if Shiloh does not make the necessary improvements, DC will be authorized to do the work and then file a lien against the properties for the cost. In 2006, the
church paid more than $68,600 in real estate taxes, including penalties, on the condemned buildings, which together are valued at more than $2 million.

Update: Now the church says it will make repairs.

May 17, 2007

The "Masterplan" Is Working

In 2000, blacks made up 60 percent of the District's population. By 2006, that figure was 55 percent, according to the US Census Bureau.

"What you see are whites moving into the city because they are able to afford the pricey housing in all these areas that are gentrifying and becoming much more middle and upper-middle class," said William H. Frey, a demographer at the Brookings Institution, told the WaPo.

“A lot of neighborhoods are going through a process of change and growth,” Brookings Institution demographer Audrey Singer told the WashExam, which noted changes in neighborhoods such as Chinatown and Capitol Hill.

DC Bubble hates the defensiveness and guilt surrounding these numbers. While some African American fear there is a "masterplan" to turn Chocolate City into a place only for the blonde-and-blue eyed, many whites engage in hand-wringing because they are forcing out black families. How many blacks have been forced out of Noma or downtown where the condos were built on brownfields? Or sorry can you feel for the black family that moved from DC to PG county where the schools are better?

Frat Boy Culture Sinking Adams Morgan

At least, that's what Alan Popovsky, owner of Felix at 2406 18th St. believes. "We have to look toward the future," says Alan Popovsky, "and Adams Morgan is not the future," he told the WaPo. Plus there are too many Pizza joints etc.

We agree a little. Adams Morgan has lost some of its off-beat character. Most of the Salvadorean restaurants are gone. There are more bars for suburbans on the prowl. But The Dinner and Design Within Reach show how the neighborhood can grow.

As for Popovsky, the West End is where Popovsky sees potential: bustle and affluence. "It's the next hot residential neighborhood," so he is taking over the David Greggory restaurant (2030 M St. NW) and turning the location into an all-day "contemporary American brasserie" called Hudson. (Eric Ripert of La Bernardin, NYC, also is looking at the West End, says Metrocurean.)

It is odd, though, hearing a bar owner complain about bars.

May 16, 2007

What's Wrong With Conversions?!?

"The Bad News" On Condos: In Q1 2007, 3,472 condo units that were either in the planning stage or about to come on line in the Washington area were changed to apartments and another 790 were simply canceled, says the WaPo. Sounds like the signs of a healthy market to us because many investors want to own rental units based on the belief that people want to rent in this market.

Need more another sign of health: there were 395 condo contracts in April of 2007 compared with 354 and 434 from the same month in 06 and 07. So April 07 was a good month, not great, not horrific.

We beleive where the bubble is bursting is outside the Beltway, not in DC.

Zara Zeros in on Za Zity

The sign says it all. Zara is opening on F St. next to H & M and around the corner from Macy's and West Elm. As first reported forever ago by GPLiving, this store will be the largest Zara outside NYC (over 20k ft).
Slowly, surely, slowly. Downtown is beginning to craft itself as a retail destination. The node on 7th St. with the movie theater and shops now has a counterpart on F St. and its all being stiched together. All so slowly. But it is happening. Wouldn't the ladies lunching at the Garfinkle's lunch counter be pleased?

May 15, 2007

USA Today: DC Condos A Relative Bright Spot

USA Today reported that "Condo sales have propped up residential real estate in the nation's capital this year." This is what DC Bubble has been saying.

While USA Today adds that the median condo price in the District of Columbia in April was $350,000, 4% lower than last year, it fails to note that month-over-month sales have begun to creep back up. For April, the median sales price was $350k, up 2.3 percent since the prior month.

Developers "built a lot of condos in a relatively short period of time," Vanessa de Merode, an agent at Long & Foster, told USA Today. "It slowed the market down. There were larger price adjustments."

The market for single family homes has been more mixed. One of the strongest segments is homes priced from $800,000 to $900,000, said USA Today.

Wanna Be A TV Star?

First you gotta be dumpy and need of a makeover. Next you must be a house (not sure if a condo qualifies though a building that needs to freshen its image might want to send an email.)

The producers of the TV show Curb Appeal are "looking for homeowners in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area to participate in the popular series."

"We can change the appearance of the exterior of home in the course of six to eight weeks. Experienced designers and contractors work within your set budget to make significant changes and totally transform your house."

I wonder if they film you writing the check to their contractors too? Hmmm.....

May 14, 2007

Age-Old Story of Renters vs. Landlords

It's a battle that has been fought over the years, decades and centuries. Even the title, landlord, sounds older than dcbubble or even older than the Internet.

In the latest round, the Tenacity Group is battling the tenants at the Norword Apts. in Shaw at 5th and P Sts. "When we started complaining about the conditions in the building, they (the owners) said, 'Oh, it's time to go condo,'" Norwood tenant Randy Green told the AP as reported by the WashExam. Yikes!! This sounds truly awful for those that live there.

As for the property owners, its about maximizing thier investment. Most of whom are fat cats, but some are old widows on fixed, albeit probably high, incomes. Besides this is a capitalist country remember.

Tenacity obviously knows its game. They probably call themselves Tenacity for a good reason.

Given the financial collars placed on DC (no commuter tax, height limit), its hard to forgo tax revenue for low-income apartments, especially when others want to pay double and triple per square foot. Afterall, Shaw is gentrifying too.

Next They'll Want to Mothball the Internet

It's hard to over-estimate how great the circulator bus is. Wanna go shopping in Georgetown but you are standing in front of your condo downtown or just finished a meeting on Capitol Hill? Take the Metro? But it don't go. Take a cab? Only if the boss is paying. The Circulator is the answer.

So why do some malign it. "I think it is time to put the Circulator in mothballs. In my daily travels, I find most of the buses barely occupied," someone told the WaPo.

Hello. . . The circulator is the only way to get across town. The bus got even better a month or so back when it was extended up Wisconsin Ave.

Ok naysayers. DDOT statistics for the Circulator system show ridership is growing. Total ridership for April 07 was 202,000, compared with about 182,000 in April 06. Slow, but steady growth.

May 13, 2007

Ohhh....I Should Have Bought That Parking Space

See where that SUV is parked? It's yours for 25K.

Right smack in the middle of Columbia Heights at 14th and Euclid. Way back in the early 1990's you probably could have had a very nice apartment in that same neighbor for that same price.

Makes one think that the smart move perhaps would have been to invest in parking, not condo. You can't really live on parking space though . . . or can you?

May 12, 2007

"They're Coming In To Fxxxx Rape Our Neighborhood."

Can you believe? Next to the Metro and on a major street people would argue against, "a high rise" building. The outrage! Imagine a seven-story building!

As the WaPo notes, the Maryland side of Western Ave. features Neiman Marcus, Saks; the DC side has dumpy retail and commercial space. (Rodman's though is a great, great store.)

Many of the same activists oppose the condominium project, at 5220 Wisconsin Ave., between Harrison and Jenifer streets. Opponents, such as Coalition to Stop Tenleytown Overdevelopment and the Friendship Neighborhood Association, say too high, too dense. Perhaps they mean too fancy, shamancy.

"They're coming in to rape our [expletive] neighborhood," Carolyn Sherman, an advisory neighborhood commissioner and an opponent, said of developers in the WaPo.

Whatever. Fighting development along the avenue is bad for D.C. (think: tax base), bad for the environment (sprawl adds to global warming etc.) and holds the neighborhood back. We have to wonder if this is a case where an extreme minority is skewing the debate.

Let Ackridge, which has worked with the community, to move forward.

May 11, 2007

Progress on the Waterfront in Georgetown

Soon the condo dwellers along K St., the shoppers along M St. and the homeowners along P St. will be able to walk down to a new park along the Georgetown waterfont.

WTOP reports progress on construction on the park that will feature an interactive fountain and steps down the water.

As we have said before, it is a shame there is no retail component to this. Of couse, we hare not suggesting a Costco, but a stand where they sell ice cream sandwiches or hot cocoa would be nic.e

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.

Jr. High Picked for Temp Eastern Market

Right across the street from the market itself, says the WaPo.

May 10, 2007

Believe It Or Not: The DC Condo Market Is Healthy

Prices for condos and co-ops in DC have been nudging up this year. We will say it again: prices for condos in DC – not Rockthesda or 703 – are up. The median sales price is $350k, up 2.3 percent since last month.

Sales are up too. In April, there were 395 contracts for condos in DC. That’s an increase of 11.5 percent over the same period last year.

Want more: Inventory is down by 6.3 percent to 1,352 units. Adding to this trend, the number of new units on the market is down 9 percent, with only 640 new units on the market.

Bottom Line: It seems neither buyers, nor sellers, have an advantage, though the balance is tipping toward sellers. See last month's numbers.

source: Greater Capital Area of Realtors

Mixed Bag for Market for DC Houses

Prices for Single-Family homes in DC have pretty flat over the past 12 months. The median price in April was 505k, up 1.3 percent from a month ago.

But sales are down and inventory is growing. In April there were 362 sales, down 14%, over the same period last year. And total market inventory grew to 1334, up 9.25% from the year ago period.

Bottom line: Prices are hold their own so sellers should be pleased, but there are warning signs that should give buyers some hope for better days ahead. See March numbers.

Greater Capital Area of Realtors


Almost gone. Metro received an unsolicited offer for property in Shaw, so it issued an RFP. We not sure if this is related to the proposed Broadcast One center.

The three parcels are situated two blocks northwest of the Shaw Metro station on the south side of Florida Avenue, NW btwn 7th and 9 streets. The largest is parcel three, which contains about 16K square feet and has 124 feet of frontage on Florida Avenue, NW and 177 feet of frontage on 8 Street, NW.

In the RFP Metro notes "This area is considered one of the most attractive real estate markets in the Washington metropolitan area." One has to wonder why then did Metro wait for an unsolicited offer to solicit bids. Metro has a revenue shortfall and developing the site would boost ridership.

The deadline for making a proposal is May 31.

May 9, 2007

Hands Off: No Bright Ideas for the Mall

The Smithsonian Institution has accelerated its search for a public or private partner to redevelop its landmark Arts and Industries Building, the WaPo reports.

Smithsonian officials pledged that any partnership would "be consistent with the mission of the Institution." That means, according to one person in the congressional briefing, "no hotel, no bed-and-breakfast, no Gap, but something compatible with the rest of the Smithsonian."

So much for mixed-use development. What about an elaborate food court devoted to American culinary arts? Or residences for artists? Nope...only the staid and boring may apply.

Georgia Ave. Botox

No full on face-lift for the aged Ave. WTOP reported that improvements on a short stretch of Georgia Ave. from Fern Place to the DC line are slated to begin in late June.

Work will include rehabilitation of sidewalks, high visibility pavement marking improvements, upgrade of wheelchair ramps, adding new tree boxes and widening existing tree boxes as necessary, said DDOT.
Anything to improve Georgia Ave. is worthwhile. Maybe some dollars can be found to do some work in Petworth and Brightwood too. The decades long neglect only discourages investment and contributes to an overall feeling malaise.

Shocker: DC Retail Market Underserved Says Report

The whole region remains underserved as the growing population continues to demand more retail services, particularly in DC where there is only 8.1 square feet of retail space per capita (SF/Capita), said the Spring 2007 Retail Outlook from Delta Associates. This compares with the Metro area average of 24.4 SF/Capita and the national average of 20.3 SF/Capita.

Plus, it's not like there is alot of space sitting empty either. Compared to the national vacancy rate of 7.2%, DC, as well as Loudon and Fairfax Counties, have vacancy rates below 1.0%.

This is shocking given the number of condos that have been built over the past decade or so. And are still on the drawing board.

Given the way the DC population grows each day with office workers and tourists, the amount of retail should be relatively high, not relatively low. Part of the problem is the continued misperception of DC has as the home of the poor and unsophisticated. So unture and so hard to change.

Here is what the WashExam had to say.

May 8, 2007

Options Emerging for Temp Eastern Market Space

DC looking at temporary spaces for displaced Eastern Market vendors, says the WashTimes. Among three suggested replacement locations: the north parking lot of Hine Jr. High School, the plaza at the Eastern Market Metro stop across Pennsylvania Avenue and along Seventh Street Southeast. Sounds like the Hine Jr. High site is the fave.

MLK Memorial Moving Along

The Martin Luther King Memorial is one step closer to reality, says the WashExam. The memorial campaign so far has collected $78.5 million, including $10 million from General Motors and $5 million from Tommy Hilfiger.

The MLK memorial is slated for a four-acre plot on the Tidal Basin, immediately northeast of the Lincoln Memorial, southwest of the Jefferson Memorial and adjacent to the FDR Memorial. The design features a crescent-shaped stone wall inscribed with excerpts from King’s speeches and the “Stone of Hope,” a 30-foot likeness of the legendary Baptist preacher.

May 7, 2007

14th St. Steals Universal Gear From 17th St.

Men's clothing store universal gear is moving to larger digs on 14th St, says the WashTimes. The new, 5,000-square-foot store, at 1529 14th St. NW in the Matrix Condominiums (below) building, is nearly twice as large as the existing shop.

Owner David Franco said he is excited to move to 14th St., which he calls the "future of retail" in DC. "We feel very strongly about 14th Street as an up-and-coming vibrant retail area," Mr. Franco said. "We've watched it grow for many years -- the past decade."

Two Parks Seed Hope for the Future

The National Capitol Planning Commission gave a preliminary thumbs up for the estimated $5 million park in the old convention center site, reports the WashExam.

A triangular “bow-tie” section bounded by NY Ave., I, 10th and 11th streets, called for two fountains, fixed and moveable benches, a reading grove, and a variety of trees. It will be set up for lunchtime concerts and other events, and fit up to 1,000 people.

“We think it’ll be a very good gathering place, something that’s very needed downtown,” said Konrad Schlater, project manager in the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. “This basically gives us the green light to move forward with the basic concept.”

Also JBG is donating $2.5 million for Washington Canal Park, reports the WashBiz. The contribution is required by a D.C. Office of Zoning order establishing the planned unit development for the new Transportation Department headquarters.

Washington Canal Park, at the corner of Second and M streets, directly across from the new DOT headquarters, will be the first public park built as part of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative through a funding arrangement that includes the federal government and private developers.

May 6, 2007

What Height Limit?

How does the DC height limit have any meaning if there are 30 story buildings Rosslyn? These buildings will be visible from the Mall, G-town, the Capitol steps.

Sounds like Arlington thinks the DC height limit is backed by a bunch of chumps. "It will become Rosslyn's main attraction," said Jim Pebley, an Arlington planning commissioner told the WaPo. "It will beat anything else in the capital, including the Washington monument. It will be where you take your folks when they come to visit."

May 5, 2007

Insurance Could Cover Cost of G-Town Library Repair

The Georgetown Library fire was caused by contractors doing renovations, according to the District fire chief. The contractor had a general liability insurance policy for $2 million, and there was an additional indemnification clause that protects the District from any loss, says WTOP.
A spokesperson for the Office of Contracts and Procurement, which oversaw the contract, says Dynamic Corp. carried a bond that should cover all the costs to rebuild the library.

JFK Slept Here

And the lucky lady was .... No the DC Bubble is not going to stoop. The point is that the Dorchester Apt. at 16th and Euclid Sts. was once home to young naval ensign John F. Kennedy, who lived in Apartment 502 in the early 1940s, reports the WaPo.

The gem is of a building is over by Meridian Hill Park.

by Kyle Walton

May 4, 2007

Hunt Is on For Temp Site for Eastern Market Merchants

The Capitol Hill Community Foundation President Nicky Cymrot said their fund has received about $100,000 in donations this week, according to the WashExam. Look here to contribute or here to buy a tee-shirt.

Library, Condo, School Mash-Up in the Works

Horse-trading is going on up in Tenleytown, says the WashExam. Maybe.

Roadside Development, which developed the CityLine condo, is looking to rebuild the Tenley-Friendship public library with a six-story condominium complex on the grounds of Janney Elementary School, which would get new classrooms and parking. Roadside wants to build about 100 condo units roughly 90 ft. from the school, taking a piece of the soccer field in the process — which could be recovered by resodding the existing surface parking lot.

“Conceptually I like the idea,” Ward 3 D.C. Council Member Mary Cheh said. “There’s a lot of advantages that could come out of a combined project." Naysayers abound though. “My initial reaction to it is, I’m wary of it,” said Martha Saccocio, president of Friends of Tenley-Friendship. “I would imagine there are ways it could work. I would also imagine there are ways it could be moderately disastrous.”

We need better schools and libraries, but don't have the money. So why not make a few deals and improve our lives. The anti-development crowd along upper Wisconsin surely will try to stir the pot on this, but development across the street from a Metro station only makes sense to us.

May 3, 2007

Don't Tax Me, Tax The Man Behind The Tree

Or better yet tax the man in the suburbs, as Russell Long might have said if he were alive today and lived in Logan Circle.

Under one of two bills, the council would limit real estate tax increases on owner-occupied housing to 5 percent a year starting in fiscal 2008, says the WaPo. Currently, the city has a 10 percent cap.

The second measure would extend an estate inheritance tax exemption from $1 million to $3.5 million in 2009. That change is similar to exemptions established by states and the federal government.

Some argue this is not fair to the city's poorest residents, but doesn't the current tax structure undermine the city's tax base. Should we not encourage the wealthy to stay here in the city? We support high taxes on the rich nationally, but locally high taxes only encourages folks to move to Rockthesda or NOVA.

Moreover, the city should do whateve it can to alleviate the burden on residents and tax commuters because they don't pay their share. How high would a snack tax have to be to eliminate the property tax? Anybody wanna buy a $500 bags of Utz chips?

The Same But Different

Jair Lynch Cos./AHD Inc. is set to break ground on a mixed income condo at a mixed-use project at 14th and Belmont Sts., NW. The Solea will have 60,700 sf of residential space, comprised of 59 condominium units of which 22 will be dedicated to affordable or low- to moderate-income families. GlobeSt. reports local retailers, Trade Secrets and Zawadi.

With this condo project, the remarkable transformation of Columbia Heights continues. When Target et al. open their doors, 14th St. will be buzzing. The store not only will give DC another retail option, but also hopefully drive down prices at other retailers as well. Having the big-box in the middle of the city will make mid-city more like every city in America.

The mix of market rate and affordable housing, such as the Solera, near the Target certainly will make this store unique. How many other Targets, Wal-Marts, Costcos are located as close to mixed income housing. For that matter, how many other big-boxes are as close to any housing at all. This is one-of-a-kind.

May 2, 2007


Time for a commuter commuter tax congestion toll? Mayor-for-Life Marion Barry thinks so. If the Supremes won't let DC tax the income produced within its borders, why not impose a fee to cross the border?

"More than 400,000 nonresidents are on our streets every day, getting police protection, fire protection, causing potholes," Barry told WTOP. "We love them, but they ought to pay some money for tearing up our streets."

Barry did not suggest a price for the tolls, saying that would be for the commission to determine. His legislation was co-sponsored by council members Harry Thomas Jr. and Kwame Brown.

Despite the district's strong economic footing, the city faces a gap of up to $1.2 billion a year between how much revenue it can collect and how much it needs to operate, according to a federal study. The disparity is partly blamed on the city's inability to tax the income of about 480,000 people who work in D.C. but live elsewhere.



"We have a moral imperative to increase density, to get us out of our cars," said Christopher Leinberger, a visiting fellow at the Brookings Institution, said in the WaPo, making a global warming argument against the height-limit on commercial buildings, condos etc.

Developers, architects and planners grouse that the law imposes constraints that force builders to erect box-like buildings with low ceilings and it prevents the kind of population density necessary to draw higher-quality retail.

In 2003, DC commissioned a study that concluded that the city could generate an additional $10 billion in tax revenue over 20 years if it raised the height limit to 160 feet.

On the other hand, "I would state emphatically that we have the Height Act to thank for preserving the city's character," said Patti Gallagher, executive director of the National Capital Planning Commission.

True enough, but the limit also has created "downtowns" in Tysons and Bethesda, sucking economic activity away from the city and creating sprawl, sprawl and more sprawl.

May 1, 2007

Sad, But True

by tackyjulie

Questions for Eastern Market

Where will the $20 million to $30 million for restoration come from? And how will merchants get by for the two years estimated for repairs?

The WashExam reports Mayor Fenty outlined some of his plans, including forgiving the merchants' first-quarter sales tax and suspending their rent. Part of the money to rebuild will come from surplus tax collected last year, and a project manager will assess needs and coordinate between the merchants and city agencies.

Let's Keep Eastern Market Charming

Let's hope the past fights over what a renovated Eastern Market should look like can be dispensed with quickly. In the past, there were efforts to renovate the market by, in effect, sanitizing it by installing uniform stalls for the venders to work in.

What's needed is a new roof, bathrooms and no more.

For the short-term, the good news is that it sounds like the Eastern Market Flea Market will be up and running this weekend. Displaced venders will need finanical help too.