BLOGS: Multifamily Focus

2006-05-22, 13:01

The Watergate as mixed-use development?

By: Jonathan Groner
Well, it wasn't exactly mixed use as we know it today, but a fascinating article in the May 2006 issue of On Site, a new D.C. real estate magazine, says the Watergate complex in Washington, D.C., "brought together hotel, office, retail and residential uses on one site, resulting in the first private-initiative planned unit development in the city." Interesting.

In any case, the article, entitled "The Mod Squad," discusses the difficulty that preservationists have had in obtaining historic landmark status for buildings like the Watergate complex that are less than 50 years old. The Watergate, on Virginia Avenue N.W. near the Potomac River, was built between 1960 and 1971. Eventually, the city's Historic Preservation Review Board did grant landmark status to the Watergate, but the process wasn't without difficulty. The vote may have been helped along, of course, by the complex's unique role in American history as the starting point of the 1970s Watergate scandal that brought down a president.

The complex does include a variety of uses, but its rather forbidding design does not creat a "walkable multi-level live-work-play neighborhood loaded with stimulating and engaging pedestrian-level detail," a good contemporary definition of today's mixed-use projects.

On Site, incidentally, is a new glossy quarterly magazine put out as a supplement to the Washington Business Journal. It is entirely devoted to the D.C. real estate world.

2006-05-19, 10:42

DC authority gets 17 expressions of interest for mixed-use waterfront

By: Jonathan Groner
On May 1, 2006, the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation, the authority that has the task of redeveloping the Southwest Waterfront in the District of Columbia, announced that it has heard from 17 developers that are interested in handling the job. On March 1, 2006, the corporation had asked for expressions of interest by developers with experience in large-scale, mixed-use, retail, residential, and public-private development.

The plan to redevelop the 47-acre area, which is now publicly owned, calls for mixed-use development. The D.C. Council voted in 2003 to transform the somewhat dilapidated area into a "vibrant urban neighborhood" that includes residential, commercial, and cultural uses. When completed, the waterfront would have a new hotel, restaurants, shops, 14 acres of parks and open space, and a riverfront area that would have new piers to provide public access to the water.

It's not known when or how the development corporation will respond to the proposals, which are formally entitled "expressions of interest." It can select a developer or developer team entirely on the basis of those responses, or it could choose to issue a formal request for proposals (RFP).

A key question is whether the corporation will go with a well-known name or names from the D.C. development community or with a company that is based elsewhere. Among those responding were major D.C. developers such as Akridge, Carr Enterprises, Trammell Crow, East Banc, the JBG Companies, and Western Development Corporation. Developers from Chicago, Baltimore, and New York also responded.

2006-05-11, 14:58

Mixed-use project in Maryland wins AIA award

By: Jonathan Groner
A mixed-use project in Mount Rainier, Md., has received the prestigious American Institute of Architects' 2006 Housing Committee Award. The award will be formally granted on June 9, 2006, at the AIA convention and design expo in Los Angeles.

The project, Live/Work Artists' Housing, opened in 2005. It created 44 units of housing for artists and their families in a new four-story building just a block from the District of Columbia border. Mount Rainier is an older, close-in D.C. suburb in Prince Georges County, and the building is the first completed phase of an initiative involving four such suburbs that joined forces to create the Gateway Arts District.

The master plan is intended to create affordable housing and arts-oriented venues and services in order to revitalize these suburbs -- which include Brentwood, North Brentwood, and Hyattsville as well as Mount Rainier -- and to draw artists from local colleges and neighborhoods to an arts district.

According to the AIA's citation, "Eighteen unit types recognize individuals and families with adaptable layouts that maximize flexible open space and allow for living changes, work, and exhibit needs. Two-story central commons areas provide space for exhibits. A large workshop is provided on the lower level with access to the outside. A colorful exterior attempts to knit together the appearance of the historic neighborhood while reflecting the diversity of the inhabitants and their work."

The project features 7,000 square feet of commercial space on the ground floor in a total area of 68,441 square feet.

For more information, please turn to

2006-05-10, 16:46

What this blog is and will be

By: Jonathan Groner
What is mixed-use development?

The standard definition is simply that mixed-use development is any real estate development that "contains or is zoned for commercial and residential facilities or development;" or that "combines several different functions, such as residential space above a commercial establishment or an entire development combining commercial, residential, and public accommodations." The idea is that a single project might include an apartment complex, shopping, a coffee shop, and office space.

But a more precise definition, given recently by a developer involved in the field, is that mixed use involves "a development that creates a walkable multi-level, live-work-play neighborhood loaded with stimulating and engaging pedestrian-level detail and that creates 'experience,' the core of exciting urban living."

Mixed use is one of the exciting real estate ideas of the 21st century. It can help revitalize the downtown of a city, or can attract excitement to a new town. This blog will focus on the legal, financial, architectural, and business aspects of mixed use, with a particular emphasis on events in the Southeast United States -- Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, the District of Columbia, and Maryland.
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