BLOGS: Multifamily Focus

2006-09-29, 15:10

By: Jonathan Groner
Mixed use is coming to D.C.'s Southwest waterfront area in a big way, but the project won't be under way until 2009. Still, this $800 million project will definitely transform the area, which is now somewhat down on its heels. Will D.C. follow in the footsteps of Baltimore's Inner Harbor, which helped make that city's downtown more livable?

Here is the story from today's Washington Business Journal.
PN Hoffman/Struever to lead $800M Southwest waterfront revitalization
By Sean Madigan

A team led by PN Hoffman/Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse will redevelop the District's 50-acre Southwest waterfront into a vibrant $800 million maritime-themed mix of housing, shopping and entertainment.
The Anacostia Waterfront Corp. on Thursday named the PN Hoffman/Struever team to partner with the quasi-public agency.
The team includes almost 40 builders, developers, consultants and nonprofit partners. PN Hoffman is one of D.C.'s most prominent high-end condominium developers, and Struever, based in Baltimore, developed several major projects on the Baltimore waterfront.
The project will involve about 1.9 million square feet of development, including about 955 condos and apartments, 360 hotel rooms, 230,000 square feet of retail and restaurants, 157,000 square feet of office space and 150,000 square feet of cultural space buffered by 14 acres of parkland and an expanded waterfront promenade.
PN Hoffman/Struever is proposing an aquarium, a replica of the former slave ship, the Pearl, and a facility for the Living Classrooms Foundation, a highly successful youth and job-training organization based in Baltimore.
Seventeen teams responded to a solicitation AWC issued in the spring. The development corporation pared the field twice, first naming five short-list candidates including Madison/KSI, Chicago's John Buck Co., Anthony Lanier's EastBanc and the JBG Cos. In mid-August, AWC cut the list to just PN Hoffman and Madison/KSI.
A group of city officials and real estate consultants assessed each proposal. They looked at each teams' qualifications, approach, strategy, financial wherewithal and commitment to local and minority participation.
While AWC has settled on a development partner, terms of the deal must still be OK'd by the AWC board and the D.C. Council, where six of the 13 members will be retiring, switching posts or losing their seats.
Aside from dealing with the political climate, AWC and its new development partner will also have to iron out a handful of other not-so-insignificant challenges, including site control.
JBG and its partners currently control about 180,000 square feet on the five key parcels that make up much of the proposed waterfront site.
It is not quite clear if JBG will be involved in the redevelopment program or if the winning developers will simply buy out the company's interests.
The AWC itself doesn't control any of the proposed land area at the moment. More than two years ago, the National Capital Revitalization Corp. reluctantly agreed to turn over its holdings along the waterfront to the AWC in exchange for the former McMillan reservoir site and about $50 million worth of cash and scattered city-owned properties.
NCRC says it's ready to go but the District CFO and attorney general and the D.C. Council need to make adjustments to the structure of the deal. Meanwhile, D.C. Councilwoman Sharon Ambrose says there is too much foot dragging, so she introduced a punitive bill last week that would strip NCRC of its $50 million in cash and property unless the deal is closed before the council acts.
The parties have some time to work out the kinks. AWC says it will take about two and a half years of planning before the construction begins, which is expected to occur in 2009. The project won't likely be finished until 2014.

2006-09-21, 11:38

Mixed-use plan for D.C. stadium area falls through

By: Jonathan Groner
The Washington Post reports today that a major mixed-use project for the area near the new D.C. baseball stadium has fallen through. This article focuses mostly on stadium parking issues and points out only briefly that this failure deals a serious blow to plans to revive the city's deserted Anacostia riverfront. Here is a portion of the article.

The D.C. Sports and Entertainment Commission yesterday abandoned a plan to build condominiums, shops and parking garages next to the new Nationals baseball stadium in Southeast Washington, dealing a major setback to Mayor Anthony A. Williams's hope that the project would spark renewal of the Anacostia River waterfront.
The deal collapsed when the commission and Western Development, headed by Herbert S. Miller, failed to reach an agreement on the financing terms of his mixed-use development proposal by yesterday's deadline.
With Miller's plan off the table, commission officials are uncertain about how they will provide the required 1,225 parking spots for the Washington Nationals in time for the stadium's scheduled opening in April 2008.
"We are disappointed that Western hasn't accepted our fair and reasonable agreement for parking and development," said board member William N. Hall, head of the commission's baseball committee. "We are now considering all options to provide the parking and development for the baseball stadium, which is in the best interests of the city."
The dissolution of the Miller project could have far-reaching consequences on the entire baseball experience and the city's planned revival of the waterfront.
Miller's plan, which included shops and restaurants in two 13-story condo towers, was envisioned as the anchor for redevelopment of a barren industrial neighborhood near the Navy Yard and South Capitol Street along the Anacostia River.
Williams had promised that the development would reinvigorate the waterfront and bring new tax revenue to offset the city's $611 million investment of public money in the stadium project.
"The mayor still hopes to make this plan work," Morris said. "But if we can't get all the parties together, we obviously will move to Plan B."

If no similar proposal emerges, it appears as if the city has missed a major chance to bring back a close-in but underutilized area. Two thirteen-story condo towers with shops and restaurants, right near a Major League Baseball stadium, could have created the critical mass needed to build a new urban neighborhood. I wonder if the Post follows up this story soon and discusses in much more detail the real estate financing issues and the possible effects on the neighborhood (or lack thereof) that may be involved -- not just the issue of parking for baseball fans.

2006-09-12, 10:41

Disaster preparedness is crucial for developers and others

By: Jonathan Groner
The following was posted this week on Womble Carlyle's Construction Law blog by Karen Carey, one of our partners in the Real Estate Development Group, and I thought it was relevant here as well as the fifth anniversary of 9/11 is commemorated:

Shortly after 9/11, Rudolph Giuliani made this statement: "Most buildings are run not by the government but by private companies . . . I think we need a lot more participation from the private sector." (Money Magazine, October 2003).

The draft guidelines of ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers) and numerous other published materials demonstrate that many people, at least in the design sector, have disaster preparedness and mitigation much on their minds.

It seems that every architect and engineer must assess the "terror threat" associated with their design of a facility in the following categories (at a minimum), because these categories are listed as the most important in virtually every published checklist addressing vulnerability assessments:

site planning and design
building design
landscaping design
HVAC system design
parking facility design

The risk to design professionals is that, should an incident occur that causes death or serious injury to inhabitants of, visitors to, or passers-by a facility they have designed, they will very likely be asked to produce the vulnerability assessment they performed with respect to these categories prior to and during their design of the facility.

Vulnerability assessments and follow-on actions are important not only to designers, but also to developers, constructors, landlords and property managers.

2006-09-11, 14:57

In Rockville, Md., mixed use includes libraries too

By: Jonathan Groner
On July 7, I wrote about Rockville Town Square, a $320 million mixed-use project in which my law firm, Womble Carlyle, is representing RD Rockville, the lead developer. The project, in the heart of downtown Rockville, Md., will open for residences in January 2007, with retail to open in March and a grand opening in May.

The September 2006 issue of Southeast Real Estate Business features a major article about Rockville Town Square.

"The anticipation ... is to revitalize a tired downtown and bring people back to the neighborhood by creating a vibrant town center," writes associate editor Daniel Beaird.

Beaird notes that Rockville Town Center will be "the first smart-growth, mixed-use community in the region to incorporate a state-of-the-art library on a public square. The library is built on contemporary design and will house more than 200,000 titles, online and communication technologies, public meeting rooms with modern meeting and presentation facilities, public computers, a coffee shop, a help center, and naturally-lit reading rooms that sit adjacent to expansive windows overlooking the square."

"The prediction is for Rockville to become a 24/7 town," Beaird concludes.

High-income, highly educated Montgomery County, Md., of which Rockville is the county seat, is the perfect place to include a library as part of a mixed-use development. People from far and near will come to Rockville to read, do online research, attend meetings -- as well as dine in restaurants,, meet friends for drinks, shop, exercise ... the possibilities are nearly endless.

2006-09-05, 16:25

A D.C. legend will make way for mixed use

By: Jonathan Groner
Interesting article in the current issue of Roll Call (Sept. 5, 2006). The Capitol Hill newspaper reports that the A.V. Ristorante, a legendary D.C. restaurant at 6th Street and New York Avenue, N.W., will is now in its 57th and last year of business. A year from now, developer Douglas Jemal plans to buy the 21,000-square-foot property that the restaurant sits on, and Jemal plans to tear down the building, except for the part that is considered historic.

When the acquisition is complete, Jemal will turn most of the area between 6th and 7th Streets and New York Avenue and L Street, N.W., into a mixed-use development of office and retail space, the newspaper reports.

The neighborhood's gain in terms of livable, close-in urban space may be the loss for A.V. patrons such as Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who is a fan of the anchovy pizza.
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