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Near Southeast DC Past News Items: March 2010
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With the Nats just a few days away from starting play at their stadium, it was time for the annual Nationals Park media tour for the ink-stained newspaper wretches (plus their cohorts, the blow-dried TV folks and the Cheetos-munching bloggers), to highlight what's new at the ballpark and what fans should know in trying to arrive for the first two games of 2010.
Knowing that there will be a number of news stories tonight listing all the changes, I concentrated more on taking photos, which you can see in this gallery. The splashiest change is the complete renovation of the PNC Diamond Club, which has exchanged its former sports bar/take me out to the ballgame motif for a much sleeker feel. (The new bar is pictured above.) They've also tweaked the Red Porch and Red Loft, adding two more rows of tables and chairs on the field side of the Porch while removing the seating on the balcony of the Loft and adding in drink rails.
The Scoreboard Walk now has lounge furniture (so you can pretend you're in South Beach rather than Near Southeast), and the "Party Nights" with music, $5 pre-game beers, games, and other entertainment will now be at all Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night games, with the gates opening 2 1/2 hours before first pitch. (It'll all be running on Opening Day, too.)
There's also all sorts of new food offerings, starting with the new "Triple Play Grill" next to Hard Times Cafe in the Center Field Plaza, offering shrimp po boy and crab cake sandwiches, and a "Florida Foot Long SeaDog," which is actually a cod sandwich. They've also reworked the "Taste of the Majors" offerings, creating five foot-long hot dogs for the National League East teams. A new outlet called Change Up Chicken, in Section 130, will have a chicken and waffle sandwich, along with other chicken specialties and waffle fries. The Dupont Deli in Section 227 will have a triple-decker grilled cheese sandwich on Texas Toast, along with grilled Italian, and turkey sandwiches. There's also going to be three Flippin' Pizza outlets (sections 115, 214, and 311), and a Healthy Plate Cart in Section 110. And, if I may say so, if you're lucky enough to happen upon the red velvet cupcakes (at the Red Porch), don't pass them up.
As for Opening Day, the team is of course very excited that President Obama will be throwing out the first pitch, but they are reminding fans that a presidential visit plus a sellout crowd will make for long lines to get in, which is why the gates will be opened at 10 am for a 1:05 pm start. (But if you're one of the first 20,000 fans who try to beat the rush, you'll get a replica batting practice hat.) And there was talk of the new parking options for 2010 (no more Nats Express and the new economy lots). Read my earlier entry today for more on that. But, if you're a season ticket holder, at least you'll have your own red-carpet line to stand in at the Center Field Gate--for all games after Opening Day.
Having *still* never really gotten warm again after the damp cold Opening Day of 2008, I have my fingers crossed that the weather on Saturday and Monday will be about what it was like today (warmer, actually). It almost felt like spring out there!
Check back for links to additional media coverage.
UPDATE: Here's stories from Fox5 and WJLA. (Though points deducted from WJLA for saying that one of the economy parking lots is at 6th and M *SW*. Sigh.)
UPDATE II: NBC 4, a slew of Tweets from MASN's Kristen Hudak, and Nats320.
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* The folks at the BID have passed along the news that the Circulator will be running its Union Station/Navy Yard route on Saturday (April 3) for the 4:05 pm Nats/Red Sox exhibition, even though it wasn't originally listed on their 2010 Baseball Extended Service schedule (it is now).
* Metro has just released its information on getting to and from the ballpark: "Expect standing room only to/from Nationals games."
* WTOP writes about the two new economy lots for stadium parking; you might want to check my Stadium Parking map for a graphic that's a little clearer, and that also shows non-official cash lots. One item in the piece that I'm checking on, though--it says that piers at the Yards Park and will allow private boats to be docked there starting in July. But everything I've seen up to now has said that the piers and marina are to be built in the park's third phase, which isn't expected to come online until after 2012. Am waiting for a response from Forest City for clarity.
UPDATE: Forest City confirms that the piers are not coming this summer, contrary to what the article reports; they are planned for later phases.
* WAMU had two short pieces on Near Southeast on Monday: "Ballpark Hits Old Reputation Out of Field," and "Population Near Nationals Park Doubles in One Year," which now seems to have disappeared from their web site.
* Be prepared for another slew of stadium-related news stories later today, with the annual ballpark media day on the agenda. And the weather's nice for once!
 

Lerner Enterprises has just sent out the news that Booz | Allen | Hamilton has signed a lease for a smidge under 30,000 square feet at 20 M Street, Lerner's 191,000-sq-ft office building one block north of Nationals Park. With the Bureau of Land Management taking nearly 100,000 square feet, this makes the building 70 percent leased. (BAH will be taking the entire 10th floor, and half of the 9th; BLM will be on the second through sixth floors.) Both tenants are expected to move in during 2010. (UPDATED to remove the length of the lease; that wasn't specified.) Here's the link to Lerner's press release. (They call it two blocks north of the ballpark; I say one, plus a street crossing.)
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Since Diamond Teague Park and Piers opened last summer across the street from Nationals Park, the focus has been on water taxi service tied to baseball games, and the Potomac Riverboat Company has been first out of the gate with gameday trips from its Alexandria pier, starting in September of last year and continuing this year, beginning on Opening Day (April 5).
But there could also be another company on the horizon. American River Taxi is working on plans to offer what it says will be "regular runs" of "eco-friendly" water taxis between Teague, the Gangplank Marina on the Southwest Waterfront, Washington Harbor in Georgetown, and Alexandria, with shuttle connections to the Foggy Bottom and L'Enfant Plaza Metro stations from Georgetown and Southwest. (Their map also shows possible future service to National Harbor, Poplar Point and National Airport.) The company's owner, Shaun Guevarra, says that there are plans to eventually offer discounted service to residents of Southeast and Southwest, along with rechargeable account cards and mobile payment options.
There will be two boats initially, according to the company's web site, and they are being built by Watermarque Marine. The schedules and prices are to be posted soon, Guevarra says, and his company will be in attendance at the Southwest Waterfront this Saturday evening (April 3) as part of the National Cherry Blossom Festival's Prelude to Fireworks.
New ventures don't always have the easiest path to launch, of course, so it will be interesting to see how this pans out, with exactly how many runs per day between the locations, the price, etc. etc. The service is targeted to start in the second quarter of this year.
Will post more as I get it.
 

From the Nationals:
"President of the United States Barack Obama will throw the ceremonial first pitch at Nationals Park in Washington D.C. prior to the 2010 season opener between the Washington Nationals and the defending National League Champion Philadelphia Phillies on Monday, April 5 at 1:05 p.m.
"'Opening Day of the baseball season is a special event for our country and its importance has been reinforced by the 100-year history of Presidential participation,' said Baseball Commissioner Allan H. (Bud) Selig, who will be in attendance for the historic First Pitch. 'I am proud that President Obama will continue the long Presidential tradition of throwing out the first pitch of Opening Day in Washington D.C.'
"Obama's appearance will mark the 100th anniversary of the first time a U.S. President threw an Opening Day first pitch and the 48th time a President has done so in Washington, D.C. On April 14, 1910, William Howard Taft began the tradition before the Washington Senators went on to defeat the Philadelphia Athletics 3-0 behind a one-hit, complete game shutout by Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson."
The game is already sold out, but there will be 400 day-of-game seats available for $5 starting at 10 am at the box office.
UPDATE: Here's the Nats' press release.
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Here's a Monday morning item that I imagine will be of interest (judging from recent comment threads). On a tip from reader C, I can pass along that the Park at the Yards, scheduled to open this summer, will have a dog park on its western edge, near the WASA building. I don't have an iota of details beyond that (hope to within a week or so), and it doesn't appear on the renderings of the park (it would be at the far left of the images, next to the "Great Lawn"), but Forest City has confirmed that it will be there.
In other Yards news, following up on the item in Saturday's Post about the Foundry Lofts, Forest City has qualified that they are *hoping* to restart the project in April, but it's contingent on when they close on funding with HUD.
 

I was going to wait through the weekend, but I wouldn't want it to seem like I was shirking. So here are today's entries for here's-the-latest-about-that-mysterious-neighborhood-near-Nationals-Park stories:
* The Post's Saturday real estate section has "People Flock to Live in DC's Capitol Riverfront Area Despite Commercial Stall," which focuses on the more than 1,700 new residents that have moved into Near Southeast since last year's Opening Day. It's a basic overview of the goings-on, but there is one tidbit of what I'd consider news: Forest City says that they are planning to restart the stalled Foundry Lofts residential renovation at the Yards next month, completing it in summer 2011. (No word on a start date for the retail renovation of the Boilermaker Shop across the street.) It's been mentioned before, but if you're not hanging on every word here at the blog, you might find the news of a redesign of 401 M Street from an office building to residential of interest, especially since that would speed the opening of a planned Harris Teeter on the ground floor. Elsewhere, the article also says that Velocity now has 75 units sold, although nowhere near that many have actually been closed on, according to land records (looks like around 30 as of early March).
* The Post's offspring publication the Express also published a piece today on the neighborhood, "From Frontier to Focal Point: Capitol Riverfront's Growth and Potential," which again focuses on the residents who have moved in despite the lack of retail. (The online version of the piece also has one whale of a coding error that suggests that the JDLand.com web empire is far more vast than I might have ever dreamed.) There's also an accompanying Capitol Riverfront Basics, laying out all the amenities that don't quite exist yet.
* And, while not really along the same lines as the other two, I should also point to the Post's feature today on the Trapeze School in its new home at the Yards.
I imagine there's more of these pieces to come over the next week. And really, I shouldn't be so cynical about them, since they do serve a purpose for the vast majority of the citizenry who don't pay much attention to the area; but I just think it's funny that this is now becoming such a standard late-March exercise for all media organizations. On the other hand, I sort of {ahem} did one myself last year, although it was more of a reaction to all the oh-my-God-there's-nothing-new-down-there thread that ran through the media coverage last time around, to show that there had been a lot of progress in the year since the ballpark opened. This year, as the stories are keying on, the progress is more inside the existing buildings than with any new developments.
 

Believe it or not, the first game of the third season of play at Nationals Park is just over a week away (the 4:05 pm exhibition on Saturday, April 3, against the Red Sox) with the home opener on Monday, April 5 at 1:05 pm against the Phillies. So, let the onslaught of ballpark-related news begin! (I'll be saving up the latest general let's-look-at-the-ballpark-neighborhood links for a group post probably on Monday, though will tweet them as they come out.) Today's tidbits:
* I've updated my map of parking options around the ballpark with the information on official Nats lots (locations and prices) for the 2010 season. I've left the information from last year on unofficial lots on the map, though won't know if it carries through until the first game.
* Here's the gameday schedules of Circulator service between the Union Station, Eastern Market, and the Navy Yard Metro stations. (Remember, this line's normal service hours are only on weekdays from 6 am to 7 pm, so they need special service for most ballpark events.) Thanks to DDOT for passing the schedule along.
* There's some chatter apparently going around the neighborhood that, because there will be no shuttles to and from RFK, buses bringing fans to games will now be allowed to park on neighborhood streets. The Nats' web site shows that bus parking is available at Lot W (Seventh and L, SE) for $50, but it's not clear whether that's a requirement, or how many buses can park there. DDOT tells me that they are still working on the Transportation Operations and Parking Plans for this season, and so at this point no decisions have been made.
UPDATE, 3/31: For more ballpark transporation tidbits (including Metro's plans for big big crowds), see today's entry.
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* The Marines have posted the slides and handouts from this week's workshops on potential sites for their new barracks. If you didn't see my update, here's Norm Metzger's additional take on Tuesday night's meeting.
* MPD's PSA 105 is having its monthly meeting on Saturday (March 27) at 10 am at the 1D substation at 500 E Street, SE.
* The Washington City Paper's annual "Best Of DC" issue is out, and Near Southeast gets a couple of nods: Cornercopia was given a Staff Pick for Best New Bodega, Capitol Quarter is the Readers' Pick for Best Designed Residential Development, and the 11th Street Bridges reconstruction gets a Staff Pick for Best Construction Project. Alas, this also means that now my year-long reign as Second Best Local Web Site (and "favorite nasty local blogger") has come to an end.
* The Washington Project for the Arts is holding its "WPArade" in Near Southeast, on June 5 at 12 pm along Half Street from M to N. This parade, modeled after similar events in other cities, "is an extravaganza of artists connecting with community to create a moving visual spectacle of art and culture." They've got a call for participants out, and it notes that "participants can traverse the route in any manner that is non-motorized (wagons, bicycles, walking, etc. are acceptable)." It'll culminate with a party at the Bullpen until 3 pm. Who will be the first to enter a giant papier-mache Stephen Strasburg?
 

A few days ago, WBJ reported Deputy Mayor Valerie Santos saying that Canal Park "will move forward" in June. With the previous comments on the park's timeline indicating a September start of construction, my curiosity was piqued, so I contacted the park association's executive director, Chris Vanarsdale, to find out the latest. To wit:
At this point, work is continuing on the design documentation, which is expected to be completed in June, and it's still expected that construction on the park itself will begin in September. However, the plans now also include $1.5 million of infrastructure work beneath Second Place (the road that runs on the eastern side of the park), which will be paid for out of the $29 million in Capper bonds that are hitting the market this week. (This wouldn't appear to be any sort of evil cost-shuffling by the city, since Second Place runs along blocks that will eventually house three Capper apartment buildings and WC Smith's 250 M Street office building that is also technically part of Capper's Hope VI redevelopment.)
The work on the utilities below Second Place, which are apparently quite a mess, will also allow the park to install stormwater management infrastructure to be in place for when the new apartment buildings are constructed, so that the park can capture water from those buildings' roofs to be used in the park for irrigation, fountain water, and whatnot. And, if there's any money left over after the infrastructure work, there's now streetscape designs for the east side of Second Place that complement the park's design, which would extend the "feel" of the park across the street.
It's this infrastructure work that will begin this summer, prior to the actual start of work on the park itself. The hope is to have a groundbreaking ceremony in July, though at this point all timeline forecasts are subject to the completion of the permitting process for construction, and we know how THAT can sometimes go. This also assumes that there aren't any (more) big surprises lurking beneath Second Place in terms of the existing water, sewer, and other utility lines.
The park's opening date is still pegged at fall 2011, since the work on the park itself is expected to take between 12 and 14 months. The design is still pretty much the one that we've been seeing for a while--there are a few renderings on my Canal Park page, and you can also visit the official park web site for more details.
 

I'm back from tonight's public workshop held by the Marines as part of the process they're currently undergoing to find a site for a new barracks. For those just tuning in, the Marines are desperately needing to replace "Building 20," their lovely barracks structure on the southeast corner of 8th and I, and the new building needs to meet the many security requirements that now exist for Marine Corps living quarters. In what they readily admit is a new approach, the Corps is going through this series of public workshops to gauge public reponse to various sites that they have identified as possibilities. (There is also a "community leadership group" that meets monthly.) They are hoping to find an existing landowner to partner with, instead of how they might have operated in the past (with, shall we say, a little less give-and-take with the community and a takeover of the land rather than a partnership).There could be additional components to any new location (like a daycare center) that could be shared with nearby residents.
For more background, you can read my recent posts and links, or better yet, check the project web site, where they're doing a good job of posting all the latest materials from the process. Hopefully the slides and notes from tonight's session and Wednesday morning's will be posted soon, because what follows is really just a few points among the many that were discussed. But, as always, JDLand is the site where you get what you pay for {ahem}, so this is my best cut at it:
The potential expansion sites discussed this evening were: the existing "Annex" that was built in 2004 (along Virginia Avenue west of Seventh Street); the large area by 11th Street dubbed the "Exxon site" but which also includes the Virginia Avenue Park; Square 882 (the old Capper Seniors site), just south of the Annex on L Street west of Seventh; the northeast corner of the Navy Yard, where the Marines already have some operations inside the walls, and Tyler Elementary at 10th and G, SE, though it was quickly acknowledged that the DC Public Schools folks (and the parents) aren't really interested in that notion.
There were a number of residents (some of whom you already know from my comments section) who spoke strongly in support of the Marines expanding south across L Street into the northern half of Square 882, especially when it was mentioned that this option would most likely include the closing of L Street to vehicular traffic, which these residents of Capitol Quarter say is a speedway of drivers avoiding M Street. (Whether it would also be closed to public pedestrian traffic is not yet decided.) This opinion was not shared by Jennifer Steingasser of the city's Office of Planning, who said that the city would be very much against this solution. (And the Housing Authority seems to be indicating that it isn't really interested in the idea, at least as of now.)
In fact, Steingasser made clear that the city is very concerned that years of planning for the revitalization of Near Southeast, both as a mixed-use neighborhood and as part of the broader Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, are in danger if the Marines create a larger "secure enclave." She said that the city's preferred choice is for the Marines to build inside the walls of the Navy Yard, or on the existing Annex site on Virginia Avenue, or at any of the other federally owned properties in the city, such as the Armory and associated lands at RFK.
The possible loss of the athletic field at the Annex site if a new barracks were added there concerned the residents in attendance, with a possible replacement field at Virginia Avenue Park not seeming to fit the bill. But there were others (including Michael Stevens of the Capitol Riverfront BID) who supported the idea of more density on the Annex site, including perhaps demolishing the existing three-story parking garage and perhaps gaining control of the community center site next to the garage for additional square footage. (Stevens said that the BID would love to see the very-much-needed community center perhaps combined with a public school offering on the current Van Ness Elementary site.)
The discussions of the Exxon/Virginia Avenue Park site included the possibilities of the Marines using the entire area between Ninth and 11th and Virginia and M, which does include some private residences (and the spay and neuter clinic and a couple small businesses). The concern about whether retail and the "vibrant Main Street" feel envisioned by the city would be part of the M Street landscape in this scenario was voiced as well.
Needless to say, there was no consensus, nor was there expected to be at this stage, and this is just a small subset of the 2 1/2 hours of discussions, so I'll link to the official notes from the meeting once they're posted. There will be two more workshops, and a charrette in September. Again, see the official web site for more details, and how to submit your own comments.
UPDATE: Another view of the meeting, from Norm Metzger, with a little more detail on Jennifer Steingasser's comments. And there was this: "Bruce Jackson, of the CIMP team, noted the essence of the problem: That there was no choice on giving up Building 20 as living quarters, and that the hope was to use the CIMP process -- unique, according to Mr Jackson in the annals of military-community development efforts -- to create a 'win-win' outcome. That was later amended to 'everyone is going to have to give up something.'"
 

* WBJ is first out of the gates with what I expect to be an avalanche of whats-new-around-the-ballpark stories, tied to Opening Day and now a March staple for all DC media outlets. Nothing new in it, and a few quibbles (Justin's Cafe isn't open yet, the water taxis also ran late last year, Sayres lease is 20k), but I guess it's a decent quick roundup if you're not keeping track. Which, if you're reading this blog, you are. :)
UPDATE: Ah, now I know where WBJ got the idea--the BID's State of the Capitol Riverfront Spring Update. Basically a straight copy-and-paste. (Not the end of the world, of course, but never a bad idea to be straight with readers about your sourcing.)
* Speaking of Justin's, ABRA said yesterday that there were no protests filed for its liquor license application. A reader reports that Velocity is telling residents that the restaurant will open April 16, but after watching rumored opening date after rumored opening date come and go for other places in the past, I remain skeptical of any rumor other than "it's opening tomorrow." (That isn't to say that the dates that get floated are necessarily propaganda--just that the final road to opening a business has a lot of potential pitfalls, especially in the permit process.) On the other hand, a reader passed along an electronic version of the menu, if you want to whet your appetite while waiting; though note that the web site listed hasn't launched yet.
* From the Post: the nude dancing license that used to belong to the Nexus Gold Club--on the site of what is now 909 New Jersey--is now being rebirthed as the "Stadium Club," a strip club getting ready to open on Queens Chapel Road, NE.
* Don't forget that the second public workshop in the Marines' project to build a new barracks, focusing on potential development sites, is tonight from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at Van Ness Elementary (1150 5th St., SE), with a repeat tomorrow from 8:30 to 10:30 am at the North Hall of Eastern Market. The agendas are here (and if you're trying to figure out how to get into Van Ness, the project web site says: "Enter through the main doors on the eastern side of the building (where the parking lot is) and follow the signs to the auditorium downstairs"). If the discussion going on in this comments thread is any indication, it's going to be an interesting meeting.
 

It's more than 100 pages of high finance and headache-inducing legalese, but nonetheless I've gotten my hands on the "Preliminary Official Statement" for what is expected to be a $29 million PILOT bond sale to fund a series of infrastructure improvements for future phases of the Capper/Carrollsburg redevelopment. (This is the document written for investors to help them decide whether or not to purchase the bonds.) If you want to know all about how these bonds are being structured (with monies from the Downtown TIF playing a part), this is the document for you. It also has some good background on the Capper project if you're just catching up.
But it also has a few tidbits on the current and projected path of some upcoming parts of the overall project, starting on page 19. Here are the items that are probably of most interest, with the usual caveats that no timeline is written in stone anymore:
* Financing for the second phase of Capitol Quarter is being negotiated and is expected to close in mid-2010. Development work would then begin in August, and vertical construction in November. (Phase 2 covers the blocks between Third and Fourth and I and M, and will contain 116 new for-sale townhouses and 47 public housing rental units.)
* All but five of the 121 CQ phase 1 townhouses have sold, and two of those are being held back as model units.
* Financing is "being negotiated" for the planned apartment building on the northern half of Square 882, the site that's been the subject of my recent posts on the Marines coveting the site as well. That financing is expected to close in late 2010 according to this document, with an expected completion date of the apartment building in April 2012.
This $29M bond sale is not the last one for Capper infrastructure; the city council approved a total of $55 million in bond funding back in 2006, and the document says that the city "expects" another bond issuance for the rest of the money, "though the timing of such issuance is currently uncertain" (page 10).
As for what exactly the monies will be funding, the document lays out the following (page 22), though this is for the entire $55 million, so it can't be said that this current $29 million offering will cover all this (which will bum out the people who see the phase "community center"). Some of this work would also happen on the streets surrounding Canal Park:
* Repairing and replacing underground water and utility lines;
* Repairing streets and streetscapes and adding landscaping;
* Demolishing the DPW building (and smoke stack!) at 900 New Jersey, relocating DPW's operations, environmental site remediations (remember, that site was operating as a trash transfer site as far back as 1905);
* Building I Street through to New Jersey Avenue; and
* Constructing the new community center at Fifth and K.
It's expected that the bonds will be "priced" this week, with the sale closing by the end of the month.
I hear rumors that DPW could be out of their site by next spring, as the search continues for a new home for their operations (and maybe is getting close to a resolution).
 

After my post yesterday about the Marines continuing to eye various sites for their new barracks and their interest in Square 882 (site of the old Capper Seniors building and where the DC Housing Authority wants to build a mixed-income apartment building as part of the Capper redevelopment), I've found out that last week the DCHA board voted to authorize an application to HUD for a loan guarantee to build on the site. Also, design documents for the new apartment building are now approved (see earlier renderings from last year's zoning approvals), and other work is in progress to prepare for submittal of building permit applications. There's even a preliminary schedule to begin infrastructure work on the site after the Nationals' season ends and their need for Parking Lot W is over.
Does this mean the notion of the Marines getting the site is finished? Is it a high-stakes game of chicken? Will the guys with guns ultimately take control of the site from the guys with apartments? As always, we shall see.
 

ANC 6B commissioner Norm Metzger reports today on a meeting held earlier this week with the Marines on their plans for a new barracks to replace the aging "Building 20" on the southeast corner of Eighth and I. According to his notes (and in line with previous scuttlebutt), the Marines listed three locations as passing the stringent security requirements for a new barracks: Square 882 (former site of the old Capper Seniors building that's slated to have mixed-income apartments within the next few years plus eventually a 600,000-sq-ft office building); the northeast corner of the Navy Yard, where a Marine facility is already located; and the block at 10th and G, SE, that currently houses Tyler Elementary School and its baseball field.
Apparently the community group "fairly vigorously set out 'issues' for two the sites," repeating the status of 882 as I've heard it, which is that the Housing Authority's plans and financing moves for the housing portion of the block are well underway --but who knows how much pull the guys with guns might actually have {ahem}. Using the existing Marine site on the northeast corner of the Navy Yard could be problematic, especially given the Navy Yard's announced need to expand its workforce. And there would be a "firestorm" from the community if the Marines tried to take over the Tyler site.
So the group meeting with the Marines suggested two other possible sites, both in Near SE: the open field on the south side of Virginia Avenue west of Seventh street at the Marine Annex built in 2004, and the site of the closed-down Exxon at 11th and M.
The Marines are having a series of community workshops about their plans for new space, and workshop #2 is being held next week, on Tuesday, March 23 from 6 to 8 pm at Van Ness Elementary (1150 5th St., SE) and then repeated the next morning from 8:30 to 10:30 am at Eastern Market's North Hall. The agendas for the meetings are now available, and they include a section about the possible sites before the meetings move to "focused breakout sessions" to talk about those sites and any other possibilities. The project web site also has documents from the first workshop, including a revised Vision, Goals, and Objectives statement that was updated after input from the workshop's participants.
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More posts: Barracks, meetings, Navy Yard
 

(I've just gotten back from a week traipsing around Arizona, so apologies for light/slow posting, including this one) It was announced today that the Eagles, with special guests the Dixie Chicks and Keith Urban, will be playing at Nationals Park on Tuesday, June 15, with tickets going on sale at tickets.com on March 29 at 10 am. This is the second concert scheduled for the stadium this summer, with the Dave Matthews Band playing on July 23.
Astute readers might remember all sorts of rumors back in 2008 that the Eagles were going to play the first-ever concert at the ballpark, an honor which eventually went to Billy Joel and Elton John, last year (unless you want to count the Pope).
 

Some items of interest I've tweeted over the past few days:
* Barry Farm (Re)Mixed shames me by posting recent photos of the 11th Street Bridges construction.
* The Bullpen opens for the 2010 season on April 3, when the Red Sox come to town for an exhibition.
* Capitol Hill Tower board member (and, I assume, resident) James DeMartino has announced he's running against Tommy Wells for the Ward 6 council seat. DeMartino is running as a Republican. (Here's a WashPost brief on the item.)
* Mayor Fenty has given the city council its ballpark suite tickets for the 2010 season, leaving reporters across the city bereft at the thought of not having the on-going tiff to cover.
* Technically off-topic, but: I've been grumbling for more than seven years now about the poorly placed sign on the SW Freeway for the C Street SW exit, which points drivers to a left-side lane but then requires them to move two lanes to the right within a quarter-mile to get to their ramp, So I finally took some photos to explain the issue and tweeted them to blow off some steam. Soon after, @ajfroggie posted two great images of how to replace the signage along that stretch to fix not only my complaint but some general problems with all of the signs.
 

From the Examiner, a tally of the costs to the city of first renting and now purchasing the old Post Plant at 225 Virginia Ave., which it says will total $400 million from the original leasing of the building in 2006 through the end of the new 20-year lease with StonebridgeCarras: "The D.C. Council recently approved a 20-year, $174.4 million lease with developer StonebridgeCarras LLC, which will overhaul the property to house three government agencies. From the first rent payment in July 2007 to the end of the StonebridgeCarras deal, the District will have spent more than $274 million to lease, buy, renovate and lease the building again. Operating costs for 345,120 rentable square feet will be in the $6 million-a-year range, adding $120 million to the price tag."
There's no word yet on when renovations to the building will begin. If you want more background on the long and winding road of DC's dance with this building, you can read my archived posts.
 

I made it to Tommy Wells's meeting on possible changes to M Street, and there was a bigger crowd than I might have expected, one which seemed to be weighted more heavily toward Southwest residents than Southeast folks. Tommy opened the meeting by talking about how much development is coming to this area that he calls the "most multimodal neighborhood in the world" (with everything from cars to buses to the subway to electric jitneys to water taxis to horse carriages), but that the street itself is does not display the sort of character one might want, and that it's "not an inspiring architectural area saying 'Welcome.' " He has become very interested in the "Complete Streets" concept, which aims to create road networks that work for pedestrians young and old, cyclists, public transportation users, and drivers. by doing things such as adding dedicated bike lanes, creating safer crosswalks, etc.
Last year he talked to the Toole Design Group and asked them for some basic renderings that would imagine M Street in this new way, for what he called an illustration that he could take to people, which they provided, paid for by the Capitol Riverfront BID. But when he took the resulting drawings to a meeting of the BID's members and *someone* blabbed and posted the designs as if the changes were coming soon, it "created confusion," he said. (Ahem.) He wanted to make clear that no decisions have been made, but that he does want a dialogue about whether M Street is "really what we need for the uses."
Adam Goldberg of the AARP then did a presentation about Complete Streets, saying that what's good for 50-plus folks is good for younger people, too, and that the basic idea is to create networks that are "safe, comfortable, and convenient for travel by auto, foot, bike, and transit, regardless of age or ability." You can see the 128-page AARP report on "Planning Complete Streets for an Aging America," and the "In Brief" sheet he handed out is available as well.
Tommy's office was also nice enough to forward his presentation slides.
Funds from the Ballpark Performance Parking Pilot could be used for these sorts of alterations to M Street, and clearly Tommy has a great interest in "transforming" M Street "into a showcase street," though he said that he's not excited about doing it if the community doesn't want it. And there was definitely trepidation in the room about the possibility of shrinking M down to four driving lanes from six, even though Tommy says the 10,000 vehicles a day that M carries could ostensibly be handled by the smaller footprint. Other attendees spoke enthusiastically about the ideas, so there was certainly no consensus from the audience. ANC commissioner Andy Litsky made clear his desire for a traffic and parking study that covers all of Near Southeast and Southwest before embarking on any changes to M Street. (Other speakers were a bit vociferous in their distaste for bike lanes, with the word "elitist" getting tossed around by one particular speaker who seemed especially agitated by the idea.)
There was no indication of what the next steps may be, and indications from the BID meeting a few months back were that businesses along M (including the Nationals) were expressing some concerns as well, so for now I'd suggest following the above links for more basic background on what sorts of changes are being thought about for M Street, and getting in touch with Tommy's office with your thoughts. I'm guessing WashCycle will have coverage of the meeting as well, and I'll link to any posts from them.
UPDATE, 3/11: A little late, but here are three more good pieces on the meeting, from WashCycle, Tommy Wells, and SWDC Blog.
 

Some alert readers reported today via e-mail and Twitter that there is renewed activity at the site of 1015 Half Street, where construction of the 440,000-sq-ft office building was halted in the middle of 2009 when owner Opus East went bust and liquidated. (The Douglas Wilson Companies was named receiver for the property in August.) I've heard no official announcements, but the many liens against the property were settled in January, and apparently people are on-site, and a new fence and "Skanska" sign are now up at Half and L, so we'll see if the project is in fact moving again.
 

There was almost no Near Southeast news at tonight's ANC 6D meeting, even though it was held at the Courtyard at New Jersey and L, SE. There was no update from the Nationals as had been initially on the agenda, and ANC chair Ron McBee said that he doesn't yet have a date for a community meeting on the Traffic Operations and Parking plans for the ballpark for this season, which he wants to have with the team and DDOT especially in light of the Nats' decision to stop the RFK parking shuttle for this season.
(As an aside, in comparing the Nats parking map for this season with mine from last year, it looks like the only change in lots is that the underground garage at 300 M is no longer an official Nats lot. The pricing structure hasn't changed a whole lot, except for lot HH and W now becoming "economy" lots at $5 and $10 per game, respectively. I'll update my page soon.)
Most of the meeting was taken up with all the doings in Southwest surrounding the impending opening of the new Safeway at Waterfront, and the transition period when the old one will be closed on April 6, eight days before the new one opens with a ribbon-cutting and preview on April 15 before opening "for real" on April 16. There was also the news that some restaurants look to be closing deals soon for spaces in Waterfront. SWDC Blog has the details on all this.
 

A few articles I've recently pointed to from my Twitter feed that might be of interest but aren't necessarily "news":
* The Examiner says the city spent $115,000 to house snow plow drivers at the Courtyard on New Jersey Avenue during the record February snowstorms--what we always refer to as the "trash transfer station" is also the city's snow plow yard, and so the drivers were being put up close by. (Lots of money was spent at McDonald's, too, presumably the one within walking distance on I Street.)
* The Nats' Stan Kasten speaks to the DC Sports Bog on the rumors of the NHL Winter Classic coming to town. ("I think it's a fun rumor, it's a fascinating rumor, [but] I really do think you're jumping a little bit ahead.... I think it would be great for our city, and great for our ballpark, and together we'd do a hell of a job.")
* In Senate testimony, US DOT secretary Ray LaHood used "the area around the ballpark" as an example of "livability" during a sharp exchange with Sen. Kit Bond. You can see the video here (skip to the 92-minute mark), or read the story about LaHood's testimony on Streetsblog.
* Three Nats games -- April 3, 7, and 8 -- have been deemed "official events" in the National Cherry Blossom Festival. (via the Nats)
* The ANC 6D meeting tonight is at the Courtyard in Near SE, but SWDC Blog posted photos of the commission's new digs in the about-to-open Waterfront development.
* WashCycle thinks that the 10-block temporary tunnel CSX says it will build on Virginia Avenue when reconstructing the existing tunnel ought to be kept for bike/pedestrian use ("lighting would have to be a must", they say).
 

I'm embarrassed to admit how long it's been since I've visited the roof perch along New Jersey Avenue to take new photos of the land down below, but I finally got back there on Friday and have eased my conscience (though I wish it had been sunnier), and you can see the results here.
I now have my first overhead shots of the townhouses at Capitol Quarter, seen here compared with the same view in March 2006:
There's also photos of the view to the west, showing the changes the past few years have wrought:
The entire batch is here, though be sure to look for the icon because I wasn't able to update every angle. Also, use the "See All" links if you want to see the "between" photos of each angle.
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More posts: Capper, Capitol Quarter
 

The lineup. all front-loaded on Monday and Tuesday:
* Monday has the ANC 6D meeting (didn't we just do this?), at 7 pm at the Courtyard by Marriott at New Jersey and L, SE. The agenda is now posted, and includes updates on the Nats and the ballpark's Transportation and Parking Plan.
* Tuesday has Tommy Wells's public meeting on improvements to M Street, from 6-7:30 pm at the MPD First District station at 101 M St., SW.
* Tuesday is also ANC 6B's meeting, in its new home at 535 8th St., SE, at 7 pm. The update from CSX on the Virginia Avenue Tunnel project originally slated for this meeting has been moved to the April meeting.
 

Taking a stand for hockey fans all across the DC Metro area, Ward 4 council member Muriel Bowser introduced at Tuesday's council meeting PR18-0761, "Sense of the Council that the District Of Columbia Should Host the 4th Annual NHL Winter Classic Resolution of 2010." The resolution, which garnered the support of all 13 council members, was in response to the rumors that started flying last month that the NHL is poised to name Washington as the location of the 2011 edition of the now-traditional game played outdoors on New Year's Day.
You can read it here, to see that the council has determined that DC is "the best city to host the Winter Classic, because it is our nation's capital, a world renowned city, a historic city, and a city with a strong hockey fan base" and that the city "can accommodate the largest crowd in the history of the Winter Classic," with Nationals Park holding 41,888 and RFK holding 46,000. There's about 16 other reasons listed, with my favorite being "This Winter shows that the District of Columbia has a winter climate that compares with any other city in the Northeast." (By the way, section 2.i, which is cut off in the PDF, says "The Washington Capitals are regarded as one of the league's most popular and profitable franchises.")
There could be quite a melee to get tickets if the game does come to DC--307,000 people applied for tickets to the 2010 edition at Fenway, and the Capitals now have the highest attendance rating in the NHL--which, for someone who used to traipse out to the Cap Centre in the 1980s to see the Capitals flounder around in front of a few thousand people, is still rather astonishing. UPDATE: Though some commentators are questioning the council's "highest attendance rating" claim.
No word on when the NHL will announce the city and teams chosen for the game.
 

From Tommy Wells's office (via ANC 6D):
"Please join us to discuss the possibilities for M Street.
Tuesday, March 9th, 6:00 - 7:30 pm
MPD First District Station, 101 M Street, SW
"Councilmember Wells, in conjunction with the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly and ANC 6D, is hosting a neighborhood meeting to discuss how Southwest and near Southeast neighborhoods can make safety improvements to M Street through what's known as a 'complete street.'
"'Complete street' is a term of art for planning and renovating streets to reduce the number and speed of cars on the roadways, provide better pedestrian safety and access, and support alternate means of travel that connects neighborhoods. Currently, AARP and other advocacy groups strongly support the concept for the potential it holds to build better and safer streets for seniors, families and other pedestrians. AARP will attend to share its efforts to bring complete streets to more communities like ours.'
For much more information on the "complete street" concept, here's the National Complete Streets Coalition web site. I also imagine that the M Street bike lanes concept that was presented to BID members a few months back will be discussed at this public meeting as well.
UPDATE: Just a note that, for people who are wanting to attend this but are worried about the conflict with ANC 6B's meeting that night, I'll note that the planned update from CSX about their Virginia Ave. Tunnel project has been postponed to 6B's April meeting.
 

It's assessment season again, and the Examiner reports that, citywide, commercial property assessments are down 10 percent, with residential numbers dropping between three and four percent. So I fired up the database I keep of the numbers for Near Southeast, added the new data as I do each year when the new numbers come out, and came up with a total assessed value for all properties of just under $5.9 billion, which is a 1.8 percent drop from the $6.01 billion tally reported in March of 2009.
But, wait! As I dug a little further, I found a flaw in my methodology that hadn't quite occurred to me before this year (though it probably hadn't been an issue too often before now): 11 of the big commercial buildings in Near Southeast had apparently appealed their initial 2010 assessments (sent out last year), lowering their tax bills by between 2 percent and 38 percent, from a combined $1.13 billion in the initial assessments to $909.36 million post-appeals. (Ten other buildings are showing no change in those assessments, and one--909 New Jersey--actually saw an 8 percent bump upwards, which was probably more of a function of the initial estimate being from before the building was completed.)
Taking these changes into account, the total assessments for 2010 for the neighborhood is closer to $5.88 billion, meaning that tally of the 2011 numbers just released of $5.89 billion would actually be a 1.9 percent increase. Except that I imagine that some property owners will be appealing again (since some of the 2011 numbers go right back to the original 2010 numbers that were appealed), and the $5.99 billion number will come down again.
Not all property in the neighborhood took a hit--with the opening of the first portions of Capitol Quarter, the blocks between Fourth and Fifth Street saw an increased value of $33 million, and the completion of Velocity raised the assessed value of its block from $99 million to $162 million.
And, since everyone will want to know: the behemoth of the area--Nationals Park--has an assessment unchanged from last year, at just a hair under $1 billion.
I'll check the numbers again later this year to see how many proposed 2011 assessments get altered.
Here's a quick table of the big properties that saw their 2010 assessments change from the original number released early in 2009:
Property Original 2010 Revised 2010 % Diff. Proposed 2011
300 M $132.26M $82.00M -38% $74.69M
55 M $162.60M $110.66M -32% $110.66M
80 M $124.08M $92.75M -25% $111.27M
100 M $90.98M $68.18M -25% $90.98M
1201 M (Martime #1) $87.97M $72.57M -18% $64.74M
1100 NJ $142.79M $121.40M -15% $139.16M
100 I $85.20M $73.00M -14% $85.20M
70 I $132.28M $119.00M -10% $132.28M
1000 NJ * $84.46M $81.06M -4% $79.75M
770 M (Blue Castle) $23.93M $23.17M -3% $23.93M
1220 12th (Maritime #2) $66.99M $65.57M -2% $47.57M
909 NJ $68.05M $73.58M 8% $79.93M
* This is for the residential portion of Capitol Hill Tower; the 2010 assessments on the Courtyard by Marriott show no change.
 

I was able to make a quick visit today to the site that is in the process of becoming the 5.5-acre Park at the Yards, on the banks of the Anacostia River between the Navy Yard and Nationals Park. It's scheduled to open this summer, and it's starting to take shape, from the pedestrian bridge (above) to the Overlook to the "Canal Basin."
I've now posted bunch of photos, with curses to Mother Nature for mostly hiding the sun until about two minutes after I left. I will be adding some of them to my Yards Park project page, but the Quick Gallery was a good spot to get large versions posted, um, quickly. But do check out the project page to help orient yourself to what's coming, both in this first phase and in the later phases over the next few years:
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More posts: The Yards, Yards Park
 
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