The saga of the US Postal Office’s sale of the historic Georgetown post office and the approval of the development plans was long and varied. Once huge, then small, and then smaller the plans kept getting nibbled away. And now all that’s left is a little space that Eastbanc is going to end up taking itself.
When it was first announced back in 2009 that the Georgetown-based Eastbanc was going to buy the property and redevelop it, the initial plans called for a new structure off the back containing 13 – 17 condos. Moreover, at an ANC meeting, Eastbanc owner, Anthony Lanier, announced that they ultimately planned to buy the parking lot to the east and build a set of rowhouses to compliment the post office development.
Those plans were then cut back. Talk of buying the parking lot disappeared. The addition off the back got smaller and instead of condos, the plans then contemplated office space.
Then those plans got scaled back again, and the project shifted back to residential. Continue reading
Image courtesy of WCP.
Renderings of the proposed West Heating Plant condo project were released yesterday (these come via Aaron Weiner at the City Paper). The images come the day after the group behind the project held a public meeting to unveil their plans for the building. GM unfortunately couldn’t make it to the meeting, but between the City Paper, Carol Joynt, and the Current (see your front steps for the link), it seems to have been sufficiently covered.
So by all means read those articles. But one theme they missed is how much this public relations effort has a bit of gamesmanship to it. Here’s why:
The Four Seasons group wants to tear the building down. Period. It wants to do so because that is the only way they can make back a good return on the $19.5 million they paid for the property. Trying to repurpose the building without tearing it down would require either massive amounts of money, or a decision to use the space for something other than condos. Once that $19.5 million is out the door, those options largely disappear.
And that’s the rub. Continue reading
GM wrote a few weeks back about the community effort to bring a Politics and Prose branch to Georgetown. Nothing truly subtanstive has been announced, but the project took one small step forward last week when it set up a website.
The site is bare-bones right now, only containing a form to subscribe for email updates. But right now, it’s critical to get as many interested people roped-in and ready to be called upon when the time comes. Continue reading
As reported by Carol Joynt, there is a group of Georgetown residents leading an effort to bring a bookstore/community gathering place to Georgetown, and the iconic Politics and Prose is interested in being part of it.
Politics & Prose, the popular Cleveland Park bookstore that has made a name for itself with often news-making “author talks,” is considering opening its first branch store in Georgetown. “We were approached recently by a group who are very interested in having us open a branch in Georgetown. We’re definitely interested,” Bradley Graham confirmed to Washingtonian…The location under consideration, Graham says, is the old Georgetown Theater building.
GM has been aware of this effort for a while, and it really seems like it has a chance. But plenty of challenges remain. The theater has been on the market for years, with an originally quoted price of $4.9 million. The cost to rehab the building will also be fairly steep. And that’s where you may come in. Continue reading
Photo by Mr. T in DC.
The Current reported this week that the large anchors of the new Georgetown Mall will open next month. Those anchors are TJ Maxx, its sister store Home Goods, and a “flagship” H & M. The new J Crew has already opened. Pinstripes, the fancy bowling alley, will be open later this year.
When GM originally broke the news about TJ Maxx and Homegoods, he also was tipped that Michaels might also come. It doesn’t appear that that is likely to happen now. But from plans that GM has seen, there are still some spaces left to fill, including one or more restaurant spaces. So the final final makeup of the mall won’t be in place too soon. Continue reading
Last month, a consortium of investors, including the Levy Group and Four Seasons, won the auction to purchase the historic West Heating Plant on 29th st. The future of the building is now in doubt, but is it worth saving as is?
No formal plans have been presented by the winning group, but you can read between the lines of their few public statements. Most tellingly, in a letter from the Zoning Administrator to the group’s lawyer, the general proposal to tear down most of the building was discussed. The request asked what the zoning implications would be to keep the 29th St. facade but tear down most of the rest of the building.
Some, like GM, think the entire building is worth saving. It’s a striking example of a austere Art Deco style in a city mostly untouched by that style. The front facade, (which the group seems likely to keep anyway) is a muscular and monolithic edifice, that is detailed with a precise yet delicate brickwork borders:
The rest of the building carries on that muscular hulk:
GM received a tip yesterday from a very reliable source that, notwithstanding partially overheard bus conversations, the winner of the West Heating Plant auction was the Levy Group/Four Seasons. GM has placed a request for confirmation in, but hasn’t received a response yet.
It’s unclear what particular entity won the bidding. The Levy Group was teaming with the Georgetown Company, Four Seasons, and Strategic Hotels and Resorts (the entity that owns the Georgetown Four Seasons).
What is clear is that if this is verified, GM gets to treat himself to Stachowski’s.
UPDATE: GM was mistaken. While the Levy Group owns several of the buildings along Pennsylvania Ave. next to the Four Seasons, it doesn’t own the hotel, Strategic Hotels does. However the root of the prediction still holds since the Levy Group is teaming with Strategic Hotels to bid on the West Heating Plant.
As of last night, the standing highest bid on the West Heating Plant is over $15 million. The auction was supposed to close on February 19th, but it was always labeled a “soft close” and GSA will likely keep the bidding open until 24 hours goes by without a higher bid.
The bids are anonymous. Until last night the high bidder was “Bidder #5″ for $15 million. That was topped by a bid for $15.2. All we know is that neither is EastBanc; Anthony Lanier announced that they are no longer in the running.
GM has heard no rumors or tips as to who could be throwing around that much dough. But for the record, he is going to guess that the winning bid will come from one of two sources: the Levy Group or New York money.
The Levy Group
owns the is teaming with the owners of the Four Seasons and they have been the most aggressive group pushing various ideas they’d like to implement as if they already owned it. For instance, they’ve already privately floated the idea of building a bridge across the canal to connect the two buildings (that has no chance in hell getting built). Continue reading
Last night the ANC met for its first hearing of the new year. And there’s no need to beat around the bush: the proposed bowling alley was front and center.
A representative of Vornado attended the meeting to present his company’s plans for the mall, generally, and the bowling alley, specifically. The presentation was interesting for GM since it was the first time in a long time that Vornado has said anything publicly at all about the project (particularly the interior elements).
The plans for the bowling alley call for a company called Pinstripes to operate it. Pinstripes is a company founded in 2006 by Dale Schwartz in suburban Chicago. Mr. Schwartz was on hand last night to present his vision.
The phrase “high end” was used a lot.
Specifically the phrase “extraordinarily high end wine and food coupled with a bowling and banquet experience” was used. Moreover, the food promised is going to be “Four Seasons” and “Ritz Carlton”-level quality. In a bowling alley. Yeah, GM’s skeptical too.
But unbelievably audacious promises of food quality were not the primary focus of the discussion. That was instead the issue of noise.
Physically, Pinstripes would be located on the southeast corner of the building. You would enter the top of two floors along the canal just south of the old firehouse (soon to be the Frye Company).
On the top floor would be some restaurant and bar space as well as some banquet rooms (more on that later).
Downstairs would have the bowling lanes themselves, along with more tables and bar space and a bocce court. There will be twelve lanes.
Filed under ANC, Development
Last Friday, Martin Austermuhle of DCist had a major scoop about Vornado’s plans for the Georgetown Park mall: the developer was planning on bringing in a bowling alley.
The plans envision a restaurant on the mall’s first level—fronting Wisconsin Avenue—that seats 100, the 12 bowling lanes and three bocce courts. A second floor would include banquet rooms and two more bocce courts. Each game at Pinstripes’ other locations cost $5 not including the $4 for shoes, while entrees range from $17 to $27.
Intimating that the plans might be controversial, he also noted Vornado’s preemptive strategy:
Seemingly prepared for some pushback from local residents, the proposal tries to downplay the bowling element, saying that only 20 percent of the restaurant’s square footage will be dedicated to the sport and that less than five percent of its clientele are expected to partake. “The primary focus of the establishment will be on its food,” says the proposal, which cites menu items such as filet mignon, maple glazed salmon jumbo lump crab cake and “other fine-dining items.” Continue reading