Category Archives: Development

What to Look Forward to in 2014

Despite sounding impossibly futuristic, 2014 is here. So what new things will come to Georgetown this year? While scarfing down the last of his Christmas cookies, GM put together this list of what he knows or thinks will arrive here this year. Add anything he missed in the comments!

Let’s Go Bowling

The Pinstripes bowling alley will be the first significant addition to the Georgetown neighborhood this year. It should be open by the end of January (the Concerts in the Park kick off party is scheduled to be there January 25th, so it definitely will be open by then).

Hopefully this will be an instantly popular venue for families. With a toddler with a winter birthday, GM expects to host at least a few of his daughter’s birthday’s here someday.

Filling in the Mall

Beyond Pinstripes, there are several large vacant spaces in the mall. This includes a space along M St. and at least one other restaurant venue (on the southwest corner). GM expects most of this space to be either filled or at least claimed by the end of the year.

Given the short term investment plan the mall’s owner (Angelo Gordon) typically has, GM suspects that the property will be back on the market either this year or next. Continue reading

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Georgetown 2028: Public Space

C&O Canal

 

This week, GM is going through the fantastic recommendations from the BID’s Georgetown 2028 report. Yesterday he discussed some of the more significant transportation pieces of the report. Today he discusses the other major section of the report: public space.

The public space working group started from the simple notion that regardless of how one arrives at Georgetown, we’re all pedestrians once we get here. And as also mentioned yesterday, one of the underlying strategies of the report is to develop a “waterfront district” by bringing more commercial life K St. and the streets between K and M. And the public space recommendations address that head on by looking for ways to improve the streetscapes in the commercial sections of Georgetown.

The concepts put forward by the public space working group didn’t have the concreteness of the transportation working group recommendations. So some of these ideas are really just that: ideas. But they’re exciting nonetheless.

Gateways

One of the weaknesses identified by the report is the lack of a “gateway” at the entrances to Georgetown. There’s nothing really announcing that you’re here when you arrive. GM can’t tell you how many times he’s been stopped on the streets of Georgetown and asked by a tourist where Georgetown is.

The ideas pitched by the working group include more prominent signage at the main entrances to the commercial district. That could mean simply a freestanding sign, or a more radical approach like this on K St.:

gateway

 

(Again, this is just more of proposed concept, not a specifically proposed design)

Sidewalks

While GM would love to see permanently widened sidewalks on M and Wisconsin, that simply doesn’t have the support yet. But the report proposes the next best thing: temporary widenings. We saw this successfully done at the French Market last spring.

GM personally hopes this can provide proof of concept that the sidewalk should be widened at least every weekend, but even just occasional widenings would be a good start. Continue reading

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Eastbanc Ends up Occupying Post Office Building Itself

IMG_2917

 

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

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West Heating Plant Renderings Released

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

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Bookstore Project Takes a Few Steps Forward

Old Georgetown Theater, Soon to Be Empty, Still For Sale

 

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

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Politics and Prose Branch Contemplated For Georgetown

Old Georgetown Theater, Soon to Be Empty, Still For Sale

 

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.

Joynt writes:

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

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Mall Begins New Era Soon

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

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Monumental or Eyesore?

West Heating Plant

 

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:

1000 block of 29th St.

 

The rest of the building carries on that muscular hulk:

Continue reading

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Rumor: Levy Group Won West Heating Plant Auction

West Heating Plant

 

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.

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Who’s Behind $15 Million Bid?

West Heating Plant

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.

Original Post:

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

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