Category Archives: Development

Some Random Retail News

GM knows the best way to get an early tip on what new stores are coming to the neighborhood is to get your hands on the Old Georgetown Board agenda. That’s because all new signage needs OGB approval, and the agenda normally lists what company is asking for the new sign.

And from this GM found out about a handful of random stores that apparently are coming to Georgetown. Here they are:

Stachowski Market

Well this one isn’t really news; we’ve known for a while that Jamie Stachowski was opening a butcher shop in the old Griffin Market space. But it’s always nice to see that a project you are excited about is still moving forward.

Sunglass Hut

Apparently a Sunglass Hut is moving into 3251 M St. This is currently where Shoe Gallery is, between Chipotle and Havana Max. Not terribly exciting, GM realizes… Continue reading

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What To Look Forward To in 2012

It’s that time of year when we start talking about what happened for the last twelve months and what we expect to happen in the next twelve months. GM might get around the former, but today he’s talking about the latter.

So what sort of projects around Georgetown can we expect to come online in 2012? Here’s GM’s guesses:

EastBanc Projects

EastBanc has a lot of projects on the drawing board. Some rather ambitious, others less so. On the ambitious side, we have the Exxon condos and the Verizon parking lot condos. The Exxon project has run into design approval delays. The most GM expects to happen in 2012 is that a design is finally approved and maybe, maybe towards the end of the year the gas station will close and preliminary work will begin.

The Verizon parking lot, on the other hand, has already received design approval, so GM expects to see some visible progress on that project by the summer. By December 2012, GM expects to see some significant progress on this project.

On the lighter side, there is the post office project. This project began life as an ambitious plan to construct a dozen or so townhouses with a bunch of condos. It got scaled down and converted into an office project. Then it got scaled further down and converted back into a residential project. Finally it was determined that the part of the building that EastBanc planned to demolish was actually historical, so the project got even more scaled back and returned to an office project. The final product includes minimal exterior changes. It has been approved. Barring delays over the disposition of the property from the USPS to EastBanc, it should see significant progress (if not complete progress) in 2012.

Finally, the wildcard is EastBanc’s recently revealed plans to create a mini-Cady’s Alley behind the Coach store. Neighbors are lining up against it, but EastBanc may have some by-right development rights, and they still have plenty of good will from the original Cady’s Alley. GM’s not sure where it will be by the end of 2012, but he predicts we’ll be talking about it a lot regardless.

The Mall

This really is the elephant in the Georgetown retail room. We’ve seen a steady stream of evictions as Vornado creates a blank slate in preparation for bringing in new tenants. GM understands that the overall approach of Vornado includes a “de-malling” of the mall. In other words, a removal of the interior spaces of the mall. The end result would be single store spaces running from M back to the canal. It’s an intriguing idea (albeit one that is inherently incompatible with the small shops that currently inhabit, or rather recently inhabited, the pre-de-malled mall). Continue reading

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Twenty-Four Year Old Plan Still Driving Today’s Debates

This year, the final phase of the Georgetown Waterfront Park was opened. This was the result of decades of efforts by residents, businesses, and government agencies. But what few have talked about is how this accomplishment was merely a part of a larger plan, a plan which is still at the heart of several of today’s debates.

The plan is a plan adopted by the National Park Service, and it lays out 30 actions to improve the Potomac waterfront through Georgetown. A surprising amount of these actions have been accomplished over the years. They include the construction of the park itself, many of the elements of the park, the creation of the Capital Crescent Trail, and the creation of Francis Scott Key Park.

Some elements of the plan that never came to fruition are as alive today as issues as they ever were.

The most contentious part of the plan is the establishment of a boating zone. This zone would allow for the construction of boathouses along the Potomac from 34th St. to about a 100 yards west of the Key Bridge. This has come up most recently due to Georgetown University’s plans to build a massive boathouse in this zone, just west of the Washington Canoe Club. G.U. has spent at least $1 million just lobbying for this project. After a long delay, NPS just announced it was reopening the feasibility review.

What’s funny is to see the plan account for the then-possible plan by Clyde’s to build a floating restaurant:

Under the terms of a 35-year lease signed by the District Government a private firm has docking and parking rights for a 200-seat capacity floating restaurant with space for 86 cars. The floating restaurant will be moored between 34th Street and Key Bridge and will be approximately 200-feet long by 50-feet wide. Once the park is developed, parking for the restaurant will be provided under the freeway (See Item 18). Parking will be located between K Street and the Potomac bulkhead on a short-term basis, but the area will become a landscaped park on completion of Item 18 below. The area designated for boathouse facilities (See Item 14), encompasses the restaurant on the basis that should the lessee not proceed with the restaurant plan, or the restaurant be discontinued, the area would then become available for boating facilities.

The restaurant obviously never came to pass, so this land should go back into the boating zone. However, GM would love to see a hybrid building constructed at the north end of the park providing for boating facilities and a restaurant or outdoor cafe. Continue reading

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GBA Holds Forum on Economic Development

Wednesday night the Georgetown Business Association held a forum on economic development in Georgetown. It’s a topic that is much on the minds of business owners and residents alike.

The panel included representatives from across the Georgetown business spectrum and also Councilmembers Jack Evans and Vincent Orange. When asked what the city can do for Georgetown, Evans highlighted three things: keeping crime low, transportation, and taxes. Typically when Evans talks about taxes, he talks about keeping income taxes low in order to attract and keep high income residents, but on this occasion he focused on the effect of higher taxes on small businesses. He stated that 25-30% of the new top income tax rate for DC will hit small businesses (for what it’s worth GM’s never heard that stat before, and it doesn’t sound quite right to him).

Vincent Orange emphasized a DC law that requires DC agencies to spend 50% of their procurement budget on small businesses. He stated that right now 31 agencies are out of compliance. Orange also highlighted the DC Streetscape Relief Fund, which offers interest free loans to businesses affected by disruptive street construction, like that seen on H St. NE. Good initiatives both of them, but they’re not really going to help out Georgetown small retail shops much (although Karen Ohri of Georgetown Flooring pointed out that a lot of their business is for institutional clients, so stores like hers could benefit from the procurement law). Continue reading

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Updates to Aren’t They Building

Every once and awhile, GM remembers to get around to updating his “Aren’t They Building” list. And today is one of those onces in a while.

So here’s GM’s updates on the items that need updating:

Paul Bakery
-GM’s old predictions: November 2010spring 2011 Late summer 2011
-Clearly GM’s been wrong now three times on this project. But it really does look like it’s opening soon; so GM is going to say November, a full year after the first prediction.

Calvin Klein Underwear
-GM prediction: fall 2011
-GM was a bit too conservative, they opened a few months ago

All Saints
-GM prediction: August 2011
-That one was about right.

Boutique Hotel on 31st St.
-GM prediction Late 2012
-They are now finally moving forward with this one, but don’t have a new announced date, but late 2012 still seems likely.

Georgetown Waterfront Phase II
-GM prediction: -Late 2010 to early 2011 August 2011
– They were just one month later.

Developing Georgetown Post Office
-GM prediction: 2011 at the earliest Late 2012
-This project seems to have been a bit stymied. It’s still moving forward, but the procedure is just taking a lot longer. GM thinks this now won’t come on-line until 2013 at the earliest.

Billy Reid
-GM prediction: Fall 2011
-This one was supposed to go into the Riccardi shop on M St., but last time GM checked, Riccardi hadn’t left yet. So it’s unlikely Billy Reid is coming in very soon.

Jack Wills
-GM prediction: Winter 2011
-Another one GM was way too conservative on. This one’s been open for months.  Continue reading

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West Heating Plant Conversion Could Be Huge Opportunity

Photo by Mr. T in DC.

GM heard rumors about this, and then yesterday the Current reported on it: the massive West Heating Plant on 29th st. could be on the market soon.

The West Heating plant was built in 1946-48 in order to provide heat to federal building in northwest DC. Originally powered by coal, the plant was eventually converted to natural gas power (although it is supposedly still convertible back to coal). According to the Current, however, it hasn’t been used in over ten years.

For that reason, the General Service Administration is exploring whether the federal government needs to keep the property in reserve any longer or if it can be sold off.

The Current suggests that some find the building to be an eyesore, but GM could not disagree more. It’s a elegant Art Deco building modeled after the even more massive Central Heating Plant, located near L’Enfant Plaza.

The nearby residents of James Place condos want as much of the property turned into parkland as possible. The lot directly to the south of the building could be used in this manner since it runs right back to Rock Creek. GM wondered whether a park could be built with the old tanks still in place (like Seattle’s Gasworks park) but the fact is that most of the lot is a parking lot and the tanks are simply not attractive, even in an industrial sense.

Some condo owners want to level the building too, but GM thinks that’s completely unacceptable. This is an historic and landmark building and should be converted to a new use. Continue reading

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Safeway Moving Forward With New Development

Yesterday a reader alerted GM to the fact that Einstein’s Bagels closed down. GM was expecting this, but not that soon. The building it occupied is owned by Safeway and they plan to tear it down and build a new own (plus another smaller building on the green space between this building and Safeway).

GM went over the initial plans last year. They were pretty tacky and completely out of place in Georgetown. Safeway changed architects and came back with revised designs. The ANC saw that they were on the right course and left the final call to the OGB. Since GM doesn’t attend OGB meetings (they’re during the work day) he didn’t notice that the plans were approved in February.

The pawn shop moved out (and basically across the street) shortly thereafter and now Einstein’s is gone. GM can’t say Einstein’s was his favorite bagel shop. The bagels were ok, and the coffee decent (and incredibly hot for some reason), but the service was incredibly slow. If there was a line of more than two to three people when you walked in, you expected at least a ten minute delay. Nonetheless, it was a relatively cheap option for take-out breakfast, which there’s not much of in north Georgetown. Continue reading

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Tudor Place Sent Back to the Drawing Board

Last Thursday, Tudor Place came before the Old Georgetown Board to seek approval for the concept of its proposed master construction plan. As you may remember, Tudor Place went before the ANC and the OGB in October.

In short: A group of some of the neighbors is objecting to Tudor Place’s plans as they are currently drafted. Some 32nd St. neighbors are particularly concerned about the proposed addition to the garage on the west side of the property. They have suggested Tudor Place dramatically scale back their plans. Tudor Place responds that they have taken many of the neighbors’ suggestions and the plan represents a compromise between the neighbors’ concerns and Tudor Place’s needs.

The ANC essentially took no side and merely expressed a desire for the discussion to continue. The OGB, on the other hand, deferred a decision to embark on a site visit. Having performed a site visit between its October and November meetings, the OGB was prepared to pass judgment last week, and it wasn’t what Tudor Place was hoping for.

The OGB essentially told Tudor Place to go completely back to the drawing board. Here’s specifically what they found: Continue reading

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Q St. Construction to Last Until March

Photo by Pinelife.

WASA–now branded “DC Water”–has been conducting major construction on Q St. for about a year.  The construction entails separating the sewer systems into two systems: sanitary and storm. As it is now, all sewage, whether from a toilet or a storm grate, goes into the same pipe. When it rains a lot (like yesterday) that pipe gets backed up and the overflow (including all that stuff from the toilets) is drained into Rock Creek. The EPA sued WASA over this and WASA is under a court order to fix it by separating the pipes to make sure sanitary sewage never is dumped into Rock Creek.

When WASA was considering this project, they kicked around a couple ideas for how to conduct the massive project on Q St. They considered shutting the road down completely or just shutting it down to one lane. Finally they settled on allowing two lanes of traffic at all times. The last GM heard about this (which was a little before construction started) the project was supposed to run from about October 2009 until September 2010. Continue reading

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What the Inside of the Library Looks Like Now

Last week, GM show you a few snap shots of what the new library will hold, today he’ll pan out a bit and show you what the interior looks like. It’s quite a striking new interior and Georgetown has a renewed treasure in its midsts.

The first space you’ll see is the grand lobby. The high ceilings give the room a church-like air. And while the detailing reminds you that this is a historic building, the glass encased stairway down to the lower level tells you that this new building is going to be a mix of the new with the old. (By the way here’s what this room was supposed to look like; it turned out pretty much as they promised:

Continue reading

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