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South by West – February 2017

Anchor Tenant for New L’Enfant Plaza Building
The Urban Institute will take 121,000 square feet of space in the first six floors of the 12-story office building to be built at 500 L’Enfant. The research nonprofit founded by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968 will relocate its headquarters and over 400 employees from the West End to L’Enfant Plaza by March 2019.

After the podium for 500 L’Enfant was built, work stopped about a year ago for lack of an anchor tenant. Now that one has been secured, construction is expected to resume in February. Upon completion, 500 L’Enfant will be a LEED Gold-certified, 215,000 square-foot building with a direct connection to the shops at L’Enfant Plaza and the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station. A free shuttle will be provided from L’Enfant Plaza to The Wharf, which is scheduled to complete its first phase in October 2017.

“We envision opening our doors to new audiences and serving as a hub for innovative programming that advances Urban’s mission,” said Urban Institute President Sarah Rosen Wartell in a statement. “With research conferences, regular sunset seminars, policy debates, decision-maker interviews, and film screenings, we aim to bring together myriad voices committed to advancing America’s families and its communities large and small.” She continued, “In particular, we hope Urban’s facilities will serve as a locus for discussion of DC and regional policy. With immediate access to five Metro lines, bike facilities, and the city’s largest parking garage, it will be easier than ever for people from across the region (as well as the thousands of nearby federal and city employees) to attend Urban events and gatherings.”

The former L’Enfant Plaza Hotel is undergoing renovation and will reopen in 2018 as the 367-key Hilton Washington DC National Mall hotel. Also scheduled to be completed in 2018 at L’Enfant Plaza is the new home of the International Spy Museum, which will be located along 10th Street SW.

The recent office tenant signings at L’Enfant Plaza and at The Wharf signify a shift in the tenant base within Southwest, which has been dominated by the federal government and contractors. Now joining those traditional tenant types are a law firm, a lobbying firm, and a shared work-space provider.

‘Build First’ in Greenleaf Redevelopment
The DC Housing Authority has made a commitment to using a build-first model for the redevelopment of the Greenleaf public housing complex to avoid displacing existing residents. City leaders and neighborhood activists have been advocating a build-first model, especially since many publicly owned sites in the vicinity of Greenleaf could potentially be used. Two nearby sites have been identified as candidates to build the initial phase of the redeveloped Greenleaf. One is the parking lot adjacent to the Metropolitan Police Department’s First District headquarters at the northeast corner of Delaware Avenue and M Street. The other is the DC FEMS Engine 7 repair shop at Half and M streets.

Preliminary development plans by the consultant HR&A Advisors involve the construction of a mixed-income building at the selected build-first site. Some of the residents could move there to allow for a phased demolition of the existing Greenleaf buildings, starting with the townhouses closest to M Street. Preliminary development plan calls for a mix of housing types and heights, generally highest along M Street and tapering down to the north and south.

The redevelopment of the 15-acre site is split into four blocks:

Block A is bounded by Third Street to the west, Delaware Avenue to the east, M Street to the south, and L Street to the north. An affordable seniors/disabled 11-story apartment building with 272 units would be built along M Street with about 15,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. The northern portion of the block would be developed with a mixed-income, nine-story multifamily building with 214 units.

Block B is bounded by Third Street to the west, Delaware Avenue to the east, L Street to the south, and K Street to the north. The west portion would have about 37 townhouses, and the east side of the block would have a seven-story multifamily building of about 207 units, with some townhouses on the lower floors.

Block C is bounded by Third Street to the west, Delaware Avenue to the east, K Street to the south, and I Street to the north. The west portion would have about 37 townhouses, and the east side of the block would be a midrise multifamily building with about 340 units, with some townhouses on the lower floors.

Block D is bounded by Delaware Avenue to the west, King-Greenleaf Recreation Center to the east, King Greenleaf Ballfield to the south, and M Street to the north. On the northwest portion of the block, an 11-story building would be constructed along Delaware Avenue with about 320 units and 7,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. A second 11-story multifamily building would be constructed on the northeast portion of the block. It would have about 420 units, with some townhouses on the lower floors. The south portion of the block would include 42 townhouses.

Excluding the build-first phase, nearly 1,900 units would be erected, replacing the current 493 units and adding a significant amount of market-rate housing. The next step is to come to an agreement with the District on a site to do build-first. Following that, the redevelopment plan needs to be finalized, and then the Housing Authority will issue a request for proposals to select a developer partner.


William Rich is a blogger at Southwest … The Little Quadrant that Could (www.swtlqtc.com).

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