South by West – May 2017

Slated for demolition are most of the row houses along the unit block of N Street SW, which were built in 1916. Photo: William Rich

Pre-Construction Activity for South Capitol Apartments
Demolition permits have been filed for several rowhouses along the 1300 block of South Capitol Street and the unit block of N Street SW in preparation for the development of a high-rise multifamily building next to Camden South Capitol apartments. Asbestos abatement is underway at the rowhouses, which date to the late 1800s and early 1900s. A DC Council hearing was held on March 30 for approval of a temporary construction closure of an alley off N Street that connects to South Capitol Street. Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6D gave its support several months ago. The alley will be the access point to the parking garage of the proposed rental apartment building, but it serves as an outlet to South Capitol Street for area residents. Once construction is completed it will reopen as a permanent easement. The air rights above a portion of the alley will be used to build the apartment project.

The surrounding homeowners are concerned about the proposed alley closing as well as potential damage to their homes once some of the rowhouses are demolished. Another concern is the potential loss of an easement the homeowners have at the rear of the rowhouses. Of the 13 rowhouses in question, two homeowners and the proprietor of the South Capitol Smile dental practice remain on South Capitol Street and two homeowners on N Street. The developer owns the rest of the buildings. Capitol Liquors, which occupies the corner of South Capitol and N streets, will not be included in the development. The rowhouses on N Street would be demolished to build a portion of the project and two on South Capitol Street, closest to the alley, would be removed to add green space. Others may be demolished as well. An older rendering of the project showed all six rowhomes remaining on South Capitol Street, but the latest, revealed at the April ANC 6D meeting, shows only four, starting with the blue South Capitol Smile Center building.

Historic Designation?
In response to the pending demolition of the rowhouses, in April the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly (SWNA) filed an application with the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) to designate the structures as historic. According to the application, the six “Coleman & Richards Row” homes on South Capitol Street were built in 1892 and the seven “Banes Row” homes were constructed in 1916. The Coleman & Richards Row houses represent the oldest working-class, single-family rowhouses left in Southwest. Most of the “obsolete dwellings” in Southwest were demolished during urban renewal, but the area east of Canal Street, south of M Street, and west of South Capitol Street was spared since most of the buildings were fairly new and in good repair.

This is not the first time in the neighborhood that historic designation was used to halt or slow development. SWNA employed the tactic in 2014 when the Southeastern University campus building at Sixth and I streets was being demolished in preparation for development into “The Bard,” a mixed-use project that included housing and also administrative and rehearsal space for the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC). The neighborhood organization was able to gain concessions from the developer in exchange for withdrawing the historic application. Subsequently the building was demolished and the site sold to STC. A planned unit development was filed for the site in 2016, but it was withdrawn last summer after a backlash from neighbors over the proposed height and density of the project.

Historic designation had also been used when UIP and Perseus Realty revealed plans to build on top of a parking garage at Capitol Park Tower, located at Fourth and G streets SW. In 2012 SWNA filed an application to place Capitol Park Tower on the DC Preservation League’s endangered list. At the same time, an application was filed to designate the building and landscape as historic. After the building and landscaping received historic preservation protection, the developers needed HPRB approval before proceeding with plans for an addition. Final approval came in 2016, but construction has yet to begin.

The new South Capitol Street apartment building, designed by PGN Architects, is planned as a 250-unit rental project with ground-floor retail. Altus Realty Partners was expected to start construction later this year with completion in 2019. Since an historic designation application has been filed, demolition of the rowhouses and development of the apartment building cannot move forward until the HRPB makes a decision or SWNA withdraws the application.

Wharf Restaurant News
A few weeks after the newest Shake Shack opened to the east of South Capitol Street, another one is headed south of the freeway – at District Wharf. It will be the third Shake Shack in ANC 6D. The first opened in Nationals Park and the other opened late last month on M Street SE. According to a press release, the burger chain’s District Wharf location will be a 3,500-square-foot restaurant with an interior mezzanine and outdoor waterfront dining. It is scheduled to open this fall.

In addition to Shake Shack, I’m hearing that Hen Quarter will be opening at District Wharf. Hen Quarter serves Southern cuisine and currently has locations in Old Town Alexandria and Silver Spring, as well as a third one coming soon to Penn Quarter. I’ve also heard that a lease has been signed for a live-music venue called Union Stage that will be approximately 6,000 square feet. Union Stage is from the same group that operates Jammin’ Java in Vienna, Va. Although it’s not known yet how Union Stage will be operated, Jammin’ Java is a 200-seat club, bar, and cafe that offers daily live music. It features Tot Rock during the day, which is a family-oriented music series. Music lessons are also offered.

Here’s some additional information about previously announced Kirwan’s on The Wharf from Mark Kirwan, which has applied for a tavern license. The Irish pub will be located at 749 Wharf Street and will have 181 seats – a summer garden will have 142 seats. Indoor live entertainment will be offered Thursday through Sunday. According to the license application, the tavern would stay open until 2 a.m. during the week and 3 a.m. on weekends. Live entertainment would end by 1 a.m. as well as use of the summer garden on weekends (midnight during the week).

Pearl Street Warehouse is also applying for a tavern license. The tavern will be located on the new Pearl Street (33 Pearl Street) and is proposing a 155-seat venue with a total occupancy load of 300. There will also be live music daily, and diner-style food will be served. The proposed closing time during the week would be 2 a.m., and 3 a.m. on weekends. Live entertainment would end at 2 a.m. on weekends and 1 a.m. on weeknights.

District Hardware and Bike wants to operate a cafe within the bicycle shop that would serve alcohol until 7 p.m. on Sunday and 8 p.m. every other night. The shop would be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Monday through Saturday (alcohol sales starting at noon) and from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday (alcohol sales starting at 11 a.m.). The cafe would have 30 seats with a total occupancy load of 100.

William Rich is a blogger at Southwest … The Little Quadrant that Could (