Tuesday, October 31, 2006

High Hopes, Higher Home Prices in Anacostia

Latest article from the Post about the housing market in Anacostia.

High Hopes, and Higher Home Prices, in Anacostia
Development Is Part Of Plan to Diversify, Mend Worn D.C. Area

By Lyndsey Layton
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 19, 2006; A01

The newest government-supported housing in the District is a landscaped development of four-bedroom homes with Palladian windows, cathedral ceilings, hardwood floors and prices that reach $584,000.

The District gave the builders of the Homes at Woodmont about $1 million toward the $14 million project on Good Hope Road SE because it wants to attract professionals and their money to the most economically distressed section of the city.

The project inverts the traditional notion of housing subsidies because it isn't aimed at low-income buyers.

"We're trying to create diversity in the southeast quadrant of the city, to break up pockets of poverty," said Leo Clarke, special projects coordinator at the D.C. Department of Housing and Community Development, which gave the developers a grant toward the cost of preparing the land for construction. "We're trying to encourage investment in an otherwise blighted area."

The city is trying to use tax dollars, housing policy and, in one instance, legal power to inject middle-class elements into the long-distressed area, which is east of the Anacostia River at the northern tip of Ward 8 and has the city's largest concentration of public housing and the lowest median income.

Earlier this year, in a controversial move, the city used eminent domain to seize a worn shopping center less than a mile from the Homes at Woodmont. Over the protests of storekeepers, District officials are trying to replace the liquor stores and dollar stores in the Skyland shopping center with higher-end shops and restaurants.

City officials hope the Homes at Woodmont will help the neighborhood by raising property values, encouraging landowners to rehabilitate shabby buildings and adding residents with money to spend at higher-end shops.

"We already have an overabundance of low-income and affordable housing," said Albert R. Hopkins, executive director of the Anacostia Community Development Corp. "What we need is market rate."

Attracting higher incomes to the neighborhood is key to more shops and better services, Hopkins said. "Local and national retailers, they look at demographics and income levels," he said.

Along the streets surrounding the Homes at Woodmont, 42 percent of families live below the poverty line; the median income was $19,950 in 2000, according to the U.S. Census. Most of the homes are modest brick rowhouses or apartment buildings with bars on the windows. Many date to the 1960s and look worn.

"Southeast Washington needs a whole lifestyle change," said L. Yvonne Moore, an advisory neighborhood commissioner who lives across Good Hope Road from the new houses. "It's time that people see Southeast is not just a dumping ground for social services and apartments with Section 8" public housing subsidies, said Moore, a retired teacher. "We have to have more choices. My kids are educated professionals. Where does my son live? In Arlington, Va. And my daughter lives in Southwest, in a condo."

Moore lives in Marbury Plaza, an apartment complex built in the 1970s for upscale black professionals. Much like the Homes at Woodmont, Marbury Plaza was intended to attract people with disposable income. But the complex began to deteriorate in the 1980s, and now residents in the soot-stained building complain of repair and security problems.

The Woodmont development lies between two projects that have received heavy public investment: Good Hope Marketplace, a shopping center that opened in 1997, and Anacostia Gateway, an office and retail complex under construction in the heart of Historic Anacostia.

"Once that Anacostia Gateway opens, this whole area is going to take off," said A. Gene Edgecombe of VMS LLC, one of the builders of the Homes at Woodmont. He pointed to the location -- less than 10 minutes by car to L'Enfant Plaza, downtown or Capitol Hill -- as a major selling point.

The new houses sprang from negotiations between the community and a developer, which used $10.4 million in city funds to build a 176-unit apartment building for low-income renters in 2002. Neighbors initially objected, saying the area was saturated with apartments. "The neighbors wanted stable, long-term homeowners," said Sarah Davidson, vice president of KSI, which built the apartments.

To appease the community, KSI pledged to build single-family homes on several adjacent wooded acres. Then it sold the land to IDS/VMS to build the houses.

Without the city's financial help, IDS President Andy Botticello said, the single-family houses wouldn't have been feasible because the land needed expensive correction of soil problems. The soil issues delayed construction, increasing costs, he said.

The Woodmont project is under construction; the first five homes should be ready for occupancy next month, Botticello said.

But the development's contours and feel are already apparent. It has a distinctly suburban look, more Annandale than Anacostia. The homes are on smaller lots than in the suburbs, but that's the main difference.

The houses have brick fronts, peaked roofs and many amenities -- including whirlpool soaking tubs and attached garages. The development backs onto federal parkland, so the houses face woods instead of city streets. "Our construction guys keep running into deer," Edgecombe said.

As a condition of the city's grant, the developers agreed to discount the first 13 of the 35 houses by about $100,000 under market value. But there were no income restrictions on buyers. Anybody could purchase the discounted housing; they just had to be fast.

With no advertising and not even a "For Sale" sign on the property, the developers got more than 1,000 e-mails from would-be buyers through their Web site and sold the houses in waves starting in 2002. That reassured Riggs Bank, the original lender, that a market exists for half-million-dollar homes in Anacostia, Botticello said.

The developers expect to put the remaining 17 lots on the market next month, with house prices ranging from $489,000 to $584,000. There are no income restriction on these, either.

Most buyers are moving up from townhouses, condominiums or rental apartments. Many have a connection to Southeast. "I had a townhouse in Prince George's County, and I wanted to come home to D.C.," said Karen Beddoe, a 35-year-old Washington native whose parents live in Ward 8. "You never realize how much a place has to offer until you leave it."

Beddoe, an accountant with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, stumbled across the Homes at Woodmont on the Internet. "I couldn't let that go by," said Beddoe, a single mother of two. "I jumped at the opportunity. I was just so lucky."

She signed a $360,000 contract for a four-bedroom, 2 1/2 -bath house. The same money would buy a one-bedroom condominium about one-third the size of that 3,300-square-foot home in one of the city's affluent neighborhoods.

"I pass my new house every day on the way to work," said Beddoe, who has waited for the home through years of construction. "Some days, I slow down and say, 'That's mine! That's mine!' "

One recent day, Beddoe toured her unfinished house with Edgecombe and Botticello. The hardwood floors, carpeting and appliances had yet to be installed, and the electricity wasn't connected. But to Beddoe, it resembled a page from Better Homes and Gardens. "I love it!" she cooed, surveying the walk-in closet in the master bedroom. "This is Karen's closet! I've got plans!"

Gome Legesse, another buyer, said her family tried to sway her against buying a house in Anacostia. "They didn't want me to go there. They said it wasn't secure," said Legesse, a 40-year-old computer technician for the District government who rents an apartment at Florida Avenue and North Capitol Street NW. "I told them not to worry about it, that a lot was developing around the area."

Legesse has agreed to pay about $302,000. "I couldn't beat the price," she said. "It is my dream to live in a single-family house."

Monday, October 09, 2006

Viewpoint on difficulty with urban renewal in Anacostia

Biggest battle is fighting bad press, say supporters

Washington Business Journal - May 8, 1998

Please, Anacostia is begging you: Don't believe everything you read.

As commercial real estate struggles to break through on the far side of the Anacostia River, private developers and community activists say they must fight an unending uphill battle against media images that depict their neighborhoods as hotbeds of crime and violence.

"For years the message has been about crime, drugs, despair. But if you go through Anacostia today, that is not what you see," insisted Chris Smith, chairman and chief executive officer of William C. Smith & Co. Inc., a D.C.-based land developer and property management firm that has operated in Anacostia since 1990.

Years of bad press have hurt the city's Southeast corner, scaring off investors and slowing what ought to be a rapid expansion of retail and office space, according to Albert "Butch" Hopkins, president and chief executive officer of the Anacostia Economic Development Corp. (AEDC).

"Once the wrong perception is out in the public, you have to fight daily to overcome it. It's a real struggle," he said. "But the people in this community want the same thing as folks in the suburbs. They want a clean, safe environment in which to shop and do business."

A number of parties have plans to give them just that, perhaps in the near future. City authorities, the AEDC and private developers all are looking at ways to rejuvenate both the housing market here and the supporting market for goods and services.

Take Smith's firm, for example. With a 10,000-square-foot shopping center, and another at 25,000 square feet, plus more than 1,000 residential units, the developer has invested heavily in this area that so many others have written off as lost.

Why did he come here? Because there is money to be made.

"We saw a lot of promise. We saw the existing residents as being real stakeholders -- they had toughed it out during the bad times -- and I think the results speak for themselves," said Smith, who noted that all his firm's residential units and retail spaces are fully occupied. "We have seen a tremendous rebirth over the past eight years and a lot more interest in retail space."

The centerpiece of that rebirth: Good Hope Marketplace, the first shopping center to be built east of the Anacostia River since World War II. Located at Alabama Avenue, Naylor Road and Good Hope Road SE, the 98,000-square-foot center is anchored by a 57,000-square-foot Safeway and includes two banks, Chevy Chase and First National Bank of Maryland, plus a Radio Shack, a dry cleaner, a police substation, an Athletes Foot store and a Rent-A-Center, among others.

The early success of this center, which opened in March 1997, has area boosters feeling hopeful.

"If you can show that there have been successful developments where people are making a reasonable profit ... the developers will go there," Hopkins said.

Convenience and low price

The president of Suitland-based Curtis Properties Inc. would likely agree. That firm expanded its holdings in Anacostia recently by adding a new 40,000-square foot addition to its Anacostia Professional Building at 2041 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE, and George Curtis says the attractions of the area far outweigh whatever concerns the media may be generating.

"You've got a beautiful view of the river, and you have the 295 right here. There's a Metro station, we've got two bridges, we are 10 minutes to the Capitol," he said. "It's the most convenient place you can be, there is ample parking, and land is relatively inexpensive."

In addition to the Anacostia Professional Building, Curtis' firm also owns 325,000 square feet in 10 office buildings along a three-block area from U St. to Chicago St. on Martin Luther King Jr. Ave.

Anacostia "will certainly have its day," Curtis said. "I don't know when it will be, but it is certainly a lot better today than it was 10 years ago."

Hopkins is betting the breakthrough will come sooner rather than later. To that end, his group is involved in an effort to redevelop the area near the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. and Good Hope Road. The city and AEDC already own various pieces of the three-acre site known as the Northern Gateway, where Hopkins envisions a hub of future growth.

If AEDC can acquire the remaining four out of 18 parcels at the site, it will tear down the existing vacant structures and put up a 200,000- to 250,000-square- foot office building, along with a 30,000-to 40,000-square-foot retail space, possibly as a joint venture with a private developer, Hopkins said.

Plans are also in the works to add more retail on the south side of Good Hope Road and on the west side of Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. AEDC, which already owns two lots there and has an option on a third, has already been awarded the right to develop that site by the D.C. Council, Hopkins said.

Incentives

Federal and local tax incentives are helping spur commercial development in the area. At the same time, there has been "a big push in the city to increase the number of homeowners in the city," Hopkins said.

He noted that Fannie Mae has committed $1 billion in loans to the District of Columbia, and that the city's own Department of Housing and Community Development recently announced several million dollars in block grants aimed at Anacostia.

With all this residential activity in progress, Hopkins sees this as an ideal time for commercial developers to get into the game.

"The inner city is devoid of retail services, so the market is tremendous. There is no competition. Whoever is the first in there will have a virtual monopoly on the disposable income of those residents," he said.

Along these lines, AEDC is promoting a plan to bring a major regional shopping mall to the area, possibly at the foot of the South Capitol Street bridge, on land that used to be the Poplar Tree Point Nursery. Some 12 acres there now belong to the city, another 28 acres belong to the National Park Service, and Hopkins would like to see all that land freed up for development.

"We don't have a regional-sized shopping facility anywhere within the District of Columbia," he said. "If we are really serious about competing with venues such as Pentagon City, if we want to capture those dollars, we need to have something like this in the city."

News hurdle

All in good time -- perhaps. Curtis speaks for most of the players in Anacostia when he offers his assessment of the area's biggest hurdle in two simple words:

"The news."

It's a theme that echoes continuously among area developers. They say by showing only the negatives here, the media is scaring away anyone who might even think of investing on this side of the river.

Even Curtis' closest associates, however, admit there is at least a grain of the truth in how the media depicts the area east of the river.

"I've been there at 5 a.m., I've been there at 2 a.m. and I've never had a problem. But do I lock my doors when I get off the beaten path? Sure," said Lou Rizzo, president of Curtis Property Management Corp. "I'm cautious. But I'm not paranoid."

For Rizzo, who has done business in Anacostia for 13 years, caution mostly means putting adequate, 24-hour lighting on the buildings he manages. Beyond that, he said, a site in Anacostia's business district is virtually indistinguishable from an office building anywhere else in this region.

"If you stand in our parking lot and take a picture of the neighborhood, you could be in Reston, you could be in Old Town Alexandria, and no one would ever know," he said.

Anacostia on Wikipedia!

Check out a quick history lesson with links to "the big chair" and other Anacostia historic spots.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Photo of Proposed LIght Rail

Anacostia

Anacostia Light Rail

Anacostia
Streetcar Project

WMATA and the District Department of Transportation are working together to bring a new transit line to Southeast Washington. The Anacostia Corridor Demonstration Project, as originally conceived, was a six-stop, modern streetcar service designed to travel along a 2.7- mile, unused CSX right-of-way adjacent to the neighborhoods of Fairlawn, Anacostia, and Barry Farm.

However, difficulties negotiating a satisfactory agreement for the purchase and/or use of the CSX Shepard Industrial Spur Right-of-Way have prompted consideration of an alignment that uses city streets (see map). The proposed street-running alignment would serve the same communities as the original plan, and it provides an opportunity to identify additional stop locations along the proposed route. Street-running vehicles would better support community and economic development programs and provide direct access to neighborhoods and commercial areas in Anacostia.

The proposed street-running vehicles would start at the intersection of Pennsylvania and Minnesota Avenues SE and proceed southwest on Minnesota Avenue to Good Hope Road SE. Traveling west on Good Hope Road, vehicles would then proceed south onto Martin Luther King, Jr. Avenue to Howard Road. They would then travel northwest to Firth Sterling Avenue and proceed southwest, ending at South Capitol Street in the vicinity of Bolling Air Force Base.

The next step towards bringing streetcar service to Southeast Washington is to hear from the residents and businesses affected by the proposed alignment change. Project staff will be conducting workshops and meeting with community and business groups in the area over the coming weeks to provide opportunities for residents to express their concerns about the impact of this proposed alignment on the community. Please contact DC’s Transit Future to let us know if you’d like us to brief your organization at your next regularly scheduled meeting.

Simulation: Neighborhood Service

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Simulation: Access to Metrorail

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Simulation: Right-of-way preservation

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Learn More About Other Local Initiatives

Friday, September 22, 2006

Fenty Sweep...

Fenty Sweep Is One for the Record Books
By Lori Montgomery and Elissa SilvermanWashington Post Staff WritersThursday, September 21, 2006; DZ02
Through the summer, Mayor Anthony A. Williams argued endlessly that his preferred successor, council chairman Linda W. Cropp , was just the person to unite a city long divided along lines of race and class.
But in the Sept. 12 Democratic primary, it was council member Adrian M. Fenty who appeared to accomplish that goal, sweeping all eight wards and all 142 precincts to capture the nomination.
It was a historic performance. Fenty is the first mayoral candidate to win every precinct in the historically decisive Democratic primary since the advent of home rule in 1974, according to elections records and news reports. The person who carries affluent, largely white Ward 3 in Northwest Washington rarely wins the city's poorest precincts across town in largely black Ward 8.
Walter Washington, Marion Barry , Sharon Pratt and Williams all took office after winning the Democratic nomination with the strong support of white and more affluent voters. All had opponents who did better among low-income voters. Barry later turned the calculus of victory on its head, winning reelection to the mayor's office in 1982, 1986 and 1994 by rallying black and low-income voters to overcome the strong disapproval of whites in Ward 3.
Fenty, by contrast, was the overwhelming choice of voters everywhere -- black and white, rich and poor, east of the Anacostia River and west of Rock Creek Park. He won at least 52 percent of the vote in every ward, taking about 55 percent in Ward 3 and about 56 percent in Ward 8.
On primary day, there was some early sniping about the supposed failure of Fenty's army of volunteers to effectively deliver voters to the polls. Cropp partisans insisted throughout the day that turnout was low.
In the end, however, Fenty won with an impressive number of votes, piling up 57,361 citywide, compared with 30,993 for Cropp and 11,704 for everybody else running. That's 15,000 votes more than Pratt received during her successful 1990 campaign and 12,000 more than Williams used to claim victory in 1998.
(It is fewer, however, than the 62,714 Williams received during his scandal-plagued 2002 write-in campaign against the Rev. Willie Wilson . It is also fewer than the 66,777 Barry got during his 1994 "recovery" campaign, according to the D.C. Board of Elections and Ethics.)
"From what it sounds like, it got our voters out," Fenty said of his primary-election operation. "Which is what it was designed to do."Don't Forget Nov. 7, Kranich Cries
After celebrating last week's victory, Adrian M. Fenty wasted no time getting straight to work. He held a news conference Monday, announcing on the steps of the John A. Wilson Building that he intends to retain Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi when he takes office in January.
January? Wait a minute. Isn't there a general election in November?
That's what David Kranich , the Republican nominee for mayor, keeps asking. He showed up at Fenty's news conference to remind people to come back to the polls Nov. 7.
In a city where fewer than 8 percent of voters are registered Republican, Kranich has had little luck drumming up publicity for his campaign. The silence has been so deafening, he joked, that he has been checking the obituary columns to make sure he's not dead.
"Oh, no. I'm alive," he said Monday.
Kranich said he understands that Democrats have a stranglehold on the District, but he holds out hope nonetheless.
"Is it an uphill battle? Absolutely," Kranich said. But "let's not assume [Fenty] will win. After all, he only received less than 15 percent of the entire registered vote count. That's a pretty amazing number."Bobb Swings Through Capitol Hill
After 33 years directing city government from appointed positions in Kalamazoo, Mich., Richmond, Oakland, Calif., and the District, City Administrator Robert C. Bobb hit the campaign trail last weekend in his quest to become the next elected president of the D.C. Board of Education.
Sans his signature cowboy boots and cuff links, Bobb greeted voters at a community festival on Capitol Hill on Saturday dressed in a campaign T-shirt, cargo pants and white Nike sneakers, with a pair of Oakley sunglasses atop his head.
Earlier that day, Bobb had faced off with fellow presidential hopefuls Carolyn N. Graham , Timothy L. Jenkins , Sunday Abraham and Laurent Ross in a debate at a Ward 8 Democrats meeting.
As he moved through the crowd at the street festival, Bobb was often quizzed about city issues beyond the public school system, including the ongoing drama concerning parking at the new stadium for the Washington Nationals.
He said he was negotiating with Mayor Anthony A. Williams about his departure date from his position as city administrator.
Bobb, who completed a 10-month program focused on reforming urban education, explained his pursuit of elective office as moving his career "to a different level" and said that he considered the crisis in public education a major civil rights issue.
But what about Democratic mayoral nominee Adrian M. Fenty's overtures to take over the city's ailing schools? Would that make the board and its president impotent?
"Things don't happen easily," Bobb responded. "Sometimes we eat our young unnecessarily."
Staff writer Nikita Stewart contributed to this report.
© 2006 The Washington Post Company

Sunday, September 10, 2006

New Skyland Development Proposal

This is an article from the Wash Post that outlines how some of the shop owners at the "old" skyland mall feel about NCRC and plans for devolopment of hte "new" skyland mall. Feel free to leave any comments... as for me I am all for the new restaurant!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

THE BIG CHAIR IS BACK!!

In 1959, an Anacostia landmark, the World's Largest Chair, was established at the corner of Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue and V Street, SE. The chair was built by Bassett Furniture for Curtis Brothers Furniture Store, formerly located at this site. In the summer of 2005, the Big Chair – as it's known – was removed for repairs then returned in December 2005.

Click on http://www.anacostiawaterfront.net/ to read more about the Anacostia Waterfront Corporation.

The AWC is a government-sponsored enterprise of the District of Columbia established in 2004 to lead the revitalization of lands along the Anacostia River and coordinate environmental and programming initiatives that promote river clean up, public awareness, and enjoyment of the river. Learn more about The Anacostia Waterfront Initiative at the District of Columbia Office of Planning website or contact us at waterfront@dc.gov

This June the Smithsonian is celebrating Juneteenth.
Check out http://anacostia.si.edu/ for more details.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Links:

Please post any relevant links to the development of Historica Anacostia, so that I can add them to our blog.

Here is a small history lesson on our community.

Aeva

The name Anacostia derives from the area's early history as Nacochtank, a settlement of Necostan or Anacostan Indians on the banks of the Anacostia River. Captain John Smith recorded in his journals that he sailed up the Eastern Branch or Anacostia River in 1608 in his search for the main branch of the Potomac River and was well received by these Native Americans.
Today, the Anacostia Historic District is an area of approximately 20 squares in southeast Washington. Uniontown, the core of the historic district was incorporated in 1854 and was one of the first suburbs in the District of Columbia. It was designed to be financially available to Washington's working class, most of who were employed across the river at the Navy Yard. The initial subdivision of 1854 carried restrictive covenants prohibiting the sale, rental or lease of property to any Negro, Mulatto, or anyone of African or Irish descent. However, by 1880 approximately 15 percent of the residents were African American and today probably 99 percent. The historic district retains much of its mid-to-late 19th-century low scale, working class character as is shown in its architecture.
Anacostia, Valley St., photo taken by Proctor, c. 1885Historical Society of Washington, DC While the neighborhood is fairly homogenous and a strong sense of order prevails, a great deal of variety and visual richness exists. Projecting porches and varied rooflines create a strong sense of rhythm up and down the streets. Relatively simple, standard house forms feature some of the most varied and original detailing. Individuals chose their own porch trim, iron fences, window and gable treatments and other decorative details.
The frame houses are mostly Italianate and Cottage style with some scattered examples of Queen Anne. Interspersed are brick rowhouses, churches and two commercial streets Good Hope Road, and Martin Luther King, Jr., Avenue, but with few exceptions, the commercial buildings mirror the low-scale residential character of the neighborhood.
It also contains within its boundaries, the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, (14th and W Streets, SE) home of the developer of Uniontown, which was later bought by Frederick Douglass who was often referred to as the "Sage of Anacostia." After decades of neglect, Anacostia's citizens are working to revitalize the neighborhood.
The Anacostia Historic District is roughly bounded by Martin Luther King Ave. on the west, Good Hope Rd. on the north, Fendall St. and the rear of the Frederick Douglass home on the east, and Bangor St. and Morris Rd. on the south. Most of the buildings are private residences and not open to the public. Metro stop: Anacostia

Hello All,
Welcome to the Development in Historic Anacostia Blog!
Feel free to post intereresting aritcles about our neighborhood and future developments. Please read the below post I found online.

Aeva

CAPITOL HILL MEANS ANACOSTIA

No longer does Capitol Hill mean easily walkable to the House or Senate offices for LCs or LAs. Developers are percieving demand further and further out for the kind of properities that previously were only seen in Northwest. Its only a matter of time before the jump is made across the Anacostia River.Look at what Macy Development has in the works. At the corner of 13th and Constitution NE are four units in 800K to 900K range. Huge units (1650 to 2040 SF). High ceilings. Granite. Stainless. Fireplaces. All the bell-and-whistle cliches. One unit already has sold.No bubble bursting here.Next up the area is the Gaslight, an eight unit condominium project with parking for five cars. Groundbreaking will occur this spring, and condominiums should be completed by the middle of 2007. "This is a unique project because it is a corner site, so we tried to utilize as much glass as possible yet try to fit into the scale and character of the Victorian style houses surrounding the site, particularly the brick bays and sloped roofs," said Local architect Dennis Conner of Synergy DesignAlso on deck is the Venetian, which also will be completed in the middle of 2007. Conner said "to capture the architectural flavor of the block, we broke The Venetian up into horizontal and vertical pieces – vertically to match the adjacent apartment building and horizontally to match the neighboring townhouses."The third property that is being redeveloped in that area is home to the maligned New Dragon take-out restaurant, which has attracted an unsavory crowd to the neighborhood some residents complain. The site will be redeveloped as a boutique building, including four loft-style condos, each with a private roof terrace and ground floor retail.
posted by dcbubble at 8:16 PM