East Side News

April 2018

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View of the J Street building from L Street NE. Photo: 4D Studios

Condos Come to Congress Street
For the past few years, NoMa neighbors have wondered which industrial space will be the next to be gobbled by developers. The answer this time is a warehouse and an office building at the corner of Congress and L streets NE. However, they might have a follow-up question: Where the heck is Congress Street?

Congress Street is a small street adjacent to the Uline Arena that runs parallel between Second and Third streets. The area has been a major target of development since the renovation, really transformation, of the Uline Arena and the development surrounding Union Market and the incoming Trader Joe’s.

Most of the construction has been rental apartments, but J Street Companies plans to build condos, which are much needed in the area’s growing housing market.

The condos will be geared toward first-time homebuyers, with mostly one-bedroom units starting in the upper $400,000s. J Street also hopes to attract empty-nesters who want to live in the city with the convenience of a condo. The convenience of the Metro, a coming grocery store and Union Market have increased the desirability of property east of the tracks, and the developer is hoping to cash in on the plethora of space available in the former industrial neighborhood.

J Street is working with Nelson Architects to construct the 62 condo units planned, and Urban Space will run sales and marketing.

It has been rare to see plans for a condominium building instead of apartments. Apartments provide continuous income that will run slow and steady for years. Selling individual condos will gain a developer a lot of income upfront, but once all units are sold, there is no more income to be had, and a condo association is left in control of the building. There’s no question that being a real estate developer in this city can be a lucrative prospect, it just depends on the model that’s most desirable.

For the quality of life in NoMa, condo ownership will be a welcome addition to the neighborhood. The project is estimated to be completed in early 2020.

Lebowski Would Be Proud
Ivy City’s loss is NoMa’s gain, as Bar Elena’s Adam Smith has chosen the old Union Social space for his new concept, The Eleanor. The Eleanor will not be your average eatery; it will be an experience unto itself, as befits the quirky NoMa space. The biggest addition: four bowling lanes.

The concept isn’t necessarily an extension of Bar Elena but an expansion on the idea of restaurant entertainment. Smith and his team are in the process of adding not only bowling lanes, but skeeball machines and a large arcade area with about 20 different game options. The menu will feature a few favorites from Bar Elena plus options geared toward the gaming crowd. About 20 beers will be on tap, focusing on the local brews, many of which are made in the neighborhood.

The Eleanor will fill a major need for a close-by lunch for those who work in the surrounding buildings, including NPR, DOJ and Sirius XM. Few places are walking distance from those large, heavily-staffed buildings. Stein is hoping that The Eleanor will fill that need and become a regular happy-hour spot for both local workers and neighbors.

The other gap that Stein is hoping to fill is parking. The Eleanor will validate parking in the neighboring garage, a perk that is highly valued on that highly trafficked intersection. Stein also plans to have outdoor patio seating for 70. The outdoor seating will bring life to that busy corner and will, at the very least, give annoyed drivers stuck at the light a nice view of people enjoying the new gaming space. Inside, the remodel will bring the capacity from 250 to 160.

From what is described, it sounds like children of the 1980s will feel very comfortable in the retro environment while being able to enjoy the fact that they are old enough to drink a nice craft beer.

A Deal Decades in the Making
After years of delays and, before that, of confusion and blight, there is seemingly a plan for the Sursum Corda Cooperative and adjacent land. Toll Brothers home construction company has officially purchased the land from WinnCompanies and plans to submit raze permits by July. Most importantly, Lonnie Durren, chair of the board of the Sursum Corda Cooperative Association, has signed over the cooperative’s property, which has always been the final barrier to any plan for development.

WinnCompanies, the largest manager of affordable housing units, which has been shepherding the planned unit development (PUD) application, always planned to find a partner to complete the development. The PUD, approved in 2016, calls for more than 1,100 residential units and 41,000 square feet of retail across five buildings. The residential units will include 199 affordable (18 percent), 136 of which will be set aside for current Sursum Corda residents, a requirement that was always going to be necessary to get the approval of the existing cooperative.

“Our two-year joint venture with the cooperative has set the stage for an important mixed-use, mixed-income development that not only guarantees modern homes that the members can return to, but also will contribute to vital economic growth in the NoMa area,” Gilbert Winn, CEO of WinnCompanies, said in a statement. “We’re glad Toll Brothers recognized the potential of this transformative project.”

This project has been pushed since 2007, when a 14-year-old girl was murdered in the Sursum Corda cooperative, but little development occurred. The District pursued developing the cooperative and the surrounding structures, even claiming eminent domain over the Temple Court Apartments and its 520 units. Development stalled, and the cooperative owners remained entrenched.

The purchase by Toll Brothers has breathed new life into the area, and the cooperative’s agreement to sell the building has set in motion the raze permits that will bring down the old buildings that remind a growing city of a scarred past.

 

Taylor Barden Golden is a real estate agent with The Stokes Group at McEnearney Associates Inc. A former Hill staffer, Taylor lives in Brentwood with her husband, two dogs and a cat. She’s always on the lookout for new places to explore and ways to spend time outside. Get in touch: taylor@midcitydcnews.com; @rtaylorb.