Thursday, July 21, 2011

Utopia project set to get going as businesses, Freemasons move out

Last week, we snapped the photo below of employees from local Tex-Mex restaurant El Paraiso packing up their belongings for greener pastures. (In this case, their sister restaurant, El Paraiso II in Alexandria.)



Soon after, the City Paper's Lydia DePillis reported on the sale of the United Supreme Council National Headquarters and Archioves building, located next door to El Paraiso at 1924 14th Street NW, to JBG for $5 million. With the recent exodus of the fast food restaurants further up the block, that moves things a step closer for JBG's groundbreaking of the Utopia project, which is anticipated this fall.



The Utopia project will bring 220 rental units and over 20,000 sf of retail to the intersection that serves as the inspiration of this blog's name, which is also one of the busiest in DC. Originally announced back in 2008, the financial market calamity took its toll on JBG's ability to finance the project. However, financing is now on track, and the recent departures pave the way for the commencement of construction of the 90 foot high, Eric Colbert-designed building.

Utopia will be JBG's second large construction project along that stretch of 14th Street, with their District Condos project in full swing two blocks south at 14th and S. And it will be one of many projects currently ongoing in and around 14th Street, all set to deliver at some time during the next one to three years. (Not included in that post, BTW, are Giorgio Furioso's office project near 14th and P, and the recently announced--and HPRB rejected--Level 2 development at 14th and Wallach Place.)

In other words: get used to seeing a lot of upturned dirt along 14th Street over the next few years.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Are they still going to be building around El Paraiso or have they incorporated the business into the building?

Mr. 14th & You said...

I believe the El Paraiso building will remain and be integrated into the new structure. Ditto the McDonald's building and the series of rowhouses on U Street. The freemasons building and the building housing ChiDogos will be demolished, because they aren't historic structures.

Anonymous said...

Mr. 14th & You is right...you can see more renderings here: http://dcmud.blogspot.com/2010/04/buying-into-utopia.html. The fourth, and last, photo shows the 14th St elevation with the El Paraiso and McDonalds buildings (they're yellow ones) intact.

Lance said...

While the retail is more than welcome, I wonder if we're going to be that happy once we see the residential aspect to this project. As that other blog has been eloquently warning with regards to the proposed building for 14th and Wallach, if you look at the size of the units being proposed you have to worry about the ramifications for the neighborhood in terms of stability and long term new residents. 300 - 400 square foot units are for the most part 'not forever' units for most of us. Yeah, it's good to have units this size in the neighborhood as who wouldn't want the young blood and fresh views it brings. BUT, must all of the units be that size? And what's it mean for the neighborhood when we get 2, 3, 4, 5, maybe 10 of these Clarendon-like buildings with thousands of people 'just moving through'. I.e., sometimes there really can be too much of a good thing. A healthy balance is needed. And these Clarendon-like buildings serving only one demographic isn't helping acheive that. As I've read many times before, don't we also need the 2 (and more importantly) 3 bedroom units so that the 'young blood' stays in our neighborhood even as they age and become not 2 but 3 or 4 or more in their household? I don't think anyone opposed this project when it surfaced, but I think the door it opened could end up being an unwanted one by those residents who want to see this neighborhood remain a neighborhood with people invested in it for the longterm.

Logan Res said...

Lance, Why are you picking on people again? DC is one of the most expensive cities to live in. Most of us moved here and were sticker shocked at the prices for housing and rentals. Much of this is because of the lack of inventory. I came here and could barely afford a small apartment in a not so friendly neighborhood. I gradually moved (purchased) a tiny rowhouse and eventually a larger condo. I stayed because I love this city and building smaller units is a great way to get young people into the city who will more than likely want to stay and perhaps even in their own neighborhood but just bump up to a larger or nicer unit. Small square footage doesn't mean transient. This economy and the recent housing bubble has made a lot of us feel that smaller is better. Who needs 3 bedrooms? One becomes the "shoe and ironing room" and another one becomes the storage room. Why pay to heat/cool all that. DC is very attractive to the young, urban, gay, creative, and workaholic types. These types don't want the traditional 2 and 3 bedrooms. They're moving here to live in a city where they can walk out their door to a lively street and be amongst other humans. Your comments only show what you and the other "no" crowd (I won't use the NIMBY term) feel which is you want your little piece of suburbia to remain....no new cars, traffic, parking nightmares, noise.....a.k.a. PEOPLE near you.

Anonymous said...

Again, frustrating why all of these buildings along 14th street are not taller to accommodate more residents. To get diversity of retail, we need the numbers to justify a business. Why do we reinvent urban planning when NYC has got it right. Density breeds diversity.

@Lance, DC architecture is generally dreadful and uninspiring. There isn't much difference between Clarendon or DC architecture. If you are worried about transiency, there is something called the really, really exciting Connect. Ave corridor. Yawn.

Mr. 14th & You said...

Anon - NYC doesn't have a city-wide height restriction, and (particularly in Manhattan) there are few historic districts with onerous preservation regulations. It's not a 1:1 comparison. Density doesn't necessarily equal tall buildings; witness the fact that DC remains one of the densest cities in the country.

Anonymous said...

I believe this is actually a Georgetown Strategic Capital project not a JBG project as this post states.

Mr. 14th & You said...

It is a JBG project: http://www.bizjournals.com/washington/blog/2011/07/jbg-plans-fourth-quarter-start-at-14th.html

GSC is partnering with JBG on the project, but I believe that is largely in a financing capacity.