124 Apartments Delivering in Downtown Silver Spring this October

By Nena Perry Brown posted August 21st, 2019 on dc.urbanturf.com

Rendering inside unit. Click to enlarge.

Another 124 rental units are on the cusp of delivering at the Fenton Silver Spring.

The development at 900 Thayer Avenue (map) will contain 5,500 square feet of ground-floor retail or restaurant space. Forty of the units are set aside for households earning up to 80 percent of area median income; the remaining units are for former public housing residents via the Department of Housing and Urban Development Rental Assistance Demonstration program.

Rendering of outdoor amenity. Click to enlarge.

The six-story project is developed by the Montgomery County Housing Opportunities Commission and The Concourse Group and designed by KTGYGroup. Amenities will include a courtyard with fireplace, roof deck with water feature, clubroom, and business center.

The pet-friendly one- and two-bedroom units are currently pre-leasing and will start delivering October 1st. In the meantime, you can watch the project in livestream here.

As featured on dc.urbanturf.com

Arlington and Alexandria Most Competitive Housing Markets Nationwide, Per Report

By Nena Perry Brown posted August 19th, 2019 on dc.urbanturf.com

Map of the areas impacted by the HQ2 effect, courtesy of Redfin. Click to enlarge.

In case you needed more evidence of the Amazon effect in northern Virginia, look no further.

Redfin’s most recent ranking of the nation’s most competitive housing markets places both Arlington and Alexandria at the top of the list, tied with Grand Rapids, Michigan. The report uses data on waived contingencies, number of offers, days on market and premium above listing price to identify which cities have the greatest competition for would-be homebuyers.

In July, listings sold in a median of 11 and 14 days in Arlington and Alexandria, a week less than the previous July for both jurisdictions. The gradual pacing of Amazon HQ2’s arrival seems to be exacerbating constrained supply and competition in Arlington and Alexandria. There were half as many listings on the market last month as there were in July 2018.

The constrained supply is leading to a sense of urgency among buyers, and has translated to 46 percent of listings in Arlington and 36 percent of listings in Alexandria selling at or above asking price in July. The low number of actual sales, however, has flattened median prices year-over-year in both places.

As featured on dc.urbanturf.com

More public restrooms could come to D.C. under proposed pilot programs

By Andrew Giambrone posted November 27th, 2018 on dc.curbed.com

A Portland Loo public restroom in Portland, Oregon

Residents and visitors in need of a bathroom while out and about may find a bit of relief in the months ahead, thanks to an official effort to facilitate more public toilets in the District.

The D.C. Council’s committee on transportation and the environment last week advanced a bill to establish a working group of city agencies and community experts that would review where additional public restrooms are needed and could feasibly be built. Composed of 14 members, the group would recommend to the mayor two pilot sites for stand-alone public restrooms. The District would maintain these facilities and they would be free for all to use.

To ensure public safety, the bathrooms would be subject to 24-hour monitoring during the pilot. After they have been open for a year, the mayor would report the “costs of installing, maintaining, policing, and repairing” the facilities to the Council, which could then sign off on the creation of more stand-alone public toilets. The working group would weigh nearby pedestrian traffic, the availability of existing restrooms, proximity to homeless services, and the advice of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in determining the two initial locations.

If approved, the legislation would bring D.C. in line with other major cities around the world that provide freestanding public toilets, such as San FranciscoNew York, and Paris. Though there are several public restrooms around the National Mall and some businesses keep their bathrooms open to non-customers, activists like the People for Fairness Coalition, which has extensively studied the topic, say there are not enough round-the-clock public toilets in D.C.

The coalition hailed the committee’s approval of the bill, which still has to be marked up by the Council’s health committee and committee of the whole before two required legislative votes that are poised to occur before the end of the year. In an email, Marcia Bernbaum, an adviser and a mentor to the organization’s Downtown DC Public Restroom Initiative, writes that proponents are confident that the working group “will incorporate lessons learned and best practices from other cities” when choosing the two pilot sites and models for the toilets.

As a complementary measure, the committee’s proposal would also establish a second pilot program under which businesses would receive funding for making their restrooms publicly available, including to people who have not purchased anything from those businesses. The mayor would select one BID whose establishments could participate in the pilot. Businesses would not be forced to change their hours or admit anyone “violating District law, posing a health risk, or posing a threat of harm to themselves or others,” according to the legislation.

After two years of this second pilot, the D.C. police department would report to the Council whether crime increased around the participating businesses. The mayor would also report the total number of participating businesses and the yearly costs of the incentives program.

In late October, D.C.’s Chief Financial Officer (CFO) found that implementing the bill would cost $336,000 in the current fiscal year and $722,000 over the next four. The CFO’s analysis assumes that the two freestanding pilot restrooms would go into service after October. It also assumes that the District would install two Portland Loos—a safety-focused model that took off in Oregon and is now used in about two dozen North American cities—and that 30 pilot businesses would each receive $2,000 a year in financial incentives to run public bathrooms. The Council would have to allocate this funding in the spring, in annual budget negotiations.

The D.C. Chief Financial Officer’s fiscal analysis of the public restrooms bill
 D.C. government

The legislation has been scaled down since it was introduced by four councilmembers in early 2017 at the urging of advocates. The original version laid out that the working group would identify “at least 10 locations” for public restrooms and that the mayor would create citywide incentives for businesses—not just two locations and a single-BID incentives pilot.

Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh, who chairs the committee on transportation and the environment, said at the committee’s meeting on Nov. 19 that lawmakers were concerned that implementing the dual programs on a large scale before the working group produced its recommendations would risk “investing extensive effort and funding into solutions that may not be a right fit for the District.” The committee approved the bill on a 4–1 vote. Ward 4 Councilmember Brandon Todd voted against it, and said that though he supports having public restrooms in the District, the proposed method “seems untenable and unnecessary.”

Todd added that he had spoken with someone in the Seattle city government who warned him about Seattle’s experience with stand-alone public toilets. “I will spare you the graphic details,” Todd told the committee, “but needless to say the bathrooms were a detriment to the city and not an enhancement. I fear the same results here in the District.” He also noted that he was “not convinced” that D.C. has a significant need for additional public restrooms.

Bernbaum, the adviser to the People for Fairness Coalition, challenged Todd’s assessment. She said that while Seattle had to shutter five of its automated public toilets a decade ago after encountering “serious issues,” the city has decided to install a Portland Loo next year. As for the pending D.C. proposal, a majority of the Council—including the bill’s drafters and the members of Cheh’s committee who voted in its favor last week—has supported it so far.

As featured on dc.curbed.com

Above the Clouds—An Ultra Sophisticated Condominium High-Rise Comes to Tysons

By UrbanTurf Sponsor posted October 18th, 2018 on dc.urbanturf.com

How Rising Prices Will Help You Build Family Wealth in 2018

Over the next five years, home prices are expected to appreciate on average by 3.35% per year and to grow by 24.34% cumulatively, according to Pulsenomics’ most recent Home Price Expectation Survey.

So, what does this mean for homeowners and their equity position?

As an example, let’s assume a young couple purchases and closes on a $250,000 home this month (January). If we only look at the projected increase in the price of that home, how much equity will they earn over the next 5 years?

How Rising Prices Will Help You Build Family Wealth in 2018 | Simplifying The Market

Since the experts predict that home prices will increase by 4.2% in 2018, the young homeowners will have gained $10,500 in equity in just one year.

Over a five-year period, their equity will increase by nearly $45,000! This figure does not even take into account their monthly principal mortgage payments. In many cases, home equity is one of the largest portions of a family’s overall net worth.

Bottom Line

Not only is homeownership something to be proud of, but it also offers you and your family the ability to build equity you can borrow against in the future. If you are ready and willing to buy, find out if you are able to today!

The National Children’s Museum Finally Finds a New Home in DC

The National Children’s Museum will reopen March 2019 inside the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center at 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest. The new space will be the beleaguered institution’s third home since its 1974 debut as a low-tech, hands-on oasis of creative learning in an old nunnery behind Union Station.

The museum will occupy 33,000 square feet in a former steakhouse. Part of that space can be opened to create a two-story atrium with a 60-foot ceiling, allowing designers “to do something really magical,” says Crystal Bowyer, the museum’s new young president and CEO.  At its 2019 opening, the museum will feature temporary, loaner exhibits from other institutions alongside its own. That will reduce early costs and “keep things fresh and new” for visitors, who are expected to be 70 percent locals and 30 percent tourists.

The new digs are likely the museum’s last shot at success. Founded as the Capital Children’s Museum, officials there got Congress to change its name to the loftier sounding National Children’s Museum in 2003. Developer Jim Abdo bought the property the next year, and the museum planned a move to L’Enfant Plaza that never materialized. It became a virtual museum for the next few years before National Harbor lured it to Maryland, where it opened in 2009, first in a preview spot, then in a small storefront.

Three years ago, amid much mutual rancor, NCM trustees abandoned National Harbor. They had grown weary of battling developer-landlord Peterson Companies over money and real estate; underwhelmed Prince George’s County finance officials had likewise tired of the museum’s plea for higher subsidies. Last December, at the urging of Councilmember Jack Evans, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities gave the museum $1 million to help it reopen in the District.

Bowyer, 35, has been on the job since June. The daughter of a math teacher, she has a master’s degree in nonprofit administration and came from Chicago’s renowned Museum of Science and Industry, where she focused on the lifeblood portfolios: fundraising, marketing, membership, and external affairs.

She hopes to raise $5 million in her first year here, and $25 million over five years. That’s as specific as she’ll get about money. She won’t disclose the “reasonable” rent the museum will paying the federal government on its ten-year Reagan Building lease, and her salary won’t be revealed until NCM’s next IRS filing, which could be mid-2018 or later.

Bowyer has been working out of shared office space, appropriate for an institution she views as a “scrappy” and frugal startup. She plans to spend a third to half her time cultivating major donors, focusing on individual and corporate support, which she notes is a faster process than applying for government grants.  Given her Chicago experience with well-heeled givers, she will look far beyond Washington for money, staff and trustees for a board that will triple in size.

The director just signed her first hire, an “exhibits person” to showcase the museum’s all-important STEAM-fueled visuals and hands-on activities: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. Like the best exhibit people, she said, this local woman has a strong background in education, entertainment and theater.

Bowyer and the board hiked the top target age from eight to 12 to attract more families seven days a week. Admission is set at $10.95 for everyone over a year old, except NCM members, who will get in free. (No price has yet been set for a membership.)

She believes she can compete with nearby no-admission Smithsonian museums with established child-centric programs, After all, she said, such kid-friendly institutions as the National Geographic, International Spy Museum and National Building Museum draw hundreds of thousands of paying guests.

“We will be more focused on early childhood” than other local attractions, she says. “I just think Washington deserves an incredible show-stopping children’s museum.”

While National Harbor was hard to reach by public transit, the Reagan Building is near the Federal Triangle and Metro Center subway stations and several bus lines. There is room for school bus pickup and drop-off, but the on-site parking garage remains pricey and slow since all vehicles entering the federal facility are inspected. The museum will have its own entrance and security off Wilson Plaza, to prevent pedestrian back-ups like those at the Reagan Building’s metal detectors.

The contrast between Bowyer’s old and new employers couldn’t be starker. The MSI was founded in 1933. Its 400,000 square feet and five-story rotunda make it one of the world’s largest science museums. Two years ago it reported nearly $205 million in net assets.

The NCM had just $531,493 in assets as of mid-2016, after burning through the $24 million developer Abdo paid 13 years ago.  Expenses included some $2 million in design fees to the firm of modernist architect Cesar Pelli for never-built edifices at L’Enfant Plaza and in National Harbor.

NCM trustees blamed their financial woes on the recession and the ill-fated move to Maryland. Bowyer says the museum’s diminished circumstances present an unusual opportunity. “Building a museum from scratch,” she says in a statement, “allows us to be very intentional, creating an interactive space the whole family can enjoy. Visitors deserve a special experience, and we look forward to opening our doors to the world very soon.”


As featured in the Washingtonian 

The Search For DC’s Elusive $500,000 House Continues

Three years ago, UrbanTurf highlighted three DC neighborhoods where a home buyer could purchase a move-in ready single-family house. Since then, constrained housing supply, rising prices and increased neighborhood popularity means that the neighborhoods where a $500,000 budget is viable have changed. Today, UrbanTurf discusses three neighborhoods in DC where $500,000 homes are still readily available.


Riggs Park

While Michigan Park and North Michigan Park were the more affordable alternative to Brookland a few years ago, now its northern neighbor Riggs Park is providing an entry-point to the Northeast DC market for single-family home buyers.

The 82 houses sold in Riggs Park this year went for a median price of $460,000, with detached single-family homes averaging closer to $517,000. The vast majority of two- and three-bedroom single-family homes and townhouses in the neighborhood sold for less than $500,000. Most of the homes in Riggs Park are well-maintained or restored brick semi-detached homes built in pairs in the early- to mid-20th century.

Fully move-in ready homes in Riggs Park average listing and sales prices just above $500,000; many of the houses priced below the half-million mark are not in disrepair, but could use some cosmetic updates. Even pricier houses can still be had for less than $550,000, such as the three-bedroom, three-bath house on Crittenden Street NE pictured above that sold for $519,900 last month.



When we wrote this article three years ago, Hill East offered petite two- and three-bedroom rowhouses for around $500,000. Today, those same homes are fewer and farther between at that price point; however, a couple miles away across the Anacostia River, Hillcrest has plenty of move-in ready homes that are twice as large and not nearly as expensive.

Eighty-eight homes have sold in Hillcrest this year at a median price of $347,500; of those, eight rowhouses sold for an average of $146,310 and the 48 detached single-family homes sold for an average of $491,534.

Two-bedroom townhomes here (and the odd two-bedroom detached home) can easily be had for less than $500,000, and even homes with four or more bedrooms don’t frequently fetch more than $600,000. With all of the development headed to this zip code, however, prices have been trending upward and some listings are going for high prices. For now, though, options for buyers with a $500,000 budget still abound, like the renovated three-bedroom Cape Cod on 33rd Street SE pictured above, which listed for $549,900 just days ago.



Takoma doesn’t have the same abundance of houses priced around $500,000 as seen in the other neighborhoods highlighted today, but there are still some homes to be had for less than $500,000, particularly if buyers look for attached townhomes. Thus far this year, the median sales price for the 28 homes that sold was $475,000.

While Takoma is primarily known for detached houses, the housing stock is relatively balanced between rowhomes and detached homes. The townhouses, of which several were built in the 1980s, tend to sell at a more affordable average price of $443,507 compared to the average of $552,335 for detached homes.

Detached, single-family homes for around $500,000 are increasingly hard to find in Takoma and often need significant cosmetic work. Inventory fluctuations are the determining factor here, as the median price in 2017 has been as high as $736,000 in July and as low as the $300,000s during the winter and early spring when only one or two homes sold in a month’s time.



As featured in Urban Turf

Buying a Home Can Be Scary… Unless You Know the Facts [INFOGRAPHIC]

Buying a Home Can Be Scary... Unless You Know the Facts [INFOGRAPHIC] | Simplifying The Market

Some Highlights:

Many potential homebuyers believe that they need a 20% down payment and a 780 FICO® score to qualify to buy a home, which stops many of them from even trying! Here are some facts:

  • 40% of millennials who purchased homes this year have put down less than 10%.
  • 76.4% of loan applications were approved last month.
  • The average credit score of approved loans was 724 in September.

As featured in Simplifying the Market

Developer Unveils Proposal for Six-Story Apartment Complex on Arlington Road

As featured in Bethesda Magazine 

A developer is readying plans to build a six-story apartment community that spans an entire block on Arlington Road across from the Bethesda Elementary School fields.

Residents in the Edgemoor neighborhood got a preliminary look on Wednesday at the proposal by ZOM Living, the Florida-based company that has assembled eight properties for the project.

Wednesday’s meeting came as ZOM is preparing to seek its first round of planning board approvals to redevelop the group of single-family homes that lie between Moorland and Edgemoor lanes.

Chris Love, ZOM’s development manager, said he couldn’t provide an estimated square footage or dwelling count for the complex this early in the process, but his company will ask for permission to build up to 235 units. The building will feature a mix of studios and one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments, and the façade design will separate the structure visually into two sections, Love said.

Tenants will have access to a rooftop pool surrounded by greenery, a fitness center and a wireless lounge with a café, he said.

As part of the project, ZOM intends to widen sidewalks, create a walking path connecting Moorland and Edgemoor lanes, plant trees and arrange seating areas along the street.

Preliminary images of proposed apartments for Arlington Road in Bethesda. Credit: ZOM Living.

The building can reach a maximum height of 60 feet, the new cap established in May with the passage of the Bethesda Downtown Sector Plan.

ZOM had lobbied to raise the height cap to 75 feet, sparking opposition from residents in the Edgemoor Citizens Association. However, the County Council denied the request and limited properties along Arlington Road to 60 feet. The decision created a transition zone that separated taller buildings near the Bethesda Metro station from neighborhoods of single-family homes, according to county legislative analyst Marlene Michaelson.

David Barnes, Edgemoor Citizens Association’s vice president, said he doesn’t have any lingering problems with the apartment project and appreciates ZOM’s willingness to work through the community concerns about architecture, parking and landscaping.

“They seemed to understand that people want attractive sidewalks and pedestrian passages and they don’t want oppressively rigid buildings that look like [Works Progress Administration] construction or brutalism,” he said.

The eight single-family homes slated for redevelopment serve as professional offices and residences. Barnes said they “could use some sprucing up.”

County law states that developers must have held a community meeting within 90 days of the submission, but Love couldn’t provide a more exact timeline. He said getting through the development approval process typically takes between 18 months and two years.

Love said the Bethesda development would be ZOM’s first apartment project in Montgomery County.