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3 Case Studies In Placemaking Methodology

North End Shaw

Placemaking is more than a buzzword, according to JBG executive vice president Robin Mosle.

“When we look at a site, JBG tries to understand a property’s potential from numerous angles, so we can be sure we’re targeting our current and future customer,” she said.

Mosle starts with gathering the full team working on a project and establishing a set of guiding principles for each project.

“We always ask: 'Is everything we’re doing consistent with the vision we’ve agreed on?' If we hire a new architect, for example, these principles are so well-discussed that they will understand what we’re doing.”

Focus groups and community feedback play a huge role, too, she said. The process looks different from project to project. At JBG’s North End Shaw, a multi-building mixed-use project near some of DC’s best nightlife and Howard University, the vision called for what Mosle termed “layers” — five of them — each based on a category of user coming to the space.

The key means of enacting the strategy was in curating the project’s retail offerings. An entertainment layer includes a six-screen Landmark theater, meant to draw an overlapping user base with the adjacent 9:30 Club, a popular music venue.

Everyday and convenience needs form another layer, with Glenn’s Garden Market, a sustainable grocer and Compass Coffee, a local coffee shop. Restaurants form a third layer, with two fast-casual burger concepts, as well as Hazel, chef Rob Rubba’s newest restaurant; Kyirisian, a critically acclaimed French-Chinese restaurant; and Declaration, a gourmet pizza restaurant.

A fourth layer is what Mosle calls cultural strategy, which is given expression by artist studios on-site. The final layer is made up of independent retailers: Steven Alan; Aesop; Le Lebo; Chrome, a maker of messenger bags; and Blush, a boutique cosmetics purveyor — just to name a few.

To encourage visitors to spend time outside of the retail spaces and in the neighborhood, JBG worked with tenants to design murals and worked with the city to get a sidewalk variance, all in hopes of creating a space that felt good and where people would want to spend their time.

Four of the development’s six buildings are complete, and two more are in the pipeline, including one that will house a Whole Foods.

“The layers are really about attracting as many user groups to come as often as possible and stay as long as possible,” Mosle said. “And you have to do that without imposing on what was there before, without impacting the character of the existing neighborhood.”

A rendering of JBG's mixed-use development near Nationals Park

JBG took a different tack with the two mixed-use buildings it is developing just north of Nationals Park.

Between the two, there will be about 700 residential units over about 65K SF of retail, a big addition to the area’s 24/7 population.

Here, the challenge was to play a central role in creating one of America’s great ballpark neighborhoods where previously there had been a ballpark and not much else.

Mosle’s team ran the numbers on retail dollars spent in the area within a few blocks of the ballpark prior to breaking ground on the project, and the amount was significantly lower than other major ballpark districts around the country.

The JBG team analyzed neighborhoods around ballparks like Boston’s Fenway Park, San Diego’s Petco Park and Chicago’s Wrigley Field to determine what went into making them work as hubs of nightlife and commerce, and not just on game nights. A series of design touches — some of which JBG worked closely with other developers on — soon emerged.

For starters, the street will be a “woonerf,” closed to vehicular traffic on game days, to create a separate space for fans and revelers.

The building’s design allows many of its balconies to offer a view into the ballpark, creating a draw for new residents and another piece of a unique, iconic built environment surrounding a ballpark that can help add to its draw as a tourist destination.

The first of the two buildings is expected to open late this year and the second is due to deliver by early 2019. Adjoining the campus of Gallaudet University, the country’s preeminent institution of higher learning for deaf people, JBG is developing a site with 1.6M SF of development rights.

“I think the strategic way we look at retail development and how we tailor it to neighborhoods went into why we were chosen to develop the site,” Mosle said of the project.

The task here is to develop public spaces that correspond to the way the deaf community interacts with the world in everyday life, and create a buffer between the campus and the urban fabric surrounding it.

One way to do that is to provide spaces along the sidewalk for people to stop and sign, since deaf people typically do not sign and walk at the same time.

It is all being done as part of a set of design principles called “deaf-good,” and JBG is working with Hall McKnight on the design on the public space design, after the firm won a yearlong design competition.

“People don’t just want to see attractions, they want to see great neighborhoods," Mosle said. “And there are no shortcuts to that, which is why we think every project through so carefully from start to finish.”

We are thrilled JBG has joined us as a founding partner of our Bisnow Beltway Bash, to be held at the TAO Nightclub in the Venetian on Monday, May 22, from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in Las Vegas. Register here.