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Developer Q&A: Trammell Crow Principal Josh Dix


Trammell Crow, along with its subsidiary High Street Residential, is one of the most active developers in the NoMa/Union Market area. It has developed office buildings Sentinel Square I and II at 1050 First St. NE and has a third phase in the works.

Across the Red Line tracks on 3rd Street NE, High Street is designing the 2.5-acre mixed-use Armature Works development that will have 450 apartment units, 200 condo units, 200 hotel rooms, 50K SF of retail and 46K SF of public space. We spoke with the man spearheading the Armature Works project, principal Josh Dix.

Bisnow: What does your timeline look like for the Armature Works project? Where are you in the process now and when do you plan to break ground?

Dix: We’re in design right now and we hope to break ground Q1 or Q2 of 2018. We're planning to build them all at once. It will have very diverse uses. We did that all on purpose to not have too much of one product type, which allows us to go forward with hotel and the condos and the apartments. It will sit over a common podium, which allowed us to raise the project above the train tracks and bring the residential and hotel units up to the tracks rather than being sunk down on 3rd and M. The street-serving retail wraps around 3rd Street and creates a great retail environment with residential above. We have two really great public spaces, one triangular plaza on M Street that mirrors the REI and a Metro plaza where we have allowed for the future connection to the NoMa Metro Station. It will all deliver around 2020, with the opening of each component staggered over many months. 

Bisnow: What types of retail tenants are you seeking to attract to help activate that 3rd Street corridor? The neighborhood has a lack of full-service restaurants in NoMa, are you looking to provide sit-down dining options?

Dix: We’re very early in the process right now. We’re working with Lisa Stoddard of CBRE on the retail. It’s a little early to talk about that. We are looking for neighborhood-serving uses, with restaurants being a part of that, and uses that are complementary to REI and Union Market. The interesting thing we have at Armature Works, and with the adjacent 3rd Street developers, is a true double-sided retail corridor that will happen up M Street to Union Market. When you come off Metro, whether you come out in front of REI or use the new access plaza, we have an opportunity and have been coordinating with adjacent developers to create a unique retail corridor that will tie up to Union Market and down toward H Street. One of the reasons we love the site is because it’s at the nexus of two or three great markets. You have Union Market to the North, H Street to the south and NoMa directly next to us.

Bisnow: With Uline Arena, Foulger Pratt’s project and your development, do you think this 3rd Street corridor of NoMa can become the hub of neighborhood activity moreso than 1st Street? What makes this corridor unique in the NoMa neighborhood?  

Dix: We’d like to think so, but I’m sure the competing developer interests on First Street would also like to think that as well. We believe that our site and the adjacent Foulger-Pratt, Wilkes and Ditto sites are all neighborhood-focused and woven into the fabric of the neighborhood that’s on the 3rd Street side. The First Street projects are more created for their purpose — an apartment building with ground-floor retail or an office with ground-floor retail. Whereas on 3rd Street, these projects have a lot of open space, they have step downs or they respond to the shape of the neighborhood, where you have townhouses and lower-scale buildings on that side.

Bisnow: NoMa has the second-largest multifamily pipeline of any neighborhood in DC with several projects in the works. Are you at all concerned about oversupply having an effect on absorption, or do you think there will be enough demand for all of these units?

Dix: Name the neighborhood that we said that about a couple years ago, Capitol Riverfront, maybe U Street and Shaw before that. My point is, in a larger picture, no we’re not concerned about that. We’re underbuilding housing of all types in the city in that we do need housing, so from a supply/demand perspective, we don’t have a concern. NoMa, Union Market and H Street offer a great location for people to live. It's convenient, close to downtown employment and it has great dining options. And it's relatively affordable compared to other locations.

Bisnow: Trammell Crow has signed a few government tenants at Sentinel Square recently, landing the DC government and the FEC at the second building and the FCC signed on for the upcoming third phase. How does creating this base of government office tenants in the neighborhood help complement the residential, hotel and retail components you're going to build at Armature Works?

Dix: If you look back at NoMa, a long time ago there obviously was not a critical mass of a daytime population. That changed with ATF, Constitution Square, our Phase 1 and Phase 2 and now Phase 3 of Sentinel Square. The point of all that is you have a critical mass of daytime population. Generally speaking, it's an educated workforce that has well-paying jobs and the apartments and condos in NoMa offer a great alternative with convenience and relative affordability compared to other parts of the city. You have DOJ attorneys and staff coming in. You have two office buildings that we’re doing that are going to be fully occupied. It adds to that daytime population, supports restaurants and hotels, and it supports the apartments and condos and makes it a more vibrant neighborhood.

Bisnow: NoMa has obviously changed a lot over the last decade. Looking forward, what do you think the neighborhood will look like 10 years down the road after all this development is completed?

Dix: I think it’s certainly a fully built-out transit-oriented development market that I’d like to think is the epicenter of the H Street and Union Market neighborhoods. I’d like to see people pouring out of that Metro to go experience Union Market because of how unique it will be. I like to think people will be living in that location because they like H Street and want to see what it has to offer, let alone what 3rd Street will have to offer. I think REI coming is indicative of what this location holds.