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JBG Smith's Eckington Yards, Foulger Pratt's Press House Expected To Start Construction In Next 2 Months

Two long-planned projects in the NoMa-Eckington neighborhood that will bring roughly 1,000 units and new amenities to the area are expected to break ground this spring. 

Trammell Crow's Campbell Smith, JBG Smith's John Clarkson and NoMa BID's Robin-Eve Jasper

JBG Smith plans to break ground in May on its Eckington Yards development on Q Street NE, JBG Smith Senior Vice President of Development John Clarkson said Thursday at Bisnow's Northeast D.C. Update event. 

The development, a partnership of JBG Smith and Boundary Cos., is slated to include 682 multifamily units and 70K SF of retail around a shared street known as a woonerf. The development team in February signed a 35K SF lease with Brooklyn Boulders, a climbing gym and workout facility, to anchor the retail component. 

A rendering of the retail-lined woonerf street planned at JBG Smith's Eckington Yards

Clarkson said JBG Smith sees Eckington as a natural progression of the city's growth as development moves eastward from 14th Street through Shaw and Bloomingdale. Eckington is a well-established residential community, he said, but it lacks exciting amenities. 

"We saw what was needed was retail, not necessarily traditional retail but makerspaces," Clarkson said. "The Brooklyn Boulders we're bringing in is like a neighborhood hangout. It's a coffee bar, workout facility, climbing wall — you can go there and spend several hours. That's really what we thought was needed there." 

The news of Eckington Yards' upcoming groundbreaking was not the only update provided on a major NoMa-area project at Thursday's event. 

JLL's Evan Behr, Edens' Steve Boyle, Trammell Crow's Campbell Smith, JBG Smith's John Clarkson, NoMa BID's Robin-Eve Jasper, Foulger-Pratt's Michael Abrams and Carr Properties' Austen Holderness

Foulger-Pratt plans to begin demolition later this month to make way for its Press House at Union District project, Senior Vice President Michael Abrams said. The development is planned to include 372 residential units, 30K SF of retail and a 175-room hotel, with the option to switch that to residential. 

The project is still facing appeal in court, but Abrams told Bisnow after the event he expects a resolution soon, and the company is preparing to begin constructing the project in the near future. Foulger-Pratt had hoped to break ground in the fall but the appeal, filed in January 2017 by a group that has delayed several projects in the neighborhood, has set the development back months.  

A rendering of Foulger-Pratt's Press House at Union District development

The development will feature three new buildings around a 100-year-old former printing press building on the corner of Third and N streets NE. Abrams said the historic building adds character to the project and brings it down to a more human scale. With the REI-anchored Uline Arena to the south and Trammell Crow's Armature Works across the street, Abrams said NoMa's Third Street corridor leading up to Union Market has the potential to rival the city's biggest hot spots. 

"Look how dynamic 14th Street is, and it doesn't even have any density," Abrams said. "We have the opportunity to have a 14th Street-like experience, but with tons of density around it that will only fuel and create activity. That’s the big opportunity for the neighborhood."

Trammell Crow also plans to break ground this year on the three-building Armature Works project, which will include over 600 multifamily units, 204 hotel rooms and 42K SF of retail, after opponents dropped their appeal of the project in February. The developer earlier this year signed The James Hotel, a boutique brand from Denihan Hospitality with locations in Manhattan and Chicago. The hotel will have a ground-floor restaurant, a market-café concept and a rooftop bar. 

"We view it as the most important piece in creating identity and a sense of place," Trammell Crow Managing Director Campbell Smith said of the hotel. "The James fills a niche between a trendy boutique hotel and a luxury hotel ... They are deeply rooted in the neighborhoods in which they operate and view their hotels as a community gathering place, which I think is very important and needed in our market." 

Bisnow East Coast Editor Ethan Rothstein, Menkiti Group's Bo Menkiti, MidCity's Madi Ford, MRP Realty's Michael Skena and The Warrenton Group's Warren Williams

During Thursday morning's event, MidCity received word that the long-awaited Zoning Commission approval order had been filed for the 1,700-unit RIA project, planned on the site of the Brookland Manor housing complex on Rhode Island Avenue NE. 

The 62-page order comes 11 months after the Zoning Commission unanimously voted to approve the project, an unusually long waiting period that the developer has attributed to the likelihood of the project being appealed. The order represents a key step in allowing the development to move forward, but also begins the window during which opponents can file appeals. A group of opponents has vowed to appeal the project, and MidCity Vice President Madi Ford said the developer is anticipating a delay. 

"People are putting projects at risk and putting housing at risk, and it is often people who have nothing at stake," Ford said. "Our residents have something at stake. Our community has something at stake. As developers, when we go to lenders and put our reputation on the line, we're taking a tremendous amount of risk on, and when you have a process that is uncertain, you have participants who are less willing to take risks. Now we're factoring in 18 months for an appeal when you're modeling out a deal, and that deal might not pencil." 

Ford said the majority of the property's existing residents hope the project can move forward soon because it will give them the opportunity to move from their 80-year-old buildings into newly developed apartments. MidCity is hoping to provide a grocery store as part of its 180K SF of retail, a key anchor for an area Ford said is considered a food desert

A rendering of MRP Realty's Rhode Island Avenue project

On the other side of the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station, MRP Realty is planning to break ground this fall on its 1,450-unit redevelopment of the Rhode Island Avenue Shopping Center. After opponents appealed the project in January 2017, MRP scrapped its planned-unit development application and pivoted to building by-right, reducing the number of units at the project by nearly 200. 

Being on the site of an aging shopping center next to the Metro station along a busy corridor makes it the ideal site to build as many housing units as possible, MRP Executive Vice President Michael Skena said. 

"We're trying to add density where appropriate so these wonderful neighborhoods like Deanwood, Brookland, Woodridge ... can stay real neighborhoods so they don't become chopped up houses for millennials," Skena said. "If we turn off the development spigot or arrest it as we've seen in the appeals process, what will happen is the character of those neighborhoods will irrevocably change."