More Little Buddha

Late last week we floated the heresay that Asian-French restaurant Little Buddha has signed on to be a future tenant at 455 Mass.

I’ve since found a WBJ article from October 2007 stating Little Buddha was pondering a move to Penn Quarter. The article suggests that the pricing will be aimed to lunches that average $20 and dinners for about $50.


The opening of Little Buddha, which could come as early as next year, hinges on finding the right location to create the well-tested experience: a building of least 8,000 square feet with ceilings a minimum of 15 feet high in an area that serves both daytime businesspeople and nighttime crawlers.

Biran and the Transwestern brokers say the restaurant will fill a void for people who have outgrown nightclubs and crowded dance floors and hunger for an energizing environment where they can dine, drink, listen to music and still have a conversation.

It’s a void that’s reflected nationwide, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Illinois-based Technomic Inc., a food industry research and consulting company.

“There are very limited places where you can go for a more sophisticated, adult-oriented occasion,” he said. “Most of what we see today is tending to focus on the 21- to 25-year-old crowd.”

While I think this choice pairs well with the future Me by Melia hotel crowd from The Arts at 5th and I, the pricing structure will keep me away. I’d occasionally pay that amount for a steakhouse or great latin food but overall I’m not much of a foodie or fan of Asian cuisine (I know I’m a genius buying next to Chinatown).

I do think Little Buddha can help bring identity to the neighborhood so it is a positive. I’m hoping, and I think many of my neighbors are as well, that the ‘hood ultimately gets a healthy balance of neighborhood serving and destination dining rather than high end destination and fast food with little in between.

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Rumor Mill: Little Buddha signs on at 455 Mass

SG brings to our attention that sushi restaurant Little Buddha has recently signed (ed note: it’s buried in that article but it is in there) on at 455 Mass Ave. Little Buddha is based at the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas and is affiliated with Buddha Bar NYC and Buddha Bar Paris. Back in June the rumor was Lawry’s Prime Rib.

Reactions from the peanut gallery? Many previously expressed interest in seeing a “Lauriol Plaza East” here. But of course it takes two to tango and things don’t work that way. I’m satisfied with the choice as long as Little Buddha make good use of the windows and patio.

UPDATE (12/15/2008 4:30P): More Little Buddha

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Views from 455 Mass

Recently I participated in the Mount Vernon Triangle Development tour sponsored by WalkingTownDC. The Triangle tour includes a stop at 455 Mass to visit the 10th floor which through it’s glassy facade has great views.

Click on the thumbnail image or this link to visit the photos.

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Updates on neighborhood retail

Results the Gym at City Vista is offering tours of the site and charter memberships at a discounted rate. Read the posting at the MVSNA blog for more details on pricing. I will add that the Results website says that the hours for the sales office at the new location are: Wed-Fri: 2-8pm; Sat & Sun: 10a-5pm.

Online ordering is now supported for the new Papa Johns that opened last Friday at 313 H Street NW.

I’ve heard from the grapevine that the deal for Lawry’s Prime Rib to move into the ground floor of the Penzance Building (455 Mass Ave) has fallen through. The leasing staff is working on another restaurant for that space.

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Friday Roundup

A roundup of some news in our hood:

  • The ODMPED has pushed back the BAFO date for the 5th and Eye project from July 18th to August 18th. This is second time it’s been pushed back a month. (note: BAFO = Best and Final Offer)
  • The Papa Johns at 313 H Street NW has been open over a week is now open. It is a carryout and delivery location but online ordering it not yet enabled.
  • Si Kailian commented earlier in the week that a UPS Store sign is now on the east end of the Penzance Building. I’ve confirmed and have a snapshot below.

My initial response which I left as a reply comment to a Si’s comment was this:

I don’t think I can muster up any enthusiasm for a UPS store in the Penzance building. I think it certainly won’t occupy more than the East end of the building. But this space with it’s glass facade and huge front patio needs retail that will engage the streetscape. The UPS store could have went into the vacant retail spaces at Mass Court or 400 Mass and still been in the same locale without claiming a space they’ll never untap the full potential from.

I still feel the potential of the patio is wasted by the UPS Store. But visiting the site again I did see that the East end of the building does not have the same 20-25 foot ceilings as the West End. So that corner of the building is distinctly different than the west end.

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What restaurant should go here?

The post earlier today outlined a recommended strategy from Richard Layman for restaurants in emerging neighborhoods. I also highlighted details about a possible destination for a new restaurant: The Penzance Building. The address is located across from 400 Mass and adjacent to the Dumont.

Sunken patio along Mass Ave

What type of restaurant do you envision taking advantage of this indoor & outdoor space in the near future? Chime in with your suggestions in the comments. Remember we want a successful business that can afford downtown rent which isn’t as simple as naming your favorite restaurant.

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Restaurant-Based Neighborhood Revitalization

Richard Layman’s Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space highlights the revitalization underway in H Street NE. This has become the “IT” place in the city with numerous WaPo articles like “H is for Happening“. The driving force to the revitalization is considered to be the intiative by Joe Englert (CP | Examiner | WBJ | Washingtonian | Chat) of seeding H Street with tavern-entertainment destinations offering pretty good food.

Layman has a few “rules” to successful Restaurant-Based Neighborhood Revitalization:

1. Relatively appealing cuisine that isn’t too specialized (or at the very least is popular such as Asian food); food that is attractive to a large number of people–Italian, Mexican, and “American,” seem to work best. You want at least 100 customers/nite. These days Thai food is moving into this category. Chinese seems to have lost its appeal. Restaurants like Indian, Caribbean, etc. are just a bit too specialized, and therefore don’t get the weekly or at least a couple times/month patronage that such restaurants need especially when they are located in emerging commercial districts.

2. Good food; it doesn’t have to be stunning but it better be good. (Perhaps Mexican restaurants illustrate this point the best.)

3. Good, good plus, or better service; waiting isn’t fun, and neither is dealing with a server that doesn’t help you get what you want with a modicum (ideally none) of problems.

4. Competitively priced; you can’t have drinks at $8 or most of your entrees costing $13-$20 — unless you offer a fully realized concept where those prices make sense. If your prices aren’t competitive and maybe a little less expensive than the market, you won’t get that frequent patronage that is necessary for your success. Pitchers of margaritas or sangria are good, maybe not pitchers of beer, which seem to attract a rowdier more alcohol-centered clientele.

5. Nice interior; it doesn’t have to be stunning or a $1 million interior renovation, but it can’t be threadbare, and it has to be appealing.

Any thoughts on how these rules relates to our Triangle ‘hood? Richard’s Rules for Restaurant-Based Revitalization apply most closely to transitioning, emerging, and distressed commercial districts. The Triangle is transitioning but overwhelmingly through new construction rather than adopting old structures to new uses. So the rents will be too high to closely follow the path H Street NE has taken to success. I would think rules 2 thru 5 should always apply. I also think rule #1 makes sense for the first restaurant that arrives – which would most likely be in the ground floor space at 455 Mass Ave NW (aka Penzance Building).

The space at the Penzance Building has a great are for outdoor seating on the Mass Ave facing. When built out the Triangle will have the critical mass to support a specialty cuisine restaurant like Indian or Carribean. But I think that’s deferred until K Street’s restaurant row one day arrives. Perhaps Italian, Mexican, Thai, or “American” is the way to go for this first new restaurant. I would also think the choice should should strive to serve the lunch crowd from the GAO and Chester A Arthur office buildings and repeat business from the new condo residents.

floorplate is approximation of ground level as it was intended to represent floors 5-8

Let’s hope the space does end up as a restaurant and not subdivided into another bank and Starbucks. =)

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WBJ: Mount Vernon Triangle renaissance takes shape

The Washington Business Journal published an article on Friday by staff reporter Melissa Castro entitled: Mount Vernon Triangle renaissance takes shape.

Castro recapped some history of the area and recent news items shared by Bill McLeod, executive director of the Mount Vernon Triangle CID.

The remaining businesses along that strip of Fifth Street are eager to sell, pending D.C.’s award of a city-owned 20,600-square- foot parcel at Fifth and Eye streets. Four teams have bid on the lot, including Donohoe Development Co. and The JBG Cos.

JBG also has offered to buy and restore the nearby Capital Automotive and a decaying Victorian building on Eye Street, McLeod said. It would build a 230-room hotel, 227 residential units and 44,000 square feet of retail, including an entertainment venue. Other bidders have proposed a mix of hip boutique hotels and residential buildings.

The city is expected to announce the award on July 18, said Clint Jackson, project manager for the Office of Planning and Economic Development.

I do have more recent news on the timeframes on 5th and Eye straight from Donohoe. As it stands now, the “best & final offer” deadline has been pushed back to July 18th, with the award announcement now August 1. Good news from a neighborhood perspective is that the city stated to developers that improvement of the triangle park and of 5th street are priorities, and asks that all final responses explain how they’ll improve those 2 areas.

The article stats that 455 Mass Ave (aka the Penzance Building) has signed agreements with 3 tenants. Hopefully the first floor restaurant space can find a tenant later this year.

In the past month, three office leases totaling 16,500 square feet were signed at 455 Massachusetts Ave. NW, a 250,000-square- foot building developed and owned by ASB Capital Management LLC and The Penzance Cos., said David Bevirt, whose Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. team is handling leasing. Affordable housing law firm Reno & Cavanaugh PLLC will take more than 11,000 square feet. The remainder of the building is available.

Lastly, because I know how much MBG enjoys discussions of our parks, I have one more snippet:

While beautifying a tiny concrete-covered park at Fifth Street and New York Avenue NW, Lowe Enterprises Inc. spent $300,000 to dig up the concrete slabs by hand to protect the root system of a 120-year-old oak tree across from its burgeoning City Vista project.

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$2Million declined for a 200,000 property

The blog For the Love of Growth (DC That is) wrote an interesting post about the rowhouse at 433 Mass Ave that The Dumont and Penzance Building had to build around. Apparently the owner of the property turned down 2 to 3 million dollars for a property assessed at just shy of $200K. One source suggested he wanted $17 million. He has reportedly taken out a 650K loan to open a Ledo Pizza. He’ll have to sell alot of pizza pies to earn 2 million. =)

The WashingtonPost has more on owner Austin Spriggs and his decision (part1 | part2).

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Office Building Development in the Triangle

As MBG wrote a couple months ago, developers had grand initiative when communicating there master plans for the Triangle in 2005. There has been little in the way of communication of late.

A good deal of the planned residential development has been completed (555 Mass, Madrigal Lofts, The Sonata, Yale Steam) or will deliver in 2008 (City Vista, The Dumont). On the office side the Penzance Building at 455 Mass and 251 Mass have completed while the other office buildings have not even broken ground. The image below is from the CID.

Walking by the Penzance Building I saw a big “Office Space for Lease” sign across the 8th floor windows.

I became curious about the lack of tenant. Typically when I’ve read DC Mud articles about office development near the stadium or in NoMA an anchor tenant is specified. So I googled the address for in hopes of finding more information on 455 Mass. I came across one from WaPo entitled “Mt Vernon Triangle Edges upwards“. The April 2006 article focuses on the Penzance Building and the strip club Louis Rogue. Penzance was looking to lineup a tenant then and still is today.

How often does an office building get built downtown before an anchor tenant is in place? Is it a common practice? Did this practice get employed in Penn Quarter? How successful was it?

For the Triangle to become the true bustling 24/7 community it has the potential to be the area needs these office buildings with first floor retail to be built. When will the row of commercial building along K Street in the Mount Vernon Place master plan break ground? Will the Wilkes/Quadrangle team wait until they have anchor tenants for each building before beginning these projects? Have other projects become higher priority for them? Do you think they are just waiting to go through settlement on more of the Madrigal Lofts before bringing in dump trucks and cranes back into the neighborhood. Thoughts?

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