Sietsema on Kushi

The Washingtonpost’s lead food critic, Tom Sietsema, issued a review this week for Kushi that concluded with this gem of a quote:

All around me at dinner, people are smiling. Some are speaking Japanese. I’m making a mental note: The next time someone tells me Washington isn’t an interesting place to dine, I’m sending him straight to Kushi.

Nice praise!

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WaPo: Where We Live

The Mount Vernon Triangle is showcased in the Washington Post’s Where We Live feature this month. Look for it in the print edition of Saturday’s Real Estate section.

The article entitled From seedy to sought-after: D.C.’s Mount Vernon Triangle becoming urban village was contributed by the editors of Urban Turf.


“As of the first of the year, fewer than 100 new units will be available and all one-bedroom units are projected to be gone by March,” said David Mayhood, president of the Mayhood Company, which markets and sells condos. “With no new condominiums under construction, the current inventory will be gone by mid to late 2010.”

Photo Credit: Josh Howell Photo (via WaPo)

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WaPo: Concessions Help Upscale Buildings Fill Apartments

From Tuesday’s Washington Post:

Adam Paper moved into an apartment at the V at City Vista in the District this summer after the landlord waived the $600 upfront amenities fee, the $500 security deposit and two months of rent.

“I got an awesome deal, and I wasn’t even pushing hard for it,” Paper said. “We’re paying $1,616 a month for a one-bedroom, one-bath apartment with a 10-foot-high ceiling in a building with amenities you would not believe. . . . I’ve been blown away by this place.”

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Hat Tip: PQResident

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WaPo: Office-Space Market Stuck in Downdraft

In today’s Washington Post Dana Hedgpeth presents an account of the grim outlook for the office market in the D.C. area. She reports that, in a slump likely to continue into next year, vacancy rates are increasing, rents are in decline and few new buildings have started construction.

As of yesterday, the vacancy rate for the District and the close-in suburbs was up to 12.5 percent from 11.1 percent at the end of the second quarter last year, according to CoStar Group, a real estate research firm. Rents were down to $33.47 a square foot from $34.55. Few new buildings have broken ground, as credit markets remain extremely tight.

“Unless they’re already in the ground, they’re not starting,” said Steven A. Levin, managing director at Spaulding & Slye. “Any development project needing a loan over $25 million requires multiple lenders, and the guarantees are onerous. The amount of money you can borrow is also reduced.”

Rendering of proposed Mt Vernon Place offices on 400 block of K Street

This does not bode well for planned office projects for K Street within the Triangle such as Mount Vernon Place, Square 483 from Steuart Investment and Douglas Development’s plans for Squares 450 & 451.

Hat tip: Twitter Feed from JDland

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Chinese Community Church exterior upgrade complete

The Chinese Community Church at 500 I Street NW has completed it’s exterior remodeling in time for Easter. The upgrade returned the building to it’s roots by discarding a Formstone exterior for the elegant look of brick and sandstone. These improvements to the facade and roof were made possible by a $600,000 donation from the Gould Property Co which will be developing an office building at 600 Mass Ave NW.

1906 image from the Washington Times

July 2007 photo from flickr user Kyle Walton

2008 image from Google Streetview

2009 image taken on Easter

The building has a 155 year history and currently serves as the only Chinese house of worship in the district.

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WaPo: Inaugural rentals begging for takers

David Nakamura of the Washington Post writes that Inaugural rentals begging for takers.

When Tim Tate heard that a neighbor had rented out his condo in the trendy Mather Studios in downtown Washington for $3,000 for inauguration week, he and his friends hatched a plan to rent out their own units and use the profits for a week-long jaunt to Morocco.

But nearly two months after listing his condo on an inaugural housing Web site (one bedroom, one bath, $2,000 for the week), Tate has gotten nary a nibble. Neither have his friends. He dropped the price twice. The only inquiry came from European parents who wanted to rent it for their daughter’s semester in the District.

“We all started to list, and then the silence ensued,” said Tate, a glass artist and founder of the Washington Glass Studio.

I remember shortly after the election the DC blogosphere was a flutter about opportunities for locals to rent their places on Craiglist for a one or two grand a night. My relatives in Connecticut even asked if I was doing it – so the claims of limitless rental opportunities must have made the Today Show or Oprah circuits… I thought the hype was overstated. Sure, some people likely did connect with renters but supply far exceeded demand.

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WaPo: A Towering Disappointment

The Washington Post is running an article today about The DuMont called A Towering Disappointment. While not mentioned by name, The District Chatter blog and it’s role mobilizing contract holders to seek counsel is alluded to.


A number of buyers who put down deposits in 2006 have sought refunds, under a contract provision that allows them to withdraw if their units are not ready within two years. Broadway’s attorneys, in a letter in May, blamed the delays on weather, the developer’s inability to quickly obtain construction permits from the District, and problems with Pepco and a window supplier.

“As you might expect, the Seller does not have in its files any statement from Pepco, the D.C. government or the window supplier acknowledging and taking responsibility for the delays,” the lawyers wrote. “Each of them would not wish to provide a paper trail leading to monetary claims which might be made against them.”

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WaPo: Gourmet Safeway Opening Downtown

Today’s Washingtonpost includes an article entitled Gourmet Safeway Opening Downtown.

Some quotes:

“No retailer ever wants to be first,” said Bill McLeod, executive director of the Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District. “Safeway is going to be such a huge traffic generator that it’s going to signal to other retailers that this is a great neighborhood.”

The once blighted area is slowly attracting new retailers. Locally owned Fifth Street Hardware opened this summer, and popular bar and coffee house Busboys and & Poets is expected to open within two months, McLeod said. The neighborhood hopes to attract more retail and restaurants, though McLeod said development has slowed with the economic downturn.

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OT: National Zoo to exile Happy the Hippo

I’m going off topic here, but it’s good to mix in topics other than condos, crime and retail =)

I was skimming the Express on my metro ride earlier this week and saw a blurb about the National Zoo seeking a new home for Happy the Hippo. Unfortunate news for me. Anytime I go to a zoo the Hippos are my personal marquee attraction.

Later in the day I googled for the full story and found it on WaPo entitled Zoo’s Hippo Must Hit the Road.


Happy is not much to look at. He has stained teeth, tiny ears and he drools. He’s very large — like, slow-getting-out-of-the-pool large. And he’ll sneeze on you if you’re not paying attention to him. He gets away with this because he’s the National Zoo’s only Nile hippopotamus.

“The hippo space we currently have is going to become elephant space,” said National Zoo Senior Curator Brandie Smith. “We need to find a new space for Happy,” she said. “We want to make sure he goes to a place that’s well qualified to care for him”.

“The National Zoo is very strongly committed to [Asian] elephant programs,” Smith said, in part because the animals are endangered in the wild. “With zoos you only have so much space available…. We don’t have a strong hippopotamus program right now.

Hippo stats pour out of [zoo keeper JT]: how fast they run on land (25 mph); how fast they run in the water (10 mph); how much they eat (55 pounds of hay, grain and produce a day); how long they live (about 45 years in the wild, longer in captivity); how much time they spend in the water (18 to 22 hours per day); how their brains are smaller than a giraffe’s; and how, if they’re mad, they can “break you in half like a pencil.”

Drilling down into the comments section of the WaPo article you find a response from National Zoo director John Berry which includes:

“The Elephant House in which Happy is housed was built in the 1930s and is in dire need of renewal. In planning the renovation of the building and outdoor yards, we faced difficult decisions about how best to address the animals’ needs and what species we could accommodate in the new exhibit. We decided to focus on Asian elephants for several reasons. Not only are they are critically endangered but we have a decades-long commitment to Asian elephants through extensive research programs for this species, both at the Zoo and in the wild, whose goals are to ensure the best care for elephants in zoos and the species’ survival in the wild.

We did look into the option of building a new hippo exhibit. Initial research showed us that a new facility would cost between 35 – 55 million dollars. Hippo exhibits require complex pool and sewage systems in order to manage them sustainably. This expenditure simply isn’t possible for the Zoo right now with all the critical construction and renovation projects we have already identified within our five year capital plan.”

Holy sardines Batman! THIRTY-FIVE to FIFTY-FIVE million for a pool and sewage system?!? A million dollars definitely ain’t what it used to be.

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