Big Raze Coming to the 1700 block of Columbia Road, NW

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Thanks to all who emailed (and Ron for sending photos) about the raze permits posted on the 1700 block of Columbia Rd, NW in Adams Morgan.

“I was walking to work and noticed raze notices on a row of old shops in Adams Morgan (probably 5 buildings) on Columbia Rd (by the PNC bank). Do you know what’s going on with these? What’s going to happen to Pho 14 and the Burger King?”

Pho 14 and Burger King are safe. Washington Business Journal reported:

“weighing plans for retail-over residential once the current retail leases expire. Retail tenants include Radio Shack and T-Mobile; previous tenants included the Old City Cafe of Jerusalem and Payless ShoeSource.”

This is across the street from the big hotel coming too.

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53 Comment

  • That’s a shame, those facades are pretty nice and historic if you get rid of all the neon signage.

    • agreed. I am 100 percent in favor of increased density there. Just wish they could incorporate the original stone facades at the base with additional stories on top.

      • I’m generally in favor of this, but I hope they can leave some space between the new building and the west side of the Imperial. The Imperial has been there for close to 90 years, and it would be a pity if everyone on the west side lost their light/view.

    • For many years the old Payless was once a very well-known and well-regarded restaurant/bakery, Avignone Frères. I remember it when I was a kid, it was very elaborately decorated and old school. The facade itself is still in great shape. Hopefully they can integrate it into the new development.

    • “We don’t need to change the height limit – there are plenty of places left with room to build. Paris has density without skyscrapers”

      Folks Paris does not have many 1 story tall retail strips. Be careful what you ask for, you might get it.

      • And Paris is super ultra ridiculous expensive even compared to DC.

      • We’re nowhere near Paris’ density though. Paris has 55,673 people per sq mi. DC has about 10,000 people per sq mi. The idea that we’re out of room and need to build skyscrapers is just wrong.

        • We are not out of room yet, but there are a gazillion reasons why most blocks in DC cannot come close to Paris densities. From SFH areas on near the district boundaries, to rowhouses (that are now being downzoned) to historic neighborhoods. There are of course still places where 8 story buildings can go in – and this happens to be one of them. If charming retail blocks like this are off limits, that would really constrain things.

        • Paris also blocks full of 7 story building built right up to the property line with FARs of 7 and no parking. I am all for this, but I have found that most of the people who are against tall buildings really are not.

          • +1000, the Paris analogy is silly. DC is largely built out mid-density row house city. We are never going to knock down areas like Capitol Hill to rebuild them to look like Paris.

            In theory, DC has room for another 100-150k under existing zoning. But, much of this is in marginal areas that aren’t ideally suited for car free urban living. Plus, in many of these areas the current prices are too low to justify new construction. So the neighborhoods would have to gentrify and price out many of the existing residents before this “theoretical development” would become economically feasible.

  • What is the status of the hotel? That post was from over a year ago. Time flies!

    • Yes, exactly. I thought it was supposed to open next year and work was supposed to start last year, but I haven’t seen signs of any movement. Incredible how long this project has dragged on. In any case, with the new project across the street, the redevelopment of the Ontario theater and the Adamo construction Adams Morgan is realty moving alone.

    • Was thinking the same thing. A status update on the hotel would be nice. Hope the developers aren’t getting cold feet.

      • They told the ANC last November that they were going to start construction in December, but that clearly didn’t happen. If they’re not going to start construction (and I wish they would!), it would be nice if they would at least clean up the yard.

  • I miss Old City Cafe.

  • Well since the ADAMO and ONTARIO 17 are selling quickly and with Zoning Commission about to downzone R-4 neighborhoods throughout the city, there will be a need for more condos / apartments in the near future.

    • In the near future? If the insane rapid rise in rents in the past five years are any judge, we need them yesterday.

      • Accountering

        So uhh, not sure if you are aware but rents have stopped rising. They stopped about a year ago, thanks to the rapid increase in units available. I agree, more are needed, but prices are no longer increasing, and are actually decreasing on a real and nominal basis.

        • Yeah, but this is only a temporary respite IN RENTS driven by lots of new buildings delivering at once and sequestration. Eventually, these new buildings will fill up and prices will continue there accent.

          CONDO prices OTOH continue to rise as interest in ownership has been rising and new construction remains pretty weak.

          Long term, the downzoning can only drive prices up (it certainly can’t increase supply or drive them down). It will prevent many middle class people from purchasing in DC as not everyone needs or can afford an entire row house. Sure we can build condos in other areas, but big multi-unit condos are really hard to finance. Converting existing units is a much more effective way to do it. Plus, without any offsetting upzoning to accompany the downzoning, we are just reducing to total development capacity of the city. So we are limiting development, not merely moving it around.

          • Disagreed.
            Big multi-unit infill buildings are the way to go.

          • The problem with the proposal is that there is no offsetting areas up zoned to allow more big multi-unit buildings.

            Without an offset this is just a reduction in the overall potential housing supply.

          • With “potential” being the key word. Yes, if every rowhouse were converted to a multi-unit condo building that would increase the “potential” housing supply… but as we’ve seen, the way that works is to push up prices for everyone.
            You’re talking about a reduction in something that doesn’t even exist (yet). It would be just as well if developers were channeled into building apartment buildings on the vacant lots along (for example) Georgia Avenue, rather than popping up and subdividing individual rowhouses.

          • Converting row houses into small apartments doesn’t push up the prices for everyone. By definition it creates more units, so more people can live there and the smaller units are almost always cheaper than buying the entire unit. In a narrow sense it may make whole row houses more expensive in some areas. But, if the row house isn’t converted from 1 to 3 units, then there are 2 buyers that will just be looking at other condos or whole rowhouses elsewhere in the city.

            There isn’t that much buildable land left in the core of the district. Sure we have a few lots here and there. But, many can’t/won’t be redeveloped in the short term for various reasons: owners don’t want to sell, historic property, etc. That is why focusing on the potential supply is so important. It’s not my crank theory, it is pretty well established that potential supply is key a factor in prices.

            Look we are all entitled to our opinion on whether we should focus on growth or preserve the existing neighborhoods. There are very good reasons to downzone to preserve the existing character of the city.

            But, if you surveyed 100 real estate economists, I guarantee that all 100 of them would argue that downzoning an area without offsetting upzones will lead to higher prices. Now there would be a debate about how much of an impact. But, let’s not pretend that limiting supply won’t impact prices in the long run.

          • The idea that the conversions gets discussed, but I’ve never seen any cite a study suggesting that it’s true. The people buying condos are not the same people buying houses. Location does a great deal to set price. Adams-Morgan has had little new construction since the late 90s. There is demand for condos and building more of them isn’t going to suddenly make anything else affordable. Markets are always distorted in some way, which is why libertarian-type claims like this often turn out to be disastrously wrong.

          • It’s not exactly a radical libertarian idea that limiting supply will push up prices. Yeah, new construction is always going to be expensive (to incentive builders) and there is no way to build are way into Atlanta prices. But, new construction provides more places for people to live and helps to keep existing units cheaper than they otherwise would be.

            Imagine if DC shut down all the new units built over the past 5 years, tens of thousands of people would then be competing with the rest of the city for the older units. Obviously there would be a shortage and prices would rise.

            There have been plenty of studies that zoning restraints drive up housing prices:

        • Well, I hope you’re right. My buddy just did an apartment search over three months, and only managed to get a 1BR for $2200 a month at the end of it.

          • When was he looking, and in what neighborhood?

          • Basically from October through January. He was month to month so wasn’t in a hurry, just trying to get something approaching a deal. Worked hard on it too. All the reasonable rent places just went so quick. He ended up in several bidding wars, so don’t take advertised rents at face value either. Location-wise, pretty much anywhere in the city that had reasonable transit nearby. He ended up near Howard.

          • I was renting out my condo in Adams Morgan in the fall, and it took a lot longer than I thought it would to find a renter (at the end of September, for $1725/month). Did your friend have really particular constraints, like wanting granite and stainless? Seems odd that it would take so long, and that it would end up costing so much.

  • I miss Avignon Freres. It was one of the first (and very few places) to do brunch. The sidewalk seating was also pretty rare.

  • I’m not so sure that Pho 14 and Burger King are safe. The article also mentions Radio Shack, and Pho 14 and Burger King are between Radio Shack and the other buildings slated for demolition. So it looks like everything between PNC Bank and the Imperial building at 1763 Columbia Rd. will be coming down.

  • Anyone have an update on the retail space that will be located below the Ontario17 building? Adams Morgan is in need a decent gym, and I also wouldn’t mind a Dunkin Donuts. Trader Joe’s would be awesome but I realize that area is dense with grocery options.

  • I’m not very optimistic. The hotel has been in the works for about 10 yrs and they have yet to break ground. Call me a cynic, but the same NIMBYs who were against the hotel, will rally against this.

  • The Washington Business Journal story mentions “retail-over residential” and “retail-over-condo.” Does anyone know what these terms mean? Google turned up nothing.

    • I think they mean mixed-use (i.e., commercial and residential), with retail on the ground floor and residential above, but I think they mixed up the order. I can’t imagine putting residential below and retail above.

  • This kind of development in an already busy area with good proximity to grocery, metro and nightlife makes perfect sense. Hope they require multiple affordable housing and underground parking for all units (instead of the oft-hoped for, never works concept of selling/renting 500K condos to people who are not supposed to want to have cars.) Walking up to the Safeway from Biltmore Street I always thought this was a strangely underdone bit of Columbia.

    • There’s no way they’re going to require underground parking for all units — I think the current city requirement is 1 space for every 3 units, and it’s likely that the developer will seek a variance to provide fewer spaces.

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