Selasa, 07 Agustus 2012

Douglas Announces Plans for Historic Hecht's Warehouse

Any commercial logos in the rendering are maskings for any large tenant.
In the last five years, the former Hecht Co. warehouse east of Gallaudet University on New York Avenue NE has changed hands and seen plans sparkle and fade.

Lights designed to glow inside the iconic crown tower atop one of the most significant art deco commercial buildings in the region - and perhaps the country - stayed dark. 

But those lights could shine again soon.  According to its new developer, the building will be converted into office space and retail and ground breaking could come in the next 90 days, Douglas Jemal of Douglas Development told DCMud.
Tower and lighting element.
Image courtesy of NRHP
Financing secured, architects announced

Jemal said that financing for the project came through at the end of July.  The conceptual design is the work of architectural firms Shalom Baranes and Antunovich Associates and calls for 550,000 square feet of office space, 200,000 s.f. of retail, and 1,400 parking spaces.  The approximately 10-acre site is bounded by NY Ave. NE to the north, Okie Street NE to the south, Fenwick Street NE to the west, and 16th Street NE to the east.

Shalom Baranes will focus on work that involves the original structure, which features tan glazed brick and glass block with ribbon windows around the main facades.  The original structure, built in1937, got additions in 1948, 1961, and 1986, and a renovation in 1992, according to the National Register of Historic Places.  Antunovich will focus mainly on the design for new retail buildings that will replace structures built as additions on the eastern two thirds of the site.  Those structures have not been determined to be historically significant.

Developer plans to offer alternative to expensive downtown office rates

Jemal said plans for the site would meet a growing need for office space in the area, which he said was under-served. "I feel I can offer office at below downtown rates," Jemal told DCMud.  "It has easy parkway access, and you are 15 minutes away from the capitol, you are two miles from 7th and H, and you are one mile away from a Metro," he said. "I will be renting office space there at $25 a foot and downtown space is $45 a foot."
Corner of NY Ave. NE and Fenwick St.
Image courtesy of the NRHP

The announcement comes slightly more than a year after Douglas picked up the title to the 4-parcel property at 1401-1403 and 1545 New York Avenue, NE and 2001 16th Street, NE at auction in July, 2011 with a bid of $20 million.  Douglas already held the promissory note on the property, which, as reported by CityPaper, it bought from U.S. Bank in March of last year after Penn.-based Patriot Equities was unable to keep up with a $66 million loan.

Patriot Equities abandoned plans for "Patriot Yards"
Patriot Equities had initially bought the complex in 2007, for the hefty price of $78 million. The building - a classic Streamline Moderne with a striking facade and extensive glass block - was a canvas for the bubble's finest po-mo dreams.  Developers showed off the art deco gem and there was even talk of a grandiose multi-level car showroom.  But the scheme fell through.

Another developer with eyes on the corridor, Abdo Development, permanently shelved plans for a 16-acre mixed use development called Arbor Place, in 2010.  Patriot Equities scuttled its own mixed-used plan, called Patriot Yards, and the Hecht's Warehouse property went into foreclosure in 2011, when Douglas scooped it up.  It's not the first time Douglas Jemal has moved on New York Ave. properties.  Jemal was behind renovation of the old People's Drug Stores Inc. warehouse on NY and Forida avenues NE, which he also turned into office space.

Good bones

Architect Patrick Burkhart of Shalom Baranes, who will be mainly working on parts of the plan that involve the historic structure, said the building would be a good fit for offices.  "It has really good bones for that - it has tall floor to ceiling heights and a robust concrete frame." Architect Kevin Sperry of Antunovich will be working on the retail portion of the project.

NY Ave. NE, looking west. Image courtesy of the NRHP
The six-story building, designed by engineer Gilbert V. Steel of the New York engineering firm Abbott and Merkt, was part of a plan by the Hecht department store chain of Washington, DC to improve deliveries and add stock space. Burkhart said the Hecht Company also planned to one day open a department store in the building as well, so the design is dual-use, but those plans were sidelined as the U.S. went into World War II. 

Original developers had hoped New York Avenue would become a major corridor into the city, but things didn't quite go like that, Burkhart said.  "New York Avenue went from a major corridor into the city to really a service corridor and a commuter arterial to the city," Burkhart said.  When Macy's bought the Hecht's chain in 2006, the warehouse closed.

Image courtesy of the NRHP
Burkhart compared the structure to the former Trans-Lux Theater and retail space, which opened in 1936 (just one year earlier than the Hecht Co. building) at 738 14th street between H and NY Ave.  The Trans-Lux, which had art deco ribbon windows similar to the Hecht Co. building, was torn down three decades ago.

"Preservation was in its infancy and there just wasn't enough political will to preserve it," Burkhart said.  "It was one of the losses that helped bolster the will for preservation in the city, especially for commercial buildings."

The bottom line, Burkhart said, is that the building is very special.  "I can't think of anything of this size and scale that exists anywhere, in this city or really anywhere," he said.  "It really is a special project and something I really look forward to working on."

And the lights in the facade tower at NY Ave. NE and Fenwick St. are still in good shape.  "The lighting element needs a little renovation, but it still would be capable of producing that magnificent glow," Burkhart told DCMud.  "It has been such a long time."

Washington D.C. real estate development news

Image courtesy of the NRHP archive

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