Commercial Real Estate Update: A Walk Down Half Street

F. Russell Hines, executive vice president of District-based Monument Realty, stood on Half Street SE Thursday morning, at the foot of the frenetic development site that is the new Nationals baseball stadium, laying out his vision for the street leading into the park.

He spoke of flashy retail shops, restaurants, residential units and a boutique hotel with a second-story bar, overlooking a pedestrian-friendly street that will be shut down on game days, when fans flood in and out of the new stadium.

"Whatever we build here, we really feel it's part of the baseball experience," Hines said, standing in a black suit as construction workers in hard hats bustled all around him. "There will be rooftop pools on the [residential and hotel] buildings -- and bleachers, if I have my way."

Monument's project, which is called Half Street, is the development company's biggest endeavor underway in the Washington area. The project includes a nine-story, 275,000 square foot office building that sits on top of the Navy Yard Metro Station, a 196-room boutique hotel, 50,000 square feet of retail and 340 residential units, which will take the form of either two apartment or condominium buildings.

The Nationals are scheduled to hold their opening day game against the Atlanta Braves on Sunday, March 30. Monument expects Half Street to be done by the fourth quarter of 2009, with the office building finishing up by mid-year. To track the progress of construction via a live Web camera click here.

However, Half Street is not without conflict. Monument Realty is suing Metro in federal court over the transit agency's planned sale of a 2.2-acre bus garage site to rival developer Akridge Co.

Monument argues it deserves the property, which is across the street from the company's rising office building, because Monument has been working with the transit agency and the District as "master developer" of the area near the ballpark for the past three years.

"It's huge to us," Hines said. "There are many, many decisions that we made," based on the implicit understanding the property would be sold to Monument, Hines said. A spokeswoman for Metro, Lisa Farbstein, declined to comment on pending litigation.

* * *

The days of begging your local 7-11 clerk to break a $10 bill for laundry quarters may soon be over, as will those wasted, Sunday-morning elevator descents to check for available washers in a packed laundry room.

At least that is the hope of the creators of a new commercial service, eSuds Credit, that allows tech-savvy laundry-doers the ability to check a Web site to see which washers and dryers are available, pay for laundry machine services with credit card and be notified via e-mail, BlackBerry, or cell phone when their clothes are done.

This experiment in digital laundry was launched commercially late last year by Pennsylvania-based USA Technologies and New York-based Coinmach in the laundry room of Potomac Place, a new condominium on 800 Fourth St. SW.

Prior, USA Technologies began installing the eSuds online laundry service in universities and colleges, including Carnegie Mellon and Johns Hopkins. USA Technologies has big plans for the technology, if it catches on.

"There are 7.5 million washers and dryers in the self-service laundry market," Wendy Jenkins, a spokeswoman for USA Technologies said in a news release. "They are primarily untapped by card activated equipment."
--Alejandro Lazo

By Mike Shepard  |  January 11, 2008; 11:02 AM ET  | Category:  Real Estate
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Posted by: Saints | January 25, 2008 2:27 AM

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