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Capitol Crossing Steadily Moves Toward Completion in Northwest DC’s East End

Accompanying images can be viewed starting on page 1 of the February 2019 issue pdf

By David K. Gignilliat*

Capitol Crossing, one of the most ambitious development projects in Washington’s mixed-use commercial/residential real estate history, continues to move briskly toward completion. With the project’s first phase complete and its second leg now underway, the finish line on the much-anticipated project is steadily becoming more visible in the District’s rapidly-changing skyline.

“There’s a soft target for [completion], but I can’t disclose it at this time,” said Andrew Gilpin, vice president of leasing at Property Group Partners (PGP), the project’s developer.

Capitol Crossing spans a seven-acre site above and a couple of streets to the west of Interstate 395 and consists of five mixed-use buildings: 200 and 250 Massachusetts Avenue, NW; 200 and 201 F Street, NW; and 600 2nd Street, NW. The project will include a deck platform that will cover over the below grade Interstate 395, and will connect the long-separated East End and Capitol Hill neighborhoods, part of Pierre L’Enfant’s original city vision. It is estimated to include 2.2 million square feet of space.

“The city always just had this scar that somewhat separated these two neighborhoods,” DC Councilmember Charles Allen, who represents Ward 6, which spans the boundaries of the Capitol Crossing project. “It will provide a phenomenal opportunity to re-connect the grid, and you’ll have neighborhoods on either side of the highway flow naturally into each other going forward. For a while, it felt like a ghost town in this area, and now we’re going to have something that we can really be excited about.”

Located on the southeast corner of Massachusetts Avenue and 2nd Street NW, the project’s 200 Massachusetts Avenue building opened in 2018 to great fanfare and boasts the area’s largest private glass-enclosed entertainment rooftop, as well as 400,000 square feet of office spread across 12 floors.

According to PGP, Capitol Crossing will create three new city blocks, support 4,000 construction jobs, and –- once completed –- there will be an estimated 8,000 employees and residents in the five buildings. Privately funded by PGP, it will include infrastructure and utility upgrades, new and improved streets, and revitalization of surrounding neighborhoods. The expectation is that this will result in the addition of more than $40 million in new annual property tax revenue.

The project, which broke ground in 2015, is spearheaded by PGP, a real estate company with over 40 years of experience building, acquiring, and managing over 10 million premier – “trophy” — properties. Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, a global architectural and urban design firm, is serving as the master planner on the project.

SOM had worked with PGP in the past on other DC projects, and submitted a winning proposal for this project, one that has considerable design challenges, including managing the logistics of construction adjacent to a massively-traveled major roadway.

“We needed to build three new city blocks on top of an active interstate highway. This required ingenuity to keep the highway operational during construction and maintain utility services in the surrounding areas,” said SOM Director Kristopher Takacs. “Our team designed a platform that would be robust enough to support new development, yet thin enough to match the street level at grade and allow for vehicle clearances below. Through careful coordination, we were able to build the platform, construct new on-ramps and integrate the new development into the existing neighborhood — all without interrupting traffic on I-395 during construction.”

A Green-Friendly Project

The project also contains several eco-friendly design touches. Rainwater will be gathered, treated, and then stored to supply each building’s cooling towers, thereby minimizing reliance on the city’s water resources. In the parking garages, exhaust shafts will be converted into eco-chimneys, fitted with plants that “clean” the exhaust air before it goes back into the atmosphere.

“With the sustainability measures we’ve baked into our site — water, power co-generation, bicycle parking and more — future building projects will have the fundamentals in place to meet the highest green standards. Sustainability is no longer a “nice-to-have” [approach] — it’s an expectation,” Takacs also said.

All five buildings are likely to receive “LEED Platinum” certification, the highest certification a green building can receive. Created by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes, and neighborhoods used worldwide to help incentivize property owners toward greater environmental responsibility. “We are well beyond LEED Platinum [requirements] with these buildings,” Gilpin said.

In 2006, a PGP project at 1101 New York Avenue, NW became DC’s first commercial office building to receive the LEED Gold Certification and, in 2009, the company’s building at 801 17th Street, NW became DC’s first commercial office building to receive LEED Platinum certification.

Tenants Already Moving In

WeWorks, a commercial real estate company that offers shared workspaces for technology startups and services for other enterprises, will lease over 110,000 square feet across three floors at the 200 Massachusetts Avenue location and open later this year. The American Petroleum Institute, the largest domestic trade association for the oil and natural gas industry, will also occupy over 75,000 square feet in the same building.

“We look forward to opening our WeWork location . . . this year, situated within the iconic Capitol Crossing development,” said Adrian Zamora, WeWork’s corporate communications manager. “Its centralized location, with close proximity to Union Station and Capitol Hill, allows us to attract members in industries across government affairs, trade associations and lobbying, all of which are increasingly looking to WeWork as a solution for their workspace needs.”

With a partially finished project now in place, PGP now has a deliverable to show prospective clients.

“We are actively recruiting additional tenants,” added Gilpin. “It’s been a long time coming. Sometimes, things don’t always go as planned, especially when you build seven acres of platform across a highway. There’s a lot of intricate pieces involved. But [with the completed portion], we’re extremely excited to now have something that people can touch, feel, and witness. It’s really a beautiful project.”

Restaurants Also Being Recruited

Like many DC developments of recent vintage, restaurants will play a prominent role at Capitol Crossing, with one publicly confirmed eatery, The Ardent, already in place.

The Ardent is a co-venture of Chef David Deshaies and Eric Eden of Unconventional Diner, the popular Shaw neighborhood eatery on 9th Street. The duo plans to offer lunch and dinner in its spacious dining room and separate function rooms for private events and on a lush outdoor patio.

At first, it looked like Danny Meyer, known for his award-winning Union Square Café in New York City, would establish his first culinary beachhead in the District at Capitol Crossing. But those plans fizzled, and Meyer and PGP went different directions.

“After much consideration, we have mutually decided not to open a second location of Union Square Café in Capitol Crossing.,” said Evelyn Burgess, public relations coordinator with Union Square Hospitality Group.

Other Plans

There are also efforts for an ‘outdoor activation plan using the large pedestrian thoroughfare between the project’s North (Phase One) and Phase Two.

“We are currently working with our two restaurateurs that have executed leases, along with a couple others that are very close to executing leases, about creating an [outdoor] lifestyle zone, or entertainment district,” said Gilpin. “It’ll be a place where breakfast through dinner, Sunday and Saturday, 24-7, 365, there will be something going on . . . for our office tenants, the residents, and then the rest of our neighborhood.”

Additionally, according to Gilpin, one of the buildings in Phase Two will include either a single-family residential building or hotel. No decision has been made yet.

“It’s a little easier now for a tenant to understand what is there and what can be done, and we’re excited to move forward with the tenants that we have on board,” Gilpin added.

“Capitol Crossing will add to the vibrancy of the east end of downtown with fantastic access to Union Station, which sees more people each year than the Las Vegas Strip,” said John Falcicchio, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development. “It will also add to the growing number of jobs for DC residents, where we’ve added 100,000 over the last decade. We look forward to delivering this innovative and transformative project for the city.”

* David K. Gignilliat, a native of northern Virginia and UVA graduate in economics, is a freelance writer who has been a reporter for a weekly newspaper and contributor of special features for the “Virginia Observer,” an award-winning monthly news and arts magazine.

Copyright © 2020 InTowner Publishing Corp. & David K. Gignilliat. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited, except as provided by 17 U.S.C. §§ 107 & 108 (“fair use”).