Skanska Increases Revitalization in Nation's Capitol with 99M Street SE Development
A new, glass-walled 11 story development is rising from the ground in a once-blighted area not far from the Washington Navy Yard. Just steps from Major League Baseball's Nationals Park and the ongoing development of the Capitol Riverfront, 99M Street SE is a LEED-Gold designed structure that will be a key part of this now flourishing neighborhood, less than a mile from the U.S. Capitol.
Mark Carroll, Skanska Executive Vice President of Commercial Development in the Washington DC region, says Skanska's involvement with the 99M site began in 2011. In talking about how the project came together he says, "We looked at some markets that were in a growing stage and the Capitol Riverfront District is one of those we were tracking."
Skanska partnered with two other companies on the overall parcel, McCaffrey Interests and Grosvenor America. "We bought the land collectively and developed it, intending to play to each company's individual strengths," says Carroll, describing it as a coordinated but separate effort with Skanska handling the office portion and McCaffrey and Grosvenor handling the apartment and hotel interests. In 2012, Skanska subdivided the parcel and went forward with development, zoning and permits.
"There was a great deal of support for this development in the neighborhood," recalls Carroll. In the District of Columbia, area neighborhood commissions often are part of the review and approval process for new developments. These Business Improvement Districts (or BIDs) help support growth in the neighborhood, safety/security and parks programs. Michael Stevens is President of the Capital Riverfront BID where 99M is located.
Revitalizing the Southeast Quadrant
According to Stevens, revitalization of this area in D.C.'s southeast quadrant was spurred by a series of influential development projects in the late 90s and early 2000s: the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) decision which consolidated the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to the Washington Navy Yard Campus, bringing more office tenants to the neighborhood; the construction of Nationals Park; and the rebuilding of the Arthur Capper/Carrollsburg housing development through a grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The Capitol Riverfront neighborhood is a 500-acre new growth area southeast of the U.S. Capitol with almost 2 miles of waterfront on the Anacostia River. It is one of the largest riverfront redevelopment projects in the country and will contain over 37 million square feet of development at build-out. "This area has benefited from great vision and investment by the District Government, transforming this former light industrial and manufacturing area into a high density, mixed-use urban neighborhood with transit accessibility," says Stevens.
A Complex Excavation
99M Street SE broke ground in September 2015, with a complicated excavation and coordination plan. The soil in this part of the city, close to the river, is soft. The project employed an internal auger cast pile bracing system for excavation for the 75 feet of concrete poured below ground for the garage. The construction site is also within a few feet of the Metro (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority or WMATA) which provides both above and underground rail service to the greater Washington D.C. area, resulting in close coordination with the transportation authority.
"From a timing standpoint, it's been a slower process. Due to these hurdles, it was almost a year to dig the hole," notes Carroll. "And, because of the many angled pipes supporting the Metro structure, it was almost like using a spoon to dig the dirt around the area." As of late March, the project work remained below grade but is set to come above ground in the parking garage. "One of the most interesting things we found in the excavation process was a wood stump that a geologist on the project team estimated to be tens of thousands of years old," recalls Carroll. A third-party engineering firm who helps analyze the soil found the stump about 30 feet below ground.
Skanska's overall business plan includes creating buildings that will set the standard for flexible, sustainable architecture in Washington, D.C. "All of our developments are focused on designing and building this way," Carroll says. Most of Skanska's projects are LEED Gold or Platinum certified and this project clearly demonstrates that focus on sustainability. Some of those features include a green (vegetative) roof, a CO2 sensors for better air circulation and energy efficient water fixtures.
"We want to be on the leading edge of sustainable design. Older developments didn't allow for as flexible design. For example, structural columns would be every 20 feet or so, which broke up the floor plan," Carroll explains. On a newer design like 99M, the columns are much more expansive and allow for more flexible building design. Tenants today want a more open floor plan for better collaborative work space. Skanska's portion of 99M is 234,000 square feet total, with 220,000 square feet for office space and 11,000 square feet for restaurant and retail. Eleven stories are above ground and four levels of parking and a fitness center remain below grade.
An additional sustainability feature at 99M includes bicycle storage to encourage biking to work. The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail comes to the Eastern edge of Nationals Park, with the development just one block north of the trail at the corner of 1st and M Streets, SE.
Stevens says Skanska's new office building at 99 M is an excellent example of a Capitol Riverfront Class A office building - a sustainable and beautiful design, amenities that include two restaurants on-site, a health and fitness facility, a rooftop area for outdoor meetings and social gatherings, and the latest in building systems management for healthy office environments. "99M is conveniently located to our neighborhood's overall amenities and it also provides great economic value and easy accessibility from the region via mass transit, bus, automobile, bike or even walking. We appreciate Skanska's commitment to the neighborhood through the construction of this high-quality office building, which takes advantage of all the Capitol Riverfront has to offer," he comments.
"We've become the District's fastest growing neighborhood and will achieve approximately 65 percent of our ultimate build-out in all four market segments by 2019," shares Stevens. "Part of the public investment has been in three world class parks that have created a sense of identity, community and place, as well as access to the river, where none had existed before." He also thinks Nationals Park has "mentally mapped" the neighborhood in a region of 6 million people, while catalyzing private investment in the surrounding areas. "While the park opened in the middle of the Great Recession, we did not see any new collateral development then," he explains. "But, it introduced our Capitol Riverfront neighborhood and the Anacostia to the millions of visitors who came to the baseball games. As a result, we now see the current wave of new development." Over $2.3 billion in public investment will leverage over $9 billion in private development projects.
Carroll feels there is still a great deal of opportunity in the area. "Many projects are in the pipeline, including the D.C. United Stadium on the west side of South Capitol near Buzzards Point," he says. 99M is the only Capitol Riverfront project Skanska is currently involved in. "We are still interested and looking at additional opportunities. It's very competitive and people see the potential, with many developers vying for the same land," he comments.