by Marlene Berlin and Carol F. Stoel
Park Van Ness and the UDC Student Center are two of 14 Washington-area finalists for land use awards from the Urban Land Institute of Washington. They were chosen from 54 applicants for the honors.
ULI Washington will announce the winners in six categories on April 25th, during the 2017 Real Estate Trends Conference Awards Program. The six categories are: Excellence in Housing Development, Excellence in Office Development, Excellence in Mixed Use Development, Excellence in Institutional Development, Excellence in Adaptive Reuse, and the Impact Award.
Van Ness could end up with two ULI award winners. Park Van Ness is one of three finalists in the housing category. The UDC Student Center is up for the institutional development award, along with two other finalists.
The Urban Land Institute of Washington is the local chapter of a global organization that promotes innovative and “responsible land use to sustain the growth and prosperity of the National Capital region.” ULI Washington is one of the largest chapters, with almost 2,000 members. Members include architects, planners, engineers, students, and public and private organizations. The ULI provides a forum to educate and share ideas among private industry, environment organizations, public agencies and community leaders in order to influence local land use policy.
To get to this stage in the competition, each project was judged by a jury of 10 professionals, including developers, architects and an artist with an expertise in place-making.
Here is what the jury said about the UDC Student Center:
Urban Planning: strategically situated on Federal land, along major traffic corridor, with access to transit (bus and metro), in close proximity to “International Circle” near numerous embassies
Urban Design: energizing economic development, bringing a boost of pedestrian vitality to a once “passed by” stretch of street, and creating a sense of place and an urban landmark that identifies UDC as the city’s flagship public university
Architecture: Student Center breaks away from the brutalist style of architecture on campus, giving a 21st century face to the university, empowering it to re-brand as a progressive institution of higher learning
Accessibility: provides an accessible path for students and community from Connecticut Avenue up 25′ to the campus quad. Also provides pathways through the building from Connecticut via a rain garden to Van Ness Street
Community/Culture: provides students a place to be recognized as a community of UDC and also serves as a “front porch” for the campus, connecting the adjoining neighborhoods and the university community to each other
Sustainability: designed to LEED Platinum standards, on target to be first LEED Platinum student union on the east coast and one of only two in the country
Project finance: financed by the city’s taxpayers for benefit of the city’s residents, proposed by mayor, approved by city council
And these are the jury’s notes on Park Van Ness:
Park Van Ness connects the neighborhood with Rock Creek Park through a grand archway in the center of the building.
The circular entrance drive on Connecticut Avenue resolved the need for vehicular access to the front entrance by creating a pedestrian friendly turn-around.
Open courts on the street allow the building to express itself as a series of pavilions along the Avenue and break the length of the building.
The building’s configuration provides park views to 75% of the units
New retail in Park Van Ness fills in a missing retail node along the Connecticut Avenue retail district
Park Van Ness was an immediate market success. The retail is fully leased while the residential is already 80% leased.
Park Van Ness is helping to lead a rejuvenation in the Van Ness area of Connecticut Avenue.
The UDC project faced many challenges, not the least of which was its location atop the Van Ness Metro station. Erik Thompson, UDC’s Vice President of Real Estate, started out on this project as the university’s head of facilities. He feels honored by this recognition.
“It was great to hear the University’s new Student Center has been identified as a finalist for this year’s award,” Thompson said. “I am familiar with the other projects and it is an honor to have the Student Center mentioned along with these exceptional examples of the best in design, innovation and creativity.”
Michael Marshall, was one of the lead architects and had been a student at a UDC predecessor. He went on to earn his architecture degree at Yale.
“This project required that we bring together a number of different regulatory agencies, including the Advisory Neighborhood Commission, Zoning Commission, Commission of Fine Arts, GSA, National Capital Planning Commission, and even the State Department and Secret Service. Although challenging, it was ultimately incredibly rewarding getting everyone to work together for the students, the university and the community,” Marshall said.
At Park Van Ness, Sarah Alexander of Torti Gallas + Partners was a lead architect. She gives a lot of credit to the developer.
“Without Saul Centers’ commitment to quality, they could never have achieved the very high quality of design and realization in the construction for award-winning results,” Alexander said.
Their goal was to keep the memory of the original building’s art deco style and create a more urban-friendly building. The building is already garnering other awards. Alexander said that in May they will receive a Charter award from the Congress of New Urbanism.
With these two project finalists, will Van Ness finally be able shake off its doldrums and get the notice it deserves? Mary Beth Ray, the president of the Van Ness Main Street, certainly thinks so.
“ULI’s recognition of both UDC’s Student Center and Park Van Ness is proof that Van Ness is at an inflection point,” Ray said. “No longer will we be known as a concrete commuter canyon. Thanks to the creative investment by UDC, BF Saul and their architects, and the diligent efforts of Van Ness Main Street, Van Ness is moving closer to its goal of being a more beautiful, sustainable, walkable and economically vibrant community. As President of the Board of Van Ness Main Street, I speak for our entire board when I say how proud we are that UDC and Park Van Ness are finalists for this prestigious award.”
For the last round of the ULI competition, these projects will be judged on the following criteria: Innovation, Development Approach, Land Use Economics, Project Finance, Access and Mobility, Sustainability, Community and Culture, and Design Excellence.