Thursday, Nov. 15, 2007

Architects present waterfront designs

Committee will select winning team for People’s Harbor development in December

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After revealing the submitted designs for the proposed People’s Harbor development at Port Towns Day in September, architectural firms presented their visions Nov. 8 for the mixed-use portion of the project, which would include residential, commercial and retail space.

The project will be developed in three phases including a mixed-use area, an entertainment district and, possibly, an Anacostia River Education Center, said Kevin Williams, real estate director for the Port Towns Community Development Corp.

‘‘We want the People’s Harbor to have a certain feel to it,” Williams said. ‘‘We want it to be a place where families an⁄or couples will want to live, work and play.”

The development corporation is planning to purchase the property occupied by the National News Agency in Colmar Manor on Bladensburg Road and along the Anacostia River.

Williams said the development corporation has worked closely with the community to find out how they wanted to see the nearly 2 acres of land developed. He said residents have been happy to be able to provide input in the design process.

‘‘Community members feel like they have ownership on the project, and in fact they do ... because their comments count,” he said.

The organization invited about 10 architectural firms to participate in the development’s design competition, said Rufus Lusk, chairman of the development corporation’s real estate committee. Five firms responded, with two of those firms working together on the design.

Williams said when the development corporation is dealing with public money, it is necessary to have an opportunity for competitive bids. By presenting the competition to the community they are also able to make sure the residents are involved in the process.

Each of the contestants who responded received $10,000 from the development corporation to cover some of the costs for the design process and the winner will receive an additional $5,000.

The four presentations were open to the public, allowing residents to ask questions, provide input and vote for their favorite design. Community feedback will account for 30 percent of the vote, but the design review jury panel, comprised of development corporation members, residents and architects not related to the development corporation, will make the final decision around Dec. 7.

Lusk said all four designs were very creative.

‘‘Visually I think they’re really stunning. They’re all very contemporary, sleek-looking projects. And the great thing is that they’re all very different from each other,” he said.

Colmar Manor Mayor Diana Fennell, who is on the jury panel, said she was pleased with the level of professionalism that each designer presented.

‘‘The architects took us serious in what we want to get done,” she said. ‘‘Each firm had some great designs.”

Architects were asked to limit their buildings to six stories and include either apartments or condos, a restaurant and a health and wellness club, Williams said. Other than that, architects were just asked to make sure their design aligned with the nature of the community, he said.

Ethan Marchant, a designer with the Hyattsville-based MS&R firm, said his design team made sure to keep the community’s needs in mind.

‘‘[We wanted] to develop a project that can provide housing in a flexible manner that can appeal to a vast demographic,” he said.

Residents were able to view the design boards at the development corporation’s office and can still see them online at www.porttowns.org, where they can vote for their favorite submission until about Dec. 1, Williams said.

However, once a winner is selected, Lusk said that specific design may not be the one that is developed.

‘‘If it’s not financially feasible, it might not be the one that is built,” he said. ‘‘It could potentially be any one of the four designs, or another design ... or the winning design may be modified.”

Lusk said once a feasible design is selected, they will put together a request for proposals and solicit a developer to build the project.

‘‘If every thing goes as planned, having the RFP out in January or February of ’08, we hope to have a developer selected by spring of ’08,” Williams said.

E-mail Maya T. Prabhu at mprabhu@gazette.net.