Wednesday, November 1, 2006

The Onyx on First, an office and condominium development, broke ground yesterday only blocks from the site where the new Nationals baseball stadium is being built.

The project, along First Street between L and M streets Southeast, will be an anchor for more retail stores, office buildings and residences in a neighborhood that has been one of the city’s least developed for decades.

As much as it is a real estate venture, the project is another gain for revitalization of Washington’s Southeast waterfront, the developers and political leaders say.

“You will have the support of the city on these types of projects,” Democratic mayoral candidate Adrian M. Fenty said during the groundbreaking ceremony.

The Onyx on First will include a 12-story office building and a 14-story condominium project along with 13,500 square feet of retail space on the first floor of the office building.

Developer Opus East is building the $80 million office complex while a joint venture of Faison and Canyon-Johnson Urban Funds is developing the $100 million, 226-unit condominiums.

“This is a good example of how commercial, residential and retail can develop together to make it better,” said Steve Cohen, Opus East’s real estate director.

Nearby, at 20 M St. SE, Lerner Enterprises is building a 10-story, 190,633-square-foot office complex. The U.S. Department of Transportation plans to move into a new headquarters soon at the Southeast Federal Center, only about two blocks east of Onyx on First.

“Southeast has traditionally been an industrial area,” Mr. Cohen said. “What’s unique is that Class A office space is going to be the theme going forward.”

Class A refers to the most-expensive office space.

The office building is being built on speculation, meaning no tenants have signed leases yet.

“We’re within a dozen blocks of the U.S. Capitol,” Mr. Cohen said. “I think we can offer an economic alternative to a K Street address.”

The Onyx on First condominium building will include a rooftop pool and underground parking. Prices for condominiums, which will average around 725 square feet, range from upper $200,000 to upper $400,000.

It is expected to be completed in 2008, about the same time the new stadium is scheduled to open.

The condominiums will not include affordable housing units, which refers to units priced below the market rate to make them more available to middle-income residents.

The D.C. Council is working on legislation that would determine which residential developments must set aside units for affordable housing and how much would be required, Mr. Fenty said. He could not give a date when the legislation would be ready for a vote.

In other news …

• The National Capital Revitalization Corporation (NCRC) yesterday said five development teams have said they are interested in joining the land redevelopment project for the McMillan sand filtration site along North Capitol Street.

The land development would consist of building infrastructure and doing the preliminary engineering for a huge mixed-use complex. City officials say the next phase could consist of building residential units, retail space and open green space on the 25-acre site.

Horning Brothers, Republic Land Development, KSI Services, EYA and EastBanc responded to the city’s solicitation for development.

No date has been announced for a final choice of a developer.

• Property Lines runs on Thursdays. Call Tom Ramstack at 202/636-3180 or e-mail

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