November 14, 2012 | by Mark Lee
An urban adventure taking shape on the riverfront
David Von Storch, VIDA Fitness, business, gay news, Washington Blade

Urban Adventures Companies president David von Storch recently announced expansion plans for three of his businesses in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood near Nationals Stadium. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

D.C.’s Capitol Riverfront isn’t only about baseball anymore.

The rapidly evolving area is increasingly prompting the same level of hometown interest and excitement as the team that hits the field at its signature waterfront stadium.

A tantalizing assortment of well-known stars of commerce has been recruited for a deep bench fueling the resurgent near-Southeast Washington neighborhood. The news parallels the twin announcements this week that Bryce Harper had been named National League Rookie of the Year and Davey Johnson was designated league Manager of the Year.

Prominent on that roster is successful local entrepreneur and longtime community businessman David von Storch, president of Urban Adventures Companies, which he founded in 1986.

The late October confirmation that von Storch had committed to a 28,000-square-foot VIDA Fitness facility with a 10,000-square-foot Penthouse Pool Club and Lounge, also including his companion businesses Bang Salon and Aura Spa, at The Yards planned mixed-use residential, hospitality, retail, office and hotel development project was yet another signal that an urban homerun was in the making. The popular businesses will form the anchor of the initial phase of a multiple-component undertaking eventually spanning several blocks between Nationals Park and the Washington Navy Yard.

VIDA Fitness, Aura Spa, Bang Salon, gay news, Washington Blade

VIDA Fitness with Penthouse Pool Club and Lounge will be joined by companion businesses Bang Salon and Aura Spa at The Yards mixed-use waterfront development, opening in early 2014. (Illustration courtesy of Forest City Washington)

When completed, The Yards will feature 2,800 residential units, 1.8 million square feet of office space and nearly half-a-million square feet of retail, restaurant and bar, entertainment and service businesses. This cityscape collaboration is an undertaking of Forest City Washington, the local project subsidiary of the well-regarded national real estate development and management firm. The large-scale project represents a major commitment to providing a leadership role in the design of the Capitol Riverfront.

The company recently completed the Foundry Lofts, transforming a former Navy Yard industrial building into 170 distinctive luxury apartment units. Indicating how popular a residential locale the area has already become, the lofts fully leased at an industry record-setting pace.

A number of new construction midrise and townhome residential and commercial projects have recently risen on the largely repurposed flatland area alongside limited existing structures. Together they offer a complement of variable housing options for a range of income levels from modest to market, resident types including singles, couples, families and empty-nesters, and accommodation of city agency workforce employees. A diversity of financial and household constructs distinguishes the area.

A dizzying range of development projects is underway or planned for the near-term. A continuous stream of project announcements are promulgated by the growth instrumental Capitol Riverfront Business Improvement District (BID) regarding soon-to-come construction projects, neighborhood businesses and community amenities. A Harris Teeter grocery is among the coming wave of new businesses.

Referring to the Capitol Riverfront district as the city’s fastest-changing neighborhood is an understatement as colossal as the progressively evolving urban environment itself.

This weekend the sleek Canal Park and its ice skating rink will first welcome the public, surrounding the nearly-ready Park Tavern restaurant – only one of a number of restaurants and bars slated to soon open. The elongated park is symbolic of the waterway once connecting the Potomac River with the clean, crisp and surprisingly beautiful Anacostia River that runs along the entire southern edge of the neighborhood enclave.

Strolling the minimalist yet dramatic The Yards Park at the river’s edge, the site of outdoor events and evening concerts and serving as a community gathering spot and green space, a beautiful new boardwalk overlooks what will become a marina and pier. Located only five blocks south of the U.S. Capitol, the area is bounded to the north by an elevated freeway separating the adjacent Capitol Hill neighborhood but serving as merely an architectural gateway from a street level perspective.

The impressive contemporary design of the end-space that the VIDA complex will occupy in the initial-phase Twelve12 project, situated at 4th and Tingey streets, S.E., is scheduled for phased completion beginning early 2014. The complex is the first of seven structures planned for an aggressively paced construction schedule.

Since emerging in the late 1980s as a high-profile hospitality and nightlife innovator, von Storch opened Washington’s first brewpub since Prohibition in 1992. Capitol City Brewing Company continues to operate at its original downtown location as well as in Arlington, Va.

Employing 1,700 at the microbrewery pubs, five VIDA Fitness venues along with the dramatic rooftop Penthouse Pool and Lounge at the recently renovated and expanded VIDA U Street facility, companion Bang Salon and Aura Spa locations, and the 901 Restaurant and Lounge in Penn Quarter, von Storch oversees an array of lifestyle enterprises earning a well-deserved national reputation.

Emblematic of the housing and commercial projects popping up across the city, the Riverfront district presents a unique “blank slate” opportunity for thoughtfully planned development with neither the limitations of existing structural commitment or the burdens of entrenched litigating of the preservation of the familiar. Yet the neighborhood has magnificently large-scale legacy structures, nuanced architectural elements, a captivating waterfront setting, and a rich history as primary as that of anyplace in Washington.

More than anything else, that is what excites von Storch about becoming a part of one of the most dynamic developing neighborhoods offering a fresh new future in the nation’s capital.

Mark Lee is a local small business manager and long-time community business advocate. Reach him at OurBusinessMatters@gmail.com.

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