Tuesday, June 23, 2009

firehouse on north cap

Originally uploaded by Scenic Artisan
a few years ago i had gotten a peek into it. this is what it looked like then.

anyone know whats going on now?


  1. Brian Brown got a deal from the city ($600k) if he opened up a restaurant. Sadly work has halted and it's been languishing on the market as he's asking $1.5 million. Now it's getting tagged again with gang graffiti.


    I don't believe he's supposed to be flip it per his agreement with the city but that seems not to have stopped it.

  2. Here's what Brian sent out in January when somebody found that it was being listed for sale:

    PART 1
    I would like to give the neighborhood an update on the Firehouse restaurant project. Since many people joined this list midstream I will backtrack a little so everyone is on the same page.

    Several years ago Nextgen Development was awarded the Firehouse via RFP where we were to be the developer and Mike Benson (operator of St Ex bar and café) would be the operator. Near the end of a year planning stage Mike Benson and his partners dropped out for personal reasons. Over the next 14 Months we met with approximate 20+ qualified operators and while there was interest from many operators, most were frankly afraid to take the chance of opening a restaurant in an untested neighborhood. Near the end of the 14 months we met Twyla Garett of Martini 2020 who upon looking at the site and the neighborhood potential rapidly moved forward to commit to the project. Nextgen proceeded to complete the acquisition and moved forward on the project. Unfortunately for Nextgen Twyla signed that agreement just as the financial mess hit nationwide. As a result four or five months after she signed the agreement the financing she had lined up disappeared and she defaulted on her agreement.

    In spite of that default Nextgen made the decision to move forward on the project while we looked for a new operator. We committed to spending between $500,000 and $750,000 of our own funds while we searched for a new operator. (Note: this does not include the $100,000 in interest payments we have made to date while we carry this project) The work performed to date on the site is as follows:

    95% completion of the exterior building restoration.

    We addressed some environmental issues we became aware of

    We completed 90% of the non-structural demo required for the project

    We spent $250+k completing the architectural and structural plans.

    We initiated structural stabilization of the building

    Bid out most aspects of the critical systems so we could move quickly when we find the right operator.

  3. During the time we were doing the above work PART II:

    During the time we were doing the above work we have continued to search for operators. While we have gotten close to signing a new operator over 7 times, each time something would surface near the completion of the deal that undid it. I will share two such situations here. One operator we found was in a financial cash position to move forward however one of the conditions they were looking for some nominal help from the city for their first 5 years of operation to make their numbers work.. Unfortunately while we had every indication from the city that this would happen (including legislation being introduced to that effect) however the deteriorating local economy killed the city’s ability to deliver that help in fiscal 2008 and that deal died. Subsequent to that opportunity collapsing we signed a letter of intent with another operator, and started working through the operating agreement, however 1 week after we signed that agreement their financing partner collapsed. (Their financing partner was Lehman Brothers)

    During the time we have been have been marketing the space we have gotten a number of operators that expressed interest only if they could purchase the building as part of the transaction. In the past we declined to consider that because we wanted to make sure that we could fulfill our commitment to the community of delivering a restaurant on the first level of the building.

    After discussion with several bankers regarding how restaurants are currently being financed we have come to realize that in today’s financial instability that the only likely way that a restaurant will get financing on this type project is if they use the building as collateral to complete the build out. While this was not true in the past the problems banks are having has resulted in it being nearly impossible for any other option.

    To that end we have changed our marketing strategy to bring this project to market. Shortly you will see a lease/sale sign appear on the building. This is also being placed in Co-star, Loop net as well as the MLS as a sale/lease. The hope is to bring in an operator that previously might have rejected it because they could not lock in their costs by purchasing part or majority ownership of the project at the time they build-out the restaurant. It may be that we may just become general contractor on this project. Our intent is to still to find a way in spite of the financial environment to try to move this project forward. We are trying to think outside the box to keep this process moving. We have also reached out to the Council members’ office for advice/options also. Thank you for your understanding and patience.

    Brian Brown

  4. Twyla Garrett sent this a few days later to Scott Roberts:

    [ 1 ] Text of an Email That Your Moderator Received from Twyla Garrett

    See the text of a 2/2/2009 Email that your moderator received from Twyla Garrett:


    I was advised of recent blogs (831, 832, and 836) concerning Brian Brown and the status of the Firehouse.

    You may be aware the project from the developer's end was stopped due to funding. I want make sure I have the opportunity to provide the Bloomingdale and surrounding neighborhoods with some supplemental information. I know that my participation in the Firehouse project been mentioned on various occasions in the Bloomingdale blog as well as my restaurant 2020 Martini in Cleveland. I have noted that some of your readers took it upon themselves to look up information about my restaurant and provide them to your blog. Since opening 2020 Martini, my restaurant has become quite successful. When we opened in Feb 2008, we experienced some operational challenges associated with our establishment early on, and as a result we received some criticism about our service. To that end, our management team has worked extremely hard to make the operation a success. We have implemented several new training programs and incentives to facilitate continued improvement among staff and in our service delivery. As a result of our hard work we have received several awards for our food and our service. I would encourage anyone interested to go to www.2020martini.com and click on our guest book to review comments from our customers.

    As far as the proposed DC restaurant is concerned, we are still very interested in the Firehouse, we received a call on Wednesday from Brian informing us that he is selling the property for $1.5M, and wanted to know if we would be interested in purchasing the property from him. I was not aware the NextGen was planning to sell until last week. We have had little to no communication with Brian Brown once the funding from his bank was pulled. NextGen promised us that we would have the building delivered to us in a drywall state and all we needed to do was to finish the customization and equipment etc. Unfortunately, that has not happened.

    With the economy being negatively impacted in the District and across the Nation we are all aware of the fact that many Banks revising their lending strategies, as a result a number of developers may be experiencing a tightening of available funding for development projects.

    I met in December with Neil Albert’s office to discuss tax credit, grants, and small business loans for this project. I am still prepared to move forward with the project under agreed upon terms.

    Respectfully Yours,

    Twyla Garrett, PhD, CBM, CHS III
    President and CEO of IME Services Inc and IME Inc
    1334 North Capitol Street NW Suite 2
    Washington, DC 20002-3337
    Office - 202- 386- 6321
    Cell - 410- 365- 8798
    Fax - 866- 247- 9141
    A Certified MBE, DBE, WMATA, DOT, SWAM, and LSDBE Firm

  5. As far as I know, that's the last anybody has heard about these two project. It's languishing on the market, for sale at a high price at a time when nobody's taking any real estate risk. Hopefully Fox News doesn't buy it to store their news trucks. They had been trying to buy it from the city prior to the RFP that caused Brian Brown and Mike Benson to be selected.

  6. Since moving across the street from the Firehouse about 2 years ago, I've fantasied about the many things I would do with it if I had the funds, time to invest, etc.

    I've spoken with a few high-profile DC entrepreneurs and although they agree the idea is fabulous, they think the time just isn't right, which I completely disagree with. :)

    Nevertheless, something needs to be done with this great space! This seems like such an awesome partnership opportunity and shame on us if it becomes a garage.

  7. To everyone interested in getting a restaurant space in place: How much would you pay upfront to get a restaurant there?

    I have some experience with difficult development projects and an considering options for alternative financing. But as we can all tell since the building is still empty, there is a sizeable funding gap that keeps the project from penciling for institutional lenders.

    But I have a couple alternative ideas that may work for this very specific project. So given that the money must come from somewhere, and the demand seems to come primarily from local residents: How much would you pay to have this turned into neighborhood sit-down restaurant? Up front fee, not monthly or annual. And while big numbers are helpful, I'm thinking crowdsource not venture capital. So $100 would be an acceptable answer, so long as it's repeated often enough.

    And yes, I know it depends on the details and the city's reaction and the type of restaurant and what's on the jukebox, etc. But conceptually, would folks put their money where their blog comment desires are?

  8. I am in the process of moving into the area and would love to see projects such as this one come to fruition. I'd certainly be someone willing to donate some funds if it meant that the building would be used for something that's productive for the community.

  9. Brian Brown and Nextgen Construction have took $24,000 for renovation in out home in MT.Rainier MD DEC 2008. They never pulled permits for the work and the Job is still not complete and Brian Brown has stopped responding to our correspondence. because of NextGen and Brian Brown we now have a Stop Work orer from the county and are at risk of heavy fines. They have left out home in shambles with our newborn baby. We now do not have money to fix everything they have ruined.

    Brian Brown and NextGen are scammers and thieves.

    I will be posting pics and the events at nextgensucks [dot] com