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Business Matters

Waterfront Condos

One of the most distinctive buildings on the waterfront is about to be gutted and renovated. The 1984 office building known by some as “The Steps” is about to get a new lease on life. Developer EYA is planning to transform the 1984 building to create “The Oronoco,” 60 large one-level waterfront condominiums. Architect Patrick Burkhart says the “1980s subdued brutalism” of the design offers “characteristics unique to the building and ideal for residential conversion.”

The renovation plan calls for virtually everything at the current site to be removed and replaced, stripping the building to its concrete frame. The structure of the building is typical for office space, but not for residential construction — presenting a challenge for renovation. EYA President Bob Youngtentob described the design as “a condo product that lives like a single-family house, on one level.” Because of its location on the waterfront, the property was highly sought after.

“Other developers were evaluating the building based on the maximum possible number of units,” said Youngentob. “We saw it not about making as many as you could count, but dividing it into homes tailored for the growing affluent-mature market.”

The building’s two wings step down in terraces that originally supported solar panels. In the renovation, they will become patios for the condominium units. Reconstruction is scheduled to start in August.

Increasing Confidence

Consumer confidence is on the rise, according to results of a new survey by the Greater Washington Board of Trade. The Consumer Outlook Survey was conducted in June by Washington-based Clarus Research Group, which randomly selected 800 adult consumers from the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia and suburban Maryland.

“We continue to see opportunities for investment with a regional focus on public private partnerships,” said Jim Dinegar, president and CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. “However, there is a lot of money sitting on the sidelines, waiting for a higher degree of certainty to return to the marketplace.”

Since December of last year, the Consumer Outlook Survey has shown a notable uptick from 55 percent to 60 percent. The positive movement continues a trend that started last summer, after a 10-point decline from June 2010 to July 2011. Overall, consumers perceive the regional economy to be faring much better than the broader national picture.

“Consumers are more positive about the current regional economic conditions than any time since the survey has been conducted,” said Jim Dinegar, president and CEO of the Greater Washington Board of Trade. “This coincides with everything we hear about Greater Washington being a great place to work and do business.”

The biggest movement in the survey was a shift in attitudes about employment conditions. Positive views on employment increased 10 points and negative views declined 16 points. Consumers reporting increased salary jumped from 23 to 33 percent while only 4 percent reported a salary decrease.

Regulatory Politics

For abortion providers, business has become increasingly difficult.

Earlier this week, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli refused to certify new regulations of women’s health centers, which had been approved last month by the state Board of Health. The attorney general said that the board exceeded its authority by adopting an amendment that allows existing women’s health care centers to be grandfathered in rather than be subjected to building requirements to strict new construction standards.

“We understand that the issue of abortion has become a politically charged issue in the commonwealth, but regulation of health-care facilities should not be a political act,” said Claire Guthrie Gastanaga. “Rather it should promote high-quality patient care and the protection of public health.”