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29-Unit Condo Conversion of Shaw High School Back to the Drawing Board

by Tianna Mañón

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A proposed project would convert Hospitality High School into condos.

A developer’s bid to turn a former Shaw high school into a 29-unit condo project was met with opposition by ANC 1B’s zoning committee on Monday night. Hospitality High School at 1851 9th Street NW (map) graduated its last class this spring.

Hollow Creek Investment Group is seeking a slew of zoning adjustments for the project in an R-4 neighborhood, covering everything from the building’s lot area, height and roof structure. Because the lot is already nonconforming, the group also has to get the OK from the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) to build an addition to it. Hollow Creek says the building does not require, and will not have, any parking available to residents.

The developer, who is working with architect Jim Foster of Arcadia Design, will also need to get approval from the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) to move forward with the project. The school was built by prominent architect Albert Cassell in 1932.

Two other snags may be hitting the proposed project, both related to recent decisions from the Zoning Commission (ZC). The first is related to penthouses. The developer wants to add seven penthouse units to the roof of the school, but the penthouse regulations from the ZC haven’t been finalized yet, and no inclusionary zoning — as will likely be required by the penthouse ruling — is mentioned in the project’s filing before the BZA.

The lack of inclusionary zoning was just one of several issues debated by the ANC committee on Monday. In an hour and a half-long discussion, committee members also criticized the project’s lack of parking, its lack of plans for trash removal and other problems. The committee ultimately voted to support the developer’s HPRB bid, but did not support any of the zoning variances Hollow Creek is seeking.

More importantly, though, the recent decision on pop-ups and conversions in the R-4 district may affect or even doom the project, something Hollow Creek is aware of. Developer Yue Wang wrote a letter to the Zoning Commission on June 1 suggesting the new regulations on conversions would jeopardize his project — and potentially his entire business.

“A major change like this will literally kill many projects and in turn many small-medium developers like us,” Wang wrote.

Though Hollow Creek is not converting a rowhouse, new restrictions and rules on the conversions of nonresidential buildings in R-4 districts, including inclusionary zoning and lot area requirements, were passed as part of the pop-up and conversion rulings. It’s unclear whether those rules might affect the project, though the development would already require a variance to existing rules on lot area. As a matter-of-right, Hollow Creek can build only seven units in the school, which would result, the developer says in its filing, in “excessively large and unmarketable units.”

UrbanTurf will further explore the implications of the R-4 ruling later this week.

Reached by phone on Tuesday, Wang referred UrbanTurf to his lawyer, Meridith Moldenhauer, who didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. Though the developer plans to return before the full ANC later this month, Commissioner Mark Ranslem suggested it wouldn’t net support from the body.

“You’re going to have a similar reaction from the commissioners, too,” Ranslem told the development team.

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/29-unit_condo_conversion_shaw_high_school_back_to_drawing_board/10006

2 Comments

  1. Makeba-The-Architect said at 7:30 pm on Tuesday June 16, 2015:

    Dude, you bought the property for what , $5m??  And now you have the sob story that you’re going to go broke if you can’t do what it is that you want to do. Well boo-hoo get some tissue. The city will yield to you at some point but make it harder for the small guy. Business as usual… Carry on.

  1. dc investor said at 8:59 pm on Tuesday June 16, 2015:

    They are the contract buyer, and they don’t necessarily have to suffer much loss if this does not go through.

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