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60-Unit Development Adjacent to Howard Theatre Garners ANC Support

by Nena Perry-Brown

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Click to enlarge.

ANC 6E voted Tuesday night to support Monument Realty’s slimmed down plans to redevelop the buildings adjacent to the Howard Theatre.

In July, UrbanTurf learned that Monument and PGN Architects had plans on the boards for a six-story project with approximately 110 residential units, 8,000 square feet of retail and 50 parking spaces near the corner of Wiltberger and T Streets NW (map). The development plans have since evolved and the new project in the works will have 50 to 60 residential units with ground-floor retail and 36 to 38 underground parking spaces in a seven-story building. The four properties fronting Ellington Plaza from 608-618 T Street NW will be combined to create the new development, but an adjacent warehouse is no longer part of the plans.

image
Click to enlarge.

In the new plans, Monument relocated the parking garage entrance from the alley, widely reported as congested, to Wiltberger Street NW. Shadow studies, which simulate the shadows that the building would cast over surrounding areas, appear to show minimal-to-no impact on existing residences, and Monument Realty has volunteered to maintain Ellington Plaza going forward.

The ANC voted unanimously in support of Monument’s plan, which included a desire to pursue three specific allowances to develop the project. First, Monument wishes to preserve the facades and one side of 610-618 T Street NW. Second, the developer would request that the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) allow the height of the building to be measured to the top of the roof as opposed to the top of the parapet, typically a foot or so above the roof. This concession, which Monument representatives anticipate will be the new standard in light of recent changes to the zoning laws, would allow the project to meet DC’s green roof requirements. Lastly, developers would like BZA to exempt the project from current loading dock requirements.

A Monument representative told UrbanTurf earlier this week that the current plan is for the project to be for-sale units rather than rentals.

the project at Wiltberger and T Streets NW

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/60-unit_development_planned_adjacent_to_howard_theatre_garners_anc_support/10424

7 Comments

  1. LionOfLeDroit said at 10:44 am on Wednesday October 7, 2015:

    Fantastic news.  The area around the Shaw metro stop can use more high-density mixed-use development.  Glad they’re planning on condos, to add to the substantial rental mix nearby.

    Did the owner and/or developer discuss what they plan to do with the warehouse further back on Wiltberger Street?  Would be great to see that developed separately, perhaps with an office component above ground-floor retail for more daytime traffic.  The Hostess Factory redevelopment next door has, I think, made the case for robust demand in the area for innovative, industrial-aesthetic office space proximate to the Shaw metro stop.

  1. Brett said at 11:00 am on Wednesday October 7, 2015:

    Sticks out like a sore thumb. Why throw a glass box on top instead of integrating a design with the historic architecture. I guess that would force architects who always seem to get work to actually be creative for once.

  1. Nathaniel Martin said at 4:26 pm on Wednesday October 7, 2015:

    To Brett:

    Although I don’t think this design is spectacular, I did want to point out that many of us believe that an “integrated” design, in which the new part blends in with the existing buildings, actually diminishes the historic buildings’ character. By contrasting new and old, architects can give each element its due. Again, I don’t think this example is a great one, but in principle, I believe the design approach is sound.

  1. Another Bloomingdales Resident said at 8:14 pm on Wednesday October 7, 2015:

    It seems like, at least in some parts of the city, there is this maddening drive to build up, regardless of whether the proposed structures integrate into the existing area.  Realtors, developers and NYers seem to be delighted at this constant push upward.  But to many of us, DC is not NY.  We don’t like buildings that block out the sky and sun being forced into areas with the sole goal of making gold for some people.  This structure is six to four stories higher than everything else pictured!!  It is across the street from Le Droit Park were nothing is more than 3 stories.  (The old definition of a story was at least 8 feet above grade, basement were not included in the term ‘story.’)  Most of the buildings in that part of Shaw are 2 stories!?  It is one thing to build condos at Atlantic Plumbing or even that crap at Rhode Island Avenue Station, but structures like this are offensive to the very existence of Shaw rowhouses.  “We don’t care if block out your sun or views, etc. We are making money, and if you don’t like it, why not build up so you have a better view!?”  Because we are not NY, because we have a history of height limitation, rowhouses owned in “fee simple” and architectural integration. What developers and realtors and those on the Midas quest really would like to do is level the rowhouses on the Ellington Plaza and corner, to them the only real question is density, i.e. profits, i.e. money.  In short, it doesn’t fit.  The question should not be simply—‘how many units can I jam into the existing space?”—it should be, Does the building fit there?”  The answer is no!

  1. skidrowedc@gmail.com said at 9:32 am on Thursday October 8, 2015:

    To Another Bloomingdale Resident: The citizenry of the neighborhood, as well as citizens groups such as the Preservation League, have had decades to suggest changing the zoning on this site (which sets the limits on the basic height and overall floor area) and/or add it to a historic district.  Greater U Street H.D. is directly across the alley to the west, and LeDroit Park H.D. is directly across Florida Avenue.  Neither happened, so quit whining when a site seller wants to get top dollar, which means selling to a developer who will maximize density. 

    And yes, that’s how it works, in a demand-driven market.  You can blame developers all you want, but it almost always actually comes back to site owners.  What site seller—including YOU, if you owned a development site—would willingly sell for less than top dollar?  Few if any.  For a developer to gain control of the site, he/she is competing with lots of other developers. The winner is whomever offers the most, which in turn means whomever thinks they can make the most money from a development, which in turn not only compels maximum density but also pushes to smaller apartment unit sizes and chain retail (because both pay more per square foot).

    I think a lot of developers feel boxed in by circumstance.  Some would like to try a large condo format, for example, instead of micro-units.  Many would love to actively incubate local businesses.  Most would genuinely like to build something special and beloved.  Most are skeptical about providing minimal parking—but since parking costs more to build than it generates in income, the pressure is on to build less.  In short, no reason to cry for developers, but you might be surprised at the extent to which their interests are actually aligned with the community’s.  Both are victims of a high-pressure, high-stakes game in which site owners are the only certain winners.

    As regards this project, no question but that it wears its economic necessity badly.  I think the architects have actually done a pretty good job, given the circumstances, with moves such as the setback 3rd floor behind existing facades, the balcony stack separating the infill tower from the above-existing portion, and the corner balconies which visually reduce the mass of the glass box.  The problem is that the portion behind the existing facades isn’t set back anywhere near enough.  Looks like 5 or 6’; should be 20-25’.  If this were in a historic district, that’s probably what would happen, and the architects & developers would shift square footage to the rear.  PGN Architects and Monument should try exactly that.  They might end up with another zoning variance (rear yard, probably), but the end result would be a zillion times better.  And we must live with the end result for an indefinite number of decades.

  1. Another Bloomingdales Resident said at 10:50 am on Thursday October 8, 2015:

    To Skidrowedc—Voicing an opinion in opposition to density is “whining!”  The reality is that even without the restrictions to ‘density’, we still have a many of other requirements that should temper both the greed of the land owner and the developer. 

    This article and you speak directly to the need for variances from BZA, with respect to height and loading docking requirements. All that is needed is for city to take an honest assessment of where this project is, especially in terms of the impact if would have on traffic on Florida Ave, S Street, and Seventh street and then deny the BZA variances!  Poof, it would force down the greed of both the landowner and the developer.  You suggest the value of the land is independent of the ability to obtain those those variances, it is not.  If I’m a whiner, you’re a bullshit artist.  The problem is that the city, which also seeks to increase its tax revenues, would also have to temper its own greed as well.

    If it was understood that the city should not and actually would not grant BZA variances in situations like this, then the value of the land would be immediately impacted and the greed of all parties involved would be addressed.  Height restrictions and historic prevention has not stopped development or renovation in LeDroit Park or Capitol Hill, the Logan Circle part of Shaw, and several other “hot commodity” areas.  It merely tempered it what could be done there. 

    In short, I stand by my original position.  This is about greed of realtors, of developers, and of the city itself, and an honest assessment of the project would concede that it does not fit there.  Whether we will get an honest assessment when money is on the table is another issue.

  1. Bryan said at 11:15 am on Monday December 14, 2015:

    To Another Bloomingdale Resident: the development height (minus the parapet relief request) and density are allowed as a matter of right. The developer is only asking for generally minimal variances. I would highly recommend you become educated on what is allowed under current zoning. Here is a helpful map: http://maps.dcoz.dc.gov/. The District and BZA can request that the developer make some modifications to the project but cannot and will not ask the developer to significantly alter the height or density when it’s consistent with existing zoning.

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