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A Midsummer’s Revision to The Bard’s Zoning Application

by Nena Perry-Brown

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Aerial rendering for Bard development.

Earlier this year, the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC), in partnership with Erkiletian Development Company, filed plans to construct The Bard, a mixed-use project at the former site of Southeastern University at 501 I Street SW (map). The seven-story building would deliver 136 residential units atop 70 parking spaces, in addition to consolidating STC’s city-wide operations into one building with office, rehearsal, classroom, studio and storage space.

Many community stakeholders mounted a well-documented and thoroughly-researched campaign against the project, citing a strong preference for more neighborhood-scale townhouse development as mandatory to gain their support.

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Following a series of meetings in the spring with the community and the local ANC, the development team amended their application to the Zoning Commission (ZC) last week in hopes that an expanded community benefits package will quell ongoing opposition to its approval.

The Bard now has committed to increasing the percentage of inclusionary zoning units in the project, bringing the total to eleven apartments set aside for households earning up to 80 percent of area median income (AMI). An additional two apartments will be rented at 40 percent below market-rate to top staff recruits at the nearby Amidon-Bowen Elementary or Jefferson Academy schools. This housing is in addition to 34 units for actors and fellows.

In addition to the increase in below-market housing, STC will also partner with the aforementioned schools to develop long-term in-school and out-of-school curriculum components which will expose students to the arts through twice-weekly workshops and twice-yearly in-school live performances, among other things. Up to 100 students and teachers will also attend one STC production each year with all transportation fully paid-for and accompanying pre-performance workshop, teacher preview and professional development.

The community benefits package also includes such provisions as five years of financial support for the SW ArtsFest, free use of assembly rooms in The Bard for community meetings, summer camp scholarships to ten low-income children, and discounted acting class tuition for neighborhood residents.

While the revised application also includes several letters of support from interested parties, it remains to be seen whether the Eye on 501 alliance can be persuaded to support the development as proposed or how the ZC will respond.

UPDATE: The Bard announced on July 7th that they will withdraw the PUD application for 501 I Street and continue engaging with the community in hopes of resubmitting an application this fall.

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/a_midsummers_revision_to_the_bards_zoning_commission_application/11430

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