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Redevelopment of U Street School Moves Forward as Neighborhood Balks

by Tianna Mañón

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Roadside wouldn’t comment on the status of the proposed addition to the building on the right.

An informational presentation on the redevelopment of a former school near U Street NW became so heated on Monday that an ANC committee member briefly walked out.

Roadside Development and Sorg Architects recently won the rights to develop the Grimke School at 1925 Vermont Avenue NW (map). But a portion of the proposal includes Sorg’s headquarters that Roadside eventually plans to develop into a mixed-use residential building.

Because the land isn’t owned by DC and wasn’t part of the RFP process, Roadside declined to give the Economic Development Committee an update on the parcel. The Sorg-owned building was initially slated to include 20 residential units over a floor of office space and ground-floor retail.

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A proposed look at the use of the Grimke space.

“It will have be through a separate process because it’s two different landowners,” Roadside’s Lionel Lynch told the committee. “And every bit of information I’ve gotten from Sorg is that they do intend to go forward. They just can’t move forward until (the rest of the project is approved).”

The refusal to comment beyond that led Patrick Nelson, Economic Development committee member, to briefly walk out of the meeting in frustration.

Lynch later told UrbanTurf that Sorg was a private landowner that had the “rights to do whatever they want with the property at whatever time they would like to do so.” Lynch also updated the committee on the project’s affordability. Of the 35 proposed condominiums, 13 will be affordable, as legally required by inclusionary zoning.

Seven of the affordable condominiums are proposed at 80 percent of the area median income (AMI). The other six will be more affordable at 50 percent AMI.

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An aerial view of the proposed development.

Plans for the site include a 35-unit, 70-foot tall mixed-use building on the parking lot east of 9 1/2 Street; seven new townhomes on 9 1/2 Street; and a redeveloped Grimke School that will house office space and the African American Civil War Museum.

Many residents, including members of the Grimke Redevelopment Working Group, voiced concerns over the height of the additional building, as well as parking, noise issues and the plans for the private property that will also be part of the finished product.

A couple residents commended Roadside Development for listening to concerns previously voiced in a meeting in February and Lynch said they’ll continue to meet with the ANC to shape their plans going forward.

Commissioner Ellen Nedrow Sullivan, chair of the committee, said she anticipates a long redevelopment process.

“This is a big project,” she said. “It’ll take some time but it’s definitely worth our time and effort.”

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Grimke post-renovation

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/grimke_project_moves_forward_as_neighborhood_balks/9950

2 Comments

  1. Nathaniel Martin said at 4:50 pm on Tuesday June 2, 2015:

    The scale of the proposed new building is completely appropriate for the site. And as for noise, it is right next to a bar with a semi-enclosed roof deck! As for the design, it’s not exactly a masterpiece, but at least the facade has some depth and interest (the addition to the existing building is rather dull, but one could argue that that is appropriate to avoid overwhelming the historic portion). In short, this development is absolutely reasonable and the NIMBY’s really need to get a life.

  1. skidrowedc@gmail.com said at 5:07 pm on Tuesday June 2, 2015:

    Completely missing from the article is any mention of what approvals are required/ how the project isn’t by-right.  This is critical information to evaluate just how unreasonable the “working group” is being.  My sense, like Nathaniel Martin’s above, is that this is a classic case of NIMBYism.  What else would explain an ANC committee member becoming so worked-up about an informational presentation?!  But if the developers were asking for 2 additional stories, substantially higher FAR, or whatever, it’s a different story.  I doubt that’s the case, but it would change one’s reading of the events being reported.

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