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Massive 1,550 Unit Mixed-Use Project Proposed Near Rhode Island Avenue Metro

by UrbanTurf Staff

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Rendering of planned project. Click to enlarge

A massive project that will bring almost 1,600 residential units to DC has been proposed near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station. The planned unit development was filed with the city on Wednesday.

The development proposed by a group led by MRP Realty, will be built on the site of Rhode Island Center, a shopping mall that is now home to stores like Big Lots and Forman Mills. The project will consist of a whopping seven residential buildings totaling 1,555 units, and will be built over six phases. Eight percent of the residential units will be set aside as affordable, and every building will be anchored by ground-floor retail. As proposed, there will be approximately 2,000 parking spaces built for the new residential and retail components.

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A look at where the buildings will be located. Click to enlarge.

All told, the development, designed by SK+I Architecture, will cover roughly six blocks directly across from the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station (map) making it the largest residential project to be proposed in DC in quite some time.

Below are a few renderings of the massive development.

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the project near the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/massive_1550_unit_mixed-use_project_proposed_near_rhode_island_avenue_metro/10124

28 Comments

  1. Alicia said at 11:38 am on Wednesday July 15, 2015:

    I know I can’t be the only one wondering why there are so many large scale developments being approved in DC. Where are all of these people who will potentially live here going to come from? I’m trying to balance my excitement for the development in general, with my concern that no one’s going to fill these apartments. It seems like DC’s population growth has slowed down in recent years, and is pretty flat at this point, so what is driving all of this development. I’m confused.

  1. Brett said at 11:42 am on Wednesday July 15, 2015:

    Boring.[Yawn]

  1. NewbieWaDoobie said at 11:58 am on Wednesday July 15, 2015:

    Alicia, I’m sorry that you don’t see the need for additional developments to be built.  You might need to get your head checked.  Additional supply might and hopefully will bring down renting/housing costs or at least put some pricing pressures into the mix or employ people in jobs….jeeze, smarten up.

  1. Nathaniel Martin said at 12:26 pm on Wednesday July 15, 2015:

    I think it’s great that that site is being developed—it’s currently a horrible, pseudo-suburban blight on the city. But why, why, WHY can’t the architecture be more inventive? The site is not in a sensitive historic neighborhood. The developer could do something really interesting here, which would attract more residents and help give the neighborhood a sense of place. We need more developers to at least aim for cutting-edge design in this city!!

  1. Tom in Michigan Park said at 12:27 pm on Wednesday July 15, 2015:

    I served on the ULI panel for the Rhode Island Avenue corridor last fall for OP, and this was one of several sites that the panel focused on.  This is great news, indeed, for a deteriorating, 1970s-era shopping center that sits on much higher-value land.  The economic and fiscal benefits to the city will be substantial.

    The city’s population growth has “slowed”, but not to the extent that Alicia believes.  It had peaked at over 1,100 new residents PER MONTH to a current rate of 900 net new residents per month.  Of course, population/HH and job growth need to continue to support absorption of new residential units.  Unit absorption (in both Class A and B product) is very strong (in fact, at record levels for Class A deliveries according to Delta Associates), so this will help with financing.

    The larger concern the panel noted was this project’s retail space.  It will need to attract consumers from beyond the 1,550 units to support as much ground-level retail uses as are envisioned in the plan. Thus, connections to adjacent neighborhoods, and visibility for retailers from RI and 4th St., are critical.  As the church is unlikely to relocate (and serves to obstruct visibility), combined with the internally-focused street network, may be problematic for the project’s retail component.

    On the whole, however, this prospect is fantastic news for the continued, much-needed revitalization of the RI corridor.

  1. Dumplin' Honeychild said at 12:51 pm on Wednesday July 15, 2015:

    But Tom, where will I do my discount shopping if the Big Lots goes away? And where will I get my Popeye’s fix met?

  1. bob said at 1:06 pm on Wednesday July 15, 2015:

    8% affordable? Terrible. In MoCo every single project requires at least 12.5% of units be set aside. You’d think DC would be far more progressive on this issue rather than continuing its failed policy of concentrating lower income housing on select blocks and select neighborhoods rather than spreading people out across all new developments.

  1. pacerguy00 said at 1:13 pm on Wednesday July 15, 2015:

    Does anyone know what is the BZA or ZC case number for this PUD?

  1. Eponymous said at 1:17 pm on Wednesday July 15, 2015:

    Absolutely ecstatic about this. I take the MBT daily and this will guarantee a TON more foot traffic there. And it should improve the crime situation around 4th and Rhode Island. I also understand that the developer is trying to attract a large-format gym, which the greater Brookland/Brentwood/Edgewood area desperately needs.

    Tom is on the money about unit absorption, and I can only imagine that holds especially true for projects this close to the Metro. I also don’t think they’ll have trouble attracting retail customers outside those living in the development - there are tons of projects underway/on the boards in the immediate area, including the rest of Monroe Street Market, the 1700+ unit Brentwood Village development down Rhode Island, (so far) around 600 units planned right on the other side of the tracks, and some miscellaneous townhouse developments in Edgewood. Also, I don’t think it will be all that long before we’ll see the TJ Maxx strip mall redeveloped - that could match this in scope.

    I hope that MRP has the sense to pay little attention to some of our more vocal NIMBYs during this process. They will come out in droves against anything other than single family homes.

  1. DCDude said at 1:28 pm on Wednesday July 15, 2015:

    I agree with Brett. I thought these were swiped from the boring McMillan vision partnercrap. When will DC be innovative in design. We need something to look forward to not just tan brick and colored metal panels.

  1. Eponymous said at 1:47 pm on Wednesday July 15, 2015:

    Case 15-16.

  1. Payton Chung said at 1:47 pm on Wednesday July 15, 2015:

    Yay, one less ugly strip mall! I’m curious to know more about how they plan to deal with the very steep hill on the site. Echoing Tom, the hill severely hinders the retail’s visibility, and as excited as I am about MBT-facing retail (more “eyes on the trail” will make it safer), that’s not enough customers to fill that much retail.

    Looks like it’s ZC case #15-16 (square 3629).

    8% is DC’s “inclusionary housing” requirement. The number is lower in the District than in MoCo for a lot of reasons, but primarily because the cost of construction is higher here. (The requirement is balanced out by granting “free land” in the form of density, but higher construction costs and strict upper limits on density make that grant less valuable in DC.)

    Population growth is slowing, but (a) it hasn’t stopped, (b) a lot of people were moving into existing vacant units [which fell by 15,000 from 2010-2013], so (c) all these new developments are still leasing up very quickly. Meanwhile, the #1 reason why people move away from DC is because they can’t find appropriate housing, whether in size or cost or quality, so better and more abundant housing will give people new reasons to stay.

  1. Eponymous said at 2:09 pm on Wednesday July 15, 2015:

    Payton - my understanding is they plan to do some regrading of the site to better connect it with Rhode Island. Looks like they’re also going to improve the MBT and preserve the (awesome) murals that are currently on the wall in the parking lot.

  1. skidrowedc@gmail.com said at 2:52 pm on Wednesday July 15, 2015:

    I’ll join the chorus that’s very pleased to see a fairly well-conceived project replace blight.  But I’ll join Nathaniel Martin in my response to the exterior design—it’s a “meh” where it should be “wow”!  At this point, the bridge connecting to the Metro is more exciting.

    My other concern is that, with 7 different buildings, at 5-6 stories of residential each, that’s around 40 apartments per floor per building.  This is a recipe for creating a non-neighborhood, an entire area of transients, much as has happened in NoMa and, to a lesser degree, the Ballpark District and Mt Vernon Triangle.  There’s a modest range of building sizes shown, but there are no genuinely small buildings—no 4 units/floor walkups, certainly no rowhouses, not even a taller building with only 6-10 units per floor.  The area to the west of this site is a neighborhood in a meaningful sense of the word.  Also the area to the north, somewhat less so.  Ideally development on this site can strengthen and extend those communities, but I’m doubtful this scheme would have much effect, aside from the elemental benefits of removing a blight.

    Community creation is something that the Zoning Commission needs to start considering in its PUD applications.  It should be considered as an “public amenity.” That includes affordable units—and I’m sure the current 8% will increase as the process unfolds, as it should—but it also needs to include physical arrangements and sizes of buildings and streets that foster people getting to know one another, people creating community.  That extends to the architecture—a neighborhood needs variety, quality, human scale, and excitement, of which at least 2 are lacking in this proposal.

  1. Sherman Circle said at 3:31 pm on Wednesday July 15, 2015:

    Oh Bob…

    This project is adding 1,500+ new units to a site that is currently retail. Thats a NET gain of 1,500 units that will help to maintain/reduce price pressure on existing housing stock.

    We should be demanding more projects like these rather demanding developers to set aside a few units here and there for low income households. Let the market keep prices steady rather than place demands on investors/developers who are making DC better.

  1. Fried Green Tomatoes said at 3:53 pm on Wednesday July 15, 2015:

    This is a fantastic project. DC needs more large residential projects like this. For perspective, this is equivalent to a HUNDRED 15-unit “boutique” buildings.

    As for the architecture, it looks fine. Frank Gehry wannabes should stay out of DC. A multitude of relatively bland buildings can make for an incredibly pleasant urban fabric. Form matters for land use, but beyond that, function above form.

  1. Eponymous said at 5:01 pm on Wednesday July 15, 2015:

    skidrowe - I also think it can be bad to have TOO FEW transients. Unlike “Noma” or Navy Yard, the area around this development has a pretty high level of home ownership, especially on the Brookland side of the tracks. That has its benefits, but as people age they may devote more of their income on things like child care and savings, and spend less on things like eating out or shopping at retail stores. This can make for a less dynamic sub-economy, like on 12th Street in Brookland. I think having 20-somethings cycle through developments like this will probably be a good thing on the whole, and it will also help support struggling businesses in places like 12th Street or Woodridge.

  1. Build in Brookland said at 5:23 pm on Wednesday July 15, 2015:

    The reason you see “boring” architecture in DC developments is because NIMBYs always complain about the “radical” elements. And since this is a PUD process, the design and build will be subject to a lengthy, and even even if they dot every i and cross every t, likely litigious process.

    I think it’s great. But wait about five minutes and you’ll start seeing complaints that there is not enough parking, it’s too dense, and it will ruin traffic in the neighborhood. Wash, rinse, repeat.

  1. EckingtonNEDC said at 8:10 am on Thursday July 16, 2015:

    Well, I’ll be darn!  Talking about Eckignton/Brooklyn, “blowing up”.. in a good way.  Hope these projects transcend to happier, safer neighborhoods and bring much more income.  Is this the beginning of the RI initiative… stretching further east on RI AVE?

  1. Brett said at 3:17 pm on Thursday July 16, 2015:

    Build in Brookland is wrong. Nimbys are everywhere but only DC do we get the same blocky, uninspiring architecture. It’s all the government limitations from the height restrictions to the stupid penthouse rule, which limit developers’ options to efficiently build something architecturally astounding. That and the terrible architects that get hired over and over again in this town.

  1. pacerguy00 said at 4:21 pm on Thursday July 16, 2015:

    Eponymous, thanks for the Case No. Just to piggy back on your TJ Maxx prediction, of the 5-6 stores on that side of the strip, 3 are currently displaying massive sale or going out of business signs…AND SO IT BEGINS…..

  1. JoDa said at 10:43 pm on Thursday July 16, 2015:

    The Giant side of the Giant/TJ Maxx plaza was sold a couple of years ago.  Eastbanc bought the Giant (and it’s portion of the parking lot) and another developer (can’t remember who) bought the rest (not including Home Depot, who may own their part of the property).  Parts of the pricing were never disclosed, but it looked like a rich deal from what details were available.  I felt like that development was coming, but this plus the stores moving on out leads me to believe it’s imminent.  Giant will inevitably come back (renovated, which will be nice), it would be nice if TJ Maxx did, too.  They have some pricey downtown locations, so they could probably make it work.

    Back to the topic at hand…  Yeah, the architecture of this development is a bit boring, but, as noted above, that’s what we get with height limits, tight FAR limits, and NIMBYs who will inevitably fight and sue to downsize and delay the project.  Developers have to maximize what they get, so flourishes that don’t house residents or retail fall away.  If they could build *only* as tall as the Edgewood towers, they might get more creative, but they didn’t try for that, and with good reason (can anyone hear someone saying “200 footers” when referencing an 8-story building?).

    On the plus side, it looks like this creates better connections to RIA (no windy paths and expansive surface parking, straight-ins with good sidewalks in multiple locations, and with some re-grading, less punishing inclines), interfaces with the MBT and bridge to the Metro well (which will improve safety, as noted, especially since it looks like they’re going for active uses like outdoor dining spaces that face the trail), and provides a lot of housing and services basically on top of the Metro.  I decided to move here years ago because I could be at my downtown desk in under 30 minutes (Metro willing), with developments like this, I can *also* shop and dine a few minutes from home!

    My only “want” out of this is better sidewalks on RIA along their buildings.  I know they don’t control the whole frontage (my deepest, darkest desire would be for the commercial entities abutting the church (auto shop, carpet store), McDonalds, and Suntrust to ALSO sell to them!), but I do hope they allow for wider sidewalks for the frontage they do control.

  1. bob said at 12:41 pm on Sunday July 19, 2015:

    @ Sherman: “Let the market keep prices steady rather than place demands on investors/developers who are making DC better.”

    Yes, Sherman, developers have done such a great job keeping prices steady in DC. I wouldn’t ever think to require developers do something neighboring jurisdictions have proven to be successful. After all, wouldn’t want their (your?) profit margins to be slimmer.

  1. JoDa said at 9:21 pm on Monday July 20, 2015:

    Bob, you have to understand the dynamics of development inside the city.  For nearly every project, massive fights ensue over every little thing, and often devolve into litigation.  Trying to placate this opposition by offering more than required on some fronts upfront is a losing position.  The owners of Brookland Manor learned this lesson the hard way by coming in with an offer of 20% SUBSIDIZED (more affordable than “affordable”) and STILL had to downsize the development to gain approval.  Offering only the minimum as a first offer is smart business, as there’s room to negotiate.

    IMHO, this development will likely end up with 10-12% affordable housing after all negotiations are over, and some of that set aside at lower limits (40% AMI).  That’s a huge win for affordable housing.  Even at 8%, it’s 125 units.  At 10-12%, it’s 155-190 units.  I might add, all of those will be NEW affordable housing, as there is currently no housing on this site.  When you add the fact that part of this area is being developed as 100% affordable housing as we type (at 40-60% AMI, foundation is in the ground), there will be a WHOLE LOT of new affordable housing on this currently housing-free, LARGE, and VERY CONVENIENT (to Metro, to services, etc.) plot in just a few years.

    Of all proposed development, this one does pretty well by people who need affordable housing.  Fine to counter their offer (it will be countered), but even as it stands it’s helpful.  There’s no currently affordable housing to lose, only some to gain.

  1. Eponymous said at 2:05 pm on Wednesday July 22, 2015:

    Agreed on all points, JoDa. The new building adjacent to this will bring 200+ affordable units, Brookland Manor will retain over 450 affordable units, there are two affordable senior projects east of the RI Ave Metro that have broken ground, and then there’s this development which will probably bring at least another 150 affordable units. Not to mention that Edgewood Terrace (800 affordable units!) is 100% subsidized housing, and I believe that contract was re-upped pretty recently.

    I think we need more affordable housing in D.C. generally, but Brookland/Edgewood has (and based on the planned developments, should continue to have) its fair share. How many affordable units are there in Tenleytown? Or Cleveland Park?

    Finally, the businesses that open in these new developments will need a critical mass of people living nearby with disposable income to spend. And this benefits everyone, as the rest of us will have places to eat, shop, and work that would not come to the neighborhood otherwise.

  1. Alicia said at 5:24 pm on Wednesday July 22, 2015:

    NewbieWaDoobie, is all of that rudeness really necessary in response to my comment? I need to get my head checked because I asked a reasonable question about the proposed project? Geez, that’s a bit of an overreaction. I may not be an urban population density expert, but at least I treat people with respect online and in person. Try it sometime.

    Let me also say thanks to everyone else that offered insightful, fact-based comments in response to my question. That was helpful.

  1. Doc Ian D said at 10:29 am on Saturday August 1, 2015:

    I have lived and worked around the NE RI corridor. Indeed I have owned both residential and commercial real estate in this area.
    Having read all of the comments regarding the multi complex planned 6 block build out in the RI Ave NE corridor I Commend and am encouraged by the developers decision to do this. Those who see this as a problem for one reason or another let me always remind you that this project could have been done elsewhere USA. We want our city to grow and this is one of the ways. We must think of all the positives when held up against the negative. In my opinion benefits outweigh the negatives BIG TIME !

  1. Jason said at 2:44 pm on Monday August 3, 2015:

    Anything that increases supply is welcome. I’d like to see a little more innovation particularly for common spaces. 1550 units, is basically like building a 3000-4500 person town so why not a complex-wide dog park or full size pool.

    I find that most of the alleged indoor common spaces in these buildings like game rooms and party rooms end up going completely unused by design.

    NOMA in particular feels like a concrete jungle of little overpriced cells.

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