Preliminary Plans Call For 125 Residences in Shaw’s Blagden Alley

by Lark Turner

Preliminary Plans Call For 125 Residences in Shaw's Blagden Alley: Figure 1
A preliminary design for the apartments for Blagden Alley.

The latest in a series of planned developments floated for Shaw’s Blagden Alley was presented to an ANC 2F committee on Wednesday night. What made this preliminary plan, floated by developer SB-Urban and architect Hickok Cole, so different? No one hated it.

“For a modern building, it blends almost as nicely as you can,” said Ron Rubin, a member of the 2F’s Community Development Committee (CDC). Another member, Helen Kramer, told the developers they were “one of the first firms who’s ever shown us anything that I felt was really using the alley like it should be used.”

Preliminary Plans Call For 125 Residences in Shaw's Blagden Alley: Figure 2

SB-Urban is planning to turn a portion of the alley into two separate buildings housing 125 units. The buildings, sitting mostly along the alley and partly on 9th and M Streets NW (map), would be connected by a glass-enclosed pedestrian walkway above the alley. The units would be small, at about 400 square feet, and come fully furnished in a plan reminiscent of SB-Urban’s development of the Patterson House at 15 Dupont Circle (map). Unlike that proposal, Katzen said the developer wasn’t calling the residences micro-units.

Previous plans to redevelop the alley haven’t come to fruition, including an 87-unit proposal from Altus Realty. SB-Urban and Hickok Cole say they want to make the alley into a wider, more-pedestrian friendly space. A few mini-plazas would preserve a sense of openness in the alley, said Hickok Cole’s Devon Perkins. After the meeting, while stressing that the plans were preliminary, Perkins said the generally positive reaction “makes us comfortable moving forward.” The committee did urge the developer and architect to create a nuanced facade on 9th Street NW to blend in with the variation in housing styles on that stretch of the street.

Preliminary Plans Call For 125 Residences in Shaw's Blagden Alley: Figure 3

But when an area resident asked SB-Urban’s Brook Katzen how many units the project would have and whether parking would be provided, the answer wasn’t greeted warmly.

“We do not expect anybody in this building to own a car and they certainly will not be allowed to get an RPP sticker,” Katzen told the committee. He said the plan is to lease the units for a minimum of 90 days, but SB-Urban expects most leases to last 7-8 months. “This is an apartment building that’s geared toward people that don’t have cars.”

“If you’re going to put that in there and you’re not going to have parking, you better steel yourselves for a battle,” said committee chairman Walt Cain. He later added: “Our objections will probably not be design-related.”

See other articles related to: shaw, sb-urban, hickok cole, dclofts, blagden alley, alleys, alley dwellings

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/early_design_for_blagden_alley_garners_support_but_lack_of_parking_doesnt/8287


  1. Anonymous said at 5:31 pm on Thursday March 27, 2014:
    And once again a developer makes a promise that is not enforceable. The blocks in Bladgen Alley are RPP eligible. The DMV has no legal authority or technical ability to differentiate between different addresses on RPP eligible blocks. There has been legislation proposed the last two council sessions to fix this but it has been killed both times.
  1. Sarah said at 5:36 pm on Thursday March 27, 2014:
    I love the design and agree with the commission that this is the best option offered, so far, for the alley.
  1. Alley lover said at 8:32 pm on Thursday March 27, 2014:
    I think this is awful. mini rental units, rented for short time? No one who lives there will care about the neighborhood, it will be crowded and I hate the bridge. This historic alley deserves better.
  1. Alley Love Too said at 9:00 pm on Thursday March 27, 2014:
    I agree. This will be a revolving door of short term residents. What's in it for the neighborhood?
  1. Thomas Frye said at 9:24 pm on Thursday March 27, 2014:
    Falls short of original plans to create a lively entertainment district
  1. Dan said at 9:33 pm on Thursday March 27, 2014:
    This project looks cool actually. I'm not so sure young people even care about (or have) cars, especially this close to a metro station. Isn't that why you live in the city? Also, seems to me that it’s important to offer diverse housing alternatives in DC to accommodate the changing (and younger) demographics. DC has become pretty unaffordable for a lot of folks starting out. Seems like positive news to me....
  1. Ian said at 9:43 pm on Thursday March 27, 2014:
    Innovative housing concepts like this one would do a great deal for students and visiting scholars at our city's many universities, who are often priced out and overly constrained by standard 1 yr leases for full size apartments. I would love to see more of this in Shaw and other areas of our city.
  1. Justin S said at 9:49 pm on Thursday March 27, 2014:
    To me this just looks like yet-another way to screw over the incoming young people. The rents will almost certainly be predatory, keeping those young adults lucky and bright enough to get a job that 200+ other people applied for in a position where they won't likely be able to save any money, even though they'll be living car-less, in a closet-sized studio.
  1. Parker said at 9:55 pm on Thursday March 27, 2014:
    Isn’t the trend that there are going to be less cars and more biking and metro – I know when I moved into the city and gave up my car I was much less stressed – with uber and zip car I’m good. I think the bridge is an awesome aspect!! Seems like a very ideal and unique way to use the alley; it creates a great environment!
  1. Justin B said at 10:04 pm on Thursday March 27, 2014:
    This seems like a really progressive/neat concept. I have lived downtown DC without a car for about 6 years now to my friends' envy. More and more people are ditching the car and picking up the Bike Share. Its also a huge pain to rent a place that makes you pay for parking when you don't even own a car... this fits a lot of young people's lifestyles. Secondly, DC is a transitional city; if people are concerned about "predatory pricing" and "building a neighborhood", they should be looking at McLean or Bethesda...
  1. Nathaniel Martin said at 10:19 pm on Thursday March 27, 2014:
    Unlike the design for the Rhode Island Avenue project also featured in this edition of UrbanTurf, this at least looks like it was designed in the 21st century. I like the bridge and the concept of the little plazas within the site. I wish the overall design were a bit more innovative, but at least this looks like the sort of building of which the neighborhood could be proud. And I think it is absolutely fine not to include any parking. We are (thankfully) moving away from the car-obsessed culture of the recent past.
  1. Brendan said at 10:37 pm on Thursday March 27, 2014:
    This project is fantastic. Not only is the architecture and design aesthetically pleasing, but it is responsive to the wants and needs of young people living in the city. Parking is irrelevant. This demographic(of which I am a part) does not want a car nor need one given the proximity to public transportation. If you need somewhere to park your F-150, move to Virginia.
  1. DC225 said at 11:17 pm on Thursday March 27, 2014:
    @Brendan - not everybody can give up a car because not everybody works at a place that is accessible by public transport.
  1. chris said at 11:25 pm on Thursday March 27, 2014:
    I'm torn on the short term nature of these apts. But, one big deal killer for me is the LACK OF RETAIL on 9th street!! I like the idea of developing the alley. But, Douglas Developement's adjoyning "gang of 3" development is also not going to have retail on 9th. We risk creating a big dead zone if we aren't careful.
  1. D.C. Shaw said at 12:28 am on Friday March 28, 2014:
    Doesn't anyone have a brain? Seems to me the complex would be best use with a mix of temp housing, small micro units for sale (affordable housing) and larger 1 & 2 br units. Of course retail & entertaining for the residence and convention attendees. Use your brains people, we don't want a transient wasteland. There has to be something in it for everyone. Make it work!!!!
  1. Colin said at 1:28 am on Friday March 28, 2014:
    OK I'll bite: what is predatory pricing? What does that even mean? If I buy something for really cheap is that predatory consumption?
  1. tim said at 4:37 am on Friday March 28, 2014:
    So I guess this will not be breaking ground anytime this spring as previously reports had indicated?
  1. Justin S said at 3:09 pm on Friday March 28, 2014:
    What I consider predatory about this is that the rents will not likely reflect money saved by allowing the developer to make smaller units, but the mechanisms that allow these to be built are based on the premise that the savings will be passed on. When you follow the money on these projects, the only people that end up coming out ahead are the people who own the land, but at the top of every article ever written about microunits is a blurb about how they’ll provide affordable housing. They don’t. We really need to drop the act and just call it what it is: a new way for land to be priced even higher. There have been many different projects to use as examples, but here’s one that was easy to pull up: http://therealdeal.com/blog/2013/08/15/nycs-affordable-micro-apartments-are-a-little-too-pricey/
  1. Justin S said at 3:22 pm on Friday March 28, 2014:
    Here's another example of the disconnect: http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702304173704579262173337853070 The first thing the author claims is that the massive tradeoff on space will return a 50% deduction in costs... and then goes on to cite an example where the square footage goes from 1,500 to 300, and the costs go from $800/month to $600/month. 1/5th the space at only 3/4ths the price, great deal? To me it just looks like a way for the land owner to increase his profits by 375%
  1. Elizabeth said at 4:29 pm on Friday March 28, 2014:
    I totally agree with DC Shaw and Chris on the issue of retail on 9th: Why would we go BACKWARDS on this? We can all point to vibrant neighborhoods, and they all have a mix of retail with whatever else is there. And we can all see the deadness created by the lack of retail on the convention center. There is a critical mass building in the area, one that can support street-level retail -- build for the future, guys!
  1. David in DC said at 4:40 pm on Friday March 28, 2014:
    Having grown up in the area I am really impressed by how this neighborhood has changed for the better. Seems like Blagden Alley is the last piece to the puzzle and I think the design looks fabulous...I don't understand the negativity towards the bridge it adds character to the design.
  1. Scott said at 5:33 pm on Friday March 28, 2014:
    I think the design, bridge, and no parking is all fantastic. I do agree thought that adding some retail into the 9th Street facade would be an item on my list.
  1. Atlanta Man said at 10:14 am on Saturday March 29, 2014:
    I’m a consultant and am often in DC for 3-6 month stints – this looks fantastic – I would be all over it and I never have a car!
  1. David R. Jolliffe said at 8:44 pm on Monday March 31, 2014:
    I've owned a house at 9th and O since 1999. I'm excited to see the changes in the neighborhood and this project. I do wish it included retail on 9th Street. Not sure what is going to be the retail component of the O St Market project along 9th Street and not sure why 10 years has passed and the city has not been able to rent much of the Convention Center retail space on 9th St. Also would prefer if there was a mix of unit sizes in the project with studios, one and two bedroom units, but that is not my biggest concern. The parking issue does not concern me considering its proximity to the metro.

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