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From 230 to 177 Units: The New Proposal for DC’s Fox 5 Headquarters

by Nena Perry-Brown

Aerial of site. Click to enlarge.

Two years after plans were first announced to redevelop the site of the WTTG Fox 5 television headquarters on Wisconsin Avenue (and 1.5 years after conceptual renderings were shared), the site has a new developer and a new proposal.

Valor Development has secured a 99-year ground lease for the office building at 5151 Wisconsin Avenue NW (map) and is proposing what may be the path of least resistance to be ready to break ground after the broadcast company relocates to the other side of Western Avenue.

Preliminary design of the proposed building, from northwest on Wisconsin Avenue. Click to enlarge.

The proposal would deliver a 50 foot-tall building (plus penthouse) containing roughly 177 residential units, seeking a special exception from the Board of Zoning Adjustment to extend the existing MU-4 zoning to square the building off past the diagonal lot line. The project would offer 60 bicycle spaces and 80-100 parking spaces below grade in the existing basement (more than the 30 required), and 10% of the residential space would be inclusionary zoning (IZ). Hickok Cole is the architect.

Proposed first phase building, from northeast on Harrison Street. Click to enlarge.

After DC's Comprehensive Plan amendments are approved (along with an expected up-zone on the Future Land Use Map), the developers will start a planned-unit development (PUD) process for the southeast corner of the site, currently zoned for three-story semi-detached townhouses (R-2). The PUD would entail a separate 3-4 story building that will enable additional multifamily units at a townhouse scale. The ground lease necessitates an all-rental development, and the possibility of removing the radio tower on the site is still under review.

Rendering of previously-proposed development looking south down Wisconsin. Click to enlarge.

The plans were shared at an ANC 3E meeting Thursday evening, and some ANC commissioners and members of the public lamented the omission of retail or commercial space and the lack of additional height and public space along Wisconsin Avenue. The commissioners also expressed a preference for a single PUD proposal encompassing the entire site, as Donohoe Development had previously proposed (albeit with more IZ units). 

Donohoe's concept was to build up to 70 feet tall along Wisconsin Avenue, delivering 230 units and 17,000 square feet of commercial space (potentially with a restaurant with outdoor seating); and to build an additional four-story building with appended three-story stacked flats, delivering 50 units facing 42nd Street. This proposal would have included 8% IZ units.

Valor representatives explained that Donohoe would not have been able to get that particular proposal done on the site given the structure of the ground lease, explaining that rental payments for the site will start coming due next summer and noting that their ideal scenario would have also been a PUD for the entire site at one time. 

The developers expect to file a zoning application in the next few weeks in hopes of having a hearing this year and being able to break ground by the time the rent is due. 

This article originally published at https://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/from-230-to-177-units-the-new-proposal-for-wisconsin-avenues-fox-5-building/17081

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