Donatelli/Blue Skye Hill East Project Advances

Donatelli/Blue Skye Hill East Project Advances

by Larry Janezich

ANC6B’ Planning and Zoning Committee, Chaired by Commissioner Francis Campbell, agreed in principle Tuesday night to support the Donatelli/Blue Skye proposal to build two mixed-use residential/retail buildings on two adjoining parcels next to the Stadium-Armory Metro.  A draft letter of support to Victor Hoskins, Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, (DMPED) made public at the committee meeting urged Hoskins to move forward with the project and to take action immediately to prepare the remaining parcels of Reservation 13 for development. 

The Donatelli/Blue Skye proposal – which was the only proposal received by DMPED – envisions a 113 residential units north building and 240 units in the south.  There’s a combined total of 20,000 square feet of retail on the first floors of the two buildings in which the developer plans locate a mix of local and national outlets.

Long-time Hill East resident Pat Taylor pointed out that Donatelli/Blue Skye had been deficient in satisfying DMPED’s  REIF (request for expressions of interest) requirement by failing to present two alternate plans.  Outspoken project supporter ANC6B Commissioner Brian Flahaven implied that DMPED might have made allowances given there was only one response to the REIF but said he would follow up with DMPED to see if an alternate plan – here-to-fore unmentioned – had actually been filed. 

Given that the development is being done in accordance with pre-existing zoning for the site and the fact that it lies outside of the Capitol Hill Historic District this may be the only effective opportunity for ANC6B and the community to weigh in on the project.  To that end, Hill East resident and former Capitol Hill Restoration Society Chair Beth Purcell suggested strengthening the language asserting that the building’s designs needed more work, a concern that was shared by some commissioners, including Brian Pate.  Former ANC6B commissioner Ken Jarboe agreed with Purcell, saying that the developer can do better.  He urged the ANC to push for a better design while endorsing the project.   

It would not be unusual for a project design at this stage to bear little relationship to what is actually built.  Still, given the apparent predisposition of city agencies to favor developers over community concerns, the questionable effect of community input when pressing for design changes even when Historic Preservation Board and Zoning Commission reviews are required (see the Hine redevelopment), and developers’ concern for the financial bottom line, community concern about the final product seems warranted.  For many Hill East residents, however, “something is better than nothing” appears to be the driving force supporting the development.    

At discussion’s end, the consensus of the committee was to take no position pending a reworking of the language of the draft to incorporate concerns raised at the meeting.  The full ANC6B will consider and vote on the letter to Hoskins at its monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 11, at 7:00pm in Hill Center. 

On May 21, WAMU News raised questions about Donatelli Development/Blue Skye Construction in a four part series on the relationship between DC developers, city officials, and campaign contributions. http://wamu.org/news/13/05/21/million_dollar_properties_1_deals

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