Frager’s Rebuild – Expected by 2017 – Will Include Nearly 40 Residential Units

About 70 residents gathered in Hill Center last night to provide input on rebuilding the Frager's site.

About 70 residents gathered in Hill Center last night to provide input on rebuilding the Frager’s site.

Frager’s Rebuild – Expected by 2017 – Will Include Nearly 40 Residential Units

By Larry Janezich

Roadside Development, who will rebuild the Frager’s site, told about 70 residents last night that the project would include 38-39 residential units in addition to the hardware store, and will possibly include other retail and/or office space.  The builder will stay within the 50 foot matter of right height which zoning regulations permit.  The company is committed to preserving the façade of the original store.  If all goes well, the project would see completion in the spring of 2017, though a more modern Frager’s could reopen ahead of other parts of the project.  Update:  Frager’s owner John Weintraub said during the meeting that the temporary garden center in the 1200 block of Pennsylvania Avenue on property owned by Larry Quillian was indeed only temporary.  Space for a garden center is likely to be incorporated in the new project.  

The company is in the preliminary stages of considering market analysis and design options and last night’s meeting was the first of what could be a several seeking community input as the project moves forward.  Elements of the project which are still undecided include the layout, size, and location of the residential units; whether they will be rentals or condos; space for retail beyond Frager’s; and even the number of stories for the project.  One location for residential units being looked at, said Richard Lake of Roadside, is the space between the pizza carryout and the east end of the former Frager’s building – Roadside prefers to separate the residential and retail components of its projects.

Hill East resident Pat Taylor, representing Capitol Hill Village, made a pitch for units that would be 1.5 bedrooms and larger to accommodate Capitol Hill residents who want to age in place.  Lake said the residential units would be built for multiple markets and said of Roadside, “We’re not micro unit developers.”  In response to a question, he said that there would be no public financing involved in the project and that the company will adhere to city Inclusionary Zoning requirements for any residential project over ten units.  Inclusionary Zoning regulations require a developer of a project this size to set aside 10% of the residential units for affordable housing.  That would mean pricing those units for households making 50% or 80% of the Area Median Income (AMI).  In DC, that’s about $50,000 and $78,000, respectively for a family of three.

Attendees at the meeting raised several concerns related to increase density, notably the effect on parking and traffic.  Some nearby neighbors raised concerns about increased massing, including privacy, views, and light.  Some raised concerns about trash, rodents, and deliveries.

Lake told the crowd that Roadside is not looking for any variances and will provide parking as required by code.  He envisions a highly energy efficient, bicycle friendly project and said that charging stations for electric cars are under consideration.

Moving forward will progress involve two transactions.  Roadside has not acquired the site yet and Lake said it is unusual for them to hold a public meeting before buying the property.  The property is still owned by John Weintraub and Roadside hopes to close on the purchase next spring.  Weintraub will get a long term lease to re-open the hardware store.


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21 responses to “Frager’s Rebuild – Expected by 2017 – Will Include Nearly 40 Residential Units

  1. Hill Feller

    Delighted to hear that this is moving forward –good for the Hill overall and good for Hill East in particular. Preserving the facade is ridiculous but I guess that’s the price one pays for living in a historic district. Good on Larry Quillian for letting Frager’s use the 1200 block for $1 / year.

  2. Courtney

    Of course it will.

  3. anonyn

    Will the new Frager’s location still support a lawn and garden center as before, or will the “temporary” building eyesore at 1200 block of Pennsylvania Avenue become a permanently overlit and unwelcome feature with trucks parked there? What is that lot zoned for anyway? I guess Quillian had set such a low bar with the shabby fence he used to have there that this is seen as an improvement.

    Why was Quillian permitted to do anything at 1230 Pennsylvania Avenue SE when he owns a decades long blighted property at 1229 E ST SE? Perhaps Quillian would allow the use of 1229 E ST SE for $1/year in perpetuity to allow for its restoration, or sell it at the 2015 Proposed Tax Assessment value of $229,600.

  4. Corey H.

    Great news that this keeps moving forward! This really does seem like a perfect win-win development scenario. Allow the existing retail use while recognizing (and capturing financially) the value from being tree blocks from a metro station.

  5. Chris

    Let’s hope they improve the short term parking situation in the new building – the 1100 block of Penn Ave. was always such a cluster on weekends. I preferred the new “temporary” location on E street for its easy parking! Bike-friendly is great but doesn’t really work for hauling bags of mulch.

  6. Hill Feller


    Quillian offered –and continues– to offer to rent the shotgun house at 1229 E St SE to the Capitol Hill Restoration Society for $1 / year. So far they have turned him down demonstrating his point that it is simply not economically viable to renovate.

    (Of course, they were terribly interested for a while after he first offered –but then backed off after they ran the numbers.)

    Also, would you consider selling your house for its assessed value? Didn’t think so. Those values are notoriously low.

    As for owning the shotgun house, what does that have to do w/ his ownership of the 1200 block of PA Ave?


    • anonyn

      You can’t have it both ways. If it is “simply not economically viable”, it is probably overpriced at $229,600 with a condition requiring its restoration. Again, Mr. Quillian would prefer to play chicken with the city and hope to reap the rewards of a vacant lot.

      Why? Because that is his MO. The 1200 block of Pennsylvania Ave is central to the story of 1229 E ST SE. It was protected in exchange for allowing the razing of two additional buildings on the 1200 block of Pennsylvania Ave in addition to six other buildings that were torn down there. It is actually discussed in the Washington City Paper article from 2002 that Hill Feller referenced below, and is mentioned in this annual report of the HPO on page 11.

      Click to access 24thAnnualReport.pdf

      It is unfortunate that the DC government has been unable to enforce its authority on demolition by neglect in those 12 years.

      Click to access 24thAnnualReport.pdf

  7. Hill Feller

    Here is the URL on the offer by the way. Note that Metzger conceded that it was uneconomic on the cost of the reno alone –they couldn’t make the numbers work on basically free rent! How much more would they have lost if they had had to buy the land!

    And, just a reminder, the CHRS is the group that has taken settlement payment from a developer to fund historic district expansion studies. in exchange for supporting projects in the historic district that they otherwise wouldn’t.

    I guess they are sensitive to economic hardship in preservation law when it’s their own dime but not somebody else’s.

    • anonyn

      There was no offer to allow for the use of the property at 1229 E ST SE in perpetuity for $1 year in your link. If he made a clear, good faith offer like that, you would be right to criticize DC (specifically DCRA and Office of Planning – Historic Planning Office) for not taking him up on the offer.
      But he isn’t making that offer and I don’t expect him to do so. I also agree that CHRS has not always been a good faith actor in its dealings either. CHRS and Mr. Quillian both view the neighborhood as simply stooges and hostages in their blood feud.

      However, DC’s Historic Planning Office is vastly underfunded and necessarily relies on institutions like CHRS to be its eyes and ears in that vacuum. Here is an excellent paper from 2007 discussing the limitations of DC’s Historic Preservation Office.

      The “financial trap” argument is silly and tiresome. If every home on Capitol Hill valued the land as if they could build the largest possible development on it with their neighbors forced to maintain their charming, historic homes, then every home on Capitol Hill would be “trapped” in the same way. It is fine to make this an argument for getting rid of the Capitol Hill Historic District overall, so then everyone could call their nearest developer to cash in and tear down, but not as a special case exception. A better argument for dissolution of the Capitol Hill Historic District is the outright failure on the part of DC government to enforce blatant demolition by neglect and bring this property to a resolution over the course of decades while homeowners who maintain their homes are harrassed about the materials used in their windows. Frankly, Mr. Quillian’s own poor treatment and outright destruction of the property in course of 30 years added tremendously to any cost of restoring the property. Unless DCRA in conjunction with HPO can be compelled to use its authority to restore this property, one would agree it should be marked for destruction and acknowledged as a failure. Really CHRS is a convenient punching bag but is a red herring with regard to actual authority.

  8. Ken

    All this concern over density and delivery trucks seems misplaced to me. The building is located on Pennsylvania avenue a major thorough way and a appropriate location for retail.

    Density is good for the neighborhood. It will bring in additional retail outlets beyond the restaurants and bars wanting to set up shop on the hill. I would like to have a store within walking distance where I can buy a pair of tennis shoes.

    Lets all hope this does it become another Hine school nightmare.

    • anon

      spoken by someone who’s quality of life will not be impacted in any measurable way

      • Corey H.

        I live two blocks from the project site so I can’t pretend I will be as affected by those that share the same square with the development and have to live through the construction and related headaches. I hope Roadside takes all the steps to mitigate those issues for both the neighbors and pedestrians passing through.

        But nonetheless I think my quality of life will be impacted, in a tremendously positive way. Having Frager’s back open in a purpose-built space, of course, is the biggest positive. But our new neighbors at the site could affect the retail that comes to the new Douglas building at 13th/Penn. Or maybe a neighborhood serving retail space opens up where the Kitting Loft used to be, now that it has hundreds of more potential customers nearby when you also factor in Cambridge Row. Or maybe it doesn’t affect anything at the retail level and it’s just another 38 units worth of people that get to invest in and share the neighborhood that I love and think others should also be able to.

        However you slice it, this is making the best of a terrible situation and I applaud Weintraub and Roadside for coming together to bring a positive development to our neighborhood.

      • Ken Chalk

        Spoken by someone who doesn’t know who I am. I live right behind the planned development. And I am all for it.

      • anon

        @Ken Chalk — I’m sorry but I’m calling BS. You can support the project or Frager’s in general, but no one is “all for” the construction and related headaches. If you actually did live adjacent you’d know the neighbors have had repeated issues with Fragers on the delivery issue and use of the alley, including their employee’s culpability in the fire to both Frager’s and the adjacent building

  9. Hill Feller

    Ken has it exactly right, I think.

    More people support more and more specialized retail. Think of (to take an extreme) New York City which has VERY niche-y retail. If only 1 in 10,000 people regularly buy 1982 Batman comic books then you still have some 841 people that will be your regular customers –probably enough to keep your business afloat.

    So, yes, bring on the density!

    And, as the community considers whether to expand the historic districts or not, remember that preservation is generally the enemy of density and therefore the enemy of more interesting retail.

    As for Frager’s becoming another Hine school, I don’t think that that is likely. This is a private owner selling to another private owner. A lot of the Hine issue had to do w/ the terms under which the city sold (well, technically a long-term lease) the land to Kitty Kaupp et al. There is also not all of the issues around the flea market, etc.

    This is a pretty clean and straight-forward re-development and so far the developer seems to be doing everything right.


    • anon

      plus they’re working within the existing zoning without seeking variance. You’re correct that the disposition of public land complicates matters and that’s not a factor here. Their biggest hurdle will be building something compatible with the historic district and accomodating the business needs of Fragers.

      • Ken Chalk

        And this is why am concerned. I’m afraid CHRS’ views of what is “historicly appropriate” yet business friendly will differ from the developer.

      • anon

        CHRS is no monolith. It’s one stakeholders. Their views are also more widely shared within the community than you may realize

      • Hill Feller

        1) I don’t think anybody is saying that the CHRS is “monolithic” –but it’s leadership certainly is. It’s been more or less the same small group that has been driving that organization for years. The biggest shifts have been the result of Nancy Metzger’s leaving to take a slot on the HPRB and Dick Wolf’s death in 2012. Neither is an example of somebody graciously stepping down to let in fresh air and new voices.

        An interesting question: is it the same group because nobody else wants to run? And if they don’t, that suggests that support for the organization is wide but quite shallow. Or, is it the same group because they don’t let new voices into leadership?

        Yes, yes, I know that it is the fate of any civic organization –PTA groups, Rotary Clubs, Moose Lodges, etc.– that 20% of the people do 80% of the work; but, the leadership of the Restoration Society has been so static over the years that monolithic hardly seems like an overwrought description.

        2) It would be interesting to see a statistically valid survey that measures support for:

        – The Restoration Society’s tactics in enforcing preservation law;
        – What the Restoration Society actually advocates for;
        – The HPRB’s deference to the Restoration Society on matters Capitol Hill;
        – Support for specific activities that the Restoration Society undertakes (rather than the group as a whole).
        – etc.

        Given the scope of the Restoration Society’s activities, I don’t think that talking about “community support” in general is terribly meaningful. More interesting is support for specific things that the group does.

        Personally, I would like to see a mandatory plebiscite every ten years for the community to choose between a historic district, a conservation district (“preservation light”), and nothing at all. Let’s let the community decide for itself instead of leaving it to our self-appointed betters.


  10. Hill Feller

    Yes. I agree. More generally, I’m not sure that the facade will survive whatever they are trying to do and they may end up w/ an 820 C St SE situation where, as they tried to save it, even the HPO concluded that it had to come down.

  11. E. Masquinongy

    1. Parking has always been an issue around Frager’s; I hope that building it to code will address that.
    2. Lets get this done! We all miss Frager’s, the best damn hardware store in the city.