Buchanan Developer Considers Second Major Project Near SE Safeway
Is Residential Market Becoming Oversaturated?
By Larry Janezich
ANC6B’s Subcommittee met last night to discuss what benefits and amenities might be exacted from developers who are seeking Planned Unit Development (PUD) status for residential projects near the SE Safeway. (Under the PUD process, a developer seeks a change in zoning to permit greater density than the zoning for a site would otherwise allow and the community receives benefits in exchange for the impact of the greater density on the community.) During the discussion, the community learned that Insight Development Group, the developer of the Buchanan School behind SE Safeway, is considering a another major residential project in the 1300 block of E Street, SE, on the large site currently occupied by Bowie Trash and Signature Auto, directly across E Street from Safeway. OPal LLC has already announced plans to build a residential complex in that block (See here: http://bit.ly/14qcnLZ) and will seek PUD status, as will CAS Reigler for its nearby development at 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE. (See http://bit.ly/1F6lYGl ) The Buchanan School development is being built largely as a matter of right, though the developer is seeking some zoning relief in order to maximize the number of units without going through the PUD process.
Though no public meetings on the Insight development have been held, CHC learned in early May that Insight was conducting a feasibility study for the Bowie/Signature site at 1323-1327 E Street, SE. Given the certainty with which the project was described at the public ANC Subcommittee meeting last night, the project appears to have advanced beyond the study stage. The project was described as comprised of 1,2 and 3 bedroom apartments in a building comparable to CAS Riegler’s 180 unit building at 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE.
Insight Property Group is not only the developer behind the Buchanan School project, it is also behind the Apollo H Street project at 600 H Street, NE, a mixed use project with 432 rental apartments and retail that will feature the H Street Whole Foods.
During last night’s meeting, one attendee – Gary Petersen, Chair of the Capital Hill Restoration Society Zoning Committee – issued a note of caution, speculating that the new residential market on Capitol Hill is becoming “oversaturated.”
Asked for additional comment, Peterson elaborated, “The number of people moving into the District has dropped below what it was six months ago. The developers near the ballpark in SE have gone through a bust and are now slapping up apartment buildings as fast as they can. Everybody is racing to get their building done so they can get it rented up.”
He pointed to the 673 unit project at 1333 M Street, SE; the 158 unit Hine project; and the 81 unit Buchanan School development and said, “I doubt there’s enough demand to fill all these places.”
(In addition, there is Goldstar’s 41 unit building at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue which is just about to start marketing units, Donatelli/Blue Skye’s 354 residential unit building near Stadium Armory Metro stop on Reservation 13, a possible new mixed retail/residential Frager’s building, and the the Boys and Girls Club on 17th Street, SE.)
Peterson says if a project is not currently in the pipeline now, “it begins to look iffy.” Specifically, he pointed to the two proposed projects near the SE Safeway and the one at 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE – although he noted that the last has filed a PUD application. Peterson predicted that not all of these will get built.
As this was being posted, CHC received the following comment from Trent Smith of Insight Development Group:
Thank you for reaching out. We are under contract on the Bowie’s trash and Signature Collision sites and are studying the possibility of redeveloping the sites into a multifamily community. We are still early in the planning process and are anxious to engage the community with more details soon. The proposed project would be four stories plus some residential basement and penthouse space. The current concept has approximately 160 units made up of 1, 2 and 3 bedroom homes.
We look forward to working with you and the community on this opportunity in the near future.