ANC6B Signs Off On Major Retail Project on PA Avenue – Approves Community Benefits Package
by Larry Janezich
Tuesday night ANC6B voted to support the major retail/residential project at 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, and the package of benefits and amenities to compensate the community for allowing greater height and density than city regulations would otherwise allow. The vote was unanimous, 8 – 0; the endorsement goes to the Zoning Commission where it will be taken into account while considering the developer’s request for zoning changes to accommodate the proposed size of the project.
The developer, CAS Riegler, said the mixed retail/apartment project is a retail project at heart, with 19,000 square feet “Class A” retail, 58 parking spaces, and 174 residential units. The defining feature of “Class A” appears to by 18 foot ceilings in the retail space on the first floor. Above, there will be six levels of residential with a masonry and glass façade.
ANC6B Commissioner Nick Burger’s Planned Unit Development (PUD) Subcommittee has met with residents over the past few months to solicit ideas for a package of benefits and amenities to present to the developer. CAS Riegler responded with a list of projects the developer was willing to proffer to the community. The ANC considers, amends, and subsequently agrees to or rejects the package on behalf of the community.
Here’s the package that the ANC agreed to:
Affordable housing (required by DC regulations but counted as a community benefit). CAS Riegler says this takes away $734,160 from the value of the project for them. This amounts to a developer subsidy that is made up for by increasing the costs of occupancy for the other market rate occupants of the project. An unusual twist is that CAS Riegler will provide four 3 bedroom apartments (virtually unheard of) as half of their requirement, as well as two each of studio, one, and two bedroom apartments for their balance. Value: $734,160
Potomac Metro Plaza improvements including enhanced greenspace and improved safety. Value: $50,000.
Improvements to the playground at Friendship Chamberlain Elementary with the provision that the school will allow public access to the playground during non-school hours. Value: $75,000.
Improvement to the playground at Hopkins Apartments with the provision that Hopkins will allow public access to the playground during daylight hours. Value: $20,000.
Tree canopy improvement in Ward Six. Value: $5,000.
Enhanced and improved alley system behind the development between 14th Street and Ives Place, SE. Value: $65,000.
Transit benefits to promote reduction in the use of autos by residents of the development, including 1 year membership of Capital Bikeshare membership, 1 year of Car2Go membership, SmarTrip card, promotion of bicycle parking for residents, visitors, employees, and customers of the development, as well as a transit screen for the building’s lobby to inform residents and visitors of real time transit options. Value: $65,550
At the insistence of ANC commissioner Daniel Chao, the developer agreed to contribute an additional $20,000 toward several projects requested by the residents of Potomac Gardens, including modification of the fence around the site, better security cameras, and increased access to Wi Fi. PUD Subcommittee Chair Nick Burger pledged to seek additional funding for Potomac Gardens from two other developers – Insight Development and OPaL, LLC, which are undertaking Planned Unit Developments near the Southeast Safeway.
Before the vote on supporting the project and the benefits package, former commissioner Ken Jarboe – who participated in the discussion as a resident member of the Planning and Zoning Committee – questioned whether the community was receiving enough in exchange for the greater height and density being requested by the developer. Jarboe said that the developer was asking for a building 78 high instead of the 50 feet permitted by right and doubling the density for the site. In return, he said, the community was getting a lot of Class A retail, 4 three bedroom affordable apartments, and some $300,000 to spread around on various projects. Jarboe said that he personally thought the building was one floor too high.
Commissioner Nick Burger appeared to represent the consensus of the commission when he pointed out that two benefits which were not in the agreement were the transformation of a pizza outlet and a vacant lot into an asset for the community and cited the need to add more housing in a city with a housing crunch as justification for the height. He said he was sensitive to the impact of the building on the neighborhood and urged the developer to take additional measures to change the perception of the height of the building. He added that he agreed that “at some point we have to consider how much building development we want.” But tonight was not the night when that question would be raised.
CAS Riegler recently developed the former Edmonds School in northeast Capitol Hill into condo units ranging from 500 square foot one bedroom apartments to 1700 square foot lofted three bedroom units. CAS Riegler’s intention to develop the Pennsylvania Avenue project was first reported by Capitol Hill Corner last January: See here: http://bit.ly/1V7kul0. A subsequent report was posted here: http://bit.ly/1n8MJF2.