Capitol Hill SE Safeway Development – Up to 320 Apartments Planned

A Foulger-Pratt rendering of the massing - sans details - of the Safeway Development, seen from the corner of 14th and D Streets.

A Foulger-Pratt rendering of the massing – sans details – of the Safeway Development, seen from the corner of 14th and D Streets.

Here's a rendering of the floor plan for the new development.  The Safeway will occupy the bulk of the site's north end.  Two additional retail spaces, a courtyard and aquatic court, plus housing amenities will occupy the project's southern end.

Here’s a rendering of the floor plan for the new development. The Safeway will occupy the bulk of the site’s north end. Two additional retail spaces, a courtyard and aquatic court, plus housing amenities will occupy the project’s southern end.

More than 50 residents turned out for the Monday night meeting.

More than 50 residents turned out for the Monday night meeting.

Capitol Hill SE Safeway Development – Up to 320 Apartments Planned

By Larry Janezich

Representatives of Safeway and Foulger-Pratt, the developer they selected for the SE Safeway project, began to unveil the details of the proposed development Monday night at Hill Center.

Foulger-Pratt, who will purchase part of the site from Safeway, plans up to 320 apartments on three floors above the Safeway which will be relocated to occupy the entire north end of the ground floor.  60 to 70% of the units will be studio or one bedroom, following the trend toward smaller single tenant units evident in the nearby Capitol Courts in the 1200 block of Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, which plans 120 micro apartments.  The Safeway project will rise to fifty feet, with a penthouse setback.  Two additional retail spaces will occupy portions of the ground floor on the south end of the project.

The tentative time frame is to break ground in about 18 months with an 18 – 24 month construction time frame.

Two floors of underground parking will provide 194 spaces for Safeway (up from 150 now) and .5 parking spaces per unit of residential.  The latter will be accessed via the alley behind Safeway; the former from a ramp off 14th Street, SE.  The pedestrian entrance for the new Safeway will be at the corner of 14th and D Streets.

More details may be available when the developer’s public space application comes before ANC6B’s Planning and Zoning Committee at its November 1 meeting.  The developer plans to eliminate the two curb cuts closest to the corner of 14th and D Streets, and move the other curb cut on 14th Street farther south.  The reduction in curb cuts is designed to mitigate the traffic impact on the neighborhood.

The developer will not seek a Planned Unit Development (PUD) designation to increase density for the project.  Even though the project is being built by right, the city requires a “Large Tract Review” (LTR) process for projects with more than 50,000 square feet of commercial space.  This process involves review by multiple city agencies and the ANC to identify issues prior to the developer filing for a building permit.  Foulger-Pratt hopes to submit the LTR to the Office of Planning in April, 2017.

The Planning and Zoning Committee will be chaired by Commissioner Nick Burger.  Burger told CHC, “I thought the meeting tonight was constructive. There was a great turnout by engaged, constructive neighbors. The neighbors had a lot of questions, and the development team seemed ready to listen.  To me it was an encouraging start to the larger process.”

For previous CHC post on the development of the SE Safeway, see here:



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20 responses to “Capitol Hill SE Safeway Development – Up to 320 Apartments Planned

  1. FWIW, the Large Tract Review process doesn’t really provide much opportunity for substantive citizen input, it’s more or less a coordination process for city agencies. I wrote about the defects in the process in the ANC4B response to the LTR process for the Walmart on Georgia Avenue.

    Click to access LTR_Report_Final_2011_5_23.pdf

    That being said, while a denser apartment building is out of context compared to when Capitol Hill was first constructed, it’s now the 21st Century and the site is very close to the Potomac Ave. Metrorail Station and it makes sense to leverage it in this way to extend the range and amount of housing available in this neighborhood.

    It will also allow Safeway to make a much better store. They did that with a similar project on a site a couple blocks from the Petworth Metro on Georgia Ave. The new store is so much better than the store it replaced.

    • BRM

      The lack of resident input is driven by the project not requiring variance from the zoning code. If any project is consistent with zoning, why should residents be given another opportunity for input?

      • MD

        Because it’s our neighborhood, not Safeway’s, and not Fogler-Pratt’s.

      • The point is how the Large Tract Review process has been mentioned in this article and by the ANC Commissioner as an opportunity for citizen input. It’s not that I don’t understand matter of right (other than lamenting that the firm won’t go for a bigger project because they don’t want to go through a public process). But since LTR is touted as an opportunity for substantive input and in fact it does not afford this it’s worth mentioning.

    • Corey H

      I too was, at first, disappointed the developer was going by-right here. But the land is marked as low density commercial in the Comp Plan/Future Land Use Map. So I’m not sure there was anything to be gained going through a PUD, even before factoring in public process delays.

  2. Just a thought

    Any chance another Safeway pedestrian entrance could be added near the western edge of E street? As shown, the Safeway will effectively be two more blocks away for pedestrians coming from the West on E street than it is currently.

  3. dlg

    How the building interacts with the sidewalk is extremely important. If safeway plans on having a block long dead zone of brick wall (like now) or covered windows (like Harris Teeter on PA Ave), then that is a huge problem. Safeway needs to have all windows on their store, with those windows interacting with the sidewalk, like using that space as a seating area for a cafe.

  4. muskellunge

    The aquatics court is interesting, and afaik, has not been revealed before now. Any details about that? Will it be only for the residents?

  5. The Prophet

    Thanks goodness there’s not much opportunity for citizen input, because, as we see all over the city, as close by as the Eastern Market redevelopment and as recently as the SunTrust Plaza redevelopment in Adams Morgan, its often comprised mostly of reflexive obstructionism. Due to the “by right” nature of this program, residents in the neighborhood, and new residents in the to-be-constructed project, might actually get the enjoyment of the project is less than a decade.

  6. MD

    How do all of these new studio and 1-bedrooms impact affordable housing in the District? Families can’t fit in there.

    • Henry

      The market for housing is not made up exclusively of families; and more supply will drive down costs for everyone including families.

      One of the great overlooked obstacles to increasing supply is, of course, historic preservation which is a major contributor to the lack of affordable housing in the District.

      If you want more affordable housing you should be actively working to repeal the District’s historic preservation laws.

      • anon_1

        some of us don’t want to live in Sim City

      • This is a pretty facile comment. There are many reasons for the inadequate supply of housing in the city. Far more important than HP per se is the height limit and the fact that the bulk of the city was built out when the city wasn’t that populated, when there wasn’t a lot of demand for housing. Population-wise DC was pretty small until the New Deal era.

        Therefore the predominate housing stock here (rowhouses and small apartment buildings) are significantly smaller in size compared to cities like Pittsburgh, certain parts of Baltimore, Manhattan and Brooklyn, Montreal, etc. Similarly look at examples of tenement housing in NYC, or the large “rowhouses” broken up into multiple apartments.

        I even use the example of East Ohio Street in Pittsburgh, which has four story rowhouse buildings. By contrast in DC, outside of the core, it’s hard to find an “old building” taller than two stores dating to before 1930. Even in DC, three story rowhouses are much less prevalent than two story buildings. (Columbia Heights and Dupont Circle are exceptions.)

        So now post-2005 there is demand, a lot of it, we are faced with an existing building stock comprised primarily of small buildings constructed before 1930. By contrast the common building type in Montreal, the plex, fits 5-6 units in the same amount of space in which DC has two rowhouses.

        2. But more importantly, HP does prevent reproducing/repatterning housing from single family dwellings to multiunit buildings. That reduces the supply, but even if we didn’t have that “restriction” it is only the case over multi decade periods of time, 50 years or more, would more “affordable housing” be produced because new housing because it reflects current prices, is always priced at the top of the market.

        It takes many decades for housing built today to become affordable relative to the entire market.

        Although at the margins, some price reserved “affordable housing” could be produced if subsidized through free land, density bonuses, tax credits, and other financial supports.

        3. As importantly is the relatively undiverse housing stock. It is rare for most neighborhoods to have a mix of SFH and apartments. E.g., north of H Street and south of Florida, historically, there is one building with about 19 units, and a number of small 4-6 unit buildings. Capitol Hill has more examples of apartment buildings, but not all that much.

        In my Manor Park/Takoma neighborhood, most of the pre-1935 apartment buildings are no taller than three stories, which is a function not of building technology and engineering but demand at the time these buildings were constructed. (At some trolley line terminations like 14th and Colorado, you do have a smattering of five story buildings.)

        So affordability is a problem because much of the housing stock is SFH and a lot of it isn’t set up for ADUs/basement apartments or flats in order to provide a greater diversity of tenure and size options.

        I remember arguing in 2001 that it would be good to makeover Capitol Hill Hospital because it would allow people to live in the neighborhood without them having to buy a rowhouse, and driving up those prices. Of course that comment seems naive now, but the general sentiment is correct, that a greater diversity of housing options and types makes for a less pricey housing supply.

        4. I will say your comment is correct in a way that many preservationists — not me but others — reflexively oppose changes to their neighborhoods that can add multiunit housing (e.g., the Hine development as an example, or some of the issues around new housing proposals at the Takoma Metro, where I live now). But that’s “a coincidence” in that it’s likely as residents they would oppose such projects whether or not they live in historic district.

        5. Finally, on the margins housing prices are stoked by the failure to build to maximum density where it is allowed or where it would make sense, even with the various HP and height limit restrictions. Including on “grayfield” sites like parking fronted grocery stores suitable for redevelopment and intensification.

        At the very least, there should be a program of automatic additional density of a couple stories, with conditions, in transit station catchment areas, including the Safeway site, which is three-tenths of a mile to the Potomac Avenue Metrorail station

        E.g., in Takoma, one block from the Metro there is a building that is three stories that could be five, a building that is a mix of 4 and 5 stories that could be six, etc.

        Every time we lop off a floor or two to appease opponents, that makes housing less affordable, because we are reducing supply, and making projects more risky.

        At the same time we are reducing economic resilience (sustainability) of DC neighborhoods and property and income tax revenues from the building, and reduced income and sales tax revenues from residents that would otherwise live there.

      • muskellunge

        Mr Layman, your terribly LONG response is pretty twisted. For example, you forgot about pop-ups: a property owner can buy a distressed rowhouse, add a third floor, and quickly and profitably convert a single family into a two- or three-unit building. Historic preservation keeps that from happening.

        It is true that historic preservation limits housing, and this should be acknowledged. It is not a bad thing — there are lots of things that limit housing that we accept as worth the cost. Parks, for example.

    • MD

      I think there are many ways we can preserve the historic nature of Capitol Hill and increase density at the same time. It seems to me that we need more attention to the street-level impact of big projects like Hines to make sure that 1) they fit in visually; 2) they create a welcoming public space; and 3) in cases where public subsidies are received, the developers are required to create public amenities like parks.

  7. It’s called detailed market analysis. If you want to be informed, you should be glad such an analysis is offered.

    Anyway, the demand for pop up space isn’t driven by an interesting in creating multiple units within one footprint, it’s driven by an interest in making a bigger, single SFH.

    From a preservation standpoint, I have no problem in restricting popups. Still, I have also suggested that through design review and creating a robust initiative/process in dealing with such desires that it is possible to create a paradigm for design-successful popups. Some rowhouse types lend themselves to the treatment more easily than others. While most popups tend to be hideous from a design standpoint, there are exceptions that prove it is possible to do it acceptably.

    It’s a challenge in preservation to preserve a district in amber so to speak vs. recognizing that places do change. The problem is that the people who advocate for the drastic changes (like popups) aren’t providing reasonable responses usually, instead they offer property rights arguments mostly.

    The other thing though wrt adding units within the existing building stock/footprint would be to support both the systematic creation of ADUs on lots that can accommodate them, as well as basement units, or apartment units in large rowhouses (but there aren’t that many large rowhouses). There is the potential for thousands of additional units on that basis.

    The fact is that most rowhouses have only a couple residents.

    As incomes level off and housing prices continue to rise, people will have to look at ADUs/basement units as a potential revenue stream to support a mortgage.

  8. muskellunge

    “demand for pop up space isn’t driven by an interesting in creating multiple units within one footprint, it’s driven by an interest in making a bigger, single SFH.”

    Let me help you out: this sentence is easier to swallow if you add qualifiers, such as ‘demand for SOME pop up space is driven by making a bigger house.’ Because obviously there are many pop-ups outside the historical district that are divided into 2-3 units, that in total are less expensive.

    “The fact is that most rowhouses have only a couple residents.”

    This one cannot be ingested without some data to back it up. In my fully gentrified neighborhood, most rowhouses (which are on the small size) have 3-4 residents, and some have more.

    • what neighborhood. It doesn’t sound like Capitol Hill. Or most of the neighborhoods in the city that I am familiar with. Nor is it consonant with Census data, which says that the average household size is 2.15 as of 2014,

      On my face block (not a rowhouse neighborhood), of 23 houses, 4 houses are empty (one recent death). 9 houses have two residents, 4 houses have 1 resident. 2 houses have four residents. 1 house has five residents. 2 houses have three residents. Most of the additional residents are children, with one exception, of boarders. The average household size on my block is 1.85. (But I admit my neighborhood has aged and is in the intermediate term phase of housing turnover and repopulation–e.g., many of the new households end up having children.)

      There are always variances within the data, sure, but generally, DC household sizes are small and have been shrinking for some time.

  9. muskellunge

    The 2.15 number you use is of course the DC average, and thanks for reporting it; I think most of us are quite familiar with this census data and the long term trends.

    However, historical row houses normally have 3, 4, or 5 bedrooms. That is more than nearly all of the condos and apartments being built now, so rowhouses should have more residents than the 2.15 average. Also, because they generally are larger and cost more than condos and apartments, one would expect them to have more people.