Neighbors Dismayed at Plan for 20 Unit Condo Building Just Off Barracks Row

Initial concept design for a proposed 20 condo unit at 417 9th Street, SE, adjacent to Distad’s Service Station and across from Hill Center.

Here’s an architectural rendering of the footprint.

Evan Muchai, at left, Associate Partner for Acquisitions & Development, District Quarters. At right are the project architects from Architecturefirm.

Here’s a view of Tried Stone Church of Christ from in front of Little Pearl on the grounds of Hill Center. The church is a former synagogue.

Neighbors Dismayed Over Plan for 20 Condo Building Just Off Barracks Row

by Larry Janezich

Last night, the development company District Quarters unveiled plans to raze the Tried Stone Church of Christ across 9th Street from Hill Center to construct a 23,000 square foot, four story plus a penthouse, 20 unit condo building with three surface parking spaces. The building is a block from Barracks Row’s retail, restaurants, and fire station. The project will be built “by right” under city regulations, meaning that there will be virtually no opportunity to change the scale or massing of the project. Since the church is a non-contributing structure in the Historic District, it can be razed, but the new building is subject to Historic Preservation review.

Evan Muchai, Associate Partner for Acquisitions & Development for the developer, revealed the initial concept for the project to about a dozen neighbors who gathered in the basement of the church.  The meeting to solicit feedback was called on what seemed to be unusually short notice, and only one week before the developers appear before ANC6B’s Planning and Zoning Committee to ask for its support of their Historic Preservation Application for the proposed concept.

Neighbors who attended the meeting were taken aback at the scale of the project – substantially higher than adjoining townhouses – and raised a number of concerns including scale, massing, parking, rodent and trash issues, impact of demolition and construction, HVAC issues, and light.  Muchai noted the concerns and said he would “get back to you” regarding how and if the company could address those concerns by next Monday.

Neighbors were dismayed at the prospect throwing up to an additional 17 parking vehicles into the mix in the hunt for parking in the neighborhood, where they say it is difficult if not impossible to park now.

Muchai said that under city regulations, they need to provide only three parking spaces, adding that they would like to provide more parking for their potential owners but held out little hope that more parking could be provided on site, although he said they would “look at it.”

When residents asked if the developer would agree to make condo residents ineligible for Residential Parking Permits allowing street parking, the developer said that in reality the city doesn’t enforce those contractual agreements between seller and purchaser.  He added, “We want to provide parking for people who live here – we don’t expect to ask people to give up parking.”  The developer downplayed the likelihood of adding 17 vehicles to the parking mix, saying that with close proximity to Metro people drive less and that he was a prime example, not having owned a car in four years.

Justifying the scale of the project, the developer said that without the proposed height and density, the project is not economically feasible.   One attendee said that the project was akin to “trying to fit a big peg into a limited lot – it’s not a fit – the lot and the neighborhood infrastructure doesn’t support this amount of density. It’s going to be a nightmare.”

District Quarters has not yet purchased the building, which is under contract, and contingent on getting approval for the building.

The developer’s timeline anticipates closing on the sale in June or July, followed by 3 to 5 month’s design work.  Construction would start in September and last 12 – 13 months, followed by a 3 to 5 month period for sales.  Muchai said the units will be mostly two-bedrooms or one bedroom and a den, with a few one-bedroom apartments and priced from $400,000-$1 million.

The building seems to be on a fast track for approval – the developers will appear before the Capitol Hill Restoration Society Historic Preservation committee next Monday, May 6 for concept review, and the next night will ask ANC6B Planning and Zoning Committee to support the Historic Preservation Application for the concept.  The committee’s recommendation will be considered by the full ANC a week later, on May 14.  The application then comes up before the Historic Preservation Review Board on May 23.

Residents complained that the process was “much too telescoped” and that the “compressed nature of the timeline undercuts the effort to work with us.”  They indicated they would carry their concerns to the various review venues going forward.  One resident pleaded, “Don’t forget there are people here – who want to live out their lives here. This is a really big thing to them – to all of us.”

District Quarters is a small development company by industry standards.  They develop residential units in the District – their website shows a number of projects between 2 and 9 units, and the current proposal appears to be their largest to date.  See here:


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12 responses to “Neighbors Dismayed at Plan for 20 Unit Condo Building Just Off Barracks Row

  1. James

    The neighborhood needs more housing but three parking spots for 20 condos that, I assume, will be really expensive? They also need to address how narrow the road is between Disdads and the Hill Center. It’s already pretty congested there.

  2. John

    This church prior use was as a synagogue. I am very surprised that it is not protected under HPRB requirements. Has this been adequately researched?

  3. Steve

    In my view, a large building such as this would detract from streetscape including the present prominence of the Hill Center.

  4. John

    Build it! We need more housing in the area, and this is a good example of smart density located close to several public transportation options.

  5. MLD

    Opposition to this based on size is ridiculous. This site is 2 blocks from the Metro in an MU-4 zone. If we can’t build a 20-unit building here, where is the housing the city desperately needs going to go? The building is from the 1950s and isn’t special.

    “Don’t forget there are people here – who want to live out their lives here.”

    And there are more people who want to live in the city and we need to build places for more people to live here!

  6. Daragh Cassidy

    Absolutely unfit for the neighborhood. What a joke. 20 condos, why not 50 condos, and have no parking at all. Quality of life will be greatly diminished by this absurd, out of scale project. NO WAY!

    • Daragh Cassidy

      Also, note the arrogance of the developer, “We’ll get back to you.” Sure they will. Out of town big money jamming an oversized development which belongs in Silver Spring. It should be illegal. Charles Allen, please take note.

  7. muskellunge

    “When residents asked if the developer would agree to make condo residents ineligible for Residential Parking Permits allowing street parking, the developer said that in reality the city doesn’t enforce those contractual agreements between seller and purchaser.”

    Mr Muchai’s response is refreshing. These deals, made between developers and ANCs to get the latter’s blessing, have always been unenforceable. I wish folks would stop fooling themselves that the occupants of new developments can be restricted from residential parking; this is a privilege granted by residency, nothing more.

    Next up: Distads, which has been very, very ripe for development. Wondering how much longer they will hold out.

  8. Helmut

    Larry, I think you need to be careful about “appears before” language when referring to people presenting to the Restoration Society. They are a civic group, not a government entity, no matter how much deference the HPRB shows them or how much the HPRB staff insists that developers seek their approval.

    “Appears before” also suggests a level of formality and standardized procedures that simply don’t exist.

    I would suggest something like, “The developer will share plans with the Capitol Hill Restoration Society, a local historic preservation advocacy group that often offers its input on developments on the Hill to the District’s Historic Preservation Review Board.”

  9. AG

    BUILD IT. We have a housing crisis. The concerns in this article are a joke.