ANC6A Committee Balks at Major H Street NE Development Over Lack of Retail

Developer Aanjay Bajaj of District Growth plans a major development on the 1000 block of H Street, NE. Here’s a first look at the developer’s preliminary rendering shown to the ANC6A Economic Development and Zoning Committee Wednesday night.

Here’s the corner of 10th and H Street, NE as it looks now. Photo: Google.

ANC6B’s Economic Development and Zoning Committee met Wednesday night to consider Bajaj’s Zoning Adjustment Application for the project.

ANC6A Committee Balks at Major H Street NE Development Over Lack of Retail

by Larry Janezich

Posted January 18, 2023

Wednesday night, the ANC6A Economic Development and Zoning Committee postponed further consideration of local developer Sanjay Bajaj’s plan to put up a $30 million 80 unit residential project at 1010 H Street, NE – without providing any retail.  Bajaj’s company is District Growth, which has built projects in Wards 4-8.  Committee Chair Brad Greenfield told the developer’s representative that the lack of retail was a sticking point and that to his knowledge; the ANC had never supported a development on H Street that didn’t have a retail component. 

The developer’s position, as expressed by attorney Meridith Moldenhauer was that zoning does not require retail for the project and though the developer had considered it, the requirement for a 14 foot ceiling height for first floor retail presented problems.  In addition, she said, given the market the developer felt an all residential project would be more successful.  Bajaj told mark Buckshon of Washington Construction News that he decided against adding retail in order to “maximize the number of units and reduce the complexity of the project.”  He hopes to break ground at the end of 2024.  The time line for the project anticipates delivery in 18 months.

The by-right project is five stories high, and will provide 80 units (rental or condo undecided) with 10% Inclusionary Zoning affordable units.  The building site was assembled from numerous parcels and five of the facades of buildings on those parcels will be preserved and incorporated into the project. 

Though it’s a by-right project, the developer is seeking a zoning adjustment for three exemptions from zoning regulations: those governing new construction on lots less than 6,000 square feet, a requirement regarding alley access, and regulations which would require providing 13 parking spaces (the developer wants to provide 8).  The Zoning Commission is required by city regulations to give “great weight” to the recommendations of the city’s Advisory Neighborhood Commissions.  Committee consideration is the first step, followed by consideration by the full ANC.  The full ANC rarely overrides the recommendation  of one of its committees.  

Commissioner Mike Velasquez and resident committee member Mike Cushman were all over the retail issue.  Velasquez:  “Developers have to balance the profit motives with the needs of the community…I will not support this project until you come back with retail.”

Cushman expressed similar concerns:  “There should be retail on the ground floor…this is a major retail corridor in NE.” 

Moldenhauer said she had heard the commissioners “loud and clear” and would convey those views along with the emotion with which they were expressed to the developer.  She stated again that the client had considered retail and said she wasn’t sure what “the level of possibility is.”  She suggested they could come back to the Committee in February after she briefs the developer. 

Greenfield suggested a meeting with the nearby neighbors and inviting the developer to the meeting.  He indicated the committee would organize the get together.  

The consensus of the committee was to table further consideration of the Zoning Adjustment Application until next month.  The developer’s zoning adjustment hearing is scheduled for March. 

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