Greater Greater Washington

Does adding a little housing to a garage create a "behemoth"?

Which building would you rather have in your neighborhood?

The InTowner strongly warns against this project:

With the proposed Florida Avenue project towering over the adjacent Strivers Row Historic District, a new neighborhood organization in Adams Morgan called Square 150 has come into being, particularly in response to the prospect of a seven-story behemoth to be constructed across the street from this historic district of small, two- and three-story row houses on V Street and Seaton Street.

Viewing Florida Avenue elevations of the proposed 1711 buildingwhere one would be looking north and up the hillversus looking south and viewing the modest, late 19th century houses of Strivers Row, one is provided with dramatically different perspectives. The immediate question thus raised concerns the issue of compatibility of the proposed new building's height and massing with the existing topography and built environment.

The building is currently a 3-story garage with some small retail shops on the ground floor. The owners would keep some of the parking and add additional housing on top, including 10% affordable housing, as well as expanding the retail bays.

Having mid-rise buildings in close proximity to historic townhouses is a common occurrence in DC. My own house is directly across an alley from a building 3 times the height. The ends of many blocks, or the edges of neighborhoods, often have height transitions. Just because this proposal is a bit taller, but still not that tall even for DC,

The InTowner article also notes some disagreement over the community benefits. Planned Unit Developments such as these require a developer to offer amenities to the public in exchange for zoning relief. Like many proposals, it counts architectural quality as one benefit. While this building looks perfectly fine, it's not going to become the most beloved building in the neighborhood.

Besides that, the developer is offering to build a Capital Bikeshare station and include some electric charging stations at low rates in the garage. According to the InTowner, they also have expressed a desire to fund some undefined improvements to the nearby Marie Reed recreation areas and set up a jobs agreement to hire local workers.

The owners also have offered to include covenants prohibiting tavern-class liquor licenses, the kinds of alcohol-serving establishments that many feel Adams Morgan already has in overabundance. Still, the project would require exempting the property from the Reed-Cooke Overlay, which limits overall building heights more strictly.

In their filing, the developers argue that "ironically," the project better fulfills the stated purposes of the overlay, including bringing in affordable housing, without the zoning restrictions of the overlay, and that it's less appropriate to keep this property in the overlay whose convoluted shape centers around more central neighborhood areas farther north.

The Zoning Commission should insist on top-quality design and meaningful community benefits for this project, but denying it or trying to shrink it because it would be a "towering" "behemoth" shortchanges the neighborhood in the long run and would just keep more residents of all incomes out of DC.

To get the detailed documents, search for "11-11" on the Office of Zoning case search. Unfortunately, it's not possible to link to an individual case or its component documents.

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

Comments

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At the risk of incurring the ire of the U Street Dirt boys,
where's the question? Why are they always trying to shave that one story off? The developers shoud come in with one extra story knowing they'll lose it. As for the design, a bit pedestrian, but in the spirit of the infill building, ok.

by Thayer-D on Jul 21, 2011 3:10 pm • linkreport

Not sure about the "behemoth" label, but the architecture of the proposed project seems less interesting than the existing structure. It looks like the same old neo-Clarendon generica that one is seeing everywhere.

by Bob on Jul 21, 2011 3:18 pm • linkreport

I'll take neo-Clarendonia over 60's prison with bare walls on the sidewalk anyday.

by spookiness on Jul 21, 2011 3:24 pm • linkreport

How on earth could any building be less interesting than the nearly windowless and featureless brick box that is the garage that is there now?

by MLD on Jul 21, 2011 3:26 pm • linkreport

Why must it be one or the other? What's proposed really does look way to Clarendon-like. And from what people who live near there have been saying, it's possibly far larger vis-a-vis the neighbors than the graphic is showing.

But, if I had to pick one, I'd pick the top one ... because once we get the bottom one, we're stuck with it until the cheap construction crumbles a hundred years or so from now. (Good masonary contruction will last centuries.)

by Lance on Jul 21, 2011 3:32 pm • linkreport

Yeah, living near this thing, I have to say it has no redeeming value (as I always find street parking) and it's ugly as sin. As for the existing retail, I see signs for a pet grooming place but I have no idea where the entrance is.

If the option is Clarendon or the garage, I welcome our brown flip-flop wearing neighbors.

by Graham on Jul 21, 2011 3:35 pm • linkreport

I walk by this garage every day to and from work and I hate it. It's a waste of prime space, a few blocks between bustling 18th Street and Meridian Hill Park -- close to frequent bus lines on 18th, 16th, and Florida. Unfortunately, once you get just a block away from 18th the foot traffic drops off tremendously; walking past the imposing garage at night can feel pretty lonely. So I'd love to have the proposed building there. How do I weigh in?

by Gavin on Jul 21, 2011 3:36 pm • linkreport

(Good masonary contruction will last centuries.)

Good masonry construction will last centuries when maintained properly.

See Also: Capitol City Market. Built 1931. Entirely masonry construction. Crumbling like whoa.

by andrew on Jul 21, 2011 3:44 pm • linkreport

So I guess this project will be contested too as it's in the same overlay?...
http://dcmud.blogspot.com/2011/07/ciao-bella.html
shame. It's a wonder anything ever gets built really.

by Johnny on Jul 21, 2011 3:45 pm • linkreport

Viewing Florida Avenue elevations of the proposed 1711 building—where one would be looking north and up the hill—versus looking south and viewing the modest, late 19th century houses of Strivers Row, one is provided with dramatically different perspectives.

The silent premise here is that dramatically different perspectives are somehow inherently bad.

Why is it that people assume that streetscapes need to be boring and never changing?

booooooring

Cities are alive. They change. Not all change is bad. Didn't 90% of this city for change it can believe in?

by Jasper on Jul 21, 2011 3:47 pm • linkreport

The proposal is coming before ANC 1C's planning committee on Aug. 1. I just send the committee members the following email:
As an ANC 1C resident, I am writing to ask your support for redevelopment at 1711 Florida Ave. NW.

I walk by the current building at this address daily going to and from work. It is one of the worst parts of my commute: bare, imposing, with little to no pedestrian traffic or eyes on the street.

Redevelopment at this prime location would bring new residents to our great neighborhood. Unnecessary barriers to redevelopment, however, will keep potential residents in the suburbs -- depriving our local businesses of potential customers while contributing more to air pollution and global warming.

The proposed redevelopment at 1711 Florida would also bring important community benefits, such as a Capital Bikeshare station and potential improvements to the park across the street. While continuing to advocate for community benefits, including transportation demand management, I urge you to support the proposed redevelopment at 1711 Florida.

by Gavin on Jul 21, 2011 3:54 pm • linkreport

Time for a tour of my neighborhood!

Here's the section 8 housing on the other side of the Marie Reed Center for City-Funded Fake Nonprofits (up the block from this, note also the other Clarendonness):
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=20009&ll=38.919941,-77.040785&spn=0.002663,0.00456&gl=us&t=h&layer=c&cbll=38.919941,-77.040785&panoid=ERBMd9cJJLNiaqmhj82X_g&cbp=12,34.33,,0,0&z=18

Here's what the second pic would look like if they weren't pretending there wasn't a building across the street: http://maps.google.com/maps?q=20009&ll=38.917864,-77.040355&spn=0.002642,0.00456&gl=us&t=h&z=18&layer=c&cbll=38.917864,-77.040355&panoid=ZWUi3lSPNMF8F4NX805OTA&cbp=12,59.93,,0,-5.29

And here's the slightly more architecturally appropriate building up the hill that took two years after the end of construction to repair the leaky windows and walls:

http://maps.google.com/maps?q=20009&ll=38.920044,-77.038797&spn=0.000666,0.00114&gl=us&t=h&layer=c&cbll=38.920044,-77.038797&panoid=WVCGjBLyunpnkOM3HJ9eVg&cbp=12,207.8,,0,-9&z=20

Also up the hill is the entrance to DC's only gated community (note the cop car which is parked there illegally 7 days a week, the guy lives in there):
http://maps.google.com/maps?q=20009&ll=38.920319,-77.037098&spn=0.000666,0.00114&gl=us&t=h&layer=c&cbll=38.920304,-77.037202&panoid=Gqx4waZNjPd_eTOtmDRaYA&cbp=12,141.12,,0,5.82&z=20

by RT on Jul 21, 2011 4:02 pm • linkreport

I'd vote for the bottom building, but I would be happy to see a return to red brick (even with the large amounts of glass) rather than then the Clarendon-ian tans and beiges.

by Jacques on Jul 21, 2011 4:04 pm • linkreport

RT, I'm not sure what you're saying. Except you looove Street View.

by Graham on Jul 21, 2011 4:19 pm • linkreport

I'm saying that the nimby response of "OMG this area is full of row houses how dare you build condos here!" is abject BS, and giving some context about other large residential buildings in the area.

by RT on Jul 21, 2011 4:22 pm • linkreport

I much prefer the proposed residential building. The height dowsn't bother me at all, I'd gladly live next door to it. The old garage structure is awful, and should be replaced as soon as possible.

by MrTinDC on Jul 21, 2011 4:26 pm • linkreport

Ahhh...alright. I see your point. Given that people aren't going to build rowhouses there right now, it seems stupid to think that a parking garage is more in character with rowhouses.

by Graham on Jul 21, 2011 4:32 pm • linkreport

Groups of people don't just oppose mid-rise buildings out of fear that that said buildings will be a behemoth over a neighborhood. There has to be another set of underlying concerns.

by Fitz157 on Jul 21, 2011 4:35 pm • linkreport

Hideous.

by Jazzy on Jul 21, 2011 4:36 pm • linkreport

The rendering of the proposed bldg has a major mistake in that is shows a wide sidwalk across from it on the south. Its really a narrow (4-5'?) sidewalk.

by Tina on Jul 21, 2011 4:45 pm • linkreport

As a neighbor, I'd rather see mixed-use than a garage. The new building isn't too terribly appealing, but it's better than what's there now.

by Adam L on Jul 21, 2011 4:51 pm • linkreport

@Tina

There are buildings there, but showing them would obstruct the rendering of the building. :-)

by Adam L on Jul 21, 2011 4:53 pm • linkreport

@RT

That 3rd building is "more architecturally appropriate?"

Personally I think something that's actually new is easier to look at than something fake looking that's supposed to "blend in" and fails.

by MLD on Jul 21, 2011 4:53 pm • linkreport

I sometimes bike by those buildings and used to live near them. Although I no longer live in 1C, I hope the ANC committee is open to the proposed redevelopment, considering the developer's willingness to offer positive community benefits for the area. The cohabitation with buildings across the street will be a contrast, certainly, but not an eye-sore, as the row-houses are across the street and not on the same side.

by DCster on Jul 21, 2011 5:00 pm • linkreport

MLD, I'm not making a strong argument for that building or anything, but it is quasi-traditional, and I think something like the proposed building above placed across the street from the mansion at the Meridian center would look a little jarring. That block actually has one of the best modern apartment buildings in DC, a very cool oval tower about 6 stories high, but you can only see it from the alley.

My point was more that a brick facade does not quality construction make.

by RT on Jul 21, 2011 5:07 pm • linkreport

I like Clarendon.

by David C on Jul 21, 2011 5:22 pm • linkreport

@Jasper: I believe the issue is that the proposed building will be seven stories even though the historic neighborhood in which is sits has a height limit much lower than that. For perspective, the buildings across the street are two, maybe, three stories. That's quite a large jump. I believe people don't mind change; they just don't want it so dramatically.

I live in the Strivers Row Historic District and oppose the building only because the height. It has nothing to do with the fact that it's not a row house. I also dislike the bland glass architecture and don't think it adds anything to the neighborhood, but won't oppose a building just because of that.

by 7r3y3r on Jul 21, 2011 5:36 pm • linkreport

@Johnny: no, it's not in the same overlay. Strivers Section is Swann to Florida, 19th to 16th, I believe.

by 7r3y3r on Jul 21, 2011 5:41 pm • linkreport

Actually, there are "another set of underlying concerns." I live a block away, and my understanding is that in a survey of folks who live very close by, the primary concerns had to do with parking and traffic. I'd be happy to have hundreds more people live around the corner from me, if none of them had cars! It's just that it's an area where it's extremely hard to find street parking already, and most of the little houses here have one or zero parking spots. It's impossible to imagine how shrinking a parking facility and adding lots of residents is going to result in anything but a very frustrating parking/traffic situation (not to mention the construction period - but that's finite [in theory], and we can all put up with construction in a city...).

by anon7 on Jul 21, 2011 5:47 pm • linkreport

I was waiting for the "build to the sky GGW" was going to get around on this one. What, no shots of the building next door? Or the buildings behind this?

They want to build larger than the Reed-Cooke height limit allows. Why? Why should this be allowed? Why not restrict the height to what is allowed? Seems to work for every other building in the area. Why does this one special developer need an exemption to the hieght limit?

They want to shrink the parking - yet add residential units in one of the densest residential parking areas in DC... makes sense if you do not allow your residents to own cars.

That rendering, like all renderings, is a fairy tale that will never look like that. Florida is not that wide, the sidewalks are not that wide, Champlain is a 1 way south with bike sharrows, Old Morgan shool way is a twisty turn right next to a school.

I agree the parking garage is an eyesore. But so is that hideous mess.

And if you cannot find PlanetPet's entrance, you must be blind. Seriously. It's the only dang door to the building (not to the garage).

by greent on Jul 21, 2011 6:03 pm • linkreport

And, as this building is at the bottom of the hill, it's proposed hiehgt would match the neight of buildgins a the top of the hill.

RT: seriously, comparing this building - which will be 4 stories taller than any other allowed in RC... comparing it to the (acck) Beekman. The 3 story Beekman? I hate the Beek - esp the massive walls that make FL between 16th & 17th a dogpoop mugfest area... but the height is no where near comparable.

"Behemoth" What would you call a building that is 4 stories larger than any other in the nieghborhood?

by greent on Jul 21, 2011 6:11 pm • linkreport

@greent

Conversely, why even have this overlay zone? Why is this particular height limit the right one?

Regarding parking - if they want to shrink parking, that's great. If parking gets harder on the adjacent streets, I have no sympathy for area residents. You do not have an exclusive right to park on the street, nor should you be able to prevent a project beneficial to the city on those grounds.

If parking isn't available, that suggest the price is too low relative to the demand. I'm sure parking would be readily available if the price for a parking permit in the area were increased to match the actual market demand.

by Alex B. on Jul 21, 2011 6:32 pm • linkreport

The thing that bothers me most is the way they've altered the perspective on the photo and the drawing to make the 7-story building look "about the same size" as the existing 3-story building. A little honesty, please?

by Viz on Jul 21, 2011 6:34 pm • linkreport

A background question - does Greater Greater Washington receive any compensation, including compensation in-kind from real estate developers or public relations firms? Thank you.

by Curious on Jul 21, 2011 6:50 pm • linkreport

I wonder if this group is the same group that wanted to build on the Marie Reed ball field a few years ago.

Washington, DC is not a lifetime place, and in order for our city to be a truly great city, it should be a lifetime place. In order to be a lifetime city, it must meet more demands and not simply the demand for high-rise apartments, or really, condos. Real quality of life issues are not getting addressed seriously enough. Anywhere. Including here on this blog.

It’s the little things that add up to either a good or bad quality of life. And the bigger that buildings are, in my experience, often, the more problems with infrastructure and problem-solving there are. Look at the suburbs where the occupants of the structure are, generally, the first and last to be responsible for its upkeep. Generally, barring natural disaster, of which we have had more than ever in the last 10 years I admit, the suburban owners keep up their structures well. In an apartment, just as much work must go into maintaining the structure, and yet the occupants, the residents often feel powerless over the elements (air, water, noise) coming into their units. There’s a lot of advocating for apartment or condo living (really, for our purposes it’s condo) here on this blog. But more awareness of the details, of what that entails needs to be shown. People throw out ideas like, more condos! without acknowledging all the issues that come with living in a condo, and to a lesser extent apartments. (I say lesser extent because there’s zero discussion of renting, I find. And if there’s been any proposal on this blog for a rental apartment building construction I must have missed it.)

As I’ve said in the past, quoting a New Yorker writer I heard on a radio program: he said that per capita consumption (of fossil fuels I think) is lowest in NYC, but total output is not. On a day like today, we feel the terrible effects of that. Where is THAT discussion?

I won’t address the ruination of proportion, design, and scale this brings to a charming neighborhood. Others can and have done that so much better than I could.

by Jazzy on Jul 21, 2011 6:50 pm • linkreport

In fairness, this proposed building would sit next to a 6/7 story blank-walled warehouse. The rest of the block is a Pepco substation.

aerial

(Image from Bing.)

Just up Champlain St. is Marie Reed, and it's all within sight of the multistory buildings on and around 18th.

The one-time Morgan School, which stood on the site of the Marie Reed ballfield, was a pretty imposing structure too.

by David R. on Jul 21, 2011 8:42 pm • linkreport

Living directly across Florida, staring at the brick wall of the current building every day, I find it completely bland and uninteresting - a backdrop to the squirrels that play in the yard.

The "behemoth" I honestly find architecturally offensive and in sharp contrast to the architecture of the 100 year old buildings that make up the rest of the neighborhood. Those of us that live here love it. We are a small community that is nothing more than a cross roads for most of the people that visit Adams Morgan or pass through on their way to work, but to us - it's more than just a place to live - it's a home with friendly neighbors, charming architecture, and plenty of trees.

If we look beyond the concerns about the appearance of the proposed building, we run into a number of more critical issues:

1. The proposed development will increase traffic at the already dangerous intersection of Florida and V (currently averaging one accident per day).
2. The proposal will increase the population to parking ratio in an already crowded part of the city.
3. It will introduce an entire wall of retail space into what is currently a quiet, residential neighborhood. (And there is plenty of empty retail space to be found only a block away.)
4. It will build a 78 ft tall building in a space currently zoned for 40 ft. While I understand it won't actually blot out the sun, from my window on the ground floor, it's hard to imagine it any other way.

Those of us that live within 3 blocks of this development have met to discuss the pros and cons of the proposal. We've actually read the application and discussed it. We've come to understand what a Planned Unit Development is. We've informed ourselves about the Reed-Cook Overlay, what benefits it brings to the area, and how it works.

At the end of this conversation, we agreed unanimously that the development should not move forward as it is currently proposed.

Now let's put this in perspective - we're not generically opposed to development - we agreed that it would be nice to see the space better utilized. What we don't want is development for the sake of development. We don't want to ruin the character of our neighborhood. We don't want the problems that we currently have to get worse, and we definitely don't want new problems introduced!!

What we do want is for the developer to work within the current zoning laws to develop a building that will complement our neighborhood in architectural style while providing additional services that will enhance the surrounding area and improve the quality of life for people who live nearby.

After all, isn't that the point of development?

by Wayne on Jul 21, 2011 11:20 pm • linkreport

The commentariat loves the idea of raising the height limit until somebody proposes doing it in their neighborhood....

by andrew on Jul 21, 2011 11:32 pm • linkreport

"It will introduce an entire wall of retail space into what is currently a quiet, residential neighborhood. (And there is plenty of empty retail space to be found only a block away.)"

Don't those two statements contradict each other?

by Brian White on Jul 21, 2011 11:43 pm • linkreport

@Brian White. No, actually they do not contradict each other. Like all neighborhoods, it has a border. Next question.

by Anonymous on Jul 21, 2011 11:56 pm • linkreport

What we do want is for the developer to work within the current zoning laws to develop a building that will complement our neighborhood in architectural style while providing additional services that will enhance the surrounding area and improve the quality of life for people who live nearby

Other than the appearance, how does this building not do that?

by Neil Flanagan on Jul 22, 2011 12:19 am • linkreport

It is interesting to contrast the fatuous tone of this article with the resolution that was passed unanimously by neighbors who are actually affected by this development, to the effect that any development on this site should be in accordance with the Reed Cooke Overlay zoning regulations that apply to this neighborhood. Is Greater Greater (really?) Washington arguing that the people affected by a proposed development should defer to someone else, somewhere else? Who? And why exactly? Who exactly are you? The developer bought this piece of land knowing how it was zoned under the Reed Cooke Overlay. Now the developer wants to have the land rezoned so that he can make millions in profit by building a multi-floored building where previously a building of more limited height was permitted. Well, of course - I'd love to do the same thing - who doesn't want to make free money? What I'm not quite understanding is why, of all of us, this developer is first in line for the lottery? The fact is that this building is completely illegal under the present zoning laws. It is exactly the sort of excessively-sized obscene build-it-and-dump-it building that the Reed Cooke Overlay prohibits. And this Overlay (for those who paint with a broad brush) is not some random zoning regulation extruded by nameless boffins, but is in fact the voice of the neighborhood, indeed the voice of multiple neighborhoods, who came together in 1989 to agree on how their neighborhoods should develop. You cannot undermine those rules without undermining something deeper, and more fundamental.

by Jack on Jul 22, 2011 12:27 am • linkreport

@Neil Flanagan Why don't you actually read the PUD application before you comment.

by Tom on Jul 22, 2011 12:32 am • linkreport

@Wayne

How does one get informed of these meetings? I live in the neighborhood and I've never seen anything about any community action. Perhaps because the neighborhood is split between Wards 1 and 2? I don't know.

However, I really don't buy the parking/traffic arguments. They are often trotted out by people who, as you said, like their neighborhood just the way it is. Concerns over traffic and parking assume chiefly that new residents will have cars. Statistics show that people moving into the city are less likely to have cars, but even if some new residents do so the new development will have its own underground parking. I've gone through that garage before. From what I could tell, the people in the neighborhood don't park there and apparently neither do the people going to the bars and restaurants in Adams Morgan.

While I'm not so happy with the design of this particular development, I don't see how prohibiting taller development that would allow a greater diversity of people to live in our neighborhood that has become very much a playground for the well-to-do. If housing stocks remain so low that the prices drive people out to the suburbs then I can ensure you that the District will never become a "lifetime" place; just a playground for those wealthy enough to live here.

by Adam L on Jul 22, 2011 12:51 am • linkreport

@Adam So in your experience you've seen taller condominium developments like this lead to greater diversity? Really? In no way does that accord with any experience of mine. And I' m pretty sure to bet my life it doesn't accord with any experience of yours. When was the last time that you took an elevator from the fourth floor of a condominium development in Washington DC, and shared that elevator with an ethnic-minority single-mother? Please. We both know it's never happened. You and I may share the wish that it might happen. But we both know it has. So let's me honest about it. Economic diversity, and sometimes racial/social diversity comes from varying the cost of housing. It’s normal to say that 10% of the apartment units in any development will be affordable housing. In this development the developer has only set aside 8% of the apartment for this purpose. But since they don’t say at what percentage of the typically Adjusted Mean Income they will be affordable even this 8% means absolutely nothing.

by Plonjer on Jul 22, 2011 1:32 am • linkreport

I don't know what you mean, Tom. Do you want to point to an exhibit number?

Now the developer wants to have the land rezoned so that he can make millions in profit by building a multi-floored building where previously a building of more limited height was permitted.

PUDs are really the only part of the zoning code that allows for local input. Otherwise, zoning either permits or denies as-of-right without consideration for the neighborhood.


...but is in fact the voice of the neighborhood, indeed the voice of multiple neighborhoods, who came together in 1989 to agree on how their neighborhoods should develop.

Shouldn't the people who live in the neighborhood now get to decide that in a PUD?

by Neil Flanagan on Jul 22, 2011 1:57 am • linkreport

The developers of this building want to build a building that is 80 feet tall. But they bought land that only allows a building that is 40 feet tall (50 feet with low income housing). Why should they get this windfall? Why should they get special treatment?

by alan on Jul 22, 2011 2:01 am • linkreport

@Plonjer

Diversity doesn't mean just ethnic diversity. There is an increasing lack of economic diversity. Many people I know mine who are middle income earners like teachers and nurses who work in our community can't afford to live here. It's very difficult to tell who these people are by staring at them in the elevator. Affordable housing laws are like charities, while they help, they aren't enough to fix the problem. The solution to a lack of available units that drives up housing costs is to increase the number of available units. Even still, if an increase to 10% of affordable housing is customary, I see no reason for a developer to agree to it (or more) in exchange for allowing a height variance. I see this as a reasonable project that can help alleviate those supply issues while not drastically changing the character of the community despite all the clamor over heights and parking.

by Adam L on Jul 22, 2011 2:07 am • linkreport

@Neil Flanagan Sure. You quote the call upon the developer to work within the current zoning laws and then ask, other than appearance, how has he not. The reason that I directed you to read the actual PUD application is because the entire PUD application involves the developer asking again and again for exceptions to the existing zoning laws, ranging from (1) height to (2) density to (3) rear-yard requirement to (4) loading dock measurements - the whole think reads like the Paris Hilton of PUD applications. In essence the developer want to double his money - buy land zoned for 40 feet, finagle a zoning change, and then build an 80-feet tall building on it.

by Tom on Jul 22, 2011 2:13 am • linkreport

@Adam Although you acknowledge that 10% affordable housing is customary you don't think that a developer should agree to it for the sake of a height variance. You do know that without neighborhood consent this building doesn't even get to start, right? You say this is a reasonable project. How are you measuring it? By your own admission you're throwing custom out the window. So why should the neighborhood, composed of hundreds of people grant this one individual an exception?

by Plonjer on Jul 22, 2011 2:21 am • linkreport

@Plonjer

Quite the opposite. I think the developer should agree to the 10% (or more) if that is what is necessary to get the height variance approved.

There are rules for how exemptions are granted. I assume that those procedures exist so that they could, occasionally, be granted.

by Adam L on Jul 22, 2011 2:30 am • linkreport

@Plonjer

Sorry, I just reread what I wrote. I meant to say that I see no reason for the developer to not agree to it.

by Adam L on Jul 22, 2011 2:33 am • linkreport

@Adam - FYI - in 25 years there has only been one exception to the Reed Cooke Overlay. And never, has a PUD been granted for a development that blows through zoning laws to the extent of this one. Even the drawing of the proposed building has removed buildings that actually exist across the street just to make it seem like it fits in.

by Plonjer on Jul 22, 2011 2:35 am • linkreport

Tom, PUDs are part of the zoning code (Title 11-24). It is the developer's right to apply, and it's your and my right to debate it.

Let me re-quote, then:

...to develop a building that will complement our neighborhood in architectural style while providing additional services that will enhance the surrounding area and improve the quality of life for people who live nearby.

How does this building not do that?

by Neil Flanagan on Jul 22, 2011 2:37 am • linkreport

What I think many people don't realize about the existing building is that it, together with the Marie Reed Park, represents a barrier against the noise of Adams Morgan late at night. Right now, the little neighborhood is actually quite peaceful. This proposed development talks about "enlivening street life." Why? The developer doesn't live on Florida or V Streets. Would he like his street "enlivened"? Would he like Lauriol Plaza at 2am outside his door? Of course not. And neither would I. I bought my home in this nice quiet neighborhood. Why would I give that, and the consequent decline in property value, up, so that some developer who doesn't even live in the neighborhood can make an astronomical profit? It's just not in my interest to do so.

by George on Jul 22, 2011 2:44 am • linkreport

@neil Flanagan "complement our neighborhood in architectural style" - the building is 80 feet tall in a zone that is zoned for a maximum of 40ft. In the PUD application itself the developer himself refers to the building as containing "expanses of glass." At one end of the building it's 80 feet of glass from floor to roof. It faces homes that are over 100 years old, a handful were built by Frederick Douglas. They have been recognized and designated by the city as a historical neighborhood. Do I need to go on?

by Tom on Jul 22, 2011 2:52 am • linkreport

I don't have any sympathy for people complaining about the increased traffic and noise. I might not like those consequenses either if I lived there too, but I'd expect it knowing I lived near one of the most desirable and lively neighborhoods in Downtown.

As for how it doesn't fit in massing, the aerial shows the neighboring 6 story warehouse, so that argument doesn't seem to hold water. It's also north of the quaint row house neighborhood below, so the sun loss argument is off the table also.

Where I do think people might have an issue is with the glassy quality of the building, some might say Ballstonesque, some Clarandonesque. Glass cube lovers will look at the stripes of brick and decry the phony "historicist" quality of that material, that's insane. This design could and should be a lot more traditional than a cornice strapped atop a glass corner tower, which in theory seems to be the right move considering Florida Avenue's orientation. It takes a brave developer like the Ciao Bella development north of here http://dcmud.blogspot.com/2011/07/ciao-bella.html) to produce something that sensitivley fits in to a historic hood. They brave the macho modernist boys who taunt anything reaching back to pre-WWII buildings as pastiche. I hope the neighborhood get's something a little more substantial, and sustainable, considering how much sun heat this building will be soaking up, dumb considering that those vast expanses of glass will promptly be slathered with "window treatments". But while we argue over what's nostalgic and what's heroic, developers will continue to build these cheap looking buildings. It's a lot better than the 1960-1980's buildings, but asking for more when they stand to make a killing is not asking for much.

by Thayer-D on Jul 22, 2011 6:29 am • linkreport

There is commercial space on both sides of Florida, including the building directly across the street from the proposed building.

This site has a history of heavier uses than the one proposed. The existing structure was a Verizon maintenance depot and garage, before its current senescence as semi-vacant parking garage. Next door, there stands a 6/7 story warehouse. There's a Pepco substation farther up the block. The building housing Mint gym, about 200 feet away, looks like a former auto dealership.

by David R. on Jul 22, 2011 8:02 am • linkreport

I'm not sure it needs to be historic (though, I wouldn't be opposed - I think they did a great job making the Ellington on U look like it's been there for decades). But that Florida Ave corner is a big part of my life and could really boost its retail and define itself with a truly bold, outside the box, modernist design that takes chances on shape and form rather than this proposed bland and derivative suburban-style effort. Something bold would fit in with the buildings up the street on the other side of Marie Reed Rec, so it wouldn't be out of place.

by fraffligate on Jul 22, 2011 8:05 am • linkreport

And as someone who lives in the neighborhood and regularly walks through that part of Florida, I'd certainly want the street enlivened. I'd like to stop advising my visitors not to walk through the area bounded by Florida-18th-16th-Euclid. I'd be happy if there were no more shootings on Champlain. I'd appreciate a Florida Ave. that is more than a dark, deserted street defined mainly by multistory retaining walls and dead warehouses.

by David R. on Jul 22, 2011 8:07 am • linkreport

@David R. - You must be new to the city. The Mint building was an empty nightclub / auto dealer up until a few years ago. You're right, though, that any effort to try to pretend that corner is or ever was a quiet residential enclave is rewriting history. Until DDOT relatively recently put the road through Marie Reed, it also harbored a really sketchy dead end full of suspicious activity.

by fraffligate on Jul 22, 2011 8:10 am • linkreport

I don't get why the person linked the images of the over-sized condos. Yes, they are oversized. So what? It's not a ton of units in one building is it? What I mean is, it's not really a fair comparison. yes, the garage and storage buildings are not things of beauty. But there is still some semblance of scale there. And no, I do not necessarily think they should be kept (though I know lots of people appreciate those storage units).

Why is it that we are presented with something so quickly? There's a slow food movement, why can't there be a slow building movement? Are beautiful buildings a thing of the past? U Street, Chinatown - the new buildings there are cheap looking. Someone said the work on the new condos won't last more than a couple of hundred years. I'd be very surprised if they last a hundred.

Do other cities get the good architects? Why is there no one who ever comes into DC and really wows everyone? Rarely happens. Not only that, these developers ask for so much. As a long-time DC resident, I would be much more open to a new building on that site if there were more demonstrated thought behind it, real thought, and good design, and real taking into account all aspects of the neighborhood. But that never happens.

Where are all the GOOD architects? Where are all the GOOD ideas?

by Jazzy on Jul 22, 2011 8:17 am • linkreport

@Jazzy

The trouble with DC is that it's filled with conservative developers. This kind of building is mediocre, it's also safe and reliable, at least in terms of design - if not neighborhood reception. It represents a good return for a developer, with little risk. Perhaps there is some kind of failure of a social contract there.

Where are all the good architects?

Probably elsewhere, in cities that reward some amount of risk. Or, in my experience, here in DC, building tepid projects and talking about how they could do really interesting work someday.

by David R. on Jul 22, 2011 8:30 am • linkreport

Now that the initial flush of "wow! new buildings in DC!" has passed, perhaps market demand is shifting in a way that will no longer tolerate these lazy design efforts and the architects will be forced to dig deeper for innovation or hire people with the talent to do so.

by fraffligate on Jul 22, 2011 8:39 am • linkreport

This is a really good discussion about a potentially divisive subject. Thanks to everyone for helping to flesh out the pros and cons on this. As a neighborhood, we certainly don't want to stifle development by any stretch but at the same time, an increasing number of us work from home and can do so largely because it's such a quiet neighborhood. That's why we're here.

Also, I wanted to be sure to respond to the questions and thoughts that my last post prompted:

@Brian White
"The proposed wall of retail vs retail a block away" don't contradict each other. The neighborhood is primarily streets that run east-west. Along the eastern side is Florida Ave, which has several currently empty retail spaces along the two blocks between U St and V St.

@Neil Flanagan
The current proposal calls for a Planned Unit Development. This is a tool available for developers to use when the zoning variances that they require in order to build are significant. In this case, the developer is not only looking for a zoning variance, but also the removal of the Reed-Cook Overlay - a more restrictive zoning code put in place in the Reed-Cook neighborhood to ensure that the character of the neighborhood is preserved.

As far as improving the quality of life for those that live nearby, the articles mentions some possible ways the developers could do that, but they have yet to be discussed with the neighbors. All that is mentioned in the PUD application is the increased tax base, which is not actually a benefit to the neighborhood.

As far as the fact that the only way the neighborhood gets input is through a PUD, this is technically true, but not actually true. You see, the PUD process incorporates neighborhood input into the process because of the huge variance in zoning that the developer is asking for. However, zoning variances have to go through a similar process where local residents (if they're paying attention) can show up to the zoning board meetings and express their opinions. If the developers don't have the local community on their side (and it's an active community like ours), it's likely they won't be able to get their variance.

@Adam L
I apologize for you missing the meeting. Hit me up on twitter at @wmburke and I'll make sure you're included in the future. We canvassed the neighborhood by delivering about 200 invitations to local houses, but I won't pretend it was done in a completely scientific way.

As far as the traffic, I sit and watch traffic all day every day at 17th and V and based solely on my anecdotal evidence - there is an issue here. As far as parking, keep in mind that the development will reduce the amount of parking available in the building, and most of it will be saved for residents. Whoever uses the garage today will have to find somewhere else to park and that means on the street.

As far as making this a "lifetime" neighborhood - the proposed development will more likely serve "DC transients" - interns, people working in politics, and others that will rent when they are young and then move to the burbs or another city when it's time for a family. We would love to see units developed that would encourage longer term ownership with room for families and couples.

by Wayne on Jul 22, 2011 9:02 am • linkreport

The lack of sympathy for area residents' concerns that a few people have expressed here is precisely why it matters that a project take into account _nearby_ residents' views. Of course if you don't live right around the proposed development you care less about the impact on your daily life. And no one has asserted an "exclusive right to park on the street" - straw men aren't really helpful arguments.

by anon7 on Jul 22, 2011 9:39 am • linkreport

The lack of sympathy for area residents' concerns that a few people have expressed here is precisely why it matters that a project take into account _nearby_ residents' views.

OK, so how does this weighted voting work? How close is "nearby"? How much should the opinion of someone who lives across the street outweigh the opinion of someone who lives one block away? What about two blocks away? If 75% of immediate neighbors oppose a change and 95% of the whole city is in favor of it, should majority rule? Consider that in many cases neighbors oppose change, but years later will say that it was great and that they were wrong. Neighbors opposed the Capital Crescent Trail before it opened, but try to close it and tell me how many neighbors would be happy.

The opinion of neighbors should be solicited, but in the end they are a very small group - and a biased one - and their opinions (which are often irrationally built upon fear) should not trump the public good.

Remember the neighbors who opposed the CaBi station at Lincoln Park? That's the kind of crazy fear we have to ignore.

by David C on Jul 22, 2011 9:46 am • linkreport

Wow, a lot of new people showing up for this conversation. I welcome the participation but not so much the indignation. As both a neighbor and a longtime GGW community member, let me offer my diagnosis here:
  • Moderate to high overall density is a critical ingredient to a great city. It makes for mixed uses, diverse populations and businesses, lively retail and nightlife, a robust job market, and reduced per capita environmental footprint.
  • There is a much greater demand than supply of residences in DC. That's why the rental and housing markets are so strong compared to the rest of the country, and why prices are so high.
  • In order to make housing more affordable and receive the benefits of a greater city, it's necessary to increase the supply of residences in DC.
  • Not all places in DC are equally well-suited for more residences. In particular:
    • Transportation infrastructure is expensive to build, so we should make the best use of our existing capacity.
    • It's easier to redevelop commercial properties than government buildings, universities, single-family housing, embassies, etc.
    • It's easier to build residences in an area that already has residences and so has the needed amenities nearby (grocery store, etc.).
    • It's easier to redevelop an ugly building that doesn't add much to the community than a beloved historic building.
  • Therefore, where it makes sense, low density places need to accommodate reasonable increases in density, with community input to ensure public benefits.
  • Most people like the neighborhood where they live (or else they wouldn't keep living there).
  • Most people are naturally suspicious of changes to things that they like.
  • Therefore, often people are suspicious of new development in their neighborhood. It's reasonable to want to be informed and a chance to have your say.
  • But it's not reasonable to demand a veto over any new development in your neighborhood. Affordable housing, reduced environmental impact, a vibrant city, etc. affect all of us. Just because we don't live within a few blocks doesn't mean we don't matter. (Although in this case, I should point out, I do live within a few blocks – and that's why I especially support this proposal.)
To be clear, I don't know anyone involved with the development, haven't received anything from them, and have no personal interest other than as a neighbor and citizen concerned with the future of DC. I'm sure that applies to the site's owner and contributors as well.

by Gavin on Jul 22, 2011 9:51 am • linkreport

I stopped reading the comments halfway down, but did anyone mention that there is a 6 story storage facility building right next to the parking garage? Is building out 7 story construction to the end of the block really that much of a stretch?

The parking lot does little or no good for this area. I'd rather see construction that blends in with the character of the neighborhood, but apparently people like living in these type of buildings because if they didn't, the private market would not be clamoring to build them.

by Scoot on Jul 22, 2011 10:27 am • linkreport

@Wayne

Thanks. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that the traffic problems in DC are not caused by residents. My feeling is that commuters and other visitors will always cause traffic problems in the area and we shouldn't be making decisions on housing based on that criteria.

As for making lifetime neighborhoods, condo and apartment developments often do not attract families in general. Given the cost of condo units with 3+ bedrooms, only very wealthy families would even be able to afford it. For a developer to include larger affordable units would probably require height allowances far greater than what is currently allowed. Even then it still may not be worth the investment.

However, let's say that younger people do move into the building. I still think that would be good because they're A) likely not to have cars, alleviating your chief concern and B) maybe more likely to stay in the city. I know of very few people who moved into the District from the suburbs after they were wealthy enough to afford the housing costs here. The best thing D.C. can do is try to encourage "lifetime" residents is encourage young people who live in a neighborhood to stay here. If people never have the opportunity to become part of a community when they get here, it's unlikely that they would want to stay. In addition, affordable housing units must go to established residents, it is very unlikely that "transients" would qualify for the program.

by Adam L on Jul 22, 2011 10:28 am • linkreport

Why is a good architect equated with innovation or one who takes risks? Why isn't it equated with beauty and harmony? I think people who expect every building put up to be cutting edge are forgetting that 99% of people who will live and walk by these buildings could give two cents about how much aesthetic ground a new building breaks.

Take music, do people listen to music becasue it appeals to their intellect or heart? As an architect, I'm fully aware of the pleasure one can derive in the intellectual appreciation of buildings, it's one of my fondest pleasures, but I'm also aware that I don't design for other architects just as most pre-modernist architects understood. There are plenty of sensual and beautiful modernist and even cutting edge buildings, but it's clear if being avant guard is your primary meter of success, you forgo your responsability to the general public.

This building is not horrible, but it looks like every neo-modernist condo building build in DC after blending them in to mush.

by Thayer-D on Jul 22, 2011 10:37 am • linkreport

I'm surprised that we haven't heard a similar uproar about the building planned for 300 L St NE, or a backlash against the Loree Grand which is (kind of) across the street (which is way too tall, isn't near any other tall buildings, uses that ugly yellow brick, faces the wrong way, and is an incomprehensibly expensive place to live).

by andrew on Jul 22, 2011 10:50 am • linkreport

@Thayer-D -
I think you completely missed the point. No one's asking for a Gehry to become a citywide landmark. But if people aren't going to go classic with design to blend in with a previous generation's designs, then they should try to do something interesting (i.e. innovative). Even many older buildings were innovative - one of my favorite parts of the city is the hotel at the corner of 15th and Pennsylvania NW.

What happens when they don't go classic but also aren't innovative? They become "every neo-modernist condo building built in DC after blending them in to mush."

Your profession has gotten lazy in the DC area and we're calling them out on it.

by fraffligate on Jul 22, 2011 11:16 am • linkreport

I think fraffligate makes good points.

I honestly don't understand something. Why is this being presented by most folks as either "ya gotta support this, it's better than what's there now," or "oppose it, it's terrible?"

Why is there not a stronger voice for "we want new development and we want it to not be so darn cookie-cutter"?

If opposition is based almost exclusively on size, I am not too keen on that argument. I don't think it's a behemoth at all. I live several blocks away, but I also shop at Harris Teeter, which I would guess probably has increased property values in the neighborhood around the proposed development. And I would like to be more confident that I, along with my groceries, will get home safely. Yes, I do believe that a building along the lines of what's been proposed, would help to increase those chances. Quiet and peacefulness are one thing. Little foot traffic, however, as a facilitator for crime, is another.

I think there's an awful lot of talking *at each other in this debate (not untypical in debates) and not a whole lot of listening to perspectives -- on both sides.

Also, I do note a small piece in WCP mentioning the very high crime rate in Adams Morgan.

Can "we" push the developer to design something that INTEGRATES into -- and also IMPROVES -- the community? No, a neighborhood doesn't have to be boring same same all over. But while I like interesting, I don't like overly blatant failure to integrate.

by Dennis Jaffe on Jul 22, 2011 11:18 am • linkreport

"As both a neighbor and a longtime GGW community member, let me offer my diagnosis here:"

--------
Why does commenting for a long time on a blog give you added credibility for diagnosis, doctor?

by fraffligate on Jul 22, 2011 11:20 am • linkreport

@Gavin and @Dennis Jaffe: Well said!

by 7r3y3r on Jul 22, 2011 11:24 am • linkreport

Why is there not a stronger voice for "we want new development and we want it to not be so darn cookie-cutter"?

I try, whenever possible, not to serve as an art critic when it comes to these issues.

by JustMe on Jul 22, 2011 11:40 am • linkreport

I am shocked - shocked! - that someone would contemplate adding a seven-story building to this block.

florida ave tall bldg

I'll grant that the design is mediocre and that architectural quality is something to push the developers on.

@Thayer-D

When I'm talking about risk-averse developers, I'm not talking about ones willing to build avant-garde architecture. I'm referring to people who will not consider anything other than tepid buildings exactly like the other new projects around the city.

The architecture firm behind this, Bonstra Haresign, has done some sensitive adaptive reuse projects at Gage School, Studio Theatre, and Arcade-Sunshine Laundry. I'm surprised, actually, to see this.

by David R. on Jul 22, 2011 11:44 am • linkreport

I strongly second Fraffligate's 11:16am comment.

I also meant to say that while I like interesting and don't like overly blatant failure to integrate, this proposal is not too interesting, but again it wouldn't be, in my opinion, the most blatant failure to integrate either.

Is this really either support or oppose, and not an opportunity to push for proposal changes?

@Gavin While I would happen to come down on the side of supporting the proposal if given absolutely no alternative, I think there's no clear winner as to which side is showing more indignation.

by Dennis Jaffe on Jul 22, 2011 11:48 am • linkreport

@fraffligate
I guess I did miss you're point, becasue to do something innovative means to do something new. To be new though doesn't necessarily mean something interesting. But I think you also missed my point. Why not try to make it blend in better? I'm calling out my profession also, if that wasn't clear, that their primary objective is the public and not their peers.

My profession hasn't gotten any lazier than in previous generations, what has changed are my profession's aesthetic priorities. Innovation at the expense of beauty is what's taught at most architecture schools. What happens when these architects meet real clients and developers who want beauty? Architectural mush. Take the 1920's Mayflower Hotel on Connecticut Ave. for example. Not innovative by any stretch and not even necessarily interesting. It could be that the architect was mediocre, like most of us are, always have been, and always will be.

My point is that at least that architect was taught to do something most people might consider attractive, vs. expressing it's concrete frame or showing off how much glass you could get away with as a skin material. We can't all be Michelangelo, or Frank Gehry (what ever floats your boat) but modernist schools teach that we all can be starchitects and that every commission should be avant guard. When that fantasy meets reality, the street suffers.

by Thayer-D on Jul 22, 2011 11:54 am • linkreport

@David R and everyone else who keeps referencing the six story storage building next to the proposed project:

That building is the only building of its size in the neighborhood, and largest by far. Using your logic, they should allow 12 story buildings around 17th and Q because the Cairo is there. Also, that six stories is equal to 5 of the 7 stories on the proposed building (according to the renderings). Just some things to keep in mind.

by 7r3y3r on Jul 22, 2011 12:01 pm • linkreport

This debate here is typical for why DC is not getting anywhere architecturally. Yes, the design of the new building is somewhat cookie cutter, but so are the designs of the 'historic' row houses. This particular corner of town is not renowned for its architecture like other parts of the city. Specifically, these blocks are a hodgepodge of row houses, a worn down field, and some outlasted utility buildings. The owners may like their neighborhood, and that is good, but it does not make the place more special than other places. Also, most people like their neighborhood. The people that don't leave.

Most arguments I've seen here are rather hollow and can be summarized as "I don't wanna", and then followed by some words that people have heard making an impact elsewhere, like historic, contrast, parking problem, crime, Ballstonesque, all going whatever direction suits the arguer, without any motivation on why that would be the case.

It's funny how the arguments on the AU expansion are identical to those here, even though the neighborhoods could not be more different.

The reason why there are not great architects in DC, is that great architects do not wish to deal with such whiners. Great architects don't want to negotiate about their design. Great architects have a vision, and want to build that vision. Hence they have to stay far far away from the "I don't wanna" crowd.

by Jasper on Jul 22, 2011 12:08 pm • linkreport

@Thayer D -
I don't disagree with your broader point about starchitecture, but you're drawing a false dichotomy between innovation and beauty. Something can be both, it just takes moving beyond the rubberstamp of what today's architects think people find appealing (which obviously is the mush of neo-modernist condos - ala neo-Clarendon). I think what your profession mistakes for beauty the rest of us see as "inoffensive". Your profession sees this proposed style as the easiest way to a paycheck with the fewest hurdles. I go down Mass Ave toward Union Station and I'm not offended by the newer buildings, but I'm not inspired by them either. They certainly do not evoke notions of beauty.

Perhaps it takes moving beyond the notion that innovation can only exist when maximum glass is used (not very innovative if we already know what it is).

by fraffligate on Jul 22, 2011 12:26 pm • linkreport

"I hate the Beek - esp the massive walls that make FL between 16th & 17th a dogpoop mugfest area... " -greent

There have been no reported muggings in that area in the last year -- it is 100 yards from a police station after all. Also, the massive walls you hate are there because of the natural landform -- the Beekman is on top of a hill so steep they stopped the old DC plan there because they thought carriages would never be able to get up it. FL used to be called Boundary Street in those days. The pre-stressed concrete isn't the most beautiful thing, but Agree about the dog poop though.

by RT on Jul 22, 2011 12:28 pm • linkreport

Looking at the Bing image posted above by David R., It seems the only low density neighbors directly impacted are the 7 or 8 townhouses across from it and I'm sure at least a few of those would welcome the development. I can't see anyone from the gated townhouse community having a problem with the height as it would be blocked by the 7 story storage facility. Nor could they complain about aesthetics as those townhomes are butt ugly. So who is complaining on this thread and where exactly do you live that you are actually impacted by its mass? If you can't see it from your property then why should you be given more weight in the argument than myself 4 blocks away? And why should I get a greater voice than any other DC resident? I think the mass is the real herring here. Congestion and parking are the real nimby concerns here as usual, but they know they won't be successful working that angle.

by Johnny on Jul 22, 2011 12:29 pm • linkreport

I'm not going to argue the aesthetics of the building. But I will say that one advantage of doing what everyone else is doing is that it's cheaper. Supplies are readily available, workers are familiar with the materials, it's gotten through zoning before (why add risk) etc...And in the end this is a business.

But since we're on the issue, would anyone like to take a stab at a list of the best DC architecture since 2000? I'd be curious as to what people think works.

by David C on Jul 22, 2011 12:31 pm • linkreport

@fraffligate,
Sounds like we may be getting somewhere. I actually would love to see some innovation, I just don't think it should be at the expense of striving for beauty, understanding that both these concepts are subjective. And I'm not saying one needs to choose, it's that beauty isn't even considered a worthwhile objective in most architecture schools, maybe becasue it's too subjective, I don't know.

by Thayer-D on Jul 22, 2011 12:40 pm • linkreport

@David C -
I guess I'm focused on design because otherwise I think getting rid of that parking garage and putting a building there that has windows and life is a great idea. I have no problem with the height either. It's an urban neighborhood near a lot of taller condos.

A couple nice post-2000ish designs that come to mind are, as mentioned above, The Ellington and Studio Theater. There are some nice apts and townhomes in the same neighborhood (don't know their addresses). Arena Stage works well (not sure I would have kept the old stage, but I'm sure that was required by some misguided historical restriction so they probably did the best they could with it).

Down M street SW I think those two office buildings by Safeway (DC government I believe?) and the silver / brown one on top of Navy Yard Metro by Nats Park are appealing. Not a fan of Nats Park, though.

by Fraffligate on Jul 22, 2011 12:41 pm • linkreport

@Jasper - Thank you! It could have not have been said better. I have actually seen some rather clever and thoughtful designs for buildings get squashed because some NIMBY groups start up with the usual arguments and then come the delays which lead to a no deal. In the end, we all lose because of these individuals.

by scott on Jul 22, 2011 1:00 pm • linkreport

The Ellington is a good example of why many of these arguments are BS. All the buildings around it and across the street are way smaller, and it doesn't feel like it's towering over you when you walk by it. Probably because it has actual street-facing retail. Of course all the "neighbors" of new projects want to get rid of all that, so you're left with a blank facade that offers no interaction when you're passing by.

by MLD on Jul 22, 2011 1:05 pm • linkreport

Fraffligate, Doesn't this building look like the Elligton? Same color of brick as the middle portion of the Elligton, all glass, light metal and brick, etc... How can you think one is ugly, but not the other? They're so similar.

by David C on Jul 22, 2011 1:17 pm • linkreport

Thank you to Thayer for speaking up for beauty, aesthetics. How doing so contributes to "livability" is so underappreciated on this blog it's not funny.

by Jazzy on Jul 22, 2011 1:27 pm • linkreport

While I'll defer to closer residents on the proposal (I'm in the Striver's Section, but not Reed-Cooke), I've long been struck by the big difference between the north and south sides of Florida Avenue between 18th and 16th. The south side is uniformly townhouses, with one larger apartment building on 16th. The north side is a concrete retaining wall between 16th and 17th; a storage warehouse; the current blank-walled garage; and, until the renovations a few years ago, a crumbling former auto dealership between Champlain and 18th. The current situation provides an abrupt, sharp edge to the neighborhood, which I mostly avoided until Harris Teeter was opened. Whatever its relative lack of aesthetic appeal, a residential development on the site of the garage would at least help connect the parts of the neighborhood on either side of Florida Avenue.

by jcd on Jul 22, 2011 3:05 pm • linkreport

I've long been struck by the big difference between the north and south sides of Florida Avenue between 18th and 16th.

This might be a holdover from when Florida Avenue was Boundary Avenue. The south side was the city of Washington and the north side was Washington County (or something like that). That's just a theory though.

by David C on Jul 22, 2011 3:12 pm • linkreport

As a resident of the neighborhood, I object to this proposed building for several reasons (though I agree that the current building could use improvement). First, the developer offers no set-back from the street or greenery. Second, the building takes up the entire lot. Neither of these are permitted by current zoning laws.

But, primarily, I object because the City services in Adams Morgan are woefully inadequate to allow the addition of 125 new units. This corner has suffered two major water main breaks within the last year. It took WASA a week to fix the most recent one, with water pressure way down on the block in the mean time. If there were 300 additional toilets flushing, we probably all would have been buying bottled water that week! Then, there are the rats in Adams Morgan. They would love garbage from another 125 units. And, there is the police presence -- we don't have any, but there are plenty of petty crimes. Think about how many more bikes and cars there will be to steal once we have a big luxe building with yuppie residents.

Before we expand the size of the neighborhood, we need to get our proverbial house in order -- we need adequate plans to reduce car traffic and parking demands (removing an existing garage goes in the opposite direction), police enforcement of the rules, trash pick up, and water service. The City has not provided these in adequate measure for the 26 years I've been here, but has continued to give out building permits -- presumably to generate more tax revenue to pay for the things we should have gotten all along. Well, it hasn't worked in the past and there is no reason to think it will work this time. So, let's preserve the low-rise nature of the neighborhood and the Reid Cooke overlay.

by dcmeredith on Jul 22, 2011 3:22 pm • linkreport

@Plonjer "@Adam So in your experience you've seen taller condominium developments like this lead to greater diversity? Really? In no way does that accord with any experience of mine. And I' m pretty sure to bet my life it doesn't accord with any experience of yours. When was the last time that you took an elevator from the fourth floor of a condominium development in Washington DC, and shared that elevator with an ethnic-minority single-mother?"

The last condo building I lived in in Silver Spring had a number of the lower cost units set aside for low-income people. It certainly encouraged diversity. Although I didn't actually appreciate my neighbor panhandling me at all hours.

by Brian White on Jul 22, 2011 3:46 pm • linkreport

@Anonymous via David r:

"@Brian White. No, actually they do not contradict each other. Like all neighborhoods, it has a border. Next question.

David R: There is commercial space on both sides of Florida, including the building directly across the street from the proposed building. "

It doesn't sound like this is in any way introducing retail into a purely residential neighborhood.

by Brian White on Jul 22, 2011 3:50 pm • linkreport

"Fraffligate, Doesn't this building look like the Elligton? Same color of brick as the middle portion of the Elligton, all glass, light metal and brick, etc... How can you think one is ugly, but not the other? They're so similar."

--------

I don't think they look alike at all. Ellington isn't nearly all glass or light metal. It's much more traditional in style.

by fraffligate on Jul 22, 2011 4:08 pm • linkreport

So if the building had less glass and more brick, you'd be down with it?

by David C on Jul 22, 2011 4:14 pm • linkreport

I live right across the street from the proposed building and have been attending the meetings re: development since last year when the developer was pitching an apartment building with a completely different design aesthetic that fit in better with the neighborhood.

Just in case anyone's interested in the scale difference between the two buildings, I've created a rough mock based on the two photographs presented.

You can view it here:
http://www.aretta.cc/stuff/scale-difference.png

by Christiana Aretta on Jul 22, 2011 4:26 pm • linkreport

The Ellington looks almost the same as this rendering, down even to the covered roof deck -- only the Ellington has a small 3-4 story extension (I don't know what it houses -- lofts?) clad in brick. The rest looks very similar ... the rendering of 1711 Florida has more balconies than the Ellington and that's why it appears to have more glass on its facade.

by Scoot on Jul 22, 2011 4:33 pm • linkreport

@ David C -

Huh? I realize you're trying to salvage a failed attack against me, but I didn't say anything remotely like that. Also, aside from color, I don't see much of the Ellington in this design at all. I see a lot of Clarendon.

by fraffligate on Jul 22, 2011 7:45 pm • linkreport

You said that the main difference between the Ellington and this building is that this building had more glass. I'm not trying to salvage any attack, I'm just trying to determine what you see as the difference, because I don't see that much.

What's wrong with Clarendon? It's a very nice place. You say that like it's an insult.

by David C on Jul 22, 2011 10:52 pm • linkreport

There's nothing wrong with Clarendon, but Adams Morgan would be a far5 less appealing place if it became overrun with the bland architecture that has come to define places like that. This proposed building fits that blandness. I don't remember making the glass comment, but I did say the Ellington is nice because it looks like it's been there a long time. This building does not share this quality or any innovation ionthe other direction. It's in that mushy middle ground that has proliferated in places like Clarendon. There's quite a bit of appealing new architecture just up the street in the Harris Teeter area.

by Fraffligate on Jul 23, 2011 12:47 am • linkreport

Christiana, thanks for the great photo. Do you know why the developer changed the plan? Do you have an illustration of the old one?

by Jazzy on Jul 23, 2011 8:17 am • linkreport

While I'm not so happy with the design of this particular development, I don't see how prohibiting taller development that would allow a greater diversity of people to live in our neighborhood that has become very much a playground for the well-to-do. If housing stocks remain so low that the prices drive people out to the suburbs then I can ensure you that the District will never become a "lifetime" place; just a playground for those wealthy enough to live here.

by Adam L on Jul 22, 2011 12:51 am

Did you listen to Kojo this week?

The guest, Roger Lewis, paraphrased.

Boom bust cycle:

There's been a lot of new housing built in Washington. Last 10 years, lots of apartments which were generally condo, they were meant to be sold.

What happened is after 2006, the population who could afford these new condos began to weaken, and a lot of those condos are now rentals. This happened not only in the city but also places like Rockville. Same thing happening along Mass ave.

Why is this happening?

Affordable housing: For people who are gainfully employed, whose incomes are respectable but not huge and can afford their house (no more than 30% of income). NOW, to find housing, instead of looking at 30%, they're looking at 40 or 50%.

This would seem to me to suggest that the high housing prices have allowed these new condos to sit empty so the investors have had to rent them. The iTunes promo says that most of these new luxury condo projects lie mostly empty.

Kojo: Shaping the City.

by Jazzy on Jul 24, 2011 5:03 pm • linkreport

Thanks for the mockup Christina. That is a very large difference, when you can see it.

The GGW crowd is all about "Build it to block out the sun". There should be no height limit at all anywhere and anyone who thinks building should stick to the zoning of the neighborhood is just a silly old-timer nimby. The city gets to decide, not the neighborhood.

@RT on Jul 22, 2011 12:28: I pointed out it was ugly, yes?
No muggings in a whole year! Wow, thanks for the history lesson about Boundary street, I never ever knew any of that!

I know all about this area, I've been here for awhile. My ex owned a house on this block for 4 years in the 90's, so I am quite aware of what it used to be like, police station or not.

I remember when Kilaminjaro nightclub brought dancing and mugging to this great little neighborhood..anyone... anyone on GGW remember that? Know where it was located? Doubtful.

No one here who favors this new building has explained WHY this developer should be allowed to build the building above the limit.

Why should an exemption be granted for double the allowed height?
Why should an exemption be gratned for an large chagne in teh FAR (from 3.5 to 5.58)?
Why should an exemption to the required backyard space be given?

Because the developer wants it, and if they don't get it, they won't build nothing? Have you ever heard of blackmail?

Eventually this building will be redone. Don't give in to blackmail, and don't buy into the silliness that this will "diversify" the neighborhood. They are going to be luxury condo's. The only diversity it will bring is richer people.

The neighborhood is not opposed to a new building, or to building apartments or even.. gah.. more "front end retail". The neighborhood is opposed to a building being twice the size of what is allowed.

by greent on Jul 25, 2011 12:39 pm • linkreport

@greent

Why are any of those requirements the correct parameters? Who says 3.5 FAR is better than 5.58?

Instead of simply asserting that the height limit is what it is, let's discuss why the height is limited in the first place.

Is it to protect neighbors from shadows? The site is on the north side of the street - who is it going to cast a shadow over? The Pepco substation? It's not like this proposed building is even that tall in the grand scheme of things.

Too often, opponents to projects like this one fall back to the zoning code as a defense, without noting that if the neighborhoods they loved burned to the ground, it would be illegal to rebuild them as they were under the current zoning code.

You mock the defense of city-wide interests: "The city gets to decide, not the neighborhood."

Do you deny that those city-wide interests exist? Isn't there a strong citywide interest in growing the tax base? In adding more housing supply? In redeveloping sites like this that are ripe for it?

Obviously, the neighborhood should have input, but they do not get (nor should not get) a veto pen.

by Alex B. on Jul 25, 2011 12:56 pm • linkreport

Why should an exemption be granted for double the allowed height?

Because the allowed height was poorly thought out. Building limits are, for one thing, a limit on property rights and so should be done only when there is a clear and imperative reason. I'm not sure this is such a case. Furthermore, allowing for a bigger building will allow for more residents close in to the city. This brings a whole lot of environmental benefits (less transportation needed), commercial benefits (people=customers) and social benefits (eyes on the street, more taxpayers, reduced housing costs). So unless there is a very good reason to limit building heights, we shouldn't.

Why should an exemption be gratned for an large chagne in teh FAR (from 3.5 to 5.58)?

See above.

Why should an exemption to the required backyard space be given?

Because it's kind of a dumb requirement (see above).

(Also, I remember Kilimanjaro and know where it was located)

by David C on Jul 25, 2011 1:01 pm • linkreport

Kilimanjaro was a great place to go see music! I don't remember the muggings. But I liked that place. It's where Mint or whatever the latest incarnation of that gym is now.

by Jazzy on Jul 25, 2011 1:23 pm • linkreport

To state that The InTowner "strongly warns against this project" suggests that we were editorializing. On the contrary, we were simply reporting the concerns and questions discussed at last month's meeting of the Reed-Cooke neighborhood Association.

by P.L. Wolff, Publisher, The InTowner on Jul 26, 2011 11:19 am • linkreport

The people of Shrivers Row met tonight to discuss this project. The neighbors were frantic despite one council member's sage advice to "keep an open mind.". There were insinuations people without children are not good citizens, that people living in apartment buildings were perverts, and other baseless arguments. I have never seen such fierce nimbyism nor such misdirected hate at apartment dwellers.

by Jan Djo on Aug 2, 2011 12:25 am • linkreport

The previous comment is unfortunate and readers of this blog deserve better.

Last night, the people of Strivers Row attended the first Planning, Zoning, and Transportation (PZT) Committee meeting for our local Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) where the proposed development at 1711 Florida was open for discussion. This is the first formal hurdle that the developers have to clear towards getting their application approved.

The developers presented their plan and the public responded to it. While I would agree that the public response was not favorable, the previous poster has mis-represented a few points made by individuals out of context in order to make the situation seem worse than it actually was.

The general impression I was left with at the end of the meeting was that we all would like to see development there, but that the current proposal is simply not the right one. A great deal of information and advice about what would make the right proposal was shared, and based on previous meetings with the developers, we're optimistic that they will continue to incorporate this information into their design, and that together we will develop a truly great building for the site.

These sorts of proposals always go through several iterations. Everyone has a lot on the line, whether it's significant sums of money or concerns about how it will change the neighborhood. This is all part of the process, and we're only at the first stage of it.

Villifying the people who live in the neighborhood will not make the years of discussion and development that lay ahead any more pleasant for anyone.

by Wayne on Aug 2, 2011 8:45 am • linkreport

I'm so sad you had that impression from the extensive conversation last night.

You may have missed the numerous residents who stated they were not opposed to development, or developing this specific building, but had concerns about a building that would be DOUBLE the size (80 ft) allowed under the Reed Cook Overlay.

You may have missed the several residents who thanked the developers for meeting with us and being so open to hearing our concerns.

You may have missed the people who said they knew we could reach a workable compromise for everyone.

That's the very positive message I took away from the meeting last night. We are in this for the long haul, so let's ALL try to keep an open mind, yourself included.

by Susan on Aug 2, 2011 8:53 am • linkreport

The comment by "Jan Djo" completely mischaracterizes what was a very lengthy meeting by lying about what actually happened at the meeting, and taking one, one-second aside, (that was mentioned in the context of the impact of an 80-foot tall tower of glass and 4 6-floor plate-glass bay-towers on the existing neighborhood) as typical of what was said by over 15 members of the public who spoke at the meeting for over an hour. The lie is that there was an insinuation that people without children are not good citizens. While of course, someone with a strong motivation in this process, can perceive insinuations everywhere they look, reasonable people could find no evidence in last night's meeting for this claim. One can only imagine that this comment is mischaracterizing a discussion about the advantage of having apartments with a larger number of bedrooms, because it would allow for greater diversity in the neighborhood, by allowing those who choose to have families to stay in the neighborhood where they have lived for so long before having families. The purpose of this suggestion, with which incidentally the developers (hardly victims of "nimbyism") agreed, was to suggest the value of diversity in the neighborhood, and not, as "Jan Djo," in the manner of a cheap TV network writes, to insinuate that "people without children are not good citizens." To follow-up on Wayne's comment, these types of ad-hominem attacks are transparent and unhelpful.

by Patrick on Aug 2, 2011 9:15 am • linkreport

Folks, welcome to this thread but please keep in mind our rules for civility. Do not attack other people, accuse them of lying, liken their comments to "a cheap TV network", etc. If you think someone is mistaken or disagree with their conclusion, say what you think is the truth, rather than attack them. Thanks.

by David Alpert on Aug 2, 2011 9:17 am • linkreport

David, I believe to be the truth that there was no reasonable basis for the claim, and I believe it to be the truth that the comment was sensational. I intend no disrespect whatsoever to Mr. Jan Djo personally, and if any is perceived, I apologize. Indeed, I would be more than happy to buy Mr. Jan Djo a beer any place in the neighborhood and to sit and discuss his perspective on this development. If Mr. Jan Djo is willing then please just post the time and place of his choosing and I will meet him there.

by Patrick on Aug 2, 2011 9:56 am • linkreport

David, I understand you have to moderate the comments and applaud you for it, but I was personally offended by Jan's inciting comment, which was far from civil.

As a point of truth, I am an apartment dweller who is also a young professional and childless (and a rather demure, good citizen to boot). Somehow, in spite of the previous comment to the contrary, I am an active part of the Shrivers Row community and attended last night's meeting side-by-side with my neighbors. My husband even spoke at the meeting. I should mention that he too is a childless, apartment dweller who is not prone to perversions -- yet he still voiced concerns about the project in its current form. As such, I think that to call our concerns "misdirected hate at apartment dwellers" is rather, well, misdirected.

The vast majority of the people attending the meeting were not against the development, they were against the way it was proposed. In its current form, as prepared by the developers, the building is depicted as standing alone, offset from the neighborhood and area it will actually inhabit. That looks fine on paper (and on blogs), but at the end of the day, this proposed building will impact a number of people and dramatically change the face of a neighborhood, which I see as a historical gem in this city.

As such, the meeting last night was not a fierce display of nimbyism. It was a fierce and inspiring show of community ownership and stewardship (even for us apartment dwellers who do not physically or legally "own" anything in the area).

The people who attended last night's meeting, regardless if they were for the building as proposed or had reservations, should be applauded for taking an active engagement in the discussion and making their voices heard. The views they expressed in such a democratic process should not be degraded by such a misdirected, hateful, sweeping comment as was posted earlier.

by Rachel on Aug 2, 2011 11:58 am • linkreport

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