Greater Greater Washington

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Adams Morgan gas station gives way to condos, retail

For almost 90 years, 1827 Adams Mill Road welcomed drivers with an Exxon gas station. Soon, this lot at the heart of Adams Morgan will make way for a new condominium with several features to encourage future residents to bike or use transit instead.


Rendering of 1827 Adams Mill Road. All media from PGN Architects.

Neighbors generally support the 36-unit building, which will be built in a partnership between PGN Architects and Perseus Realty. They're excited about what establishments could fill the project's 8,600 square feet of ground-floor retail space. But others worry that losing the gas station and repair shop, which first opened in 1926, will make it hard to get their cars fixed.

The Board of Zoning Adjustment agreed to give Perseus and PGN an exception to the height limit, allowing them create a rooftop communal space, which should have great views of downtown Washington. They will also allow the developers to build just 24 parking spaces instead of the required 37, which will reduce the cost of building expensive underground parking.

In April, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C, which represents the surrounding neighborhood, voted 7-1 in favor of the project with several concessions, including that they don't want nightclubs or taverns in the building's retail space.

Residents will get 18 of the building's parking spaces, while the rest would go to commercial tenants. The residential parking spaces will be sold separately from the units, meaning people without cars won't have to pay for space they won't use. Everyone in the building will have to get a chance to buy one parking space before anyone can buy a second, and non-residents will be able to rent any excess spaces.

To reduce the amount of car trips future residents will make, everyone will get a $75 SmarTrip card or one year membership to Capital Bikeshare or a car sharing service. According to the building plans, there will also be 20 bicycle parking spaces.


The developers will pay to repair the "Pueblo Desmuralizado" mural, shown in 2007. Photo by Keith Ivey on Flickr.

In addition, the developer will set prices for any required Inclusionary Zoning units at a level that people making 50% of the average median income in Adams Morgan can afford. They'll also hold a public meeting with ANC 1C residents about their proposed construction traffic plan, and provide a one-time contribution of $2,000 to repair the "Pueblo Desmuralizado" mural on Columbia Road, otherwise known as the Ko Gi Bow Bakery mural.

After the building's finished, they'll continue to pay for upkeep at the pocket park at Adams Mill Road and Lanier Place NW, including periodic irrigation, fertilization, mulching, seasonal plantings, and installation and maintenance of tree boxes.

The developer's agreement with ANC 1C ensures that this project will make a great contribution to Adams Morgan, by supporting new residents who don't drive and giving current residents more shops within walking distance. This is just one of several condo projects in the works in the neighborhood, which altogether will add 175 units.

Any ideas on what you'd like to see on the ground floor?

Jason Levinn is an infrastructure finance consultant with a strong passion for transportation initiatives that can improve the vitality of a city and lives of its citizens. After completing his masters project on transit-oriented development for a Virginia transit agency, Jason moved to DC in 2010 and has been following the exciting developments taking place in the region ever since. 

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This post says that ANC1C "voted 7-1 in favor of the project," i.e. that one commissioner opposed the project. But the meeting minutes actually say the vote was "seven in favor, none opposed and one abstained, 7-0-1."

by Gavin on Aug 5, 2013 12:52 pm • linkreport

As a local resident, I will miss the repair shop. They were real life savers on more than one occasion.

And it is very clear to anyone who visits Adams Morgan on the weekend that there is demand for parking. This place should've put in even more parking and made it available to the public on an hourly basis.

by Ron on Aug 5, 2013 12:57 pm • linkreport

Sounds like a good package of proffers - some here will worry if the same could be achieved under the new zoning code, with a .5 per unit parking requirement.

Disappearing gas stations - will DC residents accept that one cost of the height limit, is the rapid disappearance of places to get your car fixed? How far will people go for that? Drive accross town to fix your car, and take out a CaBi bike to get home? ;)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 5, 2013 1:01 pm • linkreport

The design of the building is a big fat yawn.

I just wish some of these new buildings didn't look the same as every other building built post-2000 or so. Are we only hiring one firm for the whole city? Is there some law about it or something?

This one strongly resembles the buildings in Columbia Heights and countless other recent development projects in the city.

Soon the whole city will look the same.

I'm just nitpicking though; it will be nice to have a little more residential space in the neighborhood.

by Alycia on Aug 5, 2013 1:24 pm • linkreport

There's absolutely no need for more parking in Adams Morgan. Traffic is awful to begin with weekend nights. People should take buses or walk or bike or take a taxi in a pinch.

by Alan B. on Aug 5, 2013 1:26 pm • linkreport

Looks really good. I'm extra-happy that the 'pueblo desmuralizado' mural is getting fixed up. When it got plastered over, it was really upsetting. I've always wondered if this is the same gas station referenced in the graffiti from 1974, featured on the 'Roads to Diversity' trail in Adams-Morgan:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/2865811510/

Also, for those who say we need more parking in Adams-Morgan, there is loads of parking available in the multi-level garage on 18th St.

by renegade09 on Aug 5, 2013 1:42 pm • linkreport

why not incorporate an autorepair shop into the plan. If there is a market for it why cant we have a development that includes it.

by Richard B on Aug 5, 2013 1:49 pm • linkreport

Different, of course, but this kind of reminds me of when a spanking new building was announced for a long-empty lot on Astor Place in NYC. Looked cool on paper, but turned out very blah for such a prominent spot. NY Magazine's explainer here: http://nymag.com/realestate/vu/2006/17319/

A good local example, perhaps, is at the corner of 17th and Que NW (across the street from Trio). For a long time, that was an empty lot. And the (late 1980s-ish) building there now isn't exactly ugly, and it's pretty functional, but not exactly memorable either.

by 20015 on Aug 5, 2013 1:52 pm • linkreport

There probably isnt enough demand for it to make it worth doing an autorepair shop as the bottom floor of a residential building (which would probably detract from the value of the units above it). Looks like the repair business is relocating to the Watergate Exxon, and the folks there have alternatives for gasoline.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Aug 5, 2013 1:54 pm • linkreport

According to google, there are two auto shops within a 1/4 mile or so and I know there is one nearby on Mt Pleasant St, so maybe there isnt a market to keep it there.

by Alan B. on Aug 5, 2013 1:55 pm • linkreport

It could be better, but it could be a lot worse. At least it isn't all glass, but seems like it could have used some curves like many of it's masonry neighbors.

I'm surprised we haven't heard "it should be 13 stories" yet. Maybe that's a function of it being a historic neighborhood, but a couple more stories wouldn't seem out of place given the sites prominance.

by Thayer-D on Aug 5, 2013 2:00 pm • linkreport

There probably isnt enough demand for it to make it worth doing an autorepair shop as the bottom floor of a residential building (which would probably detract from the value of the units above it). Looks like the repair business is relocating to the Watergate Exxon, and the folks there have alternatives for gasoline.

I imagined as much but I wanted to suggest that auto repair can exist in a mixed use development. It need not be street level, it can feed off of an on site parking garage facility although it would need ventilation. I am not sure if gas stations can be built in mixed use buildings according to DC code but they are in other parts of the world. Their might not be demand for 15 shops per block(as their seem to be in Beltsville) but if people want to have a neighborhood shop, it need not be a single story eyesore of an establishment, it could be located as part of a mixed development where the street facing land would be put to better use.

by Richard B on Aug 5, 2013 2:28 pm • linkreport

If you take buildings from a similar time period a lot of them will look similar. Victorian, Modern, whatever. Whenever the next major architectural shift happens we'll have another new slate of buildings that all look similar because they were all built at the same time.

by drumz on Aug 5, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

36 units but only 20 bike spaces? That seems way too low, especially as multiple people own bikes per apartment

by JJJJJJ on Aug 5, 2013 2:45 pm • linkreport

@drumz

I know what you're saying. Look at all the buildings built in the late 1950s on Connecticut Ave for example. But I guess I'm just personally tired of the current style. I think a decade plus of the same building repeated all over the city is long enough.

Time for a new cookie cutter.

by Alycia on Aug 5, 2013 2:53 pm • linkreport

Richard B - The Exxon at 22nd & M NW is part of a residential building, so it is possible in DC.

by JS on Aug 5, 2013 2:57 pm • linkreport

@JS
Thanks, although looking at 22nd and M it doesnt look like there is anything above the pumps. In both S Korea and Spain I have seen office/residential units on top of the roof above the pumps. I suppose that might be a little risky for DC.

by Richard B on Aug 5, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

The description in this post doesn’t seem to match the BZA order.

The inclusionary zoning units will be based on the DC Metropolitan Area Median Income, not the Adams Morgan median income. For 2013, the DC Metropolitan Area AMI was $107,300. Half the units will be for households earning 50% of AMI, and half the units will be for households earning 80% of AMI. For a family of four, half the affordable units will be for an income of $54,722, and half the affordable units will be for an income of $86,912. If they were rental units, the allowable rents would be approximately $1,200 and $1,935, respectively. According to a recent OP study, the median income in Adams-Morgan is approximately $58,000, and if adjusted for family size would be approximately $80,000 for a four-person household. Clearly, there is no requirement that all the inclusionary units be affordable to households with half the Adams-Morgan median income ($40,000 for a family of four), and in fact, none of them will be. The affordable units (three to four units) will total approximately 2800 SF.

They might provide 24 parking spaces, but are only required to provide 19 spaces. Of those, 18 spaces will be for the residents. One might be for use by a car-sharing company, and the remaining spaces, if any, would be for use by the commercial tenants.

As noted in the post, they will provide farecards, bike-sharing or car-sharing memberships valued at $75 for new residents, sell the parking spaces separately from the units, and prohibit the purchase of a second space until it is determined that all initial purchasers have had an opportunity to purchase a first space. They will consider the feasibility of leasing spaces to non-residents if there are unsold spaces, provide 20 bicycle parking spaces in the garage, write a provision in the sales contract that residents are not permitted to apply for RPPs, and work to see if they can locate a public parking space near the building for a car-sharing company.

There also is no exception to the height limit, but a special exception for the configuration of the roof structures. There was no requirement to the developer pay for the upkeep of the pocket park. While that might be in the ANC resolution, it is not in the BZA order. In addition, the BZA was not requiring that the developer contribute toward the restoration of the mural, and according to the testimony at the hearing, the developer said that they would contribute to the BID effort, but requested that it not be a condition in the zoning approval.

by OtherMike on Aug 5, 2013 3:21 pm • linkreport

While I have no personal problem with seeing gas stations go, much of the District's Highway Trust Fund, which helps pay for road maintenance and improvements, is paid for in part with motor fuel taxes. If we continue closing gas stations will that also reduce the amount of revenue collected for road and bridge construction?

The Rights of Way fee picks up some of the slack but we have to consider another way to pay these costs or at least make sure the tax revenue we loose from stations is recovered by the development.

Below is a HTF forecast:
http://oig.dc.gov/release/district-department-transportation-report-examination-dc-highway-trust-fund-forecast

by Randall M. on Aug 5, 2013 3:26 pm • linkreport

If they are digging out to take out the gas tanks, why aren't they doing underground parking?

I understand about the costs, but a part of the costs is the excavation.

by charlie on Aug 5, 2013 3:54 pm • linkreport

@renegade09

My experience in that garage is that it fills up quickly during the peak times when people actually need it. The spaces are also incredibly narrow, and some are borerline useless unless you're in a compact.

I think the real problem with parking there is not that there's not enough spaces to find, but that people driving in have absolutely no idea where to go except for 18th street, so they all funnel through the same roads competing for the same spots. Compare this to Bethesda where there are clear markings pointing to the municipal garage. Granted the entrances are choke points, but if people want to drive they can deal with the wait. In Adams Morgan, there's simply no obvious places to park, so traffic in the surrounding areas is much greater than it needs to be. Plus the price disparity between finding a street spot (often free) or paying for a garage is huge, so it encourages endless circling.

I have the same problem with U Street (where I live). There is one major garage on the northwest corner of 14th and U, and they don't even let you park overnight. This causes unnecessary traffic as drivers clog U, 14th, T, S, V, Florida, etc. looking for spaces. Even worse, when people can't find parking, they just throw their car in park in the traffic lane while they drop off or pick up their friends. And bear in mind this is not just a problem for the weekend partiers who shouldn't be driving anyway. I often have guests over during those same times who complain about the problem.

I don't think there needs to be plentiful parking that could induce additional driving, but couldn't we at least consolidate parking or direct drivers more clearly where they should go to try and alleviate the weekly gridlock?

by Chris on Aug 5, 2013 4:06 pm • linkreport

The idea of "building expensive underground parking" in new construction is a canard. Every building needs a basement anyway. And as someone else pointed out, they will have to dig pretty deep to remove the gas station fuel tanks.

The whole idea that underground parking makes construction "more expensive" for builders and prospective residents is frankly a PR con job being promoted by people who simply don't want cars in the District.

by ceefer66 on Aug 5, 2013 6:41 pm • linkreport

@ renegade09

I think the BP gas station referenced in the 1974 photo was proposed for the site where the Sun Trust Bank is now. It is the former site of the Knickerbocker Theater. (The sign appears to be on the side of the building housing Julia's Empanadas) In 1974 there would still have been people around who remembered the 1922 snowstorm that caused the roof of the Knickerbocker to collapse, killing 98 people, and I can see the neighborhood thinking that a gas station would be an affront to the memory of those people--not to mention a blight on the neighborhood.

by Christine on Aug 5, 2013 7:27 pm • linkreport

Where is the next closest gas station at by the way the only one I can think of is in Cleveland Park

@ Richard B

There is a gas station beneath a church in Rosslyn its not residential but its still atop a building where people would be at.

by kk on Aug 5, 2013 8:16 pm • linkreport

Buildings taller than 7 stories have to be concrete and have to have an underground structure for support. But they only need 1 level unless they're much taller. It's works out to about .5 normally.

by Tom Coumaris on Aug 5, 2013 10:32 pm • linkreport

Another gas station disappears.

Downtown Bethesda had 11 gas stations in 1998, 8 in 2009, 5 at the end of last year, and will have only 3 within another year or two. When that happens there will be no gas stations on Wisconsin Avenue/Rockville Pike between Ellicott Street NW and Nicholson Lane.

And one or even both of the two gas stations at Nicholson Lane could disappear during the redevelopment of White Flint - that could move the north end of the gap to Twinbrook Parkway.

And one or two more may disappear when Chevy Chase Lake is redeveloped.

by Frank IBC on Aug 5, 2013 11:45 pm • linkreport

@kk
Where is the next closest gas station at by the way the only one I can think of is in Cleveland Park

There is a gas station at 14th & Euclid. Also at 14th & W, 15th & U.

by MLD on Aug 6, 2013 8:46 am • linkreport

There is also a gas station at 18th & S.

by Scoot on Aug 6, 2013 8:55 am • linkreport

I live just down the block from this building. In terms of first floor retail, what I don't want to see is anything that has the potential of generating late night noise. The garage had sign urging customers to turn down radios. Noise could be an issue. I don't want to see a bar, saloon, or something like it -- anything that extends 18th closer to the residential section. I might support a liquor license for a low-key restaurant. But ideally, what would be nice is any type of grocer that sells fresh produce, or bakery/coffee shop. Hopefully, the first floor won't become a bank branch, real estate office, or something like it.

by kob on Aug 6, 2013 9:57 am • linkreport

It's really funny to read the comments about people freaking out over how horrible life will be without a smelly, dirty gas station around. I bet these are the same people who freak out over the addition of a bike lane to roads.

You see, readers, it's ALL about the drivers.... Didn't you get the memo?

by Mike on Aug 6, 2013 10:04 am • linkreport

No one seems to be freaking out about losing the gas station.

I'd love to see a clothing store (preferably national retail) or a home furnishings/accessories boutique. One or two more high end restaurants would be nice too.

Good on the ANC for wanting to ban nightclubs or taverns but once all is said and done I'm not sure how enforceable that concession will be.

by Scoot on Aug 6, 2013 11:16 am • linkreport

In case it wasn't clear, I'm not freaking out, I'm just fascinated by the trend. Just like the disappearance of video rental stores and second-run theaters. And big-box stores, too.

by Frank IBC on Aug 6, 2013 11:27 am • linkreport

With the ZRR, the requirements for this building would be very different, and, in fact, it would require significantly less parking than the reduced amounts in the BZA order and there would be fewer required bicycle spaces. Since no zoning relief would be required for parking or for the rooftop structures, the residents would all be eligible for RPPs and there would be no transportation demand management requirements with transit subsidies or subsidies for car-sharing or Cabi.

With the ZRR, this project would be required to have 5 parking spaces for the 36 condominiums and 4 parking spaces for the employees and customers of the ground floor retail. Instead of 20 bicycle parking spaces in the garage, they would only be required to have 12 long-term bicycle spaces for the residents and 5 short-term bicycle parking spaces (outside bike rack spaces) for the guests of residents and customers of the stores.

The current zoning regulations require 18 parking spaces for the residents of the 36 condominiums and 19 spaces for the customers and employees of the businesses. The BZA reduced this requirement to 18 spaces for the residents of the condominiums and 1 to 6 spaces for Zipcar and/or the customers and employees of the businesses, a total of 19 to 24 spaces. With the ZRR, only 9 parking spaces would be required.

If the building was in a different location, not within reasonable walking distance of the Metro, streetcar or a priority bus corridor, the ZRR would still have a lower parking requirement than was approved for this project. In that case, they would be required to have 11 spaces for the 36 condominiums and 7 spaces for the ground floor retail as well as 12 spaces for bicycles in the garage.

by OtherMike on Aug 6, 2013 11:38 am • linkreport

@ceefer66: Your objection is illogical. It is ludicrous to believe that the developers are "people who simply don't want cars in the District". Developers simply want to make money. The zoning exemption doesn't force the developer to provide fewer spaces; they could provide more spaces if they wanted. Why would developers want to provide FEWER spaces if the market demanded parking? The only logical explanation is that the demand for parking does not justify the cost.

If anything, it's "people who simply want to force more cars on the District, regardless of demand" who have the upper hand, otherwise there wouldn't be a regulation forcing developers to build parking they don't want to.

by alurin on Aug 6, 2013 1:05 pm • linkreport

DC proper DESPERATELY needs more ethnic grocery stores and boutique food stores. Can anyone name a single decent Indian grocery in the city? How about a Brazilian grocery? Korean? A great Jewish deli? A cheese shop? A Penzey's?

For such a diverse place, the offerings are pathetic. I realize that these things exist in the suburbs, but they are too scattered and gridlock is too extreme to make it possible for DC residents to patronize them on a regular basis.

I would love to see GGW do a story on this - perhaps there are barriers to such businesses opening here that we could work to address(cost is an obvious one that is hopefully being addressed by adding more retail supply, but there may be others).

by Eponymous on Aug 6, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

@Eponymous: I think supply and demand play a major role here. Do you think if an Indian grocery opened at the corner of Adams Mill and Lanier it would have enough customers to be a going concern? I don't. Northwest Washington has a lot of Central American and Ethiopian immigrants, so those are the types of ethnic groceries that do business there. And good luck with the great Jewish deli thing.

by Herschel on Aug 6, 2013 4:39 pm • linkreport

With so few parking spaces for residents and a transit-oriented development plan, seems like an ideal use case for DC-based Transit Screen.

by Ryan on Aug 8, 2013 12:32 pm • linkreport

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