Posts about Capitol Hill
On the calendar: White Flint happy hour, Dupont buses, Potomac Ave, Bethesda sidewalk, gentrification and more
What are you doing this week? If you care about the future of the White Flint area, there's a happy hour Tuesday. If you care about gentrification in DC, you might enjoy a panel discussion in Anacostia Thursday.
If you care about bus service on 16th Street, sidewalks from Friendship Heights to Bethesda, or pedestrian and bike safety around Potomac Avenue Metro, there are local community meetings on important transportation projects tonight and Thursday. And take a tour of Frederick Douglass's Anacostia with John Muller Saturday.
Here are some highlights from the Greater Greater Washington calendar:
16th Street buses in Dupont: WMATA bus planner Jim Hamre will meet with residents about the performance of the S line, where many riders have to endure long waits during rush hour. That's not because the buses take a long time to come, but rather, full bus after full bus pass them by on this extremely popular line.
New Dupont ANC commissioner Kishan Putta organized the meeting, tonight (Monday), 7:30 pm at the JCC, 16th and Q (enter on Q Street). Residents are free to bring up concerns about other bus lines as well.
Sidewalk on Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda: Maryland SHA wants to build a 6-foot sidewalk on the east side of Wisconsin Avenue between Friendship Heights and Bethesda. The Little Falls Watershed Alliance is opposing the sidewalk because it will require cutting down trees, but WABA wants to ensure there's a safe route for pedestrians and cyclists on this road.
There's a public meeting tonight (Monday), 7:30-9 pm at Somerset Town Hall, 4510 Cumberland Avenue, Chevy Chase, where SHA will present plans and hear from residents.
Friends of White Flint happy hour: On Tuesday, Friends of White Flint and the Coalition for Smarter Growth are having a happy hour to talk about how to make the suburbs "hip," or much more than "hip."
The happy hour starts at 5:30pm at Seasons 52, 11414 Rockville Pike, a short walk from the White Flint Metro station. Councilmembers Hans Riemer and Roger Berliner will be there; RSVP here.
The meeting is Thursday, January 31, 6:30-8:30pm at Payne Elementary, 1445 C Street, SE.
Does redevelopment mean gentrification? River East Emerging Leaders (r.e.e.l.) is convening a panel discussion on the positive and negative effects of redevelopment, and lessons learned for the future.
The panel will include NBC's Tom Sherwood, planning head Harriet Tregoning, Clinton Yates of the Washington Post, and a number of other community and city leaders. It's Thursday, January 31, 7 pm at the DHCD Community Room, 1800 Martin Luther King Avenue, SE in Anacostia. RSVP at email@example.com.
Frederick Douglass's Anacostia: Greater Greater Washington contributor John Muller, who recently wrote a book about Frederick Douglass and his years in Anacostia, is giving a tour Saturday of the places Douglass frequented, including majestic views of the Capitol, and historical explanations of Douglass's life. The tour runs from 1-2:30 pm and costs $30.
MoveDC Idea Exchange: And don't forget, Saturday, February 9th is the big "Idea Exchange" for DDOT's moveDC citywide transportation plan. You can stop by the MLK Library for fun and even family-friendly interactive transportation booths anytime from 9:30-3.
An organized program begins at 10:30, including a panel discussion at 11 featuring PolicyLink's Anita Hairston, author Chris Leinberger, and Slate blogger Matthew Yglesias.
Have an event for the calendar? Post it in the comments or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do you want "commercial" uses in your neighborhood? Proposals for corner stores or commercial zoning can yield some great enthusiasm or strong antipathy. Often, this seems to depend on whether their experiences with local businesses have been good or bad.
In one part of Capitol Hill, residents once wanted to rezone 15th Street SE to eliminate an existing commercial strip, but 10 years later, many feel much more affectionately about the neighborhood businesses that have opened, and might prefer to keep the commercial strip around.
ANC Commissioner Brian Flahaven explains the history of zoning debates around this commercial corridor:
For most of the past decade, residents' experience with retail along this corridor has been negative. In the early 2000s, residents complained about crime and loitering around the now defunct New Dragon restaurant. And some residents also voiced concern that developers were taking advantage of the commercial zoning to build tall residential-only buildings along the corridor (C-2-A allows buildings up to 50 feet high compared to 40 feet for R-4).
In 2003, ANC 6B supported a request made by several frustrated 15th Street residents to rezone 15th Street SE from the commercial C-2-A to the residential R-4.
The Zoning Commission did not change the zoning, but DC's Comprehensive Plan started showing the area as residential, rather than commercial or mixed-use.
When the Office of Planning finishes the zoning update, it could be an opportunity to change the zoning. But do residents still want that? Flahaven thinks perhaps not:
This past year saw the opening of two popular food establishments along the corridorWith a change in the retail mix, people can now see the commercial corridor as a positive contribution to the neighborhood rather than a blight. Attitudes about living near stores also are continuing to evolve, as more people who want to be within a short walk of shops and restaurants move into urban neighborhoods.
— The Pretzel Bakery and Crepes on the Corner. The Pretzel Bakery (340 15th Street SE) has been a huge hit. And while Crepes on the Corner (257 15th Street SE) unfortunately closed, most Hill East residents I've talked to enjoyed having a place to grab coffee and lunch in the neighborhood. Southeast Market (1500 Independence Ave SE) was also recently sold and renovated. All three of these establishments are or were positive additions to the neighborhood.
While 15th Street will never be a Barracks Row, I can certainly envision a future time when the corridor acts as a small neighborhood serving commercial zone located halfway between the heavier retail activity around Eastern Market and the future retail activity on Reservation 13. Rezoning 15th Street to R-4 would eliminate future opportunities for restaurants, cafes and shops along the corridor.
Hill East had a commercially-zoned area already, and since the effort to zone it out didn't succeed, that neighborhood still has the chance to welcome more beloved local markets and eateries. But in many neighborhoods, there aren't commercial corridors for new businesses to start in. Some, like Big Bear Coffee in Bloomingdale, end up occupying buildings that were once commercial but whose zoning is now residential, which sets them up for a big zoning fight when someone objects. More often, neighborhoods just don't get any stores.
The zoning update's corner store proposal will allow just a few of these The corner store rules try to limit the actual impacts of commercial uses, such as trash (it can't be stored outdoors) or early morning or late night noise (stores can't be open outside Beyond the corner store rules, we also simply need to ensure there are enough neighborhood commercial corridors with real commercial zoning. There, businesses can open next to one another and benefit from each other attracting foot traffic. In Hill East, a commercial strip on 15th Street may become an asset to the neighborhood, and other neighborhoods need equivalents of their own.
10 am-7 pm 7 am-10 pm). Any such set of rules, though, can't be perfect. If they keep out all of the businesses residents don't want, they'll also keep out many that they do.
The corner store rules try to limit the actual impacts of commercial uses, such as trash (it can't be stored outdoors) or early morning or late night noise (stores can't be open outside
Beyond the corner store rules, we also simply need to ensure there are enough neighborhood commercial corridors with real commercial zoning. There, businesses can open next to one another and benefit from each other attracting foot traffic. In Hill East, a commercial strip on 15th Street may become an asset to the neighborhood, and other neighborhoods need equivalents of their own.
Would DC's zoning update or a small change to the Height Act bring concrete towers and crab-shaped buildings to Capitol Hill and displace all of the families? (No.)
A piece of fiction by the local historic organization raises that fear, and illustrates a key theme that Mike DeBonis explores in an article this weekend: our current planning and zoning debates have somehow taken on mythical proportions far out of scale to what's actually in any of the proposals. That's because the strife stems from some deep anxieties about the ways DC is changing.
We might not be able to stave off this hysteria, but we can keep it from steering officials or the Zoning Commission into a ditch by showing up at the zoning update public meetings this Saturday and next week, and pledging to testify when the time comes.
The Capitol should have been beautiful on this clear night, but my view was blocked by a cement bridge connecting two high-rise office towers, built soon after the Height Act was repealed, on either side of the avenue. ... Across 7th Street loomed a large platinum building that looked like a crab. "Maybe those twisted corbels weren't so bad after all," I thought, as a streetcar lurched up 7th toward the car barn formerly known as the Eastern Market.Two main themes jump out here. First is the evident, dripping contempt for all things transit. Streetcars "lurch" down the street and displace, rather than enhance, a market that was originally built around the streetcar.
[Tunni's] moved to a bigger space at 9th and Penn. The mechanic who usedta be there closed up when they banned cars in the District a coupla years ago.
We walked down North Carolina Avenue toward Folger Park, past blocks of darkened houses sporting brass plaques for every imaginable trade association. I noticed two vacant school buildings and asked, "Where are the kids?" Clarence scowled at me as if I should know better. "Where do you think they'd be? All the houses have gone commercial and the biggest apartment built is a one-bedroom. They've moved away, along with their families and seniors and people who need affordable housing.
But they get a big kick out of coming back to visit Union Station. That casino in the main hall makes everyone a winner." A train blasted its horn as it rumbled by on Virginia Avenue, followed by another, and then another.
Meanwhile, it's a tragedy that a beloved tavern was able to grow to take over a former mechanic's shop. An industrial use for cars is nostalgia; a train is a blight.
It's most ironic because streetcars were a historic element of Capitol Hill, as Topher Mathews pointed out. One might think a "restoration" society would want to restore historic transportation systems.
But before we mock this story too much, it illustrates an important second point: the way many people feel even small changes could start down a slippery slope to chaos. Make the smallest tweak in the Height Act, and in the blink of an eye there will be towers and concrete bridges astride Pennsylvania Avenue. Allow a few corner stores in residential neighborhoods, and before long there'll be nothing left but trade associations and one-bedroom apartments.
It's not only a rhetorical device; there are people who feel that each and every zoning rule, no matter how outdated or arbitrary or ill-fitting our neighborhoods' current needs, represents a hard-fought bulwark against ruin. The District is already changing rapidly; many fear a small push send it out of control.
That's the sentiment DeBonis captured in his article:
District planning officials are rewriting the city's zoning rules for the first time in 54 years, a process that has hastened anxieties about growth and at times has erupted into a pitched debate about the future of the city.Thus, even fairly timid changes have become an epic battle.
The proposed changes are small
— allowing a corner store here, fewer parking spaces there — but the debate has grown in recent months ... The process, underway for four years, has been complicated as the debate has grown to encompass anxieties over city growth that have little to do with the zoning proposals — the proliferation of bicycle amenities, new parking policies and a proposal to relax the federal law restricting building heights.
The problem is that the zoning code is deeply flawed. It doesn't actually reflect the historic patterns of the city, unless you consider only construction after 1960 to be historic. It doesn't prohibit most of the things many residents really dislike, like ugly pop-ups or teardowns and McMansions, but it does prohibit the land use patterns that created places like Capitol Hill in the first place.
The code is too confusing and many restrictions burden homeowners even from making changes that enjoy near-universal support. Without fixes, the District won't stop changing, it just might grow and evolve in an even worse way thanks to restrictions designed to force people into suburban patterns of living back when planners thought anything else was "obsolete."
It would be wonderful if one could assuage these fears, or at least convince people that the zoning update's actual changes won't bring Armageddon. So far, despite the Office of Planning's efforts to patiently explain and re-explain plans at an endless series of neighborhood and community association meetings almost all in Ward 3, where the opposition centers, it hasn't worked; opponents keep repeating false and alarmist claims about the secret conspiracy to force everyone out of cars.
The only thing we can do is try to educate city leaders and convince them to let the process move forward. That's why it's crucial to attend one of the upcoming zoning update meetings this Saturday 12/8 in Southwest Waterfront, Tuesday 12/11 in Penn Quarter, or Thursday 12/13 in Anacostia. And pledge to testify when the hearings begin before the Zoning Commission.
Advisory Neighborhood Commissioners work on many subjects besides development, but challengers for a few seats on Capitol Hill want to make the election a referendum on a single project, the Hine school.
Such a narrow focus ignores the many subjects that ANCs work on, like public safety, liquor licenses, and just helping connect residents with public officials who can solve their problems.
Members of ANC 6B spent hundreds of hours listening to resident testimony and brokering a compromise on the important Hine project. A committee negotiated with the developer, Stanton-Eastbanc, around community concerns, such as noise, loading, and accommodating the flea market that currently uses the parking lot each Sunday.
Many weren't happy with the ultimate compromise. The developer took off one floor to please neighbors. Some felt that made the building aesthetically worse, while other immediate neighbors wanted an even smaller building.
Another concession to neighbors removed street-activating retail at a prominent corner. Still, the ANC pushed for changes that allayed many residents' concerns while maintaining many of the benefits of the project.
A pair of residents who wanted the ANC to more strongly oppose the Stanton-Eastbanc proposal are running to unseat the commissioners in the districts right around Hine, Ivan Frishberg in 6B02, and Brian Pate in 6B05. These opponents, Gerald Sroufe and Steve Holtzman, respectively, specifically cite Hine as the primary, if not the only, reason for running.
The Hine project is a good one for Capitol Hill. It will activate this major corner, bring new customers to local businesses, increase housing choices near Metro, and add retail space to better connect Barracks Row to the south with the 7th Street commercial strip and Eastern Market to the north. If the election is a referendum on Hine, voters should resoundingly return Pate and Frishberg to the commission.
However, elections shouldn't turn on a single development project alone, especially not over issues that are now essentially settled. Hine isn't the only reason to re-elect these 2 incumbents. They have worked hard to listen to their neighbors on this and many other issues. They have toiled to improve the quality of life on matters that will ultimately affect residents far more than the number of floors on the Hine project.
Pate pushed to restore a Capital Bikeshare station at Lincoln Park after DDOT almost took it away. He and Frishberg both ran 2 years ago on a platform of improving the procedures of the ANC, involving more residents and increasing transparency.
Ironically, Frishberg and Pate had the support in 2010 of the Eastern Market Metro Community Association (EMMCA), an organization that fought implacably against the Hine project this year. EMMCA hasn't visibly supported one set of candidates, but Hine was the only concrete issue they asked the candidates about in their voter guide.
Elsewhere in the neighborhood, Hine aye votes Dave Garrison (6B01) and Brian Flahaven (6B09) are running unopposed, as is Francis Campbell (6B10), who voted against the project. There is also only one candidate in the open seats for 6B07 and 6B08, Sara Loveland and Chander Jayaraman, respectively.
Longtime commissioner Norman Metzger, who voted for the Hine compromise, is not running for re-election. 2 candidates are vying for the seat: Philip Peisch and Randy Steer. Steer says he would have opposed Hine, while Peisch would have supported it; single-issue voters would therefore be best off supporting Peisch.
But that's again not the only reason. When listing the challenges the ANC face, Steer's statement in the EMMCA voter guide focused primarily on opposing things, like liquor licenses on Barracks Row, or future buildings that might be even a little tall. On the other hand, Peisch talked more about building consensus and also helping Barracks Row thrive while balancing its needs against resident issues such as noise and trash.
Kirsten Oldenburg (6B02), another vote in favor of Hine, has a write-in challenger, Tim Britt. Britt does not make any overtly anti-growth statements and generally seems supportive of some change. Meanwhile, Nichole Opkins and Chris Harlow are running against incumbent Jared Critchfield in 6B06, who voted against the Hine project. Both Harlow and Opkins emphasize the bread-and-butter ANC issues like being accessible to constituents; Opkins says that she got involved because Critchfield wasn't reaching out to the people in his district.
I met Opkins at a recent event and was impressed with her commitment and energy, but ultimately, as with the districts where Hine is the primary issue, residents of these districts are best off trying to meet their candidates directly, or reading the candidates' online statements and platforms discussing the many issues that affect the community.
On the calendar: Speak up for Hine, Montgomery BRT; learn about Prince George's medical center, Arlington CaBi
Important and interesting hearings and forums are happening in the next few days about the Hine project (tonight), Arlington's Capital Bikeshare (tonight), Montgomery BRT (tomorrow), and next week, a forum about where the Prince George's medical center should go.
Tonight is the final Zoning Commission hearing on the Hine project at Eastern Market, and the commission needs to hear from supporters to help the project over its final hurdle. The hearing starts at 6:30 pm in room 220-South of One Judiciary Square, 441 4th Street, NW.
For Montgomery residents, tomorrow is an important meeting, organized by County Executive Ike Leggett, on the BRT proposal. Show up at 6:30 pm to sign up to speak, and the meeting starts at 7 in the county office building, 100 Maryland Avenue, Rockville, in the 1st floor auditorium. If you can attend, RSVP with CSG.
Where will Prince George's build its medical center? The county definitely needs a regional medical center, but will it go at a Metro station or a car-dependent exurban location? A Coalition for Smarter Growth forum will discuss that very important question next Wednesday, July 18, at the New Carrollton station.
Finally, Arlington will present its plan for expanding Capital Bikeshare tonight at 1501 Wilson Blvd, Suite 1100, from 7-9 pm. Plus, BikeArlington is offering a free 1-year membership to one lucky attendee!
The National Capital Park and Planning Commission, forerunner to today's NCPC, declared most of Shaw, Mount Vernon Square and Triangle, Capitol Hill, Southwest, Buena Vista and other neighborhoods "obsolete" in 1950. Yes, amazingly, they really used that term.
That's some of the astounding information in the 1950 document Washington, Present and Future from NCPPC. ShawNeighborhood listserv participant RayM scanned a number of pages showing plans to radically remove multi-family dwellings from historic neighborhoods and force the kind of low-density, single-use, less walkable pattern of development that permanently destroyed many urban areas.
What was wrong? People lived in neighborhoods with alley dwellings, some of which were less well maintained. In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs talked about how planners in Boston declared the North End a similar "slum" simply because people lived at a certain population density per acre, and the view at the time was that government had to force people to live more spread out.
There are certainly reasons to believe race played a part as well; these neighborhoods were predominantly African-American. The solution, people thought at the time, was to tear down the old neighborhoods and build new ones in the "towers in the park" style of the housing projects we all know and loathe today. Here is their plan for Shaw:
Fortunately for Shaw, a thriving neighborhood with beautiful old row houses and some of DC's best-preserved carriage homes, most of this plan never came to pass. It largely did, however, in Southwest:
Besides wholesale demolition of neighborhoods, planners tried to push people out of so-called "blighted" neighborhoods with zoning. On Capitol Hill, for instance, the zoning plan wanted to take the fabric of different size buildings coexisting and declare that illegal. Instead, all commerce in the NE quadrant of the Hill would be restricted to H Street, Massachusetts, and a 2-block stretch of 8th, and all multifamily to Maryland Avenue.
They also wanted to widen 11th Street and demolish everything for 2 blocks on either side of East Capitol to create a new extended Mall. (This is the reason that the street between A and C NE is Constitution, not B, and likewise in SE is Independence, even though the original L'Enfant plan called them B Street).
Restore the zoning code to legalize historic neighborhoods
The current DC Zoning Update is rewriting the 1958 zoning code that came from this era. When evaluating it and other proposals, it's important to recognize that some characteristics of the District today come directly out of explicit "social engineering" decisions that planners pushed on the District at the time.
Rules against accessory dwellings and corner stores, parking minimums and single-use zoning were all efforts to zone many of the people, mostly African-American, out of the neighborhoods. When the Office of Planning suggests relaxing certain rules, often that's because the rule doesn't describe what's in the neighborhood today, or what was there in 1950, since the 1958 code was deliberately trying to zone out historic uses.
Accessory dwellings, corner stores, and more are all ways to let the city be what it naturally grew to be, before people around 1950 decided to force it to change. You can help by joining Pro-DC today.
Once listed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the most endangered historic sites in the country, Congressional Cemetery has come a long way, a shining example of residents taking guardianship of their built environment. A new book, Historic Congressional Cemetery, examines some of the history preserved in the cemetery.
"A lot of folks who live right around here in Hill East don't recognize what a real treasure this is to the neighborhood," says Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Brian Flahaven. "There's so much history here, but it's one of the few places that's not over-run with tourists."
Historic Congressional Cemetery is an introduction to some of the cemetery's more notable, as well as infamous, grave dwellers. Photos are accompanied by a concise paragraph explaining its subject, setting readers up to explore the cemetery themselves. All proceeds from the book's sales go to the cemetery's restoration fund.
In the more than 2 centuries since stonecutter William Swinton became the first burial at Congressional Cemetery in 1807, the grounds have grown from 4.5 acres to a sprawling 35 acres with more than 55,000 interments. Co-author Sandra Schmidt has gathered information on nearly 30,000.
"It took me 18 years to go through every newspaper from 1807 to, well, now I'm up to 1945," says Schimdt. "I started out looking for obits, but then I began to recognize the names and now we have a good deal of information about them while they were alive."Elbridge Gerry, who is buried in Congressional. A signer of the Declaration of Independence and 5th Vice President, Gerry is better known as the etymological inspiration for the term "gerrymandering."
When the dust settled, Congressional Cemetery remained in Ward 6, while Ward 7 instead absorbed the DC Jail.
"It's a very democratic cemetery," Schmidt says while walking the grounds. "It's not just rich people, it's people of every occupation scattered together."
The scope and diversity of American history is well represented by famed Marine Band leader John Philip Sousa, Choctaw Chief Push-ma-ta-ha, and also the first woman to argue before the Supreme Court, Belva Lockwood. Congressional also holds the remains of the renowned Civil War photographer Matthew Brady, along with Lincoln assassination conspirator David Herold, and even famous Civil War era madam Mary Ann Hall.
A kind of after-life fashion trend can be tracked by the composition and presentation of the graves and monuments of Congressional Cemetery, says docent Kirsten Sloan. Initially, monuments were fashioned from sandstone, and later marble was in vogue. These days, most monuments are made from granite.
The sandstone and marble has not weathered well. Granite better stands the test of time, as evidenced by the nearly pristine Manigold family monument topped by a geographically accurate globe.Uniontown developer John Van Hook, and the upended cannon monument of Navy Lt. John McLaughlin. The cemetery also contains more than one hundred Victorian-era obelisks, sometimes referred to as "Cleopatra's needle." Other than the tablet, the obelisk is Congressional's most common monument style.
Schmidt's co-author on "Historic Congressional Cemetery" is Rebecca Boggs Roberts, daughter of noted political correspondent, Cokie Roberts. Her late grandfather, the very colorful House Majority Leader, Hale Boggs, is remembered on one of the cemetery's 171 Benjamin Latrobe designed cenotaphs. The family, obviously, feels a strong connection to the cemetery.
When asked about Congressional's management plans, Roberts points out that the cemetery's history calls for something more than short-term plans.
"You don't even need a five-year plan here, you could have a hundred-year plan," Roberts says. "Even those of us who sort of count ourselves in the know are still discovering new things. And the people who still think of this as a secret cemetery they have years worth of things to discover. So there's no point in just thinking five years. We've been here two hundred years, let's think about the next two hundred."
If you're looking for trip back into Washington's and America's history, pick up a copy of the book and go explore Congressional Cemetery, one of DC's greatest hidden treasures, yourself.
Opponents of the Hine project have been trying to discredit anyone who supports it, claiming they have business relationships with Stanton-Eastbanc, don't live in the area, or other. That's false.
I geocoded the first 30 complete addresses from people who sent letters in support of Hine through our form on Tuesday. One was in Arlington; the others are all on the map above. To protect privacy, I had Excel randomly adjust each address up or down by a small amount (up to about half a block) and only show this map at a distant zoom.
One person who left a comment opposing Hine said support comes "from folks that do not live [sic] or frequent the area." That seems fairly clearly not true, as you can see from the map, and the people who sent letters who don't live right in the area clearly noted how they often frequent the area.
Didn't get a chance to send your own letter? It's not too late. Opponents are trying to put pressure on pro-project ANC commissioners Ivan Frishberg and Brian Pate, and to ask for more concessions, including now setting back another floor of the building after the developers took the top, set-back floor away to try to satisfy opponents.
David Garber, Near Southeast resident and ANC commissioner, has written an excellent letter supporting the proposed Hine school development at Eastern Market Metro. He addresses arguments from some other residents who have been pushing hard to shrink, limit, or entirely block the project.
The ANC has multiple meetings on this project in coming weeks. If you live, work or shop in the area, please take a moment to send a letter to the ANC commissioners and Zoning Commission asking them to support the project.
If you want to see the plans and speak to the developers, Pro-DC has arranged a briefing
this tomorrow evening at the Hill Center. Space is limited so RSVP right away.
In his letter, Garber points out how valuable the project will be for the neighborhood, but says that taking one story off has made it look more boxy at the expense of its "graceful transition" to the sky.
Some say that there won't be enough room for the flea market in the planned plaza along C Street, but Garber notes that closing 7th Street on weekends would create plenty of room. Another recent change placed a daycare at a prominent corner instead of retail. It would be better to locate the daycare elsewhere as long as it doesn't reduce affordable housing.
Here is Garber's letter:
Dear Chairman Hood and Members of the Zoning Commission:
I am writing in support of the Stanton-EastBanc development team's Hine School redevelopment project. Please note that although I serve as the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for the Navy Yard neighborhood and as the Vice Chair of ANC 6D, my comments here are not meant to represent the opinions of my entire ANC.
I have been a regular visitor to Eastern Market my entire life; I have been following this redevelopment process closely since the school was closed in 2007; and I currently live one mile southwest of the Hine School site. I engage with the site almost daily
— whether shopping or dining nearby, swimming at the Rumsey Aquatic Center, working from the neighboring coffee shops, or visiting with friends and family in the adjoining neighborhood, and can confirm that as much as the Eastern Market area is an amenity and point of interest for those immediately adjacent to it, it is also an important place for people from all sides of Capitol Hill, the city, and the region.
Our goal for this redevelopment should be to create
— through architectural and urban design, landscaping, tenanting, and programming — 1) an atmosphere that will bolster our mutual affection for the immediate area, 2) a diversity of options in affordability, size, and type of residential, office, and retail spaces, 3) connections across the site that do not exist now, and 4) a place that will sensitively take advantage of its location above the Eastern Market Metro station to bring more residents and daytime employees to the neighborhood already flush with local retailers that will only be strengthened by the presence of additional customers brought in by this project.
Acknowledging that no one development or design proposal will meet everyone's individual or group ideas for what is most appropriate, I support Stanton-EastBanc'current proposal because it goes a long way to accomplish many of the diverse hopes for the site. Their proposal communicates architecturally with the surrounding neighborhood without inauthentically bowing to it, adds a significant amount of affordable housing in an area that increasingly needs it, reopens C Street SE across the site, and respects the scale of the existing neighborhood while adding appropriate new density to a transit-accessible location.
I remain concerned about some recently-altered elements of the project. First, I believe it is short-sighted to use the corner retail space at 8th and D Streets SE as a day care center. That space would be put to better use as a vibrant retail corner that, as such, would go a long way to visually connect retail activity on the north and south sides of Pennsylvania Avenue SE. The day care center would be more appropriately located somewhere on or off the site with less retail potential. Any relocation of the day care center within the site should also stear clear of space currently promised for use as affordable housing.
Second, although I understand that the removal of the penthouse level of the office building at the corner of 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE was in response to concerns that the building was too large, a new problem has emerged from its removal: there is no longer any graceful transition between the top of the building and the sky. What was a tiered structure has been left as a box, and I am confident that more can be done to gracefully break up or distinguish elements of the massing while retaining or sensitively adding to the building's existing square footage.
I would also like to speak to the concern that this redevelopment, as proposed, will reduce general open space as well as the size of the weekend flea market currently located at Eastern Market and on the Hine School parking lot. I would like to add my support to the idea of closing 7th Street SE between C Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE for use by the flea market on weekends, and point out that
— although currently underutilized in its present state — the Eastern Market Metro Plaza is a sizable neighborhood amenity immediately adjacent to the Hine School that could be designed and programmed for a variety of uses.
Again, I support Stanton-EastBanc's plans for the redevelopment of the Hine School. I know they are working hard, alongside ANC 6B and neighborhood organizations, to plan a project that will be a benefit to the neighborhood and the city. The inclusion of affordable housing and the reopening of C Street SE exemplify the kinds of community benefits expected from a Planned Unit Development and public land disposition. I am confident that their proposal will only bolster our affection for the site, and will finally bring a sense of completion to a place that has been
— save for weekend market functions that can be redistributed across the site and surrounding streets — an economic and visual hole for too long.
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