The DC Armed Forces Retirement Home will move forward with the development of 77 of its 272 acres, or "Zone A," thanks to the National Capitol Planning Commission's (NCPC) partial approval. While the AFRH submitted plans for the redevelopment of four zones throughout the campus, which sits east of the Georgia Avenue Corridor and West of North Capitol Street and Irving Street, NW, the NCPC approved only Zone A; other zones will proceed on an as-needed basis. The mixed-use development, still undetermined in composition, will be the first development on the site in more than 50 years.
Zone A will host the most extensive development of the four zones and is slated for improvements to take on an "urban character with a building typology that is sympathetic to the character and scale of existing AFRH contributing buildings and landscape…" Ehrenkrantz Eckstut and Kuhn Architects (EEK) have been working with the development team, a partnership between the General Service Administration and Charlotte-based Crescent Resources, LLC, to create a mix of uses that could potentially include research, office, residential, hotel, retail, and educational uses through private leases. The maximum allowable gross area will be 4.3 million s.f. with over 6,000 parking spaces.
The AFRH is a federal agency, but relies on a trust, rather than federal funding, to operate, allowing it to use its underutilized land to generate new sources of revenue for the veterans' home. The new funding anticipates the future Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who will require long-term, specialty care.
The GSA was not disappointed by the partial approval; according to Tim Sheckler, project manager GSA, the development team knew that complete approval was unlikely. “The NCPC required that the home submit a plan for the entire site and then as part of the discussion at the meeting, it was decided the Zones B and C would be pulled back into the home's zone. That means that they will develop Zone A first and evaluate its financial return. It was always the home's intention to develop Zone A first,” he said.
The NCPC's report says Zones B and C will be "returned to the AFRH Zone", meaning that plans for a mixed use development on Zone B, and townhouse residences on Zone C, will be on hold pending the success of Zone A's development. The AFRH will continue to own and maintain the area and may even lease the property to the National Park Service.
The developers' plans include sustainable development features to, “enhance the overall design, natural environment, and quality of life of the community” by creating a mixed-use, clustered development with walkable space, bike ways, sidewalks, and parks. Zone A will likely achieve Gold LEED certification for overall neighborhood design; residential buildings over three stories, office buildings, and historic adaptive reuses will also earn LEED certification for New Construction.
Established in 1852, the AFRH services over 1,200 veterans and the DC campus boasts proximity to three metro stops; the Georgia Avenue-Petworth, Brookland-CUA, and Fort Totten Station; the master plan is the first attempt at improving the campus in over 50 years. Crescent Resources, LLC was selected as the master developer in March 2007, when they proposed the development of,"300 units of affordable housing, market-rate rental and condominium units, medical office space, a small hotel, a grocery store and other ancillary retail, as well as transitional housing for military veterans." The AFRH doesn't anticipate full build out of the zones for 15-20 years.