It just isn't easy being a developer these days. Don't get us started on the state of the housing market. But developing in a neighborhood where the city government and locals have pushed further development should not be so thankless. Case in point: The JBG Companies went before the DC Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) on December 2nd with their plans to redevelop the current Whitman-Walker Clinic headquarters at the intersection of 14th and S Streets into a seven-story, mixed-use housing complex, and received little love from the community for their efforts.
Complaints voiced at the BZA meeting fell into two general categories - one being the impact on the community of a mid-rise development on the fast-growing 14th Street corridor, the other being zoning exceptions to the amount of on-site parking offered. Ever since, there’s been buzz about the lack of both community and ANC support for the project – and even speculation that JBG might be forced to be holster the 120-130 unit project for the foreseeable future.
As anyone who has ever dipped their toes into the murky pool of DC development will tell, community objections to projects are a very nearly unavoidable part of the business. But some testimonials at the hearing cut deeper than others, with one witness attacking JBG for “fattening their wallets” at the expense of the neighborhood. The BZA was also forced to consider zoning exemptions allowing JBG to include 18 fewer parking spaces instead of minimum 108. The Cardozo Shaw Neighborhood Association has also voted to forward their list of community grievances onto the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB), the project's next stop - probably one of the reasons the developer decided not to get full height out of the space with a P.U.D., which would have taken longer and required more community input.
Furthermore, one month prior to the BZA hearing, JBG also made their first presentation to the local ANC2B – where all four of their requested variances were voted against, despite the initial support of ANC Chair Ramon Estrada, and similar residential projects like Matrix, View 14, and Nehemiah Center, just around the corner. Although the ANC poll is a non-binding advisory vote, a nay from the ANC has traditionally not helped chances with the zoning authorities, and woe betide those that don't have ANC approval in their pocket.
Despite these setbacks, Andrew McIntyre of JBG informs DCMud that the developer is nonetheless on track with their proposal, and that any rumors of the project’s demise are at least somewhat exaggerated. And though a BZA ruling will not be issued until at least January, the development team will go before Mr. Estrada and his ANC board tomorrow, December 11th at 7 pm, for a second crack at "appeasing the natives." The meeting is to be held at DC Jewish Community Center at 16th and Q Streets NW and will be open to the public. Following that, the project then goes before the HPRB on December 18th.