Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Changes in the Atlas District


How to redevelop H Street: knock down the old buildings and replace them with a surface parking lot. At least that's the strategy of a pair of local property owners, Tae and Sang Ryu, if they receive approval to demolish four buildings at 1305-1311 H Street, NE, the so-called Meads Row. The properties adjoin local landmark the Atlas Theater, and the owners intend to replace them with a large surface parking lot to service patrons of the increasingly crowded Atlas District.

Though the duo has been seeking to raze the buildings since 2007, the ANC6A has already expressed their disapproval of the project - especially regarding the Atlas' next door neighbor at 1311 H Street. "Although [the property] is currently in bad physical condition, we would like to help you take advantage of a number of tax and zoning incentives that would allow the current building to be rehabilitated in a manner that will protect your financial interests and allow H Street to be restored to its former charm and economic health," said ANC Chair Joseph Fengler in an open letter to the developers. The chairman goes on to point out that buildings designated for historic preservation receive federal tax credits for renovation costs and that the property would most likely qualify for a grant under the H Street Main Street’s fa├žade improvement program.

Despite the helping hand, the Ryus are still pursuing a raze order for the site and have submitted an application to the Historic Preservation Office (HPO) for review. According to Bruce Yarnall, Operations and Grants Manager of the HPO, “[the case] will first have to go before the board for a landmark hearing, then the raze request will be determined based on the landmark action.” A designation hearing will be held February 26th to determine whether the HPRB agrees. Either way, the Atlas District’s main corridor will be gaining one landmark or losing one tinderbox.

Meanwhile, local entrepreneur Leon Robbins is planning to add a new mixed-use development to the eastern end of Northeast’s H Street corridor, AKA the Atlas District. Robbins, who currently owns and operates Stan’s Inc., a men’s discount clothing store on the same street, plans to build new three-story building on a vacant lot at 1383-85 H Street NE – one that promises add new office space and possibly another entertainment venue to the nightlife-centric neighborhood.

The 7,000 square foot project will be comprised of a commercial or retail ground floor with a second story mezzanine and, finally, a third floor of office space. Robbins’ intent, in accordance with the H Street Northeast Arts Overlay, is to purpose the first floor space for an unspecified entertainment venue. Specifically, the developer has been in talks with an established DC comedy club about the possibility of bringing another location to H Street. (As specified under the overlay, ground-floor space must be put towards “an arts, retail or service use” and must “contribute to sidewalk activity and neighborhood vitality.”) The mezzanine would then be used as “back-of-the-house office” for the club’s management. While the new building will not feature a green roof, due to constraints its $750,000 construction budget, the development will feature a roof deck, planted gardens and an isolated “interior court.”

The project will feature no on-site parking. An architectural consultant to the project, Jennifer Fowler of Fowler Architects, said before the Board of Zoning Adjustment that parking was "impossible" due to its landlocked nature. “The characteristics of the property make it unique…There is no alley access. It is impossible to provide parking.” The BZA agreed with that assessment and has lent their approval to the project, as have the Office of Planning and the local ANC 6A.

“We are very excited about this project coming to H Street,” said ANC member Drew Ronnenberg. “First of all, I think it’s an example that shows design guidelines work…I think the high quality of this building shows the kind of things that our ANC and all of H Street wanted it to bring and this is it. This bears fruit.”

Final designs for the project are being handled by Robbins’ brother, David Robbins of the Baltimore-based Architecture Collaborative Inc. The developer plans to begin construction in August of 2009.

8 comments:

poo poo said...

parking lot?

ewwww......

Anonymous said...

We change but this ridiculous. This is 2009. Parking lots are built under buildings. Everyone knows that.

Anonymous said...

Joke is over. What do you really plan to do with those properties?

poo poo said...

yeah, maybe it's all a guise to hold out for some city subsidies so they can build a strip club....

for one of the ones that was dislocated when they built the baseball stadium...

inked on Jan 22, 2009, 10:53:00 PM said...

As someone with an avid interest in urban revitalization, this is a very bad idea. I understand it will cost money to upgrade these buildings, but seriously, they would eventually reap the benefits. I imagine that cool buildings pay more in rent than a parking lot.

As a local resident I'd prefer not to have another dead zone like that one by the Auto Zone.

Anonymous said...

Well maybe not a parking lot right there, but how about a parking garage in the neighborhood like in Silver Spring to take the transient parking. I hate coming home late and wandering around looking for a parking space and finally parking five blocks from my house.

poo poo sees poo poo said...

inked: great post! can't wait for your next one! so informative!

WOW!

Ben on Jan 26, 2009, 1:48:00 PM said...

A PARKING LOT!! Is that what we have come too? That's the best option. I would rather have boarded up buildings with a twinkle of hope in their papered windows then demo them to . . .park cars.

Oh, and coming home late and finding parking is what happens when you live in an URBAN AREA. Parking lots are for strip malls and suburbs.

Stop the madness!

 

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