An empty lot could become one of the first new commercial enterprises on the 1200 block of H Street NE, if the developer and the community can see eye to eye. I.S. Enterprises owns the lot and is applying to build a 4-story commercial building in the reemerging restaurant and arts district of H Street, but the developer has some appeasing to do before the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) gives a seal of approval. An October review before the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) was delayed 60 days to allow the developer time to work with the ANC, which had summarily opposed the planned structure. But with the 60 days up and another hearing scheduled next week, the project has yet to come back to the ANC with any changes or compromises.
The developer's plan is for a four-story building with ground floor professional services "such as investment and or insurance brokerage firms" with the top 3 floors set aside for the owner for office space. The lot is relatively small, so the owner is looking for zoning relief for density, seeking a Floor Area Ratio (FAR) of 3 rather than the permissible 2.5 FAR. The zoning requirements also stipulate that first floor ceiling heights come in at 14' to accommodate ground floor retail, but the owner would like to have 10'6" ground floor ceilings and no retail. In asking for these adjustments, I.S. Enterprise puts itself at the mercy of the ANC and the BZA, which must approve it, and can therefore mandate its standards.
According to ANC records, the organization sees the property as an opportunity to embrace the H Street Overlay and continue to develop uses favored by the community; they are unlikely to change their mind. The group strongly opposed the four story height arguing "all the other structures on the block are two stories." The ANC also objects to the overall design of the project stating "it does not reflect any of the architectural elements found on H Street." The ANC further objects the planned ground floor use, preferring retail. Though the ANC's approval is not required, the BZA will give weight to the ANC's position.
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