It looks like all the fuss over the Tenleytown Safeway at 4203 Davenport Street is far from over. Last night the DC Zoning Commission approved a request from the Safeway project team to indefinitely postpone the review of the submitted plan, which was scheduled for this Thursday. The team submitted their request indicating they needed more time go back and address some issues brought forth by the Office of Planning and the community. The indefinite nature of the postponement suggests the Safeway team has been nudged into submission by the neighborhood over the past few months; in August a Safeway spokesperson had anticipated plans would be finalized by this past September.
The existing Safeway store is 35,000 s.f. and, according to the plans initially submitted to the Office of Planning, the new store, designed by Torti Gallas, would grow to 58,000 s.f. and include neighborhood retail like a coffee shop, dry cleaners and florist. The project would provide 176 off-street parking spaces, some of which will be on the ground level below the elevated grocery story and some in a surface parking lot. The roof would have 1400 s.f. of green roof elements, the remainder would be a "cool roof," which means a mere 2.6% of the roof is currently designed to be green. Though Craig Muckle, a spokesperson for Safeway, said the building would have other green features and would aim for LEED Silver at minimum.
In October, the Office of Planning expressed concerns about various elements of the plan and requested additional environmental benefits such as an expanded green roof and increased permeability in the surface parking lot. The OP report also cited issues with elements of the site design and building placement. The current plans seeks exemptions including a reduced number of parking spaces, providing 176 when 185 are required, and zoning changes, as several of the included lots are currently zoned for residential uses. Among the more significant requests from Planning was that the applicant better address why the project, given its location, should get zoning exemptions since, unlike many similar projects, the plan does not include any residential density. OP seems to suggest the project has neither demonstrated a need for the requested flexibility nor demonstrated the additional benefits to the community to justify a change in the zoning evaluation from a matter of right to PUD. To paraphrase, what's in it for "us"? A question neighbors have been more than willing to ask.
Neighbors object to a variety of elements about the plan. Certain voices clamor for dense mixed-use development that includes residential space and retail independent of the grocer. Others in the neighborhood prefer the short and squat nature of buildings in the surrounding area and would prefer to see changes come as matter of right development, leaving out the chance of future denser development. Then there are the standard worries about noise, traffic, and lack of community benefits. The community has some reconciling to do and Safeway now has plenty of time to get that feedback.
According to Muckle, the group "had been doing outreach and a number of issues arose" the team requested "more time to explore the issues without the pressure of a pending hearing prohibiting them from examining as fully as needed." Why the indefinite proposal then, why not six months? Muckle said Safeway did not want to be "pigeonholed" by a timeline. In Safeway's request for postponement, the team indicated that they will work with the community and Office of Planning to come to a consensus of sorts at which point the team and Commission will schedule a new hearing.
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