Score yet another win for H Street. The dare-we-say trendy neighborhood that is sometimes maligned for its beleaguered street front, but just as often loved for its gritty resurgence, is closer to getting one of its biggest projects to date. The H Street Connection, a 433,000 s.f. residential and retail project that will fill two full blocks along H Street, cleared a major hurdle in its path toward District approval. Developer Parcel Seven Associates (a.k.a. Rappaport Companies), has been given approval recently by the Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC), an event that is certain to make its stock go up when the project goes before the Zoning Commission (ZC) for review.
Designed by architects Torti Gallas, the new project will likely get a zoning hearing this summer. The ANC's support will be given weight during the hearings, which come now after more than two years of conversations between the developers and the community. A development of this size will certainly be transformative, but its larger effect may be suturing the voguish Atlas District with the still struggling corridor to the east, roughly from 3rd Street to 10th Street, where major developments are planned but seem on indefinite hold.
The H Street Connection's 52,000 s.f. of retail and 346 to 423 rental units will fit into the space between 8th and 10th Streets NE, replacing a one-story strip mall built in 1987 and occupied by stores like GameStop and RiteAid. The community gave a big thumbs down to the iteration first presented in November 2007; a letter from the ANC described the design as a "monolithic contemporary facade." The development team has since adjusted the design to create the appearance of multiple buildings more in line with the "rhythm and architectural style" of the surrounding neighborhood. In keeping with the community's requests, the massing will sit in the center and rear of the new structure, allowing the sides to step down to better match the surrounding two and three-story townhouses. The developer is asking for a density of of 5.0 FAR, less than the 6.0 allowed in the PUD zoning application.
Below-grade parking will add 340 residential spaces and 65 retail spaces, with garage entrances off 8th and 10th Streets. According to ANC 6A Commissioner, Dr. Drew Ronneberg, "the city has a strong interest in having the site host 100 additional city-owned parking spaces that would serve retail establishments outside the building."
Among other concessions, the developers agreed to a laundry list of community benefits to mitigate traffic congestion and encourage "green" living. The project will have to meet LEED silver requirements, though does not have to seek actual certification. There will be bicycle spaces aplenty in the parking garage, and lockers and showers for retail employees who bike to work. The developers agreed to provide one $20 SmartTrip Card to all initial and future residents up to $15,000, to fund up to $45,000 for a bike share station on undefined public property (quite a bit less than the Union Station bike hub cost), provide car sharing spaces, and pay for a one-time, one-year car sharing membership for initial occupants to max out at $19,000. We can see the marketing materials already.
Ronneberg said the ultimate goal behind the community amenities was to "help catalyze...the development of H Street" and that after hammering out the amenities over the past six months "there's certainly nothing major the ANC asked for that did not make it into the package." Chip Glasgow of Holland and Knight, attorney for the developers, said "we have been working with the ANC for a couple of years and it has turned out to be a very good process. We are very pleased with the result...and people are excited."
Glasgow indicated he hopes to be in front of Zoning in April or May and to have a hearing "sometime this summer." As for a timeline thereafter, he would not speculate, though Ronneberg suggested a 2012 start would be the earliest the community would expect anything.
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