Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Mixed-use: A Safe Way to Go in Tenleytown?


It’s a short Safeway with a long story.

As reported by the Washington Post, the nationwide grocery chain is looking to move forward with new, yet-to-be-fleshed-out plans for a mixed-use development where a low-slung, red-brick Safeway store currently resides just off of Wisconsin Avenue in Tenleytown.

The Safeway, built in 1981, sits with its backside to 42nd Street – the building was built to face away from the main drag – while conversely, Safeway execs are facing a call to action from the Office of Planning and Ward 3 ANC 3E-03 to address specific problems both groups had with a previous version of redevelopment, one which merely raised the Safeway to 2 stories and added a touch of retail.
The problematic PUD was submitted by Safeway in August 2009. Things began to unravel for Safeway as early as October – only two months after submitting plans –when substantial criticism arose from both OP and the ANC. Safeway chose to “indefinitely suspend” its plans in January 2010. OP expressed concerns about various elements of the plan, but was pointedly critical of Safeway’s request for rezoning.


As seen in the 2005 OP land use map (at left) the Safeway-owned land between 42nd and 43rd street and Ellicott and Davenport Street, is a mix of low-density residential (yellow), low-medium density residential (peach), local public land (navy), and commercial (pink).

The yellow-peach areas are what caused Safeway the most trouble, and led to a mixed-use plan.

Designed by Torti Gallas and Partners, the redevelopment was initially meant to expand and renovate the out-dated Safeway store there – which turns (gasp) 30 this year – and also tack on additional retailers on site: a coffee shop, dry cleaners, and florist.

Now, a year-and-a-half since scrapping plans Safeway is back at it, yet, taking it slow, and contrary to what was reported by the Post, Safeway has not yet issued a request for proposals. Craig Muckle, manager for public affairs and government relations in the region, says that Safeway is first gathering input from the community and is paying particular attention to the opinion of residents in the immediate area.

Jon Bender, chair of ANC 3E, noted that he and other ANC 3E commissioners suggested to Safeway more than a year ago that some kind of mixed-use development at the site could make sense.

Given that single-family homes immediately abut the Tenleytown site, he added, the details of the project matter a great deal. "A majority [of ANC3E commissioners] views this development positively in principle, but I think we’ve got a good distance to go before a majority could support a specific project," Bender explains.

Bender observed that Safeway’s preliminary, conceptual description of what it intends for the site raised concerns, and Safeway has stated that - until it selects a developer - it will not discuss significant changes to the project, share detailed renderings, or produce perspective drawings of the view of the development from adjacent residences.

This time around Safeway is looking for a plan that will work, but not before getting the go-ahead from the community, and that community has proven to be a difficult client many times over.

Update:

At left: Office of Planning Future Land Use Map (as designated in 2007)
This map shows more accurately that the land in question is zoned for moderate residential and light commercial development. The Office of Planning was opposed to rezoning in order to accommodate Safeway's 2009 PUD, and ANC 3E03 suggested that Safeway consider a mixed-use development for the site.

The yellow and peach areas at 43rd St and Ellicott St. on the Office of Planning Land Use Map from 2005 (within article) are currently residential areas - with residents - and it is these folks who are particularly concerned about Safeway's redevelopment plans for the site as it is quite literally in their backyard.

Correction: In paragraph five, "Safeway-owned land" is incorrect, and the article should read "the affected area"

Washington D.C. real estate development news

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

Can't wait for development of the new Safeway. We live one block away, but rarely go there because it is so outdated. It will be nice to bring a new store and new families to the neighborhood.

Anonymous said...

The map included in this post is OP’s 2005 Existing Land Use Map. It was meant to show the existing land uses at the time. Most of the Safeway property is designated as commercial (pink). This is the portion of the property where the store and parking lot are located. The Ellicott Street portion of the property is mislabeled on OP’s 2005 existing land use map, being shown as local public land. This is the proper designation for the WMATA owned property which is next to Safeway’s property at the corner of Ellicott and 42nd Street. The remaining properties described in the text (yellow and peach) are not owned by Safeway, but are the homes of Safeway’s closest neighbors.

The map accompanying this article is not the Future Land Use Map, which is part of the Comprehensive plan. The Existing Land Use Map is not meant to express public policy on future land uses in the District. It simply was meant to catalogue existing uses in 2005. The Future Land Use Map is intended as a guide for development and conservation decisions and expresses public policy on future land uses across the city. The Future Land Use Map was enacted as part of the Comprehensive Plan effective March 8, 2007.

On the Future Land Use Map, a large portion of Safeway’s property is designated as “low density residential” (yellow). The portion that is closest to 42nd Street, zoned C-2-A, is designated as a mix of “low density commercial” (light pink, primarily one to three story buildings) and “moderate density residential” (described as rowhouses, garden apartments, single family homes, 2-4 unit buildings and low-rise apartment buildings).

Anonymous said...

This is a sad Safeway. Long lines despite the lack of customers, and a bad layout. Build a new one with housing - some neighbors will fight it, but most of us support it.

Anonymous said...

I am not sure the point of 5/18 at 2:37's post, other than to try to claim that Safeway ought to only be proposing a low-density development.

Fact is, the close-by neighbors have been working with Safeway for the better part of a year and a half, and are interested in a better retail option for Wisconsin Avenue. We are ok with more density there as long as it doesn't overshadow our backyards (literally).

If the trade-off for an appropriate step-down is more on 42nd Street, we are ok with that and will support Safeway's efforts.

Please do not interfere with this, as we do not want another situation like what took place over the last decade down the street.

Anonymous said...

Assuming the immediate neighbors can work things out with Safeway, the only people who will have a problem with this redevelopment are the usual cast of characters in upper NW who don't like change and will mount a scorched-earth campaign to achieve their goals.

Anonymous said...

Last time around there were three different points-of-view (ARD, W3V, immediate neighbors) and two (W3V/immediate neighbors) aligned in a marriage of convenience. It seems unlikely that marriage will endure given that most of the immediate neighbors opposed the last PUD application because they thought it put too much too close to their homes and W3V thought the problem with the last PUD was it wasn't big enough.

There's no "safe way" in Tenleytown -- just Scylla and Charybdis.

Ben said...

@Anonymous 7:16 AM

Don't worry, the Tenley NIMBYs have limitless capacity to screw this up.

Contrary to the wildest fears of the anti-growth crowd, transit-oriented development can be context sensitive. It makes absolute sense to have the most density along 42nd Street, which is closest to Wisconsin Avenue and other commercial use (Martens Volvo) and have the townhomes or lower density use towards the homes on Davenport.

Ben said...

This Safeway is well-served by the 30s buses and is less than a ten-minute walk from two metro stations. Hopefully neighbors don't require an excessive amount of parking for this location.

Amy said...

Let's be clear. There are about 5 people, 1 or 2 of whom make 90% of the noise, that want all development stopped. The rest of us support mixed-use and anything with retail. The blockers will use hearings and developer meetings to argue fine points indefinitely, under the guise of fine-tuning, but with the ultimate goal of killing it. Don't let them, roll this thing forward, choose a good developer (not some cheap shit EYA builder), and build some tasteful homes there, with a better Safeway. Please.

Anonymous said...

The point of my 2:37 post was simply to correct errors in the description of the land use policies that are relevant to this site, and not to advocate for a specific hewight and density.

The article doesn’t describe Safeway’s current proposal, so there is no way of knowing whether that proposal is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan policies and whether it has reduced the impact on the closest neighbors.

As you will see from my further corrections, the goal is to change the project to have less impact on the neighbors and to be consistent with our long range land use plans.

I take issue with the statement: “The Office of Planning was opposed to rezoning in order to accommodate Safeway's 2009 PUD.” In fact, the Office of Planning’s October 9, 2009 Report to Zoning Commission supported the requested map amendment and recommended that the proposed PUD be set down for a public hearing, but that further work was required.

On page 6, referring to the Comprehensive Plan Future Land Use Map, OP stated “the proposed C-2-A/C-1 designation is not inconsistent with the future land use(s) of the site.”

On page 1 of the report (referring to the 2009 proposal), they stated that “Overall, the Office of Planning is supportive of the redevelopment of the site, however OP has several issues with the project that will require additional coordination before the public hearing.” These areas related to the LEED certification, the placement of buildings relative to the closest neighbors, a better enumeration of the flexibility sought and benefits and amenities to be provided.

OP stated that they would be supportive of some additional density, but did not oppose the project for not requesting that additional density (Page 1).

Certainly, nothing in OP’s October 9, 2009 report to the Zoning Commission would be characterized as sharp criticism from OP, except for the request that Safeway work on the impact of the project on the closest residential neighbors. The other requests were mostly standard requests that additional detail be provided prior to the hearing and that Safeway provide a project phasing and construction management plan.

(See http://planning.dc.gov/DC/Planning/Across+the+City/Zoning/Citywide+Development+Review+and+Zoning+Reports/Zoning+Commission+ZC+Cases/Ward+3/WARD3+ZC+REPORT+09-14+TENLEY+SAFEWAY+SETDOWN+REPORT)

Another correction to the Update is also necessary. The first section should read:
“Office of Planning Future Land Use Map (as designated in 2007) This map shows more accurately that the planned future land use for the land in question is for low density residential on the western portion of the site and for a mix of moderate residential and low density commercial development on the eastern portion of the site.”

The language in the update did not include the approximately 49,000 square feet of land that was designated for low-density residential use (yellow on the map). OP’s October 9, 2009 provides an explanation as to why a proposal which does not include residential uses would be consistent with the Future Land Use Map.

Anonymous said...

My prediction is that Safeway will get to build a quality mixed use development because they will work with their neighbors to address concerns toward the back (west and north) of the site. To their credit, they seem to be a very different company than Giant, which did not work with neighbors at all in McLean Gardens and Cleveland Park. The rammed their 2-block PUD through, refusing to change any aspects and said it was a take it or leave it deal, to get the store modernized. They are even putting their loading dock in a residential zone, right next to some existing homes, so that the noise and fumes would be located at the farthest point of the site away from the residences that Giant is building! Another example is that Giant promised a green roof for "Cathderal Commons", and PUD's are supposed to have more amenity features than matter of right development in exchange for greater density. Turns out there is no green roof, no LEED-certification. Yet Safeway built a LEED-certified store as a matter of right in Georgetown.

Anonymous said...

I agree that if Safeway manages to satisfy the abutters, the approval process could be relatively smooth. They should focus there and ignore the ideologues.

Of course once a residential developer gets put into the mix, a additional layer of interests and personalities will kick in. So who knows?

Anonymous said...

@Ben:

How can the Safeway site be both "well served by 30s buses" when you recently argued the opposite on the Tenley list serve, that the 30s buses are not a good transit alternative?

In tenleytown@yahoogroups.com, Ben Thielen wrote:
>
> The 30s buses are manageable but they are not a 'good mass transit
> alternative.' DDOT's 2005 Transit Alternatives Analysis report found the 30s
> buses were the third most delayed of all the routes examined.Bunching of
the
> 30s buses is a continual problem. Buses also generate a signficant amount of
> local congestion by leaving and entering the flow of vehicles to pick up
> passengers.
>
> Below Calvert to Georgetown, I would expect that a Wisconsin Avenue streetcar
> route would share lanes with vehicles, much as it is being planned on the H
> Street corridor. I also think most bicyclsts stay off of Wisconsin Avenue in
> Georgetown and use less congested side streets.
>
> -Ben

Ben said...

*"we know"

Anonymous said...

Depends on whether he's pushing apartments or streetcars.

Truth is, the corridor is well-served by the 30s buses. But it's also true that it sucks to carry groceries home on the bus and, with a 10 minute walk to the station, Metrorail's no picnic either.

So sure, people in the immediate neighborhood (or people whose commute or school or errands take them past the store) will walk when they're picking up a few items (as they do now). But people who are grocery shopping will drive. Too much to schlep otherwise. And most other grocery stores in the area (e.g. at Van Ness, Tenleytown, Friendship Heights) are directly above the Metro stations -- so this location won't be the first choice of most people who have no choice but to schlep groceries home on the train.

So whether this Safeway succeeds or fails may well depend on whether it has sufficient parking (and how convenient/inexpensive that parking is).

Anonymous said...

@10:36 7/19/11

I am not sure why you think the alignment between smart growth advocates and the immediate neighbors might be in jeopardy. The fact of the matter is that the two goals are not mutually exclusive. The development should taper down appropriately to respect the existing single family and town homes, and the airspace atop the grocery store ought to be maximized to include as much housing as possible, including workforce/affordable opportunities.wsd

Ben said...

@Anonymous 1:28 PM

The 30s bus is adequate for now but we know the Washington region is expected to grow by 2M people in the coming decades, as noted by the Greater Washington 2050 report. A Wisconsin Avenue streetcar will attract many of the wealthy discretionary riders who live in this part of the District who would otherwise not take the bus and would drive instead.

It is also beyond dispute that streetcars do a much better job of attracting economic development. Although the Safeway development will be welcomed, there is the potential for a lot more infill development along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor. A Wisconsin Avenue streetcar will help serve as a catalyst for this development. It will bring the District tens of millions of dollars each year in additional property and sales taxes.

As you've noted in my post from the Tenley listserve, a Wisconsin Avenue streetcar will also provide far more reliable transportation than the 30s buses. The 2005 DC Transit Alternatives Analysis report found the 30s buses to be the third most-delayed of all the routes examined. A Wisconsin Avenue streetcar route with dedicated median lanes will not be at the mercy of the traffic flow and other vehicles, reducing travel times.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 1:28 PM

The 30s bus is adequate for now but we know the Washington region is expected to grow by 2M people in the coming decades, as noted by the Greater Washington 2050 report. A Wisconsin Avenue streetcar will attract many of the wealthy discretionary riders who live in this part of the District who would otherwise not take the bus and would drive instead.

It is also beyond dispute that streetcars do a much better job of attracting economic development. Although the Safeway development will be welcomed, there is the potential for a lot more infill development along the Wisconsin Avenue corridor. A Wisconsin Avenue streetcar will help serve as a catalyst for this development. It will bring the District tens of millions of dollars each year in additional property and sales taxes.

As you've noted in my post from the Tenley listserve, a Wisconsin Avenue streetcar will also provide far more reliable transportation than the 30s buses. The 2005 DC Transit Alternatives Analysis report found the 30s buses to be the third most-delayed of all the routes examined. A Wisconsin Avenue streetcar route with dedicated median lanes will not be at the mercy of the traffic flow and other vehicles, reducing travel times.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 1:28 PM

DDOT currently has no plans for a Wisconsin Avenue streetcar, there is no funding for this infrastructure investment at present time, and for most of the next decade DDOT is focused on building streetcars in other parts of the Distict.

It seems like it is the fear that better transit, that a Wisconsin Avenue streetcar will be part of, will attract more development in this corridor is the real thing motivating opponents of this.

Anonymous said...

Ben, Your statement that the 30s buses are the third most-delayed of the routes examined is based on a 2005 study. That study recommended a comprehensive study of the 30s line which was conducted in 2007, and implementation of those recommendations for restructuring the 30s line began in 2008.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 2:30 PM

And it's 2011, nearly five years after and the 30s buses still remain subject to delays and reliability issues.

http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/9981/consolidate-bus-stops-to-speed-up-the-30s-line/

The Red and Orange lines are also more crowded than ever and will be even more so once the Silver Line to Tysons and Dulles opens. A Wisconsin Avenue streetcar will provide important region-wide transit benefits, even if it encourages (gasp!!) a few 6-8 story infill buildings in Tenley or Friendship Heights.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 1:55 PM
"So whether this Safeway succeeds or fails may well depend on whether it has sufficient parking (and how convenient/inexpensive that parking is)."

I certainly hope the opponents of this don't use traffic as a reason to try to block this development. It is well-established that ample, cheap, parking will lead to more driving.

Anonymous said...

I don’t think that this is the right thread for a discussion of streetcars. Nonetheless, the characterization in the 2:21 pm post of the concerns of people who question whether we should request streetcars on Wisconsin Avenue is inaccurate. If you look at the discussion on the Tenleytown listserve (which should not be repeated here), it is clear that much of the concern about streetcars is a concern that streetcars will result in inferior transit, not that it will provide better transit.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 2:44 PM

Why isn't this the right post? I wasn't the one who posted about streetcars on this forum but if you look at the example of the H Street corridor, streetcars (or other rail transit) and development are diretly related and encoruage each other.

Monarch on May 19, 2011, 3:53:00 PM said...

We agree with Amy. Opponents of mixed use development sites are rarely the majority, they are simply the loudest. If the rest of us can be vocal enough to be heard, then there shouldn't be a problem in regards to championing the good that mixed-use can bring to the table.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 1:55 PM

"So whether this Safeway succeeds or fails may well depend on whether it has sufficient parking (and how convenient/inexpensive that parking is)."

I hope the opponents of this project don't use traffic then as one of the reasons to oppose this. The more parking that is available and the cheaper it is, the more people will drive.

Anonymous said...

Safeway's an existing use and I don't think anyone is concerned about the traffic it generates -- the benefit of having a nearby grocery store compensates for that.

The traffic that people will be concerned about will be that generated by 150+ new units of housing in that block (and, perhaps, by more changes to the grid (GDS's campus already obstructs it in that area).

Anonymous said...

Oh for Pete's sake, enough about traffic. Wisconsin get 100,000 cars a day, in a city with > 600k people, and we have to study to see if the roads can hold another 100 people? Worse would be if they move to the suburbs and have to drive that much farther, they still fill our roads, people.

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's seriously fallacious logic. The overall population of the city or the traffic volume on a major road doesn't really tell you whether any particular block can absorb an additional 150+ households without causing traffic problems in the immediate vicinity.

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous 6:06 PM:

The Tenley NIMBYs/BANANAs might be full of vitriol but it is clear they lack even a basic knowledge about urban planning and transportation. Someone who pays considerably more to live within a ten minute walk of two metro stations is going to drive significantly less. This is self-selection, a concept not difficult to grasp to all but the most anti-growth zealots.

Read Robert Cervero's study of this:

http://www.uctc.net/papers/604.pdf

I'd take his conclusions more seriously than the scare tactics of the hysterical anti-growth crowd. Underground parking for a building like this costs $30,000 - $40,000 per spot. Including more parking than is necessary will encourage not only more driving and more traffic but make housing less affordable for people who'd like to live in the neighborhood. Not that I'd expect the NIMBY crowd to be concerned about anything other than their very narrow self-interest, however.

Anonymous said...

No one is for building more parking then necessary -- the question is how much is necessary. Yes, Tenleytown and Friendship Heights DC residents own fewer cars per household than their economic cohort just across the border in MD. But in this economic bracket, a high percentage (even of renters) do own cars.

To the extent that they drive less, they park (at home) more. Parking is one source of traffic problems in that area. The challenge is to provide adequate parking at the site for the number of cars it attracts (store and residences) and to handle access to the site in a way that doesn't create bottlenecks and minimizes conflicts.

These aren't insoluble problems -- but if you blow them off from the beginning, you're more likely to encounter opposition (and to produce a project that doesn't work as well as it could).

Anonymous said...

Here's the test for anyone who supports building less off-street parking for in-fill residential development, contending that people will take transit. Ask whether the developer then should covenant that the development will not be eligible for RPP parking, as a couple of PUDs in Northwest have agreed. (This is what Arlington also does, if a developer builds less than zoning minimums because the development is in a "transit oriented zone.") If the answer is no, then it's clear that more parking is required, it's just being shifted from being borne by the developer/owner onto already crowded streets.

Anonymous said...

As someone who would support a mixed-use development at this site, I would also support RPP restrictions for dwellers and their guests. The impact on the existing conditions in the neighborhood should be negligible, and it would be up to the developer and the community to work together on such a solution.

Anonymous said...

While I understand the logic behind restricting RPPs for new construction, I wonder if it's really a solution. After a couple of years, you have new residents who, at least in multi-family buildings, can't add parking to their homes. Why should they be denied on street parking when single-family homeowners (who often could build a parking pad) aren't? Especially when you get to the point where it's no longer clear that that SF homeowners were here first, it seems wrong to deny the apartment/condo dwellers access to a shared resource that everyone else in the neighborhood gets. And what about things like visitor parking permits? Every household is supposed to get one. And presumably apartment/condo dwellers have visitors -- even if there's a logic behind denying them RPPs, shouldn't they be entitled to VPPs?. And, of course, once you have a VPP you can use it just like an RPP. At any rate, the new neighbors will be voters and taxpayers too and presumably won't find it difficult to organize around this kind of issue. As the recent budget hearing demonstrated,even SG CMs cave to pressure on the parking issue.

So from a philosophical, practical, and political standpoint, I think that the denial of RPPs is a fix that is sustainable just long enough to get the developer off the hook but is unlikely to address or solve the underlying problem. New residential construction should have to provide adequate parking on site. And how much is adequate is a question that should be answered contextually and empirically.

Anonymous said...

The streets are not crowded there, I've parked there many times to go to Pete's. But busy streets should be expected when you live in an urban center, near Metro. If you don't, buy an acre in Bethesda so you don't have to deal with other people.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure Pete's would like it to remain a place where people who come to eat won't find it difficult to park. But if you add 150 new households a block away and don't provide adequate parking for them, that's going to be a problem.

The need to provide adequate parking rather than to rely on the street is recognized in the context of GDS; it's even more true with respect to residential development (because home is the car's at rest position -- whereas the demands visitors (to schools, restaurants, etc) place on parking infrastructure is subject to more churn.

Anonymous said...

Safeway will have to determine its requirements and the developer will have to determine requirements for the residential portion of the plan.

At the end of the day, there is probably high demand for no parking, some zip car and a Capital Bike Share station, but that would be drawing a different client base than 1-2 parking spots per unit.

I would also assume that any of the townhouse residences being built, if sold as single family homes, would have parking under their houses within the parking structure.

Anonymous said...

"If you don't, buy an acre in Bethesda so you don't have to deal with other people."

Bethesda offers a good template for how to deal with dense, in-fill development that backs up against single family residential areas. Looks at Edgemoor across from Bethesda Row: 24/7 residential parking restrictions and (sometimes physical) traffic restrictions. Bethesda Row provides plenty of off-street parking and its 2 blocks from the Metro; downtown Bethesda is far more of a "city" than Tenleytown/AU Park.

Anonymous said...

The nice thing about anonymous comments if you are anti-development is that you "win" no matter what Safeway does. If they do lots of parking, you oppose based on the traffic the development will generate. If they don't do lots of parking, you oppose based on how much parking in the neighborhood there will be or, if that doesn't happen, on philosophical grounds because it just isn't fair to the condo dwellers that bought their condos knowing about RPP restrictions.

Anonymous said...

Nobody (except maybe the residential developer) wins if the project isn't done well. Current residents want change that makes their already very nice neighborhood better. Safeway wants a change that makes their (by now pretty substandard) store more attractive. There's lots of common ground there. And,frankly, the interests of future residents aren't that different from the interests of current residents. They won't want to spent forever looking for parking or to find themselves living on top of a grocery store that's failing because it's a hassle to shop there compared to other alternatives.

Mixed-use buildings are high-stakes, especially when you mix retail with residential, because the residential property is generally more valuable and retail tends to be trendier/more ephemeral. Safeway will be locked into whatever they do on this site for a long time, so they should plan wisely. And their goal should be something that works -- not something that exemplifies the planning paradigm du jour.

Anonymous said...

to 10:30

If it is part of the neighborhood agreement, and part of the condo sales agreements, then everyone knows what they are getting into, so there shouldn't be any issues 5 years hence.

Anonymous said...

Condos? I'd bet rental.

 

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