After 18 months of efforts by the DC Office of Planning (OP) to establish appropriate specifics, the DC Zoning Commission (ZC) approved OP's creation of a new zone - Union Station North (USN) - which will supersede an area zoned for industrial and light manufacturing use in the City's Comprehensive Plan. The USN Zone was created to allow developer Akridge's mixed-use planned development project, Burnham Place, designed by local architect Shalom Baranes Associates, to be built above the Amtrak railyard located immediately north of Union Station.
Burnham Place, estimated early on to cost $1 billion, has been in the works since Akridge bought the air rights above the railyard from the General Services Administration (GSA) for $10 million in November of 2006, a notable transaction due to price and precedent - the deal became the first transfer of air rights from the federal government to a private buyer.
The 14-acre, air-rights property will be developed into 3 million s.f. of commercial, retail, residential and hotel space. The new USN Zone District will allow Akridge to build up 90 to 130 feet above the H Street Bridge, as the bridge is technically the ground floor of the property. According to Lisa Steen, Vice President of Marketing at Akridge, building heights will be gradual, starting 300' away from Union Station at 90', then rising to 110' and finally 130'. In this way, "The view of Union Station will not be compromised," says Steen, adding, "and the view from the buildings could be fabulous."
The ZC Order was approved unanimously in April, and has allowed Akridge to move forward with design specifics, now that allotted heights for residential towers has been established. The decision to create a new zone also ensures that the ZC will have the authority to review and approve any development at the site. Furthermore, the Order allows Akridge to create a unique, and dense, transit-oriented development that utilizes project neighbors - Amtrak, below, and transit hub Union Station, to the south.
Amtrak is currently developing a Master Plan - expected to be complete in early 2012 - to double or even triple its capacity at Union Station, and if a intercity high-speed rail is created, Steen speculates the possibility of commuting by rail to New York from Union Station as quickly as commuting by car to Fredricksburg.
Building above a railyard poses challenges that Akridge will overcome by building 20-foot-high support columns, strategically placed throughout the rail yard, which will support a concrete platform to serve as site foundation.
Potential relocation of the Greyhound Bus terminal and possible redevelopment of the parking garage at Union Station are currently under consideration by Akridge and several other entities including the District Dept. of Transportation (DDOT) and the Union Station Redevelopment Corporation (USRC), created in 1982 to restore Union Station using $8.1 million appointed funds.
Akridge has yet to disclose a timeline for the project's multiple phases, other than to say it plans to propose the early phases of construction upon the completion of Amtrak's master plan, expected to come early next year. A tentative goal for beginning the initial infrastructure work on Burham Place is for 2014.
Washington D.C. real estate development news