It was a rough Monday night for CSG Urban Partners and their proposed 11-story, 210-unit residential building on the former site of St. Matthew's church at 222 M street SW, as a large number of neighborhood residents showed up to voice opposition to the project over the course of an occasionally heated four-hour hearing.
The hearing started on a moderate note, as board members from the nearby Carrollsburg Square condominiums voiced qualified support for the project. "This is not the perfect project," said resident Jonathan Beaton, before going on to say that it's "likely better than future projects that will be proposed."
But the testimony took a negative turn from there. One resident said the proposed building "doesn't match the existing development pattern," describing a "wall-like effect from over 200 feet of unbroken frontage along the street." A representative of a senior housing complex at 1241 Delaware Avenue said the new building will block natural light and accessibility for ambulances. Others said that mature trees adjacent to the development will be killed by construction, and that toxic mold could harm some residents. Still other residents complained that the developers had told them they wouldn't be allowed to use the swimming pool in the new building (pond would be good for you, Carl).
Criticism reached a peak when a local doctor said the building would turn the 3rd Street extension into a "darkened alley of high crime," that the loss of views would cause "mental anguish," and that the arbitrary changing of zoning standards represented a "bait and switch" for local property owners. ("Which is punishable by law!")
Fox News correspondent Catherine Herridge, who lives nearby, was one of the sharpest critics of the project. Herridge passed out a packet illustrating the neighborhood's "
severe doubling parking problem," and provided the night's finest unintentional comic relief when she fidgeted and glared and grimaced through the previous testifier's speech with Chaplinesque intensity. (She did everything but take out a huge hammer and bonk him on the head with it.)
On rebuttal, it was revealed that the developers had actually made an unusual concession on the parking issue, promising that no residents of their building would be eligible for residential parking permits. (The plans also call for 150 below-grade parking spaces.) Architect Shalom Baranes defended some aspects of the design, saying the "darkened high crime alley" would actually be well-lit, and have units looking onto it. Josh Dix, representing the developers, pointed out that the previous design had been much denser with much less greenspace. "We've been meeting with the community since 2004," he said. "At this point, does it satisfy everybody? Probably not. But the pros outweigh the cons."
The board didn't vote, instead asking for more information, and putting off a vote until the April 30 session. The tone at the hearing verged at times on contentious, and the mood seemed unencouraging. But Simone Goring Devaney, who's spearheading the project for CSG Urban, was unperturbed when I talked to her the next day. "The zoning board requested more information, and we're going to get them the info they requested," Goring Devaney said. "We're feeling very positive about the project's future."
Goring Devaney added that, if approval comes through as planned, construction should begin in early 2013 and conclude in about eighteen months.
Washington D.C. real estate development news