Tuesday, May 15, 2012
Parcel 42, the catchy name given to the site at Rhode Island and 7th St., NW, across from the new Shaw library and planned affordable housing project, has been vacant for over a decade, but was awarded as a development parcel back in 2007. Economic necessity lead to scaling back the project, with all the design of a county college dorm, from 94 units to 52 units, and to a higher income bar to applicants. That, in turn, caused a sit-in and tent city to pop up in 2010, with protesters demanding lower income levels in a zone dominated by low-income housing. But those plans also failed too, and the site remains vacant.
But city leaders have finally issued a new Request for Proposals, now with a new vision. Rather than shoot for the lowest income residents, the District government is again encouraging a maxed out building and - a first - decent architecture.
Current zoning allows a 65 foot building with 4.2 FAR, but the District and local ANC are encouraging a zoning change that allows a 90 foot building with 6.0 FAR, a ground floor dominated by retail, and now an 80% AMI designation rather than the lowest subsidized housing designation. The proposal also states a preference for additional affordable units, a "high quality" public space component, and "high quality architecture" with a "signature design."
To subsidize the project, the District is providing the land, leaving developers to come up with the right building plan. Alex Padro, ANC Commissioner for the area, notes that specifications were left deliberately vague in order to allow developers the greatest flexibility. "In order to get the creative juices flowing, we worked with the Deputy Mayor to make sure there weren't exact minimums." We need "outstanding architecture" noted Padro. "Its gotta be a building that works financially, that activates the street, we already have a significant pocket of affordable housing in the area." But most of all, said Padro, the building needs to meet high architectural standards like the Shaw library.
Developers, however, will be incentivized to compete on the affordable housing provision to get the nod from the city, and the quality of the architecture is likely not going to be something the community agrees upon.
Proposals are due by July 26.
Washington D.C. real estate development news