Friday, October 12, 2012

Babes Development OK'd by ANC


The Advisory Neighborhood Commission held a hearing last night to approve development at 4600 Wisconsin Ave., affectionately known as the "Babes" site in Tenleytown.  In a hearing competing with a Vice Presidential debate and sudden death National League playoff, the ANC voted in a lightly attended meeting to support the residential project as Douglas Development gets ready to present the same plans to the Zoning Commission

The approval, the culmination of a Memorandum of Understanding between Douglas Development, the building's owner, and the ANC, gets Douglas past the neighborhood and to a final zoning vote.  Douglas's zoning application calls for a 6-story building with 48,000 s.f. of residential use above 13,000 s.f. of retail.  After a heated battle with some neighborhood turf bullies that feared dozens of new cars clogging Tenleytown, Douglas prevailed on turning the bottom two floors into retail by offering a host of transportation amenities (off-street handicap parking, a bike room, bike racks on Wisconsin, and a "digital multimodal display" in the lobby that lists updated bus, rail, bikeshare and car share data) rather than the 87 parking spaces that would have been required under current zoning regulations.

Douglas fought a contentious battle with some in the neighborhood that wanted garage parking to mitigate street parking, but the neighborhood acquiesced when, among other things, when Douglas agreed that residents would not qualify for neighborhood parking stickers and that commercial tenants over 3,500 s.f. would provide free validated parking. Jonathan Bender, the ANC Commissioner in whose district the project is located, said it was a tough compromise that neither side was entirely happy with, but that it allowed the project to go forward.   "This is a tremendous advance in Tenleytown...even if the ANC supported it without the parking restriction the Zoning Commission would never have supported this [without that parking condition]."  The concept of allowing new development while forbidding tenants of new residential developments has long been a contested one, with new residents feeling boxed out by local home owners.

Douglas also agreed to a check list of other neighborhood upgrades, including contributing up to $600,000 to underground utilities in front of the project, building a CaBi station at its expense if DDOT does not build one in the immediate vicinity on its own within 2 years, and enhancing the triangular park across the street.

The site has long been planned as a residential location, a previous owner intended high-end condos on the site, and though Douglas initially floated a plan for office space above retail after purchasing the property in January of 2009 (the site had been a pool hall recently), it soon began developing a plan for housing above the retail.  Click here for the most recent images of the project.

Washington D.C. real estate development news

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Suckers! The residents will be applying for and receiving zone parking stickers within weeks. Similar situation occurred with Chancellor's Row in NE. Developer had to agree in PUD that street parking would be for visitors/guests only so that cars would not flow over into the neighborhood. Sounds good in theory, but the developer (controlling the HOA) won't actually enforce the prohibition against owner's parking in the designated guest parking. So, street parking is filled with owner's cars and visitors/guests and owners are spilling over onto neighborhood streets. HA!

Anonymous said...

At some point, development in DC will just have to come without the automatic construction of parking. If you build it, the cars will for sure come. But if parking isn't constructed, some will simply opt out of cars altogether. Yes, some buyers will insist on having them and park them on the street, but the city overall will be the better with fewer cars.

Anonymous said...

Who cares if they park on the street. Tenley Town's residential area has a suburban character with alleys, meaning there's ample parking for all the residents. Ultimatley I agree with the last poster, just stop building parking spaces for condos and let people adapt. It's already happening downtown.

Scott said...

Build it, for Chrissake. They took out the billiard bar years ago and its been useless since. We badly need new retail in Tenley, don't let a handful of morons stop them from going in, anyone that goes in there will take advantage of alot of pent up demand for good retail in the neighborhood. My guess is that it will be a success if they do even a marginally decent product, hopefully a restaurant.

Anonymous said...

opprovsGuess what, you do not need a car to live there. Never have. That site needs a useful building like this. Pool halls and weird movie theaters never did it for me. Quit the wining please.

Anonymous said...

This counts as a "compromise"? The ANC commish needs to rebalance his thinking. It's absurdly one-sided in favor of the NIMBYs because, as others have noted, parking is easy in Tenleytown. Forcing the developer to provide all sorts of goodies (which, by the way, will force up the rents and thus crush the potential for any retail except big national chains) to offset a non-existent problem is not a compromise, it's a cave-in to irrational bullies.

Anonymous said...

This counts as a “compromise?” Douglas Development gets the rights to build a project that is nearly twice the size otherwise allowed, over 20 feet taller than otherwise allowed, covers 96% of the lot, and provides no off-street parking other than one handicapped space.

Yet, the benefits that the ANC negotiated for are negligible, while the impact on the neighbors is huge.

The car-sharing space isn’t being provided by the developer, but the developer is stating that they will ask DDOT to repurpose an existing space in the area, probably either a metered or RPP space, to be a car-sharing parking space.
The Capital Bikeshare station wouldn’t be on the property – after all the building fills nearly the entire lot, but on the sidewalk on the other side of Wisconsin Avenue.
Most of the transit benefits are basically a lease-signing bonus available to the first tenants of the building, and the actual value is quite low, and they would have no impact on future transit use.
The offer to reserve off-site spaces runs only for “up to” 10 years, only subject to a reasonable efforts standard, and the spaces can be as far as 1,500 feet from the building.
The terms for funding of undergrounding of utilities is for $400,000 (not $600,000 as stated in the article), and the treatment of this contribution is contrary to the Zoning Commission policies for PUDs, so likely will not be included. And, if construction of the undergrounding is not done, it would become a cash donation of $400,000, directed by the ANC, even more clearly contrary to the current practice of the Zoning Commission of prohibiting monetary contributions in PUDs.
Some of the other “benefits” are simply things that any developer of a building in this area would include in his project in order to be able to profitably rent the retail space and residential units.

This is not a compromise. The benefits to Douglas Development are huge, with a large negative impact on the neighborhood, and benefits negotiated by the ANC are almost nonexistent.

Jay said...

To the last post, why should the builder have to please you anyhow? They paid for the land, they should be able to develop without you imposing your desires on something you have no affiliation with, have invested nothing in, and will do no work on. Most of us in the neighborhood support this. Unfortunately we don't have the time on our hands like the Sue Hembergers do, so we can't spend our day writing emails and letters, so her build-a-moat crowd usually wins.

Anonymous said...

@Jay, Douglas Development had at least three options:
(a) They could have built the PUD that had already been approved for the site with the support of the community, perhaps with some minor modifications;
(b) They could have built a project within the parameters allowed by current zoning, which would not have involved any input from the ANC or required Zoning Commission approval, as was done at The Harrison, where the only requirement was that they filed for a building permit; or
(c) They could request approval of a project that would be almost twice the size allowed with the current zoning, an increase in height of 20 feet, and the waiver of the parking requirement. That would require a demonstration that it is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and provides public benefits significantly greater than would likely result from development of the site under matter-of-right provisions in proportion to the flexibility or incentives requested. This request requires approval of the Zoning Commission.

They chose the third of these three options.

Anonymous said...

@Jay, Douglas Development had at least three options:
(a) They could have built the PUD that had already been approved for the site with the support of the community, perhaps with some minor modifications;
(b) They could have built a project within the parameters allowed by current zoning, which would not have involved any input from the ANC or required Zoning Commission approval, as was done at The Harrison, where the only requirement was that they filed for a building permit; or
(c) They could request approval of a project that would be almost twice the size allowed with the current zoning, an increase in height of 20 feet, and the waiver of the parking requirement. That would require a demonstration that it is consistent with the Comprehensive Plan and provides public benefits significantly greater than would likely result from development of the site under matter-of-right provisions in proportion to the flexibility or incentives requested. This request requires approval of the Zoning Commission.

They chose the third of these three options.

 

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