Friday, December 14, 2012

JBG's 13th and U Street Project Moving Forward--But Sans Hotel

JBG launched big plans for a U Street hotel sometime around 2007 that have been percolating ever since.  But now that the hotel idea has been scrapped, plans to build an apartment building on the site have picked up speed and construction may begin as early as next summer.

The hotel idea was tossed out in early 2012. In its place at the corner of 13th and U streets will be a large residential building designed by David M. Schwarz Architects that will hold around 138 units and include ground floor retail. After many months of community meetings, JBG finally submitted a PUD to the Zoning Commission in September; earlier this week, the commission held an initial hearing action and deemed the project ready for a public meeting. That will probably occur in early March 2013.

It’s been a very long road that’s nowhere near done. A first round of meetings earlier in the year with the U Street Neighborhood Association, ANC 1B’s design committee, and the full ANC led to the developers making some substantial adjustments to the eight-story building: its height was lowered to 86 feet, the seventh and eighth floors were set back by 5-6 feet, and plans for a rooftop pool were eliminated in response to neighbors’ concerns about noise.

That was the plan delineated in the PUD. 

Once the basics of the building’s shape and contents were worked out, JBG representatives met with neighborhood groups again to discuss the project’s design elements. Those have also been fully approved by the community, and an initial hearing with the Historic Preservation Review Board is scheduled for next Thursday.

As for design, the project won’t need to incorporate any historic facades; the site is currently home to a bland, low-slung strip that holds a Rite-Aid and a Pizza Hut. “But we do need to design a building that’s in context with the historic neighborhood,” said Leary. The resulting design is a classical-style building that led one zoning commission member to remark on the building’s unusually ‘historicist’ look. That was intentional, explained JBG reps, who said that Schwarz has gone to great lengths to look at precedents in the neighborhood and incorporate them so that the building looks as though it's been there for years.

All of the units—a mix of one- and two-bedrooms—will most likely be rentals and will include 12 affordable units that fulfill the District’s inclusionary zoning requirement. At an average of 970 square feet, the units will be a bit bigger than those typically found in new high-rise buildings. “We’re serving a different market—more of a mature renter-by-choice who wants to stay in place,” said James Nozar, a development manager for JBG.

As far as retail goes, the company hasn’t decided on the exact balance yet. So the only element fully in place is the Rite-Aid, which will return to its corner spot after construction is finished.

Some of the meetings that occurred this year between JBG and the neighborhood were an effort to determine the project’s community benefits package. In the end, the PUD submission contained a general clause that JBG would contribute $600,000 for amenities like streetscape improvements, alternative transportation options such as Capital Bikeshare or Zipcars, establishment of a business improvement district, and school or recreation programs. Exactly how the funding will break down will become clearer once the zoning commission's public hearing occurs.

JBG reps say a mid-2013 groundbreaking is possible, but construction is more likely to begin in the third quarter of next year.

Washington D.C. real estate development news


IMGoph on Dec 14, 2012, 3:44:00 PM said...

"historicism" works well here.

which commission member made that comment? do you recall?

it's a shame there won't be a hotel, though. the city could use hotels spaced out around the city, instead of stuck in "hotel ghettoes" in only certain parts of the city.

Amanda Abrams on Dec 14, 2012, 5:07:00 PM said...

I believe it was Commissioner May.

Anonymous said...

Nice building. BTW, if "historicism" works well here, why woulnd't it work well in every "historical" context? Another question.
Why is this called historicism, and a modernist building not? Hasn't modernism been with us for more than 50 years?

Anonymous said...

"plans for a rooftop pool were eliminated in response to neighbors’ concerns about noise."

Oh for god's sake.

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