Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Rappaport Hits Minor Setback on H Street

It's back to the drawing board for developers and architects working on Gary Rappaport's H Street redevelopment project. The Rappaport Companies' Parcel Seven Associates, LLC has been planning a large mixed-use redevelopment project running on the south side of H Street between 8th and 10th for over three years now. The rather enormous project, stretching two full blocks and replacing an outmoded single-story shopping strip, is expected to begin work on part of the 52,000 s.f. of retail and 400-odd residences within about two years, but save the 2nd half for much later. Developers endured the requisite series of conversations, meetings, and compromises, and were finally able to bring both DDOT and the ANC (6A and 6C) on board. But the Zoning Commission was not entirely wooed by the long line of witnesses pleading for approval of the obligatory zoning change at Monday evening's public hearing, and unanimously decided to delay final action until September 27th. This gives the architects and developers until Friday, September 3rd to officially respond to requests made by the Zoning Commission, and opponents of the project until September 10th to retort and fault Rappaport's modifications.

There were a number of minor issues with the plan in the eyes of the Commission, but the major hold up was the appearance of the project's closest neighbor in opposition to the project. This was not the first time developers had heard this family's concerns, and Rappaport insisted that they had labored to accommodate the neighbor's concerns about building height and traffic flow. But the strong reservations communicated by the 8th street neighbor were not mitigated to the extent the Commission expected, so Zoning requested more careful consideration of their concerns, particularly the family's anxiety over the likely increase in large trucks turning into the alley around the corner of their home.

One Zoning member requested that the architects refine the pavilion design on the opposite corner, at 10th and H Street, to generate a bolder and more interesting beginning to the rest of the building, while also tying together and re-enforcing the entirety of the design. "It lacks the kind of stylings and flavor of the rest of the building," he lamented. Another panel member was disappointed that the amenities package was rather light when weighed against the aggressive amount of FAR being pursued by the project (4.0 FAR of residential and 6.0 FAR of commercial space). The entire Commission also expressed their interest in seeing a slightly more aggressive phasing timeline; at present, phase two construction would not begin for about seven years thereafter, a timeline "that will depend upon the rate of absorption" of Phase 1, according to Rappaport.

But don't mourn for the Rappaport Companies, a somewhat retooled design should afford the developers the PUD they've been seeking, and panel members were generally optimistic and encouraged by the scope and direction of this project. A final action ruling later this fall does not serve as a serious threat to their hopes of beginning construction in 2012.

The process of give and take is not new to Rappaport; the project was even bigger before it was first rejected by the Commission in 2008. Over the last two years, the design team, including project architect Torti Gallas, has appeased the community by situating the massing of the buildings in the middle and the back to better negotiate changes in the roofline (ranging from 50 to 90 ft.) and blend the new building into the existing facade. The once uniform design has also been reformed to feign the appearance of multiple, distinct buildings strung together, replicating the nature of street frontages on the rest of H Street. The architects have offered large setbacks for the bottom floor retail stores to provide for maximum pedestrian traffic flow and the potential for outdoor dining terraces.

Other amenities being supplied to the community include landscaping and improvement of public space. The project will also look to minimize traffic congestion, and encourage environmental responsibility in achieving a LEED Silver Certification upon finished construction. Parcel Seven has also agreed to support a proposal for the creation of a Historic District for H Street NE. Moreover, a small portion of the residential units will qualify as affordable housing. And while one Commission member pointed out that several of these "amenities" are actually requirements (killjoy), the project seems to have convinced the majority of the community that its arrival is much more of a positive contribution than a hindrance.

The public record on this case will be reopened in late September as the developers attempt to appease the development site's most immediate neighbor, as well as reassure the Zoning Commission that their project is ready for construction to begin.

Washington DC real estate development news


Que said...

I feel bad for the 7 Eleven thats moving in; I wonder do they even know about this

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