Residents Consider Redevelopment Proposals for Eastern Branch Building

January 23, 2015
The Eastern Branch Building, located at 261 17th Street SE. Photo by Century Associates.

The Eastern Branch Building, located at 261 17th Street SE. Photo by Century Associates.

Around 50-60 residents attended the Jan. 20 DC Department of General Services community meeting to review two responses the department received to its recent Request for Proposals for the Eastern Branch Building, the city-owned, vacant former Boys & Girls Club Building at 261 17th Street SE. At the beginning of the meeting, which was held at Payne Elementary School, Michelle Chin of DGS announced that the department hopes to make an award decision by the end of February.

Below is a brief summary of each proposal. You can view the full presentations on the DGS website.

Proposal 1 – Dantes Partners & The Menkiti Group 

Dantes Drawing (2)

  • 49 units of senior housing, 100% affordable (priced at roughly $1,000/month). All one bedroom units of roughly 600-800 square feet.
  • Preserves existing building facade but add a two-story addition. The addition would be set back from the existing facade.
  • Includes 5,000 square feet of community space. Open to working with the neighborhood on potential uses for the space. Building owner would operate and manage space.
  • Preserves key features of existing building, including the autograph wall and dance studio.
  • Parking would be provided within the building. Envision 10 spaces accessed off alley.
  • Working with the Departments of General Services and Public Works, would work to enhance Spielberg Park across the street from the building.
  • Financed with Low Income Housing Tax Credits (LIHTC). Can work with 25-year lease requirement in DGS RFP.

Attendees asked Corey Powell of the Dantes/Menkiti team a number of questions about their concept, including:

  • Is the development team open to making the building more mixed income versus 100 percent affordable? Powell responded yes, though noted the need to comply with a new law that requires up to 30 percent of housing developed from DC-owned land and property to be affordable.
  • Is the addition necessary? Powell responded yes to make the project financially feasible and to support the community space.
  • Could the units be larger? Powell open to considering this but feel unit size is appropriate for target population (seniors).
  • Would the development team need zoning relief to construct the addition? Powell replied yes and are confident the relief would be granted.

Proposal 2 – Century Associates

Century Floor Plan (2)

  • 27 market rate units of senior housing (25 apartments plus 2 caregiver units). Open to co-housing or greenhouse concept (private units with shared common areas).
  • Maintains current building facade – no addition. Inside of building would be gutted.
  • Includes office space. Conversations ongoing with Capitol Hill Village about potential use of space.
  • Former gym would become a children’s play space (4,200 square feet). Space would be open to public but fee based.
  • Would add an amenity to the existing roof such as gardens for tenants.
  • As with Proposal 1, parking would be provided in building with access to garage off alley. Still working on number of parking spaces.
  • On the financial side, confident that project is feasible without the use of government funds. Seeking a 99-year lease on the building.

Here are some of the questions attendees asked Joel Kelty of Century Associates:

  • Can the financing for your project work without an addition? Kelty responded yes and emphasized they felt the building should maintain its current height and footprint. They also questioned whether an addition would be possible due to an existing cell phone tower lease on the rooftop.
  • What would be the average rent for a unit? Kelty responded around $3,000/month. Felt that RFP was asking for more mixed income senior housing versus 100% affordable senior housing.
  • How will the presence of significant hazardous materials in the current building affect your plans? Kelty replied that abatement will be challenging but believe their plan is feasible.
  • Is there anyway to include affordable units? Kelty responded that this would be very difficult to do financially and keep the building at its current footprint and height.
IMG_2707 (2)

Attendees listen to presentations at the Jan. 20 DGS Eastern Branch Building community meeting.

Unfortunately, the question and answer period resulted in more questions than answers, mainly for DGS. Kelty questioned whether LIHTC funding was prohibited by the RFP, noting that the RFP states that development teams can not seek public funding from the city. While LIHTC is federally funded, it is administered by DC. Century/Horizon also questioned whether the Board of Zoning Adjustment would approve the Dantes/Menkiti two-story addition and whether it was even feasible to do an addition given the existing antenna lease. Another question was whether the new 30 percent affordable housing requirement for DC-owned land applied to the RFP or not since the law was passed after the RFP was released.

Given these uncertainties, I stated my discomfort with having ANC 6B and neighbors weigh in on the proposals without further clarification from DGS. I certainly would not want the commission to support a proposal that was later disqualified due to the affordable housing requirement, zoning issues, etc. DGS responded that they may go back to both development teams seeking Best and Final Offers with all of the outstanding issues clarified. My inclination is to ask DGS to delay their award decision until March while the development teams seek clarity and the neighborhood can better consider what is and what is not possible on the site.

What do you think of the two proposals? Post your comments and feedback below.

ANC 6B January Meeting Recap

January 19, 2015

ANC 6B kicked off the new commission term on Tues., Jan. 13. Here is a recap of major commission actions:

  • The commission welcomed seven new commissioners to their first meeting – Commissioners Jennifer Samolyk (6B01), Diane Hoskins (6B02), James Loots (6B03), Steve Hagedorn (6B05), Nick Burger (6B06), Daniel Chao (6B07) and Denise Krepp (6B10).
  • After adopting the meeting agenda, the commission unanimously elected the following commissioners to officer positions:
    • Chair: Kirsten Oldenburg (6B04)
    • Vice Chair: Brian Flahaven (6B09)
    • Secretary: Daniel Chao
    • Treasurer: Diane Hoskins
    • Parliamentarian: Denise Krepp

    I’m looking forward to serving as vice chair of the commission this year and appreciate the support of my colleagues.

  • I reminded meeting attendees of the Jan. 20 DC Department of General Services community meeting to review responses to the Eastern Branch Building Request for Proposals. The meeting will be from 6:30-8:30 pm at Payne Elementary School (1445 C Street SE).
  • The commission voted 8-0-2 to support the floor area, lot occupancy and parking variance requests for the proposed 10-unit condo building at 1330-1336 Pennsylvania Avenue SE (La Lomita). I voted in support of the variance requests, particularly since the applicant made a major concession in agreeing to prohibit building residents from seeking Residential Parking Permits. A big thanks to Commissioner Nick Burger for helping bring the neighbors and applicant to the negotiating table.
  • The commission voted unanimously to send comments to the District Department of Transportation on the updated alternatives for the Pennsylvania & Potomac Avenues SE Intersection Pedestrian Safety Study. While the commission’s letter does not indicate a preferred alternative, I personally like the Ellipse Park concept the best. DDOT plans to hold another public meeting on this project sometime this winter.
  • The commission discussed the Ugly Mug’s (723 8th Street SE) plans to seek a public space permit to build an indoor structure to house trash in the alley behind the establishment. If the DDOT Public Space Committee approves the permit, this case could be used as a model for restaurant indoor trash storage along commercial corridors. Since the case was moved to the DDOT Public Space Committee’s February agenda, ANC 6B did not vote on the application and will hear the case again next month.
  • ANC 6B voted unanimously to select Commissioners Diane Hoskins and Steve Hagedorn to serve as the commission’s representative and alternate, respectively, on the Eastern Market Community Advisory Committee.
  • The commission unanimously approved new standing rules and the 2015 meeting schedule.
  • ANC 6B’s February meeting will be on Tues., Feb. 10, 7 pm at the Hill Center.

Meeting Scheduled to Review Eastern Branch Building RFP Responses

January 8, 2015

The DC Department of General Services has scheduled a meeting for the community to review responses to its recent Eastern Branch Building Request for Proposals. The meeting will take place on Tuesday, January 20, 6:30-8:30 pm at Payne Elementary School (1445 C Street SE). I encourage all residents – particularly those that live around or near the former Boys & Girls Club building (261 17th Street SE) – to attend the Jan. 20 meeting.

Note that ANC 6B will vote on a preferred response at our Feb. 3 Planning & Zoning Committee meeting and Feb. 13 full commission meeting.

ANC 6B December Meeting Recap

December 20, 2014

My battle with the sick bug these past two weeks delayed my recap of the final meeting of the commission term. Here it is:

  • The commission voted unanimously to support the Hill East Redevelopment – Phase I: Parcels F-1 and G-1 Disposition Approval Resolution of 2014 (PR20-1153and retroactively approved my Dec. 9 testimony (pdf) in support of the resolution in front of the DC Council Committees on Economic Development and Government Operations. The commission had previously voted to support the surplus declaration (PR20-1152). On Dec. 17, the DC Council voted unanimously to support both resolutions, which means that Donatelli Development and Blue Skye Development can move forward on their plans for two mixed-use buildings on the parcels. I’m really pleased that this project is finally moving forward and optimistic that it will help push the city to develop the remaining parcels at Reservation 13.
  • After a significant amount of discussion, the commission voted on the Office of Planning’s proposed text amendments (pdf) to definitions, maximum height and minimum lot dimension requirements in residence zones. On the proposal that has received the most attention, the commission voted 6-3 to support OP’s proposal to limit the maximum height in the R-4 rowhouse zone to 35 feet (from 40 feet now) and to allow homeowners to apply for a special exception to build up to 40 feet subject to certain criteria. The commission did voice concern that some of the special exception criteria veered into the area of historic preservation. I voted with the majority. While it does subject “pop-ups” to additional ANC and Board of Zoning Adjustment Review, the OP proposal does not prohibit third story additions outright.
  • The commission voted unanimously to send letters to the District Department of Transportation on adding pedestrian crossings in the area of 11th, K and L Streets SE (near the freeway entrance ramps) and on converting the current one-way streets just south of Barracks Row from one-way to two-way streets.
  • The commission voted unanimously to reiterate our support for the 1333 M Street SE First-stage Planned Unit Development request.
  • The commission voted unanimously to urge the DC Department of General Services to initiate an environmental assessment of the Eastern Market Metro Plaza redesign plan. Commissioner Brian Pate (6B05) gave the commission and audience a brief presentation on the redesign plan.
  • After some debate, the commission voted 6-0-3 on to send a resolution (pdf) to the DC Council and the Public Service Commission voicing our concerns about the proposed Exelon-Pepco merger. I’m skeptical of Exelon’s record on sustainable energy and that the merger will be the best interests of DC residents.
  • The commission voted unanimously in favor of a resolution (pdf) thanking departing commissioners for their service. A big thanks to Commissioners Francis Campbell (6B10), Ivan Frishberg (6B02), Dave Garrison (6B01), Sara Loveland (6B07), Nichole Opkins (6B06), Brian Pate (6B05) and Phil Peisch (6B03) for their great service to their constituents, ANC 6B and the city. They all will be missed!
  • Commissioner Campbell, completing 12 years of service, adjourned the final full commission meeting of his tenure. The next commission meeting will be on Tues., Jan. 13 at the Hill Center.

More Information on the DC Olympic Bid

December 14, 2014

On Dec. 16, Washington 2024, the organization leading the city’s bid for the 2024 Summer Olympic and Paralympic Games, will make their final presentation to the United States Olympic Committee (USOC). Washington 2024 is competing against Boston, Los Angeles and San Francisco to be the U.S. bid city for the 2024 Games.

So far, Washington 2024 has refused to share their plans with the public. In attempt to learn more about the bid’s potential impact on Hill East, ANC 6B sent a letter (pdf) last month to Washington 2024 requesting a community meeting prior to the USOC’s final decision on a U.S. bid city. Unfortunately, Washington 2024 declined ANC 6B’s meeting request (pdf). They plan to start their community engagement process when/if Washington, DC is selected as the U.S. bid city.

While Washington 2024 declined ANC 6B’s invitation for a meeting, the organization did accept an invitation to speak at Councilmember Vincent Orange’s Small Business and Economic Development Summit held on Fri., Dec. 12. Since we can’t get a meeting with Washington 2024 in Hill East, I decided to attend the summit to learn more about the bid. Here is what I heard:

  • The USOC’s decision on a U.S. bid city could come as early as next week or as late as next January. If Washington, DC is selected, the USOC and city will have until Sept. 2015 to formally apply to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to host the 2024 games. The IOC will make its final decision on a host city in Sept. 2017.
  • Not surprisingly, Washington 2024 did not share the specific plans they will be presenting to the USOC. I’m not sure if the decision to keep the public in the dark about the plans is being made by Washington 2024 or the USOC but it is a bad decision. Putting on an Olympics requires a multi-billion dollar public investment. The secretive nature of the process has helped fuel skepticism about the bids in Washington and the other three potential bid cities.
  • RFK Stadium and Reservation 13 are under consideration for a new Olympic Stadium and Olympic Village respectively, though other sites are also being considered for these venues.
  • Robert Sweeney, senior advisor to Washington 2024, noted that the Olympics could be a catalyst to develop sites like Reservation 13 where redevelopment plans largely have failed to take off. I responded that the city is largely to blame for the state of Reservation 13 today and that it shouldn’t take the Olympics to develop a waterfront site sitting on top of a Metro station.
  • Sweeney did mention the Reservation 13 master plan and said that Washington 2024 would follow the plan in developing an Olympic Village if the site is chosen for such a use. I was pleasantly surprised that the organization was aware of the master plan and had thought about how to incorporate it. However, using the site for an Olympic Village would mean the city wouldn’t see the housing and retail slated for Reservation 13 until 2025 at the earliest.
  • Sweeney reaffirmed that Washington 2024 would begin an “extensive” community outreach campaign beginning in Jan./Feb. 2015 if the city is chosen as the U.S. bid city. Community briefings would be held in all eight wards and he recommitted to holding a community meeting in Hill East.
  • There was a lot of focus on the legacy of an Olympic Games. Andrew Altman, former head of the legacy corporation created for the London 2012 games (and former head of the DC Office of Planning) talked about how London began their Olympic planning by envisioning what the Olympic park and venues would look like in 2030. Washington 2024 is modeling their effort after the London games.
  • In addition to Councilmember Orange, Mayor-Elect Muriel Bowser spoke at the Summit in support of the Olympic bid and will be attending the Dec.16 USOC presentation. It appears that the Mayor, Mayor-Elect and DC Council are all behind the bid though they haven’t held a single hearing on the subject nor officially voted to support the bid. If Washington, DC is awarded the games, the city will have to sign a financial guarantee to fully fund the games and any cost overruns.

Community engagement should be the centerpiece – not an afterthought – of an Olympic bid. Residents shouldn’t have to attend business roundtables and summits to learn basic details. I plan to continue pushing city leaders and Washington 2024 to share more information about the bid.

Attend the Dec. 11 Barney Circle-SE Boulevard Planning Study Community Meeting

December 10, 2014

On Thursday, Dec. 11, Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells will host a community meeting to discuss the Office of Planning’s final concepts for the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Project Planning Study. The meeting will be from 7-9pm at Friendship Charter School Chamberlain Campus (1345 Potomac Ave SE, across from Harris Teeter).

The Office of Planning has circulated the following document with the final concepts:

In addition to OP, representatives from the District Department of Transportation will be on hand to gather feedback from the community on the concepts. I also plan to ask them for an update on their plans to temporarily reopen the Southeast Freeway.

Please bring your questions and comments to the meeting.

Mayor Submits Hill East/Res. 13 Legislation, Council Hearing Set for Tues., Dec. 9

December 7, 2014

Some good news on the long-stalled development plans at Reservation 13. Late last week, Mayor Gray submitted legislation to the DC Council related to the surplus declaration and disposition of Parcels F1 & G1 of the Hill East/Reservation 13 development. The two resolutions (listed below) have been added to the agenda of an already scheduled Committee on Economic Development/Committee on Government Operations Joint Public Roundtable (pdf) on Tuesday, Dec. 9, 2:00 pm in Room 500 of the John A. Wilson Building (1350 Pennsylvania Avenue NW).

If enacted, the city will formally transfer Parcels F1 & G1 to Donatelli Development and Blue Skye Development. The Donatelli/Blue Skye plans call for two mixed-use buildings with 354 apartments and around 20,000 square feet of retail space. Thirty percent (106) of the total units will be affordable housing units (53 at 30 percent of Area Median Income (AMI) and 53 at 60 percent AMI).

While the term sheet and land disposition agreement (LDA) have yet to be posted online, Michael Neibauer of the Washington Business Journal reports that the agreement prohibits “laundromats, check cashing establishments, adult entertainment, liquor stores and drive-thru services.”

I plan to testify in support of the legislation during Tuesday’s Joint Public Roundtable. ANC 6B will also consider the Disposition Approval Resolution during its Dec. 9 commission meeting (ANC 6B is already on record in support of declaring F-1 and G-1 surplus). If you would like to testify or submit written comments on the resolutions, send an e-mail to Tsega Bekele, Legislative Counsel to the Committee on Economic Development at


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