ANC 6B to Weigh In on Reservation 13 Plans

Donatelli/Blue Skye rendering of plans for Reservation 13.

Donatelli/Blue Skye rendering of plans for Reservation 13.

This month, ANC 6B will consider whether to support Donatelli/Blue Skye’s plans for parcels F1 & G1 of the Reservation 13/Hill East Development. During tomorrow’s (Tues., June 4) ANC 6B Planning and Zoning Committee meeting, 7 pm at St. Coletta of Greater Washington (1901 Independence Avenue SE), the committee will discuss the plans and make a recommendation to the full commission.  Attendees will have an opportunity to share their feedback on the plans directly with the committee.

ANC 6B will then consider the committee’ s recommendation and vote at next Tuesday’s June 11 commission meeting, 7 pm at the Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE). Again, attendees will have an opportunity to weigh in on the plans. The commission’s position and any comments would be sent to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) who will ultimately decide whether to move forward with the plans.

If you missed Donatelli/Blue Skye’s presentation at the May 22 Hill East Task Force meeting, I’ve posted the recap below. I’ve also previously posted the design plans.

ANC 6B Hill East Task Force: May 22, 2013 Meeting Recap

Around 30-40 attendees participated in a May 22 Hill East Task Force meeting to review the sole response to the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development’s (DMPED) Request for Expressions of Interest for Parcels F1 & G1 at Reservation 13. Here are the highlights:

  • Ketan Gada from DMPED gave a brief overview of the timeline for the recent RFEI. Gada said that the office hopes to have a decision on whether to move forward with the response in July. DMPED would like to receive comments from the two affected ANCs – ANC 6B and 7F – in June.
  • Chris Donatelli and Larry Clark from Donatelli Development walked attendees through their proposal for parcels F1 & G1. Details include:
    • Proposing two mixed-use buildings, one on parcel F1 and the other on parcel G1. Each would be four stories.
      North Building (parcel F1) would have 113 apartments, South Building (parcel G1) would have 240 apartments.
      Both buildings would have retail on first floor, with about 10,000 square feet of retail in each. Retail would be focused towards Stadium-Armory Metro Plaza and 19th Street SE.
    • Both buildings would be significantly set back from 19th Street SE, with green space separating the South Building from 19th. Donatelli/Blue Skye envisions a farmer’s market and other community events utilizing the green space.
    • Donatelli said they would like to bring a mix of local and national/regional retail to the first floor of each building. They do not envision large-scale retail like Target, Walmart, etc.
    • Donatelli/Blue Skye plan to include 225 parking spaces on the site, with parking in garages in each building. Parking and loading would be accessed from alleys along the rear of the buildings. They also anticipate metered on-street parking along the extended C Street SE, Mass Ave SE and Burke Street SE for customers visiting the retail locations.
    • In terms of affordability, Donatelli/Blue Skye plan to comply with the affordable housing requirements in law. Specifically, 30 percent of the units will be affordable, with 15 percent affordable to households earning up to 30 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) and 15 percent affordable to households earning up to 60 percent of AMI.
  • Attendees asked Donatelli a number of questions related to the plan. Concerns raised include:
    • Master Developer vs. Parcel by Parcel – A number of attendees voiced frustration that the city chose not to bid out the entire 67-acre site for development and questioned how serious DMPED/city was in actually moving the project forward. Gada responded that DMPED would not have asked Donatelli/Blue Skye to present to the community if they did not want to see the site developed. Donatelli said that he hopes that development on parcels F1 & G1 will “catalyze” development for the rest of the site. 
    • Do plans fit with plans for rest of site? – The current plans focus retail activity towards 19th Street SE with less of an emphasis on the side streets (C Street SE and Mass Avenue SE). Donatelli acknowledged that his team would have to put more thought into how their plans would fit with eventual plans to develop adjacent parcels. A number of attendees suggested including retail space on C and Mass Ave, though the site’s grade, elevation and zoning may preclude retail on C.
    • Concerns raised about Donatelli/Blue Skye in Media – Task force members and attendees asked Donatelli to respond to recent media reports suggesting that his firm has benefited from campaign contributions to city leaders and has not fulfilled promises to the community. Donatelli said that his firm has made a large number of charitable contributions to nonprofit groups in Columbia Heights and still plans to create a nonprofit fund once its full Columbia Heights project is complete. In addition, he noted that desirable city-imposed requirements, such as affordable housing, account for why firms like his receive public land at less than market value.
    • Design – A couple of attendees voiced concern about the building’s design. One, in particular, had problems with how the building would fit in with the adjacent Capitol Hill neighborhood and asked the architect, Eric Colbert, to “do better.” Others said they supported the design. Colbert said that the design would be refined if the city moves forward with the project.
    • Roadway between Metro Plaza and North Building – Pedestrian safety could be an issue with a proposed roadway in-between the north building and the Stadium-Armory metro plaza. I asked the developers to consider removing the roadway and making this pedestrian only.
    • How extension of Burke Street interacts with plans – Commissioner Francis Campbell (6B10) reiterated his request for additional details on how Burke Street will intersect with the development. Donatelli responded that future plans will include additional details.
    • Grade & Dimensions – Attendees asked whether Donatelli/Blue Skye was aware of the current 20 foot drop off east of the Stadium Armory Metro plaza and how they planned to bring the north building to grade. Donatelli responded that they were aware of the drop off and feel they can bring the north building up to grade without a lot of fill. There was also concern raised as to whether the development team had the appropriate dimensions on the proposed plans.
    • Infrastructure Funding – Attendees asked about how Donatelli plans to pay for infrastructure on the site, including the extensions of public roads (Burke, C, 20th and Mass Ave SE). Donatelli expressed confidence that they budgeted enough to cover the infrastructure necessary for parcels F1 & G1.
  • After the Donatelli/Blue Skye presentation and Q&A, attendees had an opportunity to discuss the plans without the development team in the room. Some voiced concern that the plans would be detrimental to moving development for the entire site forward and would just create a “curtain” so the city can hide the homeless problem and other issues at DC General. Others felt that the plan would “catalyze” development and force the city to deal with the issues blocking development on the remainder of the site. The sentiment of the majority of attendees was to support the proposal with comments to the development team on how the plans could be improved.
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