Meeting Recap: 1500 Penn Ave SE Building Plans

Rendering of Proposed Residential Building at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

Pennsylvania Avenue Elevation of Proposed Residential Building at 1500 Penn Ave SE. Design by Bonstra Haresign Architects.

Around 30-40 residents attended the Nov. 4 community meeting on 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue SE (old Domino’s site). Eric May of The Goldstar Group shared his company’s plans to build a 41 unit residential building on the site. May was joined by the project’s architect, Rob McClennan of Bonstra Haresign Architects. A big thanks to Erik Holzherr, owner of Wisdom, for hosting the meeting.

Here are the projects details:

  • The building will be entirely residential with 41 condos. Unit size will vary from studio, one bedroom and two bedroom, though most of the units will be one bedroom. When asked by an attendee if Goldstar would consider switching the building to apartments from condos, May responded that Goldstar is “99 percent” sure that they will stick with condos.
  • May said that Goldstar considered a retail component but decided that the building would complement the new Douglas Development retail building going in across the street at 1442 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Douglas expects to complete the construction on 1442 by the end of the year.
  • The bulk of the building will be towards the 15th Street SE and Penn Ave, not towards Freedom Way. The building height will be 44 feet, 6 feet below the 50 foot height limit on the site. There will be a 750 square foot roof deck towards the 15th/Penn Ave side of the building and air conditioning units will be located on the roof. View the building elevations (pdf) from 15th Street SE and Penn Ave SE.
  • Goldstar plans to include private gardens for the first floor units facing Freedom Way, which should provide some “breathing room” between the building and the residences behind it. The upper units will not have balconies. When asked if Goldstar would do a shadow study to see how the building would affect light and air on Freedom Way, May replied that he would consider it but did not think the building would dramatically impact light & air, particularly since it will not be built to the lot line.
  • The main entrance to the building will be at the corner of 15th & Pennsylvania Avenue SE. There will not be an entrance to the building off of Freedom Way SE – the property does not have access to Freedom Way.
  • Goldstar will build an underground parking garage with the required 21 spaces. The entrance to the garage will be off 15th Street SE and there will be a garage door. Since the garage will include 8 compact parking spaces, Goldstar will have to ask the Board of Zoning Adjustment for zoning relief (parking garages with less than 25 spaces can not count compact spaces towards the minimum requirement in the zoning code). This also means that ANC 6B will have an opportunity to weigh in on the zoning case once it is filed. View the garage level plans (pdf).
  • Trash pick-up and loading would likely take place off of 15th Street SE. May hopes that trash can be picked up in the underground garage and not wheeled out to the curb. He plans to work with the District Department of Transportation and surrounding neighbors to determine appropriate loading/moving times.
  • An attendee asked whether building residents will have the opportunity to purchase residential parking permits (RPP). I responded that since the 1500 block of Pennsylvania Ave SE is classified as an RPP block, residents of the new building will be able to purchase RPP stickers. And since Goldstar plans to meet the minimum parking requirement, they will likely not be subject to any RPP limitations by the BZA.
  • May said that the materials and color of the building have not been finalized. They plan to make decisions about materials in the next two months.
  • Goldstar hopes to apply for building permits in the next two weeks. Since there used to be a gas station on the site, they will have to remove and replace contaminated soil. The BZA case will also add to the project’s timeline. May hopes to begin construction in March 2014. My guess is that construction will not begin until summer or early fall of 2014.
  • Since the 1500 block of Pennsylvania Avenue SE could potentially see 3 construction projects going on at the same time (1500 Penn, 1600 Penn and 732 15th Street SE), I plan to work with the three development teams to ensure they are working to minimize disruption to neighboring residents.

Please post your comments and feedback below. And thanks to everyone who attended Monday’s meeting!

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16 Responses to Meeting Recap: 1500 Penn Ave SE Building Plans

  1. 10-year Resident says:

    What will they charge their residents per month for parking in their “21-unit” parking garage? I’m guessing a zone 6 sticker will be quite a bit cheaper.

    What a joke. Who bought the argument that the people moving into this building won’t have cars? Ridiculous. I’ve seen the small (maybe 10-unit?) building on 18th St b/w D and Mass crowd out parking (1 block from a metro), what will a 41-unit building do?

    “since the 1500 block of Pennsylvania Ave SE is classified as an RPP block, residents of the new building will be able to purchase RPP stickers. And since Goldstar plans to meet the minimum parking requirement, they will likely not be subject to any RPP limitations by the BZA.”

    “an underground parking garage with the required 21 spaces. The entrance to the garage will be off 15th Street SE and there will be a garage door. Since the garage will include 8 compact parking spaces, Goldstar will have to ask the Board of Zoning Adjustment for zoning relief (parking garages with less than 25 spaces can not count compact spaces towards the minimum requirement in the zoning code). This also means that ANC 6B will have an opportunity to weigh in on the zoning case once it is filed. “

    • ralphgarboushian says:

      So, you would prefer for that building on 18th to have remained vacant and boarded up? I live around the corner and have noticed zero difference in terms of parking since that project was completed. I am glad to have new neighbors replace a vacant eyesore and bring new life to our community. There are more important things than car storage…

      • bflahaven says:

        Thanks for your comments ralph. The Brinkley on 18th Street SE has been a great addition to Hill East. My guess is that most neighbors are happy to see the building redeveloped even if it has created some inconveniences.

      • 10-year Resident says:

        Absolutely not. It’s a wonderful addition. I’m simply using it as an example of a naive approach to parking. Sometimes we walk over, sometimes we bike over, but when we drive to visit our friends over there, the street is full of parked cars now. A noticeable difference for sure. Just imagine the possibilities of 41-units…adding to what seems to be a growing number of people that use Kentucky / Potomac/ G /15th as a free “park and ride”.

    • bflahaven says:

      Thanks for your comments 10-year Resident. See my response to MattD for why underpricing of RPP is the real problem.

  2. MattD says:

    Brian, Parking will remain a top concern. The developers for the 1600 Penn Ave project promoted the myth that apartment renters don’t have cars. I beg to differ. Even looking at the parking issues created by the small (8-10 condos) development on 18th just south of Mass Ave show that the new 120+ apartments within a 2 block span will significantly impact our neighborhood – even if less than the arbitrary 50% mark own cars. Both developers should be asked to charge the same fare for their parking spaces as a RPP rate. Sorry guys, that is the price of doing business here. Otherwise, market economics will push the cars to the street. Until this issue is resolved, I urge you to vote thumbs down on this project.

    • bflahaven says:

      Hey MattD,

      Thanks for your comments and I understand your concern about parking. However, asking the developers of 1500 & 1600 Penn Ave SE to charge $35 for their underground parking spaces isn’t going to solve the problem.

      First, the developers are spending roughly $30K per space (probably more) to provide underground parking. They typically have to cover the costs of providing this parking by raising the price of their units (the price they charge for their spaces doesn’t come close to the actual cost of building the space). Requiring the developers to charge tenants/residents $35 for their parking spaces would kill the projects – they would be economically unfeasible.

      Second, from a fairness perspective, shouldn’t somebody pay more for a private, sheltered parking space than a public, onstreet space? The $35 we pay for RPPs entitles us to onstreet parking – it doesn’t entitle us to a particular parking spot.

      Third, the real problem is the underpricing of RPP (referenced by Evan and you) and the fact that RPP boundaries correspond with ward boundaries. The latter really affects the 1500 block of PA Ave and the 700 block of 15th St. SE since folks from around the Ward use these blocks as a Metro commuter parking lot. That is the case now and will continue to be the case when 1500 & 1600 Penn Ave SE are built unless the Council changes current policy.

      I think the benefits of both of these buildings ultimately outweigh the costs which is why I’ve spent so much time working with neighbors and the developers to address concerns. They will certainly bring disruption, particularly during construction, but they will ultimately bring more people and foot traffic to the eastern end of PA Ave, which will help existing businesses and bring more restaurant and retail options to Hill East.

      Thanks again for your comments.

      • MattD says:

        Thanks for the response, Brian. I hesitate to embrace the existing business model (charge higher fees to make up for $30k parking space) without questioning its logic or the developer’s effort to come up with a more creative approach. Why let them off so easy? Make them work for something here. The developers becoming whole should be solely their concern and work within the realities of the neighborhood in which they seek to engage/disrupt. Evan’s previous post makes sense to me, but I fear his points are too rational to succeed.

        To the issue I raised in my initial post, I offer a few options as possible solutions:
        1) Open the parking up to all neighboring residents. Offer non-apt residents, who only use their care every once in a while, a nice covered garage underneath the building. NYC residents pay rent for parking each month at a site not connected to their homes. Give it a go. The market will bear what it will.

        2) Increase RPP rates for all residents. My household now pays less than 10 cents per day ($35 annual fee) for one car that is driven 3-5 times per week. Even when rounding up, this translates to less than $400 on parking “dues” since 2004. One of our new neighbors who lives in an apt will likely exceed this figure in about 3 months (est. $125 per month)!! Seems crazy to me too. I would love to see the ANC or council members offer at least a 2-3X fee increase for all residents as a sincere proposal. Go ahead, charge me 30 cents a day to conveniently park my car outside my house. Do any of these guys dare make this proposal or is it easier for them to let the parking issues increase little by little, apt building by apt building, to show how much they “helped build DC”? I would rather this increase than to listen to the silly talk that renters moving in will *not* own cars. If they don’t great. If they do, pay up. Let’s incent behavior through impacting the wallet. 30 cents a day. Who’s in?

        In the end, I predict that we will continue to have an ill-fated and co-dependent affair in which developers cry poor and a neighborhood, not recognizing it finally has leverage, exclaim that “some development is better than none”. That desperation is like blood in the water for developers and will not end well for either group.

        As has been stated here by others, the neighborhood has changed. Some of it I like, other parts not so much. No matter, I believe that we all have to pay to participate in this social experiment. If one doesn’t have to contribute in some form to what one enjoys, one fails to value what one has. Make the developers do their part and ask the residents to step up and pay a fair rate.

  3. Justin says:

    I am generally supportive of the project, and I am not terribly concerned about parking. The city is growing, and that’s a good thing, and I don’t think we should deliberately under-price parking as a result. I look forward to our new neighbors!

    • 10-year Resident says:

      Yes, the city is growing. And changing. But we have a chance to grow in a smart way. We should take that opportunity.

      And so I voice my serious concerns about parking.

  4. rg says:

    Is parking a problem in our neighborhood? Huh. Who knew? I have lived here nearly 20 years and have never noticed…

  5. Evan, 15th & Mass says:

    I agree with MattD. As long as privately financed on-site parking costs more than publicly financed on-street parking, then apartment and condominium dwellers will occupy valuable on-street parking.

    The solution is a true-cost residential parking permit (RPP); we should divorce the actual cost of on-street parking from property taxes. As a property tax payer in Southeast, I would prefer to see the true costs that I pay for my RPP, including lost property tax revenues, real estate value, paving costs, and liability insurance removed from my property taxes. Instead, I would prefer to pay those costs as part of my annual RPP.

    With a true-cost RPP, normal folks like me with one car would pay the same amount. Ascetics without cars would save significant money and reduce the burden on currently overcrowded streets. People with fleets of personal vehicles would pay costs commensurate with their benefits.

    Finally, a true-cost RPP would induce developers to put serious thought into the number of spaces that they provide. Rather than build to parking minimums, developers would have a profit incentive to add parking spaces to sell to neighbors and make more money in the areas where parking is tight. A true-cost RPP would increase the private supply of parking wherever the public supply gets low.

    So as a solution to the tight supply of parking in our neighborhood, we must demand true-cost RPP to increase the supply!

  6. […] Details of the 1500 Pennsylvania Ave. SE project. [Commissioner Brian Flahaven] […]

  7. […] Details of the 1500 Pennsylvania Ave. SE project. [Commissioner Brian Flahaven] […]

  8. […] Goldstar Group’s request for a variance from the parking space size requirements for their proposed 41-unit residential building at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue SE (old Domino’s Pizza […]

  9. […] The commission voted 9-0 to support the public space permit application for Goldstar Group’s proposed 41-unit residential building at 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. […]

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