During Tuesday’s ANC 6B meeting, Commissioner Jared Critchfield (6B06) and I will ask our ANC 6B colleagues to support sending a letter to the Zoning Administrator urging him to allow construction to begin at the old KFC site (1442 Pennsylvania Avenue SE) without further Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) review.
Why are we making this request? In 2008/9, ANC 6B supported and the Board of Zoning Adjustment approved Douglas Development requested variances from floor area ratio requirements, rear yard requirements and off-street parking requirements for a two-story commercial building on the site. At the time, Douglas signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with nearby neighbors that outlined agreed upon uses, construction timelines, etc. View the 2008 plans (pdf).
While Douglas would like to proceed with construction under terms of the 2009 BZA Order (pdf), the firm’s updated plans (pdf), which include design changes to the building facade, may trigger an additional round of review by the BZA. The BZA review process could delay construction of the building by 6 months or more.
Given that Douglas is:
- requesting the same variances as they did back in 2008 (FAR, rear yard, parking)
- committing to abide by terms of the MOU with nearby neighbors, and
- only changing the facade of the building (and changing it for the better, in my opinion),
Commissioner Critchfield and I believe that a letter from ANC 6B could help persuade the Zoning Administrator to allow construction of the building to proceed without requiring another round of BZA review. The request would only apply to BZA review – Douglas would still have to get appropriate permits for construction.
Since this is a late breaking addition to ANC 6B October agenda, please post any feedback or comments below, or contact me directly. You can also attend ANC 6B’s October Commission meeting tomorrow night (Tues., 10/9), 7 pm at the Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE). I expect the letter to be considered during the 8 pm hour.
My question was, and I will repeat it here, does the change from retail/residential to retail/office will make any difference to the neighborhood?
Thanks for the question Catalin. My personal preference would be to have mixed-use residential and retail at the site, particularly given its proximity to Metro. Having said that, I can certainly support the two-story retail/office project – we need more retail/office space in Hill East. And the reality is, according to Douglas Development, they can build the two-story building now…financing is unavailable for the four story retail/residential. Most of the residents I’ve talked to like the plans and want to see development on the site sooner rather than later.
I too am disappointed by the loss of the residential component that could bring more full time customers to support retail in the area, but agree with anything we can do to expedite the zoning process. Any word on plans for the vacant retail space on the other corner of that block at Potomac and Penn?
Thanks for the comment Sean. Unfortunately, I have not heard anything lately about the vacant retail space at Potomac & Penn. I’ll see if I can get an update.
I too would have preferred some residential space on that corner, but I think any development is better than none. I am however concerned about their ability to get businesses there. The bottom floor of the condos (it used to be the mini-mart) across from the metro hasn’t been occupied since they completed that building. Perhaps they already have clients who want to rent space there. I certainly hope so. If we’re lucky this building will propel more business along that stretch.
Thanks for the comment Eric. Douglas Development does not have tenants lined up for the building – they plan to seek them once the building is complete. The building will be constructed as a “shell”, allowing future tenants to construct the interior as they wish. The MOU with neighbors does address tenants that will not be allowed to move into the space.
I was pleased to see construction start on the old KFC site, and while mixed residential and retail would be ideal, I think we should move ahead and help the developer in this case. A developed site at this location could also help with crime prevention near the 15th and Penn. bus stop (where the Trusty’s bartender was stabbed).