Residential Building Planned for 1550 Pennsylvania Ave SE

A used car lot currently sits on 1550 Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

A used car lot currently sits on 1550 Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

Lots of things happening around Barney Circle these days. In addition to the planned Barney Circle transportation project, Penn Avenue Partnership, LLC  plans to build an 80-84 unit residential building at 1550 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, located at the intersection of Penn Ave and Barney Circle. Neighbors can learn more about the plans and ask questions of the owner and developer at a meeting on Wednesday, February 27, 6:30 pm at New York Pizza (1401 Pennsylvania Avenue SE).

In addition to the initial plans (pdf), here are some additional details about the project:

  • The northern portion of the proposed building will be three stories, matching the existing three story rowhouses on the 1500 block of Penn Ave SE. As the building approaches Barney Circle, it will rise to five stories, the maximum allowed in the C-2-A zone. The initial design is by Eric Colbert & Associates.
  • Penn Ave Partnership is seeking two variances and a special exception from the Board of Zoning Adjustment. This means that ANC 6B will have an opportunity to weigh in on the project, perhaps as early as March.
  • One variance will be for parking. The plans call for 31 parking spots – 23 in an underground garage and 8 along the alley (a.k.a. “Freedom Way”) which runs behind the property. This is 11 spots short of the required 42 parking spaces. The applicant argues that the property’s unique shape makes it difficult to provide 42 parking spaces and that building a second underground level of parking would be prohibitively expensive. Additionally, the applicant points to the site’s proximity to the Potomac Avenue Metro and other transit to make the case that meeting the full parking requirement is not necessary.
  • A second variance request relates to a requirement for a loading dock that can accommodate 55-foot trucks. The applicant argues that the unique shape of the property and the narrowness of Freedom Way makes providing such a dock overly burdensome.
  • The special exception request is a technical matter relating to roof height requirements of the mechanical penthouse.
  • While there are currently curb cuts on Penn Ave and Kentucky Ave, the plans call for vehicles to enter the new building via Freedom Way. While I certainly support the idea of removing curb cuts, Freedom Way seems ill-suited to handle traffic in and out of the building. In addition, the current one-way configuration of Kentucky Ave. SE means that Freedom Way will be the only northern access point. Vehicles will have a difficult time navigating the alley, particularly if it remains two way.
  • While no final determination has been made, the projects 80-84 units will likely be apartments.
  • While parking and traffic flow are certainly concerns, the project would significantly increase foot traffic along the 1400 & 1500 blocks of Penn Ave, providing a major boost for existing and proposed retail along the corridor.

Again, the owner, developer and architect will present their plans to the community and answer questions on Wed., Feb. 27, 6:30 pm at New York Pizza. In the meantime, post your questions and comments below.

Initial design of proposed residential building courtesy of Eric Colbert & Associates.

Initial design of proposed residential building courtesy of Eric Colbert & Associates.

19 Responses to Residential Building Planned for 1550 Pennsylvania Ave SE

  1. IMGoph says:

    It sounds like it’s time to push for Kentucky Avenue to be a two-way street.

  2. Alex B. says:

    Agreed on Kentucky Ave.

    From looking at the site plans, it doesn’t seem like the parking garage entrance ramp would really be on Freedom, it would be leading directly to Kentucky. DDOT has a perfectly reasonable policy to promote the use of alleys rather than curb cuts (even if they are extant), and curb cuts on Pennsylvania will not likely be approved (nor would they be appropriate), and the remaining frontage on Kentucky is not long at all. Using the alley makes perfect sense.

    The real question for access along Kentucky is less about turning it into a two-way street, but also about what happens with Barney Circle. If the circle is made whole (so that someone could drive southbound on Penn, do almost a 360 around the circle, and then exit the circle onto Kentucky to access the development), that would be a big improvement.

  3. Daniel Garry says:

    Looks like a huge improvement over a used car lot. I want quality materials and a good design that won’t look like garbage in 10 years.

  4. RDnDC says:

    It’s all about Developer GREED in DC, not so much anymore about quality of life for current residents in neighborhood. Cram in as many shoe box condos without sufficient parking for residents in bldg. As a former Condo Owner… my 2 happiest days were 1) when my offer to buy was accepted and 2) the day of the closing when sold to the next naive buyer. Condos – yuk.

  5. Peter Courtney says:

    Great to hear that the used car lot will be leaving us. I agree that Freedom Way is ill-suited for more traffic – hopefully we can find an alternative.

  6. rg says:

    This is great news! That used car lot is an eyesore that adds nothing to our neighborhood. I hope that the ANC agrees to the variance re: parking. 31 spaces seems like more than enough parking for a building located so close to a Metro station and on a high-frequency bus line. The new building will certainly provide a boost for much-needed retail in our neighborhood and will also put more “eyes on the street” on what is generally a deserted and, at night, somewhat spooky stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue. I agree re: making Kentucky Avenue a two-way street. Having it one-way is an anachronism from the days when speeding traffic through the neighborhood trumped all other concerns.

  7. DMP says:

    This is GREAT news! Look forward to hearing more re: the proposed development plans.

  8. […] planned for 1550 Pennsylvania Avenue SE (map) in Hill East. ANC 6B Commissioner Brian Flahaven got a hold of initial plans for the project, designed by architect Eric […]

  9. Hill Buzz says:

    […] 80-unit residential project is coming to Hill East; learn more from ANC Commissioner Brian Flahaven, Urban Turf and Curbed […]

  10. kbt says:

    Another un-inspired turd from Eric Colbert…

  11. I figure we’ll end up with LESS traffic on Kentucky. Think about it — by definition, a used car lot has cars driving in and out of it all day long. Most condo dwellers in DC don’t even own cars.

  12. Louis Sims says:

    I do not think that a variance should be given for the parking. The developers should be made to find the additional parking spaces needed, even if the foot print of the building must be altered.. Are there any requirements concerning employment of 6B residents?

  13. Carol says:

    Thrilled to replace the unsightly and inactive used car lot with what this city really needs – apartments close to Capitol Hill and Metro. I would like the property to be an attractive gateway welcoming cars coming from over the bridge. Based on how DC residents live now, I assume many of the renters would not have cars. Besides, neighbors on Kentucky have tons of parking space behind their homes. If two Zip cars were parked there, that could really help meet infrequent driving needs and reduce desire for cars. I would like to see more than the required 10% for affordable housing. We need more housing Affirdable to people earning below 30% AMI. I hope some Section 8 is used. Exciting and necessary project!!

  14. cw says:

    I attended the presentation and while I would like to see the car lot replaced with a nice building, the contractors failed to demonstrate why the neighborhood should support the granting of a variance on the number of parking spaces.

    In addition, to the 11 parking spots they are asking for a resolution of the driveway parking issue along the north side of Pennsylvania Ave. This could result in an additional 9 vehicles on the street. 11+9 this means a minimum of 20 additional cars on the street.

    I currently enjoy that when friends come to visit they can find parking and I would not like to see our area become like Dupont or Adams Morgan where people have cruise for 20-30 minutes looking for a parking space.

    Parking is a resource and the laws are there to help us protect that asset. There will be other building projects and parking will naturally become more and more scarce as the area develops, lets not give this asset away early on just for the asking.

    They should reduce the number of proposed apartments (83) and turn several of them into parking areas, this would increase parking area and reduce the need for a variance.

  15. Eric says:

    I wonder where all these folks supporting turning Kentucky Ave into a two way street live? I doubt they live anywhere near the stretch of road in question. I live on H, which intersects with Kentucky. One of the reasons I love our little corner of Barney Circle is that we have virtually no traffic on our streets. If Kentucky is made two way you can almost guarantee that commuters will use it as a thorough fare and speed through our neighbor at wildly unsafe speeds.

    Parking requirements are there for a reason. To prevent builders from building without regards for the neighborhood. I don’t want to see another 10-20 cars flooding our streets. They should be required to stick to the requirements as they stand.

    • Jk says:

      I was disappointed to hear that we (ANC6b) supported the waiving of parking space requirements for construction within 0.5 miles of metro stations.

      Given that the Capitol South is 0.6 miles from Eastern Market and Eastern Market Metro station is only 0.57 miles to Potomac and Potomac is 0.57 miles to Stadium, doesn’t that effectively nullify ANY parking requirements for new construction south of Lincoln park to the river?

  16. imgoph says:

    Eric: I’m going to wager that most of these people live in DC, just like you. We’re all One City, right? 🙂

    Just remember, the city is a living, breathing organism. Making traffic in one part artificially low means it will become artificially high someplace else. Unless and until we get people out of their cars and using other forms of transportation, we need to put all these cars somewhere.

    • Imgoph –

      Of course we live in one city, but this street has been one way for years. I’m for development and I’m excited about this property, but the neighborhood and traffic patterns shouldn’t need to change simply b/c someone wants to build an apartment building. The building should have to confirm to the neighborhood. Turning a quiet one way street into a potential speed zone shortcut is a major concern for those who bought homes on/around that street. Many have children, traffic is a concern.

      Furthermore, why do we need to “get people out of the cars?” Is it so we can increase population density? Maybe areas have reached their saturation point? I don’t think that’s the case with our neighborhood, but I’ll say (write) that allowing builders to design buildings that do not allow for sufficient parking in no way will guarantee less cars on out streets. The only thing it will guarantee is more money in the builders pockets.

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