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.