*UPDATED* Updated Plans for 1550 Penn Ave SE

At last night’s ANC 6B Planning & Zoning Committee, NOVO Development presented updated plans for their proposed residential building at 1550 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. Here are links to the updated plans and some new diagrams related to loading and Freedom Way:

Summary of key changes/new information

  • NOVO changed the configuration of parking garage entrance so it is closer and oriented towards Kentucky Ave SE. Design makes it impossible for vehicles to turn into garage from Freedom Way. Entrance to Freedom Way will be widened to at least 15 feet (currently 10 feet wide).
  • To accommodate garage entrance, NOVO removed two units. The proposed building will now have 81 apartments.
  • Freedom Way will be significantly widened near the location of the building’s loading berth, allowing trucks to proceed to the building and out of Freedom Way with minimal turns and movements. NOVO is granting an easement to the city to allow for the widening of Freedom Way.
  • The loading berth has been shifted south so that it is not directly behind the rowhouses on Kentucky Ave SE.
  • The parking variance request remains the same. NOVO is providing 30 spaces (zoning requires 41) – 22 below ground and 8 along Freedom Way. 28 bike spaces are also provided. NOVO will include a transportation information center in the building to connect tenants to transit options and plans to try to bring in car share service.
  • Bill Schultheiss of Toole Design Group, NOVO’s transportation consultant on the project, said that there are current locations in the immediate vicinity of the building that could be converted to provide additional on-street parking. For example, 11 on-street parking spots on the 1500 block of Pennsylvania Ave SE could be made available once the existing curb cuts into the property are removed. NOVO said they would urge DDOT to add these spaces and allow vehicles to park in them at all times (currently there are rush hour restrictions).

The committee voted to recommend that the commission support NOVO’s requests for a special exception related to the height of the mechanical penthouse and the loading variance. The committee voted to take no position pending additional information and discussion on the parking variance. ANC 6B will take a final vote on the zoning relief requests during the commission’s April meeting on Tuesday, April 9, 7 pm at the Hill Center, 921 Pennsylvania Avenue SE.

Please post any comments/questions below.

Updated 4/4/13: Here are links to more detailed plans and documents from NOVO Development.

Greg Selfridge of NOVO Development also asked that I encourage residents with additional questions or comments to contact him directly at gselfridge@novodev.com.

16 Responses to *UPDATED* Updated Plans for 1550 Penn Ave SE

  1. Eric says:

    I was disappointed to see the committee take “no position” on the parking variance. All but one person in that meeting raised concerns over the parking variance. The ANC is there to represent its constituents concerns before the city. The city is required to give great weight to ANC’s opinions in these matters and by passing on a “no position” they’re essentially taking the easy way out of a tough position.

    I certainly hope next week the ANC will show some fortitude and actually take a position on the matter of parking.

    • bflahaven says:

      Thanks for the comment Eric and for attending last night’s meeting. I suggested the committee take “no position” on the parking variance so that neighbors would have an opportunity to review the updated plans and so I would have an opportunity to work with both the neighbors and developer to address remaining concerns over the next few days. The only vote that matters is the full commission vote next week, and my sense is that the commission will certainly take a position on all three requests. I don’t see the harm in trying to bring the sides together prior to a final vote.

  2. Carol Wayman says:

    The community has differing views on this project. Two people in the audience supported the parking variance and the project. I was at another meeting where people were supportive as well.

    I wish the Commission was as excited about a beautiful new apartment building with 100+ new residents as I am. I would love to have my younger friends and family live there. I would feel more comfortable waiting to catch a bus in front of a building rather than exposed near speeding cars and a dirty lot..

    The Pennsylvania site is under utilized now. It is a great location for high density residential. Our city is growing, we need more rental housing. I would gladly allow 22 more apartments and 11 fewer parking spots. Most homes in the area have parking available in their own backyards which may not be as preferred as parking in front of your own home but it is public street parking. You take your chances. I wish the city would charge higher prices for parking permits for homes with multiple cars.

    I strongly oppose limiting new residents rights to on street permits. The Commissioner who said it was unfair to tax residents equally but limit their rights had it right.

  3. Elizabeth Carswell says:

    I wasn’t able to make it to the meeting, but I also support the parking variance. The benefits to this neighborhood far outweigh the potential for inconvenience. I look forward to welcoming new neighbors, just as I was welcomed when I was the newcomer six years ago. Development of that corner will likely spur more amenities along that stretch of Penn Ave. I definitely welcome more walkable restaurants nearby.

    Many residences, including those on Freedom Way, either have or could have parking in the back yard. Truth is, many who do have off street parking don’t currently use it and choose to park on the street. With minimal changes to our current routines, there will be ample parking nearby for us and our new neighbors.

  4. Mark says:

    I’m with Carol and Elizabeth…this is good news. This is an exciting development for the community.

    Why do cars have to (no pun intended) drive the discussion? We live in a city, cars and parking should be secondary. I gave up my car about six months ago, the transition has not always been easy but it’s doable: Metro, bike share, car share, bicycling, walking.

  5. Eric says:

    No one wants parking to drive the issue. There are other concerns too, but with regards to parking I think the question is do we simply give this developer a free pass on the city’s parking requirements b/c they deem it too expensive to adhere to the code?

    I’m excited about this new apartment building. I think it will be a great asset to the neighborhood. However if we get this issue of parking (and the others) wrong now and later there problems caused from 80+ new residents there is little that can be done to rectify the situation. Of all those expressing concerns the other night only one sounded as though they didn’t want the building period. Most want the building; they just want it done right.

    • Mark says:

      Fair enough…. On my runs through the circle I’ve often thought of how two units, one on the proposed lot and a second where McDonalds sits, would act as a sort of gateway to the Hill.

  6. Ryan says:

    I would trade a crappy old used car lot for a building with fewer parking spots in a heartbeat. If you want parking at your house then get a place with a spot in the back yard or move to Arlington.

  7. RDnDC says:

    IMHO, seems most of the comments are plants, perhaps by those associated with the Developer? I view this project as a detriment to Barney Circle neighborhood, small apartments, bad location, busy roads, inadequate parking for both cars & bicyles. Also distrubing is how ANC6B members seem to be going along with Developer, it establishes a trend that ANC6B is in pocket with Developers. Barney Circle residents deserve much better stewardship to lessen outsider impact, uphold and preserve a great place to live.

  8. Mark says:

    RD…can you explain a bit more why it seems most of our comments are plants from the developer? I’ve lived here on the Hill for 10 years now. I think this project is a step forward, I shared my opinion.

    How does that make me a plant from the developer?

  9. Carol Wayman says:

    My wife bought our house 6 years ago and I catch the bus in front of the used car lot nearly every day. I assume the developer has better things to do than make up fake postings. All of us supporting the projects used our real names and not an untraceable acronym.

    We all have different developmental priorities: mine are many units of affordable rental housing and practice space for DC’s Roller Girls. Except for 8 units of affordable housing, this space doesn’t meet all my goals either but it’s a positive improvement and makes sense for the Pennsylania Avenue space near Metro, the tight rental market and a growing city.

  10. Hill Buzz says:

    […] Commissioner Brian Flahaven posted an update of the development plans for 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue […]

  11. David C says:

    Under current zoning regulations they’re supposed to provide 60 long term bike parking spaces and 4 short term spaces (and under proposed rules that would go up to 80 long term), so 28 spaces just isn’t going to cut it.


    • Eric M says:

      I’m confused David … I thought you told me (in email exchanges) that property owners should be able to do what they want with their property? Why the change of heart?

      Also, I read the regulations in your link. Maybe I’m missing something, but I read “One for every three units” for Indoor Space and “One for every twenty units, with a minimum of two” for Outdoor Spaces. For 83 units my math comes out to 27 and a fraction. So, 28 is the bare minimum, but meets the requirements. What am I missing?

  12. Ralph Garboushian says:

    I am not a developer plant. I don’t even know who the developer is. I am a 20-year resident of Capitol Hill who lives a few blocks from the proposed building.

    I strongly support this project, including the parking variance. The District’s parking requirements are part of an anachronistic zoning code better suited to a 1960’s, single use suburb than to a dense, walkable, mixed-use neighborhood served by two high-frequency rail transit lines and numerous bus lines. (Indeed, it would be illegal to build most of Capitol Hill as currently constituted under the current zoning code.) The parking requirements are especially onerous for a project located 1.5 blocks from a Metro station. (But then again, in my 20 years on the Hill, I have never really understood all the angst and hand wringing about parking. If our neighborhood has a parking problem, I have never noticed it.)

    The proposed building will be huge improvement over the current surface parking lot/used car lot, which is a terrible eyesore. It will put eyes on and bring life to what is now a deserted and scary block and will help create customers for much-needed retail development on our end of Capitol Hill. We can talk all we want about how we wish that we had x, y or z in our neighborhood . Businesses are not interested in locating in neighborhoods where the main street features empty lots, surface parking, used car lots and other sub-optimal uses. They want to locate where there is a critical mass of customers and other businesses. Now, if only we could convince the same developer — or any developer! – to buy and redevelop the McDonalds across the street. If anything is as inappropriate for a site so close to a Metro station as a used car lot, it is a fast food restaurant with a drive through, with no other use, surrounded by surface parking.

  13. […] Car Lot – formerly 1550 Penn Ave SE) – NOVO Development hopes to begin construction on this 77-unit residential building by the end of the year or in early 2014. Greg Selfridge and the NOVO team plan to hold a community […]

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