Friday Updates: Playtime Project, Vote, Eastern Branch, Barney Circle, 17th & 19th

March 28, 2014
  • As Metropolitan Police Department and FBI continue their search for missing 8-year old Relisha Rudd and her apparent abductor, you can help the other homeless children at DC General by supporting The Homeless Children’s Playtime Project. Relisha is one of the many children living at DC General that benefit from the activities of the Playtime Project, a wonderful nonprofit organization that works to brighten the lives of homeless kids. Consider a donation or purchase a gift off their Amazon wishlist.
  • Next Tuesday, April 1 is primary day in the District of Columbia. If you have a party affiliation, make sure you get out and vote either on April 1 or today and tomorrow at one of the 13 early voting centers. Polls will be open from 7 am to 8 pm on April 1. I’m supporting Tommy Wells for Mayor and Charles Allen for Ward 6 Councilmember in the Democratic primary.
  • ANC 6B’s Hill East Task Force will be holding two community meetings to discuss plans by the DC Department of General Services to issue a Request for Offers for the Eastern Branch Building (261 17th Street SE). The meetings will take place on:
    • Wed., April 9, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm, St. Coletta of Greater Washington (1901 Independence Avenue SE)
    • Wed., April 30, 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm, Payne Elementary School (1445 C Street SE)
  • The owners of New York Pizza, located at 1401 Pennsylvania Avenue SE, plan to expand their business into the vacant commercial space across the street at 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue SE. To do so, they will need a “fast food” special exception from the Board of Zoning Adjustment. ANC 6B will likely consider the special exception request in May.
  • On Monday, March 31, ANC 6B’s Transportation Committee will discuss the DC Office of Planning’s rapid response planning effort on DDOT’s Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Project. The goal of the 3-4 month effort is to take a holistic view of potential uses within and surrounding the proposed Southeast Boulevard right of way. The meeting is from 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm at the Hill Center (921 Pennsylvania Ave SE).
  • Speaking of DDOT, I have some good news to share on the delayed 17th & 19th Streets Safety Improvement Project. According to the agency, construction on both streets will take place this year beginning with 19th Street in May. DDOT expects construction on the 17th Street portion of the project to begin in September.

Vincent Orange’s “Vision” for the RFK Stadium Site

December 19, 2013

I first learned of Councilmember (and mayoral candidate) Vincent Orange’s District of Columbia Sports and Entertainment Complex Feasibility Study Act of 2013 on November 7, the day it was introduced. The bill requires the Mayor to conduct a study to determine the “economic feasibility, economic impact and costs” of developing a new 100,000 seat superdome, indoor waterpark, soundstage, PGA-level golf course and hotel zone at the RFK Stadium, DC Armory and Langston Golf Course sites. If enacted, the bill requires the study to be completed by Feb. 15, 2015.

Based on media reports, I fully expected B20-563 to be 1-2 pages of legislative text. Instead, the bill is 15 pages long, detailing every pet project Councilmember Orange and others have dreamed up for the site. Here are some examples of what is included.

  • A proposed “hotel zone” would include a minimum of three hotels, adding a combined total of 1000 rooms to the site. The hotel zone would also include a 24/7 spa, fitness and wellness establishment that includes an Olympic size pool, leisure pool, children’s pool and sauna. And don’t forget the “health conscious café open 7 days a week featuring juice and smoothies bar, organic foods and healthy eating options.”
  • Apparently, the more than 1,000 hotel rooms in the hotel zone are not enough, because the bill also calls for another 200-300 room three star hotel to go along with the indoor waterpark resort. The waterpark also includes 15,000 sq. ft. of conference and meeting facilities. I’m not sure why you would build conference and meeting facilities in the waterpark and a pool facility in the hotel zone.
  • The detail for the hotel zone and indoor waterpark pales in comparison to the detail provided on the multimedia soundstage. The soundstage, which apparently would be in the DC Armory, includes everything from a television recording studio and production offices to green rooms and a paint shop.
  • The bill does call for retail on the site, mainly in the “Robert F. Kennedy Domed Stadium Complex” which includes the 100,000 seat stadium, two “nationally recognized” department stores, two nationally recognized family restaurant chains, one nationally recognized chain bar or nightclub, one nationally recognized high end restaurant, one nationally recognized movie theatre, one independently owned restaurant and a beer garden. The bill is silent on whether the beer garden must be nationally recognized.
  • The bill does call for some housing on the site, but it is very vague. There would apparently be affordable housing units for low-income residents and students. It is also unclear as to where the housing would be built.

This is a small sampling of the ridiculous level of detail in the bill (I didn’t even mention the required 3D model). It would be laughable, except five (!) additional councilmembers joined Councilmember Orange in co-introducing the bill – Councilmembers Alexander, Barry, Bonds, Evans and Graham. This tally is one short of a Council majority.

Apparently, almost half of the DC Council actually thinks it is worth taxpayer dollars to study Councilmember Orange’s dreamland. Why would we build more than 1,000 additional hotel rooms for a stadium that will be primarily used for 10 football games a year? If the idea is to hold more than sporting events at the complex, aren’t we competing with our own taxpayer-funded convention center which is still struggling to attract events? What happens to the DC National Guard when the Armory is turned into a soundstage? Where would the hotels, housing and retail be built since most of the RFK Stadium site sits on a floodplain and under federal lease terms must be used for stadium or recreational use? And why would we fund this study when Mayor Gray has already asked Events DC to conduct a study on future uses for the RFK Stadium site? (Events DC has already posted a Request for Expressions of Interest seeking a consultant to conduct the study)

Clearly, Councilmember Orange’s plan is not feasible and not in the best interests of the city. Instead of wasting taxpayer dollars on a poorly thought out study, the DC Council should look to fund realistic future uses for the site – uses that serve both residents and visitors. An example is the Capitol Riverside Youth Sports Park proposal, which aims to turn a portion of the stadium’s north parking lots into recreational fields. Not only is this project feasible, it also responds to a critical need for more recreational field space in the city.

What do you think about Councilmember Orange’s vision for the RFK Stadium site?

Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Project Meeting This Thursday, Nov. 21

November 19, 2013
Rendering of the new Barney Circle from the 2005 Middle Anacostia River Crossings Study.

Rendering of the new Barney Circle from the 2005 Middle Anacostia River Crossings Study.

The District Department of Transportation is holding its second public meeting on the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Project on Thursday, Nov. 21, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm at Payne Elementary School (1445 C Street SE). The project involves the construction of a full traffic circle at Barney Circle SE and the construction of a Southeast Boulevard to connect the new circle to the SE-SW Freeway at 11th Street SE.  DDOT will be sharing potential options for the project and gathering community feedback.

This is a major project with significant implications for the neighborhood. It is particularly important for residents living along 17th Street SE and residents living near Barney Circle SE (Kentucky Ave, Freedom Way, Penn Ave, 15th St,, H Street, 16th St., G St., Potomac Ave) to attend this meeting. 

During the first public meeting on the project in February, the entire discussion was dominated by questions and concerns about the Southeast Boulevard. I’m hopeful that attendees will get a chance to discuss the Barney Circle portion of the project and its implications for bike, pedestrian and vehicle flow through the neighborhood.

My recap of the first public meeting includes more information on the project.

Future of RFK Meeting Recap

November 15, 2013

We had a nice turnout (30-40 people) at the Nov. 13 ANC 6B Hill East Task Force meeting on the future of the RFK Stadium site. Here are some of the highlights from the meeting:

  • Erik Moses, senior vice president and managing director at Events DC, provided a brief overview of the organization, their events and the venues they manage on the RFK site – RFK Stadium, DC Armory, Maloof Skate Park and the Festival Grounds (aka parking lots). View the Events DC presentation (pdf).
  • With DC United set to move to a new stadium in Southwest, Mayor Gray has asked Events DC to oversee a study of highest and best use options for the RFK site. According to Moses, the options “must be consistent with the site’s ground lease with the federal government and Events DC’s mission.” The lease calls for the land to be used for a stadium, recreational uses, open space and “other similar public purposes.”
  • Sometime in the next two weeks, Events DC will issue an Request for Expressions of Interest for a consultant to formally conduct the study. Moses said they would like to have a consulting firm selected by spring 2014.
  • Moses mentioned that DC United would like to be in a new stadium by 2016 but there is still uncertainty as to when the team will vacate RFK Stadium. The new stadium deal still needs approval of the DC Council.
  • When asked whether Events DC would push for a particular use like a new stadium, Moses replied that the organization is “agnostic.” He did reiterate that potential uses must be consistent with the Events DC mission (“There will be no office buildings on the site.”)
  • I asked Moses whether Events DC is involved with the group organizing a DC bid for the 2024 Summer Olympics. Moses replied that Events DC is not formally involved with the group, but he expects the consultant to consider the possibility of hosting the Olympics when considering options for the site. Moses also noted that city leaders have not yet formally endorsed a bid for the 2024 Olympics.
  • Moses said it was unlikely that Events DC would seek to urge Congress to change the terms of the ground lease or transfer the land to DC, noting that either strategy would take years of negotiation.
  • When asked about community engagement, Moses said that Events DC is committed to engaging and seeking feedback from the surrounding community and other key stakeholders during the study.
  • After Moses concluded his presentation, Bob Coomber provided an overview of the proposed Capitol Riverside Youth Sports Park to replace the north parking lots at RFK Stadium. Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells and At-Large Councilmember David Grosso have introduced a resolution that the city should explore conversion of the parking lots into recreational space. The fields and green space would be constructed over the existing asphalt and would fulfill a need for sports and recreational fields in Hill East.
  • CRYSP’s presentation included how their proposal would fit with potential future uses of the site, including a new football stadium, Olympics and the National Capitol Planning Commission’s vision (pdf) of a mixed use recreational/cultural space. You can view the full presentation on the CRYSP website.
  • Staff from Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander, Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells and At-Large Councilmember Vincent Orange attended the meeting and provided brief remarks. Gene Fisher, who staffs the DC Council’s Committee on  Business, Consumer and Regulatory Affairs for Councilmember Orange, briefly discussed the Councilmember’s bill to require the city to conduct a feasibility study of a potential 100,000 seat superdome, indoor water park, soundstage, hotel zone and an upgraded Langston Golf Course. Task force members expressed concern about Councilmember Orange’s lack of outreach to the community prior to the bill’s introduction (I plan to post some additional thoughts on Councilmember Orange’s bill soon).
  • The task force made a recommendation that ANC 6B send a letter to Events DC thanking them for the presentation and reinforcing the need to seek community feedback and input throughout the study period. The task force also suggested that the commission urge Events DC and their consultant to  seek neighborhood serving uses for the site, uses that would bring residents to the site 7 days a week and not just for special events. ANC 6B will consider the recommendation at its next regular meeting on Tues., Dec. 10.

I’ve previously posted my thoughts on the future of RFK and plan to post some additional thoughts in the coming days.

If you attended the meeting, please post your comments, thoughts or anything I missed below. A big thanks to our presenters, community members and task force members for their participation. And a special thanks to the folks at St. Coletta of Greater Washington for hosting the meeting.

Project Updates from Neighborhood Town Hall

October 14, 2013

A big thanks to everyone who attended my Oct. 10 Neighborhood Town Hall at Congressional Cemetery Chapel. We had a great turnout! For those who were unable to attend, here are some brief updates on major projects happening in the neighborhood:

  • Reservation 13/Hill East Waterfront – On Oct. 24, the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development’s Office announced that Donatelli/Blue Skye had been awarded development rights for parcels F1 & G1 at Reservation 13. DMPED and Donatelli/Blue Skye are now negotiating on an agreement that will allow the project to move forward (terms of land transfer, etc.). This agreement will need to be approved by the DC Council, most likely in early 2014. The Donatelli/Blue Skye proposal calls for two mixed-use buildings with a total of 354 apartments (248 market rate, 106 affordable) and 20,000-40,000 square feet of retail on the first floors, including the possibility of retail along the C Street extension. Donatelli/Blue Skye has also updated their proposal to remove the “traffic island” around the Stadium-Armory Metro plaza.
  • 1442 Pennsylvania Avenue SE (Old KFC site) – Construction has begun on this two-story retail building at the corner of 15th and Penn Ave SE. Douglas Development hopes to have construction completed by the end of the year. As for tenants, Douglas Development has not yet signed any leases though there has been interest in the site.
  • 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue SE (Used 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 meeting soon to discuss construction and its potential impact on surrounding neighbors. I’ll share information on the meeting once it is scheduled.
  • 1500 Pennsylvania Avenue SE (Old Domino’s site) – Goldstar Group plans to build a 41-unit residential building at the old Domino’s site, with a mix of two bedroom, one bedroom and junior one bedroom units. While they plan to provide the required 21-parking spaces in an underground garage, Goldstar will probably have to ask the Board of Zoning Adjustment for zoning relief related to the size of the parking spaces (6-8 will have to be compact spaces). Goldstar is pushing the building as close to the 15th & Penn Ave SE intersection as possible to preserve some open space between the building and adjacent structures. The parking garage entrance will be off of 15th Street SE. Goldstar will present their plans and preliminary designs with neighbors at a community meeting in the coming weeks. I’ll share information on the meeting once it is scheduled.
  • 401 15th Street SE – Goodeon Kingston, LLC has begun construction on a 12-unit mixed-use retail-residential building at the corner of 15th & D Street SE. The big news is that they have now decided to include retail space on the first floor..about 1,000 square feet. Goodeon hopes to have concrete and foundation work completed by the end of the year. The building will have the six parking spaces required by zoning.
  • Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Project – The District Department of Transportation plans to hold its second public meeting on the Barney Circle-Southeast Boulevard Project on Thursday, November 21, 6:30 pm at Payne Elementary School (1445 C Street SE). At the meeting, DDOT and their consultant, CH2M Hill, will present options for public feedback. I encourage anyone who lives near Barney Circle to attend this meeting.
  • 17th & 19th Streets Safety Improvement Project – The good news is the design phase of the 17th & 19th Streets Safety Improvement Project is complete. The bad news is that DDOT has asked a consultant to do an additional environmental review of the project recommendations which will add another 6 months to the project timeline. We are now looking at mid to late 2014 for construction to begin. I plan to urge DDOT to move as swiftly as possible to complete the additional review and begin construction.

Please post any comments or questions below.

17th & 19th Streets Project Progress Report

June 25, 2013

The District Department of Transportation has scheduled a June 27 meeting to provide a progress report on the 17th & 19th Streets Safety Improvement Project. Unfortunately, the meeting conflicts with the June 27 ANC 6B Hill East Task Force meeting on the future of the DC General shelter.

Since many Hill East residents plan to attend the meeting on DC General, DDOT was kind enough to share with me the information and handouts they plan to present and distribute on Thursday. Note that the final recommendations for the 17th & 19th Streets project remain the same as discussed last fall – DDOT will not announce any major changes at the meeting.

The big news is that the project is on schedule – the design phase is 90 percent complete with a deadline of Aug. 31, 2013. That means construction could begin by the end of the year. I’m also pleased that the project recommendations include the stretch of 17th Street SE between Potomac Ave SE and Barney Circle.  v

DDOT’s June 27 meeting on the project will take place from 6:30 pm – 7:30 pm at Pilgrim AME Church (612 17th Street NE).

*UPDATED* Donatelli/Blue Skye Development Plans for Reservation 13

April 25, 2013

Below are renderings that Donatelli/Blue Skye shared at last night’s DMPED community meeting on Reservation 13. Here are some basic details about the plans:

  • Proposing two mixed-use buildings, one on parcel F1 and the other on parcel G1. Each would be four stories.
  • North Building (parcel F1) would have 113 apartments, South Building (parcel G1) would have 240 apartments.
  • Both buildings would have retail on first floor, with about 10,000 square feet of retail in each. Retail would be focused towards Stadium-Armory Metro Plaza and 19th Street SE. View the floor plan (pdf).
  • Both buildings would be significantly set back from 19th Street SE, with green space separating the South Building from 19th. Donatelli/Blue Skye envisions a farmer’s market and other community events utilizing the green space.

I’ll post some more details and my thoughts shortly. In the meantime, post your comments below.

North Building 1

Rendering of North Building, which would be located directly East of the Stadium-Armory Metro Plaza.

Rendering of North Building, which would be located directly east of the Stadium-Armory Metro Plaza.

Rendering of South Building on parcel G1.

View Down C Street SE

View looking East down the extended C Street SE.

SE View

Overhead view looking Southeast from the intersection of 19th Street SE and Burke Street SE.

View looking NE

View looking Northeast from intersection of 19th Street SE and Massachusetts Avenue SE.

Updated 4/26/13: A few more details on the plan above and my initial thoughts.

  • In his presentation, Chris Donatelli, president of Donatelli Development, said that they would like to bring a mix of local and national/regional retail to the first floor of each building. They do not envision large-scale retail like Target, Walmart, etc.
  • My former ANC 6B colleague Jared Critchfield asked Donatelli if his team had considered how the development will fit with the remaining parcels on Reservation 13. In particular, the current design seems to emphasize the front of the building at the expense of the back and there is no planned retail on the sides of the two buildings (facing the extended C Street SE and extended Mass Avenue SE). Donatelli said they approached the initial design with a focus on parcels F1 and G1 but would certainly look at retail options along the side streets. One challenge is the relatively steep decline in grade on the side streets.
  • I like the idea of the pedestrian promenade along 19th Street SE, though it would be better if the plans eliminated the street between the North Building and the Stadium-Armory Metro Plaza. Instead of creating a pedestrian unfriendly “island” around the Metro Plaza, I’d like to see the street turned into a pedestrian only walkway in front of the retail.
  • Donatelli/Blue Skye plan to include 225 parking spaces on the site, with parking in garages in each building. Parking and loading would be accessed from alleys along the rear of the buildings. They also anticipate metered on-street parking along the extended C Street SE, Mass Ave SE and Burke Street SE for customers visiting the retail locations.
  • In terms of affordability, Donatelli/Blue Skye plan to comply with the affordable housing requirements in law. Specifically, 30 percent of the units will be affordable, with 15 percent affordable to households earning up to 30 percent of the Area Median Income (AMI) and 15 percent affordable to households earning up to 60 percent of AMI.

Overall, this is a good plan. There are some areas in need of further work (more retail along side streets, street in front of North Building, etc.) but the Donatelli/Blue Skye plan is certainly consistent with the mixed-use retail/residential development called for in the Reservation 13 master plan. And the Donatelli/Blue Skye team certainly expressed a desire and willingness to make changes and engage the surrounding community in the process. I think it is worth our time and effort to see this come to fruition.

Speaking of process, I plan on inviting Donatelli/Blue Skye back out to the neighborhood to share their plans once again and to get further community comments and feedback. The goal is for ANC 6B to send some comments to the Deputy Mayor’s Office before DMPED decides whether to proceed with the Donatelli/Blue Skye plan. I’ll share date/time/location information once a meeting is set.

One final thought: It was great to see Ward 7 Councilmember Yvette Alexander and Commissioners from ANC 7F in attendance at the meeting. Our Ward 7 colleagues will also have an opportunity to weigh in on Reservation 13 since it is now in their ward, and I’m looking forward to working with them.

Please continue to post your comments/questions below!