Which building would you rather have in your neighborhood?

The InTowner strongly warns against this project:
With the proposed Florida Avenue project towering over the adjacent Strivers Row Historic District, a new neighborhood organization in Adams Morgan called Square 150 has come into being, particularly in response to the prospect of a seven-story behemoth to be constructed across the street from this historic district of small, two- and three-story row houses on V Street and Seaton Street. Viewing Florida Avenue elevations of the proposed 1711 building — where one would be looking north and up the hill — versus looking south and viewing the modest, late 19th century houses of Strivers Row, one is provided with dramatically different perspectives. The immediate question thus raised concerns the issue of compatibility of the proposed new building’s height and massing with the existing topography and built environment.
The building is currently a 3-story garage with some small retail shops on the ground floor. The owners would keep some of the parking and add additional housing on top, including 10% affordable housing, as well as expanding the retail bays. Having mid-rise buildings in close proximity to historic townhouses is a common occurrence in DC. My own house is directly across an alley from a building 3 times the height. The ends of many blocks, or the edges of neighborhoods, often have height transitions. Just because this proposal is a bit taller, but still not that tall even for DC, The InTowner article also notes some disagreement over the community benefits. Planned Unit Developments such as these require a developer to offer amenities to the public in exchange for zoning relief. Like many proposals, it counts architectural quality as one benefit. While this building looks perfectly fine, it’s not going to become the most beloved building in the neighborhood. Besides that, the developer is offering to build a Capital Bikeshare station and include some electric charging stations at low rates in the garage. According to the InTowner, they also have expressed a desire to fund some undefined improvements to the nearby Marie Reed recreation areas and set up a jobs agreement to hire local workers. The owners also have offered to include covenants prohibiting tavern-class liquor licenses, the kinds of alcohol-serving establishments that many feel Adams Morgan already has in overabundance. Still, the project would require exempting the property from the Reed-Cooke Overlay, which limits overall building heights more strictly. In their filing, the developers argue that “ironically,” the project better fulfills the stated purposes of the overlay, including bringing in affordable housing, without the zoning restrictions of the overlay, and that it’s less appropriate to keep this property in the overlay whose convoluted shape centers around more central neighborhood areas farther north. The Zoning Commission should insist on top-quality design and meaningful community benefits for this project, but denying it or trying to shrink it because it would be a “towering” “behemoth” shortchanges the neighborhood in the long run and would just keep more residents of all incomes out of DC. To get the detailed documents, search for “11-11” on the Office of Zoning case search. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to link to an individual case or its component documents.

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David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Sustainable Transportation (DCST). He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions in his GGWash posts are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.