Image from Stanton-Eastbanc.

David Garber, Near Southeast resident and ANC commissioner, has written an excellent letter supporting the proposed Hine school development at Eastern Market Metro. He addresses arguments from some other residents who have been pushing hard to shrink, limit, or entirely block the project.

The ANC has multiple meetings on this project in coming weeks. If you live, work or shop in the area, please take a moment to send a letter to the ANC commissioners and Zoning Commission asking them to support the project.

If you want to see the plans and speak to the developers, Pro-DC has arranged a briefing this tomorrow evening at the Hill Center. Space is limited so RSVP right away.

In his letter, Garber points out how valuable the project will be for the neighborhood, but says that taking one story off has made it look more boxy at the expense of its “graceful transition” to the sky.

Some say that there won’t be enough room for the flea market in the planned plaza along C Street, but Garber notes that closing 7th Street on weekends would create plenty of room. Another recent change placed a daycare at a prominent corner instead of retail. It would be better to locate the daycare elsewhere as long as it doesn’t reduce affordable housing.

Here is Garber’s letter:

Dear Chairman Hood and Members of the Zoning Commission:

I am writing in support of the Stanton-EastBanc development team’s Hine School redevelopment project. Please note that although I serve as the Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner for the Navy Yard neighborhood and as the Vice Chair of ANC 6D, my comments here are not meant to represent the opinions of my entire ANC.

I have been a regular visitor to Eastern Market my entire life; I have been following this redevelopment process closely since the school was closed in 2007; and I currently live one mile southwest of the Hine School site. I engage with the site almost daily — whether shopping or dining nearby, swimming at the Rumsey Aquatic Center, working from the neighboring coffee shops, or visiting with friends and family in the adjoining neighbor­hood, and can confirm that as much as the Eastern Market area is an amenity and point of interest for those immediately adjacent to it, it is also an important place for people from all sides of Capitol Hill, the city, and the region.

Our goal for this redevelopment should be to create — through architectural and urban design, landscaping, tenanting, and programming — 1) an atmosphere that will bolster our mutual affection for the immediate area, 2) a diversity of options in affordability, size, and type of residential, office, and retail spaces, 3) connections across the site that do not exist now, and 4) a place that will sensitively take advantage of its location above the Eastern Market Metro station to bring more residents and daytime employees to the neighborhood already flush with local retailers that will only be strengthened by the presence of additional customers brought in by this project. 

Acknowledging that no one development or design proposal will meet everyone’s individual or group ideas for what is most appropriate, I support Stanton-EastBanc’current proposal because it goes a long way to accomplish many of the diverse hopes for the site. Their proposal communicates architecturally with the surrounding neighborhood without inauthentically bowing to it, adds a significant amount of affordable housing in an area that increasingly needs it, reopens C Street SE across the site, and respects the scale of the existing neighborhood while adding appropriate new density to a transit-accessible location.

I remain concerned about some recently-altered elements of the project. First, I believe it is short-sighted to use the corner retail space at 8th and D Streets SE as a day care center. That space would be put to better use as a vibrant retail corner that, as such, would go a long way to visually connect retail activity on the north and south sides of Pennsylvania Avenue SE. The day care center would be more appropriately located somewhere on or off the site with less retail potential. Any relocation of the day care center within the site should also stear clear of space currently promised for use as affordable housing.

Second, although I understand that the removal of the penthouse level of the office building at the corner of 7th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE was in response to concerns that the building was too large, a new problem has emerged from its removal: there is no longer any graceful transition between the top of the building and the sky. What was a tiered structure has been left as a box, and I am confident that more can be done to gracefully break up or distinguish elements of the massing while retaining or sensitively adding to the building’s existing square footage.

I would also like to speak to the concern that this redevelopment, as proposed, will reduce general open space as well as the size of the weekend flea market currently located at Eastern Market and on the Hine School parking lot. I would like to add my support to the idea of closing 7th Street SE between C Street and Pennsylvania Avenue SE for use by the flea market on weekends, and point out that — although currently underutilized in its present state — the Eastern Market Metro Plaza is a sizable neighborhood amenity immediately adjacent to the Hine School that could be designed and programmed for a variety of uses.

Again, I support Stanton-EastBanc’s plans for the redevelopment of the Hine School. I know they are working hard, alongside ANC 6B and neighborhood organizations, to plan a project that will be a benefit to the neighborhood and the city. The inclusion of affordable housing and the reopening of C Street SE exemplify the kinds of community benefits expected from a Planned Unit Development and public land disposition. I am confident that their proposal will only bolster our affection for the site, and will finally bring a sense of completion to a place that has been — save for weekend market functions that can be redistributed across the site and surrounding streets — an economic and visual hole for too long.

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.