Parking lot near Deanwood Metro. Image created with Google Maps.

WMATA wants residents to weigh in on its plan to offer its 1.6-acre parking lot at Deanwood Metro station as a site for a future joint mixed-use transit-oriented development. This will be the third time that WMATA has sought to develop this station in the District’s East End, just across the border from Prince George’s County.

On the first two occasions, in 1996 and 1999, Metro did not receive any bids from developers. However, the District has gotten much more popular since the turn of the 21st century, and now Deanwood is ranked as one of the hottest neighborhoods in the country, particularly given its location and price point.

Unlike in its previous joint development offers, this time Metro is proposing to eliminate its surface parking lot without replacing it. The 194-space lot has historically been woefully underutilized; a recent survey revealed it is typically only 36% full. The same survey revealed that most of the current parkers reside in Prince George’s and would just as easily park at other nearby Metro stations in the county.

WMATA’s internal studies show that the agency would earn more money and gain more riders from developing the lot. Still, the WMATA compact requires a public hearing and specific board approval before the agency can remove any commuter parking from the transit system.

Deanwood needs more housing and retail options

Metro’s desire to see mixed-use development at Deanwood dovetails nicely with the District government’s and residents’ plans for the area. The current Comprehensive Plan calls for increasing housing density and variety within a quarter-mile of the Deanwood station.

The 2008 small area plan for the Deanwood/Nannie Hellen Burroughs Avenue area calls for expanding neighborhood-serving commercial uses, redeveloping vacant properties into residential households, and prioritizing walkable, transit-oriented urban design around the station.

Image by WMATA.

In particular, community members noted the need for a full-service grocery store near the Deanwood station. Ward 7 councilmember and former mayor Vincent Gray has recently been beating the drum for more and better quality grocery stores in the East End.

Currently, the city’s Future Land Use Map (FLUM), which is part of the Comprehensive Plan, envisions the Deanwood Metro Station property with a “moderate-density residential” and “low-density commercial” mix of uses. The Comp Plan defines “moderate density residential” as “a mix of single-family homes, row houses, and small apartments.” “Low-density commercial” means one- to two-story commercial uses.

However, as part of the ongoing periodic review of the Comp Plan and FLUM, Metro and the Ward 7 Economic Development Advisory Council have recommended that the city update the FLUM to reflect a “medium-density residential” mix of uses for the Deanwood station. That would allow for “midrise (typically four- to seven-story) apartment development,” or a mix of high-rises and open space or townhouses — either of which would be a better fit with the station property.

In its public hearing docket, WMATA describes a possible joint development scenario on the low end of medium-density residential/low-density commercial scale, with 160 dwelling units and 10,000 square feet of retail space.

However, the selected developer would ultimately be responsible for proposing the mix of uses and density of the project. That developer would also be responsible for obtaining the requisite development and permit approvals from the DC government.

How you can weigh in

To make this proposed joint development opportunity more attractive (and potentially more economically feasible) to developers, as well as more responsive to the community’s previously stated desires, I suggest development and zoning at the higher end of the medium-density residential/low-density commercial scale. You can see more detail of my proposal in my written public comments.

If you'd like to weigh in, there are several ways to do so. The agency will hold a public hearing at 7 pm on June 20, 2018 at the Deanwood Recreation Center, 1349 49th St NE, Washington, DC 20019 — directly across from the Metro station.

You may comment by: (1) submitting written comments online (you can click through to WMATA's system or use our form below); (2) offering up to three minutes of oral comments at the public hearing on June 20; and/or (3) mailing written comments to the Office of the Secretary, WMATA, 600 5th St NW, Washington, DC 20001. Please include the docket number (R18-01) in any written correspondence. The public comment period ends at 9 am on July 2.

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Bradley Heard is an attorney and citizen activist who resides in the Capitol Heights area of Prince George’s County. A native of Virginia Beach and former longtime Atlanta resident, Brad hopes to encourage high-quality, walkable and bikeable development in the inner Beltway region of Prince George’s County.