A transformational development proposed for the Anacostia River waterfront in southeast D.C. has the support of Capitol Hill Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B (ANC 6B), which passed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with developer, Cohen Siegel Investors Wednesday night.
Cohen Siegel propose to bring three buildings with a total of 673 residential units and approximately 10,370 square feet of retail use to a 3-acres, triangular-shaped parcel bounded by M Street, Virginia Avenue, and Water Street in southeast D.C. The parcel is currently undeveloped.
The first phase of the four-phase project involves a 10-story mixed-use residential and retail building that will bring 218 rental units, 57 underground parking spaces and 44 surface parking spaces. The entire project will bring about 221 parking spaces–a ratio closer to one parking space for every three units though one parking space for every four units is what code requires.
The MOU sets forth an agreed upon timeline for construction and the delivery of public amenities as well as a detailed description of the public benefits and the proposed transportation plan. Eric Siegel of Cohen Siegel Investors said in all the public benefits from the project amount to nearly $4 million.
Public amenities include affordable housing (technically required by law, but the developer and ANC agreed to a different mix of unit sizes and affordability levels than required), a public plaza on the Anacosita waterfront, new road connections and road extensions to make the area more accessible for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, a new dog park at 14th Street, a public green lawn area and more.
During the public discussion on the proposal Wednesday evening, several residents of L St, SE, the closest residential street to the project, separated from the new development by the Southeast Freeway and CSX railroad tracks.
Among the concerns were that the height of the proposed building–110 feet– would impact the sunlight for L Street residents.
The development team’s attorney, Leila Batties of Holland and Knight, said they had done several shade studies and determined the would be minimal impact on L Street from the development, whether it was developed at the proposed 110 feet or at the matter of right 90 feet.
Several commenters also questioned the amount of parking being provided, worrying future residents would park on L Street and other nearby residential streets instead of renting a space in the garage.
The developers reiterated that they are providing more than required and that they are providing a shuttle bus from the development to the Navy Yard metro for building residents. There is also a hope that as part of the Southeast Boulevard , currently being studied by the Office of Planning, could create new pedestrian connections over the tracks and freeway to provide walking and biking connections to the Potomac Avenue Metro station north of the property.
ANC 6B commissioners noted that future residents may not be able to apply for residential parking permits (RPP) to park on nearby streets. The development site is not currently within an RPP area and commissioners suggested the District Department of Transportation may not choose to change that–just as several new condos in the Navy Yard area do not have RPP parking on the street, but rather metered parking.
Commissioner Brian Flahaven said the market would take care of people with cars–either they will rent a space in the building or choose to rent a unit in a different apartment.
Commissioners also commented on the changes to the deign and color scheme in response to Zoning Commission Zoning Commission (ZC)comments.
Commissioner Brian Pate said the changes “diluted the boldness” of the design to the detriment of the project. Flahaven echoed those comments saying the changes were a “missed opportunity” to do something different in an area that does not have the constraints of an historic district or even much nearby architecture to set the tone for the design.
“You’re preaching to the choir,” said Siegel, who added that they needed to balance the community’s input with that of the .
The Commission voted five to zero with one absent to approve the MOU and recommend approval of the PUD when the case goes before the ZC in December.
The public benefit and amenities agreed upon in the MOU are as follows:
a. Public Space Improvements. Developer, or its successors/assigns, shall construct the following improvements in connection with the PUD:
- During Phase I of the project, on the south side of M Street, Developer shall install permeable paver parking spaces and low impact development basins with plantings and street trees for stormwater management.
- During Phase I of the project, Developer shall install a wildflower meadow along the Water Street right-of-way. The wildflower meadow provides an opportunity to increase plant biodiversity, create wildlife habitat, slow stormwater runoff and stabilize slopes. The meadow also preserves some of the open space quality of the existing site while reactivating it with the new proposed design and clears out the overgrown and visually impairing vegetation currently along Water Street.
- During Phase I of the project, Developer shall construct a public dog park where 14th Street terminates at the project.
- During Phase I of the project, Developer shall improve M Street and construct an extension of Virginia Avenue south of M Street as well as construct an internal north-south private street. The roadway improvements will generate new on-street public parking.
- During Phase II of the project, Developer shall construct an uninterrupted 8-foot wide, paved Anacostia Riverwalk Trail segment along the north side of M Street that connectsto the traffic circle near 13th Street, SE and the existing trail at 14th Street SE.
- During Phase II of the project, for that portion of M Street along the frontage of the Subject Property, the Developer shall pave the entire width of the street.
- During Phase II of the project, Developer shall construct a public plaza at the termination of Virginia Avenue, and a monumental staircase leading to lower plaza area that extends to Water Street across from the District Yacht Club. The public plaza is designed as an active gathering space and a connection to the waterfront.
- During Phase II of the project, Developer shall construct a sidewalk along the north side of Water Street, extending from M Street to the lower plaza.
- During the phased development, the project will include large green space for public use. Specifically, during Phase 1 of the project, there will be a lawn area at the termination of the pedestrian promenade along Virginia Avenue. Also, during Phase II of the project, there will be a large triangular green space on the west side of the project where Building 2 is proposed.
b. Lighting. In response to community concerns and ANC 6B’s request for better lighting on M and Water Streets, during Phase I of the project, and in subsequent phases, Developer will install lighting around the perimeter of the property.
c. Affordable Housing. In response to ANC 6B’s request for larger affordable units suitable for families, Developer will set aside four two-bedroom units for households whose income does not exceed 60% AMI. The remaining affordable units — a mix of studio and one-bedroom units — will be for households with incomes not exceeding 80% AMI in accordance with the Inclusionary Zoning requirements. This affordable housing component will exist for the life of the project.
The subsidy required to provide two bedroom affordable dwelling units at 80% AMI as required under the Zoning Regulations amounts to $326,000. The subsidy required to support the two bedroom units at 60% AMI as proffered by Developer amounts to $131,000 per unit. Therefore, reserving all of the two-bedroom units in Phase I of the PUD at 60% AMI results in additional subsidy of $524,000 for the project. This additional affordable housing subsidy is a benefit of the PUD, as described under Section 2403.9 of the Zoning Regulations.
d. Improvements to and Connection to the Waterfront. A portion of the lower plaza and the continuation of the promenade paving pattern, at the base of the monumental stair, are within public space in order to provide a connection from M street to the waterfront. Developer will bear maintenance responsibility for the portion of these improvements that are outside of the property line.
e. LEED Qualification. Developer commits that the resulting PUD will achieve the equivalent of LEED Silver.