City Paper is not for tourists
Walmart and developer Foulger-Pratt have submitted their formal application for the Curtis Chevrolet site to the Office of Planning, and there aren’t many surprises: It’s got an attractive entryway and a couple of street-level retail bays, but looking over the site plans is a sad reminder that it remains in essence a one-level big-box store on a site that had so much more potential.
In community meetings, Walmart spokesman Keith Morris has said that the plans “changed dramatically” in response to community input. I can’t tell what those changes are at this point, but will update if they get back to me to explain.
As promised, the facade incorporates elements of the historic car barn on the site, with arches and reclaimed brick. Large windows facing the sidewalk and cafe tables also create some element of welcoming public space.
But the part of the application that will probably be of most interest to neighbors is the very long traffic study, which Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development Victor Hoskins himself told opposition groups might pose problems for the 106,000 square foot development.
The consultants, of course, have concluded that with certain minor signal changes, the store should have “no detrimental impact” on traffic flow. In part, that’s because they figure 26 percent of peak hour weekday visits will be taken by commuters who would have passed by the site anyway. Total, the study anticipates the store to generate 188 net new trips during a.m. peak hours on weekdays, 272 during p.m. peak hours on weekdays, and 355 during Saturday peak hours.
As for parking: The project includes 348 below-grade parking spaces. For bikes, it’s got 37 rack spaces, and will bring in a Capital Bikeshare station. But the traffic study points out the fact that Georgia Avenue is a terrible corridor for bicycling, and not that great for pedestrians either—if they want to throw in more community benefits, upgrades to the street for better bike access would be a good place to start.
From here, District agencies and affected community groups now have 30 days to submit comments, and the ANC will be afforded great weight (which just means the Office of Planning will have to justify any of its recommendations it doesn’t act upon). Councilmember Muriel Bowser says she’s “cautiously optimistic” about the plan, and has advised the Mayor’s office that “any potential burdens to existing infrastructure, or any negative impacts from increased traffic must be mitigated and paid for by Walmart; not the District.”