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A development application for the 10 acres straddling Howard Road SE has landed at the Office of Planning, and it’s pretty easy to understand: 1.2 million square feet of office space set up for the Department of Homeland Security as the sole tenant.
This could be the final game plan for the site, which has gone through a few iterations in the last several years. Back in 2008, developer Jeff Epperson with Urban-City ventures thought he’d be able to create a mixed-use project there, and hinted at the prospect of 100,000-square-foot big box store (turned out to be a Walmart, which fell through). More recently, Epperson and his partners decided to bid for the General Services Administration’s gigantic solicitation for DHS office space, and their location can’t be beat for proximity to the DHS’ new headquarters at St. Elizabeths further up the road.
The problem with security-oriented office buildings, of course, is that they don’t integrate terribly well with their surroundings. To satisfy DHS’ requirements, the application contemplates no residential or retail, and has not much to say for itself in claiming to satisfy the urban design requirements of D.C.’s comprehensive plan:
The Project will flank both sides of Howard Road, SE in two separate, distinct office buildings, accommodating the program with interlocking massing that creates a strong sense of connection. The office buildings will take advantage of views to the US Capitol up New Jersey Avenue, the Washington Monument, as well as nearby Anacostia Park and the Anacostia River directly north. They are shaped to allow the green parks and buffers at the north and south to envelop the buildings, while providing shade and desirable views. In addition, the massing supports a strong visual site wayfinding strategy through the use of architectural gateway elements at both ends, and by pulling the massing at each entry point out towards the street.
But there’s a lot of space at Poplar Point. Epperson says he’d still like to do retail on other parcels he owns in the immediate area, and looks forward to the city moving forward with its conceptual master plan for the 110 acres between his property and the river. “We are very strong advocates of a substantial amount of retail at Poplar Point,” he says.
The project, designed by HOK, contemplates 1141 underground parking spaces and 58 bike parking spaces. It won’t require the relocation of the neighboring Howard Road Academy, which had been floated in earlier planning stages.