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Square 912, a.k.a. Parcel 7, a.k.a. the eight-story new development slated to replace a two-block strip mall on H Street NE between 8th and 10th Streets, got plaudits from the Zoning Commission last night in a three-hour hearing to go over the updated design.
The project, for 384 residential units and 52,000 square feet of retail, has the full support of ANC 6A, which negotiated a laundry list of concessions and community benefits from the Rappaport Companies. Among the most important: Changes in the facade to be more varied and less monolithic, a variety of parking measures, and mitigation of the project’s effect on neighboring houses.
“I think it should serve as a model for future PUDs to be considered by the Zoning Commission,” said ANC chairman Drew Ronneberg.
If anything, the Commissioners thought the developer should be giving more in community benefits, considering that the project is recieving 20 feet of extra height in zoning relief. Though the building is not quite the maximum size it’s allowed under the regulations, it’s doing as few affordable units as it can get away with—eight percent of them will be priced at the affordability level for those making 80 percent of the area median income.
“Is it considered an amenity when it’s also a requirement?” asked Commissioner Konrad Schlater. “I think that the amenity package is a little light. It’s not adding up for me.”
Commissioner Michael Turnbull also quibbled with an architectural flourish at the 10th Street corner, but seemed almost ashamed to do so. “This little trellis, I want to take it off,” he said. “I think H st might want something a little more supporting the architecture you’ve set up. Just a thought.”
A little bit of contention, as usual, arose over the issue of parking. District Department of Transportation project manager Karina Ricks, pointing out that (along with the incoming streetcar) the corner of 8th and H is the biggest bus transfer point in the city, thought that the project’s two and a half levels of underground parking a bit much. One community member strenuously contested that the garage should include as much parking as possible to accommodate shoppers coming to H Street.
As for timelines, the project would be developed in two phases, with seven years allowed until shovels would have to be in the ground on the first phase and the second phase contingent on economic conditions (as is the housing mix: the developer wishes to maintain flexibility on whether they are apartments or condos).
Finally, the only two people to testify in opposition were residents of a nearby house that would be adversely impacted by the building’s massing and increased traffic. Zoning Commission chairman Anthony Hood, as is his habit, made sure the developers paid attention to their concerns.
“I would ask the architect to act like it’s their house,” Hood told the developer’s lawyer, old zoning hand Chip Glasgow. “I put myself in that situation, I would be the most upset person in the District of Columbia…So I would like y’all to revisit it.”
The application is scheduled for another hearing when the Commission reconvenes in September.