Community meeting on new proposed E ST development

On Tuesday, August 18th at 6:30, Insight Property Group will hold a broad-based community meeting on their proposed PUD development on E St SE. The project would redevelop two sites that are currently occupied by Bowie's trash service and Signature auto repair, midway down the 1300 block of E St. Insight is also the developer behind the project at the Buchanan School (former IGU) at the end of 13th St.

The meeting will take place at the Hill Center, starting at 6:30. If you'd like to learn more about the plans, voice your opinions and ideas, and engage with the Insight team, please attend! If you can't make it, this will be one of a series of community meetings over the next year, since this project will be in a planning stage for a while to come.

The Planned Unit Development (PUD) Process

This is the first in a series of posts on the Planned Unit Development process. Our neighborhood has ongoing and planned PUD projects, and my goal is to help the community understand what this process involves and how you can get involved.

What is a Planned Unit Development?

Many residential or mixed use construction projects, whether carried out by a homeowner or a developer, can be done within DC's zoning rules. These are "by right" projects, which do not require zoning "relief." Other projects, those in which a homeowner or developer wants to exceed what's allowed by right, require additional review and approval, typically by DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA). A third type of project, where a developer is seeking substantial relief from DC's zoning rules, is called a Planned Unit Development (PUD).

PUDs arise when a developer wants to exceed what's allowed under the zoning rules in a significant way, such as higher density or taller building height. A PUD case can also occur when a developer wants to change the way a piece of land is zoned, such as from an industrial district to a residential or commercial district. The city can grant this relief if it believes the proposed project--with the deviations from matter-of-right zoning--will allow for a project that produces a superior development and public benefits.

What do PUD cases mean for the community?

The community can engage with any zoning case, through the ANC and through the relevant zoning agency, such as the BZA. Because a PUD is typically a larger project with more significant implications for the community in which it is located, PUD cases typically involve a longer and more detailed process of community engagement. Engagement often starts with the ANC, which can facilitate communication between the developer and the community.

Another important feature of PUDs is that the developer is required to provide a benefits and amenities package to the community in exchange for the request zoning relief. This means community participation in the PUD process is critical.

What is a benefits and amenities package?

When a developer proposes a PUD project, they are asking for exceptions to the zoning regulations, and those exceptions, if granted, have value, since they allow the developer to build a larger or different project than would normally be allowed. In exchange for the additional value the developer receives, they are required to provide a suite of benefits and amenities to the community, which should be roughly equal to the value of the zoning relief.

Benefits and amenities packages vary by project, and there are relatively few restrictions or even guidelines on what a package can include. The "benefits" component accrues to the community, while the "amenities" are typically more relevant for the residents of the development. An example of a benefit might be improvements to a local dog park or streetscape upgrades. Amenities could include a transportation "hub" in the development that provides information to residents on local transportation options. Here are some typical categories of benefits and amenities:

  • Architecture and landscaping
  • Efficient and economical land utilization
  • Safe vehicular and pedestrian access; transportation management measures
  • Historic preservation projects
  • Employment and training opportunities
  • Affordable housing
  • Social services or facilities
  • Environmental benefits

In general, District agencies involved in PUD cases prefer public benefits that are physical investments--playground equipment or bicycle racks--rather than "soft" investments, such as monetary contributions to a nonprofit organization. The rationale is that physical investments are relatively guaranteed to provide benefits to the community for the life of the investment, while soft investments may not always provide the intended stream of benefits (for example, if the nonprofit closes).

PUD benefits can be located away from the development site, but they must be within 1/4 mile or within the boundaries of the ANC in which the PUD sits.

Who is involved in reviewing a PUD case?

Unlikely typical zoning cases, PUDs are managed by the Zoning Commission, which is a office within DC's Office of Zoning. The Zoning Commission is in charge of changes to the zoning regulations or zoning map, and it also manages the PUD application and approval process. Other DC government entities can provide recommendations to the Zoning Commission. These include the ANC in which the PUD project resides and the District's Office of Planning.

In future posts I will walk through the PUD application process and timeline, provide examples of benefits and amenities packages from recent PUD projects, and talk about the proposed PUDs in Hill East.

Want to read more? Additional resources on the PUD process

Update on crime and safety in Hill East

At this week's ANC meeting, we were joined by Commander Brown from MPD's 1st District (1D) who provided an update on crime in our area. I wanted to share with the neighborhood some information that might be helpful, since we're all concerned about crime and safety on our streets.

What's happening?
This year as in the past, Spring has brought an uptick in crime. Relative to last month, robberies, burglaries, and assaults with a deadly weapon are all up in our area. In particular, police service area (PSA) 108, our area in Hill East*, is seeing a spike in burglaries. 

     * A handful of residents in SMD 6B06 are in PSA 107

What are the police doing?
Police in 1D are increasing their patrols in our area and trying to make police patrols visible (for instance, along Pennsylvania Ave). The police are also working with the DC housing authority to address crime that may have a connection to DC-owned apartment buildings like Potomac Gardens.

What can you do?
As you've probably heard, taken reasonable precautions. Lock doors and secure windows when you're away or at night. If you see a crime or are a victim of a crime, try to get a good description of the suspect. Focus on distinct characteristics, like purple shoes or a stripe on a jacket.

Want to learn more? Have questions?
Remember, if you witness a crime, suspect a crime, or are just concerned there might be a crime occurring, CALL 911.

You can always reach out to me. You can also contact MPD with questions, issues, and concerns.

1D Commander Jeff Brown (202.299.2037)
PSA 108: Lt. James Dykes (202.904.6484)
MPD 1st District

MPD 1st District Police Service Areas

MPD 1st District Police Service Areas

See the Updated Designs for 1401 Penn on April 15th

Last month CAS Riegler announced their planned PUD project at 1401 Pennsylvania Ave SE and held a community meeting to introduce the project to the community. The project will be a mixed-use building with approximately 150 apartment and multiple commercial spaces across from the Potomac Avenue Metro Station. At last month's meeting the developers showed the massing (height and scale) and orientation of the building, but there weren't any exterior design details. 

1401 Penn Project Preliminary Design

1401 Penn Project Preliminary Design

CAS Riegler is reaching out to the community again, this time with a full set of design plans. Come to the Hill Center at 7pm on Wednesday, April 15th to see the updated designs, which will include more detailed site layouts and renderings of how the building will look from various points around the block (to help adjacent neighbors visualize the building from their vantage point). The developer will also be talking more about the traffic issues on 14th street that neighbors raised at the first meeting.

Preliminary Design for 1401 Penn SE

On March 12 CAS Riegler presented the preliminary design for their project 1401 Pennsylvania Ave SE, the current New York Pizza site. The project is a planned unit development (PUD) that will include approximately 150 apartment units atop multiple ground level retail spaces. The building will run up 14th St., along Pennsylvania Ave, and then partway into the middle of the block toward Ive Place. There will be an underground parking garage, and CAS Riegler is not planning to ask for parking relief.

Site design for 1401 Penn SE

Site design for 1401 Penn SE

To facilitate access to underground parking and allow for deliveries, CAS Riegler plans to widen the alley off 14th St to 20 feet, leading to the parking access in the rear of the building. At the March 12th meeting neighbors raised concerns about traffic flow along 14th, and the development team said they will work with neighbors to think about way to address current and potential traffic issues. The team said they are also following the the ongoing redesign of the Penn/Potomac intersection to understand how 1401 Penn could complement those plans.

The project is at an early stage, and there aren't any exterior designs to look at yet. CAS Riegler has done multiple buildings throughout the district; you can see examples on their website. At the March 12th presentation, the development team indicated that they are looking to construct a high quality building that is visually consistent with Capitol Hill.

The view of 1401 Penn SE from 14th & Ives

The view of 1401 Penn SE from 14th & Ives

The building is planned for seven stories, roughly similar in height to Jenkins Row. Based on preliminary sun studies the CAS Riegler team presented the building will cast minimal shadows on other properties along and south of Pennsylvania, since most of the shadows will fall across Pennsylvania Ave. Nevertheless, 1401 Penn will be the tallest building on the block, and the development team is working to manage the way the building interacts and blends with the neighboring homes.

If you have questions or feedback, please feel free to email me or reach out to CAS Riegler through their dedicated project page.