Housing Complex

It’s Finally Time for Jemal’s Babes

Babe's is back. (Shalom Baranes)

As the Washington Business Journal reported last week, Douglas Development is moving forward again on the long-troubled Babe's Billiards site in Tenleytown: Five floors of apartments with ground floor retail on the corner of Wisconsin and Brandywine Street NW, which will replace a one-story commercial building. Read all about it in their application to the Zoning Commission here.

  • DC Guy

    Wow, this should be fun to watch. Who wants to take odds on the opposition:

    5:1 traffic will be worse
    3:1 we won't be able to park our cars
    2:1 There might be an AU student living there

    Even odds: all of the above.

  • Anon2

    Jemal should have presented plans for a 9 story building and watch heads explode all up and down Wisconsin ave. Then he could've "scaled back" to 5 stories and gotten through with less opposition.

    Also, you forgot "what about the children!!!" as an effective concern. Clearly a big building like that will be just too scary.

  • Fong Fong

    You must have read the letter to the editor in the Northwest Current, written by the guy who owns the Animal Hospital next door. See page 9: http://www.currentnewspapers.com/admin/uploadfiles/NW%2008.31.11%201.pdf

  • mike

    Yeh "DC Guy" just like how traffic/shortage of parking suddenly jumped when they built Harrison apartments in Friendship Heights. How dare they consider putting dense housing near a metro stop. (sarcasm)

  • Sue

    This property's been on the tax sale list twice since Jemal bought it. It's currently on the vacant property tax list with an exemption. Odds are the PUD application is just a way of delaying the imposition of the penalty rate. If he gets the PUD, it doesn't commit him to build the building -- it just exempts him (or whomever he sells or loses the property to) from the usual zoning limits/requirements for a couple of years (and more if renewed). And it increases the value of the lot.

    Jemal doesn't have the $$ to build here. Two MOR projects (the Harrison and the one next to Dancing Crab) have been built in the area since he took over and a number of retail spaces have been leased (Public Tenley, Kellogg Collection, Panera, Sears Appliance Center) in about the same timeframe so it's not a market problem. It's Jemal-specific, as his trail of tax defaults and vacant properties throughout the city suggests.

  • DC Guy

    So are you saying the Harrison and the development next to the Dancing Crab (as well as the TD Bank) are paragons of excellence because they are matter-of-right?

    If that is the case, then let's all pack it in and be on our merry crappy-architecture-and-non-amenity way!

  • RT

    Sue- Jemal has plenty of money now. He just sold a plot in Mt Vernon Triangle for $63M. And he re-fi'd an office building downtown. He may not be flush with cash, but he could sell any number of valuable assets and use the proceeds to build all sorts of projects if he so desired.

    The PUD is not a delay tactic. It is happening. That said, he damn well better pay his taxes.

  • Sue

    And plenty of projects. No reason to believe Babe's is front of the line. The Mt Vernon deal does represent a recent infusion of cash, but if the office re-fi you're talking about is the one he did last year (950 F St) it didn't keep him off the tax sale and vacant property lists again this year. Back when he did that re-fi WBJ said he had 19 stalled projects. Presumably he'd prioritize projects that have the potential to yield more revenue (and yield revenue more quickly) than a 60 unit condo building in T'town that requires a PUD. At this point, he's just treading water and trying to hold onto what he's got.

  • Sue

    Re The Harrison -- what I was saying was just what I said -- it's not market forces that account for the failure to develop the Babe's site over the last 2.5 years -- it's Jemal's financial situation.

    And if your concern is good design and amenities, Jemal's not offering either. He wants to double the density of the site and have parking and residential loading requirement waived. What's in it for the community? Thus far, it seems to be the hope the site will be reactivated but, of course, the PUD doesn't require that the project be built.

  • http://tsarchitect.nsflanagan.net/ цarьchitect

    So, if this is a trick, OP and the ANC grant 2 years of permission to a developer, and we lose a few years of tax revenue. If it's a genuine effort, and we fight it, we might be losing vast amounts tax revenue through property, retail, and income taxes. The goal should be to permit the PUD with a mechanism to hold Jemal to his word.

    I'm also doubtful of the idea that Jemal would pay architect's and consultant's fees for just a ploy. Baranes isn't cheap.

  • DC Guy

    Design is in the eye of the beholder.

    Otherwise, what you are looking at is another 60 units of taxpaying citizens plus whatever taxes the retail yield to the city. Add the property tax revenues for each of the units and it is a pretty tidy sum coming to the city coffers on an annual basis.

    What's not to like?

  • Sue

    Zero parking and no loading for 60 condos?

    Not clear re taxpaying citizens -- depends on who moves in (not all DC residents are DC taxpayers) and where they would have lived elsewhere (often someplace else in DC).

  • Build it Now

    Yes, Sue, zero parking for 60 condos. This is in a walkable area, almost right above the metro station, and is well served by the 30s buses.

    Subterranean parking costs $40,000 per space. Requiring Douglas Development to provide parking based on suburban travel patterns and not reflective of having the metro directly across the street will raise the costs of these units, making them unaffordable to many people who'd like to live in Tenley (isn't this really your goal, preserving your little sweet deal you have and preventing more people from moving here?).

    Like any other good or service in our economy, increasing the supply of parking will also lead to more driving and more congestion. If you want to limit the amount of traffic in Tenley, limit the amount of amount off-street parking and charge market-based prices for both curbside and off-street spaces.

  • Build it Now

    It's also laughable the usual opponents of any change panic over a six-story building with 60 units right on Wisconsin Avenue, one of the region's busiest roads. There are over 18,000 daily riders on the 30s buses, hundreds of thousands of daily trips on the Red line, and thousands of cars per hour on Wisconsin Avenue. 60 additional units is not going to make one bit of difference on this already major corridor.

    If you're concerned that you won't be able to find a parking space directly in front of your house, you should be advocating higher meter rates to encourage turnover of spaces and increasingly higher Residential Parking Permit (RPP) fees for second vehicles.

  • mike

    Well said "build it now" people always fear density even when its in the most logical location.

  • Steph

    I am so tired of the same old saw about building on WI Ave will bring more traffic. YOU LIVE IN A CITY for gosh sake. If you want less density, move to Potomac.

    I will tell you that people that are moving into these spaces do not want cars. 37% of District residents don't have cars. Just because when you and I were young, many moons ago, and we wanted cars, does not mean that is the way it is today. There is a developement at Thomas Circle with only 3 parking spaces. Please get into the 21st Century Sue, and realize this is not the 1950's. It is people like you that keeps Tenelytown ugly and not much of a draw.

  • MS

    To consider whether it is realistic to assume that residents of this project will own no vehicles, we can look at a census tract less than one mile to the north. Approximately 90% of the residents live in apartments or condominiums, most in large buildings, 64% in studios or one-bedroom units. They are all a short walk to Metro and shopping, and in addition, there is a free (seven day a week) shuttle bus that runs between all of the apartment buildings and the Metro, the bus terminal, Whole Foods, Giant and the Village Center.

    Census data shows that there are 0.98 vehicles per occupied housing unit, with 1.22 vehicles per owner-occupied unit and 0.8 vehicles per occupied rental unit. 21.6% of the households have no vehicle (and 78.4% of the households have at least one vehicle). For owner-occupied units, 11.8% have no vehicle and 88.2% have at least one vehicle. For occupied rental units, 29% of the households have no vehicle, but 71% of the households have at least one vehicle.

    This area, less than a mile away, would seem to be ideal for a car-free lifestyle, and yet nearly 80% of the households have at least one vehicle, and there is an average of nearly one vehicle per household. Is there a reason to assume that the residents of this project would be that different from their neighbors less than a mile to the north?

  • DC Guy

    Only because you say so. Thanks for the information.

    I believe that if a developer thinks it will make their development more marketable to include 1-2 parking spots per unit, and think the customer base is willing to pay for it, they should go ahead and build that parking. If not, there is no reason for them to pay for it, or have potential new residents pay for it if they are not going to use it.

    Why do you think someone will necessarily want a unit with parking if no is available? Simply ask that RPP restrictions be part of the PUD approval and move on.

  • Sue

    Wow, Steph, gotta love your ad hominem approach. I don't know who you are and apparently you don't know me since I've never wanted or owned a car in my life. I know that in 2000 37% of DC households were carless (mine was one of them). That said, if you'd looked at that data at the neighborhood level, you'd see there was a high correlation between poverty and car-lessness. And if you look at car-ownership stats in comparable Metro-accessible buildings in and near T'town (as MS had), you'd see that it's utterly unrealistic to assume that none of the 60 households in a new building at the Babe's site would own any cars.

  • DC Guy

    2000 was a long time ago in both years and philosophy.

  • MS

    The census data that I provided is from 2005-2009, the most recent available. It shows that, on average, residents of a high density, walkable neighborhood near a Metro, bus depot, shopping, two major supermarkets, restaurants, movies and other amenities, less than one mile from the Babes site, own approximately one vehicle per household, even though 21.6% of the households own no vehicle.

    Douglas Development is asking that the requirement of one space for every two units be waived (a requirement that probably wouldn’t accommodate all the residents’ vehicles) and that he be allowed to provide no off street parking for the residents.

  • Sue

    re "if this is a trick...."

    All I'm saying is don't give away the store (e.g. all parking and loading) on the assumption that what you get in exchange is a new building on that site ASAP. Most likely what the neighborhood gets in exchange for agreeing to the PUD is 3 more years of Jemal being exempt from economic pressure (in the form of the vacant property tax rate) that would compel him to make something happen (redevelopment or re-sale) at this site specifically.

    Thus far, what's been produced is pretty much boilerplate -- not serious design work.

  • DC Guy

    I checked the Tenleytown neighborhood e-group. Sue and MS have provided many of the same arguments. The most recent, the addition of 30 new cars parking on city streets is enough to oppose this development proposal.

    So, there you have it. If it makes it harder for me to park in front of my house (Sue's carlessness notwithstanding) then it is enough to try to derail a multimillion dollar investment in the District, with retail, property and income tax benefits to the city.


  • Sue

    I haven't said anything about opposing the project -- just opposing the waiver of the requirement that one parking space be provided for every 2 residential units. I also think it's problematic not to have any loading dock for the residential component. I'm not opposed to Jemal (or anyone) redeveloping the site.

  • DC Guy

    So if Jemal decided to build 30-60 parking spaces, you would not be opposed to the project?

  • Sue

    Basically, I'm opposed to people misrepresenting what I've said elsewhere, as you did.

    Re the project itself, I'm not particularly invested either way. I just think that any agreement between the neighborhood and Jemal should be based on informed consent and that includes the realization that, in exchange for giving Jemal everything he asks for, we don't get any guarantee he'll build anything soon and that experience tells us that upscale multifamily residential units near Metro will include a substantial number of households with cars and parking needs.

  • DC Guy

    That makes no sense whatsoever.

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