Housing Complex

Four Potential Futures of the Gateway to Mount Vernon Triangle

The Akridge proposal for the city-owned site at 5th and I streets NW.

The Akridge proposal for the city-owned site at 5th and I streets NW

At the corner of 5th and I streets NW sits a vacant lot that will soon be transformed into what's been called the "gateway" to the Mount Vernon Triangle Neighborhood. Last night, neighbors packed into the trailer that serves as the Mount Vernon Community Improvement District offices and caught a glimpse of the future of that valuable city-owned site.

Or rather, four possible versions of the future: a residential building with a rooftop pool and daycare center, a hotel with a dog spa, a mixed-use complex with a Yes! Organic Market and a BicycleSpace, and an office building with a YMCA.

The city announced earlier this month that it had short-listed four development teams out of 10 applicants to develop the small but central site, currently used as a parking lot. The city was seeking a combination of apartments or condos and retail, with an affordable housing component. And yet only two of the four potential development plans conform with those wishes, with the other two shortlisted nonetheless, says city project manager Ivan Matthews, on the strength of the proposals.

The first presentation came from the developer Akridge, which has developed more than a dozen D.C. properties and is planning a major overhaul of Union Station. Akridge's proposal, perhaps the most conventional of the four, calls for a 13-story residential building with 187 market-rate units and 21 affordable units atop 8,000 square feet of retail. Half of the retail would be market retail; the other half would go to a daycare center and a community space. The property would also feature a rooftop pool and a small courtyard.

An aerial view of the Akridge proposal, designed by architect Philip Esocoff.

An aerial view of the Akridge proposal, designed by architect Philip Esocoff

A rendering of the retail space in the Akridge proposal.

A rendering of the retail space in the Akridge proposal

Next up was the Peebles Corporation, the largest African-American-owned development company in America, which proposed a 13-story building with a 198-room hotel operated by Standard International. In addition, CEO R. Donahue Peebles said, the building would contain 59 residences, and the company would build 100 units of off-site affordable housing in Anacostia. Peebles said his team is working to bring a dog spa into the retail space. He pitched the hotel concept as one that would bring the city $8 million in annual tax revenue, which he said was $6 million more than a non-hotel use would generate—something the city will surely consider in evaluating the proposals.

Peebles presents his proposal.

Peebles presents his hotel proposal

The Peebles hotel proposal.

The Peebles hotel proposal

The JBG Companies, which are slowly taking over the U Street NW area with an ever-growing number of developments there, proposed a 271-unit residential building with units ranging from studios to increasingly rare three-bedrooms, and with 27 affordable units. The plan also includes a Yes! Organic Market, the local grocer that has opened stores in underserved neighborhoods, and a BicycleSpace, the bike store that was located in Mount Vernon Triangle before moving to 7th Street NW, as well as an independent coffee shop. The JBG proposal features an interior courtyard open to the street, with free public Wi-Fi.

jbg1

The JBG proposal

Retail in the JBG proposal.

Retail in the JBG proposal

Finally, a partnership of Trammell Crow and CSG Urban Partners pitched a 12-story office building, with 11 floors of office above ground-floor retail. Although D.C.'s office market has struggled recently while the residential market has boomed, the developers argued that office creates the most value for the city, allowing them to offer the most money for the site—something that has helped win over the city on other public-land dispositions. Among the ground-floor uses would be a 2,500-square-foot YMCA daycare center, which could also serve as a community space on the weekends and evenings, in addition to 7,500 square feet of other retail. CSG worked on the Anthony Bowen YMCA that recently opened on W Street NW.

A rendering of the proposed YMCA.

A rendering of the proposed YMCA

The Trammell Crow/CSG building in the snow.

The Trammell Crow/CSG building in the snow

All four proposals include improvements to the two small parks across the street from the site, Seaton Park and Milian Park. The neighbors "really wanted to see a park," Matthews said, but the city couldn't sacrifice the economic development potential of the site to convert all or part of it to park space. Instead, the city is working with the National Park Service to turn those two federally owned parks over to the District. Currently, the two parks are "underutilized," Matthews says; they're mostly just empty grass. The development proposals all involve bringing new functions, such as playgrounds, dog parks, and event spaces, to the parks.

Akridge's vision of a park straddling I Street, which could be closed periodically for events.

Akridge's vision of a park straddling I Street, which could be closed periodically for events.\

The process for developing the 5th and I site is already well behind schedule. "We were supposed to have selected a development team by now," Matthews said. "However, we received more proposals than we anticipated." The city now hopes to select a development team by spring.

Renderings courtesy of Esocoff, JBG, the Office of the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development, and Trammell Crow; photo by Aaron Wiener

Comments

  1. #1

    The JBG proposal seems the best overall.

    Peebles probably thinks he has the process wired, so a strong searhlight and disinfectant will need to be applied to any down-selection by the DC government of his proposal. Moreover, there's something that just stinks about locating the affordable housing away from downtown and sticking it "across the river" while making room for a doggie day spa.

  2. #2

    "Moreover, there's something that just stinks about locating the affordable housing away from downtown and sticking it "across the river" while making room for a doggie day spa."

    ^ Yes!

  3. #3

    "Moreover, there's something that just stinks about locating the affordable housing away from downtown and sticking it "across the river" while making room for a doggie day spa."

    I would agree with you on Peebles plan if his submission was a pure apartment or condo project. But it's a boutique hotel. You can't elegantly shoehorn affordable housing into that concept. While he is putting some condos into his mix it will be the kind with astronomical condo fees paying for hotel type services. An affordable housing tenant wouldn't want condo fees anywhere near that stratosphere...

  4. #4

    The optics of the Peebles bid seem pretty bad! The affordable housing requirement is to prevent the displacement of low income and workforce households from gentrifying neighborhoods in the city. The idea that you only need to offset these requirements buy locating another parcel across the river to build the affordable housing on isn't exactly consistent with the spirit of the city's affordable housing initiatives. Why not located another parcel near the actual proposed development?

    It will also set a bad precedence as the city continues to develop. It will signal to other developers that they can get around building affordable housing into developments by locating the affordable requirement across the river. Isn't this exactly what DC is trying to avoid?

  5. #5

    The Peebles Parcel in Anacostia is on MLK avenue a few blocks from the Anacostia metro. Is it not better to have 100 offsite affordable units by metro than the roughly 20 the other residential bids are offering at 5th and I? It's debatable. But I fail to see how the 100 next to a metro are insulting... not to mention the hospitality jobs the hotel will create for "unskilled" labor...

  6. #6

    NO NO NO to the Trammell Crow office plan. DC already has way way too much space taken up by soul crushing glass office buildings. We need an vibrant mixed use urban core, not an urban office park. Keep the DT office blob from infecting the one last place left in central DC to build residential. Turn the 8-12 story office boxes into 12-16 story office boxes if we need more office space, but don't waste more of our precious urban real estate.

  7. #7

    @Paul. As a soon-to-be-resident of a mixed income development close to the Anacostia metro, I can attest to the fact that there is already a lot of affordable housing close to that metro. Sheridan Station already has some and will include many, many more. Anacostia needs more residents with higher incomes to attract retailers. I would like to see any location close to the metro that isn't already affordable housing put to better economic use, say mixed-income or (please God) market rate housing (which in Anacostia would be more affordable than just about anywhere in DC).

  8. #8

    @ Darin,

    Market-rate housing won't bring wealthy people to Anacostia. Nothing will actually, except the long process of gentrification. That doesn't happen in a day--nor would you want it to. It's a ruthless process that needs to be channeled carefully to win the benefits it brings while preventing the harm that it has the potential to cause.

    Affordable housing at, say, 60%-80% affordability would only be affordable to solidly middle-class individuals and families. That includes some artists, people at good career jobs, and educated young people who work on the Hill or nonprofits, who have some disposable income.

    If they move in, businessfolk will start to develop higher-end retail and food, which will draw more wealth. It will also drive investment by the developers. And by the city, because they city tends to neglect places when they don't have developers clamoring to go there. (Which is the opposite of what they should do, but so it goes.)

    Developers don't get subsidies for market-rate housing, and "market-rate" in Anacostia doesn't generate high rents. So developers aren't generally willing to invest in market-rate right now--and if they were, they wouldn't attract more wealthy people. The real choice for now is affordable housing or no new housing.

    And remember, once people start moving in there will start to be a problem with the negative effects of gentrification. The groundwork needs to be laid now to keep people from getting pushed out, while it is still cost-effective to do so.

  9. #9

    One important thing that Anacostia residents protesting "affordable housing" should keep in mind is that "market rate housing" in Anacostia is "affordable housing" by metropolitan standards. Under DC's inclusionary zoning law, a 1-BR renting for $1,720/month is "affordable"; that's much higher than the median rent of $1,100 in the 20020 ZIP.

    The Standard Hotel does have a great product -- their hotels in downtown LA and over the High Line have quite the scene -- but I can see them signing a deal elsewhere.

    That Akridge rendering shows something that should happen all the time across the city, and perhaps be made permanent (as in NYC and LA). The little triangle parks could be made much larger and more useful by closing one of the adjacent streets, which DC already controls.

  10. #10

    OK so if the Peebles proposal is so insulting, then choose one of the other three. Nothing happens east of the river. Who wins?

    What's really insulting is the slant of the article that implies, 'See they want a doggie spa for the rich folks, but keep the poor folks far far away!' which is blatant hogwash - since the spa is in a commercial space that wouldn't otherwise be residential. (Will they have a dry cleaners too? Does that mean the developer thinks poor folks don't want clean clothes?) Obviously the residential aspect will be much bigger than any one slot devoted to one commercial use.

  11. #11

    JBG is the clear winner. Yes! Organic + BicycleSpace = local jobs & niehgborhood amenities. Free public WiFi is the cherry on top.

  12. #12

    The Peebles proposal to put 100 affordable units "off site" is absurd.

  13. #13

    No architecture prizes amidst the applicants.

  14. #14

    The city's interests in projects of this scale go beyond maximization of tax revenue. Both shared siting of "affordable" and market rate housing and the provision of public green space -- including tree boxes designed to allow deciduous trees to reach the maturity depicted in the Akridge sketch -- should be mandatory for projects this large at this kind of desirable location.

  15. #15

    Curious: how did people respond to these proposals? It seems strange to open the story with the visual of people packing in to see them, and then not have a single response? Am I missing something?

    And yeah, screw Peebles. I'm fine with affordable housing here east of the river; I know that's normal peoples' middle-income here in DC. The notion of splitting it off from the site of the proposed building completely undermines the idea of mixed-income neighborhoods, which used to be abundant and vibrant in DC, and which seem to be going the way of the dodo...

  16. #16

    @Jorge: I agree with you that 60-80% of AMI would bring a demographic with significantly more disposable income than the average Anacostia resident. Most of the proposals I have seen for new affordable housing in Anacostia call for income levels significantly lower than that: more like 30-50%. I don't know that I completely agree that building more market rate housing won't bring wealthier people. I am a federal attorney buying a market rate condo in Sheridan Station and at least one of my new neighbors is a young corporate lawyer in the 200k income range. Neither of us, obviously, qualified for the workforce housing, but did not like what we would get for our money anywhere else in the district with such close proximity to a metro station.

  17. #17

    Jorge, excellent analysis and the sooner my fellow neighbors realize that, the more our plight will improve.

    I've heard too many of us cheerleading the "no more affordable housing" cause but fail to consider that even w/the amount of vacant "affordable" housing currently EOTR, people are not flocking to fill them. And the idea that "wealthy" people will come is more of a wish than something that will realistically happen.

    EOTR has too many local issues we needs to address before we're even at the point where newcomers will consider it a destination at levels comparable to other parts (WOTR) of the city. The most I see us able to do right now is continuing to build more Sheridan-like communities that will attract the those able to afford the higher rents/mortgages.

  18. Capital City Records Panhandler
    #18

    Have to have a place to put folks from Da Farmz

  19. #19

    If Peeble's proposal uses LIHTC for the affordable housing, tenants can earn no higher than 60% of AMI. At that level, the max rent on a 1-BR is 1284; on a 2-BR, it's 1605. That's not much different than current market rate in Anacostia, which the DC Housing Choice Voucher Program calculates as 1219 on a 1-BR and 1407 on a 2-BR. So in other words, it wouldn't do much to improve the income mix of Anacostia residents, which is what most people there are asking for.

    If he's proposing to use DC's IZ program, he can go up to 80% of AMI which could make a dent in improving the income mix. But I thought IZ was for mixed income projects where most of the units are market rate and a small percentage, at least 8%, are affordable. It sounded like his Anacostia proposal was for 100% affordable, which makes it more likely to be LIHTC.

    Either way, as several previous posters have noted the income segregation he's proposing is a bad idea and would set a really bad precedent.

  20. #20

    Trammell Crow's office building provides the best pedestrian solution. The design opens up the corner to create a real gateway at 5th and I streets where they cut the building away at first and second floor. Their office building only puts 11 levels above the ground floor retail level, whereas the other 3 residential solutions cram 13 levels above the ground floor retail, which I suspect will make the ground floor retail space that we get to experience as pedestrians in the reseidntial schemes feel like you are being crushed. Low ceilings in a deep dark floor plate. Not good.

    Trammell Crow also is the only solution who brought the Y to the table as a willing tenant to run the community and day care space, and they provided upgrades to three parks. Nobody has signed leases, so the prefered retail could wind up in any solution. Don't get sold on the promise of some retailer on JBG scheme or any scheme. Need to ask who provides the best retail space, street scape, corner experience, public amenities? I think Trammell Crow does.

    office will activate this block during the day, something the neighborhood needs as it is dead with oversaturatation of residential. The mix of office will create the true mixed use environment we need at this important corner, plus I think Trammell presented the best monetary offer to the City ... ie the community.

    Richard

  21. #21

    From a purely aesthetic point of view, I think the JBG proposal is the most attractive looking of the options.

  22. #22

    Aaron - can you verify the story behind the names given to those two federal triangles? I can't find any definitive sources on those names. They're on Google Maps, but anyone can get a label placed on Google Maps. Thanks!

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