Housing Complex

Court Allows Hine School Development to Move Forward

An aerial view of the Hine site, with Pennsylvania Avenue SE cutting diagonally across the left side.

An aerial view of the Hine site, with Pennsylvania Avenue SE cutting diagonally across the left side.

The D.C. Court of Appeals today rejected arguments from neighbors against the planned 158-unit residential development on the site of the former Hine School, allowing the controversial Capitol Hill development to move forward.

A group of neighbors had appealed a March 8, 2013 decision by the Zoning Commission to approve the application of the development team, led by EastBanc Inc. and Stanton Development Corporation, for a so-called planned unit development, allowing the project to be larger than allowed under the existing zoning for the site. The neighbors raised several objections to the Zoning Commission's ruling; the court today rejected all of them.

First, the neighbors took issue with the scale of the project. The neighborhood surrounding the Hine site, on the 700 block of C Street SE near Eastern Market, consists largely of rowhouses, while the proposed project would require a change to "medium-high density" commercial-district zoning to allow for its 90-foot height (plus an extra four feet in one section to accommodate an elevator). Neighbors argued that “the PUD will be more than twice as tall and more than twice as dense” as the rest of the neighborhood, and that the Zoning Commission had not sufficiently considered this extra mass. The judges disagreed, finding that the Commission had considered it thoroughly and found no reason to disagree with the Historic Preservation Review Board's ruling that it was still compatible with the surrounding historic district.

Next, the neighbors objected to the project's commitment to affordable housing. Rather than comply with the usual inclusionary zoning requirement, the developers sought federal Low Income Housing Tax Credits to build affordable units. The court determined that they acted fully within the law, since they'll be providing more affordable units than required under IZ (29 percent of the units, as opposed to 8 to 10 percent). There was also concern over the fact that the affordable housing will be segregated in the project's North Building rather than integrated into the larger South Building, but the court noted that Stanton-EastBanc had justified the decision by demonstrating the difficulty of obtaining financing for a mixed building, and had revised its design to ensure that the quality of the affordable building is equal to that of the market-rate one.

Finally, the court found that despite neighbors' objections, Stanton-EastBanc and the Zoning Commission had followed due process, and that the city had acted properly in granting the land to Stanton-EastBanc through a competitive bidding process.

While many neighbors are upset by the planned development due largely to the height and density it'll bring to the area, the court also noted that this feeling is not universal. "Many residents, community groups, and businesses supported the project," the judges stated in their decision, "including Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B, which negotiated a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Stanton-EastBanc."

Photo from the PUD application

  • Fearing Dysphoria

    Court on citizens who object to having the modest two-story town houses on which they have been paying taxes for 30 years suddenly facing a sheer and uninspired six-story facade: "Let them eat cake."

  • Build It

    So do the naysayers take this to the Supreme Court next, just to delay it to death?

  • blabl

    If it's in historic district maybe mayors agent next.

  • Ugh

    I know it's hard to keep up with things/fit them into your worldview, but let's remember some things.

    1) They are rezoning this to C-2-C like the rest of Pennsylvania Ave is. The height of this development mostly complies with the 90 foot by-right height limit (with the elevator exception Aaron mentions). They are stepping down to meet the adjoining structures to the north of the redevelopment as well. Sure, the houses on the 300 block of 8th street are going to have some six story neighbors. But you know what. You're literally across the street from a metro station. A six-story building here is reasonable.

    2) Calling the facade uninspired? Thank the HPRB for that.

    3) Hine school is a non-contributing building to the historic district. It can get razed without HPRB or the Mayor's Agent getting involved.

  • MJ

    Slow clap for the NIMBYs for wasting the past 18 months. Their committed obstructionism should earn them a GOP seat in the House.

    Everyone has a right to have his/her opinions considered, but some people are immovable objects and should be ignored. Watching this unfold for the past several years has been farcical. What I don't understand is how anyone could prefer looking at the disgusting shell of Hine for one day longer, when it couldn't been razed years ago.

  • E. Masquinongy

    @MJ:"What I don't understand is how anyone could prefer looking at the disgusting shell of Hine for one day longer..."

    Really, nobody looks at that decrepit building.

    Living next to Hine these past few years has actually been rather pleasant. The parking lot is filled every weekend with the craft market vendors. The slab originally put down as a temporary building for Eastern Market, while it was being rebuilt after the fire, has been taken over by Frager's. They have been selling all sorts of gardening supplies.

    And there is no doubt that this new building will be two stories taller than all of the neighboring structures, indeed anything within two miles.

  • dlg

    It's across from a metro station, on Pennsylvania Ave SE, and in the middle of a large city. Thus, 6 stories, heck even 13 stories, is not too high for this site.

  • Ben

    I live 1 mile away in a 12 story building that's three blocks away from a metro - so there are buildings that are twice as tall less than two miles away from this site. But maybe the buildings in Navy Yard don't count because they're south of 395? I didn't realize that was such a defining line.

    More people want to live in the city with more square footage per person than the historic average. That means we're going to need some more floors upon which to live...this development doesn't seem unreasonable.

  • 202_Cyclist

    @MJ:

    You are exactly right. Having more housing and retail directly across from the Eastern Market metro station rather than a vacant and crumbling building is great for Capitol Hill. The delays with the Hine development remind me of the delays with the delapidated Giant on Wisconsin Avenue. In both cases, the new development will be vastly better, despite opponents fighting these for a half decade or more.

  • faye

    Considering that the crafts vendors in the Hine School's lot are one of the major weekend draws to the area will need to leave, what will the impact of their loss be?

  • Fearing Dysphoria

    DMPED thinks that a larger tax base is better for DC citizens than minimal preservation of any of these citizens' quality of life. Read it and weep.

    http://capitolhillcorner.org/2014/08/15/the-hine-project-part-1-how-it-happened-dmped-stantoneastbanc-local-politics-and-tommy-wells/

  • ACG

    @FearingDysphoria That's an editorial by a very notorious anti-business blogger. So many of those claims are factually incorrect its not worth responding to.

  • 202_Cyclist

    @faye:

    Is there any reason that the vendors can't relocate to the park next to the Eastern Market metro station?

  • 202_Cyclist

    @Ben:
    "More people want to live in the city with more square footage per person than the historic average. That means we're going to need some more floors upon which to live...this development doesn't seem unreasonable."

    You are correct. I looked on Zillow and the average home price in DC is $461,000. We need more housing-- especially in walking distance of our metro stations and the metro-rail system we've spent several billion dollars to build.

  • Will

    In response to Fearing Dysphoria, and Larry Janezich - the author of that blog, I take offense at the charges contained within it. I know several of the individuals he singles out as having some ulterior motive, being naive, or misusing their positions. This allegation couldn't be further from the truth, everyone I know who worked on this project acted in good faith to make it happen over the course of a lengthy and very inclusive public process.

    Unfortunately, the immediate neighbors wouldn't have been happy with any proposal that recognized the economic value of the land and built accordingly, and there will never be a plan that satisfies them.

    Per Larry's allegation that Stanton/East Banc are insiders who got a sweetheart deal from the city, the reason there is a short list of developers who do these city deals is that it is a nightmare to do them with a lot of risk that things fall apart. The developers price that risk accordingly, and that accounts for any discount that folks perceive on the land sales or transfers.

    The reason it's so difficult to do these public projects is the well funded community opposition that draws out projects for years and years. When comparing an all-private by-right project of similar size to Hine, I'm sure Hine had something like five times the costs to gain all the necessary entitlements, and the entitlement process itself prices risk at a premium since if you don't get certain rights to build, the project won't happen at all, and anything you invested to that point will be lost.

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