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Developer Responds to Concerns and Clarifies Plans for 11th and Rhode Island Ave, NW

11th and Rhode Island Ave, NW

“Dear PoPville,

While we usually try to stay out of the blogosphere commentary, I felt compelled to simply clarify the facts and circumstances of our project and the vision we are trying to execute.  Also, I would like everyone reading to understand that we are local residents and tenants as well.  The majority of our team (including the owners) live within blocks of this site and our corporate offices are located literally across the street.  We have completed 3 projects in the neighborhood in the last 2 years and fully embrace and appreciate the balance of great design, appropriate scale and community impacts – which I believe our previous approval processes represent well – we always attempt to garner as much neighborhood feedback as possible.  The bottom line is that in these relatively tight urban sites, the 50 year old zoning regulations are not always contemplative (that would be impossible) of every possible building design or scope that makes a project both physically and financially viable.  And while I wish our requested variances were giving us some sort of financial windfall, they are not.  We are simply trying to develop a high–quality neighborhood asset that is financially viable and works within the unique site constraints, shape and environmental issues that exist there today.
Below is a summary of the questions looming by the community, which hopefully at least provide some factual clarification as to our plans:
  • Project Scope
    • Unit Count – 30–40 Units (not 40-50 as stated online).  We will likely end up with 36-38.
    • Retail – 2500–2900 SF.  This will be a single retail user, not 2 retailers.
      • NOTE:  It is important to understand that retail in this location is financially negative.  We CHOSE to add retail to the corner because we believe it makes for a better project and “Place”.  The 11th Street corridor is lined with little retail, yet has a great location for neighborhood serving uses (think Café/Bistro with umbrellas, etc).  If we were to build a 100% residential project, we would make more money in the short run, but we believe that this important corner deserves to a real anchor for this part of the neighborhood and is perfectly positioned between the 14th Street and 9th Street corridors, which are getting all the attention.
    • Height – 50′ and in compliance.  This is the same height as most multi-family buildings in the surrounding area.
  • Environmental Remediation 
    • Like many urban sites, this site has environmental contamination, which we knew about well before going under contract to purchase the property.  We are very experienced with these types of sites and have been working with the various regulatory bodies in order to develop a remediation plan – we are close to getting those approvals.  We will be remediating the property per all applicable laws, regulations and our plans will be vetted by the DC Government.  An example of this is our recent project at 1250 9th Street, NW – which had a similar level of contamination – which quite frankly is on the very low end of the scale vs. MAJOR HazMat type issues.  That being said, the cost of this remediation is significant and does effect decision making on the project.
  • Variances (we will present our burden of proof arguments this evening, but below are the basics of the practical reasons why we are requesting our 4 variances)
    • Parking
      • This is obviously the most sensitive issue in the neighborhood.  The facts are as follows:
        • We have maximized the amount parking that will physically fit on a single level of parking.  This has nothing to do with adding units, environmental contamination, etc.  The site is an odd shape, with alley access (which is required by DDOT) and we have done the best we can.
        • Is a second level possible? – yes, technically, but would make the project unviable financially and more importantly, due to the inefficient site layout, we would only add about 4-5 spaces due to the fact that the zoning required drive aisles would eat substantially into the existing parking configuration.
        • Developer Opinion – with 14 spaces (we believe we have added one since our BZA submission), we believe that this is more than adequate to serve demand that this building will create.  We are all bikers, walkers, etc and while we appreciate the concern if we were asking for NO PARKING, we believe our parking ratio will likely meet the demand.  And we agree with OP that the old minimum parking regulations are appropriate for today’s urban lifestyle.  That being said, we are conducting a parking study by a 3rd Party Traffic and Transportation Consultant to confirm these assumptions.
    •  FAR and Lot Occupancy
      • This will hopefully make more sense this evening with visuals, but we are NOT asking for more “saleable/leasable” density.  The additional FAR and Lot Occupancy 100% relates to our parking garage (ironically the Catch 22 of the debate above).  There is a courtyard design, which due to clearance issues for the required Handicap Van in our garage, the “roof” of the garage is technically “above-grade” by a matter of a few feet, which triggers it to both count as FAR and Lot Occupancy.  This “roof” will be a vegetative green roof, which 1) helps us achieve the new Stormwater Management requirements 2) Green Area Ratio requirements 3) Reduces noise, car exhaust, pollution 4) Is a more pleasant visual appearance for our building and neighbors and 5) is simply a better building design.
      • Options:
        • No Roof on Garage – we could simply remove the roof outlined above and be in compliance.  Again, like the retail, we are attempting to spend more money to “do the right thing”.
        • Design As-Is – to create a better and more sustainable design.
    • Penthouse Setback
      • While this one has not been for debate, this issue is solely relating to existing physical conditions.  We will be in 100% compliance with the required 1:1 Setback on both the 11th Street and Rhode Island Ave frontage (which are the areas which will really impact the scale of the building), but on the courtyard side we don’t have enough depth in the design of the building to achieve a viable penthouse with compliant stairs, access, etc.
We look forward to seeing everyone this evening and I hope that this clarifies the facts of the project.  And while we certainly will continue to work with the ANC, neighbors and OP to finalize the plans – we generally hope that people will believe that this project will serve as a great addition to the neighborhood and we welcome their support.  Please do not hesitate to reach out to our team this evening and we are happy to listen to and all concerns related to the project.
Kevin Riegler & the 1101 Rhode Island Project Team”

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