“What we are objecting to is the size, density and scope of the project”

4618 14th Street, NW photo by PoPville

“Dear PoPville,

We are writing in response to the Dance Loft on 14/Heleos press release that was circulated on PoPville on April 11, 2022. We represent a group of 16th St Heights neighbors who are opposed to this development as currently proposed. We’re writing this letter to clarify that our objection to this project has been mischaracterized. We are not objecting to affordable housing. What we are objecting to is the size, density and scope of the project:

the 75 plus foot height of the building
the width of the building coming to within 10 feet of the fence line for some residents
the encroachment into the alley width
the impact on the neighborhood street parking
the displacement of six small businesses

What many people don’t realize is that Dance Loft on 14/Heleos proposes to build on the entire lot of the alley which extends from 14th Street on the east to right behind the row houses on 15th Street to the west, and from Crittendon Street on the north to Buchanan Street on the south. This is not simply a tall building on a major thoroughfare. Dance Loft on 14/Heleos want to increase the current zoning from MU-3 to MU-5. This means that instead of keeping their development to 40′ per zoning, they’re proposing to build to a height of 75’4″ when you include the penthouse, plus an additional 6’6″ of rooftop enclosures for utilities. This requires significant zoning exceptions from what is currently permitted in the area. This proposed six-story structure will tower over the existing row homes, significantly impacting light, air and privacy for these homes.

Parking is also an issue in our neighborhood. The developer has not included sufficient parking in the plan. They are seeking relief from the DCMR rule to provide only 40 parking spaces instead of the required 55 which seems far less than needed. The developer submitted a study to DDOT which appears not to have considered that the Metro Bus Barn is currently closed for renovations. When that facility is operational, the demands on street parking is much higher – adding 101 units will severely curtail availability of street parking–the only option available to most of the current residents.

Another concern of the proposed Dance Loft on 14/Heleos project is that they are narrowing already narrow alleyways, making it more challenging (potentially impossible) for current residents to access rear entrances and parking, complicating trash pick-up, and risking significant congestion. Reduced privacy is also a significant concern.

Lastly, the neighborhood is committed to our small businesses, and we use them frequently. Six will be displaced as a result of this redevelopment. We have yet to hear a satisfactory plan for ensuring their continuing viability.

Over the years, through consultations around the Small Area Plan and the redevelopment of the Metro Bus Barn on 14th between Buchanan and Decatur, we have continually expressed support for affordable housing in the neighborhood. The Small Area Plan, in fact, originally called for 2 or 3 stories of residential space (including affordable housing units) in the current Dance Loft space–we supported that proposal. And we voiced our desire to have the Metro Bus Barn converted to residential space, including affordable housing.

We recognize this is an emotional issue for all involved. Affordable housing is needed in Washington, DC. We are not unsympathetic, however in conversation after conversation with the Dance Loft on 14/Heleos partnership and our ANC, we have found ourselves struggling to be heard. From the first meeting we attended with Dance Loft on 14/Heleos when we first learned about the size, scale and density of their proposed structure, we have let them know it was too big for 16th Street Heights. Most of your audience has seen what pop-ups do to the character of a neighborhood. Who has not driven down a street of row homes and felt jarred by the site of one structure that towers above all of the homes around it – it changes the character of blocks and the city itself. This proposed development dwarfs those pop ups in comparison, doubling the height of the homes around it.

We have asked time and time again that Dance Loft on 14/Heleos offer a scaled down version of the same project which we could support. Unfortunately, there has been no attempt at compromise which is upsetting, and their reasoning remains that their financial numbers don’t work if they don’t build at the size and scale that they have proposed; essentially “our way or the highway”. There could be a middle ground here, but someone has to be willing to sit down and discuss options with us seriously, as committed stakeholders, concerned with the future of our neighborhood.  

Friends of 14th Street”

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