New Park Morton Master Plan Unveiled to Community

Last night the Park Morton Development Team presented the updated Park Morton Master Plan to members of the community. The new master plan incorporates comments and feedback gathered between the first Park Morton Steering Committee meeting on October 15, 2015 and the December 12, 2015, planning workshop. The result is a plan that contains a mix of housing types over the current Park Morton and Bruce Monroe sites while creating and preserving park space at both.

Park Morton Master PlanThe meeting was composed of two parts. The first part was an overall presentation recapping the process and then presenting the new plan and how community feedback had been incorporated into the plan. The second part was made up of three breakout groups where community members could make additional comments and suggestions and ask more in depth questions.

At the Park Morton site, the master plan extends Morton Street to the east connecting it to Warder Street. A new north-south street is also proposed connecting Morton Street to Park Road. At its core is a new park. The building types along Morton Street would resemble rowhouses, though many would contain more than one living unit. The area along Park Road would contain a large apartment building that is 4-stories along Park Road and rises to 5-stories towards the rear.

Below is the basic plan:

Park Morton Master Plan PM Site

And below is a rendering of what this would look like on Morton Street, looking east toward the new park:

Morton Street Rendering

At the Bruce Monroe site, a large building would be constructed along Irving Street with the tallest section being on Georgia Avenue. The property would be split with the southern half remaining park space. A new road would be cut in to the rear and a few rowhouses would be constructed in the southwest corner along Columbia Road. One reason for dividing the property along an east-west axis was in response to community concerns over how the buildings would cast shade on the park and surrounding community.

A general idea of what the Bruce Monroe site would look like is below:

Park Morton Master Plan BM Site

And below is a rendering of what this would look like from the intersection of Georgia and Columbia Rd looking nw toward the park:

Georgia Avenue Rendering

Overall, the number of housing units would break down into roughly 200 at the Park Morton site and 275 at the Bruce Monroe site. While some questioned why the building at the Bruce Monroe site couldn’t be shorter and the buildings at Park Morton couldn’t be taller, overall the building types and density as presented are correct when considering zoning and D.C.’s Comprehensive Plan. Other aspects touched upon during the presentation included providing adequate parking by including parking garages under the large buildings and parking pads or garages for the towhouse structures; and an interest in including senior housing as part of the mix.

During the breakout session, some of the suggestions that were offered included incorporating public art at both sites, using the new Morton Street connection with Warder to create better east-west bike lanes; and a desire for a dog park.

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35 Comments on “New Park Morton Master Plan Unveiled to Community”

  1. Barry Says:

    The first broken promises from the mayor, and our council member can already be seen in this design. Less than half the park is preserved, and not all of the current park functions are being preserved (no tennis court). Also a significant park redesign leads me to believe that none of the park will remain open during construction as promised. Furthermore I am not sure how senior housing entered into the discussion, and i’m not sure what the point of inserting it into this project is. Also more units are being built than are required by the NCI program, why is that happening at the expense of park land. Also I am not sure what the point of the street is that goes trough the park. Its just a destruction of greenspace. Is there going to be street parking on that road? I hope not. So then its just a cut through to reach the underground parking entrance. Instead put entrances to the parking right on both irving and columbia, and have them run under the park, exactly where the street is in this design. Then just put a sidewalk in front of the town homes.

    Also I love in the rendering how they put a 100 year old tree and grass on the south side of columbia (where there are not tree boxes). you can also see leaves from everyones favorite tree on the east side of georgia at columbia (also doesn’t exist) I hope they are actually implementing that and not just doing it to make their rendering look better. I think we all know the answer is that it is just a marketing lie.

    The whole thing could be worse, but I’m not encouraged by this first attempt.

  2. Curious George Says:

    I agree with Barry.

  3. resident Says:

    I disagree regarding the street. I don’t want loading and parking coming off of Irving or Columbia and the additional on street parking (its shown in the plan) is a positive. What I really hope is that the park follows the grade along columbia road (terracing if necessary) so we can get rid of the nasty blank walls and crumbling mural along columbia. This will provide more visibility to the park making it safer. I certainly don’t want to see the side of a parking structure or ramps down to parking from columbia, or delivery trucks backing off Columbia or Irving all day long.

  4. Irving Street Says:

    better than I expected, but would love to know the breakdown of market/subsidized for each site.

  5. Marley Says:

    It’s amazing how many of my neighbors are totally in the dark on this and have no idea what’s happening, many being “long time residents” and others who don’t necessarily hang out on the internet all day to find meeting times and plan updates. Nothing has been distributed door to door from our ANC rep, Our Council Member, no one. The size of that building on Irving totally changes the residential nature of the neighborhood. But then again, everyone looks so happy and blissful walking around in the drawings. I’m sure that it will turn out totally like that.

    • Dave Says:

      Those of us in ANC 1A08 are fortunate to have Kent as our rep. In addition to this blog, he goes door-to-door each month to distribute a paper newsletter. I think he has done well to keep the residents of 1A08 informed.

      • Marley Says:

        That is great leadership! Paper newsletters are a great idea, especially about information as huge as this.

        It surprised me when the developers and even some news articles painted the neighborhood surrounding BM park as being mostly newby, white, rich people. The majority of the neighbors surrounding BM Park are long time residents from many cultures and backgrounds who are not informed about neighborhood news either because they do not have internet access or they do not know how to navigate it to find specific neighborhood info.

  6. Bill Says:

    So they are moving the Park Morton concentrated poverty to Bruce Monroe so they can build a bunch of market rate row houses at the old Park Morton site. Great plan.

    • Irving Street Says:

      +1 I’ve always felt that those pushing for the BM site are just trying to move the concentrated poverty from their own back yards and make it someone else’s problem. It will be interesting to see how many of the low income units will be put on the BM site.

      • Marley Says:

        I’ve seen this over and over again. Especially when people suddenly change their tune on neighborhood listservs. One person used to comment about how horrible it was to live by PM and to see kids running from gun shots and their baby daddies beating up moms and selling drugs, etc. When it was proposed that PM be moved to Bruce Monroe Park and its neighbors brought up concerns about crime, the same person would attack them as intolerant NIMBYS and all of a sudden it became such a joy to live by PM.

        At the end of the day, this proposal could turn out totally amazing or a total mess. In the meantime, I’m still waiting for the ANC survey results to be revealed. Nothing like trying to create the illusion of community input on what (I’m now told) was an already done deal.

    • Kent Says:

      For clarification, the plan is for both sites to be a mix of public, workforce, & market rate housing. Not all current residents of Park Morton will move to the Bruce Monroe location.

      • Marley Says:

        Thanks!

      • Irving Street Says:

        If BM is the ‘build first’ site, then won’t all of the residents of the current PM have to move to BM in order for development of PM to start? I can’t see the residents being forced to move twice.

      • Park View Says:

        I believe they would move twice. I don’t think they’d be “forced” to, but the whole idea is supposed to be that they can move back to Morton Street once it’s complete.

      • Kent Says:

        The build first site is intended to provide an opportunity for enough PM residents to move for the current Park Morton demolition to begin and redevelopment to occur. Not all PM residents need to move to the build first site for this to happen, and the goal is for residents to move only once. While some families may indeed choose to move twice, by staging the demolition and construction this should be minimized.

  7. columbia road res. Says:

    Nit-picky comment that I hope the architect sees. on the bruce monroe plan, elongate the southernmost rowhome to the western part of the plan so it covers the rear parking alley and make it face columbia road instead of the new road so you aren’t looking at the alley and the side of a unit from columbia. (this unit would still park from the north side) This is a very common end unit in EYAs rowhome communities and actually creates a larger unit.

  8. Irving resident Says:

    Is the city going to own these properties or are they selling them. It looks like they gonna do what they gonna do and no point in commenting on this…kinda want a private ownership is better…project will be done fast and whomever is putting up their money is going make sure they get ROI.

    • Marcus Says:

      The park space may be publicly owned (Kent is quite reasonably pushing for that in the potential disposal hearing). The buildings will be owned by the developer with a covenant on the deed that requires them to lease a certain number of units as public housing. The length of the covenant can vary, but 40 years is the normal for developments like this.

  9. Proud Park View Resident Says:

    I think a lot of people don’t realize the improvement that this project is creating to our area. Judging by a lot of the comments it seems like a lot of people would just like to eliminate affordable and public housing altogether. Guess what; that’s not going to happen. If you think it is than you should be living somewhere else.

    What people seem to fail to realize is the current Park Morton situation needs to be dealt with quick. It is dangerous to the current residents. It is a perfect hub for crime because of how blocked off it is from the rest of the community. A lot of the perpetrators of crime don’t even live in Park Morton. Many residents are good people, but lack any support to suppress crime. They also lack a decent place to live. The new proposal seeks to integrate those good families into the rest of the community and give them quality housing. This gives them the opportunity to take pride in their home and allow more oversight in what goes on in the community.

    Furthermore, the influx of new residents, which the affordable and market rate units will provide may be something to get used to. That might prove to be tough; but the new business and amenity opportunities this could bring could make the increase in population worth it. A lot of the vacant properties along Georgia Avenue will be put to use and we may start to see valuable business and resources becoming available to us.

    It’s great that we stay involved and show concern about what happens in our neighborhood. I think that will ultimately help make our neighborhood on of the most desirable in the city. However, some of the arguments against this plan seem to be contradictory to previous arguments against blight, crime, lack of amenities and overall quality of life. This plan addresses all of those concerns. There’s no perfect solution for everyone, but I can’t help to admit that this comes real close.

    People should realize what they signed go for when moving to a city, particularly this one. A city is a highly populated place that continues to grow because of the opportunities it provides. The diversity in its residents plus the convenience of walkable neighborhood amenities and cultural resources can be a great result of that. If this kind of change is too much to handle than maybe a bland version of a city like Arlington, Alexandria or Bethesda might be more to your liking. Or maybe you’d like to be able to sit in traffic on the beltway for three to four hours a day while living in a low density suburban “paradise”. I’m not trying to be condescending, but maybe there are things some of us may not have thought about enough when deciding to move here. We might want to make a big reevaluation of our choices.

    • Bill Says:

      It is clear that this project is a huge improvement for the area and especially the area immediately around Park Morton which will have market rate row houses and one medium density apartment building instead of the “perfect hub for crime.”

      It is not clear that this project is an improvement for the area around Bruce Monroe because that area will have high density public housing instead of the current park. Have we learned nothing from past experiences with high density public housing? If your answer is “but it will be mixed incomes 1/3 public, 1/3 affordable, 1/3 market” then I’d love to see what data supports the idea that people will pay market rate to live in a building that is 2/3 below market.

      • Kent Says:

        For clarification, the rowhouses will be a mix of public/workforce/market rate housing as will the buildings at the Bruce Monroe site. The development at the Bruce Monroe site is not planned to be “high density public housing”

      • K Says:

        In no way does this propose to be “high density public housing” around BM.

    • jcm Says:

      There was a really good plan to redevelop PM, that didn’t involve giving away a popular park to a private developer. Take a walk down Georgia, count the vacant buildings, and ask yourself why a neighborhood with so many vacant and blighted properties needs to develop new housing on a public park.


      • Here’s my (totally ignorant, I admit) guess: because it’s cheaper, right? DC owns the park, and it’d have to buy the GA ave spaces.

        Here’s guess #2 (also, seriously, a guess): GA ave doesn’t become the next 14th street or H St. NE if chunks of it are re-zoned residential and public housing (I’m betting the re-zoning’s a drag too). All it takes is a couple properties to divide “hot spot” from “can’t make a bar/restaurant work in that space”. Look at 18th street south of Adams Morgan, or 14th north of the Reeves center. The local economy’s hopes are probably pinned on GA Ave getting hot, right?

    • cj Says:

      Why should the person against affordable housing have to move instead of the person who cannot afford to live in Park View? Maybe if you can’t afford to live in the area “you should be living somewhere else.”

  10. Marley Says:

    “I’m not trying to be condescending, but maybe there are things some of us may not have thought about enough when deciding to move here.”

    Some of us didn’t just move here, my friend, but thanks for the whole “move to the suburbs” speech. That was really helpful. I’ll be sure to send your comments along to the rest of the neighborhood and let them know that only some of them are allowed to ask questions. The rest had better shut up or move on out!

  11. jcm Says:

    So Dante’s gets to build 275 units of housing on public land without ever having to go through the hassle of an RFP? Being a connected developer in DC has got to be the best job in the country.

    I’m glad at least the park is planned to be visible from the street, but I still think it’s a terrible plan for anyone who doesn’t live at or next to PM.

  12. Nem Says:

    The massing of the building on park road is too much. Can we not split this into three buildings spread across the entire pm site? It doesn’t have to be all row houses and all apartment building divided areas. The density is not the problem but the footprint of the apartment building is too large and not in line with city zoning given it is not on Georgia ave. place some walk up style apartment buildings on the newly created park among the row houses or use all that excess space in the southeast corner to tuck apartments in where there is an awkward gap.

    Where is the next forum or is there a website to provide feedback?

    Thanks!

  13. Nem Says:

    Also too many two story row houses. Make three stories so you can spread out the units more. Even two stories with a gabled third story would work, but it seems like wasted space to only build two story when that apartment building on park is way too large of a footprint

  14. Derek Says:

    While there are some changes that probably could and should be made to the designs, they seem like a very good first draft. They seem to have incorporated:
    a) People’s input from the previous design meetings: e.g., sun studies, Georgia Ave frontage for BM park, park space on park morton site, a mix of housing types (apartments, rowhouses), mixed income in both spaces, etc. Open/green space on Bruce Monroe site is at 50% – it’s not all consolidated into a single park, but will serve new residents as well as existing residents, and almost all of existing park functions could be maintained.
    and
    b) Keeps the feel of the pleasant plains/park view neighborhood – “high” rises (8 stories, just 1 story higher than The Avenue), on GA Ave frontage and mostly rowhouses with a 2 lower apartments on cross streets.

    But most importantly, moving this project forward will do 3 things the neighborhood(s) desperately needs:
    1) Provide more affordable housing – we’re in housing crisis in the city, and our neighborhood in particular is starting to price out low and medium wage earners. This will help keep our neighborhood diverse.
    2) Increase density and consumer power. Simply put, almost all of the vacant GA Ave frontage is privately owned by developers who are not developing because they believe they need more shoppers. This development will bring more people to the neighborhood and help drive other development.
    3) Perhaps most importantly, this will allow my(our) neighbors in the Park Morton complex to have better facilities and more options in where they live.

    While some changes to the design should be considered, this seems like a win-win-win.


  15. What are the city’s requirements for infrastructure and environmental impact? Hardscaping half of a park is going to put a significant load on the sewer/drainage system. Will Bruce-Monroe and the new Park Morton design be required to mitigate this through rainwater capture design & materials? Hines was putting something similar in place on the old convention center site.

    If the agreement is build-and-lease, there is also the opportunity to require (or incentivize) high utility efficiency. Make the builder partly liable for utility costs for 30 years (or wholly liable, in the case of a P3 project – this is done all over the country).

    To think of this project as a housing project in isolation, and not consider a) the taxpayer burden of utilties/infrastructure and b) the environmental impact beyond just counting square feet of parkland, would be too limited – especially given the scale of the project. Our property taxes would reflect the cost of our limited thinking over time.


  16. I am sick and tired about new developments being created without affordable housing for low income residents

    • raninicole Says:

      Audrey, I agree. I think that a fair number of affordable units should be a requirement of all of the large developments going up around the city. This would help minimize the concentration of poverty, and limit the need for huge concentrated projects similar to what they are planning for BM.


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