Zoning Cases Filed for Park Morton Development Effort

On May 13th and 16th, Park View Community Partners filed two zoning cases with their plans to redevelop the aging Park Morton Housing Complex as a new mixed-income community. These plans focus on two sites in the Park View neighborhood. The first is the existing Park Morton public housing site centered at the 600 block of Morton Street, NW. The second is the former Bruce Monroe School site at Georgia Avenue between Irving and Columbia Road which has served the community as a temporary park since 2010. After delays and uncertainty, the selection of Park View Community Partners as the new Park Morton development team in the fall of 2014, and months of community meetings beginning in the fall of 2015, the efforts to redevelop Park Morton has new life and strong promise.

Perspective from northeast(Rendering of proposed buildings at Georgia Avenue and Irving Street, from Zoning submission by Park View Community Partners.)

According to the zoning cases filed in May, the overall development plan is to replace the existing 174 public housing units at Park Morton with approximately 456 units of mixed income housing spread across the two sites – 273 units at the Georgia and Irving site and 183 at the existing Park Morton site. The replacement of the public housing units includes a commitment for current Park Morton residents to remain in the community by moving into new units across both sites as they are constructed in phases.

Due to the complexity and scale of the development effort – and the filing of two separate zoning cases – this post will focus on the redevelopment of the property at Georgia and Irving Street with a follow up post on the plans for the Park Morton site.

Efforts to redevelop the Park Morton housing community date to 2005, when it was identified as one of four communities that would be rebuilt as part of the New Communities Initiative – a District effort to convert public-housing developments into larger, mixed-income communities. Since then, moving the redevelopment effort forward has had its challenges. The first Park Morton development team – Landex Corporation and its District-based development partner the Warrenton Group – was successful in building The Avenue, which was completed in 2012 and contains 83 affordable housing units including 27 replacement units for Park Morton residents. Yet Landex’s inability to secure additional “build first” development sites resulted in the District terminating their agreement with Landex in early 2014 as the Park Morton developer, leaving the future in limbo.

In two separate meetings I held with Landex Corp. in January and October of 2013, I learned first-hand about the difficulties they were facing in securing property to continue the Park Morton development effort, and the District’s lack of support to assist in solving the problem of identifying development sites. With the change in developers the District also has changed their approach to site selection and identified the former Bruce-Monroe school site as the Park Morton “build first” site after a New Communities Initiative (NCI) review of available parcels near Park Morton in the summer of 2015. NCI’s selection of the temporary park at Georgia and Irving is not surprising. I came to a similar conclusion in November 2013 after my meetings with Landex earlier that year.

Some of the factors that make the Georgia Avenue site an attractive “build-first” site include:

  • The site is already owned by the District;
  • No District agency has expressed an interest in using it;
  • The site is in close proximity to the existing Park Morton site;
  • The site is 77,531 sq. ft., or approximately 1.8 acres, making it one of the largest available sites in the area; and,
  • The Georgia Avenue half of the site is zoned C-2-A (commercial) which allows and encourages higher density. This is unlike the existing Park Morton site which is zoned for three story rowhouse development.

Not surprisingly, the selection of the Georgia Avenue parcel has not been without its critics. Among the concerns expressed during the community engagement process are:

  • The proposed development will be too dense;
  • The proposed development will be too tall;
  • The development will destroy the green space/park/community garden;
  • The development will have a negative impact on traffic; and,
  • The development will have too much affordable housing, especially at the lower end of the range.

After months of community/ANC/Steering Committee meetings and planning workshops, the development plan for the site at Georgia and Irving as submitted to Zoning is planned to contain 273 residential units — 189 apartment units, 76 senior apartment units, and 8 townhouses. Of the 273 units, 94 will be replacement units for Park Morton residents. 108 units will be for moderate income households earning up to 60% AMI leaving 71 units that will be available at market rate. An interesting and unique feature of this plan is that it preserves public space by creating a new, large, and permanent park on the southern half of the site.

Bruce Monroe site plan(Site plan of the development proposed for the former Bruce Monroe school site, from Zoning documents.)

The large apartment building on the northern half of the site is divided into two sections — a larger section the fronts Georgia Avenue and a smaller section that connects to it on the west that will be reserved for seniors. Eight rowhouses will also be constructed at the far west of the parcel.

The plans show the larger of the buildings at 90′ in height, not counting the penthouse structure. This is taller than other recently completed developments on Georgia Avenue but not out of keeping. 32 Thirty Two Apartments (#2 below) was built at 80′ and the new Safeway was built at 85′. Additionally, of the Planned Unit Developments that have already been approved but not broken ground, the PUD for 3212-3216 Georgia (#1 below) has been approved at 87′ and the PUD for the Vue (#3 below) is approved for 90′.

Corridor Massing(Corridor massing illustration from Zoning documents. The buildings in yellow represent those in the Park Morton development.)

The development plan also includes 99 underground parking spaces and 6 on-street parking paces that will be located on a new privately maintained street at the rear of the parcel. The new street will not only allow the garage entrance to be located off of Irving Street, but it will also connect with the alley, providing far more access to residents living there now.

While the overall plan is a good one, there are still details that need to be worked out — the chief of these being the programming of the park space. During the public meetings it was noted that all of the uses that are currently on the site could be accommodated in the new park. As noted when looking at the plan above, the programming of the site has not been finalized. This should not be perceived as suggesting that dedicated uses and programming do not exist, but rather that the locations and configurations for how the park will serve the community is still somewhat flexible and will be further refined as part of the public dialogue and review by the ANCs as they consider the public amenities agreement that is part of the PUD process. Both Advisory Neighborhood Commissions 1A and 1B have standing with the former school site and both have been actively engaged to date. Both ANCs 1A & 1B voted to support the surplus and disposition of the former school site (at their April and May meetings respectively), and will consider the zoning case at a future meeting.

Perspective from southeast(Rendering of the development proposed for the Bruce Monroe site. View from the southeast from Zoning documents.)

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16 Comments on “Zoning Cases Filed for Park Morton Development Effort”

  1. jcm Says:

    “An interesting and unique feature of this plan is that it preserves public space by creating a new, large, and permanent park on the southern half of the site.”

    Another interesting and unique feature of this plan is that it destroys public space by building 300 housing units on top of a popular public park.

    It’s astonishing to me that you claim it’s too hard to find vacant property on Georgia Ave. And that you think having 25% market rate in a 300 unit building is a “good plan”. I’m really disappointed in the ANC commissioners. The rubber-stamping of a giveaway to a connected developer is really disheartening.

  2. K Says:

    Is there any time line attached to this plan? I’m a bit skeptical given the last time we heard about it was over a decade ago

  3. Columbia Rd Says:

    The ANC as a group is likely pushing this plan because they live closer to Park Morton than Bruce Monroe park (Or the Georgia avenue site as the propagandists call it). The Bruce Monroe commissioner has even recused herself so the area around the park doesn’t even have representation on the issue. If there’s any justice at least she won’t be re-elected.

    • K Says:

      This statement doesn’t make sense as both the ANC 1A09 and 1A10 both live closer to the Bruce Monroe site.

      • jcm Says:

        It makes perfect sense. 1A09 is Park Morton. 1A10 recused herself for some reason. 1A11 voted against the surplus resolution.

        Bruce Monroe sits on the border of two ANCs that don’t care about it. Park Morton is right in the middle of an ANC that cares deeply about it. Is it any wonder that the Park Morton plan is much better than the Bruce Monroe plan?


  4. […] A great place to hang your hat! « Zoning Cases Filed for Park Morton Development Effort […]

  5. Jim Slicio Says:

    Ugly Building. All those meetings and we get the plainest POS building a first year arch apprentice could scratch together. I literally see no features discussed in the community meetings (does that borg block even have brick?).

    Also, thanks to JFJ for lobbying door to door for this. I appreciate the help at f-ing up our neighborhood.

    • Jim Slicio Says:

      Also, How can you support this Kent? The architectural pallet is completely in contrast with our neighborhood. This proposal is completely different than the renderings mirroring our neighborhood they sold us on.

      • PM Resident Says:

        I agree. They also lied about replacing all 174 Public Housing units. Now there will be families who’ll end up displaced because of this whole mess.

  6. CC Says:

    “90′ in height, not counting the penthouse structure” seems like an odd way to measure (X height, if you don’t count this other part of it that would make it taller). Am I missing something?

    • columbia road res. Says:

      Penthouses are required to be setback 1:1 so adjacent to the building you don’t perceive them. This is how DC measures height.

    • PM Resident Says:

      We’re all missing something. & I was just told that there is yet another developer who is interested in the Park Morton parcel & has the money to buy it straight out from under Dante’s Partners which could set back all the proposed plans. I’m usually not a person who roots for “the other guy” but I kind of want them to mess everything up so that it can be done properly to start with.

  7. Tom Says:

    The area around the Columbia Heights Village is a disaster and this plan will do the same for ga ave.


  8. […] The project appears to have been approved under the old zoning regulations. Overall, I think it is interesting that by bringing the building forward it is more in line with the properties to its east on the other side of the alley. It also won’t seem so different from its neighbors when construction begins across the street for the redevelopment of Park Morton. […]

  9. PM Resident Says:

    There have been so many lies told across the table during all the meetings for this whole process. It was said that all 174 Park Morton Public Housing units will be replaced, now there will only we a few scattered between “The Aveune” (which btw should not be counted as it was developed by Landex/Warrenton Group & Park Morton didn’t get all the units then either), the Bruce Monroe site, & the Park Morton site. That’s lie #1.

    Lie #2 is they told residents they’d have the first choice of coming back to the Park Morton site but later said once the residents move to the new building that they do not get to return to Park Morton. I really think they glazed things over to get residents onboard with their plans. Now that things are in motion they’re changing things to benefit them more & the residents less. It’s sad that once again money talks & b.s. walks & the residents will now be displaced or end up homeless all together because of this disaster of a plan to redevelop the area.


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