What Are Your Thoughts About the Hebrew Home Development Proposals?

(The former Hebrew Home and Robeson School site at 1125 Spring Road.)

Last week, seven development teams briefly presented their ideas on how the old Hebrew Home property could be developed to increase housing, and affordable housing, to the Petworth, Columbia Heights, Park View area. Based on the presentations (and Powerpoint presentations) in the previous blog post, what are your general impressions? Feel free to leave comments and ideas not covered by the following three polls.

Architecturally, which proposal did you like best?

How many units should the project create?

What types of affordability is important to you?

Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized

29 Comments on “What Are Your Thoughts About the Hebrew Home Development Proposals?”

  1. Concerned 10th Street Resident Says:

    This is NOT the place to maximize development. THIS IS NOT GEORGIA AVENUE. This is a quiet residential row-house neighborhood, which anyone who actually lives here will adamantly tell you. 10th and Spring are not major thoroughfares, and the increased traffic and lack of parking will be a huge problem for our quiet streets.

    The only two developments that make sense here are Bozzuto/Menkiti and CPDC/NVR. The Bozzuto/Menkiti proposal includes moderate density (146 units) that is appropriate to the neighborhood context and provides 100% affordable housing for seniors weighted heavily towards those with the greatest need (>70% of the housing will be for those making <50% AMI). The architecture blends seamlessly with the neighborhood, with brick rowhouses being built on 10th St and Spring Rd that reflect the character of the surrounding neighborhood. The proposal also includes rear driveways and garages to provide parking for all of the new residents, and provides a new alley to keep cars and traffic off of 10th Street and open for use by Raymond School and Rec Center visitors. The proposal also includes a new pocket park at the corner of Spring and 10th. Because no PUD is required, this can be built quickly.

    The excellent CPDC/NVR proposal is also of moderate density (109 units) and includes brick row-house architecture that is consistent with the neighborhood context. The proposal includes 100% affordable housing for seniors (with 46% of the units targeting seniors making less than 30% of the area median income), and 75% affordable overall. Unique to this proposal, 12 senior units will be fully handicap accessible. All of the townhouses will also have a garage and a driveway for parking, an alley to help keep traffic and cars off of 10th Street, and features a community garden and courtyard, a fitness trail with outdoor fitness equipment for community use, and public art installations to help beautify our neighborhood.

    The Mission First property is a disaster. 224 mostly rental units (the most dense of all the developments), with hulking six-story buildings towering over the row homes and the residential back yards that the property faces on 10th and Spring. Parking will be totally inadequate. Spring Road (one lane in each direction) will become gridlocked with traffic from hundreds of additional residents. 10th Street NW (a quiet one-way street) will become overwhelmed with lack of parking and increased traffic. The architecture is brutal and destroys the row-house aesthetic of the neighborhood. This proposal is a total nightmare.

    The Gilbane development is also terrible. 212 mostly rental apartments, with terrible five-story construction towering over the neighborhood’s historic row homes. It also features a “parking podium”, which is essentially a street-level (eye-level) parking garage with housing built above and on top of it. This is NOT the same as an underground parking garage. Studies show that parking podiums disconnect residents from the neighborhood by placing their dwellings above street level and minimizing interaction with the neighborhood community, which is not what our neighborhood is all about. Their proposal also does nothing to improve 10th Street. They describe “street lights”, “street trees”, and “side walks” as their contribution to improving the 10th Street streetscape. How nice of them to include street lights so we can see the damage they will have done to our quiet neighborhood.

    I highly encourage all of our neighbors who live in our community to RESIST THE HIGH-DENSITY OVER-DEVELOPMENT of our quiet residential neighborhood and the activists who don't live here and don't care about us.

    SUPPORT the Bozzuto/Menkiti or CPDC/NVR proposals to ensure our homes and our yards aren't dwarfed by huge sky rises, our streets aren't overwhelmed with new traffic, and that our parking situation remains as tenable as possible. Support moderate density that is sustainable and that will encourage neighborhood and community growth, vitality, and sustainability.

    CONTACT the City Project Manager, Tsega Bekele, at 207-727-6365 or tsega.bekele@dc.gov. Let him know that you support moderate density that minimizes parking and traffic disruptions and that blends within the existing neighborhood. Let him know that we won't allow the course of our neighborhood to be turned over to activists and big-government overreach. Be sure to let him know that you live in this neighborhood and that your voice matters most.

    CONTACT your ANC representatives, such as Bennett Hilley, Sharon Farmer and Kent Boese.

    CONTACT your Ward 4 and Ward 1 Council Members (Brandon Todd and Brianne Nadeau) and let them know that we the residents of this neighborhood are depending on them and need their support.

    CONTACT the Mayor Muriel Bowser's office and let her know that we support her plan for INCLUSIVE economic growth and resilience, that the Bozzuto/Menkiti and CPDC/NVR proposals fit best with her vision and with building and strengthening this neighborhood.

    • rockcreekrunner Says:

      i somewhat disagree with you. i’m also in the immediate area, and while i think both the bozzuto and the cpdc proposals would be acceptable, i think borger’s and nhp’s could be too. borger’s is compatible with the hebrew home on spring and isn’t going to create as much of a concentrated island of affordable housing (proven to not work in the long term) and nhp provides a higher density condo building (although I’m concerned about the amount of affordable apartments concentrated in the other building).

      i think the main area in which i differ from you is that i disagree that high density is ipso facto unacceptable. while quincy through taylor is basically rowhouses, this large plot of land very close to the metro should be the type of place that could support higher density. plus, the additional residents would provide more eyes on the street to deter crime and greater support to our neighborhood restaurants and shops. while i dislike traffic as much as the next person, the way to combat this is actually by increasing density and providing riders for public transit. (i also think that your fear of increased traffic is a bit overblown with the petworth metro, a walkable grocery store, busses, etc.) i also think affordability is a huge problem, and increased supply of units from a higher density development will help alleviate it, or at least decrease the rate of price increase.

      • José Vicar Says:

        What about concentrations of people into one tiny area in an otherwise diverse community? Jamming “the poor” into highrises has a long and painful history, both damaging the communities and the people that live there. There is a problem with affordable housing, but the solution is to increase the total stock across the entire city – not just jam a highrise project into a quiet neighborhood.

      • rockcreekrunner Says:

        I think most people would objectively identify this as a plot of land that should support slightly higher density. bear in mind none of the proposal are high rises; the biggest buildings in the proposals match the height of the hebrew home on spring and step down along tenth to match the rowhouses on quebec, so it’s not totally out of left field. this land is right next to a plethora of public transit, malls, grocery stores, restaurants. yes, there are rowhouses on surrounding streets (i live in one). but if one is serious about creating housing options, the higher density options should at least be on the table. there may be other reasons to pick a lower density one like bozzuto or cpdc (maybe we want home owners, not rentals; maybe adding to the stock of 3 bedrooms would be preferable to a bunch of 1-2 bedroom condos; etc.). but to oppose higher density when we live in the core area of one of the major cities in the country is a bit ridiculous. it’s akin to buying or moving into a neighborhood and pulling the ladder up behind you, at a time when housing is increasingly unaffordable for 20- and 30- somethings.

      • Robin Says:

        Rockcreekrunner, that argument would be a lot more compelling if this land was zoned for higher density, but it’s not. As it stands it can’t be higher density projects can’t go forward without a PUD – so the area really isn’t ‘objectively’ suited, because it isn’t even zoned to allow for this type of development. It is only being considered to sweeten the deal for developers who otherwise wouldn’t be interested in doing the Hebrew Home by itself. If someone can do a project that is by right or nearly so, that seems to me ‘objectively’ better than a project that goes so far outside the zoning for this area and that is drastically different than the neighborhood already is.

      • Concerned 10th Street Resident Says:

        I’m squarely with Robin on this one. If it ends up going to a PUD, I will be adamanatly opposed to high density development in our quiet neighborhood.

      • rockcreekrunner Says:

        i think you overestimate how rationale the zoning is in this city, but point taken, objectively was not the best word. perhaps a better way to phrase it is that there is a lot of merit to having this lot as slightly higher density. there are obviously counterarguments to allowing density here, but i think the knee jerk reaction to density is silly. it must be nice to be a rich homeowner in the area, but it’s hard for people to buy in this city. increasing the housing supply is a step to alleviating the affordability problem, and these decisions add up.

  2. Concerned neighbor Says:

    I wholeheartedly agree with the individual above. There was nothing more frustrating than being at the last neighborhood meeting where individuals with their own political agenda, almost all of whom who don’t don’t even live anywhere near our neighborhood, monopolized the question and answer section.

    As a homeowner who would be right down the street from this development, I am extremely concerned about the amount of units in many of the proposals. I am also very worried about some of the designs that do not even attempt to match the the character of our neighborhood. I certainly hope that the opinions of us neighbors and abutters will be given more attention than the masses of organized activists who don’t live here. I also hope our local elected officials are working hard to reflect their constituents opinions.

    Out of all of the proposals, Bozzuto/Menkiti and CPDC/NVR are the only that attempted to match what would be best for those of us who live here. We will have to deal with the implications of this project long after the developers and political activists are gone. We have an awesome little neighborhood and it would be awful to have a proposal approved that would ruin it.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    I agree with the above commenters. I also live nearby (5 blocks away) and attended the hearing. I think I could live with any of the developments — EXCEPT Mission First and Gilbrane. Other than the fact I thought their presentations were poor and I disagreed with the design and density; I don’t have confidence these firms could capably manage the development long after the buildings are built.

    If I had to pick, I’d choose CPDC for many of the reasons stated above. I liked bozzutto as well. Both felt professional and well equipped to handle this size of development while also being respectful of our neighborhood.

    I’m glad to see neighbors engaged and involved. Please spread the word! With outside activists trying to push a political agenda, I sometimes worry the voices of eighnorhood residents is being drowned out.

    • DC resident Says:

      That makes sense with how her office responded when I called. They seemed to have very little concern about the impact that some of these proposals could have on the neighborhood.

  4. joe Says:

    dont forget that Brianne Nadeau was on the board of the Jews United for Justice, the group that is astro turfing the meetings, so dont expect any help from her.

    • DC resident Says:

      That makes sense with how her office responded when I called. They seemed to have very little concern about the impact that some of these proposals could have on the neighborhood.

      • Tim Says:

        The whole meeting was packed with the pro-affordable housing lobbyists. Wish DC had a better way to engage the public.

    • Sam Jewler Says:

      lol. Literally what evidence do any of you have that people supporting affordability at the meetings are “lobbyists” or “astroturf” or outsiders from the neighborhood? Is it such a foreign concept to you that people care enough about an inclusive DC to come to a meeting and speak out for it?

      Speaking as a native Washingtonian and four-year Petworth resident, it’s frankly offensive to have a bunch of newcomers to the city claim that others are disqualified from speaking about what should happen here. What gives you the right?

      • Resident Who Lives Adjacent to This Property Says:

        What gives you the right to call those who disagree with you newcomers? You have no idea, so your generalization is patently offensive. Secondly, I actually live adjacent to this building and I know my neighbors and talk to them every day. Most of them weren’t there, and the meeting was flooded with people I’ve never seen in our neighborhood before. On top of that, people arriving by the van-full, and other people arriving and having stickers slapped on them whether they supported “100% affordable housing” or not. That’s exactly what evidence I have the meeting was flooded with activists and lobbyists.

      • Anonymous Says:

        You’re part of the problem, Sam. You have been leading the effort to bring in outsiders to lobby. We don’t need your political agenda shoved in our face. I don’t see you at our barbecues, picnics or neighborhood get-togethers. But you and your activist show up to yell at me as I’m walking into a Brandon Todd Happy Hour.

      • Yumtime Says:

        There’s a boatload of evidence, Sam. All you’ve had to do is be involved in this process since 2015. You’ve proven you’re able to read Alinsky all well and good but you’ve failed spectacularly at this site. It was a DCHA project-like plan before you got involved. You galvanized enough people that this was put to DMPED through a process you had no part in and now this is going to end up being affordable housing for seniors and regular old development at the Robeson school. I’d suggest you alter your tactics in the future. JUFJ et al. have given us a lesson on how not to community organize.

  5. Anon Says:

    As someone who actually does live a few feet from the corner of 10th and Spring, I’d welcome density to the site. As a publicly owned property, the city should leverage its position to get as much housing, and affordable housing, as it can from the site. The District already suffers from a depressed housing supply: this is just one chance to take steps towards alleviating that.

    This also means building fewer parking spaces, as excess parking will induce more traffic and raise the costs of building additional units. Builder fewer spaces will keep unit rents lower and encourages residents to take advantage of the wealth of transit options nearby, rather than bring a new car into the city.

    At this point I’m not worried too much about the actual designs: I’d encourage people to chime in about the smaller design details during a PUD process should one of those proposals be chosen.

  6. g2-6e98186868cd5c7a89a2d004ae382138 Says:

    I’m a homeowner just a few blocks away, connected with JUFJ and other progressive local groups, and can say with confidence that all the people I know who were at the meeting are also close in residents. I am very frustrated with people repeating a falsehood that those of us who are supportive of density and affordability at the site are somehow “not from here.”

    If there was a way to do lower density and also deep affordability, I would be open to that. But that isn’t how the economics of these projects work – you need density to get financing.

    This is a city owned property and it should be used to the greatest public benefit – which to me means homes for truly struggling families and not for those who can spend up to a million dollars. If you have that kind of money, there are MANY homes for sale in the neighborhood.

    Right after the meeting I went to Yes market and ended up talking with the cashier about how they had an hour commute home to southern Maryland, needs to own a car, would strongly prefer to live in the city without a car, works 4 part-time jobs. It just perfectly illustrated the need for housing for the people who staff our neighborhood businesses.

    I appreciate that there are quality of life issues (parking, architecture, light, air) with any new project. But I am frustrated that neighbors on here and at the meeting feel their wants on these issues should override other people’s need for actual places to live. It’s a quiet residential neighborhood… because you live right near two abandoned empty buildings and a mostly empty surface parking lot. There are tons of places in this city (U Street comes to mind) where multifamily apartment buildings are well integrated into rowhomes and townhomes. We can do this!

    • DC resident Says:

      I’m sorry, but it is a fact that a large number of people who are showing up to the meetings about the Hebrew Home are not residents who will be impacted by the longterm implications of the project. I’ve spoken with some of the people who were there with the coordinated stickers and actually know others personally who where there and wearing them. I’m sorry, but it is a reality that a majority of them don’t live around the Hebrew Home. Heck, one of the gentlemen even announced that he was an ANC from an entire different part of the city before asking his question at the last meeting. Everyone is welcome to have a voice, but when activists are shouting down and monopolizing the conversation so those of us who live around the property can’t discuss our concerns, that isn’t fair.

      Also, you reference U Street. This isn’t U Street. This isn’t Georgia Avenue. This isn’t 14th Street. It is a quiet, smaller, residential area, that doesn’t have the infrastructure to withstand the density of many of the proposals where the only goal is to cram in as many affordable housing units as possible into one location. There are places in the city that are equipped for a project like that. This isn’t one of them. Cramming a massive project into an area that can’t withstand it for political purposes isn’t fair to those of us who live here or the future residents.

      Yes, my desire as a nearby homeowner for the chosen proposal to match the style of the neighborhood and to take into account for the increased traffic and increased parking problems that their development will create is fair and should be taken into consideration. We already live here. We already pay taxes here. We already are invested in our communities and spend time cleaning up trash, calling 311 to get graffiti removed, and helping elderly neighbors shovel their sidewalks. I have a right to be concerned about the negative impacts the development will have on our quality of life here.

      Our voices do matter because we are the ones who will have to deal with the longterm ramifications of the project in the long run. The corner of 10th Street NW and Spring Road NW shouldn’t be the sacrificial lamb with an overload of high density housing in the wrong location because the city has affordable housing issues to resolve.

      • g2-6e98186868cd5c7a89a2d004ae382138 Says:

        You’re right that there are people who don’t live here at the meetings. But many of us ARE from the neighborhood. And for those that aren’t, I think it’s appropriate for them to be part of the process as well – these are citywide issues, as you say, and it’s shortsighted to exclude people who want and need housing (and are by definition not living here because there aren’t units they can afford).

        Meanwhile the city has over and over done these BS fake consultations like the dumb sticker exercise we all did last summer. A real consultative process would have been way more engaged, focused, facilitated, with real publicity (not just online, and also in Spanish). So I don’t buy this line that ‘activists’ (who are people, and live here, and have principles important to us) are ‘monopolizing’ a made-up community process that the city ignores anyway. Yes, all our voices matter, but shoveling sidewalks and paying taxes does not give you veto power.

        And your implication that density and housing that’s targeted to those making $50k a year or less will lead to graffiti and trash is… let’s say prejudiced. I know people are concerned about parking. And I believe the developers when they say that many apartment residents don’t have cars. And when my neighbors start parking their multiple cars in their driveways and not all over my street I will get more serious about parking!

        We should work with the development team to figure out how to zone parking for the rec center, though, that makes total sense.

      • José Vicar Says:

        Second this – I live on 11th less than a block from the site, and never see these people around here. I did go north to the grocery store after our last meeting, and saw 3 kids from the meeting walking up GA avenue (somewhere past the library). They were adorable, saying something like “I can’t believe they want cars where you could have people and air!?”

        So maybe these people, not in cars like others, live in North Petworth. I live on the block.

      • Robin Says:

        1 – I don’t think that “DC Resident” was implying that graffiti and trash with come with the new development (though more people inevitably make more trash). I think s/he was saying that this community already comes together over things like graffiti and trash and helping our neighbors. We’re involved residents already who believe we have the highest stakes in the outcome of this project.

        2- This isn’t U St. Just look at the infrastructure around this project.
        **10th Street – one way one the south side, not sure what the plans for redevelopment will do next to the site. It is still pretty narrow to the north and dead-ends at Randolph, not too far away.
        **Spring Road – Technically two ways, but two big cars can’t fit down it at the same time. Cars routinely pull over to let others pass because the clearance is just too narrow for two large cars (Things like garbage trucks, moving vans, construction vehicles, or school busses take up the entire street).
        **11th Street – one way
        **Quebec Place – one way

        So you must see, this isn’t U Street, or 14th or Georgia or even 11th street further north into Columbia Heights where the street is wide. This site is smack in the middle of one way streets and Spring, a street so narrow cars won’t drive down it in opposite directions at the same time. So yeah, Spring is the “bigger” road, but it isn’t even big enough to have a center yellow line.

        On pedestrian infrastructure, these streets all have narrow sidewalks that already get a lot of traffic from the school.

        On facilities infrastructure, Pepco just spent 3 months tearing up all of Spring to expand, and I’m honestly not sure how new development would tap into that. Would they need to do it again? My understanding is that this improvement was needed to support the current density in deeper in Columbia Heights.

        3 – I appreciate the need for more affordable housing, and I wish deeply that the city would make a comprehensive plan for it. But the solution isn’t to jam as much as possible into this site. I desperately want the Hebrew Home redeveloped, and I would welcome new neighbors there and on the Robeson school site, but we can’t just use a plot of land in the middle of a quiet neighborhood and a bunch of one-way streets to try to right the entire ship. Some affordable housing should absolutely be included, jamming in as much affordable housing as possible shouldn’t be the top priority.

      • Concerned 10th St Resident Says:

        Terrific response. I totally agree with the comments from “Robin”. I am thrilled to see my fellow neighbors have arrived at the same conclusion I have- that massive density and overdevelopment at this site would be totally detrimental to the quiet neighborhood we live in. These are the kinds of issues that only close neighbors and people who live in proximity to this development can possibly understand.

        From the multitude of one-way streets surrounding this property, to the narrowness of Spring Rd NW, to the abhorrent parking situation (that will only worsen tenfold), to the loss of privacy and sunlight, to the destruction of a historic working-class rowhouse neighborhood, people need to think not only about maximizing affordability (which is a noble goal), but also maximizing quality of life. It makes no sense to build a towering, overly dense, totally-inappropriate-for-the-neighborhood development project when it’s gonna make everyone who lives here worse off, no matter what is gained. This is why moderate density is appropriate to the neighborhood context, and why the Bozzuto/Menkiti and NVR/CPDC developments make the most sense- they benefit everyone. They maximize affordability (100%, targeted at the lowest income bands) for our senior citizens and add tons of new housing stock while balancing the context and fit of the neighborhood and the capability of the community to support and sustain it this project without overstressing and imploding the good things we’ve got going.

        I think it is easy for activists and lobbyists who don’t live adjacent to this property to see a big parcel and immediately think they’ve hit the jackpot and that we should cram as many bodies as possible into the most dense, most affordable, cheapest structure that could possibly be built- but when you actually live here and walk and drive down these streets every day, you see that it isn’t that simple. There are other factors that matter, which is why development needs to be smart, consider the right project for the right place, and make life better for EVERYONE.

        Finally, I think it’s really rich when activists say “well idiots, you’re near a metro, you should ditch your cars and then parking and traffic wouldn’t be a problem!” as though everyone is fortunate enough to have an incredibly convenient, metro-accessible job. Get real people! Not everyone is as fortunate or idealistic as you, and many of the workers in our neighborhood need their cars to get to work, go to medical appointments, visit their families, travel out of the city, or a myriad of other purposes that frankly, are none of our business anyways.

  7. Cali Tom Says:

    Is it any coincidence that Bozzuto has 90%!of the vote until Sam Jewler, the leading outside lobbyist posts his comment? He obviously organized his special interest group to flood the poll. Kent’s loyal LOCAL readership who visit his blog daily led the way in support for a low density, well designed project… But once again Sam Jewler and the lobbyists hijack a public forum.

    • José Vicar Says:

      Agree with this 100% and I’m sick of these people come in from out of the area, and outside DC, and hijacking our community to serve their special interests and political agenda. I hope to god the political leaders I voted for can tell the difference between the residents of the neighborhood and the activist groups…I mean they even wear matching shirts and stickers – not hard to spot ’em!

      (however I wasn’t following this blog despite going to my ANC1A meetings, so here is a positive development…I’ll be following)

  8. Longtime 11th St. Resident Says:

    None of the proposals struck me as perfect. In my own interest as a resident who gets sick of the constant construction, I’d love the time on the construction to not be crazy, which made the Bozzuto proposal appealing as the quickest build. I’d like to see more affordable housing than a lot of the options provided, but the way that the CPDC proposal stuck with the character of the neighborhood was more appealing to me than the Brinshore or Mission First proposals, which kind of made my eyes bug out thinking about that being built a block away, even though I like the percentage of affordable units on both of those a lot better. Since things are typically not accepted wholesale, I guess I’m hoping for some compromise.

  9. slzr Says:

    I grew up here and own a house a block away. I do not support any of the large proposals. The Bozzuto or cpdc proposal actually fit the neighborhood.

    • Concerned 10th Street Resident Says:

      I live less than a block a way as well, and I couldn’t agree more with “slzr”. This area is not appropriate for five or six-story buildings or for 200+ units. The neighborhood just can’t support it. The one-way roads (10th, 11th, Quebec, Otis, Rock Creek Church) and quiet, narrow Spring Rd and Quincy St adjacent to this development simply can’t support such a huge increase.

      Only Bozzuto/Menkiti and CPDC/NVR showed respect to the neighboring community by proposing an integrated blend of mixed income housing, including 100% deeply affordable housing for seniors in the Old Hebrew Home for the Aged and some additional market rate housing. This is in line with the guiding principles of the Mayor’s New Communities Initiative, which, according to the DC New Communities website, seeks to develop “mixed-income housing to end the concentration of low-income housing and poverty”. While this project is not an NCI, the guiding principle of economic integration and the development of sustainable communities remains applicable

      Last but not least, Bozzuto/Menkiti and CPDC/NVR got it right with regard to density appropriately scoped to the neighborhood, while the others missed badly.

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