Archive for January 2019

Are There Alternative Sites if WMATA Sells the 11th and Park Dog Park

January 25, 2019

WMATA put their site at 11th and Park Street, NW, on the open market in early January, 2019.

For much of 2018, intense focus has been on the parcel of land owned by WMATA at 11th and Park Road and used as an unofficial dog park since 2009. After many attempts by residents to convert the site into a permanent dog park, WMATA indicated that it was considering selling the parcel. In response, Ward 1 Councilmember Nadeau secured $1.5M into the District budget to purchase the property for the specific use as a dog park, but the amount fell short of WMATA’s estimate of $2.1M.

In early January 2019, WMATA officially put the land on the open market, and while the District is still welcome to put a bid on the property, all bidders are welcome to put their best offer forward. The issue of the dog park’s sale was discussed at the January 9, 2019, meeting of ANC1A and Councilmember Nadeau was there to answer questions. She stated clearly that any support from the ANC requesting Mayor Bowser to put forth a fair price offer to purchase the site would be helpful. Nadeau also shared that she had informed the Mayor not to get into a bidding war or to buy the property at any cost. By a split vote, the ANC voted to send notice to the Mayor requesting that she make a fair market offer for the property.

Considering these events, there is a good chance that the property may be sold to a private developer. Having been asked on several occasions what options may exist for a dog park other than the current site at 11th and Park, I’ve decided to list the top 5 sites that immediately come to mind or have been mentioned to me.

It is important to keep in mind for comparison that the 11th and Park site is approximately 8,046 sq. ft. of raw space, but if developed into an official dog park the usable land area is approximately 6,500 sq. ft. due to the WMATA infrastructure that needs to be maintained.

District Owned Properties

Option 1

In any discussion of alternative Dog Park sites, the Park Road Park is commonly referenced. As a triangle park in DPR’s inventory it really isn’t land that will be  developed — which is a good thing. Its already owned by the District and it has approximately 8,505 sq. ft. of usable land which are also pluses. However, it is also used for neighborhood block parties and events from the Park Road Community Church every now and then. Additionally, neighbors have been and are likely still opposed to the site being dedicated entirely to a dog park rather than open to multiple uses.

Option 2

Of the sites in this brief survey this is the one that excites me the most. While it is a quirky site locate to the northeast of Raymond Elementary and Raymond Recreation Center, it is district owned land that really has no other use. Like the Park Road Park, it is currently owned by the District and it has 8,439.6 sq. ft. of space. I like that it is next to a staffed DPR facility which could help with maintenance. I’ve also noted that some neighbors already use the front lawns of Raymond for their dogs and it might be nice to actually create official facilities here. On the down side, it is located in ANC4C and Ward 4, though just over the boarder, and would require cross-community collaboration. That said, it would create a dog park on District land that has no other real use. This is as close to a win-win as any alternative site can get.

Privately Owned Properties

All privately owned properties have the added complexity of requiring the sale of land, which the owners may not be interested in doing. The next three are listed here again in an attempt to show sites that could work, but may not actually be available.

Option 3

I’ve been fascinated by this double alley lot for a while. It is at the west end of the block bordered by Sherman, Lamont, Georgia, and Kenyon. The lots themselves are surrounded on all four sides by alleys. The site is smaller, being 6,051 sq. ft., and was likely originally a stable (existing buildings) for horses. Alley lots are hard to develop despite how they are zoned. Because of this, I’ve long felt that the District should buy this to add to DPR’s portfolio, and if not for a dog park perhaps for a community garden. It clearly has neighborhood potential in a number of ways.

Option 4

The vacant parcel on the north side of Girard Street (between 13th and 14th streets) is another possibility. It is 7,463.9 sq. ft. in size. The property was the home of Dorothy Brizill and Gary Imhoff until a fire gutted the house in May 2012 leading to the property being cleared and vacant. The property is currently behind on its property taxes, so perhaps there would be interest in selling it to the District for a public purpose.

Option 5

This last one is a bit of a stretch. While it has 7,483.5 sq. ft. of useable land, it is zoned RA-2 making it more desirable for housing due to the higher density allowed. That would also translate into a higher asking price which is part of the issue with the WMATA site — which is Zoned MU-4. It is also owned by Trinity Property Holding Corporation of Washington (Trinity AME Church) along with the nearby parking lots, originally purchased for the goal of housing.

While these sites could be used to create a permanent dog park in the Columbia Heights community, there may be others. Do you have a suggestion to add to this list? Are there sites I have missed? And, if the District is able to buy the 11th and Park WMATA property, do you think they should pursue any of these sites for other uses?

Is the Hebrew Home Redevelopment Project Still On? You Betcha!

January 18, 2019


(Bird’s Eye View of Hebrew Home project from 10th and Spring Rd., NW.)

I’ve had a number of people ask lately if the Hebrew Home project at 1125 Spring Road is still going forward due to the site being quiet for the last several month. The answer is yes!

Here is what the Victory Housing and Brinshore Development team have been doing to get the project shovel ready. They are currently in underwriting with the Department of Housing and Community Development for the historic senior building and have passed the threshold (meaning they are going to underwriting) for the new family development . The property has been subdivided and they’re going through all the normal details required for predevelopment with the lenders/financers/engineering, etc.

As a recap, the plans for the historic Hebrew Home building were approved by the HPRB in January 2018, following Victory Housing and Brinshore being awarded the project in August 2017.

When completed, the development will include the creation of 187 residential units through a mix of townhomes and apartments. The project will include the creation of 88 units of affordable housing for seniors at or below 60 percent Area Median Income (AMI) through the adaptive preservation of the historic Hebrew Home building as well as the creation of 62 units of affordable housing in a newly constructed building at the current site of the Paul Robeson School.

 

Pepco Meets with Community to Discuss Harvard Disstribution Project

January 16, 2019

Travoris Culpepper, Pepco’s Public Affairs Manager, sharing information and taking questions.

As part of Pepco’s larger efforts to increase service and reliability to the District’s electrical system, Pepco began the Harvard Distribution Project in October of 2018 to provide load shedding to the Ft. Slocum Substation as well as preliminary work to upgrade the Harvard Substation. Thus far, construction has primarily been along W Street, NW, between 13th and 10th Streets. Much of this work has been done and construction should be completed on W Street by the end of January 2019 (weather permitting). While this all sounds good, the construction on W Street has been extremely disruptive, with residents along the project describing extreme noise and vibrations causing cracks in their home’s plaster and mortar. These concerns resulted in Pepco hosting a community meeting on January 15, 2019, to provide an overview of the project’s timeline, address concerns, and  provide a general idea of what to expect in the coming months and years.

In response to feedback Pepco received concerning the work along W Street, NW, Pepco stated it heard the residents loud and clear. They will work with their crews to address noise as much as possible. They confirmed that most of the digging along W Street is completed, but that there are still steel plates in use. To dampen sound, they have begun putting wood chips beneath the plates. As Pepco moves forward, they will also consider excavating smaller sections when they have to cut into the existing pavement.

For the Harvard Distribution Project, the basic timeline, route of construction, and how they are parsed by section can be seen in the illustration below. Construction began on W Street in October 2018, and the project will run through Summer 2019 — impacting Sherman Avenue, Girard Street, 10th Street, and Harvard Street.

All in all, Pepco crews will be installing nearly 8,500 ft. of conduit and 21 manholes along the route illustrated above. Residents along the route can expect:

  • Trenching and temporary steel plates;
  • Installation of duct banks and manholes; and,
  • Installation of cable.

The project will also be used, as part of the Capital Grid Project, to supply the Harvard Substation load in advance of the substation rebuild. Set details about the Capital Grid Project’s timelines were not available at the meeting due to the case still being under review by the Public Service Commission. That said, Pepco thinks the timeline for the Harvard Substation rebuild/replacement will be similar to what is shared below, with demolition happening perhaps by the end of this year, construction in 2020, and completed in either 2020 or 2021.

One significant point that was raised by Darren Jones of the Pleasant Plains Civic Association at the meeting was the concern about power outages. Pepco addressed the need to cut electrical service when the new cables and substation are eventually brought online. Pepco representatives were unable to estimate when the power would need to be disrupted, or even for how many people, but stated that once the Public Service Commission has finished with their review and they have a better idea on that aspect of the project, they would be able to better calculate when the outage will occur and what the size of the area will be. Generally, a planned outage will occur overnight beginning around 11pm and last for 4-6 hours. Scheduled outages are necessary when new cables are hooked up and will be necessary when a rebuilt Harvard Substation is completed and connected to the system.

Pepco restated their commitment to work with the community and provide notice to households that they expect will be impacted. Jennifer Kuiper of the Lower Georgia Avenue Main Streets specifically addressed how service disruptions can severely impact small businesses like the ones on Georgia Avenue and requested that Pepco meet separately with small business owners to help ensure that their concerns are heard and needs met. Pepco stated they would definitely do this.

More information will be forthcoming once the Public Service Commission has finished their review of the Capital Grid Project. For now, it looks like most of the construction will be south of Columbia Road and predominately on Sherman Avenue.

Police District Changes Take Effect

January 10, 2019

At last night’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1A meeting, Fourth District Captain Sean Conboy — who is new to the Fourth District — briefly discussed the changes to the Third and Fourth Police Districts announced last month and informed the assembly that they take effect today, on January 10th. He also stated that no staffing changes are being made right now, so essentially the same manpower will now be focused in the same PSA geographic areas (though those area’s boundaries have changed). The Mount Pleasant neighborhood moved to the Third District.

To assist with what areas are impacted and what the Police Service Areas boundaries are, refer to the two maps below. You can also find contact information for officers on the Fourth District Roster, available here.

New District Boundaries

New PSA Boundaries

NSO at Colony Club This Saturday, January 12th

January 8, 2019

In 2019 NSO in Your Neighborhood returns to Georgia Avenue.

For 2019, NSO In Your Neighborhood returns to the neighborhoods of Ward 1. All events are free and open to the public. Seating is limited to the capacity of each venue and available on a first-come, first served basis unless otherwise noted. A full listing of venues and more information is available here.

Of particular interest, NSO will be at our very own Colony Club on Saturday, January 12th in their Community Concert format. Additional details are below:

1–2 PM & 2–3 PM • Colony Club • 3118 Georgia Ave., NW

Sip a beverage as NSO musicians Alexandra Osborne (violin) and Rachel Young (cello) perform solos and duets from 1-2 pm. Beginning at 2pm, join bassist Paul DeNola and violinist Heather LeDoux Green upstairs for a family-friendly performance as they introduce young audiences to some of the greatest music ever written. You’ll never hear a word out of them during the concert, but with instruments in hand and a trunk full of gags, this “silent” comedic tag-team presents a hilarious program of music and mayhem.

 

729 Princeton Place Gets Permits, Potentially Ending 3+ Years of Vacant and Blighted Conditions.

January 2, 2019

The days living with the vacant and blighted rowhouse at 729 Princeton Place appear to be coming to an end. With a new owner, a new design, and newly approved building permits, the property looks like a go for being completed and back in productive use soon.

As nearby residents may recall, the issue dates to the Spring of 2015 when the then owner constructed a third story addition with no permits to do so (either filed or issued). Making the issue more complicated, construction began days prior to changes in the Zoning Law that would require the as-built addition to require a Special Acceptation and Board of Zoning Adjustment approval. Rather than apply for the appropriate building permit or file a BZA case to seek approval, the owner repeatedly continued to work in violation of DCRA’s Stop Work Orders. Ultimately, this created an impasse leading to the current state the building is in today.

729 Princeton Place as of January 2019.

Now it appears that the days of seeing this property vacant and blighted may be coming to an end. In June, 2018, the property was sold to a new owner. Unlike the previous owner, they have found a solution that will rebuild the third story in a way that is compliant with ZR-16 and will not require a BZA Special Exception (NOTE: the previous owner could have gone this route as well).

According to the plans shared with me and the language in the DCRA PIVS system, the new design conforms to the 35′ height allowed by right, restores a section of the original roof, and allows for the property to be converted into two living units. The third story as currently constructed is higher than the 35′ limit.

The new permit was approved on December 19, 2018, and scope of work is described as follows:

EXPEDITION REVIEW

Complete interior remodel to existing 3 story structure.  Rebuild existing third story addition to comply with zoning and building code requirements.  New rear 3 story addition.  Conversion to a two-family flat.  All new electrical, mechanical, and plumbing.  Exterior work to also include landscaping + new parking pad off alley.

… and here is the newly proposed plan for the building.

Newly proposed elevations for 729 Princeton that comply with ZR-16.


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