The planned replacement and redevelopment of the Park Morton public housing complex centered on the 600 blocks of Morton Street and Park Road will have one of the largest positive impacts on the Park View neighborhood of any of the projects currently in the development pipeline for the community. On May 13th and 16th the Park View Community Partners filed their applications and plans to redevelop Park Morton with the Zoning Commission. In reviewing the application, 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. My previous post included a brief historic overview of efforts to develop Park Morton over the past decade, and focused primarily on the plans for the “build first” site located at Georgia Avenue and Irving Street, NW. This post will focus on the plans for the existing Park Morton site located at Morton Street and Park Road.
(Design for new apartment building on Park Road by Torti Gallas Urban, Inc., from zoning application.)
The Park Morton housing complex as it currently exists is a collection of 12 apartment buildings containing 174 apartments. The original effort to build Park Morton dates to the 1950s with the development completed in November 1961. It was among the first affordable housing developments planned and completed by the National Capital Housing Authority for families displaced by urban renewal in Southwest, D.C. Its design represented a new trend in affordable housing – a trend that was moving away from large, many storied developments and toward smaller houses, three-story walkup apartments, and garden apartments. Today, Park Morton is aging and in poor repair, necessitating its replacement.
The plans recently filed with the zoning application show the 12 three-story walkup apartment buildings being replaced with a large apartment building fronting Park Road and a series of 50 townhouse structures that will include both single-family and stacked flat housing. Overall, the development will create 183 new residential units, an increase of nine units over Park Morton’s current capacity. Apartment sizes will be a mix of studio, 1-, 2-, 3-, and 4-bedroom units. 53 units will be replacement units for Park Morton’s current residents, 40 units will be designated as affordable units for households earning up to 60% AMI, with the remainder being available at market rate.
Factors that impacted the plan, resulting in a mix of townhouses and an apartment building, included the sites current zoning (which only allows three story rowhouses by right); a desire to have the resulting development integrate and become one with the surrounding residential community; and the desire to create a street grid that removes the existing Morton Street cul-de-sac to make physical connections to the greater neighborhood. In these regards the redevelopment plan for this section of Park Morton will have a greater impact of the neighborhood’s infrastructure and travel patterns than the Georgia Avenue site. The most significant non-housing improvements will be:
- Closing the existing Morton Street cul-de-sac;
- Creating a new public street connecting Park Road with Morton Street;
- Creating a new public street connecting Morton Street with Warder Street; and,
- Creating a new public park on Morton Street.
(Detail from the zoning application that identifies existing and proposed streets at the Park Morton site.)
As one of four public housing efforts that are part of the New Communities Initiative, the replacement of Park Morton has been approached as a phased development due to the need to build replacement housing units for Park Morton residents before demolishing existing structures. In the case of Park Morton, the phasing breaks down as:
- Phase 1: The “build first” site at Georgia and Irving (273 units total; including 94 Park Morton replacement units);
- Phase 2: The new multifamily apartment building on Park Road (126 units total; including 35 Park Morton replacement units); and,
- Phase 3: the Townhome structures on Morton Street (57 units total; including 18 Park Morton replacement units).
While these are distinct phases, it is possible that parts of Phases 2 and 3 could occur simultaneously.
(Detail from the zoning application that identifies the areas within the 2nd and 3rd phases of the development.)
Architecturally, the design of the buildings is mixed. The design for the Park Road apartment building derives inspiration for its massing and design from the existing apartment buildings in the neighborhood, and especially from the newer buildings on Georgia Avenue. Conversely, the townhouse buildings have a more traditional aesthetic and take their cues from the historic rowhouses that exist in the surrounding residential neighborhood.
Overall, the plan for redeveloping the current Park Morton site has much merit. The next steps will be for ANC1A to review the case for the zoning relief requested (i.e. higher density, setbacks, etc.) and weigh those requests against the proposed community amenities (new streets, public park, etc.) and see if the end result is in the best interest of the community and the District of Columbia, as a whole.
(Rendering showing new park and townhouses on Morton Street, from zoning application.)