Posted tagged ‘Columbia Heights’

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?

Mark Your Calendars — Annual Tree Lighting in Columbia Heights and Park View Are Here

November 26, 2018

The annual District Bridges Tree Lighting in Columbia Heights is here! On Friday, November 30th, at 6:30 pm, District Bridges is hosting the community event at the Columbia Heights Civic Plaza for the annual Columbia Heights Tree Lighting Extravaganza. Merry makers will enjoy complimentary cocoa, candy canes, and carols. This is a great event for the entire family.

AND this year, District Bridges will be hosting a holiday event on December 7th at the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Rock Creek Church Rd, outside the old Sweet Mango. Its great to see District Bridges spreading the cheer to Park View this year.

Housing to Replace Former Church on Holmead Place, NW

September 6, 2018

(Former Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints building at 3423 Holmead Place, NW)

On Wednesday, September 12th, ANC1A will review and consider a zoning case requesting support to convert the vacant church at 3423 Holmead Pl, NW, into a new building containing 7-units of family sized housing (see plan set here).

The proposal is requesting zoning relief in the following areas:

  1. The RF-1 Zone allows for a conversion of a property from a non-residential building to an apartment house by way of Special Exception for a project not meeting one or more of the matter of right criteria. This project as designed does not meet two of those criteria, which requires that the addition be limited to thirty-five feet in height and which prohibits the removal of architectural elements original to the structure (such as the steeple in this case);
  2. Relief from the criteria governing the front setbacks for residential dwellings in the RF-1 Zone. In this case, the existing structure currently does not conform with this criteria and the development is not proposing to change the existing setback of twenty-five feet;
  3. Relief from court and nonconforming structure: The existing building has an existing court on its northwest corner. The proposed addition will extend this nonconforming court and also create two new courts on the southwest and southeast corners of the building. As the building will be forty feet in height, the minimum open court width is eight-point-three feet. As the proposed courts are nonconforming, relief is required for the proposal to proceed; and,
  4. Relief from height and number of floors. In the RF-1 Zone, 35 feet in height is allowed as a matter of right, with 40 feet in height allowed with a special exception. The building is designed to be 40 feet in height (which is still shorter than the existing rowhouses to the north and south of the property). Additionally, as designed the new apartment building would be four-stories, yet the RF-1 Zone only allows three-stories by right. So zoning would need to approve the fourth story.

(Rendering of apartment building proposed for 3423 Holmead Pl., NW)

All in all, the proposal strikes me as being reasonable and beneficial to the community. The new structure is not seeking relief from parking requirements, maintains the current set back of the existing structure, and is shorter than the rowhouses on the block. It also proposes to create six 3-bedroom units ranging in size from 1,290-1,522 sq. ft. and one 4-bedroom unit with 2,805 sq. ft. of living space on the top floor. Family sized housing is rarely proposed by developers and a housing type and its something that many neighborhoods are loosing as rowhouses are converted into condos.

New 10-Unit Building Planned for 14th Street in Columbia Heights

August 30, 2018


(New 10-unit building planned for 3601 14th Street, NW, on the northeast corner of Perry)

In July, ANC1A was asked for a letter of support to raze the building at 3601 14th Street, NW, in order for the owners to build a new 10-unit building on the site. At the July ANC meeting, there was some confusion about the request as ANCs do not have authority to officially weigh in on raze applications and no Commissioner could think of a previous time when anyone had come to the Commission seeking support for a raze permit. We all agreed that we appreciated the opportunity to discuss the project as well as provide the community with details and that it would be great if other developers would do it.

(The structure currently at 3601 14th Street, NW.)

At the end of the discussion, ANC1A voted unanimously to support the raze application. The resulting building will have 10-units, meaning that it will have to provide one-unit as an Inclusionary Zoning unit. The building will be built entirely by-right, will conform with zoning, and is not seeking a parking variance. The architects for the project are Arcadia Design.

Initially, both Commissioners Valerie Baron and Kent Boese recognized the structure as once being the location of a mikvah and were concerned about any historic or cultural importance of the building, especially as there are few buildings that directly relate to the Jewish community that lived in the neighborhood during the 1920s-1960s.

In September 1940, a new community mikvah was dedicated on 14th Street, NW, within walking distance of the Beth Sholom Congregation, the Jewish Social Service Agency, and the Hebrew Home. (Above is the front and inside cover of the mikvah’s rules/regulations booklet.).

After consulting with the Historic Preservation Office and the Jewish Historical Society of Greater Washington it was determined that there was nothing architecturally significant about this property as it related to the mikvah. The structure was originally constructed as a residence and converted only later to a mikvah. With this understanding, it was agreed that razing the structure could be supported. The owners did agree to a request from the ANC to allow interested members from the historic societies access to tour and photograph anything that may remain of historic interest prior to razing.

Below are additional images of the planned new structure.

(Site plan showing the wedge shape of the lot.)

(Upper view looking northeast from 14th and Perry streets.)

More Affordable Senior Housing Being Planned for Columbia Heights

August 27, 2018

(The Samuel J. Simmons NCBA Estates at 14th and Harvard St., NW)

Last week, ANC1A Commissioners Margaret Hundley and Kent Boese were invited to a meeting with National Caucus & Center on Black Aging, Inc. (NCBA) leadership about plans to expand the Samuel J. Simmons NCBA Estates property located at 14th Street between Harvard Street and Girard Street, NW. NCBA is an organization dedicated to the physical, economic, social and financial wellbeing of low-income African American senior citizens.

The Simmons Estates property currently provides 175 units of housing for seniors. The purpose of the meeting was to inform ANC1A about their plans to expand their Columbia Heights facility and request that the Commission provide a letter of support — which ANC1A will consider at their September 12th meeting.

Based on the information that NCBA shared, I’m very existed about this development. While there are still many details currently being worked out, here is the high level overview of the project proposal:

  • The new construction would be entirely by-right and compliant with zoning;
  • The project would create approximately 159 new units of housing for seniors at no more than 60% AMI;
  • The project would eliminate the surface parking lot currently behind the building, and replace it with approximately 81 spaces of underground parking on two levels; and,
  • There is a possibility that the new building could include approximately 5,000 sq. ft. of retail space at the corner of 14th and Harvard as well at NCBA’s main office.

It is too early to tell what the new building might look like, but NCBA provided the following drawings that help give a sense of the siting, massing, and relationship of the new building with the existing apartment building.

(The new building would be constructed along Harvard Street and behind the current apartment building. It would also create a green courtyard between the current building and the new building.)

(This drawing shows the location and massing of the proposed building along with its connection to the existing apartment tower.)

(One interesting feature of the proposed building is that in order to provide an entrance to the underground parking, DDOT will need to reopen the closed alley on Girard Street. Not only does this make the need for a new curb cut unnecessary, it will improve city services such as trash collection for all residents on the block.)

New 26-Unit Development Proposed for 11th and Park Rd., NW

August 21, 2018

(Rendering from BZA Application)

A new zoning case (BZA 19862) was just filed that proposes to combine the four separate lots surrounding Red Rock Pizza in Columbia Heights and replace the existing rowhouses with a new four-story, 26-unit apartment building. The height of the Project will rise to no greater than 50 feet as permitted in the MU-4 Zone.

According to the application:

“The Applicant proposes to create a residential entry at the front of the building along 11th Street NW. Two bays will project four feet into public space along 11th Street NW on each of the four floors. Five units are proposed to be located in the cellar level, five units on the first floor, six units on the second and third floors, and four units on the fourth floor. The penthouse will contain the upper levels of the fourth-floor units. In the rear, another residential entry point is proposed which can be accessed via the pipestem portion of the Property leading from the alley.”

The applicant will be seeking relief from the four parking spaces required by zoning. The reasoning behind this request is that the four properties in question currently to not have off-street parking or access to the alley in the middle of the block. Furthermore, due to the close proximity to the intersection of 11th and Park Rd., DDOT will likely not grant a curb-cut for off-street parking.

In thinking about transit close to this property, the 64, H8, and 63 bus lines all have stops across the street or on Sherman Avenue, there is a Capitol Bikeshare station at the intersection, and both the Columbia Heights and Georgia Avenue Metro rail stations are within a 10-15 min. walk.

Currently, this BZA case will likely be on the October ANC1A agenda, with a community meeting in late September.

More details can be found on the Zoning Website.

 

Community Discusses Future of 11th and Park Rd Dog Park

February 1, 2018

Commissioner Angelica Castañon getting the meeting started. Seated l. to r. John Henderson, Lori Robertson, and Eric Gronning.

Last night supporters of keeping the WMATA property as a permanent dog park met at Raymond Recreation Center to discuss recent news that Metro is considering selling the property and what that may mean for the community. The meeting was organized by newly elected ANC1A06 Commissioner Angelica Castañon. ANC1A Chair and Ward 1 Council candidate Kent Boese and ANC1A Secretary Zach Rybarczyk also attended.

Commissioner Castañon made opening remarks and introduced Councilmember Nadeau as the first speaker. Nadeau stated that she has been working with the residents and 11th and Bark to improve the site over the years, and that she met with the Mayor and has asked for funds to be included in the budget. She stated that she “wants to help, is helping” and has met with Councilmember and Metro Board member Jack Evans, who thinks that purchasing the property is doable. Nadeau was unable to stay for the entire meeting, but noted that John Hillegass from her office was in attendance and could answer any additional questions.

John Henderson of Green Spaces DC was the next to speak, gave an overview of what role Green Spaces DC plays in the community, and emphasized the importance of green spaces in Columbia Heights in particular. Using the boundaries of Spring Rd. (north), New Hampshire and Sherman aves. (east), Harvard (south), and 16th Street (west), Henderson noted the neighborhood only has 2.75 acres of green space, including the civic plaza. He also noted that the DPR master plan calls for 12.9 acres of green space per 1,000 people. This illustrated how important the dog park property is for the growing Columbia Heights community.

Patrick Flynn of Patrick’s Pet Care was the next speaker.  He related his experiences, beginning on 2010 when he moved to the neighborhood. As a former ANC1A Commissioner, he shared his efforts with Councilmember Jim Graham — who originally helped open the property to the community when he was on the WMATA Board — and the red tape and challenges that exist with WMATA’s ownership. He even offered to lease the property from WMATA for $5,000, which ultimately didn’t come to fruition.

Wrapping up the presentations were 11th and Bark Board Members Lori Robertson and Eric Gronning. They also shared their experiences with forming a non-profit and efforts to lease the property from WMATA. They began with DPR to see if the city could gain control and allow them to raise money for maintaining the property as a Park Partner, but this route closed when the Department of General Services balked as there was no precedent for the arrangement under consideration. They next focused on negotiating directly with WMATA, with discussion progressing to the point where drawings of what an official dog park would look like (see below).

(11th and Barks concept of what an improved dog park could look like.)

11th and Bark learned in December that WMATA was no longer interested in leasing the property, as they had an unsolicited offer to purchase the property. This is the event that lead to the current situation and meeting as residents are concerned about what this could mean for the community.

In a communication WMATA sent to Councilmember Nadeau and shared with ANC1A and 11th and Bark members just prior to the meeting, they had the following to say, in part:

When Metro receives an unsolicited offer for a property, it first determines if the offer is reasonable and also if the Authority has a long-term operating need for the property.  If there is no long-term operating need for the property and WMATA desires to sell the property, the next step is for Metro to send a letter of notification to the jurisdiction in which the property is located (in this case, the District of Columbia) to first give the local jurisdiction an opportunity to purchase the property at fair market value.  Federal Transit Administration (FTA) regulations require Metro to receive fair market value for any disposition of properties such as the one at 11th & Park.  If an offer is accepted by Metro, FTA must also concur with the disposition of the property.

During the community discussion following the overview presentation, Lori Robertson shared that they had met with Jack Evans in the past, and indicated that the property could be valued at $1M. Commissioner Boese shared that the property could be as much as $2M based on experts he had consulted — but that this shouldn’t be considered a lot of money when who looks at how much the District invests in other parks and green spaces in the District — especially if the 11th and Bark group is planning to take on the costs of improving and maintaining the site.

Boese also shared his advice on who the budget process works and the importance of testifying before the relevant Council budget oversight hearings. While it would be helpful to have funding identified in the Mayor’s budget, due to the nature of budget oversight hearings it will be important for the community to be involved and advocate for this cause regardless of whether funding is in the budget or not.

Boese and Castañon also plan to draft a resolution supporting the purchase of the property which will be considered at the February 14, 2018, meeting of ANC1A.

The meeting closed with an overview on the ways neighbors can get involved and advocate for the park, as well as commitments to organized and Earth Day clean up of the dog park and a repeat of the Marty Paws event this year.


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