Posted tagged ‘Park Morton’

Zoning Commission Hears Park Morton/Bruce Monroe Cases

December 9, 2016
The Zoning Commission heard testimony on the effort to redevelop Park Morton this week, with an outcome likely at the end of January.

The Zoning Commission heard testimony on the effort to redevelop Park Morton this week, with an outcome likely at the end of January.

This week, the Zoning Commission heard testimony on the related Planned Unit Development cases for the Park Morton “Build First” site at the Bruce Monroe site (ZC16-11) and for the existing Park Morton site (ZC16-12). The hearings occurred on  Monday, December 5th and Thursday, December 8th, respectively with hearings on both nights beginning at 6:30 pm and running 4-5+ hours. In addition to the applicant and ANC1A, the Bruce Monroe Park Neighbors and Park Morton Residents Council were granted party status in Case 16-11 and the Park Morton Residents Council was granted party status in Case 16-12.

No votes were taken at either hearing. Testimony for ZC16-11 is closed, and submission for ZC16-12 will close at the end of business on December 12th. Additional details/information requested by the Zoning Commission needs to be filed by January 10th, parties will have until January 18th to respond, and January 30th has been scheduled for the Commission to take action on both cases.

While both cases are discrete, it was well understood that the two cases are closely linked and often times testimony in one case referenced the other. The testimony for both the Bruce Monroe case and the Park Morton case was strongly in favor. While there was no notable opposition to the redevelopment of the site on Morton Street, there was notable testimony in opposition to the development planned for the Bruce Monroe site including the aforementioned Bruce Monroe Park Neighbors which has party status in the case. Those wishing to watch the testimony in both cases can do so. Video for both cases is available (ZC16-11 opening statements and testimony here; closing arguments hereZC16-12 here). Prior to the Commission making a decision on the Bruce Monroe site, they’ve requested that the development team meet with the Bruce Monroe Park Neighbors group and attempt to address their concerns.

Questions from Commissioners were encouraging, and seemed to drill down into details that would improve the project or provide better documentation so that the expected amenities would actually be provided. Perhaps the most important questions along these lines for community members had to do with the creation of the new 1 acre park at the Bruce Monroe site. While there was recognition that the park would be a significant amenity, the park itself is not included in the PUD application. To this end, the Commission has requested that appropriate language be included that documents as much detail as possible about the park such as size, location, and any other decisions that have been made. One Commissioner also suggested that perhaps language could be included that would require that the park be constructed and completed prior to the issuance of a certificate of occupancy for the buildings. There was also a request for more details on which entities would be responsible for creating and maintaining the park. At this time, the thoughts on this are that it would be a shared responsibility between the Department of General Services, the Department of Parks and Recreation, and the developer.

Commissioner May, in particular, drilled down into the architectural details of both applications. Notably, May and other commissioners commented that they would like a different brick used at the Bruce Monroe site, as white brick tends to get dirty quickly and didn’t really relate to the surrounding community. Commissioner Miller suggested that red brick be considered instead. There was also a sense that the rowhouses planned for the Bruce Monroe site could be more architecturally compatible with the neighborhood, and requested that the developer respond to that.

Testimony in opposition to the development at the Bruce Monroe site ranged from requesting that the buildings be shorter, expressing dissatisfaction with the community engagement process, claiming a lack of ANC representation (Commissioners Brown and Nguyen recused themselves due to conflicts of interest), and advocating to use the entire site as a permanent park.

While the long term use of the Bruce Monroe site has been a hot button issue in the community since the Bruce Monroe School was razed in 2010, Zoning Commission Chair Anthony Hood summed it up succinctly. While questioning Buwa Binitie of Dantes Partners early in the evening on Monday, Hood stated:

I believe when Bruce Monroe [school] was torn down, that I think everyone in this city knew that there was some type of development [that] was going to happen there. So that’s no surprise. I’m sure that even the new neighbors, I think when you bought into the neighborhood you knew there was going to be some type of development in the area.

DC Council Holds Hearing on Bruce Monroe Surplus and Disposition, Witnesses Largely Support Effort

November 30, 2016

Yesterday, the Council of the District of Columbia held a Joint Public Hearing of the Committee of the Whole and the Committee on Transportation & the Environment — with the agenda items being surplus and disposition approval resolutions for the South Dakota Avenue Riggs Road Excess Property, the Capitol Vista property, and the Bruce Monroe Property. The hearing began at 11:46 a.m. and lasted until 5:59 p.m., with 4 hours and 20 minutes of the hearing being consumed by testimony related to the Bruce Monroe surplus and disposition. The hearing was Chaired by Councilmember Mendelson, with Councilmembers Cheh and White present for much of the hearing and including representatives from Councilmembers Nadeau, Silverman, Bonds, and Grosso.

The record will close for those wishing to submit testimony at the close of business on December 5th. While the Council could vote on the Bruce Monroe Surplus and Disposition resolutions as early as December 6th, the date of the vote will likely be December 20th.

While there were few witnesses testifying for the first two properties, 24 witnesses signed up to testify on the surplus and disposition of the Bruce Monroe site, which would then be used as the build first site for the redevelopment of Park Morton. Among the witnesses were Kent Boese for ANC1A, Amanda Bonam for ANC1B, Chris Waldmann for the Park View United Neighborhood Coalition, and Darren Jones for the Pleasant Plans Civic Association. Overall 16 witnesses (69.45%) testified in support of the disposition of the Bruce Monroe site and using it for the Park Morton effort, 7 witnesses (30.43%) testified in opposition of the disposition, and 1 witness provided testimony that was neither for or against, but offered suggestions on how the overall process could be improved.

I’ve provided the video of the hearing below for those wishing to hear the testimony directly.

Overview of Details on Park Morton Redevelopment Effort

November 23, 2016

bm-1The Park Morton Steering Committee held a public meeting on November 17th to provide an overview of the many details related to the Park Morton redevelopment project and answer questions from the community. This was particularly timely as the D.C. Council will hold their surplus and disposition hearing for the former Bruce Monroe school site on November 29th and the Zoning Commission will hold the related zoning cases on December 5th and 8th.

As planned, the project will replace 147 public housing units in addition to creating 155 workforce housing units and 160 market rate units. More broadly speaking, the redevelopment of Park Morton will have a tremendous positive impact on Ward 1’s Georgia Avenue community, both in the short- and long-term. The development plans for the build first site alone estimate that there will be 448 construction jobs at that site in addition to creating 8 permanent jobs. 51% of the new hires to fill the construction jobs will also be required to be District residents.

In addition to the fact sheet below, you can see a copy of the PowerPoint presentation shared on November 17th here.

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Update to Park Morton Redevelopment Plan

July 29, 2016

Both at the July 13th meeting of ANC1A and last night’s meeting of the Park Morton Steering Committee, LaToya Thomas or Dantes Partners presented where things currently are with the Park Morton redevelopment effort and to solicit feedback related to the PUD process and potential amenities. ANC1A will consider both PUD cases 16-11 and 16-12 in September.

In reviewing the current plan, it is worth noting that the layout for the Park Morton site has been revised in response to comments from the Office of Planning (OP) which was concerned primarily in the areas of extending the street grid, creating rear yards for rowhouses, and having houses face streets. Below is the plan revised to address OP’s concerns. Interestingly enough, the new configuration increases the number of housing units on the site by six (6) (see configuration as originally proposed in the PUD application here).

Revised Park Morton(Revised plan for Park Morton as of July 2016)

The discussion at the Park Morton Steering Committee meeting primarily centered around potential amenities that could result from the PUD applications. There are a number of amenities/community improvements that I would like to see incorporated into both sites. I’ll list a few of them below.

  • Increase and expand Capital Bikeshare in the neighborhood (posted earlier here);
  • The large building planned for the Georgia Avenue site will be 90′ tall with a green roof. I would like to see it constructed to meet LEED Pilot 55 so that it is a bird friendly building by avoiding bird strikes;
  • The two parks provide naming opportunities. The new park at the Park Morton site could be named after Marie Whitfield — who in her life served as an ANC Commissioner, was President of the Park Morton Resident Council, a resident of Park Morton for over 30 years, and a staunch community activist who worked diligently to improve her community. Similarly, the park at Georgia Avenue and Columbia Road could be named in honor of Dr. Roscoe Conkling Brown, a former Park View resident, alumni of Howard University, and a pioneer in the area of dental health. Both sites could also include information boards with text and photos highlighting the accomplishments of each; and,
  • In addition to incorporating new sidewalks and street trees where none currently exist, it would also be ideal if the existing and new streets that are part of the project could install historically compatible street lighting. In reviewing DDOT’s Streetlight Policy and Design Guidelines, the lighting that would be most compatible with the surrounding community would be the Washington Family of lighting, including teardrop fixtures when needed.

DC Streetlights

It also goes without saying that there will need to be a community process to program how the two park spaces are designed. As the ANCs and community groups work through the PUD process, I’m sure many more ideas will come forward.

New Trees and Streetscape Need to Be One Result from Park Morton Redevelopment

June 1, 2016

In reviewing the plans for the redevelopment of Park Morton — especially the plans for the site on Park Road and Morton Street — one of the amenities that we really need to be a result of the effort is a better streetscape and street trees on Park Road. Park View has many streets that contribute to a significant tree desert in the heart of the community. This includes the 600 block of Park Road. In walking around Park Morton over the weekend, I was reminded of just how harsh the streetscape is on Park Road. Pushing the sidewalks back from the street to create room for street trees should be one of the many improvements that we can achieve through this project.

As you can see from the photos below, the area along the south side of Park Road is currently without trees and is uninspiring.

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Park Morton Development Plan for Morton Street and Park Road Offers Mix of Housing Types & Styles

May 24, 2016

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.

Park Road apartment(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.

street network(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.

Phasing(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.

Rowhouses at Park Morton(Rendering showing new park and townhouses on Morton Street, from zoning application.)

Zoning Cases Filed for Park Morton Development Effort

May 23, 2016

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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