On December 13, 2021, the DC Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on the Modification of Significance application submitted by the Cafritz Foundation for the second phase of Art Place at Fort Totten (known as Block B). The case number is 06-10G. To sign up to testify or to submit written comments, follow the instructions in the hearing notice. Written comments must be submitted at least 24 hours before the hearing.
Block B will sit on South Dakota Avenue NE between Ingraham Street NE and Kennedy Street NE. We have covered the modification process extensively on the blog the past several weeks. The proposed changes, resulting from the loss of Meow Wolf from the project, were previously submitted as part of a Modification of Consequence application in case number 06-10F. The Zoning Commission determined that a limited scope public hearing was necessary and withdrew case 06-10F. The development team resubmitted the proposed changes in the Modification of Significance application.
A few updates on what has happened in late November/December, as documents are being submitted on a weekly basis.
Developer’s Supplemental Statement
Previously, in the withdrawn Modification of Consequence case (06-10F), DC’s Office of Planning (OP) and the Lamond-Riggs Citizens Association (LRCA) submitted filings requesting additional information from the development team. On October 1, 2021, OP requested the team to submit information about the proposed color palette changes, clarifications on the architectural details of some of the uses, and information regarding negotiations with the new operator for the family entertainment zone (FEZ), grocery store, and children’s museum. OP also strongly urged the developer to consider making some of the additional 23 housing units dedicated below market-rate units, even though the developer is not legally required to do so. On October 11, 2021, LRCA requested information about changes to 3rd Street NE and pedestrian safety measures and also requested that certain conditions from case 06-10F apply to the new case.
The developer submitted an initial statement in support of the new application on October 19, 2021.
On October 26, 2021, the Office of Planning submitted an updated report for this matter. In the updated report, OP also evaluated the proposed changes through a racial equity lens, again requesting more dedicated affordable units.
On November 22, 2021, the developer submitted a supplemental statement to address the issues raised by OP and LRCA. It looks like the team has abandoned its plan to change the color palette. The developer proposes to reserve 3 of the 23 additional housing units as Inclusionary Zoning (IZ) units (dedicated below market-rate units).
In response to OP’s question about the FEZ, the developer stated:
The Applicant has signed an operating agreement with the Venue Group to manage and program the food hall and performing arts spaces. The Applicant is finalizing its lease negotiations with Explore! Children’s Museum. The Applicant continues to meet with numerous groups/organizations that will lease the immersive arts space(s). However, the Applicant is not yet in a position to definitively state which of these groups/organizations will be coming to Block B. Pursuant to the terms of the lease with Aldi, the Applicant is required to provide the grocery store space to Aldi by January 2024. In order to meet that deadline, the Applicant will be starting Foundation to Grade work on the site in January, 2022.
As part of its filing, the developer also submitted a racial equity analysis. The developer also provided an updated trip generation analysis and analysis of the 3rd Street connection, stating the new road segment will have a de minimis impact.
On December 3, 2021, DDOT submitted a report stating the agency does not object to the application for a modification, with two conditions: (1) Conditions related to transportation demand management, loading, and transportation improvments remain in effect. (2) The developer will fund and construct the 3rd Street segment, subject to DDOT approval.
Office of Planning Final Pre-hearing Report
On December 6, 2021, the Office of Planning submitted a final pre-hearing report. In that report, OP encouraged the developer to make more than 3 of the additional 23 units IZ units. In addition, OP has requested a description of the type and distribution of the IZ units. OP’s final report contains a handy chart comparing what was previously approved to what is being proposed now.
Here are the proposed changes at this point (as reflected in OP’s final report):
- Add a northern extension to the wing on the west side of the former 4th Street, to contain an additional 23 residential units. 20 would be market rate and, as of November 22, 2021’s filings, 3 have been proffered as Inclusionary Zoning units;
- Change the interactive entertainment provider from Meow Wolf to the Venue Group and reduce the square footage and volume of the venue;
- Reduce the height of the glass “drum” enclosure in the FEZ area by about 22 feet while maintaining the approved maximum height for the wings containing residential units;
- Modify the internal layouts and space allocations for the entertainment, retail and cultural components;
- As of the November 22 filings, the applicant is no longer proposing changes to the previously approved colors of the façade of the western “residential” wing;
- Relocate the planned dog park to the corner of 4th and Kennedy Streets;
- Eliminate an open-air, stone-faced gazebo (a.k.a the “fort”), expanding both the FEZ footprint and enlarging the adjacent plaza;
- Add a terrace level above the South Dakota Avenue retail;
- Reduce parking spaces from 717 to 494, a 34% reduction for this phase, consistent with what the applicant states is the changed parking demand resulting from the change in the FEZ’s interactive entertainment provider;
- Add a loading berth to the east wing, accessed from of[f] the closed 4th Street;
- Reduce FAR by 0.32.
There are a lot more details in all of the documents, updated renderings, and the like, available on the Zoning Commission’s website, case number 06-10G, for anyone interested.
ANC 4B Report
The development team attended ANC 4B’s public meeting on November 22, 2021. The ANC voted to submit a resolution in support of the modifications to Block B, with recommendations.
ANC 4B is an affected party in this matter. The project sits across the street from ANC 4B. The boundary between ANC 4B and ANC 5A is Kennedy Street NE east of South Dakota Avenue and Riggs Road NE west of South Dakota Avenue. ANC 4B had previously chosen not to participate in proceedings regarding the second phase.
ANC 4B’s Housing Justice Committee reviewed the project at a meeting on November 8, 2021. The Committee submitted a number of questions requesting information from the development team. See the development team’s responses here.
ANC 4B’s resolution builds upon OP’s and LRCA’s previous submissions and makes several recommendations:
- Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B supports the proposed Modification of Significance, but asks that the Zoning Commission and the developer improve the project as to both affordability and stree safety.
- Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B supports the reduction in parking for the Block B Planned Unit Development.
- Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B generally supports the additional 23 units of housing with the addition of at least three income-restricted Inclusionary Zoning units, but the Commission urges the development team to consider additional income-restricted Inclusionary Zoning units in light of the length of time that has transpired since the original Planned Unit Development; the increased need for affordable housing, particularly in this area; and the overall legacy of racial discrimination as to affordable housing and home ownership.
- Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B requests the development team and the Zoning Commission require that the additional Inclusionary Zoning units be family-sized, as the thirty artist units will not support families who need affordable housing.
- Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B requests the development team and the Zoning Commission require that the additional Inclusionary Zoning units be at the 50% Median Family Income level, the most deeply affordable level in the Inclusionary Zoning program.
- Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B requests the development team and the Zoning Commission require that the 84 Riggs Plaza leaseholder apartments be permanently designated as affordable, senior housing in perpetuity.
- Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B requests that the Zoning Commission and the developer significantly improve the physical traffic calming on 3rd Street, NE and adjoining streets beyond just paint and signage to include street treatments, chicanes, raised crosswalks or other physical treatments designed to reduce vehicle speeds and create a shared space for vulnerable road users.
- Advisory Neighborhood Commission 4B requests that the Zoning Commission and the developer require the creation of a comprehensive school zone safety plan developed in cooperation with the District Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School program for the schools located in the Planned Unit Development. The plan should at a minimum include pick up and drop off planning for students; crossing guard placements; flashing school zone speed limit signs; an examination of crosswalks and intersections for additional treatments including raised crosswalks, rapid flashing beacons, pedestrian hybrid beacons, and flashing stops signs; and consideration of speed humps and speed tables.
By family-sized units, the ANC means units with three or more bedrooms.
ANC 5A previously supported the Modification of Consequence application in case 06-10F in a resolution with one condition requesting protected bike lanes on 3rd Street. At a public meeting on November 17, 2021, the ANC did vote to support the new Modification of Significance Application. I do not see an ANC report in the record for 06-10G and I do not know if the ANC plans to submit a report.
Aside on the discussion regarding income-restricted units
It is interesting to me that in its October 26th report, OP referenced a 2018 analysis of dedicated affordable housing by ANC when ANC/SMD boundaries are political boundaries that do change (ANC 5A’s boundaries for example did change after the 2010 Census). I know this project is sometimes treated as if it is on an island by itself separate and apart from an existing neighborhood, but it really is not. And if one looks at the income-restricted units in the neighborhood, such as the Milestone Apartments on 2nd Street NE, less than a half-mile north from this project that just happen to be located in ANC 4B, one gets a different story. But that is just an aside.
Also, when this project was first considered way back when, LRCA at that time requested that the
income-restricted subsidized units be income-restricted subsidized in perpetuity and submitted testimony to that effect at a public Zoning hearing in 2009. With respect to the Riggs Plaza tenants, citing project economics, the developer instead offered an affordability covenant that would last for the life of the tenant or 20 years, whichever is longer. For the other income-restricted units, the affordability covenant would run 20 years. In 2010, the Zoning Commission approved the entire multi-phase project with the affordability commitments proferred by the developer at that time (Order No. 06-10). (This is one of the documents I was referring to in a previous post talking about the history behind wanting to connect some of the disconnected streets; it includes reference to connecting 3rd Street to Riggs Road). The Zoning Commission could have ordered stronger commitments then.
Fast forward to today and similar conversations about income-restricted units are taking place again, now with respect to the new units being proposed for Block B. The developer could of course agree to revisit its previous affordability commitment.
Again all just an observation.
Statements Regarding Building A
At the ANC 4B meeting on November 22, the development team addressed the amount of space still available for leasing in Building A, the first phase that was completed in 2017. Sean Cahill, a consultant on the project, stated that the development team is looking at ways to activate the old warehouses near 4th and Kennedy Street NE, as well as some of the retail space in Building A.
(And of course, finally having an anchor in place for Building A should help a lot).