Photo by K_Delaquilla.
Good morning Georgetown, here’s the latest:
Photo by K_Delaquilla.
Good morning Georgetown, here’s the latest:
Fishin’ at the Waterfront by M.V. Jantzen.
Good morning Georgetown, here’s the latest:
Last night the ANC met for its May session. And to the extent it had an overriding theme, it would be one of a disconnect between neighbors.
The first case that had this disconnect was the EastBanc project at the Exxon station. This has been discussed here before. Essentially, EastBanc wants to build a five story building where the Key Bridge Exxon now stands.
This would cut off a part of the currently magnificent view enjoyed by the homes on Prospect St. When the ANC first reviewed this project, it took the neighbors’ side, but not aggressively so. It asked that OGB to seriously consider the effect on the Prospect St. neighbors’ views, but they didn’t really come that hard against it, at least not in the resolution.
So last night, EastBanc was back with some modest tweaks to the design. Primarily it reconfigured the facade to be less modern and to “read more” (i.e. kinda look) like a set of rowhouses. Apparently they made a few modest changes to the building’s positioning, but they were all pretty minor.
The neighbors were back again. The criticisms seem to fall into two buckets: the effect the building’s height has on the views of the Prospect St. neighbors and the impact the building would have on the “gateway” of Georgetown.
In GM’s opinion, the “gateway” argument is really just a tarted up way to complain about the height. Right now there’s a gas station, and GM suspects a lot of the people complaining about the height would be perfectly fine if the gas station stayed. Besides, as EastBanc argued last night, the building would be on your periphery as you come across the Key Bridge. Your eyes are directed straight at Dixie Liquors, not the Exxon: Continue reading
Tonight, the ANC meets for its May session. It looks like a relatively uneventful agenda, but that’s never stopped the ANC from going long before!
EastBanc returns again tonight to discuss one of their proposed large scale projects. This time its the Verizon building project on Wisconsin just south of the canal. The project has gone through several revisions. The first major change was to shift away from an all-stone project to a mixture of brick on the Wisconsin Ave. side and stone facing the canal. Last month, however, the Old Georgetown Board still objected to the design. The objections focused on the imposing nature of the stone wall facing the canal, and the confusing facade facing Wisconsin (GM’s seen it, and it is a bit jumbled).
We’ll see tonight how they respond.
Despite efforts to identify locations in the neighborhood for new Capital Bikeshare stations, DDOT proposed two other locations, neither of which make a ton of sense (one is at the east end of Rose Park, the other is in the Long and Foster parking lot on Wisconsin Ave.)
Tonight the ANC is taking the first steps to politely request that DDOT consider the locations that the ANC first identified. There is a bit of a fear that if the ANC complains too much about the proposed stations, DDOT will simply take them away. The ANC has to strike the right tone by saying that Georgetown definitely wants these two stations, they just need to be relocated to more desirable spots.
One spot that was not previously considered, but which might make a ton of sense, is at that triangle park between Pennsylvania Ave. and M St. next to the gas station. The park itself is owned by the federal government, and DDOT hasn’t worked out an arrangement with the feds yet to locate stations on federal land. But the sidewalk next to the park is city owned. And with the park next to the sidewalk, a station could go on the city-owned sidewalk without blocking the way (pedestrians would just walk around the station onto the federally owned part). While this still wouldn’t get a station into the residential blocks, it would provide a better option for lower East Village residents than currently exists. Continue reading
Photo by BoopBoopBoopBoop.
Last night, ANC 2E met for its spring session. And like last month, a couple of major EastBanc projects dominated the conversation. This time it was just the Exxon and Verizon projects, but two was enough to stimulate some rather interesting conversation.
As described last month, EastBanc is proposing constructing two new condo buildings: one where the Key Bridge Exxon now stands and one on the parking lot next to the Verizon switching building (between the canal and Grace Episcopal). The ANC and the OGB objected to the design of both the buildings, so EastBanc came back with new designs for both.
Dealing with the easier one first: the new design for the Verizon property changed from a stone-clad building to a brick-clad building (stone still clads the base and canal side). Here is what it looks like now (sorry for the bad cell phone camera):
The ANC generally liked the new design and approved the concept. GM asked about the Bikeshare station that is immediately in front of the proposed building. The EastBanc reps said it would have to be moved. The ANC insisted that they be consulted on any change to the station (it would have to go through DDOT anyway, but it’s worth knowing that EastBanc intends on getting it moved, hopefully to a very close new location).
The new building would have a little retail on the first floor. Last month it was proposed to contain 9 units. EastBanc didn’t mention any change to that with the new design.
The far more controversial project was the Exxon project. EastBanc made some cosmetic changes to the project, but it essentially looks the same as last month:
Design-wise, the ANC seemed inclined to approve the building. For one thing, they aren’t even asking for final design approval yet. This is still just the size review. And that’s what was the thrust of the conversation. Continue reading
At last month’s ANC meeting, one developer had three significant projects up for review. It would come as no surprise to anyone watching the Georgetown real estate market that that developer was EastBanc. Started in 1996, EastBanc has built a real estate empire centered squarely in Georgetown. And with every passing year and every approved project, the future of EastBanc and Georgetown have become more and more entwined.
Even for EastBanc, last month’s ANC agenda was significant. They are proposing to build a condo building where the Key Bridge Exxon stands, build a massive stone building on the parking lot of the Verizon building, and build condos behind the post office. While there are other developers working in Georgetown (for instance Argos Group is converting the Hurt Home into condos) none is having an impact on the neighborhood as noticeable as EastBanc.
Yesterday, the Washington Post took note of this. Columnist Thomas Heath wrote:
Washington developer, technology entrepreneur, restaurateur and nightclub owner Anthony Lanier prompted me to look at real estate differently when he explained the business discipline that built a Georgetown barony that occupies 60 buildings and enough square footage to fill eight football fields.
“We built a conveyor belt for renovation,” said Lanier (pronounced lon-YAY), 59, explaining the methodology that turned dilapidated townhouses into profitable stores and offices.
Lanier’s assembly line was made up of engineers, architects, historical preservation specialists, zoning lawyers and construction firms that could pump out renovated buildings one after another.
Heath then described the early investments of Lanier, including its first purchase at 3060 M St. (which is actually the now empty Ritz Camera store). From there, they slowly worked their way down M St. (and beyond) buying up distressed or run-down properties, fixing them up, and bringing in higher-end tenants. Fifty-eight buildings later, EastBanc has left its impression on the neighborhood. Continue reading
Last night the ANC met for its March session. The most important item on the agenda was the adoption of its resolution opposing Georgetown’s ten year campus plan. In the end, though, this was one of the shorter items on the agenda. The rest of the evening was filled with projects and items that will surely dominate the discussion for the rest of the year.
Ten Year Plan
The discussion around the proposed resolution was strictly hemmed in. G.U., CAG/the Burleith Citizens Association, and DC Students Speaks, were each given ten minutes to make their final case. Linda Greenan, Vice President of G.U.’s external affairs, spoke first. She expressed the disappointment the school has that the parties couldn’t reach an agreement and reiterated the school’s position that the proposed plan is modest and has been tailored to address the neighbors’ complaints.
Lenore Rubino of the Burleith Citizens Assoc. and Jennifer Altemus of CAG then split up 10 minutes. They repeated their organizations previous statements that that the plan fails to seriously address the already existing negative impacts that the school has on the neighborhood and the threat that the non-student uses are going to be pushed out unless the situation is remedied. They both supported the ANC’s resolution (CAG strayed a bit from the ANC’s resolution by demanding that no students be allowed to park a car in the neighborhood).
Finally, Hao Shen of DC Students Speaks, well, spoke. He gave an energetic defense of the school’s proposal. He pointedly stated that objecting to the plan is a violation of the District’s Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based upon matriculation status. This would be a compelling argument, that is if the DC Court of Appeals hadn’t explicitly rejected it in one of the court cases that sprung from the last ten year plan fight (837 A.2d 58, in case you’re interested).
Beyond this, there was little other discussion. Ron Lewis echoed Greenan’s disappointment in the failure to agree. In the end the resolution was passed 6-1, with Jake Sticka voting nay. Continue reading
Photo by Wayan Vota.
Last week, GM briefly mentioned that he thought the ideal solution for the Georgetown Post Office garage situation would incorporate performance parking. GM thinks that deserves a bit more explanation. That’s because the Georgetown Post Office is a perfect example for why we need to bring performance parking to Georgetown.
The Dominant Parking Theory
The theory that dominates most parking planning is the same one that came about in the mid-twentieth century. It calls for all new developments to provide at least a certain amount of off-street parking spaces. More often than not, these spaces are offered for free.
It’s not hard to understand the thinking behind this theory. If a building is plopped down in the middle of a neighborhood, without enough off-street parking, the users of this new building will quickly use up all the street parking, thus hurting all the users of the existing buildings.
How That Theory Is Playing Out in Georgetown
As described last week, Eastbanc is proposing to build a new office building behind the historic Georgetown Post Office on 31st St. Eastbanc proposes to build 18 underground parking spaces. This parking would be accessed from the existing south driveway of the Post Office.
The urge to insist on more parking, as some Commissioners expressed, is consistent with the dominant parking theory. Commissioner Skelsey stated “this is an office building. There’s no Metro, people are going to drive.” Eastbanc defended the amount of spaces, estimating that there would be a space for every 750 or so square feet of office space (downtown buildings have a typical ratio of more than a thousand square feet for every parking spot). Thus, Eastbanc was assuring the neighborhood that the old users would be protected from the new users.
If the conversation went on even longer, the question of whether to charge the employees to use the parking may have come up. The natural response based upon the dominant theory would be of course not to charge the employees. If you charge them then they may simply park in the neighborhood.
Given the fact that so much (essentially) free parking is so close to the Post Office–they only need to move their cars every two hours, annoying but not unheard of–pursuing the current strategy simply makes sense.
Why It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way
Performance parking (championed by UCLA Professor Donald Shoup) stems from the simple observation that street parking is too cheap. Garages in Georgetown charge anywhere between $4.00 to $12.00 an hour. Street parking is either free (in the two hour zones) or $2.00/hr at meter spaces. Since street parking is so cheap compared to what the market rate is for commercial parking, it is quickly used up. Performance parking merely suggests raising the cost of street parking just to the point that some spaces are always available.
GM has laid out his plan for performance parking for Georgetown. It would call for most streets near Wisconsin Ave. and M St. to become metered. Residents would be exempt from the meters (there are a host of reasons why that is the right choice but the main two are that the neighborhood wouldn’t accept the opposite and if residents aren’t exempt it would create an additional incentive to drive to work, which isn’t a worthy goal). All non-residents would be required to pay to park on the side streets just like on the main streets. The rate would ideally be set at whatever rate it took to discourage enough drivers from parking on the street such that at least 10 to 15 % of street parking spots are open at any given time.
How It Would Affect The Georgetown Post Office Project
Around the Post Office there is a mixture of metered spaces and two-hour zoned spaces. If the new building were built with zero parking, it is likely that some portion of the employees of the new building would in fact park on the street. They would have to move their cars every two hours. But it’s not that easy to enforce two hour zones and at least some workers would figure that they can be less diligent and simply pay the occasional $50 parking ticket. That’s acceptable compared with the monthly parking rates in Georgetown, which vary from $210 to $300 per month.
Those with Zone Two stickers can simply leave their cars parked all day.
With performance parking, those options would be gone. Metered parking would cost more per day than simply getting a monthly garage space. And meters are a lot easier to enforce than 2 hour zones; it doesn’t take multiple observations by a meter maid. Also, those with Zone Two stickers would not qualify as residents (unless, of course, they are Georgetown residents).
There are seven garages or parking lots within two blocks of the Georgetown Post Office. There is no need to create a new one. Particularly since the driveway can only accommodate one lane. That block of 31st St. is already frequently backed up. There is simply not enough room for cars to maneuver around each other, as would be necessary with the current plans.
Eastbanc has been quick to say they’ll be happy to build whatever parking the neighborhood demands. It’s a shame and it’s not in line with Anthony Lanier’s views on pedestrianism and city planning. While some are working behind the scenes to bring performance parking to Georgetown, it probably won’t be here until it’s too late for this project.
As a result, we’ll end up encouraging more driving and creating more congestion all because we’re stuck in an outdated theory.