Representatives from Shakespeare Theater Company (STC) and their developer partner Erkiletian held a community meeting on Tuesday evening to continue a “dialogue” about their plans for The Bard, a mixed use development at the former Southeastern University building, located at 501 I Street. STC purchased 501 I Street from the GS Graduate School USA and plans to consolidate their back of house operations to the site from leased space scattered across the city, including administrative offices, studios, costume shop, classrooms, rehearsal space, as well as artist housing. Approximately 75 employees will relocate to The Bard. In order to make the project financially feasible, STC has partnered with Erkiletian, who will develop a 173-unit residential building that varies in height between three and nine stories, which is designed by Shalom Baranes Associates, the same architect as the office buildings at Waterfront Station.
Some changes were made to the development since the duo met with the community several months ago. The main change was moving Shakespeare’s rehearsal space at the corner of 6th and I streets 14 feet below grade. Below the rehearsal space will be a level of parking accommodating 69 vehicles. This change allowed a portion of the residential building that is set back from I Street to rise to eight stories instead of nine. There is a three-story section along I Street that wraps around the alley from which the eight-story section of the building is set back that will include 30 artist housing units. In addition, five two-story townhouses off of the alley on the northeast corner of the site will contain an additional eight parking spaces. However, the section of the building that is at the corner of 6th and I streets remains at nine stories, plus a penthouse. The unit mix is comprised of 25% studios, 40% 1BR and 1BR/Dens and 35% 2BR units. Access to the project will be via 6th Street and not I Street due to DDOT’s concerns about safety since Amidon-Bowen is located next door along I Street.
The meeting was contentious at times. Concerns about the building’s height and limited parking were echoed by many in the audience. Although the taller section of the building along I Street was set back from the street frontage with a three-story section and one story was removed from the taller section, the nine-story plus penthouse section at the corner of 6th and I remained a major problem for residents, some of whom have homes that will directly face the building and feel that the proposed building is out of place in their neighborhood. It was also brought up that the building will tower over neighboring Amidon-Bowen Elementary, casting shadows on the school. To help alleviate concerns about the limited parking and the potential for tenants of the new building to use street parking, residents of the rental building will not be eligible for Residential Permit Parking (RPP) and the property manager will be doing a periodic audit of the DMV to make sure residents don’t try to game the system. Parking will not be provided to STC’s employees.
STC and Erkiletian have brought in Bo Shuff to deal with community outreach for The Bard. A phone town hall was held Wednesday evening and other outreach efforts will be implemented over the summer to keep residents informed about the project. A project website will soon go live and a Facebook page has been set up so the project’s process can be followed via social media. Bo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: 571-336-6343.
Currently, zoning at the site does not allow what the development team has proposed, but they intend on going through the Planned Unit Development process unless their lobbying efforts are successful at the DC Council to make changes to the Southwest Neighborhood Plan. Demolition began last week at the site, which should last another three to four weeks.
Rendering courtesy of Shalom Baranes Associates