Saturday, July 4, 2015

Introducing The Bard at 501 I Street


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 outreach@thebard501.com 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

16 comments:

westnorth.com said...

These neighbors apparently are completely blind to the existing 9/10-story buildings that already surround them -- namely Waterside (ON THE SAME CORNER!) and to Potomac Place Tower (across from Amidon-Bowen on the east).

And I bet they also whine about how there aren't any good restaurants, or about the lack of riders on the #74 bus.

Glenn said...

The neighbors are concerned about a large massed building which would be in the middle of a residential area. The large buildings that are mentioned in the above comment-- Waterside is not on the same corner, it is opposite, across the street. Potomac place is well out of range of the townhouse apartment neighbors. The proposed building will stretch more than a half a block into the townhouse area. A nine story building will now share the very same block with the townhouses, and will bring office space into a residential block. I'm all for development, but things have their place, especially considering that right now, there is certainly a lot of potential property already properly zoned and under construction not far away on the waterfront. There is no need to set up offices in on a residential block. The change of zoning request should be denied and any zoning plan should respect the townhouse neighborhood.

SWag said...

There are 11 houses on 6th St. that will front this development, and 6 houses that house that will have their backs to it along H St. 17 total houses. Maybe 45 people...

20,000+ people in #SWDC... But - only 4 or 5 stores. There is a reason for that... This project seems like a no-brainer.

No retailers are going to open in our neighborhood with so few customers. The next smallest ward, NE has over 127,000 residents.

SW is cut off from the rest of the city except for a handful of through streets, so you're really only here if you live or work here. Not a lot of people passing through. In order for it to be viable for retailers to open, we're going to need a LOT more density. Everywhere.

With that being said I'm ALSO in favor of keeping SW green, so I think if we develop (over an existing building, not a park) we should make sure to make the adjacent duck pond a MUCH more inviting and lively green space. Peace!

Unknown said...

Agree 100% with westnorth.com and SWag.

HRH King Friday XIII, Ret. said...

Tired of hearing from the luddites. Imagine what SW could become without all this opposing nonsense.

Glenn said...

An unorganized mess that will be unsuccessful development. That's what happened to SW in the first place to create the mess it is coming out of, just for other reasons.

westnorth.com said...

"not on the same corner, it is opposite"? So a high-rise across the street is fine for the townhouse at 835 6th St., but would destroy 833 6th? Most of the townhouses in Southwest directly abut high-rises, and that certainly doesn't seem to hurt their property values. Meanwhile, whining about *offices* is silly, on a site which recently used to host almost 1,000 students, on a block which already has offices (in the 700 7th building) and several home-based business.

Of course, instead of donating to repair the Duck Pond's plumbing and landscaping, Erkiletian was blackmailed into donating to keep SWNA's "The Southwester" in print. Sheesh.

Glenn said...

You seem bitter.

Wizzyliz said...

DC is ranked somewhere around the 21st or 24th largest city in the US. We are a big city and cities have high rises. Thankfully our buildings can't be 40 stories high. It's inevitable that developers will want to build high rises.

We are fortunate that there are developers interested in SW...especially someone like Monty Hoffman who is willing to invest in our community. If you don't approve of someone else's project, then do one yourself - that is if you have a couple billion dollars laying around. You certainly have the right to voice your opinion but he who holds the money usually wins.

Glenn said...

I totally agree with you, Wizz. I have always advocated for good development, and also for citizens to voice their opinion by all the means that are available, since everyone is SW is a stake holder. Money does win out. That can be both good and bad. Fortunately, Monty has been a doer AND a listener. We are fortunate that he got the project on the Wharf (and he knows he is lucky to have gotten it, and does he not take it for granted)

blogstupidgirl said...

Southwest does need more residents if it is ever to attract retail businesses (a hardware store and a nursery--please!). What troubles me, though, is that there seems to be no interest in building more single-family houses beyond the relatively small number of townhouses that went up during the '60s and '70s. That means that most of the population of Southwest seems doomed to be transient: singles who stay a few years, then move away when they marry or have children. Most Southwest apartments and condos are too small for families with kids--and that goes for new construction as well as old. If Southwest is ever to turn into a real neighborhood like Capitol Hill, where families live for decades, it's got to find a way to attract families with children by giving them decent-size houses in which to live. I'm not opposed to this Shakespeare plan-but how many more studio and one-bedroom apartments does Southwest need?

Andrea M. Pawley said...

Southwest has lots of great places for Shakespeare Theatre to locate, and lots of unused rental space already. They don't need to build the proposed 10-story building on the lot at 6th & I Streets. It's telling that the developer's public relations campaign is focused on Shakespeare Theatre and not on the 9 stories of market-rate apartments. In the next 2 years, Southwest is going to have a dozen restaurants and thousands of new residents just 3 blocks from 6th and I. Thank goodness. What I'd really like to see at the corner of 6th and I Streets is 30 affordable townhouse for families to encourage Amidon-Bowen to thrive as a neighborhood school. More studio and one-bedroom apartments for singles or couples without and children does not a thriving neighborhood make.

SWag said...

I totally see from a residents point of view how 30 - new, beautifully landscaped town homes seems like an attractive option. From a developers stand point it makes absolutely no sense. Generally, by year 6 an apartment building has paid for its self, and EVERYTHING else (minus taxes, operating costs, etc.) is profit! Developers don't do this for fun, they do it for money!

I recommend staring a "fundrise" account for SW. Buy a undeveloped lot and build gorgeous, affordable (???) town homes. I actually want one, so contact me once you do - I'll help you out. :)

SWag said...

But in all seriousness, this is a private development - no chance of town homes. Forget about it.

Now if Greenleaf Gardens were to be demolished and redeveloped - since the city owns and operates the land - this would be an EXCELLENT place to put affordable town homes a la the Cappers which is now Capitol Quarter in SE.

But asking a developer who just spent millions to build affordable town homes is cray cray!

Glenn said...

This is not exactly the case of a developer coming in privately on their own. This is a private company who needs a building and has brought in a developer to use apartment housing as a means to pay for that building on land that they purchased. Very different from most models in SW. The only other one which fits is the Randal School project which has come to nothing so far.

Ike said...

I’m with the comment on the need for more single family homes in SW. The plot in question is the LAST UNDEVELOPED PLOT in all of Southwest currently zoned for single family homes! If they’re not built here, they won’t be built at all. The City Council recently unanimously adopted the SW Neighborhood Plan, which specifically rejected Shakespeare’s request for a zoning change for the plot. Why let a Shakespeare and its development partner run roughshod over the zoning rules that were designed to keep this a mixed neighborhood?