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Friday, November 22, 2013

Neighbor to Protest Liquor License Renewal of Lotus Lounge

Lotus Lounge (1420 K Street NW) will have its liquor license renewal protested by an abutting property owner, according to information was made public at the November 20 meeting of the liquor-licensing affairs committee of Advisory Neighborhood Committee (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle.

The protest will be brought by 1400 K Co., LLC, owners of the office building on the southwest corner of 14th and K Streets. 1400 K Co. seeks to have Lotus Lounge enter into a settlement agreement similar to the one 1400 K Co. has with another neighbor, The Park at 14th nightclub (920 14th Street).

The ongoing three-cornered struggle between ANC2F, 1400 K Co., and The Park at 14th nightclub has been the subject of previous SALM blog posts, most recently on November 14.

However, ANC2F will not join in the protest against Lotus Lounge. The deadline to petition D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA) for standing in this case is December 2, but ANC2F would not have an opportunity to vote until its meeting of December 4. The liquor-licensing affairs committee decided to take no action on the case, and it will not seek to enter into a settlement agreement with Lotus Lounge.

Attorney wants agreements with two nightclubs

Attorney John Patrick Brown of the law firm of Greenstein DeLorme & Luchs is representing 1400 K Co. in both cases. At the November 20 meeting, he told the liquor-licensing affairs committee his client would sign the letter of protest against Lotus Lounge the following day. A protest will provide leverage in agreement negotiations.

"I have not communicated with Lotus," Brown said of the letter of protest.

Brown said Lotus Lounge, like The Park at 14th, had a "rich investigative history". In the case of the Lotus Lounge, this included brawling, shootings, and assaults on police officers.

Public documents indicate the Lotus Lounge was fined $4000 and required to suspend business for six days in June 2012 for "failure to have police detail".

A WUSA9 report (video available here) details a history of violent activity connected to the club, including the June 2011 case where a District Heights man was so severely beaten by off-duty D.C. police officers working as security for the nightclub that he lost an eye. Four D.C. police officers were indicted in June 2012 for assault, conspiracy, and perjury in connection with this incident, according to a Washington Post report.

Brown also noted that, although Lotus Lounge's official capacity is 239, its web site says the club's capacity is 400.

Brown said his client wouldn't mind if ANC2F delayed the process in order to join in. But when the committee did not express enthusiasm, Brown did not pursue the matter. 

"At the end of the day, the goal for my client is a voluntary agreement like The Park at 14th," Brown said.

A settlement agreement is sometimes entered into by liquor-serving establishments, ANCs, and third parties to codify arrangement concerning opening hours, trash pickup, valet parking, and other matters which may impact the public.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

ANC2B Liquor License Roundup

Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle had a marathon meeting on November 13 due in part to the 20+ liquor licenses up on the agenda. More than 125 members of the public showed up, which one Commissioner thought "more than the other ten months combined".

ANC2B meets at the Brookings Institution
Most of the licenses under consideration were being renewed, but there were also new licenses and "substantial changes". Many of them were routine matters, which required no action and little discussion. But a few of them took a lot of time.

"Club Central"

"Club Central" is ANC2B's shorthand for the stretch of bars, restaurants, and nightclubs on Connecticut Avenue NW between M Street and Dupont Circle. It contains more than a dozen liquor licensees of various sizes and classes, including several popular multi-floor nightclubs.

The November 13 meeting considered many of the licensees in this district. Mentioned often were Public Bar (1214B 18th Street), 18th Street Lounge (1212 18th Street), Dirty Martini (1223 Connecticut Avenue), and Midtown (1219 Connecticut Avenue). The conversation wandered from one to the other in a confusing patchwork. One bar wishes to expand hours of services. Another has taken concrete steps, costing thousands of dollars, to lower noise. But the central fact remained: it is noisy at Club Central until late at night.

The residents of the nearby condominiums and apartment buildings are disturbed by the noise. Many of the complaining residents come from The Palladium (1325 18th Street). Residents of this buildings and others came before the ANC last month as well to request action on increased noise from these establishment, especially but not exclusively from their roofdecks late at night.

It is difficult to point the finger at one particular operator for the noise, but the noise exists. Some establishments have agreements with the ANC, others don't. The ANC agreements that exist are not uniform. It is not fair to target the operators with agreements.

In addition, it is difficult to get D.C. noise ordinances enforced, especially when there isn't one clear source of the problem. Local residents are frustrated.

"It shouldn't be that we are being run out of our beautiful homes," one said.

In the end, the ANC voted to protest the application for renewal of liquor licenses for the four bars mentioned above, hoping that it would bring them all to the table and lower the late-night volume in the neighborhood.

Since the meeting, an additional complicating factor has occurred: the fatal stabbing of a young man and the injury of a police officer during a melee outside of Midtown in the early morning hours of November 18. Incidents of this type often cause ANCs to more closely scrutinize liquor license renewal requests.

Other protests
  • Bistro Bistro (1727 Connecticut Avenue) -- characterized by Commissioner Mike Feldstein (district 01) as a problem licensee in his district, with multiple constituent complains about noise and public safety complaints.
  • Fireplace (2161 P Street) -- a resident of the 3100 block of P Street testified to public urination, drug use, and fighting by customers. Fireplace security allegedly witnessed these behaviors but did nothing about them except refusing re-admission back into the bar. They also failed to act on harrassment of passersby by customers newly-emerged from the bar, the resident said.
  • Barcode (1101 17th Street) -- Barcode is in conflict with some residents of The Presidential Cooperative (1026 16th Street), an upscale residence nearby. The owner told the ANC he had been a good operator, and had only one minor liquor-license violation in three years. The owner said the same two people repeatedly complained about his establishment. The owner said he gave these two people his cell phone number so he could personally resolve problems, but instead the two prefer to call the police. After the owner spoke, a resident of the Presidential testified to witnessing multiple violations of capacity limits, and showed the ANC pictures to back his claim. He also said Barcode's valet parking service blocked the bike lane on L Street, and there were noise problems.
The ANC unanimously voted to protest these three liquor license renewal applications.

ANC2B also decided to protest the request by Bar Charley (1825 18th Street NW) for a "substantial change" to their liquor license. This was the subject of the November 18 SALM blog post.

Routine matters -- little or no discussion, no protests

The only completely new liquor license application was for Amsterdam Falafel (1830 14th Street). It was asking for a wine and beer license only. It has proposed late hours (4am on Friday and Saturday) but alcohol sales will cease earlier (2am on Friday and Saturday). The restaurant (not yet opened) was characterized as a place where customers might go to sober up after other places had closed. The ANC agreed to take no action, that is, neither protest nor endorse the liquor license application.

A long list of other establishments up for renewal did not generate any reaction from the Commissioners or the audience. In a few of these cases, Commissioners said a meeting with the establishment might be necessary due to noise complaints. However, none of the complaints were deemed serious enough to merit an ANC protest. The ANC took no action.

In these cases, it seems likely that the establishments will get their liquor licenses without further fuss.

Two Commissioners, Leo Dwyer (district 07) and Noah Smith (district 09), were absent from the meeting. Commissioner Mike Silverstein (district 06) recuses himself from all liquor-license matters because he is a member of D.C.'s ABC Board.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

1324 W Street: Single-family House to 4 "Probably Condos"

The Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street has heard a proposal to turn a single-family house at 1324 W Street NW into a four-unit residence. The presentation took place at the Design Review Committee's regular monthly meeting on November 18.

1324 W Street was built in the mid 1890's.
Jim Shetler of Baltimore-based Trace Architects made the presentation, in search of ANC approval before he takes his project before D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) for a concept review. Trace Architects must seek HPRB approval because 1324 W Street is in the U Street Historic District. In addition, the project will need review by D.C.'s Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA).

Not so fast

"The clients are going to be in a hurry," Shetler said.

The clients are going to be disappointed. Design Review Committee Chair Tony Norman (Commissioner for district 10) told Shetler he was going to call HPRB to request the hearing on the project be postponed six weeks, until late January 2014.

Shetler had plainly stated there had been no attempt to contact nearby residents or groups.

"We need to notice it," Norman said, meaning the ANC had to inform the community that the Design Review Committee, and later the full ANC, would have public meetings about the presentation.

"The neighbors were not informed," Norman said. Norman then suggested Shetler start by speaking to the U Street Neighborhood Association, who had a representative in the room.

The proposal 

The house would be converted into four units, Shetler said. They would be "probably condos".

The view of the red-brick rowhouse would remain the same from W Street, but an addition would be added to the rear of the building. From the rear, the new addition of the second and third floors, and a new fourth floor, would be visible. The walls would be made of fiber cement panels with metal-clad wood windows and doors. There would be decking in the rear, supported by steel tube columns and protected by a wire mesh guardrail. There would be a top floor roof deck.

The ground floor would be excavated and a portion of the cellar would be removed to create two parking spaces. Parked cars would be partially protected by the ground floor deck.

In response to committee questioning, Shetler said HPRB recommendations included lowering the height of the proposed addition, reducing the depth of the balconies, and using alternate cladding.

"Have you decided to do those changes?" Norman asked.

"The only issue is the height," Shetler responded.

Norman said the proposal could be considered again at the next meeting of the Design Review Committee, which is scheduled for Monday evening, December 16, at 6:30pm at the Thurgood Marshall Center (1816 12th Street).

Norman is also the chair of ANC1B as a whole.

See a two-page .pdf document containing HPRB's staff report on the proposed renovation here.

1324 W Street was sold in July 2013 for $1.15 million, according to online records.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

ANC1B Liquor License Roundup

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street made relatively short work of a long list of liquor license renewals during its regular monthly meeting on November 7. The meeting clocked in at under two hours, an astonishing achievement given ANC1B's previous practice.

ANC1B meets at the Reeves Center (14th and U)
A few licensees received the majority of the committee's attention.


Indulj Restaurant and Lounge (1208 U Street NW) testified at the meeting in the hopes of overturning the recommendation of ANC1B's liquor licensing affairs committee (reported in the October 23 SALM blog post) to protest the application to renew.

The general manager of Indulj testified that, in the wake of a high-profile shooting in December 2012, Indulj had acted quickly to provide police with Bevidence from the establishment's security camera. This evidence showed the shootings took place outside the establishment, using guns taken from cars after the participants exited Indulj.

The vote was 5 - 0, with three commissioners abstaining, to endorse the application for liquor-license renewal.


ANC1B voted unanimously to protest application of Climax Restaurant & Hookah Bar (900 Florida Avenue) for a renewal of its liquor license.

According to official documents, Climax was fined $2000 in September as for operating an outdoor "summer garden" without a license. The summer garden was found operating in June 2012 by an investigator from D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA). Other documents show that, in February, Climax was fined $500 for a separate instance of the same charge of operating an unauthorized summer garden.

Also in September, ANC1B missed a chance to protest an application by Climax to make its outdoor summer garden legal because the ANC's representative missed a mandatory meeting with D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board about the matter.

No representative of Climax attended the ANC meeting.

Chuck and Bill's Bison Lounge

At the previous meeting of ANC1B's liquor licensing affairs committee, it was reported that Chuck and Bill's Bison Lounge (2718 Georgia Avenue) had received five liquor license-related citations in the last three years, including citations for sale to a minor and interfering with ABRA investigation. There had also been a homocide in January near the club, and an incident of groping in September. The committee recommended no action on the liquor license renewal request until further community discussion.

At the meeting of the full ANC, it was reported that the operator of Chuck and Bill's Bison Lounge had agreed to install cameras and meet with police. The operator of the establishment was expected to sign an agreement with the ANC the following week.

ANC1B voted unanimously to protest the liquor license renewal, with the provision that the protest would be dropped if the agreement was signed.


ANC1B agreed to lift its protest of a substantial change to the liquor license for Town Danceboutique (2009 8th Street). The proprietor appeared before ANC1B with a scale model showing the improvements he had made to mitigate noise coming from the club.

Town Danceboutique is working with architects and Polysonics Acoustic & Technology Consulting on this project, which features sound-absorbing walls 10 feet tall and 5.5 deep, of the type used to absorb noise from airport runways.

Town Danceboutique also had letters of support from its neighbors.

Routine approvals

About 30 other liquor licenses were on the agenda, all the subject of little or no discussion. On many of them, ANC2B chose to take no action. In a few others, ANC2B voted to endorse the request for a renewal of their liquor license. In either case, it seems the licensees won't have a problem renewing their licenses.

Establishments in this category include: DC9 (1940 9th Street), Dodge City (917 U Street), Ben's Next Door (1211 U Street), Bar Pilar (1833 14th Street), Mockingbird Hill (1843 7th Street), Bohemian Caverns (2001 11th Street), Lost Society (2001 14th Street), Cafe St. Ex (1847 14th Street), and many others.

Of the twelve Commissioners on this ANC, three were absent for this meeting: ANC1B Chair Tony Norman (district 10), Commissioner Sedrick Muhammed (district 03), and Commissioner Deborah Thomas (district 04). In Norman's place, Vice-Chair E. Gail Anderson Holness (district 11) presided. Anderson Holness said her practice when presiding was to vote only to break ties. She did not vote about any liquor-licensing matters.

Monday, November 18, 2013

ANC2B, Bar Charley, and the Group of Five

November 18, 3:30pm - Note: In the title and some places in this article, I mistakenly wrote that the name of the bar was "Bar Charlie". Apologies for the error. Thanks to IMGoph for pointing this out. (This blogging platorm does not allow strikethrough in titles.)

Also, there is an update at the bottom of the article.

An obscure part of D.C.'s liquor license protest regulations may marginalize a group that wishes to protest longer opening hours for Bar Charlie Charley (1825 18th Street NW).

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2B/Dupont Circle voted unanimously to protest the application by recently-opened Bar Charlie Charley to make a "substantial change" in its liquor license, specifically, to extend its hours of interior operation for an additional three hours a day, until 2am Monday - Thursday, and 3am Saturday - Sunday. The vote took place as part of ANC2B's marathon November 13 meeting.

Bar Charley replaced a Cajun restaurant.
The Dupont Circle Citizens Association (DCCA) and a group of five neighbors are also protesting.

For and against at the meeting, and before

First, Bar Charley's owner-operators put the case for extended hours, then ANC2B Chair Will Stephens (Commissioner for district 08, where Bar Charley is located) spoke in favor. Finally, four neighbors (three against, one in favor) also spoke. A woman from the 1700 block of Swann Street said she had 80 signatures on a petition against the extended hours. Her statement against the petition received applause by about 15 people in the audience.

Many other members of the community wished to comment but were not given permission to do so because of time constraints -- the ANC still had petitions from other restaurants, as well as foreign embassies and multiple property developers, to consider. Representatives of all these groups watched and waited, displaying various degrees of patience.

Meanwhile, an ill-tempered anonymous leaflet of leading "questions" for Stephens was distributed at the meeting. Example questions: "...why did you personally deliver leaflets supporting an establishment with pending business before your committee?" and "...why are you mischaracterizing the customary operating hours of our neighborhood restaurants... ?"

Stephens' web site also had hosted expressions of community opposition, both polite and not. Nine days before the ANC meeting, Stephens authored an article about Bar Charley's request. At the end of the article, Stephens said he planned to support the request for longer hours. This post drew community comment. In one comment, one anti-Bar Charlie Charley post called Stephens' claim of divided community opinion on Bar Charley "a blatant lie". Another respondent wrote to "respectfully disagree". Still another supported Bar Charley.

There was an additional comment made on Stephens' blog after the meeting: 
I would have loved to state [my opinion] in person at the meeting yesterday. Curiously enough there was not enough time for me to speak, after ample amount of time was dedicated to statements from all three owners of Bar Charley and yourself, all in defense of the license application.
Taken together, the anti-Bar Charley faction seemed determined to imply Stephens had made up his mind before the meeting and was doing Bar Charley's bidding.

Nevertheless, the ANC (including Stephens) voted to protest the application. The reason, according to a tweet from ANC2B Commissoner Kevin O'Connor (district 02): "Because DCCA & a group of 5 or more are protesting, we thought it best to be at the table. The owners [of Bar Charley] welcomed the idea."

The obscure rule

In addition to ANCs, two other types of entities can protest a liquor license application, renewal, or change. One is a registered community organization, which must hold public meetings and meet other requirements. The DCCA is such an organization. Its protest will having standing with D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Administration (ABRA), next to the ANC's protest.

The other type of entity that can protest is a group of five or more. This case also has such a protesting group.

There is an obscure ABRA rule part of D.C. law that says an agreement between an ANC and a liquor-licensee "bumps" a group of five's protest. To put it another way: If the ANC enters into a agreement with an establishment about opening hours, the group of five's protest will be dismissed automatically, whether the group of five is satisfied with the agreement or not.

If the recent behavior of Bar Charley's protesting neighbors is any indication of the character of the group of five, the group of five is more strongly opposed to the extended hours than ANC2B is. It may be difficult for Stephens and the ANC to convince the group of five and their allies that the ANC is really acting with their interests in mind.

A November 14 blog post by the web site Barred in DC provides more detail about this vote.


After publication, I received the following information from ABRA. The section of the law which allows an ANC to "bump" a group of five is highlighted:

The law was recently updated by the Omnibus Alcoholic Beverage Regulation Emergency Amendment Act of 2012 as follows:

(w) Section 25-609 is amended as follows:
 (1) The existing language is designated as subsection (a).
 (2) The newly designated subsection (a) is amended as follows:
 (A) Strike the phrase “if any,” and insert the phrase “if any, and serve
a copy upon the applicant or licensee,” in its place.
 (B) Strike the phrase “Whether or not” and insert the word “Whether”
in its place.
 (C) Strike the phrase “The applicant” and insert the phrase “The
applicant or licensee” in its place.
 (3) A new subsection (b) is added to read as follows:
 “(b) In the event that an affected ANC submits a settlement agreement to the Board on a protested license application, the Board, upon its approval of the settlement agreement, shall dismiss any protest of a group of no fewer than 5 residents or property owners meeting the requirements of § 25-601(2). The Board shall not dismiss a protest filed by another affected ANC or by a citizens association meeting the requirements of § 25-601(3) upon the Board’s approval of an ANC’s settlement agreement submission.”

Friday, November 15, 2013

17th and Q to Get Organic Indian Grocery Store

Updated November 15, 4pm - see below

An organic Indian grocery store named Pansaari will open at 17th and Q Streets NW, the future owner/operator announced at the regularly monthly meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle on November 13.

1603 17th Street is on the right
The store will be located in the basement of 1603 17th Street NW, the former location of Club Chaos nightclub, which closed in 2008.

Owner/operator Rano Singh spoke briefly to the ANC about her vision for the new establishment. She described it as a "Indian organic grocery and cooking school". As for her reason for opening in downtown D.C., she said: "I'm tired of running to Rockville and McLean" in search of genuine Indian ingredients.

She also said there would be a chai bar, but no take-out, so members of the neighborhood would be forced to stop and get to know each other.

Pansaari has a web page where you can sign up for email updates about the grocery's opening.

Although the word Pansaari (also spelled "Pansari") is translated by online Hindu-English dictionaries as "Grocer", a 15-minute promotional video for the new store (available here) has another explanation. A "Pansaari", the video says, is a traditional herb and spice merchant, whose store is also a sort of holistic pharmacy for practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine.

The video also details Singh's influences and inspiration for the new venture.

Some digitally-created visions of the future store's interior appearance are available here.


Thanks to an email from ANC2B Commissioner Kishan Putta (district 04) for this additional information:
  • Pansaari has signed a lease on the space.
  • Architectural drawings are being finalized before submission to D.C. authorities.
  • Projected timetable: Construction starts in December, storing opening March.
  • Pansaari may seek a wine/beer license.
Putta adds: "In the Internet age, a liquor license moratorium does not save or promote retail business in the District. Innovative and unique business ideas are the keys to success. I welcome Ms. Singh to the neighborhood and wish her the best of luck."

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Liquor License Endorsements, Protests from ANC2F

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2F/Logan Circle voted on a handful of liquor-license-related matters at its last regular monthly meeting on November 6. ANC2F voted to protest one liquor license application, and approve four others. It also voted to endorse a new settlement agreement with a "The American (soon to open in Blagden Alley), and against a request by The Park at 14th to terminate a settlement agreement.
A "settlement agreement" is often reached between an ANC and a liquor-serving establishment and codifies the establishment's operating hours and other details which effect the community.

The American
The roll-up garage door (right) was a bone of contention

ANC2F unanimously voted to support a settlement agreement negotiated between the ANC and Blagden Alley Entertainment, LLC., which will operate "The American" restaurant. The official address will be 1209 - 1213 10th Street NW, but the restaurant will actually be located in Blagden Alley, a historic district inside the block bordered by 9th, 10th, M, and N Streets. 

There was much community interest and some community opposition to the opening of The American. It was the subject of the September 24 SALM blog post.

Among the provisions of the settlement agreements are:
  • The restaurant will close at 1 a.m. Monday - Thursday and 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.
  • The outdoor consumption of food and drink will cease at 11 p.m. Sunday - Thursday and 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • Outside music will cease at 11 p.m. Sunday - Thursday and 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
  • Deliveries will be made by hand truck -- no trucks in Blagden Alley.
  • The American will discourage smoking outside the restaurant.
The text of the entire settlement agreement is available here.

There were still a few neighborhood voices protesting the restaurant up until the very last minute. One attendee accused The American of hiding a mandatory public notice on a roll-up door, so that it was not visible to the public most of the time. The notice contained information about The American's liquor license application, including times and places when members of the public could attend hearings on the matter.

I took the picture accompanying this article (above) in September. The notices can be seen on the metal garage door in the right of the picture.

Commissioner John Fanning (district 04) would look into the allegation, which would be a violation of liquor-license regulations if proved true. Fanning is chair of ANC2F's liquor-licensing affairs committee.

The Park at 14th

ANC2F voted 7 - 1 to oppose the termination of the settlement agreement between The Park at 14th nightclub (920 14th Street), an abutting neighbor, and the ANC. The lone vote against was by ANC2F Chair Matt Raymond (Commissioner for district 07).

The Park at 14th's operators appeared before the full ANC at its last meeting on October 2nd to say they wished to terminate the agreement, comparing the agreement to handcuffs. This was reported in the October 9 SALM blog post.

The Park at 14th's operators also said the agreement was unfair because many of their competitors were not compelled to have a settlement agreement. It has been informal ANC2F policy for many years not to require settlement agreements for establishments south of Massachusetts Avenue, because the area is largely non-residential. It is not clear why The Park at 14th (which is in this area) became an exception to this policy. However, this anomaly led to accusations of bias against The Park at 14th's operators at the October ANC2F meeting.

The commissioner voted to make formal policy stating that all new and existing liquor licensees, no matter where in ANC2F they were, should come before the ANC to acquire, renew, or change the conditions of their liquor license. The vote was 7 - 1, with Commissioner Raymond once again the sole "no" vote.

Vita Lounge

ANC2F voted to protest the liquor license renewal request for Vita Lounge (1318 9th Street). It was reported the establishment had 28 violations of liquor-licensing rules. The manager had been called by the ANC and told the ANC she would not come to the ANC meeting.

ANC2F's liquor-licensing affairs committee had unanimously recommended the full ANC protest Vita Lounge's application. 

Sherri Kimbel, Director of Constituent Services for D.C. Councilmember Jack Evans, suggested ANC vote to make two separate protests against the Vita Lounge. One protest would concern its liquor license, the other protest would concern its cover charge, dancing, and entertainment endorsement. ANC2F followed her advice and passed two separate protest motions. 

Commissioner Greg Melcher (district 06) promised to contact the operator of the Vita Lounge about the protest. The Vita Lounge is in Melcher's ANC district.

Records show Vita Lounge was fined $750 in April for a violation of its settlement agreement. Another document shows Vita Lounge failed to pay this $750 file within 30 days as ordered. The same document indicates Vita Lounge had a further outstanding fine from January.

Separate records show Vita Lounge has an appointment to appear before D.C.'s Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) Board on December 4 because it "failed to comply with the terms of its offer of compromise dated October 24, 2012".

Routine approvals

The full ANC followed the recommendation of its liquor-licensing affairs committee to approve liquor license renewals for the following establishment: Capitale (1301 K Street), Ghibellina (1610 14th Street), Number Nine (1435 P Street), and Vegas Lounge (1415 P Street). There was no debate or discussion about these applications.

ANC2F's summary of the entire meeting of November 6 is available here.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

1618 Q Street Renovation: ANC2B to Protest Tonight?

The full Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle will have its regularly-scheduled monthly meeting tonight at 7pm at the Brooklings Institution (1775 Massachusetts Avenue NW). One of the items on the agenda will be the proposed renovation and expansion of 1618 Q Street. If statements at the last meeting of ANC2B's Zoning, Preservation and Development (ZPD) Committee are any indication, the full ANC may vote to oppose the project.

1618 Q Street was built in 1880.
Single family home to seven apartments

The ZPD Committee met on November 5 to hear the presentation of Desiree Holler Pollard of Workshop T10 about the project. The proposal, if implemented, would convert the single-family home into seven apartments. It would deepen the basement and add a third floor at the rear of the property.

Workshop T10's presentation to the Dupont Circle Conservancy on this project was the subject of the October 15 SALM blog post.
The presentation to the ZPD committee was nearly identical to the Dupont Circle Conservancy presentation.

The renovation is entirely "by right", meaning, it is not necessary to get zoning variances or special exceptions from D.C.'s Board of Zoning Adjustments (BZA). However, the house is in the Dupont Circle Historic District, so all significant changes to the exterior of the building must be approved by D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). Workshop T10 seeks ANC2B support for its HPRB petition.

Neighbors object

The abutting neighbors to the west of 1618 Q Street came to voice their concerns. The new third level on the building would block their light, they said. Also, the proposed third-floor roof deck will be "a few feet" from their bedroom.

Would all the residents of 1618 have access to the roof deck? they asked.

The answer: No, only the residents of the two-story apartment on the front side of the building.

The neighbors indicated they were concerned about the roof deck's effect on their privacy, and also possible late-night noise. The committee members worried whether approving a roof deck would create a bad precedent.

Committee Chair critical

Committee Chair Leo Dwyer (ANC Commissioner for district 07) asked Pollard if she had consulted the other neighbors. Hollar Pollard said she had not. She felt it was too early, because the plans weren't finalized.

Dwyer recalled Pollard had phoned him on October 1. This was the day of the previous month's ZPD Committee meeting. Pollard had asked to be put on the agenda for that day. Dwyer was not able to do so. He said he told Pollard at that time to engage in community consultation.

"I mentioned a month ago you needed neighbor notification," he said.

Dwyer mentioned he had other concerns. For example, there was evidence some of the plans presented to the board were not accurate.

Pollard promised to get updated plans to Dwyer by Monday, November 11.

There was also discussion about the impact the third floor would have on the local skyline. It had been demonstrated that the third-floor addition will not be visible from the front of the property. However, the lot backs on to Stead Park. The addition would extend to the rear of the building and be plainly visible from the park to a great number of neighborhood residents and park users.

Other question marks were the provision of only two parking spaces for seven apartments, and whether seven apartments were appropriate for a zone designated "medium density".

"We're possibly going to not support the project," Dwyer said.

Dwyer suggested eliminating the roof deck and addressing the parking issue. He also indicated he would want to see better plans and more outreach to the neighbors before he would think about endorsing the plan.

"Lack of outreach to the neighbors was a big concern," he said.

No official vote on the project was taken at the meeting.

The HPRB hearing on the 1618 Q Street renovation is scheduled for November 21, at 9am, at 441 4th Street, NW, in room 220-South.

If it is approved, Hollar Pollard said, the project is planned to start in February or March and last about six months. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Carlyle Suites Roof Deck Moves Forward

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle will likely support the request by the Carlyle Suites Hotel (1731 New Hampshire Avenue NW) to add a roof deck. At the November 5 meeting of the Zoning, Preservation and Development (ZPD) Committee, Chair Leo Dwyer (Commissioner for district 07) indicated the committee would recommend that the full ANC support the project. The other Commissioners and committee members present seemed to agree.

Carlyle Suites opened in 1939
The Carlyle Suites Hotel's request is on the recently-published agenda for the next meeting of the full ANC, scheduled for tomorrow, November 13, 7pm, at the Brookings Institution (1775 Massachusetts Avenue).

The proposed roof deck was the subject of community interest and lengthy debate at the previous month's ZPD Committee meeting -- see the October 5 SALM blog post.

Still skeptical

The people living in the neighboring apartment buildings are still skeptical of Carlyle Suites Hotel's intentions. Specifically, they believe the roof deck may someday host a noisy late-night bar/restaurant operation. Although hotel management have repeatedly assured the neighbors there are no present plans for outside eating and drinking, they have also clearly said they can not completely rule out a change in their plans.

"It's clear that the hotel doesn't want to be fettered," said one neighbor at the meeting.

Carlyle Suites manager Scott Dawson argued there were practical reasons why the hotel would not want to operate a bar on roof.

"They'll be a couple of hundred people sleeping right underneath," he said.

Much community consultation

There had been a great deal of community consultation in the last few weeks. ZPD Committee Architect Michael Lee Biedler counted four community hearings and eight or nine meetings. ANC Commissioner Stephanie Maltz (district 03) tweeted the hotel had hosted five community meetings, and said at the meeting there had been "countless emails".

The Carlyle Suites Hotel is in Maltz's ANC district.

Although the neighbors still were suspicious of the ultimate use of the roof deck, they seemed to understand there was little point forcing a confrontation at this moment. The Carlyle Suites Hotel seeks design approval only for its roof deck from D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). HPRB's brief is preservation only and is extremely unlikely to take into consideration, or even listen to, talk about future noise or liquor consumption in the space, whether the talk comes from an ANC or individuals.

Designed to minimize noise

There had been some changes made as concessions to neighborhood concerns about noise and privacy. The edge of the roof deck had been pulled 3 - 4 feet back from the edge of the roof.

The plan had also been changed so that the deck now has an five-foot-high wall of frosted glass on its perimeter. The glass wall will reflect sound toward the inside wall of the area, which there is a sound-absorbing stucco trellis. Outside the walls, there would be greenery in planters.

Why was the greenery on the outside? someone asked.

"To keep people from throwing [stuff] into the planters," was the reply.

Since the previous ZPD meeting, HPRB had looked at the design and recommended, for aesthetic reasons, the trellis not extend all the way around the interior wall. However, the ZPD and the neighbors seemed to agree noise considerations should trump aesthetics in this case.

Commissioner Dwyer said he would recommend ANC support for the project with the trellis extended.

Commissioner Maltz said she would circulate a draft letter to Commissioners before the next meeting of the full ANC.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Church Joins Exodus from Future Historic District

Augustana Lutheran Church (2100 New Hampshire Avenue NW) has successfully pleaded with Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street to be, in effect, excluded from the soon-to-be-created Meridian Hill Historic District. The Church will be designated as "non-contributing" to the future historic district.

Historic district approved -- with exclusions

At V and New Hampshire NW
The last-minute plea came just before ANC1B voted to endorse the historic district overall, including the designation of certain buildings within the district as non-contributing. The vote took place at ANC1B's regular monthly meeting on November 7.

Property owners of most buildings within a historic district must obtain the permission of D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) before taking on a wide variety of renovations, including nearly any to the exterior of a property. If a property is designated as non-contributing within a historic district, however, the owner has a much greater variety of activity which can be carried out without HPRB approval.

Of the 65 buildings in the proposed district, there will be fifteen other properties proposed to be designated as non-contributing within the future Meridian Hill Historic District, according to Kim Williams of D.C.'s Historic Preservation Office (HPO), who testified at the meeting.

These may include four single-family homes along on the 2300 block of 15th Street, facing Meridian Hill Park. Representatives of the single-family homes got the support of ANC1B's Design Review Committee for exclusion at its meeting of October 28. This was the subject of the October 30 SALM blog post.

The full ANC's endorsement of the historic district followed the Design Review Committee's recommendation to exclude the four single-family homes.

Testimony from Augustana

The Reverend John Kidd, Pastor of the Augustana Lutheran Church, and counsel Meghan Meier appeared before ANC1B to ask for the exclusion. They gave two reasons. The first reason: the church was not part of the vision of Mary Henderson, the driving force behind the creation of the Meridian Hill district more than 100 years ago. This statement is difficult to evaluate, but the church seems to date from 1915, according to documents presented at the Design Review committee meeting. This was a time when Henderson was intensely involved in the creation and improvement of every aspect of the Meridian Hill district.

The second reason: the church is not visible from Meridian Hill Park, nor is it visible from 16th Street.

"We are sandwiched between two apartment buildings," Reverend Kidd said.

One of Augstana Lutheran's neighbors is Meridian Towers Apartments (2112 New Hampshire Avenue). This multi-story apartment building, built in 1964, is also designated as non-contributing.

In addition, Kidd and Meier indicated being part of a historic district would burden the church with additional responsibilities that it could not afford to carry out.

The vote

Commissioner Ricardo Reinoso (district 05) made the motion to support the Meridian Hill Historic District with the exclusion of the non-contributing properties, including the four single-family houses and the Lutheran church. Both the homes and the church are in Reinoso's district.

Of the twelve ANC1B Commissioners, the vote was five votes in favor of endorsing the proposed new historic district with exclusions, and two opposed. One of the "no" votes came from Commissioner Dyana Forester (district 06), who said she felt local residents had not been adequately notified about the district.

Three Commissioners were completely absent from the meeting, and a fourth arrived over 45 minutes late, after the vote was taken.

ANC1B Vice-chair E. Gail Anderson-Holness (district 11), who was presiding, did not vote. She explained at another point in the meeting that her practice was not to vote when she is presiding, except in the case of a tie vote.

In addition to ANC district 1B, the proposed historic district will also fall in part into three other ANC districts. Reinoso reported the other three districts -- ANC 1A/Columbia Heights, 1C/Adams Morgan, and 1D/Mount Pleasant -- have all voted to support the district.

The four endorsements will now go to HPRB, which is expected to approve the new historic district in general. The fate of individual buildings is not so easy to predict.

Friday, November 8, 2013

ANC Crime Statements on the Increase?

Following the apparent success of a initiative by Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle, the use of ANC-drafted community impact statements may be on the rise, with the US Attorney's office asking another ANC this week to make statements on three other cases.

Community impact statements are filed by ANCs and detail the effects of a convicted criminal's activity on the community and urge that the criminal receive a stringent sentence.

Dupont smash-and-grab man gets three years with ANC help

A report on the website of ANC2B Commissioner Kishan Putta (district 04) states that Gregory Teal, a man arrested over 40 times for theft from automobiles, has been sentenced to three years in prison. The sentencing occurred after ANC2B filed a community impact statement requesting Teal receive a sentence of 2 - 3 years. Previously, Teal had never received prison sentences of more than 90 days.
Lanier addresses ANC2F October 2

Putta reports he received thanks from DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier.

"This is a prime example how well we do when we work as a team," Lanier wrote.

Assistant Chief of Police Cathy Diane Groomes wrote to credit the ANC's statement for the unusually long sentence.

"[W]e are so happy that community came out to support this effort … truly it resulted in the sentence issued," Groomes wrote in an email.

See the October 21 SALM blog post for more on the Teal case and the ANC statement.

Logan Circle ANC asked to weigh in on three cases

At its regular monthly meeting November 6, ANC 2F/Logan Circle voted unanimously to file community impact statements in three separate cases of local crime. The statements were requested by Roger Kemp, a community prosector at the US Attorney's office. Kemp sat through a long meeting about other matters before he had the opportunity to request the ANC's assistance.

The first case Kemp mentioned is that of Jahlani Brown, 21, who pled guilty to first-degree sexual abuse on October 25. The incident took place at the Lincoln Westmoreland Apartments (1730 7th Street NW), just north of the Shaw metro station.

According to a press release from the U.S. Department of Justice:
According to the government’s evidence, on Sept. 17, 2013, at about 9 a.m., the victim reported to her office in the Shaw area of Northwest Washington and began preparing for her workday.  Brown, who was captured on video surveillance, entered the office and locked the door. He sexually assaulted, threatened, and robbed the victim before leaving the office.
Following the attack, the police released screenshots of Brown from the video surveillance footage. He was arrested two days later and was not released.

Brown will be sentenced on January 10, 2014, and will have to register as a sex offender for the rest of his life.

The second case involves Carlito Bailey and Rickey Watkins, both 22, who were convicted on October 11 of aggravated assault, assault with a dangerous weapon, and related firearms offenses, after a jury trial in D.C. Superior Court.
From a U.S. Department of Justice press release:
Johnson Avenue and R Street (photo credit below)
According to the government’s evidence, on the night of May 5, 2012, Bailey, Watkins, and a third unidentified shooter traveled to Northwest Washington armed with firearms.  The three men approached the intersection of Johnson Avenue and R Street NW, where they opened fire, shooting at least ten bullets into a block crowded with adults and children gathered to celebrate a birthday party.  One of the adults was shot several times in the legs. After firing the shots, the men fled on Johnson Avenue.

Bailey and Watkins were apprehended approximately 24 minutes after the shooting in a car with two firearms. One of the firearms was a ballistics match to six shell casings and a bullet from the crime scene, and a swab from the slide of that weapon yielded DNA that matched the DNA profile of Bailey.  Cell site data placed Watkins at the scene of the shooting.
Read another report about the incident here.

Bailey and Watkins are scheduled to be sentenced on December 10, 2013, by D.C. Superior Court Judge Robert I. Ritcher.

The third case is that of Gregory A. Cole. ANC2F Commissioner Peter Lallas (district 01) said at the meeting he had specificially requested this case be put on the agenda. Lallas described Cole as a crack dealer who operated on 14th Street, especially around R Street. This area is in Lallas's ANC district.

ANC2F's Crime and Public Safety Committee will draft the statements.

The full ANC is next scheduled to meet on December 4, 7pm, at the Washington Plaza Hotel (10 Thomas Circle).

There is a good explanation of community impact statements about half-way down this page from the US Attorney's Office.

(Photo credit: Borderstan, used by permission)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Embassy of Georgia to Move to R Street

Staff from the Embassy of Georgia appeared November 5 before a committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle to request support for a planned move of the Chancery to 1824-1826 R Street NW. The Embassy of Georgia asked for endorsement by ANC2B's Zoning, Preservation and Development (ZPD) Committee because the proposed new chancery location is not zoned for this type of use. It is zoned for residential use.

1824 R Street (left) was built in 1911 for $15,000
Even though it is zoned residential, it has been decades since the either of the two adjacent buildings have been anybody's home. The building has been on the market for several years. Before that, it was the Artists Inn Residence, a bed-and-breakfast, for more than five years. The Artists Inn Residence closed in 2009.

Before that, the building housed the Embassy of Singapore. A document from DC's Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) indicates the Embassy of Singapore first moved into the 1824 R Street property in 1971. In 1981, the Embassy of Singapore acquired the adjoining property and successfully petitioned the DC government to expand and use both properties as a chancery.

Georgian diplomats and a representative told the ZPD Committee sixteen employees would work at the sight. Most carpool together to work from their residences in suburban Maryland. There are at least five parking spaces associated with the property, possibly more if compact cars were used. The diplomats said they might request two spaces on the street be reserved for diplomatic cars during business hours. When told that the chancery's future neighbors might object to that, the Georgians said the request was "not necessarily mandatory".

It was reported the Embassy Singapore had ten reserved parking spaces on the street in the period they used the property.

The Embassy of Georgia currently rents its chancery building and wishes to buy a property, according to testimony at the meeting. The chancery is currently located at 2209 Massachusetts Avenue.

According to the presentation at the meeting, the combined structure is about 12,000 square feet. The asking price for the property in 2011 was over $15 million.

Although no vote was taken at the meeting, the committee members seemed inclined to recommend that the full ANC support the request of the Embassy of Georgia. The ANC recommendation will accompany the Embassy of Georgia's request for zoning relief when it is processed by the Foreign Mission Board of Zoning Adjustment (FMBZA). The FMBZA is an agency which provides foreign embassies and missions with a "one-stop shop" for all legal aspect of local property ownership and use.

At the same meeting, the ZPD committee also considered a request from the Embassy of Oman to endorse a handful of zoning variances. This was reported in the SALM blog post of yesterday, November 6.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Oman Embassy Seeks Cultural Center at 16th and L

Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle was asked last night (November 5) to endorse a handful of zoning variances which will allow the Embassy of Oman to open the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center in a building on the northwest corner of 16th and L Streets NW. The request was heard by ANC2B's Zoning, Preservation and Development (ZPD) Committee.

1100 16th Street as seen from across L Street
Attorney Chris Collins of Holland & Knight told the committee that Oman plans to purchase and occupy 1100 16th Street as a diplomatic property. The building is located on a 5,725 square foot parcel at 16th and L. It is zoned in a category which allows use by diplomatic missions.

The building will be occupied Monday - Friday, 9am - 5pm. The cultural center will start with three employees but may eventually employ as many as 25 in office, exhibition, and classroom space, according to documents filed with the DC government by the Embassy of Oman.

However, at the ZPD committee hearing, Collins said there will probably be no more than 10 employees in the space. Collins also reported the building would have a lecture hall with a capacity of 50 - 75, which may host up to four events per month.

The presentation to the committee indicated the cultural center intends to put signage over its entrances and the crest of Oman above a third-floor window. In addition, there will be public art, specifically, a sculpture of a ship in the yard facing the building's 16th Street side. The sculpture will recall Oman's heritage as a seafaring nation.

The new owners will also replace the doors and improve the quality of the windows.

Starting in late 2014 or early 2015, the cultural center will offer Arabic classes from 6 until 9:30 on Monday to Thursday evenings, according to its zoning application.

Although no vote was taken at the ZPD Committee meeting, the atmosphere was very cordial. The committee will likely report favorably to the full ANC at the next meeting (November 13). Then, the full ANC will probably vote to support the Embassy of Oman in its request before the Foreign Missions Board of Zoning Adjustment (FMBZA) for the zoning variances necessary to allow the Embassy of Oman to purchase and occupy the building.

FMBZA is a DC government agency which exists to make it simpler for foreign missions to obtain and occupy buildings. It functions as a "one-stop shop" for getting necessary permissions. This relieves the Embassy of Oman of the obligations of making separate applications to the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) or Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB).

Under normal circumstances, the owner of 1100 16th Street would have to consult with HPRB because the building is part of the Sixteenth Street Historic District.

The previous tenant in the building was the charter elementary School for Arts in Learning (SAIL), which vacated the building in July 2011. SAIL was the subject of investigative journalism by the Washington Times in May 2010, which showed "a history of unaccountability and shoddy oversight" at the school, as well as many years of poor math and reading scores. The Washington Times said SAIL had paid $2.8 million for the building.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Popup Endorsed for Historic U Street District Home

The Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Committee (ANC) 1B/U Street voted unanimously to endorse a planned renovation to 1837 12th Street NW. The vote took place at the committee's meeting of October 28.

1837 12th Street NW
1837 12th Street is a two-story single-family home less than two blocks from U Street. Significant renovations changing the exterior of house must be approved by D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) because the house is in the Greater U Street Historic District.

The renovation will include the addition of a third floor popup to the rear of the property, the renovation of the exterior (including refurbishing of windows and of dentil molding as well as replacing a stairway), and basement excavation.

The third floor addition will be two feet nine inches higher than the highest point of the existing roof and will be set back 16 feet from the front. There is no plan for a roof deck.

Normally, it is required that roof addition not be visible from the street. To test this, applicants seeking HPRB approval often construct rooftop mockups of the planned height of the final construction, and take photos to show that it will not be visible from the street.

In this case, however, a neighbor testified before the committee that the mockup was visible from across the street. The neighbor produced a photograph taken from the parking lot across the street from the house, in which the top of the mockup could clearly be seen.

The committee determined that, even if the third story addition would be visible from the parking lot, it would actually be considered not visible from across the street, according to the standard method of determining visibility. Rooftop additions are considered not visible if they cannot be seen from the farthest point on the sidewalk across the street from the house. The picture taken from behind a fence separating the sidewalk from the parking lot, that is, farther away than the normal definition of "across the street". Therefore, the proposed addition was compliant, even if the mockup could be seen in the neighbor's photograph.

The neighbor was also concerned about the flow of water off the roof of 1837 12th Street after the proposed renovation was finished. The roof of 1837 12th Street slopes to the rear. The fear was that the addition of a popup would cause rainwater to pool in mid-roof, with no place to drain except the roofs of adjoining properties.

The project contractor told the committee the water would drain via a downspout through the house. It would then be dumped into a gutter in the back.

It was also reported that a structural engineer was working on the project to make sure the planned excavation of the basement did not have any unforeseen consequences.

The project will proceed with committee endorsement to the full ANC for final approval. The next scheduled meeting of ANC1B is on November 7, at 7pm, at the Reeves Center (14th and U Streets).

Monday, November 4, 2013

Funeral Home Parking Lot to Rowhouse

Developer Thomas Swarm told the Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street he wishes to put up a rowhouse on a 1,262-square-foot lot at 1801 4th Street in LeDroit Park. The site was formerly the parking lot for the adjoining property, Frazier's Funeral Home. Frazier's went out of business in 2008, and the former funeral home is being developed into a 4 - 5 unit residential building.
1801 4th Street is now a vacant lot (center)

Before the building was a parking lot, there was a rowhouse on the site. The new rowhouse attempts to duplicate the footprint of the long-demolished rowhouse. Its height will be the same as the neighboring rowhouse.

According to documents presented at the meeting, the new rowhouse will have two apartments. One will be a two-bedroom, two-bathroom, 844-square-foot basement apartment. The other will be a two-story, three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom, 1,688-square-foot apartment. There will be one enclosed parking space in the rear.

Swarm told the Design Review Committee on October 28 he wished to get support for his request to D.C.'s Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) for zoning variances. However, Design Review Committee chair Tony Norman told Swarm the committee would not consider his request until Swarm officially filed for zoning variances with the BZA, because only then would the committee know for certain the number and nature of the zoning variances Swarm required.

Norman is also chair of ANC1B as a whole and Commissioner for district 10.

Swarm told the committee he would need a zoning variance for the side yard next to the proposed building. Zoning requires side yards to be at least 10 feet wide. Due to the unusual shape of the lot, the side yard would have to be only three feet wide in order to replicate the original building's footprint.

In addition, Swarm said, the rear yard would require a zoning variance for setback.

Documents presented at the meeting show that the proposed lot occupancy will be 61.9%. Since lot occupancy allowed is 60%, Swarm may have to seek BZA approval for this as well. 

The property is located in the LeDroit Park Historic District, so Swarm had to appear before D.C.'s Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB). The HPRB advised Swarm to make his new construction match the neighboring white building (see photo) as much as possible, he said at the meeting.

The 2012 HPRB application, made by architect Michael Vallen of Vallen Design Studio on Swarm's behalf, is a .pdf document available here.

According to a 2012 article in the Washington Post, Frazier's Funeral Home operated in the LeDroit Park location from 1929 until its closing. Swarm bought the property in 2011 for $850,000, the Post said. A separate report indicates that the September 2011 sale included both 5,500-square-foot parcel which held Frazier's funeral home plus the parking lot.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Four Proposals Aired for Franklin School Renovation

Four radically different proposals for redevelopment of the Franklin School (13th and K Streets NW) were presented at a public hearing on the evening of October 30. The hearing was aimed at community residents, and sought public comment. Only a handful of community members came out. These spectators were far outnumbered by the four teams of presenters on hand.

Alexander Graham Bell worked here
The hearing was sponsored by the Office of Deputy Mayor for Planning and Development (DMPED) and took place in the basement of Thomson Elementary School (1200 L Street). Project Manager Reyna Alorro of Hoskins's office emceed the proceedings.

Presentation 1: Abdo Development

Abdo Development hopes to turn the Franklin School into office space for the CoStar Group, a commercial real estate information company. Andrew Florance, President and CEO of CoStar Group, said CoStar was the largest company (in market capitalization) headquartered in the district and run by a DC resident.

"CoStar seeks to utilize the Franklin School as our primary global technology research and development center," Florance said.

Florance also said CoStar will self-fund the estimated $35 million renovation with cash. It requires no financing.

Florance and architect Diana Horvat of Perkins-Will outlined the project's commitment to a green building, including a green roof and a winter garden.

Presentation 2: Douglas Development

Douglas Development and Chicago-based architects Autunovitch Associates presented a proposal to turn the Franklin School into a boutique hotel. The hotel would have 40 rooms plus a rooftop bar and restaurant. It would be called "the Benjamin", and would create 90-100 new jobs via an estimated $10-15 million in annual sales.

The presenters said they do not operate hotels. They plan to develop the building first and get an operator second. They have contacted many big-name hotel operators, and recently got a letter of intent from the Kimpton Hotel & Restaurant Group.

The presenters noted a hotel/restaurant would keep the building accessible to the general public. The proposal would develop the building's back alley as an outdoor restaurant and bar area, and "bring back the attic as a fabulous restaurant."

Presentation 3: ICE-DC

ICE stands for Institute for Contemporary Expression. It is the brainchild of Georgetown art collector and businessman Dani Levinas, a 30-year resident of Washington.

Once renovated, Levinas said, the building would host travelling collections and art installations in gallery space. There would be no permanent collection, but would host "something new" every four or five months, featuring "cutting-edge artists who are on the forefront of the art world". It would become "a major vibrant cultural hub" on the model of PS-1 in New York or the Tate Modern in London.

"We want to repurpose the Franklin School as an international cultural destination," Levinas said. 

There would be a ground level restaurant by Jose Andres plus a cafe and an art  bookstore. In addition, education programs, interships, and mentoring programs are planned, as well as a contemporary art biennale.

Presentation 4: Lowe Enterprises

Lowe Enterprises and Bundy Development Corporation seek to create a "tech incubator" which would "make D.C. a technology hub".

The goal, the presenter said, was "to create a digital economy ecosystem in the heart of Washington, D.C., that is authentic, readily identifiable, and serves as a central node and catalyst for future growth in the district."

The proposed renovation would include flexible exhibit space, office and meeting space, and a tech cafe. There would be a retail component on the ground floor and affordable living space for entrepreneurs who wish to be near their offices. 

The project was "innovative, inclusive, and will create economic opportunites". It was projected that between 2,700 and 4,000 jobs would be created in the first five years.


There were a few questions from the community for the presenters.

Two of the questions were directed at Douglas Developers. The first asked if Douglas Developers had an intention to evict nearby food trucks if their proposal was selected. Paul Millstein of Douglas Developers said no.

"They have permits to be there," he said.

The second question noted Douglas Developers' 2010 problems owing real estate taxes to DC. Did Douglas Developers owe any real estate taxes to DC presently? Millstein said no. The previous tax problems, Millstein said, were a result of the 2008 downturn in the real estate market and were not a factor now.

"We did what we had to do to honor our obligations," Millstein said.

Public comment period still open

Reyna Alorro said the public comment period on the project will remain open until November 29. Comments can be emailed to

The slideshow presentations of the four groups, plus questions and answers from the hearing, will be available on the DMPED website after November sixth, Alorro said.