City Paper Widget

Thursday, February 27, 2014

2100 Vermont Ave: 19 Microunits, No Parking

Richard Foster Architects has proposed a design for a six-story mixed-use building at 2100 Vermont Avenue NW. It would contain 19 rental units of between 430 and 716 square feet apiece. There will be no parking spaces. Residents will promise not to seek an on-street resident parking permit as a condition of their lease.

The property today as seen from V Street
The Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street heard a presentation from Richard Foster Architects about this proposed building at its meeting of February 25. The presenters are in search of at least four zoning reliefs and special exceptions from D.C. Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA). If ANC1B endorses the zoning-related requests, they will probably travel more easily through the bureaucracy.

However, the initial reaction of the committee was less than enthusiastic.

Parking and other issues

The presenters described the 3,000-square-foot lot as "landlocked", meaning that all sides abutted either another building or a sidewalk without a curb cut for a parking ramp. Even if a sidewalk curb cut were made, it would be impossible to design a ramp to basement parking that would be wide enough for a car and also fit on the compact lot.

In addition to requiring tenants not to seek a residential parking permit, the presenters said they would coordinate with D.C authorities to put a block on the address at the permit-issuing office.

As the law stands today, the building would be required to have one parking space for every three residential units.

The committee asked about bike storage at the property. The presenters said bike storage was planned in the basement. To access the storage, the committee pointed out, tenants would have to carry their bikes through the lobby, through a doorway, down a circular staircase, and through another doorway, to access the storage area.

The ground floor would have room for 2,100 square feet of retail space on the ground floor, with doorways facing both V Street and Vermont Avenue.

The plan is for 19 rental units in the building. There would four units each on floors two through five. They would be between 430 and 490 square feet. On the sixth floor, there would be three apartments, the largest of which would be 716 square feet.

BZA approval will be required because the building is slightly (four inches) taller, and covers slightly more (1.2%) of the lot, than zoning permits. In addition, the building as designed would not meet requirements for a rear yard for retail, and for roof setback.

Committee vetoes design

The Design Review Committee was reluctant to endorse the zoning-related requests. The members of the committee simply did not like the design, which was largely floor-to-ceiling windows, broken up by six-floor-high white columns. When time came to make a motion about the proposal, no one on the committee wanted to.

"You are packing as much as you can into a tiny site," said committee member Joel Heisey.

"Is this viable as a smaller building?" he asked.

The presenters said it was not.

Heisey compared the design to a "1960s office park building". Other committee members seemed to agree the design was lacking, especially the exterior "skin" of the building.

After some discussion, one of the presenters said: "We are more than willing to look at some skin alterations."

The presenters said they do not yet have a date for their BZA hearing, so there would be time to reconsider the design and return with an altered design.

The next scheduled meeting of ANC1B's Design Review Committee is on Monday, March 17, at 6:30pm, at the Thurgood Marshall Center (1816 12th Street).

(Photo credit: Google Street View)

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