City Paper Widget

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Sherman Avenue & Barry Place: Howard University Changes Its Master Plan

A team developing a 60,000-square-foot plot of land at the northeast corner of Sherman Avenue and Barry Place NW into a six-story mixed-use building appeared before the Design Review Committee of Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 1B/U Street on January 20. Its aim was to get the first of many endorsements necessary to move the project forward.

From publicly-available zoning documents
The development cobbles together land owned by Howard University and two
other land owners. As a whole, the project will require a long and laborious trip through the DC bureaucracy, including a request to rezone the property from residential to commercial and a request to declare the project a
Planned Unit Development (PUD). In addition, Howard University has to jump through extra hoops to engage in development on its share of the land because it has a campus master plan on file with the DC Office of Zoning. The ANC vote was only to endorse the proposed amendment to the campus master plan. The developers will surely have to appear again before the Design Review Committee, mostly likely more than once.

The team presenting was led by Maybelle Bennett, Director of the Howard University Community Association. Other team members who spoke at the meeting were Leila Batties of the law firm of Hollard & Knight, and Steve Gresham from the Alexandria office of Atlanta-based architecture firm Niles Bolton.

"This is not a Howard University project," Bennett said. "Howard is a partner. A private corporation is the primary."

The company's name on official documents is Barry Place Partners LLC, with an address in Valdosta, Georgia. The Georgia address is the same as that of the Corporate Office of Ambling University Development Group, a self-described provider of "campus development solutions". Ambling University Development Group is also described as "lead developer" on official documents for this project.

The committee's discussion ranged over many different aspects of the project, including the width of the sidewalks (with a member of the committee calling the effect of the design "claustrophobic" for pedestrians), and the fate of a colorful mural on the side of an existing building (it will not be preserved, but it will be memorialized in a "digital representation" in the lobby of the proposed building), Other topics touched on included: the loading dock, curb cuts, green roofs, green walls, parking (both car and bicycle), and the plans for nearby Howard University property.

The presenters indicated that the building will add much-needed affordable housing. According to DC law, a development of this type must allot eight percent of its floor space to "affordable housing", renting below market rate.
At the meeting, the presenters said they planned to have "at least" 27 of the proposed 319 rental units designated as affordable housing, of which four units would be two-bedroom apartments. These would be designed as "affordable" by people making 80% of Area Median Income (AMI) -- about $87,000 annual salary for a family of four. A one-bedroom apartment in this case would rent for a maximum of $1,611 a month.

The four two-bedroom apartments would be affordable at 60% AMI (about $66,000 annual salary), the presenters said. This two-bedroom apartments might rent for a maximum of about $1,450 per month.

This amount of affordable housing is less than the amount promised a December 31, 2014, DC government document about the project, which said that ten percent, or 32 rental units, would be affordable housing, five of which would be two-bedroom.

There will be 59 further units priced at "affordable housing" prices, but these units would be set aside for Howard University faculty and staff. There would be nine two-bedroom units that would be affordable at 60% AMI. The rest would be smaller units affordable at 80% AMI.

The committee voted in favor of supporting the amendment to the Howard University Master Plan contingent on the provision of the promised benefits. Five committee members were in favor, none opposed. There were two abstentions.

Documents related to this project can be viewed by the Interactive Zoning Information System of the DC Office of Zoning. Put case number 14-21 into the search bar.

Articles about this development also appeared in the Washington Business Journal in November 2014 and the blog Urban Turf in September 2014.

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