City Paper Widget

Friday, February 13, 2015

Patterson Mansion: Should Cars Be Able to Cross a Busy Dupont Circle Sidewalk?

The development of the Patterson Mansion (15 Dupont Circle) was back before Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B/Dupont Circle again at its last regular meeting on February 11.

The Patterson Mansion in October 2013
Brook Katzen, Vice-President of Development at SB-Urban, and attorney David Avitabile of Goulston & Storrs, came before the ANC to explain the handful of public space changes it wishes to make to the busy sidewalk area on the sides of the Patterson Mansion that face Dupont Circle and P Street. Public space management is the responsibility of the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), who will make the final decision. The ANC's role is advisory.

The building will require two new Pepco transformers, which will live in large metal boxes next to the renovated building on the P Street side, somewhat camouflaged from the street by shrubs. As everything stands now, this will cause a pedestrian choke point on the sidewalk between the transformers and their green camouflage on the building side and the existing bus stop on the street side. So the developers are asking for permission to move the bus stop a short distance down the sidewalk to the east, toward 18th Street. The distance of the move is small, so buses can still stop on the existing concrete bus pad on P Street.

If the request is approved, the developers will pay the expense of moving the bus stop.

In the space vacated by the bus stop, the developers propose adding "four spaces" of bike racks. The ANC asked the developers to consider more than four.

Katzen also told the ANC that the DDOT wants to close one of the curb cuts that allow access to a shallow circular driveway to the front door of the building. He explained that DDOT has a standard of one and only one curb cut per new building. The resulting plan is to allow DDOT to close the curb cut on the right side of the front driveway as you look at the building.

The ANC tried to thrash out whether this was really a good idea. If two curb cuts remained, then the circular driveway could be used to pick up and drop up tenants and visitors, to allow deliveries, etc., assuming the cars and trucks could navigate the circular drive, which is somewhat narrow by modern standards. The vehicles would be crossing a very heavily-travelled section of sidewalk -- a potentially dangerous situation.

On the other hand, if the curb cut was blocked, then pick ups, drop off, deliveries, et al., would have to take place on-street in Dupont Circle. Vehicles would sit in the street while passengers fumbled for change or drivers (disregarding street signs) delivered packages -- also potentially dangerous and likely to increase congestion as well.

Katzen told the ANC that SB-Urban had made a pitch for the curb cuts to remain, but DDOT seemed to be married to its "one building, one curb cut" rule. Commissioner Mike Silverstein (district 06) added language to a proposed letter supporting the "historic curb cut", and asking DDOT to examine the issue again.

The motion to send a letter to DDOT supporting the proposed changes, with the added language, passed by a vote of 7 in favor, one against, one abstention.

Commissioner Daniel Warwick (district 02), the vote against, and Nicole Mann (district 08), the abstention, told the meeting that they supported closing the curb cut for reasons of pedestrian safety.

SB-Urban paid $20 million for the Patterson Mansion in June 2014 after receiving a tentative go-ahead to turn the historic home into 90 "micro-units" of suitcase-ready apartments with no parking.

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