DC Zoning Commission to Review Big Development That Could Bring 900 Apartments to Waterfront
Felice Development's Mixed-Use Plan for 1333 M Set for Hearing - CoStar News, May 19, 2020
A proposed 900-unit mixed-use development that would include one of the tallest buildings along Washington, D.C.'s waterfront took a step forward last week when the D.C. Zoning Commission agreed to set a hearing on the project, even as some members expressed reservations about its design and limited options for affordable housing.
The Zoning Commission unanimously agreed to take up the application for development at 1333 M St. SE, a site overlooking the Anacostia River. The application seeks in part to rezone the 2.9-acre site from PDR-4, or production, distribution and repair, to MU-9, which would allow for a high-density, mixed-use development.
Approval of the application and rezoning would clear the way for Felice Development Group to erect three buildings that together would measure 791,063 square feet and include 900 apartments and 45,419 square feet of retail anchored by a food hall. One building would stand 90 feet tall, while a second building, divided by two towers and connected by a third-level bridge, would stand 130 feet tall, 40 feet more than what was originally approved for the site. The development also calls for a two-level, underground parking garage.
Felice Development, a real estate development, construction management and investment firm based in Arlington, Virginia, said in its March application that the project would bring a number of public benefits to a prime but underused site including retail plazas, outdoor courtyards, private terrace spaces and improved streetscapes. The development will also contribute to Mayor Muriel Bowser's plan to increase affordable housing in the city with 10% of the project's units reserved for inclusionary zoning, a 2% increase over what is required. Additionally, the developer noted the project is consistent with the area's comprehensive plan and the Anacostia Waterfront Framework Plan that recommends the site be developed with a mixed-use project that can provide open space and connections between Virginia Avenue and the waterfront.
The commission agreed to consider the application at a meeting in which some members called for the inclusion of more affordable-housing units, citing the size of the project as well as the fact the commission is letting the developer build up to the maximum commercial height allowed in the city.
"The affordable housing needs to be increased way beyond the 2% that they've gone now," said Robert Miller, vice president of the Zoning Commission, who conceded the amount of housing offered now exceeds what it is required.
"I'm supportive of this going forward," he added. "I'm glad that in this economic crisis that someone is going forward with a very ambitious project, and I certainly don't want to discourage that in any way. But there needs to be a lot of benefits and amenities with it."
Several members of the commission also expressed reservations about GMT Architects' design that is said to draw inspiration from the historic Boathouse Row located adjacent to the project, as well as the industrial buildings formerly located along the waterfront.
Michael Turnbull, who also serves as assistant architect of the Capitol, noted it's an interesting project on a constricted site, but that "There are some elements of this... I don't know if they've been carefully thought through."
Councilman Peter May said the use of arches where the food hall would be located come off as "silly," while Miller lamented the lack of balconies on the units.
"If you're going to have housing on the waterfront, there needs to be balconies on the waterfront," Miller said.
The Zoning Commission and the D.C. Office of Planning are also pushing Felice to commit to LEED Gold environmental standards and explore the use of solar panels. They also requested additional renderings to get a clearer picture of the project.
A public hearing for the development likely won't occur until the fall at the earliest. Still, the hearing moves forward a project that has been in the works since 2015, when former owner Cohen Siegel Investors received zoning approval to build a three-building, 673-unit development with 10,370 square feet of retail on the site. Cohen Siegel would later sell the site to Miami-based developer Crescent Heights in 2017 for $21 million.
"I'd love to get to a hearing," said Commission Chairman Anthony Hood. "And hopefully actually see this happen."
The commission voted 5-0 in favor of the hearing.
The site is a triangle-shaped parcel bounded by M Street, Virginia Avenue and Water Street. It is located a half-mile south of the Potomac Yard Metro station and east of Navy Yard, the 11th Street Bridge and the planned 11th Street Bridge Park, a project more than a decade in the making that got some real traction last month when it received approval from the National Capital Planning Commission. Designed by OMA + OLIN to be the first elevated park in Washington, the park would cross the Anacostia River and include a 203-seat amphitheater, boat launch, community farm and cafe.
The bridge park is tentatively scheduled to break ground next year and open in 2023, though Mayor Muriel Bowser has now recommended removing $34.9 million in proposed bond funding for the 11th Street Bridge Park project as part of her just-released budget proposal for fiscal year 2021. The cut would be one of several cost-cutting measures the city is carrying out in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and threatens to derail a long-anticipated development that finally appeared to be moving forward. The D.C. Council is expected to make a decision on funding for the development in late July.
See 1333 M Street, NE for more project information.