5th & I Public Meeting recap

Tonight I attended the public ODMPED meeting of development presentations for the lot at 5th and I Street NW (463 Eye St NW).

Four developers presented for approximately twenty minutes apiece with a brief moderated Q&A forum at the end. The proposals had some common elements. These included had a prominent hotel element, retail/dining, LEED green building and an aspect relating to the Arts. The majority of the proposals included a residential component, plans to acquire adjacent lots to the RFP and affordable housing. Below I’ll highlight proposal specific details.

JBG Associates LLC2

JBG has aspirations to produce a development with the biggest footprint. They aim to acquire 8 parcels across four sites to expand their development beyond the RFP lot. The plan included a 230 rm boutique hotel, retail space, over 180 market rate residential units and 34 affordable housing units. They suggested that Hotel Palomar in Rosslyn, another one of their projects, would provide a comparable for the type of hotel they envision. While they have not narrowed down retail partners the plan includes expansive retail space that they would aim to fill with local establishments geared more towards serving the neighborhood than destination retail. My notes label this project as having residential units with views of Mass Ave with the hotel a little further up Eye St.


The Donohoe/Holland presentation did a great job captivating the audience. The project had a branded name (The Arts at 5th and I), a website, blog, eclectic high end retail, and even read off menu items from their anchor restaurant. The plan called for a four star lifestyle hotel (Me by Meliá), Spa (Yhi), space for international art photography, a london based jazz restaurant (Boisdale) and an urban cafe with full service breakfast (Cappuccinos). Development will locate the jazz club portion of Boisdale below grade level to offset noise concerns. The building, designed by Shalom Baranes, would be mixed use with ground floor retail, 174 hotel units in the mid levels, and 96 residential units on the upper floors. If I recall correctly affordable housing is in the mix but it’s not in my chicken scratch notes.

Potomac Investment Properties(PIP)
This development proposal coined itself I5 and is lead by a group of entirely DC based businesses owned by district residents. This plan is self contained on the RFP lot and has the smallest footprint. PIP feels staying small is an advantage they offer by not overwhelming the block. The hotel (Avalon Hotel & Spa) in this plan has a more modest 80 units. An open courtyard above the 2nd level engages more greenspace into the block. A City Cafe would be created in partnership with Constantine Stavropoulous (Tryst | Open City | The Diner). This proposal is also taking a different slant on the goal of integrating the Arts. Unlike the others, live music is not part of the plan. Instead working with the Cultural Development Corporation they aim to provide affordable artist studios and exhibit space.

Buccini/Pollin Group

The Buccini/Pollin group (BPG) submitted two proposals to the city. In an effort to offer a different product and feeling the community is amply served with residential market rate housing their plan solely features two hotels and retail. The two Starwood branded hotels would complement each other. Element serves the extended stay traveler while ALoft (similar to W Hotel) offers a trendy option for short visits. The large retail space would be entirely occupied by World Cafe Live. This venue would feature a restaurant, two live music spaces and the occasional event with 1000 general admission patrons. But the BPG emphatically stated that this venue is not a big box concert venue like House of Blues and would only be open to 1am on weekends. World Cafe Live has a very successful venue in City Centre Philadelphia with another location being built in Wilmington.

Thoughts? I’m glad to see the hotel and retail in all four proposals. The neighborhood needs more amenities and pedestrian traffic. My guess is that PIP proposal will appeal most to 555 Mass residents. I was partial to the Donohoe/Holland vision.

UPDATE (Fri 5/2 @noon):
PQLiving has a post on this topic. Their posting has links to the PDFs of the proposals.

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  1. 2

    mediocre bad guy says

    p.s. I had to leave in a rush because I had an appointment at 8:45. It’s a shame we didn’t run into each other!

  2. 3

    Dino says

    I think you’re right that 555 residents will favor the PIP project, which is too bad. I own (and currently reside) in a 5th St.-facing unit there and prefer the Donohue development because it offers the most amenities and the most frontage to 5th St. PIP was my least favorite, due mostly to the fact that they were helping to secure 5th St. as an urban canyon that would essentially just be a big alley. I just had their presentations, though, as I was unable to go to the meeting.

  3. 4

    Madrigal Blogs says

    Great write-up and many thanks. I had hoped to make it, but wasn’t able to get out of the office until 7:15.

    Was there any discussion about how the decision will be made, or the timelines for development?


  4. 5

    fourthandeye says


    I think the PIP proposal is a better fit for a neighborhood like a Cleveland Park. That neighborhood has an identity and doesn’t need something iconic to step in. A small euro-esque hotel would fit better in that setting.
    However in an area like MVT along Mass it’s all max height buildings. And while Dumont and 555 Mass are nice places to live they don’t establish any identity for the neighborhood. I’d like to see the 5th and Eye spot be something to help establish that identity rather than blend in barely noticed.

  5. 6

    mediocre bad guy says

    The PIP proposal was really quite lame and I agree with Dino when he says it seems like it would just add to the urban canyon effect. Architecturally speaking it was quite awful with a totally generic, less glassy facade than all the others. Like many others expressing their views on here I believe the Donohoe dvelopment would bring the greatest amount of community enhancing amenities with it… and Shalom Baranes Associates is an architecture firm with a proven portfolio of beautiful solid buildings.

    I’m very skeptical of JBG’s proposal for how vague it was and I’ll be honest most of JBG’s developments do not impress me due to their lack of quality architecture and community engagement. I think they’re after the BIGGEST bang for their buck (think 555 Mass, Radius @ logan circle, Sovereign Park Apartments)

    The Buccini presentation really turned me off as well. Very little engaging the ground floor and a whole building packed with two bleh hotels. Let’s face it…an aloft is a Hampton inn wrapped in a modern package.

    I left the meeting early, is there any way we can get our hands on the proposals to share more images and specs with our readers?

  6. 8

    fourthandeye says

    I made an update entry at the bottom of the post. It links to PQLiving. They have the PDFs for the Developer presentations.

  7. 9

    Jad Donohoe says

    Thanks very much for the reporting. Clint Jackson of the Deputy Mayor’s office kept the process focused and on track – not so easy to do.

    From our perspective, it was encouraging to see strong turnout and good questions. We want to build a project that MVT will be proud of – one that meets the needs of MVT residents. We’ve got more info on our ideas for 5th and I at our website (link above).

    And if anyone has additional questions, or wants more details, you’re welcome to email me directly at JadD [at] Donohoe.com.

    Thanks again. Comment cross-posted at PQLiving.

  8. 10

    A 555 Resident says

    I totally agree with Dino… By the way, I’m also a 555 resident (facing 5th)…

  9. 11

    katie says

    With a park on the south, a number of high density residential condos on the west (555 Mass), north (City Vista) and across Mass Ave. (Meridan, 400 Mass and others), I feel this 5th & I site development should consider a plan that seamlessly ease into the neighborhood surrounding. While JBG, Donohoe/Holland, Buccini/Pollin brining in excess human/car traffics, the Potomac/i5 appears to maintain a much better balance and interaction with MVT neighborhood fabric.


  10. 12

    mediocre bad guy says

    I’m not sure I agree with that. The i5 development does relatively little to engage the neighborhood. During the presentation they spoke of enaging the park across the street which it does not do (A courtyard on the second floor still only benefits people in the building). Shalom Baranes brought up a good point, the site (for once) need a monumental building beacuse of the vast open space in front of it. It is a gateway into the Triangle and as such arhictecturally it needs to be a lot more than an uninspired precast concrete building.

    I also have to question how they plan on making the i5 project economically feasable with such a small amount of hotel units and so many affordable residential units… hmmm. Is there a possibility that maybe the were maybe low balling the numbers at the presentation? I wouldn’t doubt it considering how much of a used car salesman the guy that was pitching for them came off as.

    I vote for Donohoe/Holland again!

  11. 13

    fourthandeye says

    I also have to question how they plan on making the i5 project economically feasible with such a small amount of hotel units and so many affordable residential units… hmmm. Is there a possibility that maybe the were maybe low balling the numbers at the presentation?

    I don’t think I5 was being less than truthful. They simply have much less units than the competing projects because they are not combining the RFP site with adjacent lots as the other 3 plan to do.

    Getting past the subjective architecture needs of a community my biggest issue with I5 is that it doesn’t have much retail to service the neighborhood and IMO it prevents the adjacent lots from reaching their potential as well. I will write a full blog post on this to flush out my thoughts within the next day.

  12. 14

    Anonymous says

    Lately, I am getting excited to see and pass by the 5th and I lot every day. I must say that I just can’t wait to see something up soon after years of neglect. I like both i5 & Donohoe plans, just unsure about when the new development will be up. If time is a factor, I like i5 proposal because it doesn’t required additional land and doesn’t not depend on someone-else’s packaged deal. The other 3 plans all claim to have exclusive contract with adjacent land. At this point, I would vote for i5 because it is simple and can be starting soon.

  13. 15

    si says

    ok ok i got off my rear & posted at lifein.mvsna.org

    btw any of you all can too, its a public blog :)

    sooo 2 words. meat blood!!

  14. 16

    Jeffrey says

    After a few rounds of presentations (Community & ANC), I feel the remaining four developers on the short-list can be placed in two tiers. The top tier includes the i5 (Potomac) and Arts (Dononhoe/Holland) and the bottom tier has JBG and Buccini/Pollin. While we have two competitively matched proposals between i5 and Arts, we have to feel sorry for both the presenters and reviewers of both the JBG & BP teams. They appear to be off track when it comes to both program requirements and the real needs of stakeholders.

    Now, the challenge is choosing between the two good ones. The Arts have a flashy design with its glass building box filling more units and ME restaurants/bar/jazz venue. On the other hand, i5 has a more mature mix with a classic boutique hotel, Avolon, and the neighborhood dining/café of Open City with live-in Artists/gallery program. This selection almost resembles a close analogy of choosing a party companion or a life-long marriage partner. To me, the Arts’ flashiness and shining buildings with various venues may be good as a party companion for short exciting moments; but the i5 attracts me with its internal beauty containing appreciable sophistication wrapped in simplicity. We all appreciate the ultimate design in architecture and life: LESS IS MORE.

    For a person with a simple urban life, I live and work right by the 5th and I street neighborhood corner. An exciting, flashy party companion to attract attention is good – for a brief moment, but a life –long marriage partner is better. So, if I really have to choose, I go with the i5.