I-395 Air Rights hits approval setback

Liz Fisher of the Washington Examiner reports that the DC Zoning Commission has rejected the latest plans for the I-395 Development PUD. The commission took issue with the project’s retail plan and massive building sizes, saying the 2-million-square-foot development seemed “more like a fortress for workers and residents than a destination”.

Aerial Rendering of proposed north block of Center Place (as of Dec '10)

From Fisher’s article the Zoning Commission appeared to focus on building massings and retail placement to determine whether the development will be an active destination. Personally I would push on another lever to elevate the project’s potential appeal that has been mostly ignored. Park 1089 above I-395 at 2nd, Mass and H is currently a depressing wasteland. Residents that attended public meetings discussing the I-395 development in 2008 and 2009 were assured by Dreyfus and the ANC that upgrading the park would be part of the PUD amenities. But in the package negotiated in early November 2010 the park was a complete afterthought with a simple $50K donation to Casey Trees included. Neither Dreyfus nor the ANC PZ&E committee had walked the site in two years and thereby failed to realize the park already had a major tree planting in Spring 2009. Several community stakeholders pushed in November and December for the two parties to repurpose this amenity into an item the park truly needed but neither side cared enough to budge. The sentiment was “talk to us again during the Phase 2 PUD.”

Perhaps now that the I-395 Phase 1 PUD has been rejected at two consecutive Zoning Commission meetings with feedback urging the Dreyfus to make the development a destination they should embrace the park as part of the solution and not an afterthought. The park is the front yard to the I-395 PUD Phase 1 development and could dramatically contribute to the sense of place for the area if overhauled. It also may be more cost effective to their bottom line than radically changing the concepts for the buildings.

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  1. 1

    SC says

    Rejected is too strong a word. The way the Zoning Commission operates on a project like this is they provide feedback on different components. Certain components have already been approved and locked in and no longer under consideration for revision. It appears the retail component is one of the last remaining items yet to be approved.

  2. 2

    tod says

    With the heavy focus on office over residential, the project is going to be a mostly 9-5 destination. No amount of design tweeks will get around that.

  3. 3

    Tom says

    Dreyfus was the developer that built Station Place near Union Station. Those offices are dead outside the typical 9-5 Mon-Fri timeframes. I’m glad the ZC is pushing for better.

  4. 4

    RobA says

    The Zoning Commission did ask for more specifics at the previous hearing (on 12/6/2010) regarding the support of the park. In a letter from Casey Trees dated 12/28/2010, Casey Trees entered into a partnership with Center Place Holdings, DC Department of Parks and Recreation, and the Mount Vernon Square Neighborhood Association (MVSNA) to continue the improvement of the park. The $50K is now longer being used to provide trees. A master plan for the park will be developed in consultation with Parks and Recreation and MVSNA and the funds will be used to implement that plan. Once those planning meetings begin, then the stakeholders of the neighborhood will be able to present their thoughts and ideas for the park.

  5. 5

    otavio says

    It would also be admirable if Dreyfus would take this opportunity to give the facades a more interesting look. The glass facades on these buildings are brutal. I think attractive and inviting retail spaces in buildings with glass facades is problematic in general. Please add more detail to these buildings.

  6. 6

    Vanessa says

    I think that it is pivitol that there are some restaurants that would remain open along the park at night. As one who last year worked near union station and walk home to Mt. Vernon Sq. on a daily basis, I will say that area along is really not pleasant to walk through in the dark. That park was the one stretch where I frequently had people with comments and not much else around.

    There is so much potential because this would finally connect the night life (Dubliner, Art & Soul, Charlie Plamers, ect); union station shops; and Georgetown Law to all the development up in Mt. Vernon Square. It is really important to make this walkable AND BIKE friendly (the sidewalk is too skinny to bike and the traffic is horrible and this should be a major connection of the bike share stations across from Irish Times).