A New Design for Virginia Avenue Park

At the 3rd community meeting on Virginia Avenue Park, Lisa DelPlace of the award winning landscape design firm Oehme van Sweden presented this vision of what the Park can become:

2017_0204_Virginia Ave Park_Page_10More than 20 residents, businesses, developers, and community leaders participated in the meeting on February 4, 2017.  They judged the new design as inspired, one that would ensure the creation of a Park meeting the needs of a changing neighborhood.

This design adds a sidewalk and street trees along 9th Street SE, creates a central entrance to the Park at 10th Street SE, enlarges the multi-purpose open space, and adds lawn terraces along the north side for use by kids and adults.  The Community Garden is reshaped into a rectangle and moved slightly eastward to accommodate the new sidewalk and a curb cut for its use on 9th Street.  The shared bike/pedestrian path and dog park segment of the Park remain unchanged.

The full presentation: Virginia Ave Park Feb 4 Presentation
ANC 6B 3/14 Letter to DDOT-DPR on VA Ave Park

Most of Virginia Avenue Park (located between 9th and 11th Streets SE and Potomac Avenue SE)  is currently out of use because of the CSX Virginia Avenue Tunnel (VAT) project.  Once the tunnel project is completed, CSX has a responsibility to renovate the portion of the Park that has been disturbed by tunnel building.

Beginning in October 2015, I began a community process in collaboration with the Department of Parks & Recreation (DPR) and CSX to create a “new” Virginia Avenue Park, as detailed in my November 2015 article: A Design for Virginia Avenue Park.

A year later, at an October 2016 meeting, a group of stakeholders met again to continue the design process and discuss a multitude of issues.  Here is a Summary of that Meeting
during which the group selected this conceptual plan for the future Park:

Virginia Avenue Park_Option B_011416
There is one major hitch in all this Park planning.  Back in 2015, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6B asked the DC Department of Transportation and DPR to extend the existing Park eastern boundary to 11th Street.  The principals, joined by the National Park Service, are still in discussion about this request as they endeavor to resolve all the land transfer/ownership issues.

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Pepco Explains its Work on the Hill

Pepco has prepared a Fact Sheet on its Capitol Hill work that has been ongoing for several months in the 1000 and 1100 blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue SE.  Below are PDF and JPEG versions of the document.  Bottom line: this work–upgrading the electric grid–is a response to the many housing developments underway or planned for the next few years in areas of Capitol Hill east of 10th Street SE.

Capitol Hill Reliability Work Fact Sheet

Capitol Hill Reliability Work Fact Sheet_Page_1 Capitol Hill Reliability Work Fact Sheet_Page_2

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Construction Progress: 900 11th Street SE Condo

It was in Summer 2014 that plans were first made public on this project.  Construction did not get under way until Summer 2016.  The developer–Madison Investments–expects the building to be completed by Summer 2017.  Sigal Construction Corporation is the builder; Chuck Yetter, the project manager.

For more details and background information on this 49-unit condo project, go to Planned Condo Building for 11th & I Streets SE posting.  Most of the photos below are the view from the southeast corner of 11th and I Streets SE.  As of mid-February 2017, the building has been “topped out”.

February 15, 2017

Ongoing Installation of Windows, 2/15/17

January 31, 2017

900 11SE Jan31-17 V1

Corner of 11th & I SE, 1/31/17

December 18, 2016 and earlier

Rear of building from I Street SE, 12/28/16

Rear of building from I Street SE, 12/28/16

900 11SE corner Dec 28

View from corner 11th & I, 12/28/16

900 11SE Nov 8 V2

Central core rises 11/8/16

900 11SE Nov 1

Rising Above 2nd Floor, 11/1/16

900 11SE  Oct 21

Second Floor Poured, 10/21/2016

900 11SE Oct11

Ground Floor Set, 10/11/16

900 11SE Sept26

Foundation & Supporting Columns, 9/26/16

900 11SE Aug 2016

Foundation Work August 22, 2016






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The Return of Fragers Hardware Plus …

Perseus Realty, the owner of the Fragers Hardware site at the corner of Pennsylvania Avenue and 11th Street SE, unveiled its conceptual design for the site to a overflowing room of residents, business owners, organizations, and the curious at the Hill Center on February 25, 2016.  (Below is a link to the presentation.)

View from Pennsylvania Avenue and 11th Street SE

View from Pennsylvania Avenue and 11th Street SE

The plans include the renovation of the 2-story storefront masonry walls that remain after the June 2013 fire with two floors added atop, a 3-story infill and a 4-story infill.  The resulting complex will return Fragers Hardware and its Garden Center to its original location, add more retail, and provide 30-40 condo units with underground parking for 35 vehicles.

Capitol Hill residents in attendance seemed to generally support the exterior design but voiced inevitable concerns about the increased density of both people and vehicles (seeking curbside parking spaces) that the project will bring to the immediate neighborhood.

View Along Pennsylvania Avenue SE

View Along Pennsylvania Avenue SE

Fragers 11th St

View Along 11th Street SE

A few Technical Details: The site is split zoned C-2-A and R-4 (in the far rear) and is in the Capitol Hill Historic District.  Zoning allows a maximum height of 50 feet; Perseus says their design will be slightly under that maximum.  Total space allotted to retail is about 13,000 square feet with 8,500 square feet for Fragers Hardware (ground floor and basement) in the new 4-story infill building at the east end of the site.  The Garden Center will occupy the R-4 zoned area.

Next Steps with estimated dates:

  • Historic Preservation review of the conceptual design: probably April 2016.
  • Stabilization of the masonry walls and clean up of the site: Fall 2016
  • Zoning review, if necessary: Fall 2016
  • Construction start: First Quarter 2017 (Duration: 18 months)

Perseus’ Community Presentation February 25, 2016

Fragers Before Fire

Fragers Before the Fire

Fragers After Fire

Fragers After the Fire

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A Design for Virginia Avenue Park

About 20 members of the community came together on October 15, at a Virginia Avenue Park meeting hosted by the Department of Parks and Recreation and ANC6B04.  Out of the discussions, DPR’s Landscape Architect Brent Sisco has created this schematic, high level concept Master Plan for the Park:

Va Ave Park Conceptual Drawing

Situated between 9th and 11th Streets SE just south of I-695

Specific ideas generated on October 15 by meeting participants included:

  • Playground for young children
  • Flexible, flat grass area for multiple sports related activities
  • Security lighting with an open feel to the park
  • Walking/bike path around the park with outdoor exercise stations around the perimeter  (the northern portion enables a bike path connection from 9th Street to the existing lanes on 11th Street)
  • Removal of the humps along Potomac Avenue side of the park
  • A formal dog park on the eastern side of the Park at 11th Street SE with retention of the Community Garden on the west side at 9th Street SE
  • More formal entrance to the Park at Virginia Avenue/9th Street
  • Picnic and game tables in addition to benches
  • Bottle filler type of water fountains
  • Bike racks for all ages
  • Maintain the Virginia Avenue corridor view to the Washington Monument
  • Shade trees (Casey Trees is developing a canopy goal for the Park)

The overall Park design will be refined through a series of DPR community meetings in the near future.  The dog park component design will be developed by DPR working with the Capitol Canines group and other interested individuals.

Background: CSX has committed to a package of community benefits as part of its Virginia Avenue Tunnel project now underway. The renovation of both Virginia Avenue (2nd to 9th Streets SE) and the park are major components of those benefits.  Others include special funds for the Capitol Quarters Front Line residents and those at the Arthur Capper Senior Apartments, a Community Mitigation Fund, and a Preservation Fund.  (Note that only a portion of the Park’s plan will be implemented by CSX.  Funds for the balance of the Master Plan will have to come from DPR, DDOT, and others.)

Here’s a map of the area around Virginia Avenue Park showing the upcoming residential development that, over the next 5 or more years, will provide new users of the Park:

VA Park Map2




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A Neighborhood SE Boulevard

At least 60 people attended a Community Meeting on December 11th, led by Councilmember Tommy Wells, to discuss the pros and cons of 3 SE Boulevard options that have emerged from the 6-month Neighborhood Planning study led by the DC Office of Planning (OP) with the active participation of ANC6B Commissioners and DDOT staff.

This study came about because of 6B’s major disappointment with the options proposed by DDOT in November 2013, as I discussed in my posting DDOT’s Barney Circle & SE Boulevard: Is This What We Want?  In early 2014, ANC6B actively promoted the alternative of planning this new boulevard within the context of the emerging neighborhood. CM Wells intervention during that time made the OP study a reality.

Two of the new options use a large portion of the land area now available for a freeway for housing.  One of these (A) includes a road between Barney Circle and 11th Street SE with two lanes in each direction with the possibility of adding a bus parking/streetcar facility underground.  The other (B) includes a two-lane road without the bus facility.  The third option (C) includes the underground facility but sets aside space above for a linear park and 4 lane boulevard instead of housing.  All options extend the existing 13th, 14th, and 15th Street grid to the new boulevard and, most importantly, provide pedestrian and bicycle access over the CSX tracks to the Anacostia waterfront at Boathouse Row.

While the 3 options are based on detailed knowledge of the available swath of land and surrounding neighborhood, they are conceptual plans.  The next step in this process will be a feasibility study by DDOT that will include traffic flow analysis.  The land area was turned over to the District by the Federal FHWA with the requirement that it be used for “transportation purposes.”  The DDOT study will provide an analysis of the necessary disposition of a portion to use for housing.  DDOT says it does not have a time frame for this study as the elements have not yet been identified but has promised to update the ANC on a quarterly basis.

You can view the detailed OP presentation of Options A, B, and C here.

Also see my A New Vision for the SE Boulevard posting on the previous August 4 presentation of 7 options that form the basis of the current 3 options.

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ANC6B Votes 9 Dec 2014

At our last meeting of 2014, three hours of discussion resulted in about 20 votes, most of them 9-0.  While a host of items (Minutes and zoning cases) were voted on in a block under the consent agenda, the rest of the agenda included:

  • 1 Historic Preservation case (1013-1015 E Street SE). Vote was 8-0-1 to support the application.  This case is troubling to nearby neighbors and others as it converts two individual houses into 6 condo units with the addition of a 5-unit carriage house on the alley in the rear.  Most of the objections cannot be dealt with within the context of historic preservation, so they await the zoning case to follow if the HPRB votes in favor of the application.  My motion to support included the assumption that the Board will assure various aspects are designed in keeping with HPO guidelines.  [Update: On 12/18 the Board denied the application which causes the developer to have to rethink the project.]
  • A long debate on the merits of zoning text amendments proposed by the Office of Planning that are designed to curtail the growing number of “pop-ups” (those 3rd story additions on top of row houses).  The major piece of the proposal would limit the “by right” height of houses in R-4 districts (most of Capitol Hill) to 35 feet with zoning relief through a special exception (SE) process to gain the current 40 feet height.  The Commission voted 6-3 on that piece after lengthy debate on the SE provisions and voted 7-1-1 against the change in definition of a mezzanine, 9-0 on the height of a roof structure, and 6-1-2 on the conversion of a residential structure to an apartment house.  The pop-up provisions affect mainly those areas of 6B not already protected by the CH Historic District.
  • Several liquor license matters, one of which is a major annoyance to 6B.  The ABC Board is requiring us to change text language in our Settlement Agreements that the Board has previously approved.
  • 2 letters to DDOT (8-0 and 9-0).  One asks for the replacement of pedestrian crossings along 11th Street SE at K and L Streets SE that were removed to facilitate vehicle movements among the various new on and off ramps for the 11th Street Bridge.  The other one asks that specific one way streets be converted to two way streets now that the on ramp at Virginia Avenue and 9th Street SE no longer exists.  A 3rd letter to DDOT on the Penn-Potomac pedestrian study has been delayed until January.
  • Lots of other letters; among them were to: (1) HPRB to ask that 6B have an opportunity to review the final plans for renovation of the old Remington’s building at 639 PA Ave; (2) Zoning Commission as a followup to its hearing on the PUD for 1333 M Street SE, which 6B has supported; (3) Dept of General Services asking that it move quickly to start the environmental assessment for the Eastern Market plaza redesign project; (4) Marine Barracks Washington with comments on its proposed Section 106 plans under its study to locate a site for a new Bachelor Enlisted Quarters building; (5) DC Council Chair Mendelson asking that he continue to have a Committee on Education rather than fold education into the Committee of the Whole; and a Resolution on the Pepco-Excelon merger (vote 6-0-3); and Position and testimony on the disposition of two parcels at Reservation 13/Hill East.  [Update: The DC Council has voted to support this disposition.]
  • Then, to close out the meeting, were items pertaining to the end of the year and the upcoming new Commission in January: a preliminary schedule for our 2015 meetings and acknowledgements.  Chief among the latter were a resolution thanking CM Wells for his service to Ward 6 and a resolution thanking the 6 departing Commissioners (Campbell, Frishberg, Loveland, Opkins, Pate, and Peisch) and already departed Commissioner Garrison for their service ranging from 2 to 12 years.

After Commissioner Campbell’s final opportunity to recess 6B meetings, at 10pm some of us reconvened (but did not vote on anything) at Beuchert’s for a bit of cheer.

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ANC6B’s November Votes

With just a bit of overtime on the evening of November 12th, the ANC managed to get through its normal-these-days 2-page meeting agenda: 8 liquor licenses, 3 historic preservation (HP) cases, 4 zoning cases, 4 reports, and 4 letters. Laid out like that it doesn’t seem like much but 1 HP/zoning case and 1 liquore license case each generated a lot of discussion.  We were fortunate that 2 more HP and one BIG zoning case were put off; the former to December and the latter to a Special Call meeting (Nov 19) when the ANC will vote on conditions for its support of a planned unit development at 1333 M Street SE.

During Speak Out, we learned about the organization Victory Gardens DC that is seeking empty or unused plots of urban land to convert into organic farms. One plot currently exists in 6B at 426 15th Street SE.  Then came the Historic Anacostia Boating Association presentation on preliminary plans to create a recreation area and improve the boating facilities along Boathouse Row.  During my first year as a Commissioner, I served as the 6B representative on a DC advisory group to plan the development of Boathouse Row.  That study landed on a shelf somewhere but I found the HABA plans very much in keeping with its conclusions.  In addition, this plan seems to fit nicely with the results of our Neighborhood Study on the SE Boulevard and a developer’s plans for 1333 M Street SE.

Just about everything on the agenda (see it at www.anc6b.org) got an 8-0 or 7-0 or 7-0-1 vote.  The one exception was the new ABC license for Bayou Bakery to operate out of the Hill Center’s Carriage House. After much discussion between attendees and Commissioners and among Commissioners, the ANC voted 5-3 to support the application based on the conditions of a Settlement Agreement (SA)–which ANC had only received at mid-day from the applicant in response to 6B’s proposed SA based on Committee discussions on 6 Nov.  Leading up to the meeting, the ANC had received about 50 emails from residents near and far concerned about hours of operation, trash handling, odors from frying beignets, and noise from delivery trucks, mechanical equipment and music.

So, what did we get?

  • Instead of closing hours at 2am and 3am, the SA supported by the ANC stipulates closing hours of from 9pm to 11pm, depending on the day of the week.  Noise from equipment must meet DC regulations and music cannot be “audible beyond the boundaries of the Hill Center.”
  • Residents asked for indoor storage of food wastes prior to pick up.  The ANC has been asking this of Barracks Row businesses of late; and we all would prefer this as an operating principle, where it is feasible, to discourage rats.  But David Bell’s architectural firm has not been able to accommodate this option within the “build out” of the Carriage House (constricted as it is by both DC and Federal historic preservation standards) so the Hill Center and Bayou Bakery are going to have to work diligently to prove it is possible for humans to properly manage outdoor trash storage, which the Barracks Row restaurants have largely failed to do.
  • Similar internal space constraints pertain to the community request for PCUs rather than a vent system to control odors from deep fat frying. David Guas adamantly rejected, from a chef’s perspective, the use of a vent-less hood similar to those at his Arlington place.  The agreement allows him to use his preferred vent system for odor control; a system that will require regular filter maintenance to assure maximum performance.

Why not just protest …?  ABRA Settlement Agreements are, as the name implies, a set of compromises between, in this case, an ANC and a liquor license applicant.  An ANC can only vote to support an application or to protest it.  ANC6B votes to protest either because it feels it has a case it can make before the ABC Board to obtain more than the applicant is willing to offer or in order to have more time to negotiate with the applicant. The ABC Board is the only entity that can compel a license holder to take any specific action and the Board tends to dislike any language that doesn’t seem enforceable by its investigators.  Nor, in my view, would the Board ever force an establishment to install equipment that exceeds city codes or any specific technology that meets code. So, we would have had a weak protest case especially over an establishment without any prior history of bad behavior. The Hill Center knows that its reputation will be affected by Bayou Bakery operations and, thus, it will be a major force in assuring those operations don’t negatively impact itself or other neighbors.

Delay the ANC decision?  The ANC had to vote on November 12 on this case. Not voting would have allowed the applicant to obtain the license with conditions in the application. The only way to delay, then, would be to vote to protest. The delay requested by the community was based on the idea that technology would be found that served the applicant’s needs and would fit inside the building. There was no guarantee this could happen and, if not, the ANC would have been in the position of actually protesting the application. And, I repeat, we had a weak case.

Part of my motion to support the SA included language about continuing a dialog among the community, Hill Center, Bayou Bakery, and the ANC.  I haven’t yet figured out how to structure this conversation and am very open to suggestions.  The Hill Center called me the day after our meeting; we discussed SA commitments and ways in which the Center can upgrade its trash handling and storage in anticipation of the future addition of food wastes from Bayou Bakery.  Of note, this trash system is not hidden away in an alley like those on Barracks Row but is literally next to the main entrance of the Center.

[The Bayou Bakery documents from the ANC's meeting are posted at http://www.kirsten6b.org/?page_id=1015.  Once the ANC has a Board Order approving the license, it will be posted on the ANC website.]



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Proposed Condo/Apt Project at 1013-1015 E Street SE

At its December 18, 2014, meeting the Historic Preservation Review Board (HPRB) voted to deny the historic preservation application submitted for this project.  The developer will now have to decide whether to revise the plans to meet various objections voiced by Members of the Board, or to abandon the project, or to come up with an entirely new concept for the two lots.

At 4pm on Monday December 8, ANC6B was provided with the following revised plans for the above project. 1013 and 1015 E Street SE _ ANC

The revised plans were reviewed by the Commission at its meeting on Tuesday, December 9, and the Commission voted 8-0-1 to support the application while providing a number of comments to HPRB including concerns about the front basement entrances, utility meter placements, and the roof deck on the carriage house in the rear.

Here are the plans submitted to the ANC on Tuesday, December 2, at our Planning & Zoning Committee meeting.

Conceptual Plans–1013-1015 E Street SE

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ANC6B Meets and Votes (Oct 14)

Once again, it took 3 hours to plow through the ANC6B monthly agenda.

The most heated, lengthy debate?  Ugly Mug’s (723 8th Street SE) request to almost double its capacity by building an addition to the second floor with retractable roof in the rear.  This one ended up with the ANC voting 6-0 (with 2 abstentions) to protest the “substantial change” in its ABC license.  Major points of contention: hours that the roof can remain open, total number of added capacity, and lousy trashing handling compounded by former promises not kept and general impacts on the community.

Protesting means that the ANC will have to negotiate terms under the auspices of the Alcohol Beverage Regulation Administration and appear before the ABC Board.  This puts a delay in Ugly Mug’s ability to go forward and a lot of work for the ANC.  Hopefully, the nearby neighbors–who sent Commissioners copious emails in opposition–will provide some assistance.  And, still to be settled: whether or not the building addition will be approved since Ugly Mug is located within the Capitol Hill Historic District.

Another case took up some time: 429 12th Street SE Rear.  This one is a historic preservation/zoning review case.  I ultimately voted against one element of the zoning relief requested because I do not think that the applicant offered the appropriate argument (didn’t “meet the test of the variance”) to gain approval for adding 2 dwelling units in an alley.  My view did not prevail, however, as the ANC voted 5-3 in favor of granting the relief.  I did vote in favor of the other zoning relief requested and voted with the majority on supporting the separate historic preservation case.

Other matters.

  • The ANC voted in favor of the renewals of 3 ABC licenses (7th & L Market, Capitol Supreme Market, and Roland’s); the last case (Yes! market) needs a bit more negotiation on the Settlement Agreement so the ANC voted in favor of a protest in order to provide the time needed for that discussion with the applicant.  (ANCs only have three ways to vote on liquor licenses of all kinds.  We can vote in favor of the application, vote to take no position (virtually the same as the former), or vote to protest.)  In Yes! case, our protest vote is a technicality quite unlike the protest vote on Ugly Mug.
  • 8 Historic Preservation cases received ANC support
  • 2 Transportation Committee letters (Red light camera request for 7th & Pennsylvania Ave SE and Comments on the DC Circulator Transit Development Plan) got unanimous votes in favor.  Both draft letters are included in the Oct 8 Committee report.
  • 3 votes taken by the Executive Committee on September 30th were ratified.  Two involved our pending office move from the Hill Center to Eastern Market.  (Note: The ANC like all ANCs gets a stipend from DC but it is not sufficient to pay office rent at the Hill Center or elsewhere any more.  As a government building, rent at Eastern Market is free.  For a while, however, we will have to put up with the fact that the space is only valid as storage.  CM Wells office got us this far and is still working on getting the space approved for human occupation. In good weather, you may find us outside under the shed with our laptops.)

That about covers the major votes.  If you see something on the agenda that you want more information about, let me know.

Note: This article is a slightly edited version of the one I sent out to all subscribers of my Beat26 Newsletter.

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