New Southwest Library Closer to Reality
In early January, DC Public Library (DCPL) submitted an application to the Board of Zoning Adjustment (BZA) in order to build a new, standalone Southwest Branch library at 900 Wesley Place SW. The existing library was built in 1961 and no longer serves the needs of a growing community, where thousands of new multifamily units are coming online within the next five years. After a series of public meetings, DCPL developed a plan for the library which provides separate spaces for children and adults.
On the first floor, patrons will enter the new library using an entrance on the northwest corner of the building. Upon entering the library, the north side of the building will be the Market Place. The west side of the building will contain two multipurpose rooms and the book drop. Space dedicated to Children’s Services will occupy the remaining area on the first level, as well as restrooms. The second floor will contain a series of study/meeting rooms, space for Teen/Adult Services, an adult patio, staff areas, and space for the Friends of the Southwest Library.
Designed by Perkins + Will, the new Southwest Library takes cues from the modernist design of the neighborhood with the use of wood, metal panels, glass, and a distinctive crinkle roof. The new library will be similar in size to the existing one at 20,792 square feet, but there will not be a basement due to concerns over flooding since it is below the floodplain. Green features will include, among other things, a green roof, photovoltaic panels, and bioretention areas, sufficient to secure Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold status for the building.
DCPL is seeking approval for the project and has requested three special exemptions from zoning regulations. One special exemption has to do with parking – zoning requires a government building of this size to have nine spaces, but DCPL wants to build seven surface spaces. Since the library is close to the Waterfront Metro station, two Metrobus routes, and within walking distance of most of Southwest, DCPL contends there will be sufficient parking. The second special exemption is for long-term bicycle parking – DCPL will provide one less space than required. Finally, the third special exemption is lot occupancy – it is required that up to 40% of the lot be occupied by the new building, but the design calls for 47% lot occupancy. All three special exemptions have been requested in order to maintain the current design of the new library. At its December 2017 meeting, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6D voted 3-0-2 in support of the BZA application.
Surrounded by New Development
The library site abuts parcels slated for redevelopment on three sides. To the west across Wesley Place SW is the northeast parcel of Waterfront Station, currently owned by the District. PN Hoffman was selected by the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) to develop the parcel into a mixed-use complex with a rental apartment building and ground floor commercial space, including a diner, black box theater, and AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School, which will move from the temporary trailers set up on the campus of Jefferson Academy. The developer will be submitting a stage 2 Planned Unit Development (PUD) for the site in February.
South of the library off K Street SW, the parking lot for 1001 @ Waterfront apartments will eventually give way to an apartment building with a small retail component. Construction is underway on the sister building at 301 M Street SW and is scheduled to be complete later this year. Two years after 301 M Street SW receives its certificate of occupancy, construction can commence at the parking lot fronting K Street SW, so the earliest this project could get underway would be 2020. Renovations are also planned at 1001 @ Waterfront.
To the east across 3rd Street SW, the Greenleaf public housing complex is being prepped for redevelopment. After years of planning and delays, the District of Columbia Housing Authority (DCHA) released a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) back in December for a co-developer to redevelop Greenleaf, the 15-acre public housing project that straddles M Street SW. Greenleaf was built in 1959 and currently contains 493 public housing units spread over 23 buildings.
According to the RFQ, the development objectives include the following:
- The redevelopment will replace all 493 existing units at the same level of affordability.
- The redevelopment will minimize the movement of residents – to the greatest extent possible, residents will move directly from their old unit to their new unit.
- There will be zero displacement of current Greenleaf residents.
- There will be a mix of market-rate, affordable, and possibly workforce housing.
- Public safely will be improved with increased activity on streets and public spaces.
- The redevelopment will integrate into the surrounding community.
- The redevelopment will support the development of human capital, assisting with such things as job opportunities and supportive services programs.
The phased redevelopment concept for Greenleaf by HR&A Advisors has been designed with a mix of high-rise and townhomes. The high-rise buildings would be concentrated along M Street SW and Delaware Avenue SW with the townhomes further away from those two streets. Some retail is anticipated as well along M Street SW. A unique feature of the redevelopment will be the use of the “build first” model, which would allow the project to proceed without displacing Greenleaf residents. The first phase of development would use a site near the Greenleaf footprint to build a mixed-income building. Once residents move into that first building, it will free up land within Greenleaf to start demolition and development. DC-owned sites that were identified as having the best potential to do build first include the Metropolitan Police Department First District parking lot along Delaware Avenue SW and the DC Fire and Emergency Management Services Repair Shop at the NW corner of M and Half streets SW. While the HR&A report suggested a build first site be selected prior to releasing the RFQ, a site has not been chosen yet.
Library Construction Timeline
If approved by the Board of Zoning Adjustment, demolition of the existing library will likely take place this fall, after an interim library location is found. Construction will take a little more than a year and the new library will be complete in early 2020.
William Rich is a blogger at Southwest…The Little Quadrant that Could (www.swtlqtc.com).