Southwest commissioners pushed hard for affordable housing at a planned 12th Street development, deferring a vote on plans to negotiate further as the developer indicated movement is unlikely.
Douglas Development seeks a special exemption to zoning requirements to build a residential and retail high rise project at 280 12th Street SW. Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6D heard the application at their Feb. 8 meeting.
Current plans call for 610 residential units. The developer said he would list 50 to 60 units as affordable housing at 60 percent AMI.
The building plans also include increasing the historic building footprint by approximately 4,000 square feet, adding retail stores to the first floor and preserving the historic integrity of the building throughout the construction and remodeling process.
The developer has a hearing with the Zoning Commission on March 18 and is seeking D-8 Zone special exemption which permits high-density development in order to to foster the transition of a federally-owned area south of the National Mall into a mixed-use area of commercial, residential, cultural, arts, retail, and service.
Commissioner Andy Litsky (6D04) spoke about Douglas Development’s other ongoing project in SW at Buzzard Point which offers no affordable units. Litsky said he “expects more” than the 8 percent affordable housing units from the developer.
“You’re doing the absolute minimum,” Litsky said. “I expect more of Douglas Development.”
Development and Project Manager for Douglas Development Drew Turner emphasized that Douglas Development is completely preserving the front portions of the buildings and fully restoring and rehabilitating anything that is degraded, noting that the building itself is in good condition.
Commissioner Andrew Bossi (6D01) praised the developer’s work to preserve the historic building but said that affordable housing, for him, is a “major” issue.
“This project is seeking special exceptions, something that is itself above and beyond the normal baseline,” Bossi said. “This site is proposing the bare minimum affordable housing. We’re in an affordable housing crisis, and we’re not seeing that this project is also going above and beyond what is providing to the community concern that Southwest as a whole.”
Turner responded citing the challenges of maintaining and working around the historic building.
“We’ve got a project that’s got a historic building sitting on it taking up a third of a footprint,” Turner said. “It is a very challenging site and we’re making a serious, serious effort to make this come to life.”
Turner further emphasized that while they hope to work with the ANC about how to best serve the community, the number of affordable units would not be likely to increase at any point.
“I know you guys want to just say the minimum, and it is the minimum, but it is a significant amount of affordable housing in an area right now that has no housing,” Turner said. “We’re happy to continue this trip discussions and find creative ways to to work with the community and provide benefits to the community, but if it all hinges on providing more affordable housing, I just don’t know if we can get there.”
The commissioners agreed unanimously to defer a vote on this special exemption permit to the March 8 meeting of the ANC 6D. Commissioners agreed to a proposal from Litsky to establish a negotiating committee to attempt to reach agreement before the vote.
Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6D met Feb. 8 over WebEx. Commissioners Andrew Bossi (6D01), Jared Weiss (6D02), Ronald Collins (6D03), Andy Litsky (6D04), Fredrica (Rikki) Kramer (6D05), Rhonda Hamilton (6D06) and Edward Daniels (6D07) were in attendance at the Monday meeting.
ANC 6D meets at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of every month. The next meeting of ANC 6D is for March 8 on Webex. For more information and links to join ANC meetings, visit anc6d.org.
Sarah Payne is a History and Neuroscience student at The University of Michigan interning with HillRag. She writes for and serves as an assistant news editor for Michigan’s student newspaper, The Michigan Daily. You can reach her at [email protected]