The Bard Files to Re-Zone SW Site for High-Rise

Neighbors on I Street SW Continue to Oppose the 136-Unit Mixed-Use Development

Rendering of The Bard site. (Photo: Shalom Baranes Associates)

The latest Planned Unit Development (PUD) application filed by The Bard requests a rezoning of the area at 501 I Street SW. Despite months of disputes with the local community, the joint venture between the Shakespeare Theatre Company (STC) and Erkiletian Development Company pushed forward with plans to build a 136-unit high-rise for residential, office and artist spaces.

The latest plans reduced the height from nine to seven stories.

The District currently zones the 36,476-square-foot property as R-3 — a residential zoning designation. The Bard submitted to change the zone to SP-2 — a special purpose zone that would allow for the planned office space, 93 market-rate housing units, five fellow housing units, 29 actor units, two classrooms, a costume studio, four rehearsal spaces, and 70 below ground parking spaces.

Residents of the neighborhood who oppose the plan responded to the new PUD application on Author of the website, Andrea Pawley, said that claims by STC and Erkiletian that they had listened to community voices were false.

“I don’t recall much support,” she wrote on the site Feb. 7. “What I recall is a room full of 50-100 people on numerous occasions over the last two years vociferously objecting to Shakespeare’s plans to build a high-rise at 501 I Street SW.”

Pawley said the plans reflect a “tone-deaf” organization that continues to ignore the impact this building will have on views and sunlight for nearby townhomes and the Amidon-Bowen Elementary School playground. Parking congestion is also a frequently mentioned issue.

The neighbors fear the high-density population at the high-rise will disrupt the traffic flow in what is now considered a quiet residential area of the District.

“We objected to the Theatre’s proposal then, and we object now,” Pawley wrote.

Before The Bard took ownership of the land for $6.5 million in 2014, the site was home to Southeastern University. The Bard argued in the PUD application that the number of people living and working at the site won’t reach the more than a 800 students and one hundred staff previously occupying the site.

“The proposed uses – residential units, non-profit offices, art studios, educational space, and actor and fellow housing – combined will result in fewer people on site utilizing public facilities,” according to the application. 

The company partnered with Erkiletian Development in order to help pay for their new headquarters. They plan to pay for the new space using the revenue from the housing units.

STC started searching for a headquarters in the District nearly a decade ago, but rising rent prices burdened the search, STC managing director Chris Jennings said in an interview with the Washington City Paper earlier this year.

The next community meeting held by The Bard will take place at Blind Whino at 700 Delaware Avenue SW from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on Feb. 16. 

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