The Densification of Waterfront Metro

South by West

The parking lots facing M Street, SW and K Street, SW to the east of Waterfront Station will soon be replaced with multifamily buildings. Rendering: Maurice Walters Architect, PC

The Densification of Waterfront Metro

Over the next several years, the immediate area surrounding the Waterfront Metro will see an influx of development, mainly in the form of multifamily housing. Already, crews are working on Sky House at Waterfront Station – the conversion of two former office buildings that once housed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to more than 500 apartment units. Eventually, two more residential buildings will be constructed along 4th Street, SW, which will bring an additional 700 units to Waterfront Station. To the west, a Planned Unit Development (PUD) was approved several years ago for two new buildings with approximately 300 units on the parking lots of The Vue at Waterfront apartment complex; however, the original developer went bankrupt and the property is now owned by a different company. Now, plans are moving forward on the other side of Waterfront Station to bring more housing to the area.

A new three-building infill residential development just to the east of Sky House I is planned at Town Center. The Bernstein Companies is moving forward with plans to build on their parking lots that currently serve Waterfront Tower condos and 1001 @ Waterfront apartments, which were designed by famed architect I.M. Pei. According to the Zoning application that was submitted in August, there will be two new 11-story buildings flanking both M Street, SW and K Street, SW and a 4-story building between the two existing towers on 3rd Street, SW. In addition, 1001 @ Waterfront will be renovated.  Maurice Walters Architect, PC has designed the new buildings. After the renovation, 1001 @ Waterfront will remain as apartments. Once completed, the proposed development at Town Center will yield 401 new multifamily units with a mix of studio, 1BR, and 2BR units, 128 renovated apartment units, 289 below-grade parking spaces, approximately 32 surface parking spaces, and 2,940 square feet of retail on M Street, SW and K Street, SW. In addition, 20% of the housing will be set aside as affordable (5% to households making 50% or less than Area Median Income, 5% to households earning 60% or less than Area Median Income, 5% to households making 70% or less than Area Median Income, and 5% to households earning 80% or less than Area Median Income).

Here is part of the description of the new buildings from the PUD application:

“The new North and South Towers will include a two-story high base that will be enclosed but will feature large expanses of glazing that relate to the open ground floor of the Pei Towers. The main massing of the new towers will rise to a height of 90 feet (9 stories), which is approximately the same height as the Pei Towers. The remaining two stories of the building will taper with setbacks and terraces to a height of 110 feet (11 stories).

The new North and South Towers will replace existing surface parking lots, creating a more pedestrian friendly experience on both M Street, SW and K Street, SW. The new four-story Center Building will replace an existing brick wall along 3rd Street, adding new stoops and entry doors to 3rd Street. These doors and entries from 3rd Street, along with large expanses of fenestration above on the building, will help to activate 3rd Street. “

All of the parking and loading will be accessed from an alley to the west of the site off of K Street, SW and a circular drive on M Street, SW that is being created in conjunction with the development of Waterfront Station, with only one curb cut on K Street, SW.  The other curb cuts that currently exist on the site (including M Street, SW) will be removed. Attitudes about parking have changed somewhat in the city over the past few years, but that change has been slower in Southwest, which is more car-centric in nature than downtown or Dupont Circle. The proposed parking ratio of approximately 0.5 spaces per unit at Town Center is half of what was approved for the infill development on the west side of Waterfront Station back in 2007 where one parking space was allotted per unit. Other recent PUDs have also reduced the number of parking, including The Wharf and St. Matthew’s on Delaware Avenue, SW and M Street, SW.  

Town Center will aim for LEED-Silver and will have environmental enhancements such as green roofs, underground cisterns for collecting storm water runoff, and energy efficient lighting.  Some of the public benefits included in the PUD application include a capital contribution to the SW Library, restoration of the north Pei building, tree planting on both sides of 3rd Street, SW, and creation of angled parking on 3rd Street, SW.

There is no construction timetable yet for the Town Center project and each building will be done separately, not concurrently.  If the consolidated PUD application is approved, it will be valid for two years, but the developers can apply for an extension if building permits have not been secured within the two-year window.

Once all of these buildings are complete, the area bounded by 3rd St, SW, K St., SW, 6th St, SW, and M Street SW will have over 2,400 residential units with more than 3,700 residents, a significant increase in population for the neighborhood which will bring both positive and potentially negative impacts. There is a concern about an increase in vehicular traffic. A transportation study is currently underway by the District Department of Transportation and their consultants for the M Street SE/SW corridor, which carries tens of thousands of vehicles daily. Although there will be an increase in vehicular traffic, the increase in foot traffic will help attract more retailers to Waterfront Station, which has found some difficulty signing leases for the remaining vacant spaces. An increase in foot traffic can also help with reducing crime, since the area will be less desolate and there will be more “eyes on the street” from the new housing units, as theorized by Jane Jacobs in her ground-breaking book The Rise and Fall of Great American Cities. Either way, the increase in building density and population will forever change the look and feel of the neighborhood.

William Rich is a blogger at Southwest…The Little Quadrant that Could (www.southwestquadrant.blogspot.com).


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