Razing Begins at Former Southeastern University Campus

South by West

Demolition of the former Southeastern University campus began after summer recess began at neighboring Amidon-Bowen Elementary School. Photo: William Rich

Fencing is up and raze permits have been approved for the demolition of the former Southeastern University campus at 501 I Street SW. Demolition began in late June after school recessed for the summer at neighboring Amidon-Bowen Elementary. The demolition process will last five weeks, starting on the north side of the site for the first week and moving to the west side during weeks two and three. Then demolition will shift to the east side for the last two weeks. Work hours will be from 7am to 5pm Monday through Friday. 

All of the debris from demolition will be sorted on site, placed in containers and then hauled to recycling centers. In addition, all of the hardscape and landscape materials will be removed from the site, but Erkiletian has offered to provide the materials to members of the community or for use on other public sites, such as the Southwest Duck Pond or the SW Community Garden.

Developer Plans

The Shakespeare Theater Company is partnering with Erkiletian at 501 I Street SW to build a nine-story building with approximately 155 residential units (a portion of the units will be set aside for actors, interns and affordable housing under Inclusionary Zoning), as well as rehearsal space, a black-box theater, a costume and set equipment fabrication shop, and the administrative headquarters for the Company. Most of STC’s operations will be located below-grade. 

Neighborhood Reaction

The area to the north and west of the proposed development contains two-story townhomes that were built as a result of urban renewal. On the south side of the property is the Southwest Duck Pond and to the east is Amidon-Bowen Elementary School. Neighbors of the campus site have been keeping an eye on the development process and one resident has developed a blog that chronicles the goings-on at the site. Andrea Pawley created the blog, which is called “Out, Out Damned Developer” (eyeon501sw.com). From the name of the blog, one can surmise Pawley’s feelings about the project. On the blog, Pawley states in the description of the project: “Development at the 501 I Street [SW] site should be in keeping with the low-rise character of the neighborhood and should not include a nine-story building as the developer has proposed.” 

Meanwhile, the Southwest Neighborhood Assembly (SWNA) petitioned to get the Southeastern University campus building registered as a historic landmark in 2014 after a raze permit was filed by the previous owner – The Graduate School USA. The petition was dropped after the new owners gave the civic organization assurances that they would engage the neighbors on their plans and a cash payment was given to support SWNA’s initiatives, including historic preservation.

Once demolition of the campus is complete, the site will be leveled off and remain fenced off until excavation begins, which won’t happen for 12 to 14 months since The Shakespeare Company and Erkiletian still need to go through the approval process.

Capitol Park Tower Addition May Begin Construction in 2015

Over the past several months, the owners of Capitol Park Tower at 4th and G streets SW have made improvements to the common areas of the building, such as a new lobby, hallways, gym, bike storage, and lounge. In addition, the units now have new windows, appliances, countertops, and fixtures. About 95% of the interior improvements have been completed. These improvements follow the purchase of the property by UIP and Perseus Realty in 2013 and are part of the agreement made with the tenants association during the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA) process. Despite the fact that Capitol Park Tower received historic designation for the 289-unit building and landscape in 2014, the next phase of improvements is an addition to the property. 

Development Plans

At the May Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 6D meeting, Adam Peters from Perseus Realty presented plans for a 295-unit addition. The rental apartments, designed by WDG Architecture will include units ranging from studios to 3BR units. About 24 units will be set aside as affordable housing under Inclusionary Zoning (IZ). A seven-story building is planned to the north of the existing building where the covered parking area is now located and a four-story building is planned on the east side of the property where the pool is now located, closer to Capitol Park II Condominium. An entrance to the new west wing of the property will be located on 4th Street near the I-395 underpass. 

In his presentation to the ANC, Peters explained that several components of the original landscape plan as designed by Daniel Urban Kiley have been lost or altered, including trees, shrubs, and the pool. The development plan intends to reuse many landscape elements – for instance, the canopies used to cover the parking garage will be repurposed as covered walkways between the existing building and the addition. Existing sculptures will be repositioned throughout the property. The development team intends to restore some of Kiley’s original landscape plan, including trees bosques and shrubs that were removed or died since they were originally planted some 50 years ago. 

New amenities include two rooftop swimming pools, community room, fitness center, vegetable garden, playground, and a green roof on the original building. A total of 310 below-grade parking spaces will be built beneath the addition – the surface parking located on the G Street side of the building will be replaced with landscaping. All of these amenities will be available for residents of the entire property to use. 

Next Steps

Although the proposed development is by-right, Capitol Park Tower is a historic property so the ANC will vote in a future meeting on whether to support the development plan before the owners go before the Historic Preservation Review Board. Construction is expected to begin by the end of 2015 and last about two years.

William Rich is a blogger at Southwest...The Little Quadrant that Could.

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