South by West

Photograph By
William Rich

Greenleaf Gardens will be replaced with higher-density buildings, but some townhouse units will be built for families.

The New Greenleaf Will Be Mixed-Income Housing

At a meeting last Saturday for Greenleaf Gardens residents and the Southwest community at large, consultants from HR&A Advisors revealed a potential redevelopment plan for Greenleaf, which calls for a phased redevelopment of the 15-acre public housing complex. The plan would rebuild the 493 units of public housing and build 1,374 units of market-rate housing in a mix of 1-, 2-, 3-bedroom and townhome units. Since many of the existing Greenleaf units are townhomes, a portion of the replacement Greenleaf units would also be townhomes. Consultants and planners from Perkins Eastman reviewed six main design ideas:

  • Create significant public places – Greenleaf abuts Lansburgh Park north of M Street and Greenleaf Recreation Center to the south. 
  • Build on the existing and historic street network. 
  • Construct higher density housing first. 
  • Reconnect streets across M Street
  • Enhance connection to emerging neighborhoods: Waterfront Station, The Wharf, Capitol Riverfront, Ballpark District. 
  • Integrate market-rate and affordable housing – 30 percent affordable on each redeveloped block.

The redevelopment option preferred by the community and public officials is to build the first phase outside the Greenleaf footprint but in the vicinity, so Greenleaf residents won’t need to leave the community. A “build first” model is something many in the community have advocated for, and it has the support of the advisory neighborhood commission and the DC Council. Several District- and federally owned sites were identified as possible locations for building the initial phase of 127 units. That would allow the redevelopment of the block of 38 townhomes between L and M streets to proceed without displacing residents, because the families in the townhome units could relocate to the new off-site building. 

The initial phase inside the Greenleaf boundaries would be a high-rise building on the north side of M Street with 271 units for seniors, with the potential for ground-floor retail. Once that building is complete, the current seniors building on the south side of M would be replaced with another high-rise with 662 units of mixed-income housing, including flats and townhomes on the first two levels. Phase three includes 240 units – townhomes where the Greenleaf mid-rise building is now and a high-rise on the north end of the block between L and M streets. After that phase is complete a mix of 336 mid-rise and townhome units would be built on the block between K and L streets. Development would conclude with more mid-rise and townhome units (336 units) on the northernmost block between I and K streets. 

The preliminary plan could change before the final plan is released this summer. It will be fleshed out at a third community meeting in May. Construction is several years away, but having a framework will allow the housing authority to seek a development partner to help realize the vision of a mixed-income Greenleaf Gardens. 

Library to Be Rebuilt

At the District government’s “March Madness” economic development event on March 25 the Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMPED) and other District agencies offered parcels across the city for development. One is located in Southwest – the Southwest Branch Library at 900 Wesley Place. The current Southwest Branch Library, a 21,600-square-foot building with three levels, was built in 1965. A mini-makeover was done in 2011, but funding for an extensive renovation was removed from the budget a few years ago. The library will be replaced with a standalone facility designed to achieve Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Silver certification.

The library’s future was hotly debated in 2014 when DMPED, the Office of Planning, and DC Public Library (DCPL) proposed to move the library to the city-owned parcel at Waterfront Station, which would have been part of a mixed-use building with residential, retail, and library. That proposal was rejected by the community in favor of keeping the library at its current location and building a standalone facility, which the city intends to do. DMPED released a request for proposals (RFP) after last year’s “March Madness” event for the Waterfront Station site at 1000 Fourth Street, but without the library requirement. Three of the redevelopment teams responding to the RFP made the final cut last summer. While a decision was expected back in November, DMPED finally announced at the “March Madness” event that PN Hoffman’s bid was selected. 

PN Hoffman’s presentation was unique in that the amount of proposed retail space was more than double the amount proposed by the other teams, and prospective retail tenants were announced. The development plan includes 443 rental apartments, 22,500 square feet of community-oriented retail, and a 10,000-square-foot, 200-seat black-box theater, all in a LEED-Gold building designed by Torti Gallas. The 133 units of affordable housing include 34 at up to 30 percent of area median income (AMI) and 99 at up to 50 percent of AMI. Retail would be located on Fourth Street, wrapping around to a new private drive on the north end of the site. A letter of intent has been signed by Constantine Stavropoulous, the owner of Tryst, Open City, The Diner, and The Coupe, to open a diner at the corner of Fourth Street and the private drive. Other retail uses such as a daycare center and artist space could be located on the north side of the development along the private drive, which serves as a connector between the Southwest Library branch and the Duck Pond. The private drive could be closed off at times for arts-focused events. The proposal was the preferred choice of ANC 6D, which will weigh in again once PN Hoffman goes through the second-stage planned unit development process. 

The RFP for a design-build contract for the new library will be released this fall. A flyer about the project says the new library “will reflect the program and goals of the library and the needs of the District of Columbia residents who use it. The building will incorporate forward-thinking approaches to urban design, architecture, engineering, and environmental technologies in the public realm.” The new facility “will be a destination that will attract and support hundreds of users per day, and promote a vibrant, mixed-use neighborhood and active street environment.” 

According to Steve Moore, director of the Southwest Business Improvement District, DC Public Library will receive $1 million in next year’s budget for planning the new library. There will likely be community involvement in the planning process. 

A new public library on Wesley Place SW will replace the existing building, which dates to the 1960s.

William Rich is a blogger at Southwest … The Little Quadrant That Could (

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