South by West

Introducing The Bard

Representatives from Shakespeare Theater Company (STC) and their developer partner Erkiletian held a community meeting in early July to continue a “dialogue” about their plans for The Bard, a mixed-use development on the site of the former Southeastern University campus at 501 I St. SW. STC purchased the site from the GS Graduate School USA and has plans to consolidate its back-of-house operations there from leased space scattered across the city, including administrative offices, studios, costume shop, classrooms, and rehearsal space, as well as artist housing. Approximately 75 employees will relocate from leased space to The Bard. In order to make the project financially feasible STC has partnered with Erkiletian, which will develop a 173-unit residential building that varies in height between three and nine stories, designed by Shalom Baranes Associates, the same architect as the office buildings at Waterfront Station. 

 

Project Elements

Some changes were made to the development after the partners met with the community several months ago. The main change was moving Shakespeare’s rehearsal space at the corner of 6th and I streets 14 feet below grade. Below the rehearsal space will be a level of parking accommodating 69 vehicles. This change allowed a portion of the residential building that is set back from I Street to rise to eight stories instead of nine. A three-story section along I Street wraps around the alley from which the eight-story section of the building is set back and will include 30 artist housing units. In addition, five two-story townhouses off of the alley on the northeast corner of the site will contain eight additional parking spaces. However, the section of the building that is at the corner of 6th and I streets remains at nine stories, plus a penthouse. The unit mix of the apartments is currently comprised of 25 percent studios, 40 percent one-bedrooms and one-bedroom/dens, and 35 percent two-bedroom units. Access to the project will be via 6th Street and not I Street due to the District Department of Transportation’s concerns about safety, since Amidon-Bowen School is located next door along I Street. 

Most of the ground level will be dedicated to STC. It will include the lobby, administrative space, costume shop, lounge, and kitchen. A plaza that fronts the lobby used by STC along 6th Street will feature trees, planters, and several seating areas. The apartment-building entrance will also be located along 6th Street, and ground-level space will include the lobby, fitness center, leasing office, and business center. The project will feature environmentally friendly features such as a green rooftop terrace, high-performance exterior walls, glazing, and efficient stormwater management.  

 

Community Reaction

The community meeting was contentious at times. Concerns about the building’s height and limited parking were echoed by many in the audience. Although the taller section of the building along I Street was set back from the street frontage with a three-story section, and one story was removed from the taller section, the nine-story-plus-penthouse section at the corner of 6th and I streets remained a major problem for residents, some of whom have homes that will directly face the building and feel that the proposed building is out of place in their neighborhood. It was also brought up that the building will tower over neighboring Amidon-Bowen Elementary, casting shadows on the school.

To help alleviate concerns about the limited parking and the potential for tenants of the new building to use street parking, residents of the rental building will not be eligible for residential permit parking (RPP), and the property manager will periodically audit the DMV to make sure residents do not try to game the system. In addition, parking will not be provided to STC’s employees, who will be encouraged to use Metro. 

STC and Erkiletian have brought in Bo Shuff to deal with community outreach for The Bard. A phone town hall was held a day after the community meeting, and other outreach efforts will be implemented over the summer to keep residents informed about the project. A project website will soon go live, and a Facebook page has been set up so the project’s process can be followed via social media. Bo Shuff can be reached at outreach@thebard501.com or by phone: 571-336-6343. 

Current zoning at the site does not allow what the development team has proposed, but they intend on going through the planned-unit-development process. Despite lobbying efforts to revise the Southwest Neighborhood Plan in order to change the zoning at the site, the DC Council voted to approve the plan as-is in their legislative meeting on July 14.

Demolition started in late June after summer recess began at Amidon-Bowen Elementary, and since then the former SEU campus building has been reduced to rubble. The site will be leveled off to prepare for excavation, which the developers hope to start in 2016 once the project makes its way through the approvals process. 

 

Wharf Bottoms Out, Office Tenant Announced

A “bottoming out” ceremony was held in mid-July for the first phase of The Wharf, which means excavation at the massive site has been completed. The project began construction in March 2014, and the first phase is scheduled to deliver in fall 2017. On the same day as the ceremony it was announced that the first office tenant for 800 Maine Avenue has been secured.

According to a press release the tenant will be the American Psychiatric Association (APA), which is moving back to DC from Rosslyn with more than 200 employees. The APA will occupy 63,000 square feet of space, or three floors of the planned 11-story, 220,000 square-foot building at 800 Maine Avenue SW. Formally known as Parcel 3A, 800 Maine Avenue will be located adjacent to District Pier at the gateway to The Wharf and will have private rooftop terraces. It is also next to the planned Intercontinental Hotel, which will face the Wharf’s promenade.

William Rich is a blogger at Southwest … The Little Quadrant That Could (www.swtlqtc.com).


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