Today the Board of Zoning Adjustment heard an application by Donohoe
to waive the rear-yard requirement for its planned 146,000-sq-ft office building at 1111 New Jersey
. I don't want to get too far into the weeds of it all, but basically this rear "yard" requirement was actually applying to the airspace along the alley between L and M above the project's first floor (because by right the first floor can run right to the alley line). Donohoe's position was that, by allowing them to build to the rear property line on all floors, they could build an 11-story building with higher ceilings on the 1st floor (16 feet), making the space far more desirable to prospective retail tenants. If they were unable to use that airspace, they would instead build a 12-story building of the same square footage, but with only 12-ft ceilings on the 1st floor (and shorter ceiling heights on the other floors). Although ANC 6D opposed this application on the grounds that it lacked a community benefits package (which is not required in a "by-right" project), the BZA felt that the higher ceiling heights on the first floor that would be allowed by granting this special exception, and the resulting higher-quality retail prospects that could be drawn to the building, could be considered to benefit the community. And with the pastor of St. Matthew's Church (which sits directly to 1111's north) saying that he is in favor of the project, and with the Office of Planning, the Capitol Hill Historical Society, and the neighboring developments (100 M Street
and Onyx on First
both sit across the alley from 1111 New Jersey) supporting it as well, and with other required standards of the rules met (sufficient distance between 1111 and adjacent structures, sitelines sufficiently separated, and adequate off-street parking [114 spaces], loading docks, and delivery space), the BZA voted 5-0 to approve this application. I've been told that this project could begin construction this summer.
Actually, I now hear that the project may not start until closer to the end of 2007. I don't know for sure, but perhaps the schedule is also being impacted by an upcoming item on the WMATA
Planning, Development and Real Estate subcommittee agenda for June 14
: "Approval of Developer Selection and Term Sheet for the Navy Yard East Entrance", which is referring to a joint development solicitation
proposal back in September 2006
, looking to develop the 4,400 square feet owned by WMATA above the Navy Yard station entrance at New Jersey and M with some combination of a public plaza at ground level and development above it. So we shall see....