Tonight the Zoning Commission gave its approvals to Forest City's 401 M Street
, the planned residential/retail/grocery project on the southeast corner of 4th and M at The Yards
. The votes were 4-0-1 and 3-1-1 (more on that below), and with chairman Anthony Hood's new *streamlined* (read: speeded up) hearing process, the presentations, questions, and vote took less than 90 minutes.
In the past I've used Zoning Commission meetings to learn more about proposed projects, but I've already written a fair amount
about 401 M, and there wasn't really much new tonight. The issues that the commissioners wanted to discuss got pretty far into the weeds of zoning law, particularly Commissioner May's concerns about whether Forest City's request to allow balconies along 4th Street to hang over into the required setback area was something that could be handled under a special exception. (If you really REALLY want to know about this zoning rule, see page 11 of the Office of Planning's report
May's fellow commissioners didn't feel quite as strongly, but in the end they voted on two motions to approve the project, unanimously to approve all of the project except the special exception request, and then 3-1-1 to approve the special exception request. (The best moment might have been during the discussion of whether refusing to allow balconies would impact the project, when chairman Hood said, "If it didn't have a balcony, Anthony Hood wouldn't buy one.")
For those just joining us, originally
401 M was going to be an office building with a ground-floor grocery store, but market forces have intervened and earlier this year Forest City unveiled a new design, featuring two long and thin residential buildings (connected by an elevator tower) with between 200 and 225 rental units (20 percent of which would be set aside for people making less than 50 percent of the area median income). The grocery store, with no tenant officially announced (*cough*Harris Teeter
*cough*), would be 55,000 square feet on two floors, with its main entrance on 4th Street (as well as a previously approved cut in the historic brick wall on M).
On the south end of the block, at 4th and Tingey, there will be a four-story building with another 55,000 square feet of retail space, with what's expected to be a spa/fitness center/gym tenant on the top two floors and retail on the bottom two (seen at left). There will also be a new narrow service road running south from M between this new development and Building 202
for loading zone access. Access to residential parking will be from Tingey, and the grocery and retail parking entrance will be on 4th, next to the residential lobby entrance that will be directly across from the "Transportation Walk" behind USDOT
Forest City is hoping that construction could possibly start in early 2012, with a delivery in late 2013 or thereabouts. (But, repeat after me: dates like this are not written in stone.) ANC 6D voted unanimously to support the project back in October