Since January, 2003
 (a random before-and-after moment)
January 22, 2006
June 4, 2017
Half at K, Looking North (see more)

On Monday night, the city's Zoning Commission had its first crack at the new request for modifications to the existing Planned Unit Development (PUD) for the Florida Rock site across the street from Nationals Park, as the commissioners deliberated on whether to "set down" the request for a hearing. As mentioned previously, the developers want to change the site's first phase from office to residential, and also have done some reworking of the rest of the design for the six-acre site that the Zoning Commission approved after much deliberation and tweaking back in 2008.
Commissioner Michael Turnbull was first out of the gate with comments about the new designs, and he was not at all happy, calling it a "major gut" to the original PUD, saying that he felt the applicant should start the PUD process all over again. Describing the new plans as "bastardized," "stick architecture from the suburbs," "boxy," "10 steps backward," and "an affront to the Zoning Commission" and city residents, Turnbull pledged to be "so damn critical" if the new design moves forward. (If you've got a few minutes, you can watch his remarks for yourself.)
Commissioner Peter May, on the other hand, said that he is actually more comfortable with the new design, given that there were features he "really questioned" in the 2008 design, but that the latest filing is "pretty simplistic" in terms of the drawings, and did say that the architecture is "kind of boring," especially from the waterside view. (The image at right is the Phase 1 residential building, as seen from the river.) He also wanted to see more comparisons to the previously approved design so that they could understand more what they may be giving up with the new design, but that he found the overall plan "more appealing than before."
Vice-chair Konrad Schlater's biggest concern was over the scaling back of the retail component, which has gone from 80,000 square feet of "retail and service uses" in the 2008 PUD to about 23,400 square feet in the new filing, with 7,000 sf of that being turned over to residential amenities "until a retail market is established." "It seems like a missed opportunity to have space on the boardwalk that is not retail," Schlater said, adding that the city does not have a lot of projects right on a waterfront like this, and that the entire development really should be a retail destination. (He also caught that, while the 2008 PUD called for LEED certification for each phase, the new filing says that the project "will be LEED certifiable for each phase." Semantics, or...?)
With commission chair Anthony Hood not in attendance, the four commissioners decided to defer a decision on the set-down request until Hood can weigh in with his thoughts; this would also give the developers time to file additional information, such as comparing the new designs with the 2008 plans. This could come up at the next public hearing, on Feb. 13.
So, what are the differences?
With the entire filing available online (if you search), I was able to go through and cull out some of the most representative drawings from this new design, which I've put on my Florida Rock project page. At the bottom of that page you can also see some images of the designs that were approved in 2008. The first image at left, from 2008 (click to enlarge), shows the four buildings and the public spaces with a lot of curves and glass and "articulation."
Compare that to the latest design. While this is clearly a very early drawing, it does show four much more boxy structures, as commissioner Turnbull said. You can also see the curves-versus-corners differences in the site-plan comparison graphic I created, which also shows the differing layouts of the public spaces, again going from a lot of flowing, rounded paths and open areas to straighter-edged movements, with the total amount of "lot occupancy" going down to 44 percent in the new design from 58 percent in the old. The phase 1 apartment building is the most fleshed out in the renderings, but there are additional drawings giving a general sense of the site layout.
The Office of Planning's setdown report goes through the changes requested in a fair amount of detail.
It will be interesting to see how this the Zoning Commission handles this, as well as ANC 6D, which has always been very supportive of this project during its long gestation but has not yet had an opportunity to weigh in/vote on the new design. (And of course, we here at JDLand want to know what YOU think!) The developers are hoping to begin construction on the first phase apartment building in Spring 2013, but it would appear that this zoning process, like everything else tied to this project up to now, may not be as speedy as they might want.
If you want more background on how the commission reached its approvals in 2008, my many (MANY!) posts on the project are worth browsing, including the one I wrote in December detailing the changes in the new request. And do check out the latest drawings (and scroll down for the old ones).
Comments (10)
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btz says: (2/2/12 6:00 PM)
This design is not a revolution in urban planning and seems to be a quick and cheap way to cash in on a hot rental market in DC. Which is what this whole "redesignation of Phase 1" seems like on the part of Florida Rock. Nothing wrong with that if you're the developer but holistically speaking DC and the residents of Near SE can and should do better. we shouldn't let them cash in on a hot market when so much has been promised by the way of urban planning and waterfront planning. I would attempt to stop this design in its current conception any way possible.

btz says: (2/2/12 6:01 PM)
it looks like L'enfant plaza buildings.

lefabe says: (2/2/12 6:40 PM)
it looks like more bullshit like the JPI apartments.

David Garber says: (2/2/12 7:03 PM)
MRP Realty, who had planned to re-present plans at our February ANC meeting, has now decided to take another month to work on design modifications based on Zoning Commission comments and a *substantial* set of comments submitted on behalf of the Citizens Development Advisory Committee (made up of residents of this neighborhood who have expressed interest in giving input on new development that comes through the ANC).

Seeing as this is a hugely visible and precedent-setting direct waterfront/parkfront building, I'm definitely looking forward to seeing how these plans progress based on the input they've been given up to this point.

If any neighborhood residents want to join the Development Advisory Committee, please send me an email: dggarber at gmail.

JD says: (2/2/12 7:07 PM)
David--Is there a web site or mailing list or somewhere that residents who aren't on your advisory committee can find out exactly what the committee's feedback is and what projects they are working on? Seems like something that would be of interest to people, to know what their fellow residents are giving as feedback on behalf of the neighborhood as a whole.

David Garber says: (2/2/12 7:43 PM)
JD--As a clarification, the committee is not claiming to speak for the neighborhood as a whole, although the more input I get the better I'm able to respond when they present to us at the ANC meetings.

I originally publicized the advisory committee on the neighborhood email list (, my ANC Facebook page (, and on Twitter ( --but if there are others still interested in joining, please don't hesitate to be in touch! More voices=better.

swdckp says: (2/3/12 10:33 AM)
Fight the power, Mr. Turnbull! The renderings look really awful-- they remind me of Tiber Island in SW.

G ST SE says: (2/3/12 10:57 AM)
Hold the line. There is only one chance to get this right. Demand more creative architecture and put the pressure on developers to absorb the costs. Tiber Island in SW is a gross example of a waterfront done poorl y and it has mucked up the vision for nearly 50 years. Reject the boxy cheap designs and require more attractive options which embrace the waterfront concepts and access to the Anacostia for all.

Everything else will follow this lead - good or bad. Don't believe the developer hype - require them to make commitments to excellence in design and usage!

ttassa says: (2/3/12 11:11 AM)
I'm not expert, but just a frequenter of this site. The new plans and latest designs seem like a big disappointment. Why try and screw this one up? What's the point of building something that isn't a destination. Step up.

MalS says: (2/3/12 1:02 PM)
The original approved drawings look far better; they have a flowing quality very appropriate to the site. That quality is completely lacking in the new drawings. I hope the Commission fights hard on this; bad design in this great location would be a real shame.

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