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Near Southeast DC Past News Items: May 06, 2010
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Thanks to one of the National Capital Planning Commission's fabulous documents, we're starting to get first hints of plans by the Cohen Companies for what they are describing as a three-building, 815,000-square-foot office, hotel, retail project on the very eastern end of M Street, nestled between Boathouse Row and the CSX tracks east of Maritime Plaza. It's so early in the process that it's not even on Cohen's New Projects page, but City Paper's Housing Complex blog has learned that the company will be putting together a planned unit development application to the Zoning Commission "over the next six to nine months." (No financing is lined up, though, so don't look for digging to start anytime soon.) See the NCPC document for some early drawings and some basic information on how they envision the offerings of the three buildings.
(Cohen Companies, by the way, is the developer of Velocity.)
Back in 2003-ish, there were plans for this site to be a townhouse development (see page 15), but those never got off the ground partly because of zoning issues, which then begat an attempted rezoning of the area in 2004 that failed. But rezoning of the site will have to be back in the forefront when this project's PUD application hits the zoning committee, since the space is still zoned "M" (industrial).
The project is in front of NCPC because of Cohen's request to close "paper street" segments of Virginia Avenue, M, and 14th streets. This is a part of a settlement between 1333 M Street, SE, LLC and the city from a lawsuit over waterfront development in South*west*, where the Cohen Companies are agreeing to release their claims in exchange for three small pieces of government land at 1333 M SE as well as the city's support in requesting the street closures. (The street closures themselves have been approved by the city council as bill B18-0572, and are expected to become law later this month.)
The NCPC is objecting to the street closures; and thankfully Greater Greater Washington has been writing in detail on the case, so I'm just going to throw it over to them for all the nitty gritty, because it's way out of my league. (Read also this GGW entry about connecting this area to the neighborhoods to its north if/when the remnants of the freeway to Barney Circle are removed.) But, again, the NCPC staff recommendation report is also a great read for not only the NCPC's concerns but also for the history of the area under review and other details. The NCPC board is meeting this afternoon, and we'll see what comes out of the session (I assume GGW will be hot on the trail).
If you've never ventured down that way, my East M page has a few not-particularly-current photos of the location (I don't get there very often myself), along with more images of Boathouse Row. When the project begins to wind its way through the zoning process, I'll get more on the ball. The city's 2009 Boathouse Row Planning Study is also a good spot to learn more about the area.
UPDATE: Thanks to commenter Evan, I'm reminded that I should have included the additional information that, because this is part of the old Washington Gas (and I think Steuart Petroleum) site, there are some serious remediation issues to be addressed, which are mentioned both by Ron Cohen on page 25 of this 2003 ZC transcript and on page 19 of this 2004 ZC transcript (saying that the contaminated soil is 11 feet down). Remediation is also mentioned in the 2009 Boathouse Row Planning Study and in this EPA document (under "Washington Gas and Light"). Oh, and the EPA's 1999 record of decision on what cleanup remedies would be needed. It should be noted that both Maritime Plaza buildings were completed after this document. (This is all before my time, so I'm researching on the fly.)
UPDATE II: Here's a WBJ article (subscribers only for 7 days) on the NCPC angle; it also reminds that, outside the monumental core of the city, NCPC's rulings are purely advisory.
 




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