In a wonderfully short hearing on Thursday night, the Zoning Commission voted 5-0 to approve Forest City Washington's request
for an amendment to the current Southeast Federal Center Zoning Overlay
to allow the company to temporarily move its offices to the second floor of the historic Lumber Shed building at the Yards Park
The company made the request because, while there has been "great interest" from potential retail tenants for the first floor of the building, the second floor has not as yet been as enticing, and filling the ground-floor spaces alone is not enough to get construction financing secured. Because Forest City is "anxious" to get the building started, their move to occupy the second floor can settle the financing issues and finalize deals with interested tenants, which means that construction on the 34,000-square-foot building could begin this year and be open by early 2013.
There had been some concerns at the setdown hearing back in April
about the "temporary" request being for a period of 20 years, but Forest City's representatives emphasized (as they also did to the ANC
in April) that their intent is to be in the Lumber Shed only until there is office space elsewhere in the Yards to which they can move. Alex Nyhan of Forest City explained that getting retail uses into the second floor is currently "challenging" because the building is "by itself" at the Yards (without much built out around it), which is exacerbated by the fact that it's a somewhat seasonal destination. But Forest City feels that once the other projects in the first phases of the Yards are built out, there will be a demand for the second floor, plus "the onus is on us" to make the Yards into a location where second-floor retail not only at the Lumber Shed but in other
Yards buildings is attractive to tenants.
The discussion seemed to satisfy the zoning commissioners, and with the Office of Planning in support
of the change and no voices in opposition, the unanimous vote came quickly.
Nyhan also gave the commission a quick update on the status of the other first-phase Yards projects, to help illustrate that "after many years of planning" things are starting to move: