Report on Community Meeting regarding 3400 Connecticut/2911 Newark St Redevelopment Proposal, Cleveland Park Library, Thursday, Nov. 11 at 5 pm
Phil Kang of Velocity Property hosted a well-attended informational meeting at the Cleveland Park library regarding his proposed redevelopment at Connecticut and Newark.
Kang described his 3-year design process. He noted that the project had evolved from a potential food hall in an existing building to constructing a 29,000 sq. ft. residential building, a 6,000 sq. ft. mixed use building (retail and townhouses), and a public plaza. Kang emphasized that the present proposal leaves the historical Macklin apartment building on Newark Street and the retail building at 3412 Connecticut “virtually untouched.” He noted the project is considerably smaller than what the site actually permits. He also touted the project’s plaza as re-purposing an underused parking lot, thereby “giving back to the neighborhood,” while creating foot traffic for future retailers in the mixed-use building.
A project architect then addressed design challenges posed by the site, including a desire for the new buildings to be “in the same family” as the Macklin without creating “false replicas.” He identified some of the architectural features (e.g., building materials and steel windows) chosen to achieve that goal. The architect noted that the developer had been working with Steve Callcott, the Deputy Preservation Officer at the D.C. Office of Planning, and he expressed a hope for a “team” approach to the project.
Audience members then commented on the project or asked questions. A good mix of views expressed by project supporters and opponents. Some in attendance opposed it entirely. One decried the new residential building as a “Loch Ness monster” that would allow its residents to “look down on their neighbors across the street,” and predicted that it “won’t fly” in a “very fragile urban village.” Another opined that the developer had no “God given” right to build, and urged people to consider whether “we want this at all?” Others present disagreed with these remarks, praising the project as “showing enormous restraint,” “brave,” and “imaginative.” One opined that the restorations made to the former Tap House/4P’s building had already “greatly improved” the neighborhood and another wished that the project could be “denser.”
Most commenters focused on specific issues or suggestions for improvements. The developer’s decision to provide no parking for the project’s 35 new housing units generated the most discussion. One neighbor complained that it was already difficult to park on Newark Street on weekdays and another raised concerns about whether the customers of the Orange Fitness gym on Connecticut intended to drive. An audience member with a disability urged the developers to provide short term parking for people running errands. Kang responded that parking problems come with a growing city, and suggested that the project’s parking impact might be smaller than expected. He contended that only two of the 17 existing renters in the Macklin had cars, that new residents might make the same choice, and that the need for cars may be diminishing. Kang also stated that if the developer needed to supply parking to make the project “viable,” then it would do so. At the meeting Monday night, the project’s zoning attorney said the new buildings would be ineligible for Residential Parking Permits (RPP) due the site’s commercial zoning.
Other commenters criticized the project architecture as too “Brutalist;” suggested that the facade of the residential building facing Connecticut Avenue should be less “commercial” looking; and proposed that the project should not exceed the height of the Uptown theater. One commenter stated that he had no objection to the project’s aesthetics and that “change is going to happen,” but then expressed concerns regarding drainage problems posed by the site’s slope and geology. The uphill Newark Street neighbor adjacent to the project expressed similar concerns about water flow and the need for a retaining wall between his property and the residential building. The project architect agreed that the site posed these drainage challenges due to its slope and solid rock foundation, but that it would meet or exceed its Green Area Ratio (GAR) by adding roof gardens and water runoff capture in the voids under the new building. He indicated that engineers were being hired to address them.
The project design will be presented and discussed at the Cleveland Park Historical Society’s Architectural Review Committee meeting Monday evening, November 11, at 8:10pm. The meeting will be held at the Cleveland Park Congregational Church, 3400 Lowell Street, NW. The public is welcome to attend, make comments and ask questions.
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