Developers describe grand plans for 4000 Wisconsin Ave. site

Developers intend to raze the 1980s commercial building at Wisconsin Avenue and Upton Street NW. (Brian Kapur/The Current/June 2017)

Donohoe Development last week presented plans to build 720 apartment units and ground-level retail at 4000 Wisconsin Ave. NW in Tenleytown, drawing suggestions that developers build more and larger affordable units.

Plans call for razing the existing 1980s-era commercial and office building on the lot while preserving its underground parking garage. Three courtyards will break up the mass of the new mixed-use structure, which will include about 34,000 square feet of retail space.

Due to varying elevations of the lot, the new building will have seven stories at its highest point, with set-back penthouse units on top. Developers envision neighborhood-serving restaurants and a small-scale grocer on the site.

The design proposes a prominent corner on Wisconsin Avenue and Upton Street, with a courtyard entrance bounded by a potential restaurant and apartment lobby. Some residents at the meeting last Tuesday asked developers to retain the location’s gym and indoor pool, currently operated by Sport&Health. Project officials said about 17,000 square feet of the project are devoted to a health club; their goal is to find another gym to sign a lease if Sport&Health doesn’t renew, according to the developers’ filing with the D.C. Office of Planning.

The new development’s vehicular entrance would be on this commercial stretch of Upton Street NW. (Brian Kapur/The Current/June 2017)

The redeveloped site will include about 883 total vehicle parking spaces and 325 bicycle parking spaces, according to the filing, “and enough loading facilities to serve the mix of uses.” A curb cut that exists on Wisconsin Avenue will be scrapped in favor of a garage entry ramp on Upton Street.

Developers said they plan to set aside 70 units as affordable under the city’s inclusionary zoning laws. Some residents and members of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3C (Cleveland Park, Massachusetts Avenue Heights, Woodley Park) said at the June 13 meeting that they’d prefer a higher number. ANC 3C members also asked developers to consider larger unit sizes.

The development company’s president Peter Donohoe said that approximately 70 percent of the project’s units will be studios and one-bedrooms, while the rest will have two or more bedrooms.

The existing building’s Wisconsin Avenue NW driveway would be eliminated in the redevelopment. (Brian Kapur/The Current/June 2017)

“There’s a huge discussion citywide about turning the page on all of the studios and one-bedrooms that have flooded the city with new construction,” ANC 3C chair Nancy MacWood told the project team. “It’s families that are looking for housing at this point.”

Construction is targeted to begin next year and wrap up in 2024. Although the project will be constructed matter-of-right under zoning, it is large enough that developers must undergo the “large tract” review process with the Office of Planning, which includes coordinating with city agencies and community members.

Fannie Mae takes up part of the office space in the existing building, but the company will be moving to a downtown headquarters in the coming year, according to Donohoe.

“The commercial office market has changed,” said Andy Czajkowski of SK&I Architectural Design Group, the firm designing the project. “The building and uses are fundamentally outdated at this point. … The opportunity exists to transform this site into a vibrant, mixed-used development.”