Pennsylvania Avenue office project advances

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A rendering of 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW shows the new office building there, depicted next door to another new building that remains under construction. (rendering courtesy of Boston Properties)
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Development plans for 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW are moving forward after the Zoning Commission deemed the proposal ready for a public hearing.

The office building at 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW is slated for redevelopment. (Brian Kapur/The Current/July 2017)

George Washington University owns the 1960s office building there, and the school partnered with Boston Properties to redevelop it into a larger and more modern mixed-use commercial building. Design renderings show a glassy 11-story structure with its mass broken by projecting curves, particularly at the corner of 21st Street and Pennsylvania Avenue.

This new project would also replace the adjacent Rice Hall, a university administrative building at 2121 I St. NW. If the development wins zoning approval, construction will begin in mid-2019 and last nearly three years.

A new office building is under construction at 2112 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. 2100 Pennsylvania is visible to its left. (Brian Kapur/The Current/July 2017)

The project will be the university’s third along this stretch of Pennsylvania. The Avenue — also developed with Boston Properties — opened in 2011 a block away with a mix of retail, residential and commercial uses. Meanwhile, another 11-story office building is currently under construction next door at 2112 Pennsylvania and is scheduled to open in early 2018. All are investment projects intended to generate revenue for George Washington, without having a university component to the buildings themselves.

At 2100 Pennsylvania, developers need zoning approval for various aspects of the project, including allowing additional height and density. The plans also require a revision to George Washington’s campus plan, because part of the development site was originally targeted for university uses.

Rice Hall, a George Washington University administrative building at 2121 I St. NW, would be razed as part of the new development. (Brian Kapur/The Current/July 2017)

The D.C. Office of Planning is pressing the school to pin down where those uses — and the displaced Rice Hall functions — would be relocated. “A purpose of the Campus Plan was to limit the impact of uses on the surrounding neighborhood and show how those uses can be accommodated on the campus,” the agency wrote in a June 16 report.

The university will need to provide that information before a full Zoning Commission hearing takes place, likely this fall. The Planning Office also sought more details on the community benefits that would offset the additional density, which the development team is required to provide as part of the project’s planned unit development process.

The zoning application states that some of these amenities are related to the building itself — a more modern, attractive and environmentally friendly addition to the neighborhood. Developers also promise an on-site day care center that will be open to the public as well as the building’s tenants. Meanwhile, the project would contribute $8 million toward affordable housing in D.C.

The developers will also likely produce more community benefits in advance of the hearing, in consultation with community leaders. At the April meeting of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2A (Foggy Bottom, West End), developers offered various possibilities: a bust or statue of Duke Ellington for Duke Ellington Park; rent for the Foggy Bottom West End Village’s office; improvements to the park at 21st and I streets NW; and repairs to the Foggy Bottom Dog Park and Tot Park on 26th Street NW.

The development at 2100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW would add retail along I Street. (rendering courtesy of Boston Properties)

The new development would include about 453,000 square feet of total commercial space, of which at least 30,000 square feet would be set aside for retail use. Part of the I Street frontage would have double-height ceilings that developers say would be ideal for a restaurant, cafe or high-end food market, or perhaps a gym. Other space on both Pennsylvania and I would be appropriate for “fast casual dining, boutique fitness, daycare, and other convenience-related retail,” the zoning application states.

“The zoning actions will facilitate the redevelopment of a strategic corner site along Pennsylvania Avenue into a signature mixed-use building, and the proposed project’s retail use will significantly strengthen the development of the I Street retail corridor,” the application reads.

At a June 26 setdown — the Zoning Commission’s preliminary review of new applications before a public hearing can take place — commissioners expressed few concerns. The Office of Planning is also generally on board with the basic idea of the project, praising the architecture and concluding that additional density is valuable in an area close to the Foggy Bottom Metro station and other transit options.