Redevelopment plan for 4000 Wisconsin Ave. building secures ANC support

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

Redevelopment plans for the commercial building at 4000 Wisconsin Ave. NW won support from the local advisory neighborhood commission last month, with commissioners unanimously endorsing the ambitious new mixed-use project.

Donohoe Development is planning to replace the existing 1980s building with 716 apartment units, a grocery store, a health club and other ground-floor retailers. Although the project will comply with zoning regulations, the project’s grand scale is sending it through the city’s “large tract review” process, which is coordinated by the D.C. Office of Planning with involvement from various city agencies. This procedure grants less leverage to the community than a request for zoning relief, yet still grants a formal opportunity for public review and comment.

ANC 3C (Cleveland Park, Massachusetts Avenue Heights, Woodley Park) was generally enthusiastic about the plans. In part, that’s due to disappointment with the current building. “It just doesn’t work very well,” commission chair Nancy MacWood told The Current, adding that she’s optimistic that the new retail offerings will help enliven the area around Wisconsin and Upton Street NW.

At the commission’s July 17 meeting, Andy Czajkowski of architectural firm SK+I said the designs will be attractive as well as functional — with a clearer, more accessible entrance. “We’re going to be transforming that entire ground floor level to be neighborhood-friendly,” he said, without “walk-up ramps or staircases.”

Donohoe hopes to begin construction in 2019 and open the new building in 2024.

Despite the broad support, commissioner Gwendolyn Bole implored designers to promote access to affordable housing by increasing the project’s number of two- and three-bedroom units.

“That’s really the affordable housing we need in this city,” Bole said at the meeting. “I would urge you not to make those studios or all one-bedrooms.”

While Czajkowski said the project will comply with the Zoning Commission’s affordable housing regulations, the makeup of the units isn’t yet fixed, and developers are currently “digesting and processing” Bole’s concerns.

The project, which at its highest is 70 feet tall, reduces the current number of parking spaces from 1,039 to 883. This reduction will accommodate new D.C. Department of Transportation standards that encourage internal loading to avoid trucks backing out onto the street, according to Czajkowski.

“Because we’re internalizing all the loading, we’re losing a lot of the spaces,” Czajkowski said. “It’s sort of a complicated issue that we’ve kind of accepted and we’re working through.”

Developers are optimistic that the remaining parking will be sufficient thanks to the ample public transit options nearby. The site is a half-mile from the Tenleytown Metro station and within a quarter-mile of nine Metrobus routes. The project’s traffic consultant suggested making “minor adjustments to the signal timings at the Wisconsin Avenue/Van Ness Street and Wisconsin Avenue/Upton Street intersections,” according to the large tract review application.

Plans also include an update on the structure’s lackluster 1980s stormwater systems by increasing vegetation and improving current infrastructure. Additionally, designs promote bicycle and pedestrian access, allocating room for 325 bicycle parking spaces.

Donohoe president Peter Gartlan told The Current he was pleased to secure ANC 3C’s backing. “We hope to bring a first-class community to the neighborhood that all the residents are happy with,” Gartlan said.

MacWood urged developers to continue communicating with neighborhood representatives as the review process continues.