A proposal to build 143 apartment units above ground-level retail in Tenleytown has won the support of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 3E after several months of deliberations.
Urban Investment Partners is asking the Zoning Commission to approve additional density at 4620 Wisconsin Ave. NW, currently a mix of office space and retail. The developer and ANC 3E (Friendship Heights, Tenleytown) have agreed on a community benefits package — part of the planned unit development process where developers provide community amenities in return for authorization to exceed certain land-use restrictions.
As amenities, developers have agreed to renovate the historic Chesapeake House in Fort Reno for community use; bury utility lines underground along the project’s stretch of Wisconsin Avenue; and create a small park at the intersection of Brandywine Street, 42nd Street and River Road NW. In addition, developers will set aside 10 percent of the residential space as affordable housing, up from the 8 percent required under D.C. law.
Since its initial application in November 2016, the project has since been downsized in response to complaints from some residents, who opposed the proposed height. It now stands at 88 feet tall plus a small mechanical penthouse, compared to 90 feet plus an occupiable penthouse level last fall. ANC 3E members supported the density when they voted 5-0 last Tuesday to back the project, and about half a dozen people in the audience also spoke in favor of more density in locations that can support it.
“We have this tiny ribbon of land along Wisconsin Avenue where we can add density; everything else is [zoned for] single-family homes,” said ANC 3E member Tom Quinn.
Susan Kimmel — chair of Ward 3 Vision, an organization fostering smart growth — said the project is a “poster child of transit-orientated development” due to its proximity to the Tenleytown Metro station and Wisconsin Avenue’s bus service. “I think this is a very good start to encouraging more vitality on the street,” Kimmel added, a sentiment echoed by Tenleytown Main Street director Leigh Catherine Miles.
A public hearing on the project at the Zoning Commission is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
ANC 3E chair Jon Bender said he doesn’t think 80 to 90 feet of development is too tall for a medium-density zone such as the one at 4620 Wisconsin — “if the developers provide sufficient amenities and mitigations.”
Other amenities developers have promised include leasing 3,500 square feet of the retail space to a sit-down restaurant, as well as promising not to lease commercial space to chain stores and meeting LEED Gold sustainability requirements. The project will also add 38 solar panels on the roof of the building, supplying 1 percent of the building’s energy needs, according to Brook Katzen, principal with Urban Investment Partners.
Katzen said the benefits package is the product of “intense negotiations with the ANC.”
“We think that it’s a beautiful building, and it’s gotten a lot better over time, both the main architecture and how it responds to the topography of the street,” he said.
The eight-story building will match the roofline of neighboring Tenley View, constructed by Douglas Development in 2016. But because of the downward slope of the hill, developers will be able to fit more floors above ground in some sections of the building.
The building will have a total of 58 parking spaces, more than what the District requires by law, according to Katzen. About 70 percent of the units are planned as one- or two-bedroom apartments, with 30 percent as studios.
Not all attendees of the ANC 3E meeting were positive. “This building will be the tallest, biggest, densest building in this part of Wisconsin Avenue,” said Dennis Williams, a Chesapeake Street resident who called for the proposal to be scaled back.