14th & U: Approval for More Bars, Restaurants Expected

by Borderstan.com — June 12, 2010 at 9:46 am 0

DC Zoning Commission 14th Street NW U Street NW

Click to enlarge: The Uptown Arts Overlay District. (DC Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs)

It appears that the DC Zoning Commission will soon give its okay for more bars and restaurants on the 14th and U Street NW corridors that are within the Uptown Arts Overlay District. The Housing Complex blog at the Washington City Paper reports that the Thursday hearing on the matter was a “smooth ride” for the proposal to raise the amount of building frontage in the area to 50% from 25% for bars and restaurants.

A temporary increase has been in place and the Zoning Comission is expected to vote on June 28 to make the 50% number permanent.

The irony, as reported by the Housing Complex, is that no one showed up to oppose the increase to 50%. The matter came to light in April when several residents and ANC commissioners (from two different ANCs) brought the 25% limit to the attention of the DC Zoning Commission and demanded that it start enforcing the limit. One of the lead proponents of keeping the 25% cap in place was Ramon Estrada, ANC 2B09 commissioner; he did not show up for Thursday’s hearing.

Some opponents of the 50% rule raise the specter of another Adams Morgan-18th Street-style strip of bars and clubs that change the character of that neighborhood on weekends.

After the group asked the Zoning Commission to enforce the 25% limit in the area, there was a tremendous amount of attention on the issue. The MidCity Business Association, ANC 2F-Logan and Councilmembers Jim Graham (D-Ward 1) and Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) all urged the Commission to raise the limit to 50% for bars and restaurants along the two streets. On Wednesday night, ANC 2B-Dupont voted unanimously to recommend that the Commission approve the increase (a small panhandle of territory that is part of ANC 2B and represented by Estrada borders on 14th Street NW).

The two major issues around how many restaurants and bars to allow along the 14th and U corridors are (1) how to encourage mixed-use retail in the area, and (2) the reality that rents and property prices have become so expensive that the primary types of businesses able to open in the area at present are bars and restaurants, and furniture-home decor stores. (Room & Board will open a huge store Monday, June 14, at 14th and T NW.)

As noted in the Housing Complex blog story yesterday, the specter of another version of Adams Morgan’s 18th Street strip was raised–and not in a positive way.

About the Arts Overlay District

From the DC Zoning Commission website: “The Uptown Arts-Mixed Use (ARTS) Overlay District is applied to the commercial and Mixed Use Districts in the 14th and U Streets, N.W. area. The purposes of the ARTS Overlay District are to: Encourage a scale of development, a mixture of building uses, and other attributes such as safe and efficient conditions for pedestrian and vehicular movement. The overlay encourages uses that encourage pedestrian activity, especially retail, entertainment, and residential uses and provides for an increased presence and integration of the arts and related cultural and arts-related support uses. Commission Order Nos. 632, 632-A, 632-B and 632-C, for more details.”

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