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Developer’s Plan to Build on Adams Morgan Plaza Irks Locals

by Andrew Ramonas March 3, 2016 at 3:35 pm 46 Comments

A property developer’s plan to construct a seven-story mixed-used building that would take up much of a popular outdoor gathering space in the heart of Adams Morgan is drawing an outcry from neighborhood leaders.

In a community meeting last night, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C members JonMarc Buffa and Billy Simpson blasted a PN Hoffman proposal to build on the SunTrust plaza at 1800 Columbia Road NW.

“I don’t accept this as a reasonable development,” Simpson said. “I personally am committed to ensuring that it does not move forward as they have planned. I intend to use every resource at my disposal as a resident of Adams Morgan to try to mobilize members of the community to try to stop this.”

A PN Hoffman representative didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

In renderings of the proposed development, only a small section of the current plaza appears to remain open to pedestrians. That area would include some benches, but not enough room for the farmers market that operates there on Saturdays in the summer and fall. PN Hoffman proposed moving the market to the BB&T Bank plaza across the street.

Simpson said he doesn’t oppose replacing the SunTrust with a building that has residential and retail space, as long as the current plaza remains.

“I have no love for the existing building,” he said.

PN Hoffman representatives are scheduled to attend an ANC meeting on March 16 to discuss their plans. The meeting is open to the public.

Do you think PN Hoffman should construct a building that takes up much of the SunTrust plaza? You can weigh in through our poll.

Images via ANC 1C/PN Hoffman, Google Maps

  • guenna77

    NO! absolutely not! that plaza is an essential part of the neighborhood between the farmers market and just general use as a gathering and performance space during neighborhood events! it would destroy a big part of the character of that intersection and what makes Adams Morgan distinctive if we were to lose it.

    • meh

      There’s plenty of open space kitty corner and I basically never see people using this plaza the way people use the plaza area by BB&T. Also, it may not be worth developing the parcel if they can’t use the full footprint. As an Adams Morgan resident, I don’t think that ugly, underutilized plaza is “a big part of the character” of the area.

      • gbrown

        Completely agree. With the exception of designated events (which seem few and far between), the plaza remains underused throughout most of the year. I’d like to see a project that incorporates some sort of outdoor space that efficiently uses less space, say, for the continuation of the farmers market there. Then again, why can’t that locate to the BB&T plaza?

        • sml

          why not just close the connector alley between 18th street and Columbia Road when the farmers are there? AM market is pretty small and really can’t compete with Dupont, CH, or 14th and U but still useful. Never seen the plaza fully utilized Mainly an occasional homeless hangout during the week. First time I’ve ever disagreed with Billy. I think the Hoffman project with tweeks to add a bit more public space is a much needed boost for a struggling area.

          • AMDCer

            From the renderings it looks like the alley is incorporated into the building (for parking garage access?), so it will not be available.

          • Charles

            Why is “a regular, safe and decent sitting place for homeless people” underuse? Those places are disappearing.

      • guenna77

        it’s certainly used more year-round than the other plaza. it has more foot traffic being on the busier 18th street side of the intersection. i’m pretty sure that the developer can make plenty of money while still keeping the space that houses the farmer’s market, one of the longest running ones in the city. i also don’t really think it’s that ugly; the Suntrust itself might be, but not the plaza. i think that the streetscape would look very different without the open space and that would definitely change the character of the area.

        • meh

          The ugliness of the existing plaza is debatable, but just because the streetscape would look different, doesn’t mean it would look worse. When the Knickerbocker Theater was there, I doubt anyone thought it would be better with an open plaza. (Interesting local history side note: the Knickerbocker Storm of 1922 was named because the Knickerbocker Theater at this location collapsed, killing 98 people. http://ghostsofdc.org/2015/03/16/the-knickerbocker-theater-tragedy/ ) I don’t see why we should decide that the character of the neighborhood should be fixed based on a 1960s urban renewal project, which is what the Suntrust building was.

          • guenna77

            the renderings look pretty questionable, so i’d have to say it would look worse with no open space and that building hulking over the landscape. PN hoffman buildings don’t generally fit in with the existing neighborhood aesthetics wherever they go.

          • Nathaniel Martin

            Please remember that this is an early, basic rendering. The design needs time to develop. Even now, looking closely at the renderings suggests that there is some interesting potential in the metal railings and other details.

    • Vernon6

      Just walked by. It’s an ugly windswept concrete noplace for 90% of the year.

      • guenna77

        yeah, hours before a snowstorm in early march on a thursday – totally when outdoor spaces look their best and are being used all over the city.

        • meh

          “Hours before a snowstorm.” Really? Hyperbole like that really doesn’t help your argument.

        • Vernon6

          Didn’t look any better at 11 am today.

          • John Smith 1882

            Or noon on a Tuesday in August. Or pretty much any time. While its great for the farmers market bc it’s open, it lacks character, depth, SHADE!

    • Guest

      Do you own the plaza? Why should the owner have to donate its use to you and yours?

      • guenna77

        god forbid there be public spaces. i’d argue that the plaza and the use of it makes the neighborhood more attractive to potential residents. why should it be “them and theirs” versus everyone else?

        • Jay

          My god there are so many public spaces is in Adams Morgan. How much more do you need?

    • charlotte

      Then buy the land and donate it to the community. The owner has a right to their property.

  • Nathaniel Martin

    The knee-jerk opposition to this project, while not surprising, is very frustrating. The site is privately owned. One can hardly expect it to remain underdeveloped forever, and frankly, one shouldn’t hope for that, either. The current “plaza” is hideous, and really, it’s not very well used even on a nice day. My understanding is that the farmers’ market will be able to move to the other plaza across the street, so no one should fear that it will be lost. Meanwhile, the design of the proposed building strikes me as handsome and perfectly appropriate for the site. Please, fellow citizens, don’t waste a ton of energy opposing a nice project that the developer has every right to build. There are bigger problems in our city.

    • guenna77

      well, for my part, i’m pretty tired and frustrated with knee jerk “developers rights” arguments as if the parcel of land exists in a vacuum and not a neighborhood. why shouldn’t i care about the place where i live? isn’t that the point?

      • meh

        That’s not how you felt a couple of months ago.

  • dominiondc

    The market can move across the street easily to invigorate the BB&T corner.

    My main opposition is that building is a bulky, bland looking mess. It just looks cheap and suburban- seems more appropriate for Clarendon, not the city. Hope people weigh in on that aspect.

    • guenna77

      honestly, i’m not sure if the market can move there. between the bus stop on adams mill and the right turn lane on Columbia, i don’t think there is parking for their trucks.

      • Cory

        Even if it didn’t fit on the BB&T corner (I believe it would) there are plenty of alternative locations within the neighborhood for the Farmers Market. For example: Kalorama Park or that triangular park in front of the church/hotel on Columbia. In any event, the SunTrust corner is an absolute eyesore of an underutilized space. It does nothing to add to vibrancy of the community except when it hosts the farmers market. In fact, I rarely go to that farmers market because I have no interest in visiting the plaza – even though I live two blocks away. I would much rather have the market anywhere else, and have more people living around 18th and Columbia to support more local businesses.

        • guenna77

          well, bully for you. you’re missing out.

          • Cory


  • NuNu

    freaking shame… they are robbin the neighborhood of its soul…..well may because they have no …..

    • NuNu

      once they do that…. and minorities relocate elsewhere…then they will look for that elsewhere to destroy also

  • shadylady

    I agree with all these other folks suggesting using the BB&T plaza across the street – it would easily fit in that area – and it is actually a nicer “looking” space anyway. I am frankly astonished at how NIMBY-ist it sounds that people are trying to keep that concrete mess that is in front of the Suntrust building now. More development is what is going to make our neighborhood even greater – more investment, more foot traffic, etc. I think those of us that support this idea need to show up at the ANC meeting – I’m going to try to be there.

  • Shaw

    Once again, we need to learn to work with the developers. We can get some awesome public amenities from them if we negotiate. Blocking progress never wins…eventually this will be built whether the NIMBYs like it or not. Let’s get some good neighborhood wins out of this rather than screw us as we’ve seen happen from NIMBY groups in the past.

  • Ross Buntrock

    The “plaza” and the bank are an eye-sore. 18th Street is a disgrace; hopefully this development will spur better retail.

  • scooterj2003

    Well, definitely not voting for those ANC members any more. The corner is a blight. It does occasionally hold a farmers market that can and should be located across the street. However most of the time it is empty and the Suntrust Building is so ugly it hurts.

  • Neal

    I do think the current plaza is ugly and I have no attachment to it, but that said this building is awful and looks like every other PN Hoffman building in this town. I think they have one architectural plan and don’t deviate. This building will look dated by the time its finished. People need to demand better design than this.

    • Doug Johnson

      I agree the design could be much
      better and that should be what the ANC is concerned about, not killing the project because it fills in a plaza that belongs to the owner of the property.

  • Doug Johnson

    Send an email to these two ANC Commissioners who seem to be out of touch with what the neighborhood wants and needs. Email addresses are below. The corner is a blight.

    JonMarc Buffa [email protected]
    Billy SImpson [email protected]

  • loki5586

    And DC’s typical over reaction to everything is on full display. I’ve lived in a number of urban places around the world and country, but DC has cornered the market on places where random people feel as though they should get to determine what other people do with their property, and go to full lengths to preserve eyesores jus tto score a point.

  • lapopessa

    How horrible. I feel so bad for my old neighborhood.

  • I just put up a poll on PN Hoffman’s plan here: https://www.borderstan.com/2016/03/07/poll-do-you-support-plan-to-put-building-on-adams-morgan-plaza/. Feel free to weigh in there!

  • Gerry Widdicombe

    As a nearby resident at 2456 29th Street, NW, I fully support the PN Hofman project. The framers can easily move across the street to the BB&T. The project will have Inclusionary Zoning units that will be helpful to the city’s stock of mid range affordable housing.

  • John Smith 1882

    But where will the religious nuts scream to passers-by about how they must learn to Love Jesus or Go TO HELL!?

    • meh

      They’ll probably just move to Gallery Place like all the rest of the shouty people.

  • Jay

    Get rid of the entire plaza. It’s wasted space. I have lived in the neighborhood 20 years. I work from home. During the day it is full of pigeons and few people hanging out doing nothing. At night it’s drunks, empty pizza boxes, and vomit. People can hang out in the Kal Tri park down the street or the smaller park across from Kal Tri. Why not spend money making those places more desirable? Kal Tri park is wonderful but could be improved upon and better utilized by everyone who lives in the area. The plaza by BBT needs more greenery and the plaza across from the First Christ Scientist Church needs some love. Then there is another park off of Adams Mill Rd. Another down the street near Marie Reed. There are plenty and I mean PLENTY of public spaces/parks for people to use. Get rid of this EYESORE.


    One thing that this article did not do is state that the Plaza is “privately owned.” The Current and Washington post articles both flatly state that the Plaza is ‘privately owned,’ which at best is un-truth, and a half truth is a lie. The fact is that the Plaza is not privately owned w/out qualification, for the Public enjoys an easement to the Plaza that (due to its continued use) cannot be legally trespassed upon. Therefore this entire building proposal is a confidence game challenging the public to stand up for itself..


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