ANC Begins Process to Condemn Plan for New Adams Morgan Plaza

by Andrew Ramonas April 21, 2016 at 1:25 pm 9 Comments

Adams Morgan community leaders last night moved one step closer to officially registering their opposition to a property developer’s proposal to revamp a large plaza in the heart of the neighborhood.

At a heated meeting filled with cheers and even some singing, an Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C committee backed a recommendation to formally notify D.C. officials of its resistance to PN Hoffman’s plans to build on the SunTrust plaza and the rest of 1800 Columbia Road NW.

The panel’s non-binding guidance argues that the D.C. government-backed “Adams Morgan Vision Framework” doesn’t support the developer’s plan for the plaza as part of a new mixed-use development. The framework calls for the privately owned plaza to serve as a “functional community gathering space” to host events, according to the committee’s recommendation.

Panel chairman JonMarc Buffa said he received “hundreds of emails” with concerns about PN Hoffman’s proposal before he voted for the recommendation.

“I’m doing my best to convey what I believe is the consensus of my constituents,” he said.

Many of the dozens of people crammed into a room at Mary’s Center in Adams Morgan appeared to stand in support of Buffa and his committee.

At one point, a man sang lines from “Taxes on the Farmer Feeds Us All” as locals and farmers worried about the future of the plaza’s market, which runs Saturdays from June to December.

Denis James, president of the Kalorama Citizens Association, told PN Hoffman representatives at the meeting that they are “destroying our town square.”

“The building is way too big for the site,” he said, drawing applause.

Earlier this month, PN Hoffman released updated renderings of its development, creating a larger plaza than it initially planned.

The outdoor area would have large planters, benches, chairs and a cafe space for a tenant. But it would have less room for a farmers market, which the developer has said it could move to the larger BB&T Bank plaza across the street.

“I think what we’re trying to do is create a plaza that’s a lot more inviting and more useful than the existing SunTrust plaza,” said Shawn Seaman, PN Hoffman’s senior vice president for acquisitions and development.

Some residents at the meeting agreed with the developer’s plan. Local Lois Thibault noted that the plaza is “remarkably unused.”

“It is way too sunny for this climate, and it doesn’t work well for almost any purpose except for sleeping something off,” she said.

The full ANC is expected to vote on the committee’s recommendation on May 4.

  • meh

    This was my first ANC meeting and I have to say it made me dislike my neighborhood. It was full of people who got into the neighborhood 40 years ago and don’t want it to change or for anyone else to move in. One gentleman in particular seemed very proud of the fact that new residents of Lanier Heights who happened to move into one of the pop-ups felt extremely unwelcome. He wanted the developer to disclose to any new residents of the proposed building would be unwelcome in the neighborhood.

    This was combined with ridiculous hyperbole. No, the proposed building is not a “high rise.” (It is, in fact, shorter than the building across from it on Columbia Road.) No, it will not make Adams Morgan “like Manhattan.” No, moving the farmers market to the BB&T plaza will not kill the market.

    I guess I should have expected this from an ANC meeting, but I remain disappointed.

    • H

      I absolutely agree. This was also the first ANC meeting I’ve ever attended and I was appalled. Kudos to the developer for keeping a straight face during some of the absurd comments! I’ve lived in Adams Morgan for 7 years and the “town square” is used for a few hours one day a week for a few months a year… THAT’S IT. I also could not believe the comments about the new residents at the Lanier Heights condo… welcome to this “amazing community”!!! Disappointed is an understatement.

  • Doug Johnson

    meh, you are 100% correct. The ANC is out of touch with everyone in the community except for a few old timers who turned Adams Morgan into what it is today.


      I assume we missed the public comment period and it’s mostly our fault for not being informed and doing our diligence. But it would have been nice for the ANC to publicize such an important meeting….

  • A

    Is this for real? I wish I had paid more attention to when the meeting was going to occur. Is the ANC really saying they would prefer as is to vital living space and dollars coming into the neighborhood? There are two beautiful parks within blocks of this spot. Aside from 18th street festivel and the farmers market, there is never any gathering there. Really, there isnt. Does anyone know how to contact the ANC to voice our displeasure at their actions?

    • meh

      These are the people to contact with your opinions. They are on the Planning Zoning and Transportation Committee:

      JonMarc Buffa
      Commissioner 1C08
      [email protected]

      Wilson Reynolds
      Commissioner 1C07
      [email protected]

      Alan Gambrell
      Commissioner 1C05
      [email protected]

  • Longtime resident

    Why would we want a well maintained yet smaller plaza with actual grass instead of a concrete wasteland filled with vomit, chicken bones, cigarette butts, discarded bread (for pigeons), pigeon poo and, of course, dropped pizza ?

    • Vance Grey

      Actual grass? Yeah, good luck with that.


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