Adams Morgan ANC Registers Disdain for SunTrust Site Changes

by Andrew Ramonas May 5, 2016 at 12:55 pm 13 Comments

(Updated at 6:25 a.m. Friday) A group of local officials representing Adams Morgan has refused to get behind a property developer’s proposal to construct a mixed-use building that takes away part of a plaza in the heart of the neighborhood.

In a series of votes late last night, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C backed three resolutions opposing PN Hoffman’s plan to build on the SunTrust plaza and the rest of 1800 Columbia Road NW.

The non-binding resolutions, to which D.C. agencies are mandated to give “great weight,” say the proposed six-story building has “significant issues” with height and scale and “significantly undermines the long-established set-back and the plaza,” among other problems.

ANC 1C commissioner JonMarc Buffa, who voted in favor of all the resolutions, said he supports redeveloping the SunTrust property. But he was concerned about whether the building meets historic preservation guidelines for the neighborhood.

“We didn’t just throw this up willy-nilly,” he said. “This was not just some NIMBY-we-don’t-want-this-building [action]. This was a thoughtful effort on this commission’s part to raise what I think are crucially important historic preservation issues.”

The votes came two weeks after an ANC committee led by Buffa endorsed a recommendation that also raised concerns about the building’s size.

During that meeting and again at yesterday’s gathering, some locals expressed frustration with having a building that is “too big” and could force the plaza’s farmers market to move to another location in Adams Morgan. But others offered their support to PN Hoffman.

Although the resolutions passed, not every commissioner voted in favor of them.

Commissioner Hector Huezo, who declined to vote on the resolution concerning historic preservation, said he wasn’t completely satisfied with it. Huezo said he doesn’t want to unnecessarily hamper developers in the neighborhood.

“Either Adams Morgan gets left behind, or we continue to grow like the rest of the city,” he said.

Monty Hoffman, PN Hoffman’s chief executive officer, said at the meeting it’s impossible to create a building that everyone likes.

“I don’t get everything I would like, and sometimes the community doesn’t get everything it likes,” he said. “And a lot of times the community disagrees on what it likes.”

Renderings via ANC 1C/PN Hoffman,

  • Keyedinn

    Anyone have a vote break-down?

    • One of the resolutions did receive a “no” vote. I’ve updated my story to reflect that. Here is the rundown from Commissioner Billy Simpson:

      Proposed Development of 1800 Columbia Road NW (Currently the SunTrust Property). The Commission voted 6-0, with 1 Commissioner abstaining, to oppose zoning relief for the project relating to the rear yard requirement (but impacting the height of the proposed building). The Commission voted 5-0, with 2 Commissioners abstaining, to raise issues with the project under the Historic Preservation Guidelines relating to height, scale, setback, proportion, rhythm, and massing. The Commission voted 5-1, with 1 Commissioner abstaining, to oppose the project’s proposed garage entrance on 18th Street and to oppose underground parking spaces extending beyond the building restriction line on Columbia Road NW.

      • A

        Yet, you didnt mention that there was strong amount of residents in favor of the design. Did you reach out to PN Hoffman to find out how many emails they received?

        • Thanks for the comment. I do not currently have the info on how many emails PN Hoffman received. The reaction at the meetings to PN Hoffman’s plans was mixed.

          It wasn’t clear to me if people who were in favor of PN Hoffman’s plans were more abundant than those who were against PN Hoffman’s plans. But I can say both camps were represented at the meetings.

          I focused more on community reaction in my last story (https://www.borderstan.com/2016/04/21/anc-begins-process-to-condemn-plan-for-new-adams-morgan-plaza/). This story was focused more on the actions of the ANC.

          • A

            Right, but you said “During that meeting and again at yesterday’s gathering, some locals expressed frustration with having a building that is “too big” and could force the plaza’s farmers market to move to another location in Adams Morgan. But others offered their support to PN Hoffman.” That implies that no residents were in favor of it. You cant mention that some residents are opposed and not mention that some are in favor — that paints a false picture

          • That’s not what I think I imply in the story. Some people are frustrated with it. But others aren’t and support PN Hoffman.

  • Lanier Neighbor

    Always beware when someone begins a statement with “I am not a NIMBY but…”

  • Doug Johnson

    I think the “local officials representing Adams Morgan” is not true. This article does not indicate the level of support that was there last night for this project. There was a lot. Certainly more than 50% of the people that spoke.

  • Anon

    I was there last night, and I actually voiced my support for the project. But I had a slightly different read than did Borderstan.

    The ANC voted to challenge the building in front of the Historical Preservation Review Board, with 2 members abstaining. At least 4 ANC members voiced support for redevelopment of the site. I understood this vote not as a rejection of development, but as an effort to make some modifications to the design. PN Hoffman has chosen an aggressive timeline, which requires the ANC either to sign off on the project quickly or protest and go through the HPRB, and they chose the latter. This is a sensitive, highly visible parcel and it is part of a historical district, so I understand the concern.

    While of course there is a faction of the community that wants the entirety of the plaza preserved, the ANC as a whole did not seem to hold that position. PN Hoffman purchased this site knowing it was subject to the HPRB process, so in that context, it’s reasonable to believe their proposal is the opening to a negotiation. This is not their first rodeo.

    I came away from that meeting with an improved opinion of the ANC, and the hope that this process will result in a building that serves a substantially similar role in the community as the proposed building – providing a good number of residential units and street retail – but that perhaps blends a bit better with its 18th St neighbors. I am reserving judgement until this goes through the HPRB process.

    That said, if you’re still reading and feel strongly about this, it will behoove you to show up to the HPRB meeting. I know. Who has the time? I’ll tell you: the folks that do not want this development at all. That is who.

    • A

      I agree. I was there as well and have an incredibly similar take as you do.

      I thought the disagreement was about aesthetics (height, amount of “public” land), but it was really about policy, precedents and what the law allows. I wish I had realized this. Much of the conversation was about the aesthetics, but the commissioners really focused on the legal aspects–to their credit.

      I would also like to note that there was a near 50-50 split among those people in attendance in favor/against the aesthetics of the building. Painting it as “some locals expressed frustration with having a building that is “too big” and could force the plaza’s farmers market to move to another location in Adams Morgan. But others offered their support to PN Hoffman.” ignores the fact that other residents were strongly in favor of the size and dont care where the farmers market goes…”

      When is the HPRB meeting? Why would residents go (especially if it is a zoning/legal/precedent matter)?

    • Morehouse Joplin

      But who has the power? Not them, that is who.

  • Anon

    When and where is the HPRB meeting for this project? Thank you

  • scooterj2003

    I don’t think the proposed height of 70 feet is unreasonable. Yes, it is taller than most buildings around it, but, there are numerous buildings in the immediate vicinity which would be compatible in scale with this proposal.

    I think Mr Huezo has it pretty much right here. If the ANC keeps rejecting proposals like this, the neighborhood will get left behind. This development represents progress and the direction that the city is going, after decades of neglect.


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