Adams Morgan Leaders Say No Thanks to Latest SunTrust Site Plan

by Andrew Ramonas September 22, 2016 at 10:40 am 15 Comments

A developer once again has failed to win over community leaders in its bid to put a new mixed-use building in the heart of Adams Morgan.

In a 2-1 vote last night, Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C’s planning and zoning committee recommended that the full ANC continue its fight against PN Hoffman’s plans to redevelop the SunTrust property at 1800 Columbia Road NW.

The panel’s decision came amid the developer’s campaign to garner the support of the District’s Historic Preservation Review Board, which must sign off on the project before construction can begin. Echoing concerns the ANC had about a previous version of the proposed building, HPRB members in June expressed dissatisfaction with the structure’s aesthetic and size.

PN Hoffman then revised its plans. But ANC members said yesterday they still weren’t satisfied.

“I don’t think you’ve taken enough steps” to change the design, said ANC 1C commissioner JonMarc Buffa, who leads the planning and zoning committee and voted against the developer’s proposal. “I’d like to see a building on this spot. I just don’t think this is the right building. It’s not a binary choice. It’s not a crappy plaza or your structure.”

In an effort to address concerns about its former plans, PN Hoffman lowered sections of the building on 18th Street to five stories, reduced the development’s height by five feet and bulked up the front of the structure, cutting the size of its proposed plaza by five feet, according to the developer.

“We’ve really spent a lot of time talking with the community at large, the ANC commissioners, the Historic Preservation Office, the Department of Transportation and the [Historic Preservation Review] Board itself to really refine our design, the mass of our building, the height of our building,” said Bao Vuong, a vice president of development for PN Hoffman.

Like Buffa and ANC 1C commissioner Wilson Reynolds, who also voted against PN Hoffman’s plans, most of the locals at the meeting yesterday weren’t happy with the developer’s newest proposal.

Wendy Glassmire, an Adams Morgan resident, said she was “extremely disappointed” with PN Hoffman.

“It’s a giant, huge building that just doesn’t fit in,” she said.

But PN Hoffman’s revisions do have at least some support in the community.

ANC 1C commissioner Alan Gambrell, who was the only member of the planning and zoning committee not to oppose the developer’s new redevelopment plans for the SunTrust site, said he understands that PN Hoffman is a business that needs to make money.

“I do appreciate the fact that it is private property,” he said.

The full ANC is expected to vote on PN Hoffman’s latest proposal Oct. 5. The HPRB likely will consider it later that month.

Renderings via PN Hoffman

  • John Smith 1882

    Oh come ON! Get over it. Developer needs to flip the finger at ANC and just start work!

    • skidrowedc

      In Adams-Morgan, that’s what is necessary, unfortunately. As alluded to in previous comments, this ANC and its conjoined twin, the Kalorama Citizens Association, say NO!!! to everything and NEVER provide an acceptable alternative. They operate from the principle that if they don’t oppose, they cede their powers. This applies to liquor licenses, developments, zoning variances, everything.

      Developers learn, therefore, that it’s pointless to work with them, because no concession will ever be enough. Other ANC’s and community groups are much smarter about this. They determine an acceptable compromise, present it, and if the developer makes most of the concessions, they support the project. In the end, they get a lot more of what “the community” wants than ANC-1C’s irrational opposition gets. Mostly, ANC-1C is successful at delaying projects, such that the construction budgets are drained by soft costs. The end result is that the actual constructed “bricks and mortar” (which everyone will live with for 50-100 years) is impoverished.

      It’s an amazingly counterproductive approach, but the loyal cadre of some 20 KCA/ANC-1C (there really isn’t any distinction) members and commissioners either don’t care or can’t see it.

  • Good lord. I’m as pro-development as anyone but is it even physically possible to do mixed-use urban/infill projects that won’t turn the area into another soul-less Wilson Bloody Boulevard? A façade with guts, please. Leave the fluffy-yellow buttery stone in NoVA.

    • skidrowedc

      The original scheme had guts, lots of them, and therefore was, shall we say, gutted and skewered by the forces of NIMBY opposition, with DC Historic Preservation staff and Board as sous chefs. The result is better than the sad historicist efforts of Wilson Blvd. At least the architecture relates to something in the immediate vicinity. But it’s also overwhelmingly bland, and not even of the present much less looking to the future.

  • Lanier Neighbor

    Your headline needs work. Calling the ANC1C PZT Committee “Adams Morgan Leaders” is more than a bit of a stretch.

    • A

      Here, fixed: 2 ANC NIMBYs + small cadre of concerned old fogeys who happen to live in Adams Morgan

  • JC

    Here’s an historically appropriate idea!

    • A

      A theatre that no one would use and eventually just become a hookah bar?

      • Todd Krainin

        Or a historically preserved jumbo slice pizzeria.

    • Barnes Thomas

      I think that rebuilding something like the Knickerbocker Theater would be appropriate. My great-grandparents Capt. Reginald H.C. Vance and Clarissa Vance died in the disaster. Demolishing the building in 1968 compounded the tragedy. Keeping the hideous structure that squats on the property now would be a grave mistake. The farmers’ market could easily be moved elsewhere.

  • Todd Krainin

    Seems like a committee or association group exists for every imaginable interest group… except for the many future residents of Adams Morgan who would really like to live here but may never get the chance.

    • A

      Agreed. Or for those of us who live in the neighborhood and own property in the neighborhood but have families and jobs and cant go to endless meetings just to be heard over these old people who want nothing to change.

  • a

    Why didnt you ask Buffa the buffaoon what exactly PNC would have to do to get their support? He (and BIlly, althogh less so) keeps hiding behind vague legal notions and the idea that they “haven’t done enough”. What more do you want them to do?

    Build the building on a hover pad so it floats above the plaza (but not too high) so the pigeons can crap in peace? but, of course, we can’t have that grand vista of AdMo ruined, so it has to be invisible as well.

    You’re a journalist. Ask the ANC exactly what PNC has to do, so we can get some concrete ideas here. Letting them keep saying it’s not a binary choice and then providing the alternative is lazy lazy lazy journalism

  • admoguy

    Most Adams Morgan residents support this building. The problem is that we have mortgages and have to work, so we cannot attend every one of these superfluous ANC meetings.

    • A

      Yep!!! We also dont have a mighty listserv with 25 people who live in Kalorama on it who can pester ANC folks


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