POLL: Do You Back Developer’s Latest Plan for Adams Morgan Site?

by Andrew Ramonas October 7, 2016 at 10:30 am 48 Comments

(Updated at 8:40 a.m. Oct. 14) Elected officials representing Adams Morgan this week unanimously approved a non-binding resolution that opposes the most recent attempt by a developer to construct a mixed-use building in the heart of the neighborhood.

Advisory Neighborhood Commission 1C’s 6-0 vote on the measure Wednesday night came after a meeting in which almost all the locals in attendance criticized PN Hoffman’s plan to build on the SunTrust plaza and the rest of 1800 Columbia Road NW. D.C. agencies reviewing the developer’s proposal are mandated to give “great weight” to the resolution.

In an effort to address previous concerns from ANC 1C, the developer’s representatives at the meeting showed off new renderings that 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.

“It’s just too damn big for 18th Street,” ANC 1C chairman Ted Guthrie said.

A Borderstan story about the vote drew several comments that were supportive of PN Hoffman.

“[T]his is a very divided issue and at worst, the NIMBYS against this are an actual minority,” one commenter wrote under the alias “A.”

“AW” noted in a comment that ANC 1C’s opposition will turn into “another instance of an ANC demanding far too much and getting nothing.”

“The commissioners and their supporters have taken an unreasonable position and do not seem interested in anything other than a small cottage and a large public plaza on the site paid for by someone else,” AW wrote.

So, do you back PN Hoffman’s latest plan for the SunTrust property?

You can share your thoughts with ANC 1C’s commissioners and the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board, which is expected to consider PN Hoffman’s proposal this month. HPRB must approve the developer’s plans in order for construction to begin.

You also can weigh in through the poll and in the comments.

On Oct. 11, a PN Hoffman representative released the following statement:

We appreciate the feedback regarding the proposed redevelopment of 1800 Columbia Road.

PN Hoffman invites those who want to comment on the project to attend the HPRB Hearing on Thursday, October 27th, time TBD. If one cannot attend this hearing, letters may be shared directly with the Historic Preservation Office – at [email protected], copying your ANC representative (addresses may be found here for your specific Commissioner) as well as the PN Hoffman team at [email protected], with reference to case number 16-388.

As always, we continue to invite direct feedback by reaching out to our development team at [email protected].

On Oct. 13, ANC 1C commissioner JonMarc Buffa issued this statement:

I really appreciate Borderstan covering this important issue. It is great to see our community engaged on issues of such significance. Every voice is important and deserves to be heard.

I wanted to briefly note that online reader surveys are fundamentally unscientific. The results rely on a self-selecting group of respondents who are not necessarily representative of the Adams Morgan community as a whole. Professional polls take important steps to ensure a representative sample. Online polls are purely for entertainment. Readers should not mistake an online survey for the scientific surveys done by professional pollsters.

As a Commissioner in Adams Morgan, I should also emphasize that the Borderstan results are not consistent with the views of the many residents who have emailed or spoken with me. I respect those who post to Borderstan but the results are not representative of the Adams Morgan community. I’ve always been open to dialogue with neighbors on this issue. I hope neighbors will keep sharing their views.

Finally, the PN Hoffman project is subject to the legal constraints of the Historic Preservation Guidelines as applied to the Washington Heights Historic District. Any proposed development on the site must successfully resolve these issues.

Renderings via ANC 1C/PN Hoffman

  • aubreyms
  • AdMo Resident

    I support it because – the SunTrust bank is ugly and no one gave a flying **** about that “plaza” until PN Hoff proposed this development. Also, we need more housing. Also, PN has bent over backwards to accommodate the absurd demands of NIMBYs telling them what PN should or should not do on PN’s private property. The fact is, the urban oasis plaza resort space is remaining, the farmers’ market is being relocated (probably ACROSS THE STREET), and the proposed building is just fine (serving its purpose as condos and retail). Hell of a lot more than SunTrust offers. Build baby build!

  • zombieharambe

    The Sun Trust Bank plaza is terrible for the neighborhood, and adds nothing. The area needs more housing. A six story building is not too big, as there is an 8 story building across the street and plenty more on Columbia Road. Go away Nimbys.

  • Lanier Neighbor

    Look at the renderings. Look at what already exists (6 – 8 story buildings) and what is coming (Line Hotel, etc). No brainer. Build.

  • Anon

    Borderstan – many of us in the neighborhood would love some help with the upcoming election. Which ANC candidates support this project and others like it? Which believe preservation dominates all? It’s very difficult for those of us in the neighborhood who support things like this to get information. Especially those of us who never manage to be added to ANC distribution lists after expressing support for the project in public (just me?).

  • Chris

    I still can’t believe there’s so much opposition to finally redeveloping this awful plaza after all this time. 6-0! Glad to see that the majority of comments here and Popville are in favor of it. The Nimbys don’t quite get how their constant opposition to development hurts everyone– read Ryan Avent’s “The Gated City”.

    • Montgomery

      I love how you think PoPville commenters are the arbiter of taste and social good.

      • Burns

        And the plaza status quo is the epitome of taste and social good? Go back to MD.

  • Anon

    The SunTrust site is a wasted opportunity to increase density in an already urban neighborhood. As much as people are entitled to their own opinions about the design of the project (I actually preferred the first iteration), PN Hoffman has gone back for at least two redesigns in response to ridiculous, protectionist comments from the community. Adding some new retail space on that corner will facilitate the addition of new businesses to the community that either need more space than one of the many row-homes on the strip can provide, or are turned off by the decrepit condition of so many of those buildings. I say it can’t come soon enough – and the plans are lovely as is (not particularly inspired, but lovely).

  • Robert Turner II

    First of all, yes, the Farmers Market is a vital aspect of the neighborhood.
    However, it currently resides on private property, and does so as a privilege,
    not a right! Outside of the Farmers Market (Saturdays from May to December),
    the plaza is used less than a dozen times throughout the year (AdMoDay, ApplePieFest, and a few others). That means the current
    SunTrust plaza sits vacant more than 85% of the year with little constructive

    There are two options the developers have put forward
    that would allow the Farmers Market to stay in the neighborhood. One option is across
    the street (BB&T plaza), and the other is one block away at Unity Park. Both are used less
    frequently than the current SunTrust plaza. More importantly, both are on city
    property. PN Hoffman has already stated publicly they will help the Farmers
    Market relocate and with permitting.

    Second, this process is supposed to be about finding compromises. I’ve
    seen a great deal of compromise from PN Hoffman. This is their third iteration of a proposal. All the other side says is “it’s too big and give us more plaza.”

    I will continue to be a vocal supporter of this PN Hoffman project!

    • CDB

      And so will I. Please encourage all who are afraid to speak up otherwise to write in support of the PN Hoffman project directly to the HPRB.

  • shadylady

    Please, please share the results of your poll with the HPRB and others. I took the time to attempt to reason (via email, I can’t imagine trying to go in person) with the ANC chair via email and the hyperbole and out-of-hand disdain for the development (“it’s illegal!!! ((no, not if they were seeking variances))) was incredible. I cannot WAIT for that terrible excuse for a public “plaza” to go away.

  • Doug Johnson

    I back these plans and thank PN Hoffman for their efforts to work with the community. The ANC is NOT, and I repeat NOT representing the majority of it’s ANC 1C constituents. The majority of us want PN Hoffman to build this.

  • Chris Conlee

    It’s just too tall for the space. And I’m not going away, regardless of name calling. I have a right to my opinion, not just as a DC citizen, but as one who lived in that neighborhood for 20 years.

    • Doug Johnson

      No one is asking you to go away. But the supporters of this have a right to their opinion and to be heard too.

      • Chris Conlee

        Yes, and the opinion of some is that we’re just “crazy NIMBYers” or just stupid. Quite an elevated way to make an argument.

        • AdMo Resident

          Chris, this project will look no different than the buildings that currently sit at the corner of Wyoming and 18th and the Madrid at the Kalorama corner. Sorry, but the “too tall” argument does not hold water here. You’re also forgetting the MedStar building on Columbia (the road that the ANC refuses to acknowledge).

  • Adams Morgan Resident

    I live in Adams Morgan/Kalorama and I support PN Hoffman’s project. What stands there now (on private property, mind you), is a place for homeless people to sleep, drunks to leave their pizza boxes and a total eyesore (except for one day a week, in the summer, in the day, when the farmer’s market is there). This needs to be supported by our ANC and get rid of this eyesore, and make something beautiful.

  • Lou Cardenas

    I support it, and please bring back the April 2016 design — much better!

  • Katherine Culliton

    The SunTrust plaza has always been used for Latino community gatherings, including planned and spontaneous events such as music, dancing and celebration. It is where police give out Xmas presents to needy kids in the community. It is part of the annual Adam’s Morgan festival, and where everyone can hang out and chat, eat, and feel like part of the community. The design looks like the plaza will be dominated by gentrification.

    • Kawasila

      With all the luxury apt conversions of low income housing in the area… the plaza will be dominated with gentrification with or without this building.

      • Katherine Culliton

        That’s very circular reasoning.

        • Burns

          If your whole anti-gentrification NIMBYism is based on one or two events a year, that’s a pretty weak argument. I’m sure PN Hoffman will accommodate the needy children during xmas. Same goes for Adams Morgan day which has more problems than the tangential use of this space. If you want to help the homeless or less fortunate, falling on your sword for this privately-owned space is not the most helpful means to cure societal ills.

    • AdMo Resident

      I’m sorry but this is not a fair reason to block development that would make use of the space 100% of the time. Your argument relies on the belief that community gatherings which happen (planned or spontaneously) maybe 10% of the time each year, are somehow more valuable than a project that would make productive use of the space 100% of the time. To add insult to injury, you’re saying that private landowners should simply sit on an open, unproductive lot for 90% of the year, so that “community groups” can use the space 10% of the year. This is unabashed entitlement on your part.

      P.S. 10% of the year is probably overestimating the amount of time this plaza is used for “community” happenings.

  • Ross Buntrock

    The 18th St., Corridor from Florida Avenue to Columbia Road is a depressing stretch of nothing but empty storefronts hookah bars with a few good restaurants interspersed among the vacant run-down store fronts. Aside from the crazy NIMBYs in the neighborhood there’s no reason why 18th St. shouldn’t be enjoying the same kind of renaissance that other parts of the city are experiencing. This well thought out well designed project can be part of a catalyst that spurs additional development in the neighborhood. It’s unclear to me whose interests the ANC members are purportedly representing but they don’t seem to be in touch with anybody that I know in the neighborhood .

    • Melissa

      Agreed! Let’s all go to the next and meeting and raise this point.

    • ggm18

      The reason why there are so many empty storefronts on that stretch of 18th st is because the landlords of those buildings jacked up the rent so much that the businesses couldn’t afford to stay, or let the buildings become so run down that they were no longer up to code and the kicked the tenants out rather than fix them, or in some cases because business owners wanted to retire. It’s not because of any anti-development sentiment in the neighborhood. On the contrary, it’s because the city government is not doing the oversight it’s supposed to do (eg the Line hotel project that has not fulfilled its commitment to hire DC residents for the construction work)

  • Jay

    There is no need for the plaza. I’ve lived here 20 years and have never used it. It’s rarely used. I only see people hanging out, drunks, pizza boxes, etc. there are plenty and I mean plenty of public spaces in the area that could be used for the farmer’s market, handing out presents, etc. It needs to go. Adams Morgan keeps getting passed over for nice things. Don’t block this. If you don’t like progress. MOVE.

  • Kawasila

    It would be nice if they used red brick rather than yellow. Other than that, I think the developer was generous to keep so much of the plaza space. The existing plaza is ugly and a waste of space. Honestly, the farmer’s market is pretty lame. I live two blocks away and would rather walk to Mt. Pleasant.

  • MB

    I would strongly encourage those commenting to join future meetings about this project. There are few voices in support of the development in the room during discussions, creating an appearance of non support. If you feel as impassioned as your comments appear, please join the in person meetings and vocalize your support. The ANC members regularly note they hear more from those opposed. If you can’t join in person (or even if you can), email your views.

    • Burns

      This. All of us in favor of redeveloping bum park, I mean, this ‘plaza,’ need to get involved. When is the next meeting, who do we contact, how do we start pushing back on the short-sighted NIMBYs who want this plaza to remain a social cauldron for drunks and rats.

      • MB

        You can share your thoughts with ANC 1C’s commissioners and the D.C. Historic Preservation Review Board, which is expected to consider PN Hoffman’s proposal this month (the meeting is October 27th – please comment to HPRB by Oct 20th). HPRB must approve the developer’s plans in order for construction to begin. The links to the ANC commissioner and the HPRB are in the Borderstan post, above. Public comments are welcome on all HPRB cases, and anyone may participate in an HPRB meeting without signing up in advance. HPRB prefers to receive copies of written comments before their meeting. Written comments submitted by the deadlines below will be distributed to each HPRB member before the meeting. Written comments may also be brought to the HPRB meeting for distribution (10 copies are needed).
        Comments for print distribution with case info: 3 pm on October 20
        Late comments for email distribution: 3 pm on October 26 (for Oct. 27 meeting)
        3 pm on November 2 (for Nov. 3 meeting)

  • Melissa

    This neighborhood is being completely unreasonable. While the rest of the city is developing and gaining interesting and diverse businesses, Adams Morgan continues to miss out on opportunities to gain innovative businesses. I attribute this to the neighborhoods singular focus on blocking all development, instead of thinking creatively about how it can develop in a way that is aligned to the strategic plan of a diverse and inclusive neighborhood. I hope that the people start to realize there can be win-win scenarios and if they use their energy to focus on how to keep the businesses and neighborhood diverse we would all be better off.

  • Erw

    The building could be the ugliest in DC and the plaza is windswept and empty most of the time. Everyone wants more affordable housing but to get it, you need more housing. I’d like to see the building somewhat smaller and the plaza larger. I would concentrate on trying to achieve something instead of opposing everything.

  • Energy 4 U

    Time to move on and forward. The Plaza has served it’s time (actually pretty poorly at that). Enough of a handful of professional nay-sayers to keep all those who want this to happen at bay.

  • Vikram Surya Chiruvolu

    Everyone should be aware the reason this property hasn’t been improved in almost 40 years is that the current owner (SunTrust) hasn’t given a damn about it, or the Adams Morgan community, since they purchased the location in a sweetheart deal from the Federal government—for just $10 in 1991. SunTrust so hasn’t given a damn that they haven’t had a rep show up at a single ANC meeting since the idea was proposed, despite still owning the property and now trying to make many millions of dollars on it. They instead had a consultant in Boston hire PN Hoffman to act as a henchman to steamroll over what is obviously an easement by public dedication on the Plaza.

    Legally, the prior bank that constructed it, Perpetual Federal S&L, dedicated it to the public. The reason it’s legal to use the Plaza 24/7 is NOT that SunTrust is being “nice”, but that the Plaza has been dedicated to the public’s use for gathering, commerce, and self-expression since it was first built in 1979. The history on this is clear & abundant. This makes any attempt to build over it trespass and destruction of property. Everyone should be aware, especially you, Borderstan author Andrew Ramonas, that there’s a detailed legal opinion issued by candidate former candidate for DC Attorney General Paul Zukerberg on the matter. See opinion here (PDF, 5.3MB):

    I agree the current Plaza is not ideal, but it should be expanded & improved for the public, as should the building itself. Privatizing our neighborhood’s public square for condos is about as good an idea as selling Dupont Circle to the highest bidder & paving over the fountain.

    It’s not either/or: you don’t have to pick between what’s there now and what PN Hoffman proposes. There are better alternatives, created with public input and engagement. The Envision Adams Morgan survey indicated the two things neighborhood residents really most want are a library and public / park space; we could do this and more with that corner and building. I applaud how the ANC has, with much neighborhood support, taken on responsibility for what’s there now: a public plaza won 40 years ago that needs updating, not surrendering.

    Vikram Surya Chiruvolu
    Co-Facilitator, Adams Morgan for Reasonable Development

  • CDB

    The current plaza is awful and for long has not been a credit to this neighborhood! I would encourage all to write directly to the HPRB in support of the PN Hoffman project. Those who oppose should get to the table and try to be proactive; otherwise, let’s move on!

  • ggm18

    It’s disappointing to see this poll reported on in the article as if the findings are meaningful or reliable. The sentiments expressed at the ANC meeting are more indicative of neighborhood sentiment than a poll that doesn’t even ask where people live. Anyone who spends time looking at the plaza will see that it is used all the time for people to rest, meet their friends and neighbors, and catch up on neighborhood goings on and strengthen networks of mutual support. The farmers market, which would not be able to move to another location for reasons discussed many other places, likewise serves as a very important community hub 8 months a year. The plaza has served this function for years, and is subject to a public easement put in place when the site was originally bought by perpetual bank. Yes it is ugly and needs redesigning, but most of all it needs to be preserved. And yes Adams Morgan needs housing but it needs affordable housing, not more market rate condos of which there is no shortage.

    • Doug Johnson

      I am sorry, but I have lived here for quite some time and the sentiments expressed at the ANC are NOT indicative of the neighborhood sentiments…except for the ANC and the few standard angry NIMBYs that troll the meetings to be pissed off at any and every bit of progress that Adams Morgan might make.

    • Jay

      I have lived on Biltmore St. 20 years. And It is NOT used all the time. It is a vast wasteland. I work from home and walk through it several times a day 7 days a week. Pigeons, vagrants, trash, empty pizza boxes is about all it is good for. There are plenty of public spaces in Adams Morgan not being used to the fullest potential. We do not need this open space. The Farmer’s Market can move the any of our wonderful parks and will be fine. There are plenty of more inviting green spaces where people can hang out and visit. This space needs to be developed to help spur more progress in Adams Morgan.

    • How are the few people who go to the ANC meeting “more indicative of neighborhood sentiment” than HUNDREDS of people voting here? Do we live in a democracy?

      “more market rate condos of which there is no shortage” -> If there’s no shortage, why are prices increasing?

      • ggm18

        This issue hasn’t been put to a vote, so I’m not sure why you’re referring to voting. However, residents of Adams Morgan *have* voted for their ANC commissioners, who our representing our perspectives. So yes, we do live in a (representative) democracy.

        And prices are increasing because the DC market is hot, particularly for investors who are not living in the units they’re buying

  • a

    Hey – any chance you’re going to ask Billy or Buffa about the poll results? or nahhhh

  • NotEitherOr

    I oppose the project as proposed. Too tall. Not enough public space. If it could be the same height at the Adamo, with some space, I’d be in. So tired of folks saying they support it because the SunTrust Bank plaza is unattractive. Why do so many people oppose public spaces? Even Donald Trump has a pubic space in front of Trump Tower in NYC!

  • aubreyms

    Way to go 1C! Not even GGW can bring themselves to endorse any of you!

  • Doug Johnson

    I would say to JonMarc Buffa’s comment above that likewise the attendance at the ANC meetings could be considered equally as unscientific as these results and are a “self-selecting group of respondents who are not necessarily representative of the Adams Morgan community as a whole.”

    These results actually ARE more representative of the views of many residents. Your unwillingness to even consider that shows how out of touch you and the rest of the current ANC are with the community.

    • 350 people have voted here — compare that to the tens of people (at most) whose idea of a wonderful weeknight is to sit around for hours at an ANC meeting for their chance to whine for a few minutes.


Subscribe to our mailing list