Proposed Building on U Street

February 28, 2014

U Street could get a new 11-story residential building that connects to a new, separate eight-story building on V Street as part of the plan for Portner Place, 1441-1449 U Street, NW .

The project would include 270 market rate residential units in the U Street building and 96 units affordable at 60 percent or less of area median income on the V Street side.The U Street structure as designed would be 105 feet tall with a floor area ratio of 7.5 and the V Street building would be 75 feet tall with a floor area ratio of 4.1.

Somerset Development Company with New Community Partners, Jonathan Rose Companies (“JRCo”), and the Rose Green Cities Fund purchased the 48-unit HUD Section 8 housing Portner Place Apartments next to the Reeves Municipal Center in September 2013. The developer teams purchased the 1.1 acre property in collaboration wit h the Portner Place Tenant Association through the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA), according to the project website.

The affordable units would be located on V Street in a building that adjoins, but is separate from the U Street structure with its market-rate units. As one Advisory Neighborhood Commission remarked, the project is two projects being combined and presented as one.

Nancy Hooff, a founding principal of Somerset Development, said the current tenants of Portner Place wanted units in the new building to be of similar size and number of rooms as their current building, which largely houses families in two- and three-bedroom units. They also asked for a playground, community center, fitness room, community gardens and a computer room among other amenities for their building, which they wanted to be located on V Street because of its more quiet, residential nature.

When one commissioner questioned the “segregated” nature of the two projects, Hoof said they have to be separate buildings because of the nature of the financing and that the current residents preferred that arrangement given their preferences for their new building.

Hoof said another developer who “bid up the cost” of the property presented an offer to the tenants that would have had the units integrated, but to do so would likely have required a ground floor restaurant or bar. Hoof said the families in the building rejected that idea.

“We gave them all of the options,” said Hoof about the multi-year process her company went through with the tenants. She added that the V Street building would be a mixed-income project because in addition to replacing the existing section 8 housing, there will also be workforce housing units.

“This was what they wanted,” she explained. Several residents of the building were in attendance and spoke in favor of the plan as proposed.

In order to accommodate the larger units on the V Street side, the U Street building’s units will be “much, much smaller,” said Hoof.

Colbert did not say how many parking spaces there would be, but said they would provide more than the required ratio of one space per three units. All parking will be accessed from the V Street side and existing curb cuts on U Street will be removed.

The project will go to the Historic Preservation Review Board for conceptual review in March. The project will require a planned unit develop (PUD) to allow the various zoning exceptions. Colbert said they will probably file for a PUD in April and he expect to have a hearing in July.

The affordable housing will “have to come first”should only one part be built at a time, explained project architect Eric Colbert.

ANC 1B’s design review committee voted to support the project concept and to recommend that the full ANC do the same.

As published by District Source – Shaun Courtney – 2-27-14

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