DC residents rebel against the idea of a 10-story development

For now, an old municipal building sits in “one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods”

DC Residents Rebel Against High-Rise Yet to Be Proposed

Mayor of Washington, D.C. Muriel Bowser and 1617 U Street Northwest in Washington, D.C. (Getty, Google Maps)

No proposal, no developer, no matter: Residents of one Washington, D.C. neighborhood are still finding a way to oppose the possibility of a mixed-use development on their street.

Community pushback is rising to redevelop a two-acre site at 1617 U Street NW, the Washington Post reported. The site currently houses a one-story police station, firehouse and parking garage, but is generally seen as outdated and ready for a revamp.

Local officials are pitching a rezoning in the U Street neighborhood that would allow for a mixed-use development with updated facilities for public safety officers, a public library and apartment units, 30 percent of which would be affordable. The city owns the land, which would be leased to a private developer.

The city has yet to select a developer for the potential project and no proposal has been submitted. The rezoning fight centers on the possibility of building up to 100 feet, or 10 stories, in the neighborhood. The rezoning application came a year ago, prompting hundreds of letters to the zoning commission, narrowly coming out in favor of the idea.

“U Street was meant for this,” D.C. Council member Brianne K. Nadeau told the Post.

Still, the zoning commission is stuck in a pattern of seemingly endless hearings trying to move things along. The commission has held more than 20 hours of hearings on the subject. Those hearings remain ongoing.

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Community members say they are concerned about the way the development would reshape the neighborhood, and questioned whether the city should be leasing public land to a private developer. Others fear literal shadows being cast over two-story row houses and being priced out of their homes. 

“I’m concerned about displacement,” said Gregory Adams, who has lived across the street from the police station for four decades. “I know that’s never the plan but it’s often the result.”

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Meanwhile, other residents argue that the current buildings on the site have to go. Andrew Lewis told the Post that it would be “out of character to have a one story municipal building in one of the city’s hottest neighborhoods.”

Officials argue that prices will come down in the surrounding area if more housing supply is created.

Mayor Muriel Bowser seeks to add 12,000 affordable housing units in the district by next year. The city is about three-quarters of the way to that goal since the start of 2019.

Holden Walter-Warner