Zoning Commissioners React Favorably to Lynch Half Street Plans

In The News May 28, 2015
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Developer Jair Lynch’s plans to finally get development going on the site at Half and N just north of Nats Park known in some parts as “Monument Valley” or the “Half Street Hole” went before the Zoning Commission on Thursday night for a Capitol Gateway Overlay Review.

I went into detail on the updated designs a few weeks ago, but the quickie summary is that there will be somewhere between 350 and 445 residential units (including condos!) in two buildings, and as much as 68,000 square feet of retail on two floors. (There could possibly be a small hotel as well, which would bring the residential count to the lower end of the proposed spectrum.) There would also be 231 parking spaces and bike parking in three underground levels, the hole for which, as we all know, has already conveniently been dug.

Both Jair Lynch and project architect Chris Harvey of Hord Coplan Macht talked about how the building is designed to bring the “indoors out, and the outdoors in,” with huge windows for retail spaces and with the upper floors designed to take in views not of the surrounding skyline but of the street below, especially as the festive gameday atmosphere unfolds. “We believe it will define the ballpark entertainment district,” Lynch said, calling it a “unique destination” for the three million people who visit the ballpark and the neighborhood every year.

The comments from the zoning commissioners were uniformly positive*, with the discussion going through especially zoning-y zoning issues, such as the design of the roof, the status of LEED certification (they’re going for Silver, apparently), the lack of affordable housing (short version: this project is expensive!) and the location of a lobby entrance at the corner of Half and the new pedestrian-only Monument Place.

Much of the remaining discussion ended up centering around the streetscape plans, with commissioners agreeing that a curbless street being a wise decision with thousands of people walking through and not watching where they are going, but with DDOT needing to work with Lynch’s group to decide exactly how to approach, since as of now DDOT really has no guidelines for such a design.

DDOT also appeared to be putting the kibosh on the idea of “catenary lights” across both ends of Half Street (which has been in the drawings for the site for many years), as well as wanting planned bollards ditched and wanting a different layout for sidewalk trees, since the lack of overhead wires on Half means that there could be a substantial tree canopy if the proper trees are used.

In response to a question from commissioner Robert Miller, who described the project as “very long-awaited and dynamic and exciting,” Lynch said that the expectation is to break ground in 2016 and be finished in 2018 (presumably in time for a certain all-star event). Cushing Street would be used as the route for construction vehicles (though work would stop three hours before any Nats game), but Lynch also said that the fact that the excavation is mostly complete “should help tremendously.”

With the Office of Planning and DDOT each supporting the plan as long as a few items are addressed, and with ANC 6D having voted to support it as well, there appears to only be the need for some mopping up submissions (renderings from street level for Cushing Street and Monument Place, better roof plans, the fixes for OP, yadda yadda), it sounds as if this project should be voted on favorably, perhaps at the June 29 commission meeting.