All about the Edgewood Neighborhood of Washington, DC

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

They will build it, do you care?

Over the last few years many new projects have taken off and are close to being completed in and around Edgewood. In each of those cases a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) was negotiated years ago and let's face it many of them do not truly benefit the community despite their name. Now as I have mentioned H Street Community Development Corporation (HSCDC) is now ready to move some dirt on the empty lot they have been sitting on for quite a long time. They have owned the property for at least 8 years according to the DC Property Tax Database and it does not say how much if anything they paid for it while it is currently valued over 2 million dollars. The amount of taxes that they have paid over the years had varied greatly from thousands to hundreds of thousands and I am not sure why it changed so much. They currently owe $42,483.92 in taxes. I pulled their payment history and pasted it below.

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They have gone as far to schedule a hearing before the Zoning Board for zoning exceptions that they would like to have made for their project. That said they have only come to one community meeting and I was there and not impressed.

They are proposing a a six story building with 40 off-street parking spaces. The building will have 155 affordable residential units available for rent to tenants that make between $40,000 and $60,000 a year and the rents will be from the $400s to the $1200s (Units are studios (5) One Bedroom (85) and Two Bedrooms (65)). They are only proposing 3,000 square feet of retail space and over 30,000 square feet of underground parking space. They do not have financing at this time and no timeline for the project. They do have a zoning hearing scheduled for Tuesday, June 26th at 441 4th Street NW, Suite 220-South from 1:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. I asked them and the DC representative from the Office of Planning/Real Estate why there is so little retail in the plan and so much more space given to parking. I was told "we're just happy that something is getting built." I am sorry, but that is not an acceptable answer. We should make sure that whatever is built in our neighborhood is the best possible project for the best possible addition to Edgewood. We do not just have to be happy that a vacant lot is being developed. That is demeaning and destructive to the community that is already here.

This building is being built in the shadow of the Edgewood Terrace complex that encompasses almost 800 affordable housing units which range from Section 8 to to people earning 80%-115% of the area median income. This is a very high density of affordable housing in the Edgewood neighborhood and the trend now seems to be to build mixed-income housing instead of 100% affordable housing projects like Edgewood Terrace was built in the past. My question is why is this project bucking that trend.

That said I am not against it being affordable housing if it adds to our neighborhood. I do know that some neighbors I have talked to would prefer it to be mixed income and if that is your opinion you should let the people listed at the bottom of this email know. I think the small amount of retail space is ridiculous as retail is a missing commodity in Edgewood and that section of 4th Street should have street facing retail. I also think that while I am okay with subsidizing housing I am not okay with subsidizing parking. Their plan calls for over 30,000 SF of parking and only 3,000 SF of retail!!! The parking would be for the tenants in the building and would create more traffic on a road that already has more than its share of commuter traffic and accidents. If people need affordable housing to live in DC then why should they get affordable parking as a bonus? The building is directly in front of a bus stop, a short walk to the metro station and across the street from a bikeshare station. Many other buildings on the corners of Rhode Island Ave and 4th Street NE do not have any parking- Mint Condos for example- and they are market rate buildings. It makes no sense to me why we should be creating so much more parking space instead of retail space!!

The other item that is important to me is the addition of a green roof to the project. Anyone who lives in this area knows the dangers of flooding that we have in low-lying areas. Currently this lot allows for some of the storm water to be absorbed and that will change when the lot is fully developed. I think it is important that this is added to the design of the building to ensure the least possible impact to our current flooding problems.

In the Rhode Island Avenue Great Streets plan it was recommended to change this location on 4th and Rhode Island NE into C-2-C zoning from its current zoning of C-3-A.

Here are the definitions of those in DC:


Permits matter-of-right higher density development, including office, retail, housing, and mixed uses to a maximum lot occupancy of 80% for residential use and 100% for all other uses, a maximum FAR of 6.0 for residential and 2.0 FAR for other permitted uses, and a maximum height of ninety (90) feet. Rear yard requirements are fifteen (15) feet; one family detached dwellings one family semi-detached dwellings side yard requirements are eight (8) feet.


Permits matter-of-right medium density development, with a density incentive for residential development within a general pattern of mixed-use development to a maximum lot occupancy of 75% for residential use and 100% for all other uses, a maximum FAR of 4.0 for residential and 2.5 FAR for other permitted uses and a maximum height of sixty-five (65) feet. Rear yard requirements are twelve (12) feet; one family detached dwellings and one family semi-detached dwellings side yard requirements are eight (8) feet.

The plan also recommends minimal parking to encourage public transit use, mixed-income developments and mixed-use developments. I am not sure why we are not using this plan to help steer the development that is now starting on Rhode Island Avenue NE.

So, what can we do to make sure that we are getting the type of development that we want in our neighborhood? We need to speak up and write the following people to let them know what you want and why it is necessary for our community!!! We do not have to take whatever is given to us!

Here are all the people to copy on your emails:

Eric P. Jones, HSCDC -
Vincent Gray -
Kwame Brown -
David Cantina -
Phil Mendelson -
Michael A. Brown -
Vincent Orange -


  1. Agreed, we do not need more public housing in Edgewood. The future of our neighborhood will be anchored by Monroe Street Market, 901 Monroe and RI Station. New development should enhance, not detract from these excellent developments. No need for more Edgewood Terrarce style developments that languish and ruin neighborhoods. Some of the most successful developments in the city have been mixed affordable and market rate housing.

  2. Agreed. While I am antsy to see some development in that lot and that entire shopping center the project as currently defined doesn't fit with the plan. This should be densely built, metro oriented mixed use.

  3. How many damn things in Ward 5 can people slap the word "Gateway" on? It's like when Vince Orange tried to rename the Florida Avenue Market as "New Town."

    No creativity in naming = No creativity in design, etc.

  4. I definitely agree that this is way too much parking. In the end, it just drives up the cost of development and maintenance. More retail seems like the better choice. I like the green roof idea as well.

    On the other hand, I don't object to this being an affordable development. Apartments affordable to people making $40k-$60k a year are very, very different from public housing and are very much needed (not to say that public housing isn't needed, too). There are a lot of young people just starting out in DC (at nonprofits, on the Hill...) who make that kind of money, could use a decent, affordable place to live and should be welcomed to our neighborhood.

    H St. CDC's website shows some of their past residential developments, here: Not some of the most beautiful development I've ever seen, but they are rooted in Northeast communities and seem genuinely committed to addressing the challenges we face. I am optimistic about H St. CDC and Edgewood being able to work together as this development goes forward.