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ANC Gives Nod to EastBanc Project

By Cuneyt DilCurrent Correspondent

The eastern gateway into Georgetown through Pennsylvania Avenue currently features a Valero gas station, perched above the Rock Creek Parkway.

Now, the sometimes-controversial plan for a five-story mixed-use building at the 2715 Pennsylvania Ave. NW site is heading for the Zoning Commission, with the support of Advisory Neighborhood Commission 2E (Georgetown, Burleith).

The 60-foot-tall brick building with inset balconies, designed by Portuguese architect Eduardo Souto de Moura, would feature seven apartment units above a ground-level restaurant.

The project would also bring park benches, plantings and other public space improvements to the site.

“The proposed structure represents an improvement to the Georgetown cityscape in comparison to the unruly appearance of the site’s existing gas station at the threshold of the historic district,” ANC 2E wrote in its resolution of support to the Zoning Commission.

Opponents have criticized the building’s design in the past, calling it inappropriate for such a prominent spot. The architect has tweaked aspects of it since its first conception, and the changes were enough to win ANC 2E’s support.

The Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on the development on July 21.

The project has faced obstacles because of its small, unusually shaped lot. Developer EastBanc is following the planned-unit development process, which adds public amenities in order to win zoning exceptions, but such projects ordinarily need a lot size of at least 15,000 square feet. The Georgetown site is half that, and developers are asking the Zoning Commission to waive that lot size requirement in this case.

On Monday, the D.C. Office of Planning submitted its recommendation for approval of the project, with certain conditions. The recommendation is subject to EastBanc working with the city for public space improvements and with the National Park Service for “long-term maintenance of the park land to the west,” according to the agency.

The agency also asked the firm to work with the Department of Housing and Community Development “on their contribution to the Affordable Housing Trust Fund,” — a fund in which Mayor Muriel Bowser has vowed to invest $100 million a year. The project does not feature affordable housing, but under the current proposal developers have agreed to contribute $359,604 to the trust fund.

Describing the public benefits the development offers, the Office of Planning notes plans for an improved street environment around the site, “including wider sidewalks, native plantings, and outdoor cafe seating.” Renderings envision a Capital Bikeshare station on Pennsylvania Avenue, with new trees, benches and bicycle racks around the area.

The project remains subject to the approval of the Old Georgetown Board and the U.S. Commission of Fine Arts and additional review by the National Park Service. The Old Georgetown Board reviewed multiple iterations of the proposal last year and expressed support for the general concept of replacing the gas station with a mixed-use building of this scale.

This article appears in the July 13 issue of The Georgetown Current newspaper.